Bruce Springsteen took months to craft the opening track to Born to Run, perhaps his and the E Street Band’s finest album. For several years prior, Springsteen had struggled for recognition. Finally, in August 1975 after a memorable five-night, 10-show stand in New York City, he and the band achieved national and critical acclaim. Weeks later, they released Born to Run. The melancholic opening of “Thunder Road,” with its lonely harmonica, offers its own invitation to listeners as they begin the album. As Springsteen sings of taking his Mary to the promised land (“You ain’t a beauty, but hey, you’re all right”), the song builds and gains momentum until the Boss is screaming, yelling, somehow — through his signature raspyness — remaining on key. Meanwhile, the E Street Band’s wall of sound — Springsteen’s talking guitar; the excitable, majestic piano; the high-pitched bells over the top throughout — encapsulated the music that the band would perfect throughout the 1970s and into the ’80s.
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