Tonight (January 2nd) on the world famous Classic Album at Midnight on Radio Nova we’re playing Bruce Springsteen’s Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J..
The album is presented in full on vinyl with no commercials or interruptions, courtesy of The Record Hub.
Inspired, like so many American musicians of his generation, by The Beatles’ appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show, Bruce Springsteen bought his first guitar in 1964. Throughout the 1960s he found himself fronting a variety of bands in the New Jersey/New York area. In 1969 he began to develop a cult following with the band Steel Mill, which also included future E-Street Band members Steve Van Zandt, Danny Federici and Vini Lopez.
By 1972 Springsteen had gone through several other bands and was recognised as one of the most talented singer-songwriters not to have a record deal. That changed when he was discovered by Columbia Records talent scout John Hammond, who had signed Bob Dylan a decade earlier.
For his debut album, Springsteen put together what would later become the E-Street band in the autumn of 1972, though without Federici and Van Zandt. Joining the line-up were saxophonist Clarence Clemons, keyboardist David Sancious and bassist Garry Tallent.
To cut costs, Springsteen’s manager Mike Appel booked his client into the out of the way 914 Sound Studios. Appel also produced the album alongside Jim Cretecos. Springsteen recorded a mixture of solo ballads and rockier tracks with his backing band. When the recording was finished this led to a dispute between Springsteen, who preferred the songs featuring the band, and Appel and Hammond, who favoured his solo tracks. The three eventually settled on a compromise of five solo songs and five band songs.
When the album was submitted to Columbia Records in August 1972, the label’s president Clive Davis rejected it, feeling it had no potential hit singles. Countering this, Springsteen returned to the studio and quickly recorded Blinded by the Light and Spirit in the Night. Davis was impressed and so Springsteen’s first album – Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J. – finally became a reality.
Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J. features nine songs. On Side A are Blinded by the Light; Growin’ Up; Mary Queen of Arkansas; Does This Bus Stop at 82nd Street?; and Lost in the Flood. On Side B are The Angel; For You; Spirit in the Night; and It’s Hard to Be a Saint in the City.
Springsteen’s debut was released on January 5th 1973 to underwhelming sales. It wouldn’t break the UK chart until 1985, riding the coattails of the success of Springsteen’s Born in the USA.
While the public was slow to react to Springsteen, he became an immediate critical darling on the release of his debut. Many compared him favourably to Dylan while acknowledging the specifically working-class themes of his songwriting. “He sings with a freshness and urgency I haven’t heard since I was rocked by ‘Like a Rolling Stone’,” was how Crawdaddy described Springsteen in a 1973 profile.
Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J. is now considered one of Springsteen’s finest albums, laying the template for the heartfelt explorations of life in the American heartland that would follow in the coming decades. Rolling Stone rank it at number 37 on their list of the greatest ever debut albums.
You can hear Springsteen come flying out of the traps with his debut at midnight tonight on Radio Nova.