50 Years of Bruce Springsteen's 'Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J.'
Columbia Records wanted their next Bob Dylan, and for a brief moment, Bruce Springsteen was the answer.
“The only real problem remaining is his name. Bruce Springsteen. I mean, how can a superstar be named Bruce Springsteen?”
- William K. Mandel, The Evening Bulletin. July 6, 1973
Fifty years ago yesterday, one of music’s living legends was introduced to the world when Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J. arrived in record stores. Not yet The Boss, Bruce Springsteen was a 23-year-old looking for his big break. After some time in community college, which he left when the school’s psychologist said his fellow students found him weird1, and a failed military medical, Springsteen bounced from project to project. Working the New Jersey shore scene and the southern United States, Springsteen spent eight years honing his craft, including time with a ten-piece R&B band.
His knack for slamming a million words and ideas into a verse garnered Columbia Records’ attention, comparing Springsteen to Dylan, one of the label’s biggest signings who had been with the record company since his debut just over a decade earlier. Upon signing with Columbia Records, label man John Hammond Sr., who had also signed Dylan, filled the press with high praise for the young New Jerseyan. “He’s much further along, much more developed than Bobby was when he came to me,” Hammond Sr. told Rolling Stone in 1973. Hammond Sr. had self-admittedly been wrong in the decade between Bob and Bruce. Still, Columbia Records put everything behind Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J., notably asking music critics and journalists to call label president Clive Davis directly with their reactions.
A half-century later, it’s fair to say Columbia Records captured lightning in a bottle with the Springsteen contract. One of the best-selling musicians of all time, Springsteen’s influence spans generations of artists while still hitting the road with the E-Street band almost annually - but where does Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J. rank in a (mostly) untouchable discography?
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