35 Years Ago Today: Bruce Springsteen Releases 'Born In The U.S.A.'
It was 35 years ago today (June 4th, 1984) that Bruce Springsteen released his seventh album, Born In The U.S.A. -- the collection that catapulted "The Boss" into superstardom. On June 23rd, 1984, Born In The U.S.A. debuted at Number Nine on the Billboard 200, and hit the Number One spot for the first of its seven-week run on July 7th.
The 12-track album spawned seven Top 10 hit singles -- all with non-LP B-sides: "Dancing In The Dark" (#2); "Cover Me" (#7); "Born In The U.S.A." (#9); "I'm On Fire" (6); "Glory Days" (#5); "I'm Goin' Down" (#9); and "My Hometown" (#6). In total, Born In The U.S.A. remained on the Billboard 200 for a whopping 143 weeks. To date, Born In The U.S.A. has been certified for sales of over 30 million copies worldwide.
The album was produced by Springsteen, manager Jon Landau, engineer Chuck Plotkin, and E Street Band guitarist Steve Van Zandt, who left the band midway through the recording sessions for a solo career.
Much of the Born In The U.S.A. material had its roots in the batch of songs Springsteen had composed for his groundbreaking 1982 Nebraska album. The primarily acoustic set, recorded at home on a four-track recorder, showcased some of the bleaker moments of the human condition: "That was kind of rock bottom (laughs), y'know? It was. . . That was a record, I guess, where I came home from tour, I sat down and in about two months sat down and wrote the whole thing. Y'know, what happens when, y'know, all those things just break down? What happens when your friends fail you -- or you fail your friends, and you are alone? That's kinda where where, I guess, Born In The U.S.A. started to come from."
"Born In The U.S.A." was inspired by filmmaker Paul Schrader's script of the same name, which he had sent Springsteen. After lifting the title for the tune, he made amends by contributing the theme song to the film -- Schrader's 1987 Michael J. Fox / Joan Jett movie, Light Of Day.
Springsteen had originally written "Cover Me" for Donna Summer, but was convinced by Jon Landau to keep the song for himself and write her another. The "replacement" song, titled "Protection," was featured on Summer's 1982 self-titled, Quincy Jones-produced album.
Springsteen recalled how in the 1980's, the title track to Born In The U.S.A. was often co-opted by the precise people it was slamming: "I feel that I'm patriotic -- I'm not jingoistic. I felt that I had as much right to claim my own flag and my own country as Ronald Reagan -- whose views I disagreed with tremendously. Y'know, the Republicans were taking everything American and tried to make it theirs, y'know -- including me!"
Drummer Max Weinberg reflected on the era-defining 1984-1985 Born In The U.S.A. tour, which spanned the globe over the course of 156 shows: "The record was a big hit -- the ('Dancing In The Dark') video had a lot to do with that. Suddenly, 75 percent of our audience at the concerts were guys -- now, it was a preponderance of girls and women at our shows. And Bruce, certainly, turned into a video star; I'm not sure he altogether felt comfortable with that role, but we were on a tour and the tour took on a life of its own. We did about 170 shows all around the world. It was a fabulous experience because we had finally gotten to the place we always wanted to be -- in terms of putting on a show, playing big places -- it was quite a time."
Bruce Springsteen has always had his pulse on the life of the common man and even after he attained wealth and fame, he never lost sight of what he believes is the real America. He never set out to be an example because he looks at his achievements as being based mainly on luck: "In my story I saw in certain places, y'know, 'Local boy makes good,' 'This is the U.S.A. -- anybody can do it' -- y'know, and that's not true. Hey, hard work can get you someplace, of course it can. And if you're one in a million, maybe y'know, for whatever reasons, you fall into fortune or you pursued it and it happened. But to generalize that story is where things go wrong. Y'know, hard work is not enough. You can ask all the unemployed steel workers."
Bruce Springsteen has never forgotten that rock n' roll served not only as an escape, but as a world class education for him: "It taught me the most important thing, it's that there's more to life than what you see around. And that was something that they couldn't teach me in school, y'know, I couldn't learn it in the house, you couldn't learn it from the people you were hanging with out on the street, or anything. It was the most important lesson of my life, y'know? I guess, at night, that's the only thing we try to (laughs) say, or to try to do. It's really the only message, really, is, y'know -- don't sell yourself short."
The tracklisting to Born In The U.S.A. is: "Born In The U.S.A.," "Cover Me," "Darlington County," "Working On The Highway," "Downbound Train," "I'm On Fire," "No Surrender," "Bobby Jean," "I'm Goin' Down," "Glory Days," "Dancing In The Dark," and "My Hometown."
The B-Sides to the album's singles were: "Pink Cadillac," "Jersey Girl (Live)," "Shut Out The Light," "Johnny Bye Bye," "Stand On It," "Janey, Don't You Lose Heart," and "Santa Claus Is Comin' To Town (Live)."