B-Side of The Boss: A look at three of Bruce Springsteen’s finest deep cuts
“This music is forever for me. It’s the stage thing, that rush moment that you live for. It never lasts, but that’s what you live for”—Bruce Springsteen.
It is difficult to think of another musician with the stamina, the stories, and the swashbuckling charisma who could perform a show in the style of Bruce Springsteen.
Springsteen, in a wide-ranging and prolific career that has spanned five decades, has built his reputation on wonderfully socially conscious lyrics and relentless effort during live performances.
Forever tackling themes focusing on the lives of working-class Americans and the struggles that they encounter, The Boss has always remembered his roots. “I spent most of my life as a musician measuring the distance between the American Dream and American reality,” Springsteen once said of his lyrical style.
While Springsteen is a naturally captivating orator, it helps that he has a sterling catalogue of songs to draw from. “I always wanted my music to influence the life you were living emotionally – with your family, your lover, your wife, and, at a certain point, with your children,” he once said, offering an insight into the seriousness of which the now-iconic musician has taken his craft.
With 19 studio albums to his name, 70 singles, 8 extended plays and 23 live albums, we’re taking on the supremely difficult challenge of picking out just three of Springsteen’s deepest cuts to keep you entertained during the lockdown.
Here is a look at some of those songs that didn’t make the cut for an original Springsteen album, a testament to the quality and depth of his creativity.
‘My Love Will Not Let You Down‘
It is bizarre to think that this rousing earworm never made it as a single, let alone making the cut for the album, yet Springsteen decided not to include it on Born In The USA.
Springsteen’s album-writing sessions are so prolific that quality is always bound to be left on the cutting room floor, although the Boss has given this track many outings in a live setting in which it thrives.
The song feels like one of Springsteen’s most versatile, equally at home in stadium rock concerts and late-night pub dances. Granted, with the responsibility of opening many setlists for the E Street Band’s reunion in 1999, Springsteen’s earnest lyrics about his love’s reliability are simple but effective.
“I got something running around my head oh that just won’t keep,” Springsteen sings on the track. “In the silence I hear my heart beating, time slipping away.”
Adding: “I got a time bomb ticking deep inside of me, girl all I want to say, I keep searching for you darling, searching everywhere I go.”
Springsteen is renowned for using relatable concepts to frame distinctive stories.
‘Roulette’, Springsteen’s punky cut from The River sessions, focuses not on the winning potential of roulette, but instead, he uses the unpredictability of the game as a metaphor for the fallout after the Three Mile Island incident at the nuclear power plant in 1979.
At the time of recording, there was a major debate over the use of nuclear energy. Springsteen, keen to offer his opinion on the subject, wades in on the safety and environmental concerns associated with the conversation.
A song that Springsteen has since acknowledged should have made it on to The River, the Boss spits out lyrics of rising stakes to furious drumming and rollicking guitars. It would have been intriguing to see Springsteen explore this pacey and punky direction further.
‘Take ‘Em As They Come‘
Another cut from The River sessions, ‘Take ‘Em As They Come’ is perhaps among one of the more simplistic Springsteen songs. The chorus repeats the title, while the instrumentation is straightforwardly effective heartland rock fare. Yet that simplicity is charming and infectious; the duelling vocals throughout are unusual for Springsteen, while the song has a fervent sense of propulsion.
This track and ‘Roulette’ could have sat comfortably alongside ‘The Ties That Bind’ and ‘Out in the Street’, songs that did make it on to The River, to form an album that would have evoked comparisons with Tom Petty. Instead, Springsteen’s inclusion of slower epics gave the record a uniquely heartbreaking character, with the juxtaposition of ballads and rockers lending more weight to both.
Despite the huge success of Springsteen’s stripped-back Broadway performances, fans across the world will be hoping that the 70-year-old has more full-band tours ahead. If not, then the Boss has a catalogue so varied and deep that there are always new favourites to unearth.