40 Years Of Springsteen’s Born In The USA

Today marks a whole four decades since the irrepressible Bruce Springsteen finally signed on the dotted line to join the elite group we know as ‘megastars’, and it was undoubtedly 1984’s Born In The USA that catapulted him to such an extreme level of fame. To commemorate this momentous landmark in the history of ‘The Boss’, the good folk at Sony have today released a special, translucent red vinyl edition of the eighties classic, complete with a stunning gatefold sleeve, an exclusive booklet or archival material from that period, and a four colour lithograph.

Springsteen had, of course, already previously hit the UK charts, albeit modestly, with the title track of 1980’s The River, which peeped into the lower echelons of the Top 40 before scuttling off, but Born In The USA would arrive with great pomp and circumstance, which perhaps polarised folk upon its initial unveiling. I know that I, for one, was certainly conflicted, having been wooed, at the age of 13, to music of a more ‘alternative’ nature, such as The Smiths and Echo and The Bunnymen, and Springsteen, who I didn’t know very well at that age, appeared to be the complete antithesis of that. Stadium rock? Eww. Chest-thumping American patriotism? Bleugh. So why did I still feel drawn enough to it, to buy the album on tape?

Well, I’ll tell you why – because the truth is, it simply has a plethora of whopping great tunes on it, which only improve when you come to the realisation that Bruce is most certainly not a card-carrying Republican and that the thing you previously interpreted as flag-waving imperiousness is actually the opposite of that, the title track here being very much an anti-war protest song focusing on a soldier who has returned from the Vietnam war, traumatised, and found an uncompassionate America with nothing to help him get through it. The huge, over-the-top style grandiosity of the number, if anything, is nothing but a clever, ironic twist, which was so good that it fooled Ronald Reagan into thinking it would befit his political campaign of that year. Until, of course, Springsteen himself stepped in, and said “Oi, NO!!!

It’s not just about the title track though – is there any more joyous song than ‘Glory Days‘ from that year? Or even maybe the entire decade? There couldn’t be an apter title. Then you have the driving rock – with a country tinge – of ‘Darlington County‘, the breakneck speed of ‘Working On The Highway‘, deceptively upbeat given its lyrical content about a blue-collar worker put on a chain gang after (possibly) committing a heinous, non-consensual sexual act on someone he met at a dance.

The haunting synths of both ‘I’m On Fire‘ and ‘Downbound Train‘ give the record some real gravitas, ‘No Surrender‘ revisits the incarnation of Bruce we first encountered on Born To Run, albeit with glossier production, ‘Bobby Jean‘ is somewhat epic, ‘Cover Me‘ and ‘I’m Goin’ Down‘ are simply delightful pop songs, and ‘My Hometown‘ is just a lovely, nostalgic, yet ultimately quite heartbreaking track to close out one of the true watershed albums of the 1980s.

It’s a beautifully packaged reissue and surely a must for old diehards and new fans alike.

God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.