My top ten Bruce Springsteen songs change from week to week depending on my current mood. The one song that consistently stays in my top three, though, is Thunder Road. In my opinion, Thunder Road is the mother of all Springsteen songs, one of the greatest songs ever written and it has been one of my favourite Bruce Springsteen song since I can remember.
Thunder Road is the first track on the signature album Born To Run, that was released in 1975. It was originally called Wings for Wheels but was later retitled, its name taken from a 1958 Robert Mitchum movie. The song presents the themes freedom and liberty, emancipation and escape, life and living.
Thunder Road has a rich, lyrical imagery. The protagonist is offering Mary a chance to live a free life and he is claiming that the roads of life can take you anywhere. You never know where you’re going to end up, and if you go ahead and take the chance to ‘make it real’, give up your past life for a new life, you never know what can happen.
Show a little faith, there’s magic in the night
To me this song is an invite to the world, a request to pursuit the impossible and to seize the moment. No matter how old you are, the opportunity to make something of your life is always there and you should not be afraid to take that walk from the front porch to the front seat [of the car]. Know that it can be a very long walk indeed, but don’t despair, it’ll be worth while. Thunder Road is life and if you just sit tight and take hold, life is going to take you on a hell of a ride.
Since 2016 I have the line: “show a little faith, there’s magic in the night” tattooed on my forearm. That line has been a mantra for me throughout the years. Other brilliant lines from the lyrics are: “You aint a beauty, but hey you’re alright” (comforting to know you don’t have to have to be good looking to be good enough), “These two lanes will take us anywhere” (the world is wide-open).
By the way, if you ask me, Mary’s dress “sways”!
The song is a concert favorite that Springsteen has performed at many of his shows over the years and in many versions: with full band, solo with guitar, solo with piano and slowed down. When it turns up at the end of a set (as an encore), it’s usually in one of the acoustic versions (like for example in London 2013). I’ve always preferred the full band-version, which includes an epic saxophone solo. I’ve heard it seven times live myself (so far) and I never get tired of it.
Wonderful essay as always, Anna! But you didn’t answer the most important question: does Mary climb in? 🙂
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I’m certain that she climbs in. How else can I use this song as a personal motivator 😎
Thunder Road was the first song I saw Bruce perform live — December 21, 1975 — and it’s that version, even after 250+ Springsteen shows since, that I think of first. Performed in the dark initially, Bruce lived up to ever hyperbolic claim in that one song and the whole house responded with a standing ovation — standing on their chairs, that is. And, yes, how could Mary not climb in? That imagery is more than seductive, it’s the rest of your life…
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Thanks for sharing. I wish I had been there.
I have said this before (possibly in response to a comment on Facebook) – there have been many great rock songs written but none better than Thunder Road.
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Yup! That’s right! 😎