Thunder Road by Bruce Springsteen
#musiceveryday 12 Nov 2020
The opening track on Springsteen's iconic 1975 album Born To Run and perhaps one of the great rock songs of the decade, Thunder Road was not released as a single but has been a staple of live shows ever since the album's release. It took its title from a 1958 film starring Robert Mitchum.
Thunder Road was recorded in New York and serves as a perfect opening track for Born To Run, setting up the story of a nameless guy - maybe Springsteen himself - persuading a girl named Mary to run away with him, telling her "We got one last chance to make it real, to trade in these wings on some wheels." He promises her that Thunder Road "will take us anywhere" and "we're riding out tonight to case the promised land".
The song begins with piano and harmonica, perhaps heralding the beginning of a new day, and builds in texture and excitement all the way through. "Mary" could be anyone, male or female, young or old, who is thinking of setting out on an unknown path, leaving a past life behind. Other songs on the album, including the title track, have been described by Springsteen as a series of mini-stories furthering the notion of failed relationships and escaping the everyday, topics that have brought millions of fans to Springsteen's honest, blue-collar songs.
Like Billy Joel, who featured in #musiceveryday last week, Bruce Springsteen continues to sell out major venues. The two artists know each other well (Joel lives on Long Island, Springsteen in New Jersey) and have often performed together.
Something to do
In this fascinating clip, Bruce Springsteen talks about the writing of Thunder Road and the thinking behind the song.
There's more about Thunder Road here.
You can compare the recorded version, above, with this stripped-back live version, where Springsteen performs the song just with piano and glockenspiel, relying on his own impassioned delivery to convey the story.
More to listen to
Born To Run, the title track of the album.
Only The Lonely by Roy Orbison (1960) - this song is referenced in the lyrics of Thunder Road. Springsteen has often spoken of his admiration for Orbison's music.
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