Wednesday, June 04, 2014

The Release of Springsteen's Seventh

"Come back home to the refinery
Hiring man says 'Son, if it was up to me'
Went down to see my V.A. man
He said 'Son, don't you understand now'
Had a brother at Khe Sanh fighting off the Viet Cong
They're still there, he's all gone"

Bruce Springsteen

Bruce Springsteen is one of the most popular performers of all time, and he released his seventh — and most successful — album, "Born in the U.S.A.," 30 years ago today.

"Ten million copies later," writes David Hinckley in the New York Daily News, "Springsteen had graduated from star to supernova."

"Born in the U.S.A." was a considerable shift in tone from Springsteen's previous album, "Nebraska," which I always felt was the darkest of his recordings. It was pretty well received by the critics but lacked the kinds of musical touches that would make it commercially successful.

That wasn't the case with "Born in the U.S.A." The music was more upbeat — even though the subject matter wasn't always as light as it may have seemed on the surface — as Springsteen began to use a more radio–friendly sound.

It had seven hit singles, including the title track, which, briefly, was used (without Springsteen's permission) by Ronald Reagan during his presidential re–election campaign.

"America's future rests in a thousand dreams inside your hearts; it rests in the message of hope in songs so many young Americans admire: New Jersey's own Bruce Springsteen. And helping you make those dreams come true is what this job of mine is all about."

Ronald Reagan
Sept. 19, 1984
Campaign stop in New Jersey

The fact that Reagan referred to "Born in the U.S.A." as a "message of hope" gave it away as a cynical attempt to capitalize on the popularity of a performer. "Born in the U.S.A.," which has often been mistaken (even at the time) for being patriotic, dealt with the negative side of the Vietnam experience.

(Reagan called the Vietnam War "a noble cause" during the 1980 presidential campaign.)

Reporters who covered Reagan's 1984 campaign were almost immediately skeptical that the president had ever listened to Springsteen, much less a particular song, and demanded to know his favorite Springsteen song. After a long delay, Reagan's campaign responded that his favorite Springsteen song was "Born to Run," which was released nearly nine years earlier.

I don't think Reagan mentioned Springsteen or "Born in the U.S.A." again. His opponent in that campaign, former Vice President Walter Mondale, erroneously announced that Springsteen had endorsed him but corrected the claim when Springsteen disputed it.

Personally, I liked "Born in the U.S.A." (the song and the album), but, if I had to select my very favorite song from the album, it might be "Cover Me," which Springsteen actually wrote for Donna Summer.

Springsteen's manager decided he should record it himself, though, which he did, and it was a huge hit in the summer of 1984.

Oddly, though, considering the time in which it was recorded, "Cover Me" had no official music video.

Or I might choose "Glory Days."

"Glory Days" was released as a single about a year after the release of the album. It was the fifth hit single from the album, but it was recorded in the spring of 1982 during the first batch of "Born in the U.S.A." recordings — which, technically, made it one of the oldest songs on the LP.

"Glory Days" climbed to #5 on the charts and was one of the top hits in the summer of 1985.

And it did have its own music video.

Actually, in spite of the fact that it was released in 1984, "Born in the U.S.A." was the top–selling album in 1985. It spent 84 weeks on the Top 10 albums chart. The album spent four weeks at the very top of the charts, sold 30 million copies worldwide and was nominated for four Grammy Awards, winning one. It took only a month for the album to be certified platinum.

In 1984, as CD technology was emerging, "Born in the U.S.A." also became the first CD to be made in the United States.

It was a trail–blazing album in many ways.