Jungleland is the second song to feature here from my favourite Bruce Springsteen record Born to Run released in 1975. I consider it one of the cohesive and influential albums I have ever heard in contemporary – music. Nearly every song from the record will appear here. I wrote in my post about the song Backstreets: ‘I was so taken aback by Born to Run (the album) I wrote a lyrics booklet in my youth of the whole album complete with a little nice string to thread the pages together. Lyrics weren’t so accessible back then like they are today, so I transcribed what I thought he sung as if I was doing something unprecedented. I felt like a devoted scribe of a great musical sermon‘.
Jungleland is fittingly the closing song on the album. It could be described as a noir – theatrical musical piece about street sub-culture. Springsteen used this song to showcase Saxophonist Clarence Clemons talents. Clemons also known as ‘the big man’ passed away in 2011 and his nephew Jake Clemons, joined the E Street Band for the Wrecking Ball Tour in 2012. He played the saxophone in versions of Jungleland in recognition of his uncle. I think Jungleland contains some of Springsteen’s best writing, although his catalogue in this regard is expansive.
The Rangers had a homecoming in Harlem late last night
And the Magic Rat drove his sleek machine
Over the Jersey state line
Barefoot girl sitting on the hood of a Dodge
Drinking warm beer in the soft summer rain
The Rat pulls into town rolls up his pants
Together they take a stab at romance
And disappear down Flamingo Lane
Though much is made of the six months it took to record Born to Run, Jungleland was not completed until 19 months after its first rehearsal take on January 8, 1974 in New York. It was played live regularly, losing its jazz influences, adding Suki’s violin to the introduction, and Springsteen making many lyrical modifications. “All we could do was hold on. Smoke a lot of pot and try to stay calm,” said Clemons, who spent sixteen hours playing and replaying every note of his Jungleland solo “in order to satisfy Bruce’s bat-eared attention to sonic detail…’
In concert, Jungleland is usually played towards the end of shows. During the E Street Band’s reunion tour in 1999 and 2000, it was part of a revolving “epic” slot, alternating with Backstreets and Racing in the Street.
In popular culture, John Malkovich used the song, among a nearly all-Springsteen theatrical soundtrack, in his 1980s Steppenwolf Theater production of Lanford Wilson’s play, Balm in Gilead. It served as the background for a choreographed tableau of street denizens miming a tragic slice-of-life. Also, the American educational children’s program Sesame Street featured a parody of Springsteen about addition called “Born to Add“. The post-apocalyptic horror/fantasy novel The Stand by Stephen King opens with three epigraphs, one of which is the final lyrics from the song.
1. Jungleland – Wikipedia