January 5 – A Boss Walk In The Park. Asbury Park.

Bruce Springsteen put himself – and his hometown of Asbury Park – on the musical map this day in 1973. the then young and relatively unknown rocker released his debut album, Greetings from Asbury Park, NJ.

The album had been largely recorded the previous summer in New York for a hopeful Columbia Records. It marked not only the first we’d heard of Bruce, but also the first showing of the original version of his E Street Band. In the original version Bruce made, there was one side of five songs with the band, including “It’s Hard To Be A Saint In the City” and one side of five solo works. However, Clive Davis at Columbia didn’t like the album he was delivered and he cut three tracks (including songs which became rare, oft-bootlegged “outtakes” like “Visitation at Fort Horn”) and had The Boss go back to the studio to hurriedly record a couple more commercial songs. Those happened to be “Blinded by the Light” and “Spirit in the Night”, both of which were put out as singles. Few seemed to notice,except Manfred Mann. He recorded covers of both and of course, had a smash hit with the former. In fact, Mann’s “Blinded by the Light” remains the only single ever to get to #1 in the U.S. written by Springsteen!

Although the cover is now familiar and Springsteen before long was established as a superstar, it’s easy to over-estimate the popular appeal of the debut. In reality, it drew little attention from the masses and only rose to #60 on Billboard. It failed to chart at all in Britain until years later, when the popularity of Born in the U.S.A. sparked interest in his back catalog there.

Critics however, were a different story. They sat up and paid attention to Springsteen and liked what they saw and heard. Comparisons to Bob Dylan came in spades and for once they were largely right when many of them declared him to be a major talent waiting in the wings. Creem at the time graded it a “B” saying he had “absurdist energy” similar to Dylan which made him “a genius instead of a talent.” Rolling Stone likewise enthused about the record “revelling in the joy of utter crass showoff talent run amok” – whatever that means!

Of course, in years since, Springsteen (after missing commercially again with his follow-up, The Wild, The Innnocent and the E Street Shuffle but hitting the jackpot in ’75 with Born to Run) became all the critics expected him to be and the album has held up well in retroactive appeal. Rolling Stone have it on their list of the 500 greatest albums of all-time, albeit only his sixth personal best. Allmusic rate it a 5-star effort, like all the albums of his first decade except Darkness on the Edge of Town. They too make the Robert Zimmerman comparison, saying it’s “squarely in the tradition of Bob Dylan, folk-based tunes arranged for an electric band” but one-upping the Minnesotan because “Dylan had taken a world-weary cynical tone, Springsteen was exuberant.” As are many of his fans when they listen to the album and the humble beginnings of one of America’s biggest musical talents.

3 thoughts on “January 5 – A Boss Walk In The Park. Asbury Park.

    1. I’m not that familiar with the album really but certainly there’s some great writing on it. I was surprised how long most of the tracks were- certainly in time would shorten his song approach at least.

      Liked by 1 person

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