Into the bus stop to pick up a paper for my old man
I'd sit on his lap in that big old Buick and steer as we drove through town
He'd tousle my hair and say son take a good look around
Bruce started working on this album while recording Nebraska. He was looking for a sound that was more accessible to the mainstream, while still carrying his message. He and the E Street Band released a preliminary nameless mix tape in 1982 which featured many of the songs that would appear on this album. A few of the songs would not make it, including "Murder Incorporated", which wouldn't see release until 1995.
A second mix tape release was made in July 1983. That tape included "Pink Cadillac", which also would not make the cut.
The final track set was solidified in May 1984, and released the next month with 12 songs, seven of which would become singles: "Dancing in the Dark" ("Pink Cadillac" became its B-side), "Cover Me", the Title Track, "I'm on Fire", "Glory Days", "I'm Goin' Down", and "My Hometown".
It is said that, all told, more than 80 songs were recorded in total during the sessions that produced this album and Nebraska. At one point, Bruce considered combining the two into one double album.
One music journalist referred to it as "a perfect distillation of the anger and bitterness seething beneath the surface of Reagan-era America." Critically, it was a monster hit; many are split between this and Born to Run on which is his greatest album. It's 5 out of 5 stars on AllMusic, and maxed out the ratings scale virtually everywhere, including 5 out of 5 stars from Rolling Stone.
Ironically, the title track, which was a lamentation of the plight of Vietnam veterans, became a patriotic anthem for many. He had to expressly forbid Ronald Reagan from using it for his 1984 re-election campaign. Bruce was never happy about that. Realizing the Sarcasm Failure, he would make a point of playing the song far less bombastically than it was originally recorded whenever he played it on tour.
Regardless, the album became a runaway hit. It sold 15 million copies in the United States, being certified Diamond by the RIAA. It's also certified Diamond in Canada, and sold a total of 30 million copies worldwide. It was in the year-end Billboard 200 album chart for three consecutive years, and was the #1 album of 1985 in the United States.
All seven released singles were Top-10 hits on the Billboard Hot 100. "Dancing in the Dark" remains his highest-charting single on the Billboard Hot 100, hitting #2, and would be his first #1 on the Billboard Mainstream Rock chart. The music video for "Dancing in the Dark" became famous in hindsight for the inclusion of future actress Courteney Cox.
Bruce went on a 156-show world tour to promote the album from July 1984 through October 1985. During the tour, he promoted all the songs from this album and from Nebraska. Four of his performances on the tour are in Bruce's archives. It was the fifth-highest-grossing concert tour of the 1980s.
On a more trivial note, the album holds the distinction of being the very first to be pressed onto a Compact Disc in the United States, through Sony's Digital Audio Disc Corporation. The exact discs pressed were never commercially released, having mainly been made simply as a promotional stunt for the factory. After all, what better way to kickstart American involvement in CD manufacturing than with an album called Born in the U.S.A.? The master from this release would be repurposed for the album's actual commercial debut on the format though.
- "Born in the U.S.A." (4:38)
- "Cover Me" (3:29)
- "Darlington County" (4:48)
- "Working on the Highway" (3:13)
- "Downbound Train" (3:35)
- "I'm on Fire" (2:40)
- "No Surrender" (4:01)
- "Bobby Jean" (3:48)
- "I'm Goin' Down" (3:30)
- "Glory Days" (4:15)
- "Dancing in the Dark" (4:04)
- "My Hometown" (4:34)
- Bruce Springsteen lead vocals, lead guitar, acoustic guitar
- Roy Bittan piano, synthesizer, background vocals
- Clarence Clemons saxophone, percussion, background vocals
- Danny Federici Hammond organ, glockenspiel, piano on "Born in the U.S.A.", background vocals
- Garry Tallent bass guitar, background vocals
- Steven Van Zandt rhythm guitar, acoustic guitar, mandolin, harmony vocals
- Max Weinberg drums, background vocals
"Born down in a Dead Horse Trope":
- Embarrassing Damp Sheets: What the singer wakes up at night to thinking about his subject in "I'm On Fire".
- Glory Days: The song "Glory Days" became the Trope Namer.
- Sarcasm Failure: The upbeat playing of "Born in the U.S.A." was intended to be ironic to the subject of the song, which was the effects of the Vietnam War on its veterans. It immediately became an unironic patriotic anthem for all too many.
- Title Track: "Born in the U.S.A.", natch.