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Bruce Springsteen: »The Boss« turns 70

Born to run? More like Born to Drive: Nobody has written more songs about cars and driving than Bruce Springsteen during his career. Today the »boss« turns seventy. A good occasion to talk about his best songs for the highway.

Text: Jack Weil Photo: Presse 23.09.2019 5 min

»You can't talk about it, you have to experience it«. So this is how a Bruce Springsteen thinks about sex - and about music. Normally we wouldn't contradict »the boss« who earned this nickname because he always paid his band members in cash after the concerts. Today is not a normal day. But Springsteen's seventieth birthday. And we take that as an opportunity to talk about his best car songs.

Radio Nowhere

It is well known that the sound of rain on a Window or Windshield has a special effect. That this also applies to good, handmade rock is proven by Springsteen's »Radio Nowhere«. Searching for someone to hear him, he drives through the dense rain from nowhere directly into our list. Bruce, we hear you clearly.

»I was driving through the misty rain Yeah searchin' for a mystery train Boppin' through the wild blue Tryin' to make a connection with you This is radio nowhere, is there anybody alive out there? This is radio nowhere, is there anybody alive out there? Is there anybody alive out there?«

Thunder Road

One should not run away from anything in life - but rather drive towards the better. For Bruce Springsteen the roadtrip into happiness leads over the two tracks into a better future, lets the hair fly in the wind and the road tremble - a real »Thunder Road«.

»Hey, what else can we do now? Except roll down the window and let the wind blow back your hair. Well, the night's busting open, these two lanes will take us anywhere. We got one last chance to make it real. To trade in these wings on some wheels. Climb in back, heaven's waiting on down the tracks. Oh oh, come take my hand. We're riding out tonight to case the promised land. Oh oh oh oh, Thunder Road. Oh, Thunder Road, oh, Thunder Road. Lying out there like a killer in the sun. Hey, I know it's late, we can make it if we run Oh oh oh oh, Thunder Road Sit tight, take hold, Thunder Road«

State Trooper

Without a license and registration on your way to New Jersey? Not the best idea to be stopped by the »State Trooper«. And that's exactly what the »boss« or the driver here in the song wants to avoid - with a lot of acoustic guitar, even more prayers and longing for the arms of the loved ones. A song like the ride on the lonely highway: Here a little unreasonable, there a bit above the rules, but sometimes just so bitterly necessary.

»License, registration, I ain't got none but I got a clear conscience 'bout the things that I done mister state trooper, please don't stop me please don't stop me, please don't stop me in the wee wee hours your mind gets hazy radio relay towers gonna lead me to my baby the radio's jammed up with talk show stations it's just talk, talk, talk, talk, till you lose your patience mister state trooper, please don't stop me Whoa! Whooo-whooo!«

Open all night

What you see is what you get: At least when you look at the album and not the single cover. »Nebraska«, from which the song is taken, shows a view through the windshield, an endless highway and somen adventures. After the night shift, we're back to and through the night, in addition to road trip-typical fast food. Until the oil pressure drops at five in the morning. But rescue is approaching, because the next oasis in the form of the gas station is already waiting. Shortly refuelled, the engine checked and wiped the windshield under the hum of the neon signs - on it goes to the dearest one.

»Well, I had the carburetor, baby, cleaned and checked With her line blown out she's hummin' like a turbojet Propped her up in the backyard on concrete blocks For a new clutch plate and a new set of shocks Took her down to the carwash, check the plugs and points well, I'm goin' out tonight, I'm gonna rock that joint«

Born to run

No, we didn't misread it, we looked closely. Even if the title suggests otherwise at first, the anthem is about freedom and the most beautiful matter in the world: driving a car. And not the running. After all, it's also much slower and is difficult to practice on Highway 9. Break out of everyday life? The »boss« advises us to use a chrome bumper and petrol engine and hit the big roads, of course with some company. 70 years of life experience? Couldn't be wrong in this case.

»In the day we sweat it out on the streets Of a runaway American dream At night we ride through the mansions of glory In suicide machines Sprung from cages on Highway 9 Chrome wheeled, fuel injected, and steppin' out over the line Oh, baby this town rips the bones from your back It's a death trap, it's a suicide rap We gotta get out while we're young Cause tramps like us, baby, we were born to run Yes, girl, we were«