"4th of July, Asbury Park (Sandy)", often known just as "Sandy", is a 1973 song by Bruce Springsteen, originally appearing as the second song on his album The Wild, The Innocent and The E Street Shuffle. It is one of the best-known and most praised of his early efforts, remains one of his most popular ballads, and has been described as "the perfect musical study of the Jersey Shore boardwalk culture." It was recorded as a 1975 single by The Hollies.
The song begins with the line: "Sandy, the fireworks are hailin' over Little Eden tonight". Writer Ariel Swartley views the song's verses as depicting the narrator as something of a "adolescent loser ... [who's] ruining his chances with the girl: he can't stop telling her about the humiliations, about the girls who led him on, about the waitress that got tired of him." Nevertheless, Swartley observes the choruses to be warm, immediate, and portray an irresistibly romantic atmosphere.
"Sandy" showcases the wistful side of Springsteen; Los Angeles Times writer Robert Hilburn later wrote that "the verses [were] whispered as if he was singing into his girlfriend's ear." During recording of the song for the album, Springsteen wanted a children's choir to sing on it, but they did not show up for the session. Instead, he recorded the high, clear voice of Suki Lahav, overdubbing it repeatedly, to give a choir-like effect.. Lahav, the wife of Springsteen's sound engineer at the time, would not be credited for her role,. but would later join the E Street Band for six months as a violinist and singer.
No singles were released from The Wild, The Innocent and The E Street Shuffle. "Sandy" would, however, along with "Rosalita (Come Out Tonight)", become fan favorites from the album, and would garner progresive rock radio airplay during the ramp-up of Springsteen's visibility preceding the 1975 release of Born to Run. The song would be released as a single in Germany, in late 1974 or early 1975, with the title reversed into "Sandy (4th July, Asbury Park)". "Sandy" also attracted the attention of other musicians; it was one of the two Springsteen songs that drummer Max Weinberg knew when he auditioned for Springsteen's E Street Band in late 1974. Once Born to Run made Springsteen a major rock figure, "Sandy" received additional airplay on progressive and album oriented rock formats.
The song was a mainstay of Springsteen and the E Street Band's concert set lists during the early part of his career, and a 1975 performance is included on the 2006 Hammersmith Odeon London '75 audio and video release. It became much rarer to hear after the 1980–1981 River Tour, appearing only very sporadically, and then usually in New Jersey.
Within the E Street Band, the song was heavily identified with Danny Federici's accordion part, which is the main musical element. "Sandy" was played several times late on the first leg of the 2007–2008 Magic Tour, including Federici's final regular appearance in November 2007 before taking a leave of absence for melanoma treatment. When Federici made his only return to the stage after that, on March 20, 2008, when he appeared for portions of a Springsteen and E Street Band performance at Conseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, "Sandy" was the one song that he requested be performed. Following Federici's April 17 2008 death, "Sandy" was performed in tribute to him, with Roy Bittan taking over the accordion part. In July 2008, the live EP Magic Tour Highlights was released, with the final Federici performance of "Sandy" the closing track.
Air Supply recorded "Sandy" for their 1985 album Air Supply. Singer-songwriter Richard Shindell recorded what has been described as a "near-holy reading" of this song for his 2002 live album, Courier.
The "Madame Marie" mentioned in the song was a real-life fortune teller on the Asbury Park boardwalk named Marie Castello, who died June 27, 2008 aged 93. Springsteen offered memories and condolences of her on his website, saying:
"Back in the day when I was a fixture on the Asbury Park boardwalk, I'd often stop and talk to Madam Marie as she sat on her folding chair outside the Temple of Knowledge. I'd sit across from her on the metal guard rail bordering the beach, and watched as she led the day trippers into the small back room where she would unlock a few of the mysteries of their future. She always told me mine looked pretty good - she was right. The world has lost enough mystery as it is - we need our fortunetellers. We send our condolences out to her family who've carried on her tradition. Over here on E Street, we will miss her.Springsteen said some of the same remarks on stage during the next show on the Magic Tour, dedicating a performance of "Sandy" in Gothenburg, Sweden on July 4, 2008 to her.
The dedication, word-by-word, from Gothenburg.
Springsteen incorrectly noted she passed away at 98; she was in fact 93. The song is always dedicated to Danny Federici as of April 17 as this was "his" song, featuring a prominent accordion throughout the song.