This was the first track on Born To Run, a crucial album for Springsteen. His first two albums sold poorly, and he was in danger of losing his record deal if he did not produce a hit. With songs like this one about escaping to the open road, he connected with an audience that proved extremely loyal.
He considered this song the "invitation" to the album, with the opening notes being the welcome. "Something is opening up," Springsteen said during his 2005 Storytellers appearance. "What I hoped it would be was the sense of a larger life, greater experience, sense of fun, the sense that your personal exploration and possibilities were all lying somewhere inside of you."
Springsteen took the title from a 1958 Robert Mitchum movie. He did not see the film, but got the idea from a poster for it in a theater lobby.
The vocal sound was inspired by Roy Orbison. Springsteen pays homage to him with the line: "The radio plays Roy Orbison singing for the lonely," a reference to Orbison's 1960 hit, "Only The Lonely."
The name of the girl mentioned at the beginning was changed several times. It had been Angelina and Chrissie before Springsteen settled on "Mary's dress waves."
The original title was "Wings For Wheels." It began as an outtake called "Glory Road."
Cars were very important growing up in New Jersey and show up in many of Springsteen songs. Bruce's first car was a '57 Chevy with orange flames painted on the hood.
This is a concert favorite that Springsteen has performed at many of his shows over the years.
At one point, Born To Run was going to be a concept album spanning the course of a day, with an acoustic version of this starting the album and the full band version closing it.
Springsteen's friend and future manager, Jon Landau, convinced him to record this at The Record Plant in New York instead of the low-budget studio he was using. Springsteen's current manager, Mike Appel, resented Landau's influence and would file a lawsuit that kept Springsteen from recording for 3 years.
Since the band didn't know the song very well, Springsteen used a version with just him at the piano to open a series of shows at The Bottom Line in New York City in 1975. Sponsored by a New York radio station, the disc jockey, Dave Herman, apologized on the air for not playing enough Springsteen the morning after the first show.
On November 3, 1980, Springsteen kicked off his tour to support the album in Ann Arbor, Michigan. For the encore, Bob Seger, who is to Michigan what Springsteen is to New Jersey, joined him onstage to perform this.
Has been performed live many different ways: with the full band, solo with guitar, solo with piano, slowed down, etc. The version on Live 1975-1985 features Springsteen singing over Roy Bittan's piano.
Bruce taped a performance of this that was played at the funeral of James Berger, a worker in the World Trade Center who helped people get out before he was killed when it collapsed. He was a big Springsteen fan and this was his favorite song. Bruce dedicated it to his sons.
This was also the first track on Springsteen's live album Hammersmith Odeon London 1975
, which was recorded on November 18, 1975 during Springsteen's first concert in Europe. It was released on DVD in 2005, and on CD the following year.