In about a week’s time, Bruce Springsteen’s first album, Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J. turns 48 years old. Produced by first manager Mike Appel and Jim Cretecos, the Dylanesque album was first rejected by Columbia Records owner Clive Davis which forced Springsteen back to writing two additional songs that would then become the singles.
“Growin’ Up” starts with a stark piano before it starts to pick up steam through the first verse where Springsteen declares “when they said, ‘sit down’ I stood up”. According to setlists.fm, this is the song from the album that still gets played live the most and is a great introduction to The Boss brand of songwriting. “Does This Bus Stop at 82nd Street?” features no chorus but one can hear the roots of the Hold Steady taking hold. Throughout “For You”, the music strips away leaving just Springsteen singing before the drums of Vini Lopez revs the music back up again. The horns of Clarence Clemons and handclaps in the chorus elevates, second single “Spirit In The Night”.
The most famous song here is “Blinded By The Light”. The wordy first track and single failed to chart but is punctuated with horns and the breakdowns are a soulful delight. It would take a slim lined version by Manfred Mann’s Earth Band to bring out the hit potential and remains Springsteen’s only US #1 as a songwriter.
Where the album slows is on the more earnest tracks with just him and either guitar or piano. “Mary Queen of Arkansas” drags on for five long minutes while “Lost in the Flood” does slightly better describing a veteran returning home. It is not a coincidence that the Essential Bruce Springsteen album from 2003 rescues the lighter, more brisk tracks and leaves the rest behind. A decent debut with several bright spots that will start to burn brighter in just a few years.