Bruce Springsteen's 'Born in the USA' Turns 39

Bruce Springsteen's biggest selling album, Born in the USA turned 39 years old on June 4, 2023. Over 30 million copies of the album were sold around the world and it produced a stunning seven top-ten singles. From May 1984 through November 1985, Columbia Records released "Dancing in the Dark," "Cover Me," "Born in the USA," "I'm on Fire," "Glory Days," "I'm Goin' Down," and "My Hometown" as singles and were rewarded at the register.

Looking back, the label could have also offered the public the anthems "No Surrender" and "Bobby Jean" as singles, with similar success. Regardless, the songs from that album are the most-performed of any of his 21 studio albums.

Back in the day B-sides sometimes contained deep cuts from the album, but in other cases, they were unreleased tracks yearning to be heard. Prolific songwriters like Springsteen often used the B-sides to showcase gems that might not have matched the tone of the album.

In the early 1980s, Springsteen was a fountain of creativity, from the stark Nebraska suite which came out in 1982 and subsequently the 70+ tunes he had finished for Born in the USA. His producer Jon Landau wanted guaranteed hits for the latter and convinced the Boss to release a lean, 12-song album.

That left gems in their back pocket, ripe for B-sides.

The first was "Pink Cadillac," the cheeky flipside of the 1984 "Dancing in the Dark" single where Springsteen wagers that Adam wasn't tempted by an apple, but instead by Eve's pink... Cadillac.

In early 1983, Prince released the equally suggestive "Little Red Corvette" with a similar sexual innuendos in regard to an American car.

The B-side was recorded by Natalie Cole in '88, released as a single off her album and became her first Top 10 hit since '78, reaching #5 on the charts.

Springsteen has performed the tune 122 times, mostly in the '80s, but likes to bring it out for special events. During the '84-'85 tour it was played 97 times - which was more times than the classic "Rosalita."

Another tune that didn't make the Born in the USA cut was the driving, dark, chorus-less ode to the dying US middle class, "Seeds." Springsteen has played it over 180 times, mostly in the '80s as a subtle protest of Reaganomics and then it made it back in the set in 2009 during the effects of the Bush recession.

The song made its way on the double Live 75-85 LP from a show in '85 during the LA Coliseum run they made on their second stint through LA. Now when it's delivered with a full horn section is grinding melody hits even harder.

Another Born in the USA B-side that sure sounds like a Nebraska deep cut is the painful "Shut Out The Light" which had the power to cut through arenas and football stadiums even when played without the full band. In this version from Paris '85, the French love the song so much they begin clapping to keep the beat.

The song was performed 43 times during the tour but was not released until 1998 when the four-cd box set of rarities, Tracks, came out.

One would think with 6 previous album's worth of material, and a new LP that yielded so many smash singles plus a gaggle of endearing B-sides, you wouldn't need to fill the set with many covers.

But when the We Are The World charity album was released in April of 1985, Springsteen gave an '84 recording to the project. The song was "Trapped" a re-imagined version of a Jimmy Cliff song Springsteen heard off a cassette he bought of the reggae icon in an airport. The recording he donated to the cause was from on of their epic August nights at the Meadowlands in New Jersey.

The song became popular due to the enormity of the album sales. Kind-hearted music fans bought the album (whose proceeds went to feeding starving people in Africa) and once they finished playing the title track, discovered "Trapped" which was unlike anything off the pop-laden Born in the USA.

He and the band played it live on the Born in the USA Tour 74 times - as much as "Jungleland" and more than "No Surrender" and "Spirit in the Night" combined.

No Surrender, from the Born in the USA album was the tour opener of Springsteen's current tour.

Springsteen & Co. are currently touring Europe and "Trapped" finds its way into the set about 25% of the time. Most recently it was played in Amsterdam right before "The E Street Shuffle."

Bruce Springsteen and the E & Street Band will conclude their visit across the pond at the end of July in Italy, where one would imagine he will take a breather before resuming touring the States when they rock Chicago's Wrigley Field for two nights starting August 9.

Springsteen with Rage Against the Machine guitarist Tom Morello and Pearl Jam's Eddie Vedder (both Chicagoans) performing a very special "Tenth Avenue Freeze-out" to honor the recently fallen saxophonist Clarence Clemons.

It will be their second time at the fabled ballpark since the Wrecking Ball Tour in 2012 where the Boss gave it his all despite the rain.

Tickets can be found on the Boss's website.

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Last updated: 27 Sep 2023, 23:41 Etc/UTC