This album. This fucking album. When I was a junior in high school, one of my history teachers and wrestling coaches loaned me a copy of this album. He warned me that this is not the Bruce Springsteen you know from “Born in the USA” which came out after Nebraska and still getting significant radio airplay.
When I heard this album, my music world seismically shifted. I had no idea you could write and record songs like this. Songs that were visceral and told such character-driven stories with so few words. This was 1985 in the Twin Cities, and I knew what I knew about music primarily from the radio–which was pretty limited. And, to tell you something about how my brain processes music, I didn’t care much for Born in the USA, though if you strip those songs down, you realize they are the same kind of character-driven storytelling. I just couldn’t hear those stories through the driving rock/pop sound.
Nebraska was released in 1982. These (plus other songs) were intended to be demos that Bruce recrded at home on his 4-track cassette recorder. Remember, this is before digital recording. They decided that many of the songs didn’t work for the full rock production of the E-Street Band, and so they decided to release this album made from the original demo recordings. If you listen carefully you can hear many aspects of the production that would not have been allowed on a studio-produced album. But, his recordings worked so well for the content of the songs, it was released using these recordings.
Bruce and his producer, Jon Landau felt many of the additional songs from that batch of demos did work with the full band and ended up making up much of the 1984 Born in the USA album.
Here’s a “Nebraska-like” Born in the USA.