Born to Run: Bruce Springsteen’s intentional masterpiece (review)

(non disponible en français)

By Sarah Geledi

This review was first published as part of’s Exemplar series—albums in rock history that score a perfect 100 according to the site’s unique album review process.

by Sarah Geledi

Born to Run is not only Bruce Springsteen’s breakthrough album, but also the record that forever cemented the prolific singer/songwriter’s place in rock and roll history. Afraid of being dropped by his label due to the less than favorable sales of his two previous LPs, he set out to make his greatest rock and roll album ever and boy did he succeed.

Born to Run is a powerhouse release that takes you on an open-ended cinematic rock and roll journey. He meticulously wrote and rewrote each song until he recreated the epic sound and imagery he was looking for. His efforts paid off dearly resulting in what is possibly the most perfect song structure and sequencing since the Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds. Each side of the record begins with an innocent desire to break free and ends with dramatic tales of loss and defeat. Born to Run also marks Springsteen’s first time recording in a big professional studio complete with a superstar budget. He took full advantage of those resources and managed to recreate Phil Spector’s legendary Wall of Sound with countless overdubs, most notably heard on the title track.

This groundbreaking album would not be complete without its iconic and often replicated fold out cover of Springsteen and  saxophonist Clarence Clemons. Bruce has said about the cover:

“It’s one of those records that you didn’t have to hear. When you saw the cover you said ‘I want that one’.”


Born to Run did not become a masterpiece by sheer accident. It is so because it was ambitiously intended to be that way. These were not simple songs, but mini-epics about trying to breakout, complete with musical introductions and powerful imagery. The record took 14 months to make, six of which were solely dedicated to the title track, nearly costing the singer his band and his sanity. Springsteen was quoted saying he wanted Born to Run to sound like Roy Orbison singing Bob Dylan, produced by Spector.” Mission accomplished. He restlessly tried to emulate the grand sound he heard in his head and didn’t quit until he got it.

Just because the other tracks didn’t take six months to record doesn’t make them any less impressive. Thunder Road is perhaps the best album opener since Bob Dylan kicked off Highway 61 Revisited with Like a Rolling Stone, and Jungleland, the 10-minute closing track, is the perfect culmination to such an epic record. Its evocative two-minute saxophone solo was the late Clarence Clemons’ career highlight and the best sax solo in rock and roll history.

Next Steps

Bruce Springsteen was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1999. Born to Run was awarded a Grammy Hall of Fame Award in 2003 and is listed in the Library of Congress’ National Recording Registry of historic recordings. On the week of October 27, 1975, two months after the album’s release, Time and Newsweek magazines featured Springsteen on the cover. In 2005, Columbia records reissued a Born to Run 30th Anniversary deluxe edition including two DVDs: a special “making-of” diary film and a concert of Bruce & The E Street Band’s fist gig in Europe. The record spent 29 weeks on the chart, reaching its peak at #3.

Watch my cinematic Love Letter to Bruce Springsteen & the E-Street Band:

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