Incident On 57th Street (1973) – Bruce Springsteen

From Bruce Springsteen’s 1973 record –The Wild, the Innocent & the E Street Shuffle, I played the following 4 songs incessantly in my early adolescence:

4th of July, Asbury Park (Sandy)
Wild Billy’s Circus Story
Incident on 57th Street
New York City Serenade

These 4 songs enabled me to enjoy great story telling about topics and scenarios I wasn’t privy to, up until then. Not only did I appreciate the music, but I internalised the words because they transported me to another time and place. The first song on side 2 of that album Incident on 57th Street is today’s featured song. You can read the song lyrics without the music and it’s a wild ride. I wrote about another song from the record – 4th of July, Asbury Park (Sandy) which pertains to these very early songs of Bruuuuce:

There was a small band of us at school who cherished his music. We felt through his (The Boss) music we could sidestep some of those landmines in middle school. You see, he had already loved and lost. He was someone much older than us and had got out the other end and was telling us stories of what he had seen and learnt growing up.

Johnny was sitting on the fire escape
Watching the kids playing down the street
He called down “Hey little heroes
Summer’s long but I guess it ain’t very sweet around here anymore”
Janey sleeps in sheets damp with sweat
Johnny sits up alone and watches her dream on, dream on
And the sister prays for lost souls
Then breaks down in the chapel after everyone’s gone

Incident on 57th Street is one of my favourite songs from his early career. Looking back on it, Incident and Sandy seems to me a key development in Springsteen’s songwriting career. Incident was the last song recorded for the record and Springsteen had been working on it under the working title “Puerto Rican Jane.” The song has parallels to Leonard Bernstein’s West Side Story in telling a Romeo and Juliet-like story with Latin American characters set in New York. Johnny is explicitly referred to as “a cool Romeo” and Jane as “a late Juliet”.

The Wild, the Innocent & the E Street Shuffle is Bruce Springsteen’s second studio album. It was well-received critically but had little commercial success at the time, nationally but locally sold well. There was very little press, no advertisements in the trade papers and no release party, possibly because of Springsteen’s deteriorating relationship with Columbia Records. Springsteen and the E Street Band played the album in its entirety for the first time during a concert at Madison Square Garden. In the 2020 updated version of Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Albums of All Time, the album was ranked at number 345.

1. Incident on 57th Street – Wikipedia
2. 18 (Moby album) – Wikipedia

“The more I live, the more I learn. The more I learn, the more I realize, the less I know.”- Michel Legrand

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Posted in Music
5 comments on “Incident On 57th Street (1973) – Bruce Springsteen
  1. Badfinger (Max) says:

    My favorite album of Bruce is his debut album and this one is close behind. His first two albums were full of word play lyrics which I love.

    • This song is the stuff of legend. I haven’t heard other songs which sound remotely like it. We are talking about the best of the best when it comes to music – creativity. I don’t know how he morphed that US street – Latin context and lyric into music. I mean how did he do that? It is masterful.

    • My kids have been listening to Fire on the Mountain this morning. Big fans haha

      • Badfinger (Max) says:

        Hey that is so cool! It’s catchy without being too catchy.

      • I agree. But each subsequent listen, it gets better and catchier. I think it’s because of the superior and spontaneous instrumentals which make it sound distinct each time. One of the all-time greats. Hehe

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