Bruce Springsteen’s (click here for my B.S. playlist) rough-and-ready debut album, Greetings From Asbury Park, N.J. ended up in a dead-end South Jersey alley with nowhere to run. It received positive but limited response from music critics after its January 5, 1973 release. Columbia Records followed the LP with two terrific singles, “Blinded By The Light” and “Spirit In The Night,” but they flopped badly and even the early accolades (“the next Bob Dylan”) had little impact on the album’s sales or Springsteen’s fan base. Shaken but undeterred, the Boss soldiered on, releasing The Wild, The Innocent And The E Street Shuffle in September 1973. That album, too, generated critical praise but meager sales. Springsteen pushed one more time, realizing that the three strike rule would apply with Columbia. But record company executives, aware of the critics and his huge cult following in the Northeast, gave Bruce a big production and promotion budget for 1975’s Born To Run, and the rest is history.
It’s difficult to fathom why Asbury Park tanked early on (it retroactively went gold once Bruce hit the big-time). It’s a great debut album, mixing Dylanesque lyrics with a 50s rock ‘n roll electrified sound with piano, horn and acoustic guitar accents and Bruce’s deep, sometimes growling vocals. Thematically, it explores teenage angst (“Growin’ Up”), one-way love (“For You” – a Dr. Rock favorite), tragedy and despair (“Lost In The Flood”), and exuberant optimism (“Blinded By The Light”). Largely overlooked 37 years ago, Asbury Park is a classic roots-rock album and one of the better debuts of all time.
Asbury Park is #389 on Rolling Stone magazine’s Top 500 Greatest albums of all time. I think it should be in the top 200 (they didn’t ask me). You’ll find Asbury Park as a CD on Amazon (click here) and download tracks on iTunes (click here).