#920: ‘Atlantic City’ – Bruce Springsteen

Question, you’ve just released an album that spent four weeks on top of the charts, spawned eight singles, and is considered a classic by many critics, how do you follow it up? Well, if you’re Bruce Springsteen and the year is 1982, then the answer is to ‘release an album of demos’.

See, in 1980 Springsteen released The River, his first record to go number one in America, it was in the higher reaches of the charts in many countries around the world, and it spawned singles such as ‘The River‘, and ‘Hungry Heart‘. Basically, the record was a succes. But after all was said and done, Springsteen was then trying out material for a new record. Recording at home on a 4-track cassette recorder with minimal instrumentation, Springsteen created a number of haunting folk songs that were due to be re-recorded with The E Street Band at a later time. Instead of this, Springsteen and his record label figured it would be better if the demos were released as is. This, my friends, is how Nebraska was released.

My personal favourite Springsteen record, Nebraska is a haunting, bleak chronicle of blue-collar, working class characters and, in many cases, their futile attempts to live out their lives. Springsteen’s foray into the world of folk music proved that he was much more than the popular rocker that he’d made his fame as. To also help put things into perspective, Springsteen managed to follow up the depressing nature of Nebraska by releasing what many consider to be his magnum opus; Born In The U.S.A., and album considered by many to be one of the greatest ever, and remains one of the biggest selling records of all time.

Nebraska‘s second track is ‘Atlantic City’. It’s a depressing track about a young couple who head to New Jersey’s Atlantic City from Philadelphia, with the young man furthering his career with a job in organised crime. The track sees Springsteen sympathise with the young, working-class folks who struggle with “debts no honest man can pay,” and how many may turn to the life of organised crime to support themselves in dire times.

While ‘Atlantic City’ is far from Springsteen’s most upbeat and popular tracks, the intense introspective nature of the track, and its stark portrayal of desperation and the human condition make this one of his most depressing, but most well-written songs.


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