Bruce Springsteen’s first album wasn’t the one that made him a star. That would take another two years.
In hindsight, though, that debut record shows more than a glimmer of early promise.
We dug into the album and discovered a bit of what Springsteen was like before he became The Boss.
Let’s take a trip to Asbury Park and find out!
The Story of Bruce Springsteen
Bruce Springsteen is an iconic American singer-songwriter known for writing songs that depict the struggles of the working class. He’s also very tied to his home state of New Jersey, which he sings about often.
He’s been performing steadily since the 1970s, and his shows are very high-energy. Along with the skillful music he makes with the E-Street Band, Springsteen is considered a cultural figure.
For Springsteen, writing about the New Jersey working-class hits home. He grew up that way with parents who worked several jobs and still struggled to make ends meet. Bruce’s mom got a loan to buy him a $60 guitar for his 16th birthday. There was no turning back for The Boss then.
After high school, Springsteen played and toured locally with other bands. In 1973, he released his first album, Greetings From Asbury Park. The album got good reviews and comparisons to Bob Dylan, but it didn’t put Springsteen on the map until he released Born to Run two years later.
Together with his famed E-Street Band, Springsteen has been unstoppable since then, being a perfectionist in the studio and still churning out one great album after another. He’s up to 20 records so far, as well as heaps of singles, live recordings, and soundtracks.
In fact, one of his soundtrack songs, Streets of Philadelphia (for the Tom Hanks movie Philadelphia), won an Oscar for Best Original Song.
More recently, Springsteen released an autobiography detailing his whole career. He’s also had a one-person show on Broadway. Titled Springsteen on Broadway, the show features The Boss playing solo songs and telling stories.
What Was Bruce Springsteen’s First Album?
Greetings from Asbury Park, released in 1973, was Springsteen’s first studio album.
By far, the most well-known track on the record is Blinded by the Light. Though Bruce wrote the song and was the first to record it, Manfred Mann made it the tune we all know and love to mess up. More on that later.
In addition, Spirits in the Night topped out at #44 on the charts. However, it was again Manfred Mann’s cover that got it there. Springsteen’s version never even made it to the charts.
That said, some consider Greetings to be his best album even over Born to Run.
What Musicians Played on Bruce Springsteen’s First Album?
While recording Greetings, Springsteen and his then-manager disagreed about whether the solo arrangements or band versions were better. They compromised and included five of each.
Columbia Records initially rejected the record, saying it needed a hit. Springsteen quickly wrote Blinded By the Light and Spirit of the Night.
He’d done the initial recordings with David Sancious on piano and Garry Tallent on bass. They were unavailable for the last two songs, so Vini Lopez sat on drums, and Clarence Clemons joined on saxophone. Springsteen and his manager had met these players in the community, and they all ended up in the E-Street Band.
Bruce Springsteen’s Best Known Songs
Blinded By the Light
As stated above, Springsteen wrote this song last-minute to ensure there was a single on the album. Because he had to write quickly, Springsteen paged through a rhyming dictionary as he wrote. That process is why so many images in the song seem unrelated.
Blinded By the Light was on Bruce’s debut album in 1973 but didn’t get much attention. Four years later, the British band Manfred Mann hit number one covering it.
In their remake, there’s a piano melody borrowed from chopsticks. Famously, or infamously, it sounds like the lead singer is saying, “wrapped up like a douche.” In actuality, he’s referring to the Deuce Ford Coupe and singing “revved up like a Deuce.”
Born in the U.S.A
This hit is a protest song that many people, including former President Reagan, mistook for a patriotic anthem.
If you listen to the lyrics, you’ll hear that the patriotic messages are sarcastic. The song details the life of a Vietnam veteran who the US government is not supporting.
And yes, Reagan did say this song “gave America hope.”
What Song Made Bruce Springsteen Famous?
That would be Born to Run for sure! It was the first Springsteen song many people heard, and they fell in love with his piece about a fast-moving guy with a fast-moving car who’s crushing on a girl named Wendy. He’s performed this at almost every show he’s played for nearly 50 years, and it’s still a crowd favorite.
Can You Still See Bruce Springsteen Live?
Springsteen on Broadway has finished its run, and there aren’t any other definitive dates booked.
At a recent event, Springsteen did say he hopes they’ll be touring next year and guarantees viewers will see the band at its peak.
Bruce Springsteen’s First Album Set the Stage
While Bruce Springsteen has come a long way from Greetings from Asbury Park, he’s never strayed far from Asbury Park itself. After all these years, he still bundles up his performance energy, songwriting skills, and blue-collar New Jersey roots into everything he does.
What do you think of Greetings From Asbury Park?