Release date: 5 January 1973
UK chart peak: #41 (1985)
Running time: 37:08
Singles: Blinded by the Light, Spirit in the Night
Though Bruce Springsteen’s debut album received pretty positive reviews, that didn’t translate into immediate chart success – Greetings From Asbury Park, N.J. peaked at #60 in the USA, #71 in Australia, and #35 in Sweden. It made a slight impact in the UK charts 12 years after its initial release, as the Born To Run tour arrived in Britain.
1973 was the height of glam rock, with acts like David Bowie, T. Rex, and The Sweet making waves. In the UK album charts around the release of this record, however, both Gilbert O’Sullivan and Donny Osmond hit the top ten with Back To Front and Too Young, respectively. Slayed? by Slade reached, knocking compilation 20 All Time Greats of the 50’s off the top spot. Little Jimmy Osmond kept his Christmas number one Long Haired Lover From Liverpool for several weeks into 1973, with Carly Simon’s You’re So Vain, Bowie’s The Jean Genie, and Hi Hi Hi/C Moon by Wings also finding their way into the top ten.
Greetings From Asbury Park, N.J. was recorded between 7 June and 26 October 1972 at 914 Sound Studios, Springsteen choosing this budget option to save as much money as possible on the advance from Columbia Records. It ended up as a half-solo, half-band album – a compromise between the preferences of Springsteen and his manager & producer. Interestingly, the two singles weren’t originally included on the track listing, but quickly written and recorded when it became apparent there wasn’t anything considered to be single material on the album as was.
I think, on the whole, I’m on Bruce’s side: I marginally prefer the band efforts, as opposed to the solo numbers. Partly because they have a more recognisable Springsteen and E Street Band sound; this sound has evolved over the decades, but the heart of it is still there. However, thinking about the record as a whole, having those smaller scale solo numbers definitely balances it all out. It allows for a bit more light & shade, as well as changes of pace and mood. As you come to expect from Springsteen, there are ample automobile-related references dotted throughout the album, and it’s full of storytelling & emotion – a great sign of things to come.
Blinded by the Light definitely stands out; I think it’s only in the past few years that I realised it wasn’t a Manfred Mann song, as that was the only version I tended to hear – I much prefer the original, now I know it exists, as there’s just something about the urgency of the guitars and the inclusion of saxophone (courtesy of Clarence Clemons) that makes it work so well. Other highlights are Growin’ Up, It’s Hard to Be a Saint in the City. I also like the contrast of the theme of The Angel (the story of a “motorcycle outlaw”) with its slow pace and the reflective atmosphere it creates.
The Greatest Show
The Greetings From Asbury Park, N.J. tour began as soon as the album recording sessions were over, taking the band on a mammoth journey all over the United States from 28 October 1972 until 8 September 1973. They took in cities such as Detroit, Columbus, Berkeley, Atlanta, Providence, and Baltimore.
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