This is my ninth-round choice from Hanspostcard’s album draft…100 albums in 100 days.
The imagery flows like water with Greetings From Ashbury Park, Bruce’s debut album in 1973… It’s not very polished but that adds to it. The songs have a stream of consciousness feel to them. It was critically praised but did not have huge sales. The album only peaked at #60 in the Billboard Album Charts.
I was around 19 (1986) or so when I found this album, or when the album found me, and I was going through an angry young man phase. I had just bought a 1976 Fender Musicmaster guitar (I still have it) and a black leather jacket. This album fit my mood at the time perfect. I wasn’t really angry but just realized I was considered a man now in the world but wasn’t sure what that meant and where I fit in. I listened to the album and it just seemed right.
I had this album picked and almost presented it with the 3rd or 4th pick but something told me to go with Big Star and the Zombies and wait. I originally bought this album in fall so it seems right that this pick will be my first pick in fall…if only I still had that leather jacket.
Now on to the album…Bruce’s manager Mike Appel (who is another story) and John Hammond (who signed Bruce, Dylan and many others) wanted a more singer songwriter album, while Springsteen and Jimmy Cretecos (co-producer) preferred a band dominated album. A compromise was reached but when Clive Davis listened to the album he said there wasn’t a commercial single…Bruce wrote a couple of songs to include on the album. Blinded By The Light and Spirit in the Night. They were no doubt band oriented songs…so the album swung that way…but it still is very sparse with instruments. No big screaming guitars or anything like that. The melodies and lyrics are the focus.
Springsteen picked out the musicians who would help him out on this album. David Sancious, Gary Tallent, Vini Lopez and Steve Van Zandt were a few. However, Van Zandt barely participated because of a prior commitment to tour as a member of The Dovells backing group. Other musicians who would help out were Clarence Clemons, Richard Davis, and others.
I hear Dylan and a very strong Van Morrison influence on this album. It is rough and raw and unpredictable. When we first started this draft I knew this album would be in it either by me or someone else. I feel luck y that it fell this far down.
The most famous song on the album is “Blinded By The Light” which was covered later by Manfred Mann Earth’s Band that peaked at #1 in 1977. I just want to say…Bruce’s lyrics were “cut loose like a deuce, another runner in the night” a “deuce” is a hot rod car…that is all I’ll say… Well I jumped up, turned around, spit in the air, fell on the ground, Asked him which was the way back home, He said take a right at the light, keep goin’ straight until night, and then boy, you’re on your own
“It’s Hard to be a Saint in the City” is another great track and one of the most powerful songs he ever wrote. The devil appeared like Jesus through the steam in the street, Showin’ me a hand I knew even the cops couldn’t beat
I felt his hot breath on my neck as I dove into the heat
“Does This Bus Stop At 82nd Street?” is a journey through an enjoyable play of words. This song is about as wordy and catchy as you can get. It was written about a bus journey to a girlfriend’s house. I listened to it so many times that I know every word to this day. I was surprised to see that he still plays this in concert every now and then…but you can’t beat the studio version. Wizard imps and sweat sock pimps, interstellar mongrel nymphs Oh, Rex said that lady left him limp, love’s like that (It sure is)
My personal favorite is “Spirit of the Night.” This song hints at some of the characters and places that start populating Bruce’s musical world. Well, Billy slammed on his coaster brakes, And said, “Anybody wanna go on up to Greasy Lake? It’s about a mile down on the dark side of Route 88
I got a bottle of rosé so let’s try it
This is a crazy good debut album. His first two albums were building up to everything that was crystallized in his third…Born to Run. That doesn’t make the first two any less. Greetings doesn’t “sound” as well as Born To Run but Bruce delivers.
After his second album The Wild, the Innocent & the E Street Shuffle, Bruce made his career making album Born To Run. He never has returned to the free form lyrics of his first two albums. I do wish he would try a song or two like these again…but maybe you have to be a certain age to write these types of songs and free of life distractions…After Blonde on Blonde, Dylan also left this style of song behind and he was 25 years old. Bruce was 24 in 1973 when he released Greetings from Ashbury Park and The Wild, the Innocent & the E Street Shuffle.
I really love the albums on the island and with this one I’ll enjoy the characters of Crazy Janey, Mary Lou, Broadway Mary, Wild Billy, Hazy Davy, and Killer Joe. All these characters grew up through his albums and we knew our own versions of these people… they matured in front of our eyes and ears…much like Bruce did and we all grew together…and this album was the beginning of the story that we are still following.
Blinded By The Light
Mary Queen Of Arkansas
Does This Bus Stop At 82nd Street?
Lost In The Flood
Spirit In The Night
It’s Hard To Be A Saint In The City