Born to Run
Springsteen claims he was playing guitar on the edge of his bed one day in 1974 when the words "born to run" came to mind. "At first I thought it was the name of a movie or something," he once recalled, "but I wasn't certain. I liked the phrase because it suggested cinematic drama that would work well with the music I was hearing in my head."
Magic in the Night
"Few of the album's songs were written on guitar," Springsteen said in his 1998 book, "Songs." "The orchestral sound … came from most of the songs being written on piano. 'Born to Run,' which began on the guitar with the riff that opens the song, was finished on the piano."
Wall of Sound
His creative vision for "Born to Run": "Roy Orbison singing Bob Dylan, produced by Phil Spector," the producer famous for the "Wall of Sound" epitomized on 1960s hits like "Da Doo Ron Ron" by the Crystals and "River Deep–Mountain High" by Ike and Tina Turner.
'Rock and Roll Future'
The album took more than 14 months to record. Frustrated by the painstaking process of trying to get "the sounds in my head" on tape, Springsteen recruited help from a new friend, music writer Jon Landau, who had famously proclaimed in print a year earlier, "I have seen rock and roll future and its name is Bruce Springsteen." Landau later became—and remains—Springsteen's producer and manager.
The Lonely Cool Before Dawn
The collaboration with Landau fractured Springsteen's relationship with producer and manager Mike Appel. An ensuing lawsuit would keep Springsteen out of the studio for three years.
Shooting the Cover
The iconic cover photo, showing a smirking, leather-clad Springsteen leaning on the shoulder of saxophonist Clarence Clemons, was photographer Eric Meola's money shot. He took more than 900 photos during the three-hour session. "That one," he later said, "just sort of popped."
Well I Got This Guitar ...
Take a really close look at Springsteen's guitar on the album cover and you can see an image embossed on the leather pick guard. It shows a guy standing beneath a streetlamp with a woman looking on from a window in the background.
The E Street Band
"Born to Run" was the first Springsteen album to feature the newest members of the E Street Band, drummer Max Weinberg and pianist Roy Bittan. They replaced Ernest "Boom" Carter and David Sancious, respectively—but not before those two performed on the title track. Just before "Born to Run" was released, the two left the Boss to form their own jazz fusion band, where they were joined at one point by Patti Scialfa, Springsteen's future bandmate and wife.
Early test pressings of the LP displayed Springsteen's name and the album title in script on the gatefold cover. These rare "script covers" are coveted by collectors and easily sell for more than $1,000, depending on condition.
The Media Spotlight
Springsteen's biggest hit of 1975 was a public relations blockbuster. On October 27, he appeared on the covers of Time and Newsweek, a rare one-two score for a non-politician.
"Born to Run" entered the Billboard 200 album chart at No. 84. Two months later it reached its peak position at No. 3. It spawned just two singles. The title track got as high as No. 23 on the Billboard Hot 100, while "Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out" fizzled at No. 83. But over the years the album would sell more than 6 million copies.
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