Springsteen talked about this song in detail on an episode of VH1 Storytellers.A lot of the references are personal, to include people he knew or had met on the Boardwalks, or had grown up around, or were just direct personal references to himself:
Madman drummers bummers - Vinnie "Mad dog" Lopez, the first drummer in the E Street Band.
Indians in the summer - Bruce's little league baseball team as a kid.
"In the dumps with the mumps" - being sick with the mumps.
"Boulder on my shoulder" - a "chip" on his shoulder.
"Some all hot, half-shot, heading for a hot spot, snapping fingers clapping his hands" - Being a "know it all kid growing up, who doesn't really know anything."
"Silicone Sister" - Bruce mentions that this is arguably the first mention of breast implants in popular music - a dancer at one of the local strip joints in Asbury Park.
He wrote this song in his bedroom, primarily using a rhyming dictionary. Or as Bruce put it, "the rhyming dictionary was on fire." (thanks, John - Columbus, OH)
This was Springsteen's first single. It was released only in the US, where it flopped. It was, however, a #1 hit for Manfred Mann's Earth Band
in 1976, becoming the only #1 Hot 100 hit Springsteen ever wrote. The Manfred Mann version was much more elaborately produced, and Springsteen hated it at first. It ended up earning him a very nice payout.
Manfred Mann's version replaces the line "Cut loose like a deuce" with "Revved up like a deuce." In their version, "Deuce" was commonly misheard as "Douche." Springsteen's original line makes a lot more sense - a deuce is a 1932 Ford hotrod. On his Storytellers special, Springsteen said (in a jesting manner): "I have a feeling that is why the song skyrocketed to #1."
Springsteen wrote this after Columbia Records rejected his first attempt at an album, telling him to make some songs that could be played on the radio. He came up with this and "Spirit In The Night."
After eight years playing in bars where audiences usually didn't listen to or couldn't hear the words, Springsteen used his first album to unload a ton of lyrics. All these lyrics helped earn Springsteen the tag "The New Dylan." Singer-songwriters like James Taylor and Kris Kristofferson also shared the comparison, and Bruce went out of his way to shed the tag by making his next album a true rock record.
This was the first song on Springsteen's first album. Greetings From Asbury Park, N.J. featured a postcard on the cover that fans would look for any time they were near the town.
Along with "Spirit In The Night," this was one of two songs on the album featuring Clarence Clemons on saxophone. The E Street Band became a much bigger part of Springsteen's songs on his next album.
Springsteen wrote the lyrics first and filled in the music later. The only time he wrote this way was on his first album.
The working title was "Madman's Bummers," taken from words in the first line.
This was one of the songs that prompted Columbia Records to market the album by claiming "This man puts more thoughts, more ideas and images into one song than most people put into an album."
Manfred Mann's cover is so far the only Bruce Springsteen song to top the American charts. Near misses for Bruce have been "Dancing In The Dark (#2 in 1984) and The Pointer Sisters version of "Fire" (#2 in 1979).