In December 2018 Legacy Recordings issued the first in a series of digital releases called the Live Series. The first one, available for streaming and as digital download on services such as Amazon, iTunes and Spotify, was The Live Series: Songs of the Road. The release of the second digital album The Live Series: Songs of Friendship came on January 28, 2019. Both digital albums contain rarities from Springsteen’s vast vault of live material.
Recently I’ve listened to both playlist repeatedly and I’ve rediscovered the song The Ties That Bind. In fact, I have a huge crush on the rendition that’s on that playlist.
The Ties That Bind is the opening song of Bruce Springsteen’s fifth album the River (1980) but was written and, apparently, performed already in 1978 and also on the 1979 tour.
You’re walkin’ tough baby, but you’re walkin’ blind, to the ties that bind
It is a lively party rocker that features a blasting guitar and a blaring sax solo. In the original Bruce’s voice sounds young and enthusiastic as can be seen in the videos I’ve added. The lyrics are about a woman, who is hurt and wants to stand on her own. However, she is being cautioned that there are ties that bind that she can’t ignore. After repeating the impossibility of breaking those ties, the point is made that if the woman will just admit to the ties that bind her to the singer, there’s the promise that they “will stand in time/to face the ties that bind”. It makes you suspect that all the time she was running from him and that he is hurt too.
To me the River couldn’t start off on a much better note than with this song. It is fun and cheerful and the lyrics set the theme for the rest of the album. In fact, it was intended to be the title track. This song makes me happy and love how Bruce gives his all when yelling the song’s title with all of the strain he’s got in his voice. The saxophone solo is also magnificient and a trademark of Springsteen’s music.
This song was also released on December 4, 2015 as part of The Ties That Bind: The River Collection, a Springsteen’s archival release packed with live drama and revealing outtakes. The fifth disc contains a 60- minute documentary also called The Ties That Bind by Thom Zimny. It features an interview with Springsteen on the writing and the recording of The River.