Ranking the Album: Bruce Springsteen’s Born to Run

Forty years later, we're still going down different roads with The Boss

Bruce Springsteen - Born to Run

    In celebration of Bruce Springsteen being born 67 years ago today, we revisit Dan Caffrey’s ranking of The Boss’ classic album Born to Run.

    Ranking the Album is a feature in which we take an iconic or beloved record and dare to play favorites. It’s a testament to the fact that classic album or not, there are still some tracks we root for more than others to pop up in our shuffles. Today, in honor of the 40th anniversary of Bruce Springsteen’s Born to Run, we rank the iconic LP from best to greatest.

    Born to Run turns 40 today. If you’re interested in the arduous making of the album — a sort of last-ditch effort for Bruce Springsteen to reach the superstar status he craved (working-class roots be damned) — or how it represented the decline of the American dream, there’s no shortage of great retrospectives out there from many other reputable publications. While these chronicles are more than worthy in their own right, I’m also not interested in how many guitar overdubs were recorded for the title track, or regurgitating the “lyrics by Dylan, sung by Orbison, and produced by Spector” line (although I guess I just did). Both of these bits of lore — and many other stories surrounding the album — are true, but that’s just what they are this late in the game: lore. The Springsteen mythology has been endlessly picked over, reassembled, torn apart, then built up again over the years, usually into a bigger, stronger, more godlike statue.


    So for this installment of Ranking the Album, I’d like to put the grown-up critic in me to sleep and let my inner nine-year-old stay up past his bedtime. That’s the age when I first heard Born to Run during a road trip or two to Cocoa Beach, Florida, on my dad’s stereo while he was lifting weights, and just playing around the house whenever my family was cleaning, eating, or doing nothing at all. I’m sure I heard it all in one sitting at some point, but when you’re a kid, you can only remember one or two songs at a time. As such, I recall Born to Run slowly revealing itself across several months. That’s how I remember it, so for all intents and purposes, that’s how it happened.

    And don’t worry, I didn’t write this in the tone of a precocious elementary schooler with purposely bad grammar and the verbal cadence of a propeller beanie spinning around and round on his head. I tried instead to channel those thoughts that bloom when hearing an album you love for the first time — intangible and more akin to images and pangs and colors than a refined analytical vocabulary. Some analysis, cynicism, and hindsight still crept in there, naturally, and there are several leaps and backpedals into time (I’m a 31-year-old man these days), but for the most part, it’s hard for me to not still hear this album the way I first heard it. I know “Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out” has nothing to do with the show Taxi, and “She’s the One” has little association with the film Heavyweights, but, as you’ll soon read, those connections, silly as they are, will always exist for me.

    So let’s do it together. Let’s take a stab at music-lover romance as we disappear down Flamingo Lane or Thunder Road or Tenth Avenue or whatever your preferred Springsteen may be. Thanks for joining me.

    – Dan Caffrey
    Senior Staff Writer