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2023/4 Albums Thing 328 - Bruce Springsteen “The Wild, The Innocent & The E Street Shuffle”

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Bruce Springsteen’s 2nd album was again recorded at 914 Sound Studios in NYC, its title gave his band their name and we add another longterm member to the E Street Band as Danny Federici shows up on Accordion and Keyboards. It’s a VERY different sounding record from his first. I’m guessing after the singer/songwriter debut this is much more what Springsteen and his band sounded like live during 1973. Springsteen has said many times that he saw the early E Street Band as almost a Soul revue band and that style is definitely evident here, and damn, some o’ this gear is funky.  There are a couple of instrumental interludes before and after songs on this album that show this infant E Street Band as a groovy unit indeed and I’m surprised haven’t been sampled by some Hip-Hopper at sometime (maybe they have, it’s not like I’m an expert when it comes to Hip Hop). 

Two of the first three songs, “The E Street Shuffle” and “Kitty’s Back” show off the band’s chops perfectly. “The E Street Shuffle” ends with one of those instrumental interludes and if I played it to you blind and asked who it was you ain’t never throwing out Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band as a possibility. “Kitty’s Back” starts all Bluesy guitars and extended solo’s (the electric guitars are definitely here on this record) and after a couple of minutes explodes into a Brass driven Southern Soul groover. We saw him and the band play it live in Italy last summer and it was one of the greatest moments I’ve ever seen at a Springsteen show.

Sandwiched between those two foot tappers is, to my ears, one of Springsteen’s great songs, “4th Of July, Asbury Park (Sandy)”. If you ever read his biography great chunks of this lyric are expanded on as the song is basically the story of the writer growing up in and around Asbury Park. The boys dancing with their shirts open, the greasers, the boys in their high heels, the factory girls, the tilt-a-whirl, Madame Marie…they’re all in there. It’s another of Springsteen’s songs that was covered, this time by The Hollies. A word of warning, never, I mean NEVER be tempted to listen to their version, it’ll put you off the song forever, yes it’s that bad !

“New York City Serenade” and “Incident On 57th Street” are another pair of homages to that place across the river from Jersey. The latter of the two not only has the most gorgeous, nagging melody ("Goodnight, it's alright Jane, I'll meet you tomorrow night on Lover's Lane”…beautiful) but it also segues into a true Springsteen classic. The first occasion that I knowingly heard Bruce Springsteen would have been the endless times the promo clip for “Rosalita (Come Out Tonight)” was played on the Old Grey Whistle Test (I think it was taken from the 1979 “No Nukes” benefit concert at Madison Square Garden so that dates it). It seemed like every time I watched the show, it was on. But what a song it is, the tale of a boy in a band whose girl’s Daddy really doesn’t like him but he’s just got a big advance from the record company and he’s going places, with Rosalita. It’s an uptempo, big shit-eating grin on your face, rock ’n’ roll testament and was the song Bruce and his band most often closed shows with from 1973 right through to 1985 (the 3 shows I saw during that period, it was on the setlist at all of them). You wanna know what hooked me in to Springsteen ? It was things like “Rosalita…”.

On its release the album was lauded by critics but that didn’t turn in to sales. It didn’t chart in the UK until 1985, on the back of “Born In the USA” fever. It’s a far more groovy and at the same time romantic record than “…Asbury Park…”. What’s going on here on songs like “…Sandy”, “…57th Street” and “Rosalita…definitely points toward where Springsteen is going and what’s coming next. Hold on tight cos a wild ride is about to begin…

Incident on 57th Street - https://youtu.be/ioQcvijom28?si=iRZdit7HpYNmfsNu

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