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by Bruce Springsteen

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There is an adage in the record business that a recording artist's demos of new songs often come off better than the more polished versions later worked up in a studio. But Bruce Springsteen was the first person to act on that theory, when he opted to release the demo versions of his latest songs, recorded with only acoustic or electric guitar, harmonica, and vocals,…  See more details below


There is an adage in the record business that a recording artist's demos of new songs often come off better than the more polished versions later worked up in a studio. But Bruce Springsteen was the first person to act on that theory, when he opted to release the demo versions of his latest songs, recorded with only acoustic or electric guitar, harmonica, and vocals, as his sixth album, Nebraska. It was really the content that dictated the approach, however. Nebraska's ten songs marked a departure for Springsteen, even as they took him farther down a road he had been traveling previously. Gradually, his songs had become darker and more pessimistic, and those on Nebraska marked a new low. They also found him branching out into better developed stories. The title track was a first-person account of the killing spree of mass murderer Charlie Starkweather. (It can't have been coincidental that the same story was told in director Terrence Malick's 1973 film Badlands, also used as a Springsteen song title.) That song set the tone for a series of portraits of small-time criminals, desperate people, and those who loved them. Just as the recordings were unpolished, the songs themselves didn't seem quite finished; sometimes the same line turned up in two songs. But that only served to unify the album. Within the difficult times, however, there was hope, especially as the album went on. "Open All Night" was a Chuck Berry-style rocker, and the album closed with "Reason to Believe," a song whose hard-luck verses were belied by the chorus -- even if the singer couldn't understand what it was, "people find some reason to believe." Still, Nebraska was one of the most challenging albums ever released by a major star on a major record label.

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4.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 6 reviews.
poughkeepsiejohn More than 1 year ago
Once Bruce Springsteen became a major star when "The River" went to Number One in 1980, you can tell that he was aiming for bigger things outside of his native New Jersey. He had written a number of songs for other performers like Dave Edmunds and The Pointer Sisters. He produced a marvelous comeback album for Gary U. S. Bonds. By early 1982, he was gearing up with The E Street Band to make another rock album and some of the material (as evident on his boxed set "Tracks") was pretty good. However, Springsteen was also reading Terrence McNally novels and reading up on the Charles Starkweather-Caril Ann Fugit murders of 1959; his favorite move at the time was the 1973 drama "Badlands", which was about that subject. Holed up in his bedroom with a four-track casette recorder, Springsteen, by himself with a guitar and a harmonica, had recorded a number of demos that were meant for this rock album. But instead, Springsteen felt the songs were powerful enough on their own without the band. So, he released the demos under the title, "Nebraska'. Most people around 1982 looked at this as career suicide, especially in the dawn of MTV. Yet, anyone who heard the record didn't forget it. With little radio airplay and only a black-and-white video of "Atlantic City" which didn't even feature Bruce in it, "Nebraska" managed to go to Number One and it earned the accolades of so many fans and musicians. Rooted in the desolate country of Hank Williams with the grungy soul of Robert Johnson, "Nebraska" had the same gripping and insular power of John Lennon's "Plastic Ono Band", Neil Young's "Tonight's The Night" and even Sinead O'Connor "I Do Not Want What I Haven't Got". The album is full of hopeless and compelling stories that have only seem to grow with time. The title cut is about the Starkweather-Fugit murders. There are tales about doomed con men ("Atlantic City"), psychotics ("State Trooper"), unemployed men going on a rampage ("Johnny 99") and even an ode to Springsteen's father ("My Father's House") which only turns to be a dream. The highlight of this record is perhaps "Highway Patrolman", about two brothers, one a lawman, the other a troublemaker, which became the impetus behind Sean Penn's film, "The Indian Runner". As "Nebraska" quietly celebrates its 30th anniversary this year, it's not incredible to think that the album's power has not diminshed with time. In fact, you may want to check out "Badlands: A Tribute To Bruce Springsteen's Nebraska", a collection from Sub Pop of other artists covering every song off this dark masterpiece. It's often been said that Springsteen's truly big record, "Born in the USA", owes a great part of its dramatic intensity to "Nebraska". And if you don't believe that, check out the acoustic version of "Born in the USA" on "Tracks", the acoustic song stripped of its anthemic roar but full of tension and terror. Still, it all comes down to this remarkable, unexpected record that many now regard as indispensible.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I just bought nebraska on the reccomendation of a friend and its excellent. Tunes like Atlantic City and Highway Patrolman are absolutely incredible with only Springsteen and an acoustic guitar. Overall the disc has a mellow mood, but its an excellent addition to a Bruce Springsteen or any other other acoustic collection.
Roweking More than 1 year ago
A reason to believe
Searcher_153 More than 1 year ago
Starkly beautiful; real people's stories. Essential Springsteen.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I purchased this for my mother after she mentioned she would like it but could not locate it. I certainly am familiar with his music but not this recording. The titles alone brought vivid childhood memories and the music was great. I think any native of Nebraska would be thrilled with this recording and it would add to a Springsteen collection as well.
GT_oh More than 1 year ago
Bruce Springsteen's career took off when he married a distinctive sound to subject matter he cared deeply about. While all his work since _Born to Run_ mines these veins, _Nebraska_ shows the full maturity of both developments. Its songs are related by subject, chord structure, instrumentation, and even certain lyrics, repeated verbatim in different songs, that form a refrain throughout. "State Trooper" and "Open All Night" especially share marked contrasting takes on life in contemporary America, while sharing lines like "In the wee wee hours your mind gets hazy," "Radio's jammed up with talk show (gospel) stations," and "Hey, somebody out there (Mister DJ), listen to my last prayer / Hiho silver-o (hey-ho rock 'n roll), deliver me from nowhere." Minimalism is not to everyone's taste, in rock music or anywhere else. _Nebraska_ looks into an American heart of darkness that is as difficult to bear now, during a recession that threatens to become an economic depression, as it was in 1983. But it's a work of deep emotion and creative genius.