Bruce Springsteen has only ever written one number one single, and while the track occupies a special place in his heart, the version that reached the top of the hit parade leaves a sour taste in the mouth of The Boss.
It’s hard to fathom the fact that Springsteen has only ever topped the charts with a single on one occasion, especially when you consider the wealth of classic songs that have flooded out from his mind over a dazzling career. What makes his sole number one even more jaw-dropping is that it wasn’t even Springsteen who performed the version of the track which achieved this feat.
‘Blinded By The Light’ is the opening track on Springsteen’s debut album, Greetings From Astbury Park, N.J., and topped the charts four years after its release in 1973. At the time of his debut, Springsteen was still operating outside of the periphery of the mainstream, and his version completely failed to chart.
When British band Manfred Mann decided to cover it in 1977, it was a moment of thrill for Springsteen. However, when he first heard the track, his thoughts quickly changed after the band misheard his lyrics and accidentally ruined Springsteen’s baby.
As Springsteen goes through the track line-by-line on VH1’s Storytellers, he gets to, ‘Oh cut loose like a deuce, another runner in the night,’ and tells the audience, “Now this is an interesting line,” which is met by cackles of laughter who know what’s about to come up.
“This song is my only number one song, I’ve never had another number one song. Except this one wasn’t done by me, it was done by Manfred Mann, which I appreciate. But, they changed this line. My line says, ‘cut loose like a deuce’, and there’s said, ‘cut loose like a douche’.
“I have a feeling that is why the song skyrocketed to number one, but it worked y’know,” Springsteen sarcastically states. “Deuce was like Little Deuce Coupe, as in a two-seater hot rod, and a douche is a feminine hygienic procedure. So they are different. What can I say? The public spoke, and they were right y’now,” he says to a hysterical audience.
Although the royalties that still flood in today from Manfred Mann’s version of ‘Blinded By The Light’ have probably more than made up for the faux-pas, it still irks The Boss. When filmmaker Gurinder Chadha approached him to use the song as the basis for a 2019 British comedy-drama of the same name, she made sure that Springsteen was content with every line of the script. The director had the whereabouts to not repeat the Manfred Mann saga.
Chadra said they knew that Springsteen “had to love” the script. “Bruce’s words are as much part of the narrative as our own dialogue,” she said. “We sent it to him, and waited and waited and waited. The message we got back [was]: ‘I’m all good with this. Give them what they want.’ Our timing was great because he really has been looking at legacy and the impact of his work and what that means for him at his age.”
If only Manfred Mann had the same foresight as Chadra, this article wouldn’t be here. When you leave part of yourself in your work as Springsteen does, then every single word matters and one simple mistake can transform the meaning of a song completely, especially when the error is so grave as it is in this case. However, at least, it gifted Springsteen with his only ever number-one single as the silver lining.