Racing in the Street is a solemn, evocative ballad that begins with a slow elegant introduction by pianist Roy Bittan. The lyrics talk specifically and in great detail about cars and about meeting a girl. They are however only on the surface about cars and girls.
I got a sixty-nine Chevy with a 396, Fuelie heads and a Hurst on the floor
The narrator, a small-town loser, has a dead end job but he has a car. It’s a ’69 Chevy, that he and his partner built and which they use for racing in the street. He also has a girlfriend, who he apparently won from a competitor in one of his races. Their relationship is in trouble. Only three years after they met the excitment has faded. She has somehow lost her own dreams: “/../all her pretty dreams are torn. She stares off alone into the night with the eyes of one who hates for just being born“. Her man isn’t able to leave his racing lifestyle to settle down with her as she had hoped he would. She has become lonely and depressed with the insight of his unwillingness to stay with her.
One of the the lyrics main points is that the world is divided into two types of people; those who “give up living and start dying little by little, piece by piece” and those who (like the narrator) find something to live for. The girl he has met seems to have lost faith and hope. The piano’s relentless rhythm throughout the song contributes to a feeling of endless helplessness and sadness. There is an uncertain future ahead. Their only salvation is for her to go with him on that ride to the sea “and wash these sins off our hands” and perhaps is that a start of something new for them (there is a glimpse of hope in the end).
Racing in the Street is one of my favourite songs. I’ve heard it concert three times. The most tremendous moment of this song is Bittan’s epic piano solo. It is brilliant, emotional and expressive. In fact, that glorious haunting piano solo still echoes in my heart and is my most vivid memory of the Wrecking Ball concert in Wembley in 2013.
Tonight tonight the highway’s bright
Out of our way mister you best keep
‘Cause summer’s here and the time is right for racing in the street
To me this song is about the consequences of giving up living and letting go of your dreams. The racing is metaphorical and it describes a way to become rejuvenated and restored after dealing with the hardships of the mundane concerns of day-to-day life. For me “racing” are : going to concerts (preferably Springsteen’s), writing this blog and training kickboxing.
Racing in the Street was released on the album Darkness on the Edge of Town in 1978. It was also included on Springsteen’s box set Live 1975-1985.
An alternate version, Racing in the Street ’78 has been released on The Promise (the 2010 album with Darkness on the Edge of Town outtakes).