The Wild, the Innocent & the E Street Shuffle is the second album by Bruce Springsteen and the as-yet-unnamed E Street Band, it is described by Allmusic as one of the greatest albums in the history of rock and roll. It was released in 1973 (see 1973 in music). The album includes the song Rosalita, the band's most used set-closing song for the first ten years of their career.
As with his first album, it was well-received critically but had little commercial success at the time. However, once Springsteen achieved popularity with Born to Run, several selections from this album became popular FM radio airplay and concert favorites.
The E Street Band is known to have taken its name from Sancious' mother's home in Belmar, New Jersey. But based on first-hand recounts of David Sancious, the 'shuffle' occurred when the band's rented truck broke down late one night after a gig in New York City. Snowing, but within walking distance of Sancious' mother's home, the band decided to walk the short distance.
All tracks composed by Bruce Springsteen
- "The E Street Shuffle" – 4:31
- "4th of July, Asbury Park (Sandy)" – 5:36
- "Kitty's Back" – 7:09
- "Wild Billy's Circus Story" – 4:47
- "Incident on 57th Street" – 7:45
- "Rosalita (Come Out Tonight)" – 7:04
- "New York City Serenade" – 9:55
Synopses and notes on songs
"The E Street Shuffle"
"The E Street Shuffle" introduces a small group of characters including Power Thirteen and "his girl, Little Angel". The song describes the sordid characters of "E Street". Sex references abound, such as "All the little girls' souls grow weak when the man-child gives them a double shot" and a reference to "teenage tramps in skintight pants". The police have also been particularly oppressive: "the newsboys say the heat's been bad since Power Thirteen gave a trooper all he had in a summer scuffle". The song is fast-paced and exciting, and sets the mood for the album.
"4th of July, Asbury Park (Sandy)"
"4th of July, Asbury Park (Sandy)" is a powerful love ballad, dedicated to Sandy and describing the depressing atmosphere that threatens to smother the love between the singer and Sandy. Locals include the "stoned-out faces," "switchblade
lovers" and "the greasers
" who "tramp the streets or get busted for sleeping on the beach all night." The singer is tired of "hangin' in them dusty arcades
" and "chasin' the factory girls."
Van Morrison's influence can be heard in this song, as "4th of July, Asbury Park (Sandy)" closely parallels his romanticization of Belfast in such songs as "Cyprus Avenue" and "Madame George".
One of the first artists to cover Springsteen were The Hollies who recorded a single of "Sandy" in 1975.
"Kitty's Back" describes, in contrast to the happy-in-spite-of-everything lovers of "4th of July", the depressed and unlucky characters of the seedy part of town. Catlong, Kitty, Sally, Big Pretty and Jack Knife are the only characters introduced by name, and the song focuses on Catlong (usually referred to as "Cat") and Kitty, his ex-girlfriend, who "left to marry some top cat" (referring to Big Pretty, and contrasting with her boyfriend, Catlong). In the end, Catlong can not resist Kitty when she returns because "she's so soft, she's so blue," and, even though he "knows his Kitty's been untrue" he "just sits back and sighs/Ooh, what can I do; ooh, what can I do."
"Kitty's Back" was written as a jazz tune, and contains an open-ended middle where the E Street Band is allowed to improvise. On the album, keyboardist David Sancious performs an organ solo. In concert, each musician was allowed several minutes of jamming time (the Hammersmith Odeon London '75 live album contains a 17-minute rendition).
"Wild Billy's Circus Story"
"Wild Billy's Circus Story" describes a panoply of circus people, including the fat woman ("Big Mama"), the fire-eater (who's "lyin' in a pool of sweat, a victim of the heat wave") and more. None of the characters get more than a line or two of description, characterizing them as dysfunctional, and bored in spite of the apparent freakishness. The titular character, Billy, is not introduced until the very end when the "circus boss" whispers to him "hey son, do you want to try the big top?/All aboard, Nebraska's the next stop." This song may be one large reference to Bob Dylan
's talltale of starting his music career with a traveling circus at the age of 13.
"Incident on 57th Street"
"Incident on 57th Street" is about "Spanish
Johnny," who is "dressed just like dynamite" though he drives a "beat-up old Buick
" and can't find a girlfriend. A desperate Johnny is told he is a cheater and a liar by "the pimps
" who "swing their axes." He meets "Puerto Rican
Jane" who wants to take him "to the other part of town where paradise ain't so crowded." The new couple find their "soul flame" while "out on the street tonight". In spite of their sudden love, Jane knows "he'd never be true but she didn't really mind." Though Johnny tries not to get involved in the sordid affairs of his neighborhood, preferring to watch "the kids playin' down the street." Jane sleeps with her "sheets damp from sweat" while "Johnny sits up alone and watches her dream on, dream on". When Jane wakes up, she sees "Johnny putting his clothes back on" and all she can say is "those romantic young boys/All they ever want to do is fight." Johnny's friends call in through the window, asking if he wants to make "some easy money" and he leaves, promising to meet Jane "tomorrow night on Lover's Lane."
The song is often remembered for Garry Tallent's bass solo at 4.00 minutes, as well as for Danny Federici's signature organ figure in each of the song's choruses, one of Federici's more prominent moments in the E Street discography.
"Rosalita (Come Out Tonight)"
"Rosalita (Come Out Tonight)" is a story of forbidden love between the singer and "Rosalita". Bruce said that this song was the closest thing to him having an autobiography. It's one of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
's "500 Songs That Shaped Rock And Roll". The song's music video occupied the #"71 spot on Rolling Stone
's 1993 list of the top 100 videos.
"New York City Serenade"
"New York City Serenade" makes less coherent sense than the earlier songs. The first verse concerns "Billy" and "Diamond Jackie," who are "gonna boogaloo down Broadway
and come back home with the loot." The second verse is about a "fish lady" who "baits them tenement
walls" and "won't take corner boys" because they "ain't got no money." The singer invites her come with him "down Broadway" and "shake away your street life/shake away your city life," and "hook up to the train"; she, however, "won't take the train" because "she's afraid them tracks are gonna slow her down/and when she turns, this boy'll be gone." The third verse is a plea directed towards the "jazz man" who is asked to "play me your serenade" and advised to "save your notes, don't spend 'em on the blues
boy/Save your notes, don't spend 'em on the darlin' yearlin' sharp boy." This song evolved from a few of Springsteen's earlier pieces including Vibes Man and New York City Song.
The E Street Band
- Clarence Clemons – saxophone, vocals
- Danny Federici – accordion, keyboards, organ on "Kitty's Back", second piano on "Incident on 57th Street", vocals
- Vini "Mad Dog" Lopez – drums, cornet on "The E Street Shuffle", vocals
- David Sancious – clavinet, electric piano, keyboards, organ solo on "Kitty's Back", piano, soprano saxophone on "The E Street Shuffle", string arrangement on "New York City Serenade"
- Bruce Springsteen – guitar, harmonica, bass guitar, mandolin, maracas, vocals
- Garry Tallent – bass, horn, tuba, vocals
Notes and references