October 17: Bruce Springsteen released The River in 1980
But I remember us riding in my brother’s car
Her body tan and wet down at the reservoir
At night on them banks I’d lie awake
And pull her close just to feel each breath she’d take
Now those memories come back to haunt me
They haunt me like a curse
Is a dream a lie if it don’t come true
Or is it something worse?
~Bruce Springsteen “The River”
Put on your best dress baby
And darlin’, fix your hair up right
Cause there’s a party, honey
Way down beneath the neon lights
~Bruce Springsteen “Out In The Street”
|Released||October 17, 1980|
|Recorded||The Power Station, New York
March 1979 – August 1980
|Genre||Rock, heartland rock|
|Producer||Jon Landau, Bruce Springsteen, Steven Van Zandt|
The River is the fifth studio album (a double album) by Bruce Springsteen, released in 1980.
The sources of The River go back into earlier parts of Springsteen’s recording career. “Independence Day”, “Point Blank”, “The Ties That Bind”, “Ramrod”, and “Sherry Darling” were leftovers from his previous album, Darkness on the Edge of Town, and had been featured on that 1978 tour, as had parts of “Drive All Night” as a long interpolation within “Backstreets”.”The River” had premiered at the September 1979 Musicians United for Safe Energy (MUSE) concerts, gaining a featured spot in the subsequent documentary No Nukes.
Here is “The River” from the first MUSE concert 1979-09-21:
[The River] was a record that was sort of the gateway to a lot of my future writing. It was a record we made after Darkness on the Edge of Town. It was a record made during a recession – hard times in the States. Its title song is a song I wrote for my brother-in-law and sister. My brother-in-law was in the construction industry, lost his job and had to struggle very hard back in the late 70s, like so many people are doing today. It was a record where I first started to tackle men and women and families and marriage. There were certain songs on it that led to complete records later on: “The River” sort of went to the writing on Nebraska, “Stolen Car” went to the writing on Tunnel of Love.
Originally it was a single record. I handed it in with just one record and I took it back because I didn’t feel it was big enough. I wanted to capture the themes I had been writing about on Darkness. I wanted to keep those characters with me and at the same time added music that made our live shows so much fun and joy for our audience. So in the end, we’re gonna take you down to The River tonight.
Originally, the album was to be a single set entitled The Ties That Bind and released in late 1979. According to Dave Marsh, tracks of this unreleased album were to be:
Side One: 1. “The Ties That Bind” 2. “Cindy” 3. “Hungry Heart” 4. “Stolen Car” 5. “Be True”.
Side Two: 1. “The River” 2. “You Can Look (But Don’t Touch)” 3. “The Price You Pay” 4. “I Wanna Marry You” 5. “Loose Ends”.
Springsteen added darker material after he’d written the title track. Indeed, The River became noted for its mix of the frivolous next to the solemn. This was intentional, and in contrast to Darkness, for as Springsteen said during an interview:
“Rock and roll has always been this joy, this certain happiness that is in its way the most beautiful thing in life. But rock is also about hardness and coldness and being alone … I finally got to the place where I realized life had paradoxes, a lot of them, and you’ve got to live with them.”
“Hungry Heart” was Springsteen’s first U.S. pop singles chart top ten hit single, reaching #5. (Springsteen had not intended the song to be for himself, having initially written it for The Ramones; manager/producer Jon Landau convinced Springsteen to keep the song for himself.) The album hit number one on the U.S. pop albums chart, a first for Springsteen, and sold 1.6 million copies in the U.S. between its release and Christmas. Sales faltered with “Fade Away”, which only reached #20.
- The album was followed by a lengthy tour of North America and Western Europe during 1980 and 1981. Several of the album’s up-tempo rockers became concert staples for decades to come, including “Cadillac Ranch”, “Ramrod”, and “Out in the Street”, as did “Two Hearts” (with Steven Van Zandt acting as the second ‘heart’).
- “Stolen Car” and “Wreck on the Highway”, the closing tracks on the original LP’s sides three and four, bore quiet, haunted arrangements that presaged much of the musical direction Springsteen would take in the future.
- “Point Blank” took its title from a 1967 movie starring Lee Marvin.
- Since its release, The River has been certified quintuple platinum by the RIAA in the U.S., making it one of Springsteen’s best-selling albums. In 2003, the album was ranked number 250 on Rolling Stone‘s list of the 500 greatest albums of all time.
- “Drive All Night” and “Stolen Car” played a key role in setting the tone of the 1997 film Cop Land.
- “Drive All Night” and “Out in the Street” were used in the 2007 film Reign Over Me, and the album was mentioned multiple times throughout the movie.
- On November 8, 2009, near the end of the Working on a Dream Tour, Springsteen and the E Street Band performed The River in its entirety for the first time at Madison Square Garden in New York City.
From allmusic.com – William Ruhlmann:
Imbedded within the double-disc running time of The River is a single-disc album that follows up on the themes and sound of Darkness on the Edge of Town — wide-screen, midtempo rock and stories of the disillusionment of working-class life and the conflicts within families. In these songs, which include the title track, “Independence Day,” and “Point Blank,” Bruce Springsteen’s world-view is just as dire as it had become on Darkness, but less judgmental. “Independence Day,” for example, is a father-and-son ballad that has little of the anger of its hard rock counterpart on Darkness, “Adam Raised a Cain.”Springsteen’s heroes again seek to overcome their crushing troubles through defiance and by driving around, and though “The River” repeats the soured love theme of “Racing in the Street,” he also posits romance as a possible escape, sometimes combining it with one of the other solutions, as on the eight-plus-minute “Drive All Night.”
…read more @ allmusic.com
- Bruce Springsteen – lead vocals, guitar, harmonica, piano on “Drive All Night”
The E Street Band
- Roy Bittan – piano, organ on “I’m a Rocker” and “Drive All Night”, background vocals
- Clarence Clemons – saxophone, percussion, background vocals
- Danny Federici – organ, glockenspiel
- Garry Tallent – bass
- Steven Van Zandt – acoustic guitar, guitar, lead guitar on “Crush on You”, harmony vocals, background vocals
- Max Weinberg – drums
- Flo & Eddie – on “Hungry Heart”
- Howard Kaylan – harmony vocals
- Mark Volman – harmony vocals
- Bruce Springsteen – producer
- Jon Landau – producer
- Steven Van Zandt – producer
- Neil Dorfsman – engineering
- Bob Clearmountain – mixing
- Chuck Plotkin – mixing
- Toby Scott – mixing
- Dana Bisbee – assistant engineer
- Frank Stefanko – cover art
Album of the day – The River (1980)