Bruce Springsteen is one of the most prolific authors in rock history, having written around 250 songs that have been officially released and presumably hundreds more lying in the vaults. So why is it that, in almost any discussion of his work, Born to Run and Born in the USA dominate the debate? Sure, they may be his most critically acclaimed and commercially successful albums, but the Boss has so much more to give.
Even among dedicated fans, while Nebraska yields countless essays of in-depth analysis, certain albums are all but overlooked. Human Touch and Lucky Town, in particular, get treated like nothing short of bastard stepchildren, the black sheep of the Springsteen canon. As well, a number of cuts on the rarities box set, Tracks, succumb to obscurity simply because they never appeared on an album proper.
I won't deny that both Borns are key components of the Springsteen catalog, nor that Nebraska is among his most artistic, challenging works. That doesn't run counter to my claim, however, that many songs on other albums are, unjustifiably, given short shrift.
In an attempt to remedy this oversight, I've examined five of Springsteen's hidden gems — all official releases, no bootlegs or unauthorized recordings — that seldom get their due. In chronological order, they are as follows:
"Racing In The Street" - from 1978's Darkness on the Edge of Town: A Springsteen epic, sprawling long, slow and wearing its emotions on its sleeve. Driven primarily by piano and organ, it's otherwise sparsely backed and builds slowly, drawing attention to the lyrics.
And what of the lyrics? At first, it seems to merely be working through the Springsteen playbook, like the "'69' Chevy with a 396" that the narrator races "for the money, got no strings attached;" and the hard workers who "come home from work and wash up/ And go racin' in the street."
Halfway through this archetypal tale of working-man aspiration, though, the song takes a one-eighty turn as its narrator begins to reminisce about his girlfriend back home. "She cries herself to sleep at night," he laments. "She stares off alone into the night/ With the eyes of one who hates for just being born."
It's a poignant, nuanced portrait that concludes with the titular couple heading to the sea "to wash these sins" off their hands. And the chorus that at first sounded downtrodden now conveys optimism: "Summer's here and the time is right/ For goin' racin' in the street." Perhaps there is hope down this highway after all.