I don’t think I’m alone when I call Nebraska, an album of demos Bruce Springsteen recorded on a 4-track recorder, not only one of my favorite Springsteen albums, but one of my favorite albums period. Born To Run is always the sentimental favorite, and The Wild, The Innocent, & The E Street Shuffle is the go-to choice when I want to hear his vintage Jersey Shore exuberance, but more so than either of those, Nebraska is infallible proof of the man’s ability to tell a story. It documented a broken America as seen through the eyes of characters with little hope left in their lives. The relentlessly bleak tone of the music and lyrics was an instant turn off for many long time fans used to the positive, earnest messages at the heart of The Boss’s music. Despite its commercial failure though, Nebraska has stood as one of Springsteen’s most critically acclaimed releases. In fact, and I’ve mentioned this before on this blog, somehow not one of Bruce’s classic 1970s albums placed on Pitchfork’s Top Albums of the 1970s, but Nebraska did find its way to #60 on their list of the 1980s.
I recently came across a CD of additional songs recorded during this time period of Springsteen’s career (thanks Billy!). The differences in audio quality among the tracks leads me to believe that they weren’t all from the same sessions, but all are noteworthy nonetheless. Most of these songs have turned up elsewhere over the years in various incarnations - most notably to me the song included here called “Child Bride”. The story song was later completely revamped into Born In The USA’s somewhat forgettable “Working On The Highway”. You can’t really argue that “Downbound Train” was later improved in its E Street Band version, and “Born In The USA” is undeniably effective in both versions. To me though, “Child Bride” is much stronger here, perhaps even joining “The Promise”, “Be True”, and “Janey Don’t You Lose Heart” as the greatest of Springsteen’s unreleased (until Tracks) songs.
These songs all further the themes presented on Nebraska, and are worthy listens for both curious listeners and Springsteen aficionados.
MP3 :: Bye Bye Johnny
(previously unreleased, to my knowledge. Shares its title with a Chuck Berry song)
MP3 :: Born In The USA
MP3 :: Downbound Train
(both later appeared in different versions on Born In The USA)
MP3 :: Losin Kind
(previously unreleased anywhere, to my knowledge)
MP3 :: Child Bride
(given a chorus and an E Street backing to become “Working On The Highway”)
MP3 :: Pink Cadillac
(later recorded by the band and released as a b-side on the “Born In The USA” single)
MP3 :: Dream Baby
MP3 :: Vietnam
MP3 :: Untitled
(unreleased demos - leave me a comment about these if you are in the know….not sure if I have the titles correct. “Vietnam” seems to be an early version of “Born In the USA”)