Thunder Road

Album: Born To Run (1975)
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  • The screen door slams, Mary's dress sways
    Like a vision she dances across the porch as the radio plays
    Roy Orbison singing for the lonely
    Hey, that's me and I want you only
    Don't turn me home again, I just can't face myself alone again
    Don't run back inside, darling, you know just what I'm here for
    So you're scared and you're thinking that maybe we ain't that young anymore
    Show a little faith, there's magic in the night
    You ain't a beauty but, hey, you're alright
    Oh, and that's alright with me

    You can hide 'neath your covers and study your pain
    Make crosses from your lovers, throw roses in the rain
    Waste your summer praying in vain
    For a savior to rise from these streets
    Well now, I ain't no hero, that's understood
    All the redemption I can offer, girl, is beneath this dirty hood
    With a chance to make it good somehow
    Hey, what else can we do now?
    Except roll down the window and let the wind blow back your hair
    Well, the night's busting open, these two lanes will take us anywhere
    We got one last chance to make it real
    To trade in these wings on some wheels
    Climb in back, heaven's waiting down on the tracks

    Oh oh, come take my hand
    We're riding out tonight to case the promised land
    Oh oh oh oh, Thunder Road
    Oh, Thunder Road, oh, Thunder Road
    Lying out there like a killer in the sun
    Hey, I know it's late, we can make it if we run
    Oh oh oh oh, Thunder Road
    Sit tight, take hold, Thunder Road

    Well, I got this guitar and I learned how to make it talk
    And my car's out back if you're ready to take that long walk
    From your front porch to my front seat
    The door's open but the ride ain't free
    And I know you're lonely for words that I ain't spoken
    But tonight we'll be free, all the promises'll be broken

    There were ghosts in the eyes of all the boys you sent away
    They haunt this dusty beach road in the skeleton frames of burned-out Chevrolets
    They scream your name at night in the street
    Your graduation gown lies in rags at their feet
    And in the lonely cool before dawn
    You hear their engines rolling on
    But when you get to the porch, they're gone on the wind
    So Mary, climb in
    It's a town full of losers, I'm pulling out of here to win Writer/s: Bruce Springsteen
    Publisher: Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC
    Lyrics licensed and provided by LyricFind

Comments: 64

  • Reggie Hammond Dresses wave? Mary dress sways....
  • Free Me from UsaOld jersey girl here... I knew a guy way back in the seventies and we had a falling out 1972 and that night he was literally screaming my name at night in the street and then ruined my reputation all over town and ruined my high school graduation day. We hung in the same circles and some years later we were in a van going somewhere with his best friend driving. Thunder road was on the radio and when Bruce sings they screamed your name at night in the street your graduation gown lies in rags at their feet this guy says to me That's us! I say what's us? And he says the song and he says I know Bruce Springsteen I said those exact words to him about us. I said how do you know him? He said From down the shore at the bars we used to play pool and talk. Later after we dropped him off I asked his best friend if so and so really knew Bruce Springsteen or was just making it up. He said he does know him and I guess I looked at him funny like and then he said he wouldn't lie to me about something like that. There is a very long story here but can't get into all that just now. So whenever I listen to Thunder Road I get a lump in my throat and tears in my eyes. Thunder Road. The greatest song ever written.
  • David from Carlin How, North Yorkshire As Roy Bittan plays the outro to Racing in the street, Bruce says "I saw a poster for a Robert Mitchum movie about moonshine in the south, I didn't see the film but remembered the title and wondered if a place exists, me and Steve were driving through Nevada when we came upon a house built by an Indian and a sign in blood red letters said this land is a place of peace, love, justice and no mercy and another sign in big red letters pointing down a dirt track said 'THUNDER ROAD' .
    The story acting as the segue between the 2 songs told differently with bits missing or added by Bruce on 1978 radio concerts.
  • David from NorthamptonAccording to Bruce on the VH1 Storytellers the line is "Mary's dress sways"
  • Rick from West Chester, PaJust one of the finest rocks songs ever, I love this as much as anything anyone else has ever done. It's not just a song, it's an experience.
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyHere's some real obscure trivia for ya:
    "Thunder Road" was not the first song to mention the name Orbison...
    On July 13, 1961, Freddy Cannon performed "Transistor Sister" on the Dick Clark ABC-TV network weekday-afternoon program 'American Bandstand'...
    Eighteen days later on July 31st the song entered Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart at position #95; five weeks later it would peak at #35 {for 1 week} and it spent 8 weeks on the Top 100...
    And the song's second verse contains the lyrics; 'And it's Fats and Connie and Orbison, she's my transistor sister, playing her radio'.
  • Fifi from Venice FloridaSo, as I was saying before I prematurely popped. In Born To Run it's Wendy. And then in Thunder Road it's all of us. He lifts us all up and takes us with him. "I wanna guard your dreams and visions." Great stuff.
  • Fifi from Venice FloridaWENDY is an important character in Peter Pan, a story about the boy who wanted to stay young, and, if I dare say, also a sly metaphor for keeping within us the creativity of youth. "C'mon Wendy"..
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyJust a little correction; 'The River' tour actually kicked off on October 3th, 1980* at the Crisler Arena in Ann Arbor, Michigan...
    Bruce's eleventh song in his set was "Thunder Road"; after he performed the "Detroit Medley", he called Bob Seger onstage, and together they did an encore performance of "Thunder Road"...
    * Per:
  • John from Barrow-in-furness, United KingdomThis has been my favourite song since I was seven!! My God, it never gets old. I can play this song on the piano, and I used to sing it to my girlfriend.
  • Russ from Arlington Heights, IlThunder Road is an absolutely glorious track and one of my top three Springsteen songs ever (the other two, naturally, also coming from Born To Run.) In contrast to the tragic undertones of most of the other songs off this album, it's just a happy, upbeat song about running away and being in love. I can't imagine how anyone could listen to this song and not want it to be about them. The narrator and Mary are just driving off in total romantic bliss, and it's a universal desire to have something like that. Beyond the mood it sets, it's also a fantastic opening to what is almost undeniably Bruce's greatest work - that opening harmonica tune is instantly recognizable, and the lyrics about wanting to run away with Mary before it's too late take on a double meaning as being about Bruce's desire to make it big, which is what the entire goal of this album was. It's really just a fantastic, flawless piece of art and I get chills every time the line "There were ghosts in the eyes of all the boys you sent away" hits.
  • Johnny from Spring Lake, MiI thought they were talking about the song "Thunder Road" by Robert Mitchum. I think that song is superior in many ways. "Now let me tell the story, I can tell it all, about the mountain boy that ran illegal alcohol, the dad he made the whiskey, Son, he drove the load, and when the engine roared they called the highway Thunder Road" chorus ... " And there was Thunder, Thunder, over Thunder Road. Thunder was his engine, and white lightnin' was his load. And there was moonshine, moonshine, to quench the devil's thirst. The law they said they'd get him but the devil got him first."
  • Cole from Charleston, ScBeautiful.
  • Rj from Middletown, NjMy wife worked with Steve's mom. She gave me a cassette back around 79 or 1980. On the tape before Bruce goes into Thunder Road, he tells a story about how it is based on a crossroad they passed while out west on tour. They passed an Indian trading post and he said "look at all the land we took from them" and went on to write Thunder Road.
  • Jim from Long Beach, CaThis is the best rock song bar none! From the greatest artist of all-time, Bruce Springsteen
  • Guy from Harelbeke, BelgiumIn the intro to this song (bootleg Passaic 1978 f.e.), he tells the story about a house in the desert with a picture of Geronimo outside. It had a big white sign, that said "this is the land of peace, love, justice and no mercy". It pointed down this little road that said Thunder Road.

    Does this house exist?
  • Matt from Ft. Lauderdale, FlStu from Philly you are not far off. Roy Bittin, Bruce's E Street Band piano player plays piano on "Bat Out Of Hell". Also, Mighty Max Weinberg, the drummer of the E Street Band, plays the drums. Greatest song of all time, on the Greatest album of all time, by the Greatest rocker of all time, period! There's nothing better! Except no substitute!
  • Marty from Milwaukee, WiBruce actually wrote a song called The Promise that is a sequel to this song.
  • April from Huntington, WvI am an interpreter for the deaf, so it is my job to try to faithfully interpret the message that is being conveyed, which leads to a lot of research when you interpret song lyrics. Most songs, of course, mean different things to different people but I try to be as objective and true to the writer as possible. Thanks for all of the postings, and may I never have to interpret "A Whiter Shade of Pale."
  • Jim from Pennsauken, NjThis song is about Route 9 in New Jersey, alot of his song are
  • Alberto from Roma, ItalyI'm Italian, I play this song on my guitar and my Irish friend Fergal loves it. He always asks me to play it again. As a rule, I can't play the guitar very well, so.... maybe it's the song!!! I close my eyes and sing it, just dreaming of Mary, not a beauty, but able to leave everything to go away with me! Oh oh come take my hand.. And the song is so sincere: "I just can't face myself alone again". Last thing: note the connection with "Fast car" by Tracy Chapman, beautiful too. Although Chapman's is a song about social integration, about poor people finding their place in society, so the real meaning is opposite.
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyLove this song, especially the Live 1975-1985 CD version. My wife also thinks it's a great song but always sighs a little when she hears Bruce state 'You ain't a beauty but, hey, you're alright'
  • Stu from Philly, PaBill from Maple Shade NJ - aren't those lyrics "there's a dark cloud..." from the song The Promised Land? Fairly certain they're not in both, and i know they're in The Promised Land. either way, both great songs. Bruce is the best!! I recorded a version of I'm On Fire for my wife, she loves it.

    This song's piano in the verses sounds like it got copied by Jim Steinman a couple years later. Listen to this, then go listen to "Bat Out of Hell" once the intro is over. same chords, same key i THINK... again, both great songs, and i really don't mind.

    Bruce Fan For Life!
  • Kim from Wappingers Falls, NyI finally saw Bruce play "Thunder Road" live a couple of days ago. It was the third time I've seen him live, and I've been dying to see him perform it, as it's my absolute favorite song by him. When he picked up the harmonica and played the opening notes, I actually cried a little bit. It was so wonderful to finally hear it live! What an incredible song.
  • Gail from Tucson, AzMy favorite Springteen music is from his double album "The River"
  • Greg from Pittsburgh, PaAnyone who appreciates Thunder Road should read the essay on it in "Songbook" by Nick Hornby (called "31 Songs" in the UK), his very personal treatise on how pop music (unlike any other musical form) has the ability to change your this song has done for many posting here. Mr. Hornby's British take on this great tune prompted me to listen to it about 20 times in a row, and I still hear something just as amazing as when I heard it in 1975.

    His best observation is that only Bruce Springsteen can get away with using the word "redemption" in a song about redemption.
    (Most people here will probably connect with the entire book.)
  • John from Columbus, OhBruce talked about how his writing style at this time, was based around a theatrical, epic style. How he builds the intro ( harmonica and piano ) and introduces the characters, and then tells the story. Freakin masterpiece of music.
  • Tina from Norcross, GaBruce played this song for Tim Russert at Tim's recent funeral.
  • Bruce from Johnstown, PaBrian, Bruce Springsteen named the song after a
    Robert Mitchum movie of the same name.
  • Alexandre from Santos, BrazilThere are moments in our poor lives in which we just can't avoid walkin' along a "thunder road", see what I mean to say? Well, Bruce tells everything on such song...I enjoy listening to "Thunder Road" with my eyes closed and thinking about all the good things I have experienced as a child...Just don't know why. Sure, to me, this is the greatest song ever written by Bruce.

    Alexandre Albertoni, Bairro da Aparecida, City of "Santos", Brazil. June 3, 2008.

  • Doug from Holland, OhLyrics are out of this world...most Jersey people understand what he is saying...however I don't think Bruce is trying to write a cryptic message, but simply to trust him.
  • Mike from Washington, DcThe song foreshadows a James Dean death in line after line: "Make crosses from your lovers"..."come take my hand/We're riding out tonight to case the promised land"...."Lying out there like a killer in the sun/
    Hey I know it's late we can make it if we run"..."take that long walk
    From your front porch to my front seat"..."Climb in back/Heaven's waiting on down the tracks"
    ... Mary accepts this guy's ride, and their bid for freedom ends in death. Bummer.

  • Wendy from Fort Pierce, FlJust my all time favorite bruce tune, that's all. I have really been enjoying reading all of the comments about what this song means to everyone and all of us, as different as we are, are all struck in the same way. I, too, have closed my eyes in darkened concert halls to more fully absorb this experience. It stays with you when its real, you know? Anyway, the thing I wanted to say about this song is that from the first time I heard it, I could see it. It plays like a movie to me. A windy day by the shore. A reticent, pretty girl standing on the porch of her wood framed home and of course...the dress waving. And, yes,her actractive and persuasive what, boyfriend? class mate? Fellow Townie? (there is a reference to her graduation gown lying in rags at her feet, was that from the night before? And the ever present car. "The door is open, but the rde, she ain't free...."
  • Rich from Bellevue, WaTake a listen to this sometime and *just* listen to Roy Bittan on the piano. He's fantastic, he brings so much to the song. I've tried to figure out how to play the piano part but the best I can manage is a pale imitation. I'd LOVE to get my hands on a transcription of it. I'd rank this song as among Bruce's 4 best ever (along with Jungleland, Rosalita, and Kitty's Back (particularly the amazing live version)). The arrangement is just brilliant, the way it picks you up and carries you away, starting gentle with just the piano and vocal, and layering in the band in a way you don't even notice until somehow you're in the middle of this full-out driving song.
  • Jesse from East Setauket, Ny, NyMy 2nd favorite song of all time (behind my #1 American Pie). First song I learned all the words to. Bummed when I saw Bruce at Shea Stadium and he did not play it. (acually concert was not that great or up to Bruce standards and of course had to get all his political views/rantings). But I do remember first time I saw him........No Nukes concert way back when. Was so GREAT!
  • Congo from Nyc, NyThis is a masterpiece,invoking John Steinbeck's haunting prose about the realities of life and how we need to live in the moment. I picked up a bootleg, "Born in the Studio", a long time ago, and when I heard the acoustic version of this I became bewitched. This song in this context is such a protest, that I implore you all to get a copy of it. It takes on a completely different meaning than the album version. I wish that he would release this version because it needs to be heard. I really wish that Bruce would go back to his roots and quit this hard rocking mentality as if he's trying to reclaim his youth. A throwback album will sell-hell we're not that old, and we have all the money to spend!
  • Ticketred from Walpole, MaIn 2004 or 05 in Boston Bruce played Thunderroad live on the Lenny Zakim - Bunker Hill bridge to open it. The bridge is one peice of the massive highway project known as the "Big Dig". He did an acoustic version which was awesome. He was in town performing a show at the time.
  • Shelley from Bondurant, IaThe first time I heard Brucey was in 1975, The Born to Run album. And Thunder Road is my favorite Brucey song. I LOVE him. I know almost all his songs by heart, but I've had 32 years to listen and to memorize them.I've seen him in concert 12 times, and can't wait to see him again.-Shelley, Bondurant, Iowa
  • Bill from Maple Shade, NjOriginal lyrics to chorus:

    "This 4-4 tune is gonna overheat, make up your mind girl I gotta get er back out on the street, I know your lonely like me, so baby don't try to fake it.

    I'm no prince and I can't lay the stars at your feet, but I got this old car and she's pretty tough to beat, there's plenty of room in my front seat, baby if you wanna take it."

    This song, like others of Springsteen's in the mid 70's, is about breaking away and finding something better. Its about Freehold, but its also about a mindset. He wants something better and is offering to share his quest to the young heroine on the porch. Bruce is offering Mary (or Angelina or Chrissy) an opportunity to get out of the town of losers if she will take a chance. Where he will go is unknown and it may be a rough ride (hence, Thunder Road).

    Fast forward two years to the song Badlands which picks up the story line, "there's a dark cloud rising on the desert floor, I packed my bags and I'm headin' straight into the storm, gonna be a twister that blows everything down, that ain't got the strength to stand its own ground"

    Born to Run and Darkness - Two great albums about trying to get ahead or die trying. Over the past 25 years the words have stayed the same but the meaning continually evolves.
  • Tony from Toledo, OhI owned the Born to Run album in high school. It is good working class rock. but I was not a big fan of Thunder Road until I saw a concert video in 1983 of The Boss performing this song at an anti-nuclear protest. And it became my favorite Bruce Springsteen tune!
  • Jack from Great Meadows, NjIt was also song in early versions as "Chrissy's dress waves" Original was titled Wings for Wheels. Same tune,different lyrics. Example 1st verse after you ain't a beauty,but hey your allright...."this 4-4-2 is gonna overheat,make up your mind baby gotta get her back out on the street,I know your lonely like me but baby you don't have to fake it.
  • Marty from Chicago, IlI suspect that both the person singing the song and the girl in the song are supposed to be in unhappy marriages and what the guy is proposing is that they both leave their spouses and just run away. The song opens with an image of the girl trapped on her back porch. Then there are the mysterious lines "The doors open but the ride ain't free" and "But tonight we'll be free all the promises will be broken."
  • John from Edinburgh, Scotlandbest rock song ever will be played at my funeral along with the theme tune to the muppet show
  • Blake from Manchester, TnHands down the best lyrics ever written. Period.
  • Anthony from New York, NyThis song is classic.....people who even dont like springsteen can't deny how good this song is.

    My brother always says how he hates springsteen bla bla bla....well he has the words to this memorized and sings along when it somes on.....

    Bruce Springsteen is amazing.
  • Chip from Louisville, KyMy favorite song from Springsteen, probably my favorite song of all. "Show a little faith" has gotten me a few rough days. The new album, Magic, sounds a lot like early Springsteen, particularly Darkness on the Edge of Town.
  • Tim from Philadelphia, PaBruce is the best lyricist ever aside from Bob Dylan. And this song proves it.
  • Alexander from Aguascalientes, MexicoAmen, one of the best rock songs ever written, this is pure poetry. I went to see Bruce from Mexico to New York, spent my life's savings to feel the magic. When he sang Thunder road, it was like a religious experience: some were raising their hands with their eyes closed, some were crying, some were holding the complete stranger sitting next to him. I saw it. Thunder road means the same thing to all of us: freedom, growing up, leaving the past life behind.. and falling in love.
  • Jeff from Sothington, CtThis is a great song about "running away and not looking back" burce is a great story teller...and is a great american rock least he was...his new stuff is s**t
  • Ty from Indianapolis, InThe Storytellers version was amazing. You can see still the passion he plays in his songs even though he's probably it played a billion times
  • Alberto from Carpi, ItalyI think that everything has already been said about this song in previous comments. I think that to appreciate the Boss and his music you have to get into his world first, to identify with his spirit (I suppose that's why most of my friends don't like him, although many songs are striking and easy listening). And this song is perfect as a "Springsteen fan test", because I think it's very representative of all this (as well as Born to run, I couldn't tell what's my favourite between the two). Great arrangement, I love the piano intro and the final riff, it's an energy explosion. My ideal love story would be very similar to the one described in the song. ;-)
  • Don from Dearborn Heights, MiDuring the VH1 Storytellers special, Springsteen said "Probably the hokiest line I ever wrote" about the line "Well I got this guitar and I learned how to make it talk".
  • Julia from Allentown, PaThunder Road. This was released when I was 14. I felt it was written just for me.

    Now I'm 44, and every word in this is just as relevent!
  • Steve from Markham, CanadaIs there a better song than Thunder Road?
    I never get tired of hearing it. I get goose bumps every time I listen to this.
    Does the instrumental of this song remind anyone of Layla by Derek and the Dominoes? The very first time I heard this, I thought he ripped off Layla because of the way both songs end with a repetitive instrumental at the end.
    Regardless, this is still an incredible song.
  • Tim from Phila, RiBruce is from Asbury Park i thought???

    -Tim...Phila PA
  • Matt from Pittsburgh, PaI agree: the best song ever. Bar none. I wasn't a big fan of Springsteen's until I bought the Greatest Hits album andfirst heard it. It was there in the parking lot of Border's Books in Springfield PA. I was stunned. It hit my so like a song never had. Its was so ...urgent and filled with futile battling and Shakespearian leanings like, "you ain't a beauty but hey you're alright. I forget the actual name of the poem but I remember Shakespeare went on about his love's commanolities and ended by basically saying that it was these commonalities that made him love her. It's a song about escape and redemption, it's the most cinemtic of his songs to me- it's like a movie in my head, not just a song (..they haunt this dusty beach road and these skeleton frames of these burned out Chevrolets.) I went to 5 of the 6 shows in Philly when he reunited with the E Street Band and it was Thunder Road that led me there and to some of the best nights of my life. One night when he played Thunder Road the guy next to me said, "best song ever," and I agreed, and he went on to say, "I spent over $900 tonight to be here to hear him sing it."
  • Emilio from Sydney, BelgiumThunder Road is the best rock song ever written.
  • Jay from Ny, NyGreat song. Your all correct with comments. This is a love of life song, & yes sex naturally follows from true love. This guys been good, he's been patient with that existence and now he's outta there. But he can't leave without giving the love of his life one last opportunity to be rescued and join him.
  • Charlie from Thomaston, Ctwell this is my favorite song by ol' bruce he's pretty good but he's not my fav american rocker
  • Carlos from Albacete, SpainI don´t think this is a song about sex. When the narrator comes to visit Mary and take her in his car, it´s not (just) for having sex, it´s a proposal for going out of there. "The ride it ain´t free" means that if she goes with him, she must leave all her current life. He wants to get out of that place because "this is a town full of losers and I´m pulling out of here to win"
  • Steve from Chino Hills, CaThis song is a Carpe Diem . It means Sieze The Day. The movie Dead Poet's socity gave the term a nice "embrace the moment" notion. In reality Carpe Diems where poems written to try to talk beautiful young women out of their virginity.
    "If you're ready to take that long walk
    From your front porch to my front seat
    The door's open but the ride it ain't free" Get the point?
    A very good example of a Carpe Diem is "To His Coy Mistress" by Andrew Marvell. He was a Puritian, and he lived 400 years ago, he lays out a very good arguement for having sex while they are young, and still alive. Well, a much better arguement than "I wanna get freaky with you." I have left the poem link below. Read it, you will get the idea what Bruce was up to with this song. The only real difference between this poem and Bruce's song is that he doesn't mention having sex, but it's implied.


  • Dan from Washington, DcThunder road originally had a latin feel like Rosalita to it.
  • Brian from Freehold, NjI'm from Bruce's hometown of Freehold, New Jersey and was wondering if the song was based on an actual road or just an idea of freedom and wildness.
  • Boysy from Sydney, AustraliaThe name of the girl in Thunder Raod changed from the demo to the final recorded version. In the demo 'Gracie's dress waves' became 'Mary's dress waves' in the final version (God I miss Napster)
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