KamerTunesBlog

Revisiting my extensive music collection, one artist at a time

Satur-debut – BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN “GREETINGS FROM ASBURY PARK, N.J. “

I’ve been a Bruce Springsteen fan for four decades and, although there’s a lot to like on every album he’s released, his earliest records remain the ones I return to most frequently. Darkness On The Edge Of Town might be my all-time favorite, but everything from his 1973 debut through 1982’s Nebraska is what the rest of his catalog will always be measured against. That stunning debut, Greetings From Asbury Park N.J., featured an early lineup of the E Street Band, with two stalwarts (saxophonist Clarence Clemons, who was brought in at the end of the recording sessions for two songs, and bassist Garry Tallent) along with David Sancious on keyboards and Vini “Mad Dog” Lopez on drums. The latter’s jazzy drumming brought frenetic energy to The Boss’ verbose poetic songs, and it’s the consistency of those songs that makes this such a special album. It may not have been a commercial success in its day but it’s now considered a classic.

For more information on this series, please read the opening paragraph of the first post, which featured the debut album from Led Zeppelin.

 

 

From GREAT OUT OF THE GATE Part 3:

Bruce Springsteen’s recording career got off to an impressive start with an album featuring songs that would be covered by David Bowie (“Growin’ Up”), The Greg Kihn Band (“For You”) and Manfred Mann’s Earth Band. The latter scored a #1 hit with their version of “Blinded By The Light,” and they also covered “Spirit In The Night” & “For You.” Plenty of songwriters release records that are improved in other people’s hands, but that wasn’t the case here. With the assistance of the original E Street Band, the man billed as “the next Bob Dylan” burst out of the gate with his own unique style and a clutch of tunes that most artists would kill to write over the course of their careers. In addition to the aforementioned songs, “Lost In The Flood” and “It’s Hard To Be A Saint In The City” are two more standouts which help to make Greetings From Asbury Park, NJ one of the most consistently enjoyable albums in his discography. Considering he was only 23 when the album was recorded, you get a sense of just how special a writer & performer he was right from the beginning, and why so many artists clamored to cover his songs.

 

What do my fellow Springsteen fans think of this record? How about those who are more casual followers of his music?  Even if you don’t like his later songs that made him a superstar, I urge you to give Greetings… a chance, as it doesn’t sound quite like anything else he ever recorded.

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34 comments on “Satur-debut – BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN “GREETINGS FROM ASBURY PARK, N.J. “

  1. mikeladano
    May 25, 2019

    According to the Aerosmith box set, this album came out the same day as their debut. Seemed they were a bit peaved that Springsteen received more support from the label than they did.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Interesting bit of trivia, Mike. Thanks for sharing. I know Columbia was high on Springsteen from the start but figured Aerosmith was more marketable at the time. Glad they both enjoyed pretty good careers (understatement alert).

      Liked by 1 person

  2. 80smetalman
    May 25, 2019

    I heard the Manfred Mann version of “Blinded by the Light” a few months before Bruce’s. The former was my favourite song in early 1977 and for me, it was state of the art for that time. However, there is something wonderfully basic about Bruce’s version.

    Liked by 1 person

    • That was my introduction to Springsteen’s songwriting and it was also one of my favorites of that year. Manfred Mann’s Earth Band were excellent interpreters of other people’s music. I know Springsteen’s version sounds basic in comparison but it’s still fairly complex.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Aphoristical
    May 25, 2019

    I don’t like Springsteen in Dylan-mode as much as like him with the E-Street band. There are a lot of words on this record. ‘Spirit in the Night’ and ‘Lost In The Flood’ are my favourites here. His next three albums are all brilliant though.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I know he was touted as the next Dylan, but other than “Mary Queen Of Arkansas” I don’t hear much that’s Dylan-esque on this album. Springsteen’s sound was uniquely his own. Yes there are a lot of words here, and I suppose that might put some listeners off, but it remains in my top 2 or 3 Bruce albums.

      Like

      • Aphoristical
        May 26, 2019

        Even leaving the Dylan comparisons aside, I think there are many talented singer-songwriters out there. There are a lot less people with Springsteen’s unique skill sets; leading a huge sounding band with jazzy touches, and marrying literary songs to fiery rock and roll.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Very true. The “jazzy touches” really came to fruition on his sophomore album. “Kitty’s Back” remains a particular favorite, and I’ve always loved his (non-LP) recording of “The Fever” that Southside Johnny also recorded. I have a thing for horn sections.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. christiansmusicmusings
    May 25, 2019

    It’s a solid debut by Springsteen. I knew Manfred Mann’s covers of “Spirit In The Night” and “Blinded By The Light” long before I heard Springsteen’s originals.

    My introduction to the Boss was the “Born In The U.S.A.” album. Even though many of its tunes ended up becoming overexposed on the radio, I still like the record to this day.

    The 1975-1985 live box set more broadly introduced me to Springsteen’s 70s catalog.

    Nowadays, I think “Born To Run” is my favorite Boss album. I’ve also come to dig “The River”.

    Of course, the best way to experience the Boss is live. I’ve seen him twice and both shows were incredible. When it comes to live performances, I think Springsteen truly is a league of his own.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I knew Manfred Mann’s Earth Band’s version of “Blinded By The Light” but heard the original (and the rest of Bruce’s debut album) before I knew of their other cover. By the time “Born In The USA” came out I had moved away from Bruce’s music. I thought it was too simplistic and the recording sound a little too brittle. I’ve come to appreciate it a little more over the years but it’s still probably one of my least favorites in his discography. I can understand why some people love it more than I do, especially if that was your introduction to his music. Glad you’ve gotten to experience Bruce live. I tried getting tickets to The River tour in 1980 but was unsuccessful. Didn’t see him for the first time until the 1992 Human Touch/Lucky Town tour, and then again on the solo Ghost Of Tom Joad tour. Finally saw him with The E Street Band when they reunited (was that 1999? 2000?). Attended 2 or 3 shows and they were phenomenal. Truly in a league of his/their own.

      Liked by 1 person

      • christiansmusicmusings
        May 26, 2019

        BTW, I also like “Darkness On The Edge Of Town.” One album I know is a favorite of many Springsteen fans is “Nebraska.” How do you feel about it? I just can’t warm up to this one.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Nebraska didn’t make an impression on me when it was released but I’ve come around to it over the years and now love it. I need to be in a particular mood to play it. I got heavily into Springsteen around 1979 and bought The River on release day. Tried desperately to get tickets to see him at the newly-opened Brendan Byrne Arena (later known simply as Meadowlands Arena) in NJ but was unsuccessful, and that disappointment led me to move away from his music for most of the ’80s. Of course I never stopped loving those first 5 albums, and they’ll always be my favorites.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Vinyl Connection
    May 25, 2019

    Only recently picked this up – a nice vinyl re-issue with the ‘gatefold’ postcard. Really like it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Happy to hear they recreated the original postcard packaging. That was the packaging when I bought it in the late-’70s or early-’80s.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Vinyl Connection
        May 26, 2019

        In Australia we often missed out on innovative packaging, Rich. Tim Buckley’s ‘Greetings from L.A.’ is another postcard example!

        Like

      • It’s a shame that you missed out on some special packaging, but at least now you get to spent exorbitant amounts on faithful reissues of those records. Haha. I never had any individual albums by Tim Buckley so I wasn’t aware of that postcard packaging. My TB collection consists of a fantastic 2-CD anthology and one great live CD.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Vinyl Connection
        May 28, 2019

        Yes, Rich. I do my bit to support the poor struggling record companies (as I know you do too). As for Tim, it’s a fascinating catalogue and well worth exploring in more detail at some stage. (BTW, that anthology is outstanding and if the live one you have is ‘Dreamletter’ (London), then that’s brilliant too).

        Liked by 1 person

      • It’s unlikely I’ll be diving deeper into T. Buckley’s catalog anytime soon. Various circumstances have caused me to change my listening, buying & collecting habits, so I’m spending more time revisiting old favorites these days…although Spotify comes in handy to help me fill in the gaps without accumulating more stuff. The live album I own is Live At The Troubadour 1969 so not the brilliant one you mentioned.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. stephen1001
    May 26, 2019

    Though I would have enjoyed seeing it on Broadway of course, I still quite enjoyed growin’ up as the opener of the Broadway show when watching it on netflix!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Bill P
    May 28, 2019

    Another iconic addition to your series Rich. Like Christian, I’m a little younger so come to Springsteen around the time he was dancing on stage with Courtney Cox. I’ve had a lot of friends (most from NJ) who were crazy Boss fans. I see the artistry but never felt a great connection to the man or his music. As mentioned earlier, the Dylan references are probably to his large amount of words stuffed into the verses. Elvis Costello does this to an extent too but I sometimes find it hard to get hooked by the song. “Born to Run” is a classic one for people to mumble nonsense words until they can scream out “tramps like us….Baby we were born to Ruuuuun!”

    I come to most of these songs from Manfred Mann. Boy, if there was ever a guy who made a living reinterpreting (and, for me, owning) other people’s songs, it was him. 3 Bruce songs + a Dylan song (Quinn the eskimo). These original versions are looser and easier than the urgency of Manfred’s covers. I hear a similar sound to Looking Glass’s hit “Brandy” in instrumentation and vibe or perhaps a touch slowed down Thin Lizzy vintage “Dancing in the Moonlight.” Thanks for the listen!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Bill. It’s funny how a whole generation of Springsteen fans (and possibly his detractors) has that visual of him on stage with Courtney Cox as a reference point. I was working at my first of three record stores when Born In The USA took over the world in the summer of ’84. I didn’t hate it but it made very little impact on me, especially compared to his first five albums. My college band played a few songs from that record, with “Glory Days” being a particular crowd favorite.

      Good point about Manfred Mann being a great interpreter of other people’s songs. As you stated, he/they really made a lot of those songs their own. Will have to consider your Looking Glass/Thin Lizzy comparison next time I play their version of “Blinded By The Light.” That’s the song you were referencing there, right?

      Like

      • Bill P
        May 29, 2019

        Yes to the “Blinded by the Light” reference. I hear the Looking Glass reference especially as they break into the chorus and the gang of voices come in. Maybe they are similar harmony intervals? Since I mentioned Dancin in the Moonlight, you hear the same on the King Harvest song.

        As for instrumentation and time feel, it has a sort of relaxed, “rolling” vibe similar to the Thin Lizzy tune. Both also manage to pack a lot of words into a little space with dissimilar diction throughout. The underlying chord harmony is the same but the vocal melody isn’t predictable. And to me, that makes it fun to listen to. I hear a lot of these same elements in “Spirit in the Night” and at least a similar feel in “For You.”

        And, for me, I can remember seeing Alex Keaton’s girlfriend and thinking…”Hey, she’s that girl from the Dancing in the Dark video.” Same reaction when she was on Friends. “Glory Days” is a great track and fun video too.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I will keep your comments in mind the next time I play Manfred Mann’s Earth Band’s version of “Blinded…” My brain usually works in a similar fashion, making all kinds of comparisons when something seems familiar, so it will be nice to consider these similarities. I can’t remember which came first with Courteney Cox, Family Ties or the Springsteen video. They were probably pretty close on the timeline if my memory is correct, which happens occasionally. When Friends first aired I was amazed that I recognized all six cast members from other shows. Schwimmer had been on The Wonder Years. Perry was on a short-lived sitcom with Valerie Bertinelli (he was the best part of the show). LeBlanc was briefly on Married With Children. Kudrow was on Mad About You (whose character would appear on Friends as Phoebe’s twin sister) and Aniston…on whom I had a huge crush at the time…had been on a sketch comedy show that didn’t last long called “The Edge.” Something tells me they’re all slightly better known from Friends now. (Understatement Alert!!!!)

        Like

  8. Alyson
    May 30, 2019

    I only really discovered Bruce when his River album came out – I actually spent my 21st birthday going to see him in Birmingham (a long way from we lived) but good to hear some tracks from his debut album. Great cover by the way.

    Funnily enough I have been listening to the radio here in the UK this morning and the guest was Keifer Sutherland who was choosing “the Tracks of his Years”. One song was The River and in way of explanation he decided Bruce represented a great swathe of Americans who identified with his lyrics, and The River was a prime example. Of course we all know this already but it was good to have it confirmed and listen to the song again. I featured it over at my place when I wrote about the state of New Jersey for my American Odyssey series.

    As for this debut album, yes one everyone should probably have but again a male gender album I think, so one that would not have been an obvious pick for we females back when it first came out. The passage of time changes all that of course.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Alyson. I remember your New Jersey post and I was glad you chose Springsteen’s “The River” as one of the highlighted songs. I figured his debut was one that probably flew under your radar. I hope you enjoyed the songs I included in this post. Very different from most of what he released later, especially after the second album. You can make a direct connection from songs on Born To Run through almost anything that came after it, but those first two albums were in their own musical world. Are you saying you like the album cover for Greetings From Asbury Park? The original packaging had the colorful portion as a “postcard” that folds open and then you slid the inner sleeve & LP out on that side. Not many new artists got special packaging on their debut album so clearly Columbia Records was very high on Mr. Springsteen.

      There will be no Satur-debut this week as the missus & I will be celebrating our anniversary, but something tells me the next few choices in this series will continue the male-centric theme. Hopefully you’ll surprise me and we’ll have an album/artist in common. Feels like it’s been a while.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Alyson
        May 31, 2019

        Hi – Yes I meant the album cover (sorry, the wording in that last comment was awful and ambiguous). I have nowhere near the number of vinyl albums you have accumulated in your lifetime but the ones where they really had fun with the sleeve are really special aren’t they, and this one sounds as if it’s one of those.

        Have a lovely anniversary weekend and we’ll see what you come up with in the next few weeks. Your last big series, 40 Year Friday was perfect for me, as ’77 was when I was most fully immersed in the music of the time. These late sixties/early seventies albums have been very male-centric so far, so might be a while until we overlap again but always interesting to see what you come up with.

        Liked by 1 person

      • During the peak years of my pre-CD-era record collecting, it seemed like most albums had some kind of special packaging, whether it was a gatefold sleeve, a poster &/or stickers included, or in the case of KISS, some one-of-a-kind collectable. By the early to mid-’80s packaging became minimal, with plain inner sleeves, no lyrics, etc. In the end it was all about the music, but putting it in a special package seemed to elevate the enjoyment…for me, at least.

        Anniversary trip was wonderful. Sun, perfect temperatures, lots of delicious food, some beach time, and our cat was happy with the place we rented. That made it easy to leave him for hours at a time. I hope you’re having a good week.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Alyson
        June 6, 2019

        The best album sleeve I possessed (still possess!) that had all sorts going on was by the Bay City Rollers! We swooned as each individual band members picture was pulled from the cover via its own individual tab. Those were the days.

        Like

      • Staring at that album must have been a great way to spend an S-A-T-U-R-D-A-Y Night. 😀

        Liked by 1 person

    • Bill P
      May 31, 2019

      Alyson,

      I miss Ken Bruce’s show (and especially Pop Master…..ohhhhh, one year out!). I lived in the UK for nearly 3 years and I really felt the radio scene there was akin to what it was in the US prior to the mid-90s. You still heard a lot of new, fresh music. Not all would stay on the radio…some would come and go. Some you could tell they were really trying to push a UK artist (like a new Knopfler or Paul Carrack song). Again, some would stick, some wouldn’t but that is the game. Now, it seems all I hear on this side is American Idol-esque drivel or some form of flashback radio where you’d think the only songs played in the 80s were Toni Basil and Naked Eyes.

      As for male-centric music, search for the recent commentary in the Guardian about “mentrification.” You might find it interesting. I’ll try to post the link below:

      https://www.theguardian.com/music/2019/may/29/mentrification-how-men-appropriated-computers-beer-and-the-beatles

      Liked by 1 person

      • Alyson
        May 31, 2019

        Hi Bill P – Yes, it was indeed Ken Bruce’s show I was listening to, and yes, I had also played Pop Master at 10.30am on the dot and did quite well. I have no doubt if I ever rang up his show to play live however, my mind would go blank. We probably are quite lucky here with our radio stations and although I have stuck to Radio 2, the music blogging buddies all tend to veer towards Radio 6 Music which plays lots of new fresh music.

        That’s a great article there and does ring true. I am one of the few females that writes about music but my idea was as per the feature on Ken’s show – A Nostalgic Journey Through the Tracks of My Years. We have a bit of a different relationship with music I think even now, looking back retrospectively. It’s all about the memories it conjures up for me and the feeling you get when you listen to it. Poor Rich has had to endure many of my “anecdotes” as they just come to mind when I hear something from the past.

        Thanks for the comment.

        Like

      • Oh Alyson, you know I love your comments and anecdotes. They are to be cherished, not endured. It’s also a pleasure to have a female perspective on music that isn’t just about the geeky side of music collecting or making lists of favorite-this and I-hate-that. The “mentrification” of music blogging needs to be offset by more voices like yours.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Thanks for sharing that “mentrification” article, Bill. Quite enjoyable.

        Like

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