Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J. was the first album recorded by Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band, released in 1973 (see 1973 in music), and sold about 25,000 copies in the first year.
Springsteen and his first manager Mike Appel
decided to record the album at the low-priced, out of the way 914 Sound Studios
to save as much as possible of the Columbia Records
advance and cut the record in a single week.
Both "Blinded by the Light" and "Spirit in the Night" were released as singles by Columbia, but neither made a dent in the US charts.
Similarities to Van Morrison's 1968 second album, Astral Weeks, have often been noted and Richard Davis, the bass player on this album also played the bass lines on Astral Weeks.
Ken Emerson wrote in Rolling Stone magazine, "Greetings from Asbury Park, NJ . . . was like "Subterranean Homesick Blues" played at 78 RPM, a typical five-minute track busting with more words than this review. . .
All songs written by Bruce Springsteen
- "Blinded by the Light" – 5:06
- "Growin' Up" – 3:05
- "Mary Queen of Arkansas" – 5:21
- "Does This Bus Stop at 82nd Street?" – 2:05
- "Lost in the Flood" – 5:17
- "The Angel" – 3:24
- "For You" – 4:40
- "Spirit in the Night" – 4:59
- "It's Hard to Be a Saint in the City" – 3:13
"Blinded by the Light""Growin' Up""Mary Queen of Arkansas";
- "Mary Queen of Arkansas" is a slow, quiet acoustic song with a faint country feel to it. The lyrics contain repeated references to the circus (a theme explored in deeper depth on his The Wild, the Innocent & the E-Street Shuffle) as in "Well I'm just a lonely acrobat, the live wire is my trade" and "The big top is for dreamers, we can take the circus all the way to the border." It is a love song, devoted to "Mary." Like most of Springsteen's songs, particularly the first album, the lyrics are evocative though not detailed. The song appears to be sung in the first person, by a slave in the antebellum American south, to his white mistress, with whom he is having a clandestine affair."Does This Bus Stop at 82nd Street?";
- "Does This Bus Stop at 82nd Street?" is a beat-style pastiche of a journey through city streets. It is fast-paced and has no chorus. One recognizable theme is a movement towards the sky, as in the lines "drink this and you'll grow wings on your feet", "interstellar mongrel nymphs" and "(Mary Lou) rides to heaven on a gyroscope.""Lost in the Flood";
- "Lost in the Flood" is a sparse, piano-driven song, seemingly about a Vietnam War veteran. This is the first of many epic Springsteen songs that elicit strong emotions, usually of despair, grief, and small glimpse of hope. The treatment of veterans in the United States has always been a sore spot for Springsteen. The lyrics tell a loose story, invoking a series of images that appear to somewhat tell a story or perhaps three different stories for each of the three verses.
- The first verse is about "ragamuffin gunner" and has a recurring theme of religion, including references to the "hit-and-run" pleading for "sanctuary" and hiding beneath a "holy stone," while "breakin' beams and crosses with a spastic's reeling perfection" and "nuns run bald through Vatican halls, pregnant, pleading Immaculate Conception." Finally, "everybody's wrecked on Main Street from drinking unholy blood."
- The second verse is about a "pure American brother", "Jimmy the Saint", perhaps the same person as the "ragamuffin gunner" from the first verse. This is the beginning of Springsteen's use of automobile themes (along with "The Angel" below), as the pure American brother "races Sundays in Jersey in a Chevy stock Super Eight" and "leans on the hood telling racing stories." Eventually, Jimmy the Saint gets into some sort of accident (described as running "headfirst into a hurricane") and presumably dies since "there was nothing left but some blood where the body fell."
- The third verse concerns a series of people on the streets of a city, presumably New York. They include "Eighth Avenue sailors in satin shirts," "some storefront incarnation of Maria," "Bronx's best apostle," "the cops," "the whiz-bang gang" and "some kid" who gets shot in the ensuing gun fight and holds "his leg, screaming something in Spanish.""The Angel"
- "The Angel" is a slow, soft acoustic song. The lyrics describe a man referred to as "the angel" and a woman who is "Madison Avenue's claim to fame in a trainer bra with eyes like rain." This song has a fully-developed automobile theme, including some lines such as "The interstate's choked with nomadic hordes/in Volkswagen vans with full running boards dragging great anchors/Followin' dead-end signs into the sores/The angel rides by humpin' his hunk metal whore". Another notable line is the historic "hubcap heaven." Bruce took one of his early rare photos in front of this site in Monmouth New Jersey. The referenced "Hubcap Heaven" is now known as "The Hubcap Farm" and is still in business. Bruce once said he would never play this song live, and he went 23 years keeping that promise. In London in 1996, on his acoustic Ghost of Tom Joad Tour, Bruce played the song. To date, that has been its only live performance."For You"
- "For You" is a climactic, percussion-driven song. The lyrics are about a woman who does not need the singer's "urgency" even though her life is "one long emergency" as Springsteen sings in the chorus (along with "and your cloud line urges me, and my electric surges free"). Once again, the lyrics are evocative of images and not details, and little can be said in description. The song is often referred to as a song about suicide. Like "Blinded by the Light", was covered by Manfred Mann, but to less success."Spirit in the Night"
- "Spirit in the Night" is a slow but energetic song. The lyrics are about a group of young people who go out to the woods for a nocturnal tryst with a "bottle of rose" to a spot "on the dark side of route eighty-eight." The people include "Crazy Janey," "her mission man," "Wild Billy," and "his friend, G-Man," "Hazy Davy" and "Killer Joe." The second verse begins with a probable drug reference as "Well now Wild young Billy was a crazy cat and he shook some dust out of his coonskin cap/He said, 'Trust some of this it'll show you where you're at, or at least it'll help you really feel it.'" By the third verse, the young men and women have gotten themselves into some trouble. Billy and Davy dance in the moonlight and then get into a "stone mud fight," while Killer Joe is "passed out on the lawn" and "Me and Crazy Janey were making love in the dirt singing our birthday songs."
- Van Morrison's influence on Springsteen was never felt more than in "Spirit in the Night".
- Like "Blinded by the Light", this song was covered by Manfred Mann; it received a little airplay in the U.S."It's Hard to Be a Saint in the City"
- "It's Hard to Be a Saint in the City" is a fast paced song. The lyrics are about a youth growing up on the streets of a city, and who is trying to stay "good" and do what he believes is right. Unfortunately, "those gasoline boys sure talk gritty" and he is inexorably dragged into some very unsaintly activities. One of the more quoted lines is "The devil appeared like Jesus through the steam in the street/Showin' me a hand I knew even the cops couldn't beat/I felt his hot breath on my neck as I dove into the heat/It's so hard to be a saint when you're just a boy out on the street."
The E Street Band
- Clarence Clemons – clapping, saxophone, vocals
- Vini "Mad Dog" Lopez – clapping, drums, horn, vocals
- David Sancious – keyboards, organ, piano, saxophone
- Bruce Springsteen – acoustic guitar, clapping, congas, electric guitar, harmonica, piano, vocals, bass guitar on "Blinded by the Night" & "Spirit In The Night"
- Garry Tallent – bass guitar, horn
- Jim Cretecos – producer
- Louis Lehav – engineer
- Jack Ashkinazy – remixing
- John Berg – cover design
- Fred Lombardi – back cover design
In popular culture
Professional wrestler Bam Bam Bigelow
used a finisher called Greetings from Asbury Park
during his spell in Extreme Championship Wrestling
David Bowie links
was thoroughly impressed by a performance Springsteen gave at Max's Kansas City
. He later would claim, "I became a major fan that night and picked up Asbury Park
immediately. Bowie later recorded three songs from the album, two in his own right and one as the producer of the Astronettes
. "Growin' Up
" appeared on the Ryko
re-issue of the Pin Ups
album a few months after "It's Hard To Be A Saint In The City
" had been released on the 3-CD rarities box set Sound + Vision
. Both songs were unknown to collectors and are thought to have been recorded in 1973 and 1975 respectively.
"Spirits in the Night" was one of the songs chosen for The Astronettes, the band created as a showcase for Bowie's backing singers in 1973. It was finally released in 1995 as People from Bad Homes, and Bowie can be heard singing a section of the song as a guide vocal.