Backstreets

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  • This is an intense story about a broken relationship; a tale of losing a lover where the narrator seems more concerned about losing her as a friend. The girl in the song, Terry, is a character Springsteen created based on girls he knew.
  • This is one of several Springsteen songs featuring the first name of a girl who is not a specific real person. Besides Terry, Springsteen has also sung about Mary, Wendy, Sandy and Rosie.
  • Asked where this song came from in a 2016 interview with Rolling Stone, Springsteen replied: "Just youth, the beach, the night, friendships, the feeling of being an outcast and kind of living far away from things in this little outpost in New Jersey. It's also about a place of personal refuge. It wasn't a specific relationship or anything that brought the song into being."
  • This goes over very well when Springsteen plays it live. The version on the boxed set Live 1975-1985 was taken from a show at The Roxy in 1978.
  • A string section was brought in to play on the track, but the strings did not make the final mix.
  • This is one of E Street Band drummer Max Weinberg's favorite Bruce Springsteen songs. He explained: "I guess what hit me most about it was the emotionalism of the lyrics. I felt particularly proud to play on that record, because it was a kind of an involved drum part, it involved not playing a lot, just getting into that tom-tom figure – ba-ba-ba-ba-boom bom-boom, ba-ba-ba-ba-boom bom-boom. And if anyone's every heard 'Running Scared' by Roy Orbison, that was the kind of tension we were trying to create. And I like to think we did." (Source of quote ABC Radio).
  • "Backstreets" became the name of a popular, long-running Springsteen fan magazine.
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Comments: 29

  • Gary from Bronx, NyI know Bruce gave his interpretation of this song in interviews, I feel like we're in the ballpark, but I see it as a story about losing a friend, maybe losing them to death and hating god. Whomever and Terry becoming friends, from that same run down, middle to low class, hard working, NJ boardwalk town. Where they ran thru juke joints, hung with the duke street kings, got wasted in the heat, hanging in the once, plenty of abandoned beach houses and so on, as time and the companionship of two like souls move on, and all about their mundane lives in kinda forgotten, at times! Then before you know it, there's a reality of moving on, the days of running on the backstreets and beach hangouts is over, but why? Is it life setting in, sense of responsibility? Or do you take it as I lean towards, one dies? I hated him - god, for taking him, and I hated you when you went away - Terry, was out of anger, for the sudden loss of the only true friend you had! You swore forever friends, but now your gone and I'm mad at god for taking you and at you for going. Now I have to be on these backstreets till the end, or I find my way out, now alone.
  • Michael from Austin, TxTerry is a female character in the song. It is about Diane Lozito, who was Springsteen's girlfriend from 1971 to 1974. She is also Sandy in 4th of July, Asbury Park, Crazy Janey in Spirit in the Night and Rosalita. Her parents were not so thrilled that Springsteen was a musician. Her mother did not want her to move in with Springsteen. Her father was himself a musician, but he said that "All musicians are bums". There is a line in Rosalita:

    Now I know your mama she don't like me 'cause I play in a rock and roll band. And I know your daddy he don't dig me but he never did understand.

    This is were the 'Hiding on the Backstreets" comes from. It is about a relationship that starts a friendship, but later evolves to love:

    One soft infested summer me and Terry became friends ...

    In the late 70's Springsteen used to play Backstreets live with an interlude that later became the song 'Drive All Night'. This is known as the 'Sad Eyes' interlude. In this version it is very obvious that Backstreets is not just a song about friendship and loyalty, it is a song about friendship that becomes love and about the struggles to maintain the relationship.
  • Calvino from New York, NjIt's interesting how people can interpret a song in different ways. I always thought this song was about two guys -- a really intense love story between two gays who were heavy drug users ("tying faith between our teeth" sounds like shooting up; "Valentino drag" sounds like a gay reference). "Trying to walk like the heroes we thought we had to be" definitely refers to two men (why would a girl try to walk like a her0? it would be a heroine). "Hiding on the backstreets" to me meant having to live in the closet. Springsteen uses a similar theme in "This Hard Land" when he sings "Hey Frank, won't you pack your bags
    and meet me tonight down at Liberty Hall, Just one kiss from you my brother and we'll ride until we fall."
  • Shawn from Andover, MaWe all can relate to having someone come into our lives unexpectedly, albeit briefly, who knocks us off our feet and becomes an "angel on your chest". Bruce writes about Terry who on a "soft infested summer" comes into a persons life and suddenly, unexpectedly leaves with someone else, causing love to clash with false hate. A true love triangle. I never really did hate you "when you went away" and still don't. I miss you!!!
  • Greg from Hartford, CtThe myriad of adamant interpretations here is a testament to the power of an incredibly well written and conceived song. I believe the song is totally fictitious but based on real emotions and composites of real emotions just as most of his songs are. A good song is designed to give us a scaffold upon which to project whatever we may see, and if you want to look for elements of Bruce's life in it you have as good a chance as anyone of finding it. His songs provide the drama of universal conflicts, emotions, scenarios that resonate so thoroughly that it's hard not to "see" specific scripts playing out
  • Dennis from Charles City, IaI think this song is about two best friends and one turns out to be gay, and the other can't deal with it. So, the gay one leaves with another gay person. " I hated him,and I hated you when you went away" "Blame it on the lies that killed us, blame it on the truth that let us down" He's talking about all this studly stuff they did together, and saying how could we have done all that with you being gay the whole time? How could you swear to forever be my friend, when that wasn't what you really wanted " just another tramp of hearts crying tears of faithlessness.
  • Rick from El Paso, TxThis song could be about exploring you sexuality, but most of his songs are about navigating life throught trial and tribulations. At this point in his career he was still writing about growing up. A young guy with not much to hold onto but his girl, and even she betrays him somehow only to return when he achieves some success:
    "Laying here in the dark you're like an angel on my chest
    Just another tramp of hearts crying tears of faithlessness"
    She stayed with him during the bad times but got impatient and left with some other guy;
    "when the breakdown hit at midnight
    There was nothing left to say but I hated him and I hated you when you went away"
    Everyone knows this story well.
  • Jerseygirl from Oakhurst, NjBackstreets is a place you go to meet people who don't want you knocking on their front door in front of their mothers and stuff. When you went running at night to crash in empty beach houses & get wasted, naturally, you didn't want to get caught so you chose the backstreets to do it. Car drag racing, illicit friendships and activities were all part of the "backstreet" life. As to whether Terry is a guy or a gal is up for interpretation. Artists who lived on the backstreets would cleverly hide their reality. Maybe Terry was a guy friend who turned out to be gay and that wrecked the friendship. On the other hand, who knows? Terry could have been a "little girl." It's certainly about betrayal.
  • Joe from Westville, NjI think it is a summer romance...however, i believe it is a continuation/another version of Zero and Blind Terry, where the 2 got away from the gang fighting, the police and Terry's father. They hid from their problems and the people that didn't want them together on the Backstreets.
  • Tom from St Paul, MnWhen he's done extended versions in concert, he refers to Terry as "little girl."
  • Tim from Raleigh, NcI suspect the song is indeed about homosexual lovers, as Springsteen loves to depict couples in unique situations ("Worlds Apart", "Racing in the Street").
  • Ethan Mitchell from Toronto, OnIts not about Theories or any crazy ideas.

    It is a FACT that Terry is a male. He is a real person. He has been Bruce Springsteen's BEST friend since childhood. Thats why on Magic there is a secret track titled Terry's Song because Terry passed away this past summer.

    This song is about them growing up and living on the boardwalk. Being misfits. And growing up with heroes.
    Its about them not being a part of the everyday society.
    Two best friends who were not homosexuals

  • Ed from Sugar Land, TxI've listened to this song since '75 and have always heard it as a song about male friendship. It never dawned on me to interpret it as guy-girl or 2 homosexuals as suggested in others' interpretations. The beauty of art is that it can mean many things to many people and there is no right or wrong interpretation. Nevertheless, here are some thoughts of mine.

    To me, this is a song about a mutual passion for auto racing and a friendship. Two good friends racing on the backstreets late at night, hiding on the backstreets from the law. And when their car was broken down, as raced cars often do, they would catch rides to the backstreets on the outskirts to watch the racing, huddled in the cars waiting for the starting bells to start the races.

    Valentino drag is just that, a drag racing strip (street) where some of the races were held. At the bell they would "let loose of everything" by flooring-it, "running on backstreets" drag strips. Of course there were wrecks where "some hurt bad" and "some were really dying".

    I had a good friend named Terry. We met in 1975 and would go to dance clubs to (hopefully) meet girls and would often end up slow dancing with the girls, not each other. Sometimes leaving with girls to "go park". Our friendship was deep and we would occasionally speak of the love we had for each other without any homosexual overtones. We often (sadly) go wasted together. I've also had other male friends where we would say "I love you man". This song expresses the same kind of male friendship since the singer is a male. And the activities and desires (to be "heroes", racing, "getting wasted", etc.) are consistent with males.

    Finally there was a car "breakdown at midnight" that, together with "lies" from not being honest with one another, caused a spit in their friendship and a new partnership with another guy for Terry (Note that it is not "Teri" or some other common feminine spelling.) It was the last time they were "stranded" together. Looking back on this split caused a heavy heart. So heavy that it felt like someone sitting on his heart, like "an angel on my chest".

    The opening line "me and Terry became friends" and closing refrain "where we sore forever friends on the backstreets until the end", begins and ends a lament of the love of two fiends going awry.

  • Jamie from Limerick, IrelandI think the lyrics describe a homosexual relationship "trying in vain to breath the fire we were born in"
  • Gene Phillips from San Diego, CaWhile I will be open to the suggestion of a homosexual relationship, I seriously doubt as such. I believe that this song is about two high school teenagers who are widely popular among the rest of the school and begin dating. However, they end up realising they do not belong together. And for the qoute "There was nothing left to say but I hated him and I hated you when you went away" would actually imply that "him" would be another man who came along and took his girl/boyfriend away.
  • Kyle from Omaha, NeThis song gives me goosebumps every time.
  • Mark from Madison, WiI always pictured Terry as a guy. The relationship sounds like a couple of misfit teenage guys getting into trouble and having fun and being loyal to each other, until getting older and 'serious' forces them to grow apart.
  • Philby from Sydney, AustraliaThis song is undoubtably about a relationship with a male...no question. There is nothing in there that says to me that Terry is female. Springsteen was not fussed about exploring sexuality in songs -take a look at "Mary Queen of Arkansas". Impressive and bold.
  • Jim from Jersey City, NjThis is a great song about adultry
    - Jim, Jersey City,NJ
  • Kirk from Denver, CoI grew up in the same Jersey Streets as Bruce did and felt the pain of love at 18 when he wrote this highly underated song. Falling in love was hard and feelings were disposable back there in the seventies. Bruce wrote about the hardships of passion in this great song that never got the airplay because of it's length. In some strange sense it reminds me of Nicholas Cage and Rosie Perez in "White Men Can't Jump"
    Love isn't easy, it's a war so very difficult to win.
  • Vince from Pennsauken, NjThis song is incredibly intense and emotional and for me mirrors a real relationship with similar atributes of love, deception and betrayal. Only Bruce could deliver it with such emotional intensity. After one particular part in it he sings " and i hated him and I hated you, when you went away..." (--and I did, too,) then Bruce's following solo (especially live versions) seems to cry tears of sadness and anger when he 'wails' away on his guitar.
  • Marc from Land O Lakes, FlWith the rumbling bass bringing a foreboding tone and the electric guitar putting us in the last day of summer vacation from school, this song's intro alone just 'makes it.' But then the third verse, with Bruce screaming his everything out, truly gives a person a corkscrew sensation up the spine.
  • Steve from Markham, CanadaOne of my favourite songs... ever.
    Beautiful piano especially at the beginning.
    Bruce paints such a wonderful story that I can picture what he is singing about every time I hear this song.
    -Steve, Markham, ON
  • Matt from Pittsburgh, PaDefinately about betrayal of trust, whether it's a bi relationship who knows? I know Springsteen is one of the most empathetic artists out there so it may very well be.. I feel like it's about my first love who really cheated on me...funny thing is she was the best relationship I have ever had with a woman...Favorite lines:

    With a love so hard and filled with defeat

    and my favorite:

    Blame it on the lies that killed us and the truth that ran us down

  • Garcia from Vb, CanadaThis is about 'hiding' from society, not daring to step out of the 'backstreets' and take part in the society.
  • Nicholas from Athens, GreeceActually this song was supposedly written about a band mate of Springsteen from an early band he played in called "Steel Mill". I can't remember his name (yes, it's about a guy, but I think he is just using a real life experience combined with fictional details for better effect - either that or he's bi!)
    You can see the despair Bruce felt:
    "But I hated him (presumably his father)
    And I hated you when you went away"
    Incidently, the live version used in the 1975-1985 was heavily edited. A whole part was edited out near the end of the song where Bruce performed "Sad Eyes" (as a medley). "Sad Eyes" became "Drive All Night" on "The River" album.
  • Kelly from New York, Nyi actually heard from several bruce aficionados at a concert that this song is about exploring his sexuality... there's a theory that terry is male.
  • Bob from Boca Raton, FlMy favorite Springsteen song too. Inspires incredible emotion in me every time her performs it. Like most people I assume, I can relate to the lyrics totally. The heartache I can feel in Bruce's voice brings back too many memories.
  • Joanne from Sydney, Australiamy all time fave bruce song, heard it live recently in sydney, incredible!!!!!!
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