It's Hard To Be A Saint In The City

Album: Greetings From Asbury Park, N.J. (1973)
Play Video

Songfacts®:

  • In this song, Springsteen plays the dangerous romantic trying to navigate New York City. This being the '70s, the city is filled with pimps, gamblers and tough guys, and Springsteen's character is trying to find his place.

    As the album title suggests, Springsteen is very much a New Jersey guy, but he spent a lot of time in New York City when he was getting started, taking lots of road trips to perform and record (the album was actually done in Blauvelt, New York, about 25 miles north of Manhattan). With his observer view of New York City, he was able to craft different stories around the setting, which kept him from becoming a character in his own songs. Another track on the album, "Does This Bus Stop At 82nd Street?," is also set in the City.
  • This was the first song Springsteen played for John Hammond at his audition for Columbia Records in 1972. What was to be a short meeting turned into a 2-hour audition and earned him a record deal. Greetings From Asbury Park, N.J. was his first album.
  • David Bowie recorded this in 1974, but his version was never released. It can be found on his 1989 rarities box set Sound + Vision. Bowie also recorded another track on the album, "Growin' Up," around this time, but that one also got shelved.
  • This was one of the songs that convinced Springsteen's first manager, Mike Appel, that he was going to be a star. The contract Springsteen signed with Appel would come back to haunt him, as a legal dispute kept Bruce from releasing any material for three years after Born To Run in 1975.
  • Springsteen wrote the lyrics first and filled in the music later. The only time he wrote this way was on his first album.

Comments: 4

  • Kyle from Belleville, CanadaOne of my favorites...just like most of Springsteen's songs.
  • Rich from Bellevue, WaWell, I'm not sure it's a great song. And I wouldn't give it best-on-first-album (I'd probably pick "For You" or "Lost In The Flood" (especially if you count "Does this bus stop..."/Flood as kind of one big song)). But it is a very good song.

    It's special to me mainly because, when I heard it on the radio one day, it was what convinced me to buy the album. That certainly proved to be a good move!
  • Steve from Fenton, MoI'll second that, Adrian. This is a great song, maybe the best song on his first album.
  • Adrian from Kingston, CanadaGreat song why am i the only person to comment on this song? its amazing.. just like every other springsteen song
see more comments

Editor's Picks

Yoko Ono

Yoko OnoSongwriter Interviews

At 80 years old, Yoko has 10 #1 Dance hits. She discusses some of her songs and explains what inspired John Lennon's return to music in 1980.

Glen Burtnik

Glen BurtnikSongwriter Interviews

On Glen's résumé: hit songwriter, Facebook dominator, and member of Styx.

Andy McClusky of OMD

Andy McClusky of OMDSongwriter Interviews

Known in America for the hit "If You Leave," OMD is a huge influence on modern electronic music.

Artis the Spoonman

Artis the SpoonmanSong Writing

Even before Soundgarden wrote a song about him, Artis was the most famous spoon player of all time. So why has he always been broke?

TV Theme Songs

TV Theme SongsFact or Fiction

Was a Beatles song a TV theme? And who came up with those Fresh Prince and Sopranos songs?

Alan Merrill of The Arrows

Alan Merrill of The ArrowsSongwriter Interviews

In her days with The Runaways, Joan Jett saw The Arrows perform "I Love Rock And Roll," which Alan Merrill co-wrote - that story and much more from this glam rock pioneer.