Best Bruce Springsteen Songs That Were Never Singles
“Born In The U.S.A.,” “Dancing In The Dark,” “Streets of Philadelphia” – Bruce Springsteen’s back catalog is littered with anthemic hits which have defined a particular moment in American culture. But with seventeen studio albums to his name, some of his best material remains tucked away from the mainstream. Here’s a look at seven of The Boss’ greatest non-singles.
Arguably the most epic recording of his career, “Jungleland” is the sprawling ten-minute tale of doomed love which closed his 1975 breakthrough album, Born To Run. Set against a backdrop of gang violence, the exploits of The Rat and the Barefoot Girl perfectly encapsulates the record’s themes of hope and despair, while alongside a delicate intro from Israeli violinist Suki Lahav, is also responsible for one of Clarence Clemens’ finest sax solos.
Racing In The Street
Widely regarded as one of his greatest works full stop, “Racing In The Street” cemented Springsteen’s reputation as one of America’s most compelling storytellers. Narrated by a speed junkie, who escapes the humdrum of his day-job by racing his beloved Chevy 69 across the North East of the country, the standout from 1978’s Darkness On The Edge Of Town celebrates man’s desire for freedom amidst an emotive blend of melancholic piano-led verses and organ-driven instrumental breaks.
A huge departure from the bleak Americana of its predecessor, Nebraska, 1985’s seminal Born In The U.S.A. saw The Boss go straight for the jugular on a record crammed full of potential radio-friendly hits. The typically surging blue-collar rock of “Bobby Jean” was one of only five tracks which wasn’t elevated to single status, but its farewell message to departing E Street guitarist and long-time friend Steve Van Zandt remains one of the most joyously nostalgic moments of The Boss’ extensive output.
After spending much of the 90s in the musical wilderness, Springsteen’s career experienced something of a second wind thanks to his first studio album in seven years and his first with the E Street Band in almost two decades, 2002’s The Rising. Borne out of tragic circumstances, his triumphant return to form became the unofficial soundtrack to the aftermath of 9/11 thanks to the likes of “You’re Missing,” a tender but utterly devastating reflection of a widower dealing with the emptiness of his life (“too much room in my bed”). Springsteen had never sounded more relevant.
Long Time Comin’
Originally written during his The Ghost of Tom Joad tour back in 1996, “Long Time Comin’” eventually made it onto record nine years later on Springsteen’s third folk-oriented album, Devils and Dust. Something of an anomaly in his repertoire, the driving acoustic number is one of the few occasions when his accounts of family life are equipped with a sense of optimism. Whilst it also sees him drop the F-bomb in a rare moment of cursing, although he later confirmed that it was meant as a positive affirmation with regards to raising a newborn child rather than in a derogatory manner.
Livin’ In The Future
For those paying little attention to its lyrics, the highlight from 2007’s Magic would appear to be one of Springsteen’s most immediately uplifting sax-rock anthems, particularly with its infectious ‘na na na’ finale. However, “Livin’ In The Future,” is in fact, a deceptively angry protest song featuring an impassioned anti-George Bush tirade in keeping with the record’s theme of US political and social disillusionment. Referencing everything from rendition to illegal wiretapping, The Boss couldn’t make his thoughts on such weighty issues any clearer (“woke up election day/ sky’s gunpowder and shades of grey”).
We Are Alive
The finale from one of his most consistent recent studio efforts, Wrecking Ball, “We Are Alive” sees The Boss venture into hoedown territory with a charming fusion of plucked banjos, foot-stomping beats, whistles and mariachi horns, the latter of which borrows the melody from Johnny Cash’s country classic, “Ring of Fire.” A mouthpiece for the ghosts of the oppressed, protestors and immigrants (“I was killed in Maryland in 1877/ When the railroad workers made their stand”), the jaunty acoustic number finishes the album on a high note with the message that the departed souls are still helping to fight for justice today.