Andre Gardner

FLUSHING, NY - OCTOBER 4: Singer Bruce Springsteen and the E -Street Band perform their last show for the 2002-03 World Tour at Shea Stadium October 4, 2003 in Flushing, New York. (Photo by Anthony Correia/Getty Images)

Bruce Week is here on 102.9 MGK and, I admit it, I was a bit of a late bloomer when it came to Bruce Springsteen. It took me seeing him live for the first time to truly understand and appreciate what everyone was talking about.

My first Bruce Springsteen show was at the Spectrum on September 18, 1984, the last of a six night, sold out run in South Philadelphia, and I was truly blown away from start to finish. It wasn’t just the song selection (he kicked off the encore with “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town”– in September!), or the energy and excitement of the E Street Band that amazed me. It was Bruce, and his complete and total command of the 18,000+ crowd. Never before had I seen a performer captivate an audience like that. I finally got it. Since then I’ve seen Bruce two more times, and each time was a veritable party.

So, as we anxiously await news as to whether Thursday’s show is a “go” or not, here are my top 5 Bruce Springsteen songs. I find that a lot of Bruce fans don’t agree with my list. See what you think:

  • 5. Spirit In The Night

    I confess that I first heard Manfred Mann’s cover of this song (as with “Blinded By The Light”), but it can’t match the groove of the Bruce original. This song contains, in my opinion, the prettiest chord Bruce has ever played, a rare major 7th. It’s right at 3:47 with the line, “Janey said it was TIME to go…” Kills me every time.

  • 4. Pink Cadillac

    It was our first taste of what would be the Born In The USA album.  Released as the b-side to “Dancing In the Dark,” one month before the album came out, “Pink Cadillac” was Bruce’s homage to the sound of the 50s and 60s, right down to the slapback echo on his vocal, and the fact the song was mixed in mono!  It ended up being replaced by “I’m Going Down” on the Born In The USA, and got its first digital release in 1998 with Bruce’s Tracks outtake collection.,

  • 3. State Trooper

    Without a doubt, Nebraska is my favorite Bruce Springsteen album.  The starkness of the production, the intensity of the song lyrics and their characters, and the haunting sound of a man alone in a room with a guitar made this a riveting listen for me. Of all the songs on the album, “State Trooper” ranks as my favorite. It starts out so very quietly, and ends with Bruce yelping and howling, totally distorting on the recording, and that’s what give the songs its charm. Every time I drive up to New York City, I always give a nod to those oil tanks along the NJ Turnpike, just south of Newark airport, thinking of the line that says, “‘neath the refineries glow, out where the great black rivers flow.”

  • 2. Streets Of Philadelphia

    In looking at my list, it’s pretty clear I prefer Bruce’s songs that don’t have a whole lot of production built in.  From the powerfully devastating movie, “Philadelphia,” and featuring just Bruce and background vocalist Tommy Sims, this song matched perfectly with the film’s script, and earned Bruce an Oscar for Best Original Song, as well as four Grammy awards. When I was program director of 92-3 K-Rock in New York, I got an advance tape of the track and we were one of the first stations in the country to play it. To this day, I can’t listen to it without wiping away a tear or two.

  • 1. The Fever (original mix)

    I remember hearting this for the first time on Ed Sciaky’s radio show on WMMR. It was literally one of those “stop everything you’re doing and listen”-type of songs. It totally captivated me and, only later did I realize it was 7 1/2 minutes long! It flew by. Again, the production was sparse, Danny Federici’s piano playing was slick, and The Big Man’s sax and backing vocal work was so incredibly tasty. The story goes that Bruce’s old manager (the one he sued) slipped cassette copies to a few DJs without anyone’s permission and, thus, a legend was born. It finally appeared on the Tracks collection in 1998, but I didn’t like that mix as much as the rough mix on that cassette (too much organ and reverb on the remix!). Unfortunately, I can’t find that original mix online, so the Tracks remix will have to do.

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