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Bruce Springsteen’s Greatest Epics [LIST]

In the decades since he burst onto the popular music scene with 1973's Greetings From Asbury Park, NJ, Bruce Springsteen has been a hit machine.

Backed by his mighty E Street Band, The Boss has cranked out numerous anthems, songs ingrained so deeply in our collective cultural history that they belong in a history book as much as they belong on an iPod.

This list, however, isn't about the hits. Here we'll focus on the epics. While he is known now for more lyrically general, evocative songs that encompass social issues and larger themes, Springsteen was originally praised for his specificity, his amazingly intricate storytelling, weaving star-crossed characters through broken landscapes with literate and cinematic expertise.

When the arena empties out and the last echoes of the show die away, we'll still have these great stories.


"Incident on 57th Street"

from The Wild, The Innocent and the E Street Shuffle [1973]
 
 

Incident paints a vivid picture of a character named Spanish Johnny who finds himself entangled in the seedy underworld happenings of an unnamed city. The song comes in at a hefty 7:45, the length is needed to tell the full story of Johnny, being accused of lying and cheating by local pimps before leaving his girlfriend, Puerto Rican Jane, to "make some easy."

 

"Jungleland"

from Born to Run [1975]

 
 

The most renowned of Springsteen's great story songs, "Jungleland" has been a staple in Springsteen's live performances throughout the E Street Band's touring history. The tune is again a story of ill-fated love as the Magic Rat and the Barefoot Girl are torn apart due to gang violence of which the Rat is part. After a powerful Clarence Clemons saxophone, we are shown Rat's somber fate when "no one watches as the ambulance pulls away."

 

"Thundercrack"

from Tracks [1998]
 
 

In 1998, fans were introduced to a four-CD, 66 song collection of previously unreleased Springsteen material called Tracks. Among the gems unearthed from the collection was the 8:30-long "Thundercrack." Originally recorded for The Wild, The Innocent and The E Street Shuffle, the song was ultimately cut because it didn't fit the record's overarching theme. This fast and loose love song would become a signature hit in some Springsteen tours following the 1998 Tracks release, with fans taking part in its "all night" call and response.

 

"Zero and Blind Terry"

from Tracks [1998]
 
 

This six-minute Romeo and Juliet tale is another cut unearthed from The Wild, The Innocent and The E Street Shuffle sessions for inclusion in the Tracks collection. It's worth noting that the Terry in this song is implied to be female,while the Terry mentioned in "Backstreets" from 1975's Born to Run is not gender-specific. It's not clear if one, both or neither of these characters is representative of Springsteen's longtime friend and confidant Terry Magovern, who was and was the subject of "Terry's Song" from Magic.

 

"New York City Serenade"

from The Wild, The Innocent and The E Street Shuffle [1973]
 
 

The closing track of Springsteen's second album, "New York City Serenade" is an ode to the City that Never Sleeps that measures a mammoth 9:55. The tune is highlighted by masterful piano and orchestral string arrangements from David Sancious. A little known fact about "New York City Serenade" is that it is actually an amalgamation of some of Springsteen's early work including the songs "Vibes Man" and "New York City Song."

 

"Point Blank"

from The River [1981]
 
 

The first song written for his ambitious double album The River, "Point Blank" deals with addiction and is among many of Springsteen's songs to be set against a stark, poverty-stricken canvas. Remarkable for a song of its length, tempo and subject matter, "Point Blank" reached number 20 on the Billboard chart despite never being released as a single.

 

"Racing in the Street"

from Darkness on the Edge of Town [1978]
 
 

The last track on side A of Darkness, "Racing in the Street" is perhaps Springsteen's most forlorn composition. Delicate piano and percussion offset lyrics mired in longing and desperation. The narrator is a down on his luck working man who lives to race his '69 Chevy while his girlfriend yearns for more from life.

 

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