Incident On 57th Street

Album: The Wild, The Innocent & The E Street Shuffle (1973)
  • songfacts ®
  • Artistfacts ®
  • Lyrics
  • This song tells a romantic story set against a New York street fight (Springsteen would often visit New York City to get away from New Jersey). It's a lot like West Side Story in that sense, with Springsteen writing it from a third-person perspective based on observation. "I'd never get into that kind of situation but I know people who have lived that life," he said.
  • A track from his second album, "Incident On 57th Street" is one of the first Springsteen songs where he fully develops the characters and setting, a style he would often use in future compositions. Many of the songs on his first album have lots of lyrics, but are mostly a collection of images without a cohesive storyline.
  • A 10-minute version appears on the B-side of Springsteen's "War" single.
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Comments: 16

  • Torty from TucsonTed - You can't help when you were born...but this track is not underrated. It is an incredibly highly rated track by fans, critics, and other musicians alike. One that I believe will be listened to with equal admiration by new generations like yours.
  • Wayne from Prescott, AzMike is right, the version from the legendary Main Point concert of Feb 75 is truly transcendent. Look for the bootleg album called "The Saint, the Incident, and the Main Point Shuffle" or "Prodigal Son at the Main Point."
  • Matt from Niles, OhTed, i completely agree. Greetings and the Wild and the Innocent are both very underrated in my opinion.
  • Duane from Oak Harbor, WaI must agree with Ted on this. Clearly one of the best songs he ever wrote, but I never have heard it on the radio. I bought the album because I liked Rosalita...what a gem to find. It is too bad more can't hear it on the the classic rock stations. The ability to paint a picture with words and music is amazing. I saw him in concert a few years ago in Seattle. A solo show...him, a mic and an instrument. It was quite a show. I only wish I had coughed up the cash when I was younger and he was touring the with E-Street Band...I kick myself over and over to think I could have hear him sing out, "Puerta Rican Jane, oh won't you tell me what's your name?"
  • John Powell from Valley Forge, PaUpstairs a band was playin', the singer was singin' something about goin' home
    She whispered, "Spanish Johnny, you can leave me tonight but just don't leave me alone"

    Just great lyrics throughout, but I love that line. I also love the guitar solo at the fade. Is that Bruce playing it? It is very soulful.

    I saw him in NOLA in 1975, and was in the front row when he opened with it on piano. It was quite a moment!
  • Mike from Philadelphia, PaTed - You are so correct it isn't even funny. Bruce's first 2 records are insanely great, and Incident is among the finest works he has ever recorded. Find the piano/violin version from The Main Point if you can. Truly special...

    I was born in 1968 in NJ and grew up "with" Bruce. I spent hours upon hours listening to the first 5 records, dissecting every word, and visualizing new worlds. His lyrics utilize every color of the palette, and the raw emotion of his voice on songs like Incident and Sandy is untouched.

    Keep listening -- you have great taste.
  • Tim from Denver, CoThe battle cry in every writing class I've ever taken is "Show, Don't Tell." Bruce, apparently, has always known this. Really, does it get any better than this:
    "Johnny was sittin on the fire escape watchin' the kids playin down the street
    He called down, Hey little heroes, summer's long
    But I guess it ain't very sweet around here anymore
    Janey sleeps in sheets damp with sweat,
    Johnny sits up alone and watches her dream on, dream on..."
  • Bill from Ruston, LaIn the opening days of his 1975 tour, he would do Incident with a violin player and piano-no band. It was amazing. I have seen over 800 rock concerts in my life and a few hundred operas. I have never seen any performance as powerful or as transcendent.
  • Christie from Bergen County, NjVintage Springsteen...a showcase of his talents as poet, artist, storyteller, lyricist and musician...one of his best songs in my opinion...to finally hear it live (full band or piano version) would be a dream come true!
  • Scott from Philadelphia, PaThis is my favorite Bruce album of all time. One of my favorite albums ever. There is a sensual realism to his storytelling at this time that is unmatched anywhere. His wandering melodies blend perfectly with his stream-of-consciousness lyrics. It is a masterpiece. To Ted - Many alternative rock radio stations back in the 70s and 80s played twofers. Two album songs were played back-to-back because they were often blended together on the album. Incident would be played immediately followed by Rosalita. The piano moves seamlessly from Incident into Rosie. Sheer joy to turn it up and sing every word at the top of my lungs.
  • Justin from Auckland, New ZealandFantastic song by a fantastic musician/songwriter. This would easily be one of his best, but the version on the dvd "live in barcelona with the E-Street Band" when he plays the piano is inspiring.
  • Steve from Fenton, MoI agree this is one of Bruce's best songs. I regret I never got to see him perform it live. I think many people probably recognize the melody but can't remember the title.
  • Paul from Dallas, TxI think this song is incredible. Springsteen seemed at his best when writing about New York City and Jersey. His music had a certain grittiness to it.
    Yes, very underrated.
    New York City Serenade, also way underrated.
  • Ted from Glenview, IlI don't want to make an ignorant comment here because I wasn't even born when albums like "Nebraska" and "Born In The USA" were released, much less "The Wild, The Innocent and The E-Street Shuffle," so I'm not sure if this is true or not, but to me, it seems like this track is incredibly underrated. Actually, the entire album seems underappreciated. What does everyone else think?
  • Reed from Hagerstown, Ini absolutely love this song. its probably my favorite springsteen song out of all of them.
  • Bob from Boca Raton, FlBruce performed a beautiful acoustic version of this song during his E Street Band reunion tour. In some cities he would do both "Spirit In The Night" and "Incident", pleasing the old time fans in particular.
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