Born in the U.S.A. compie 40 anni: l’album canzone per canzone

Rereading “Born in the USA” 40 Years Later: The 2024 Review

“Born down in a dead man's town / the first kick I took was when I hit the ground / end up like a dog that's been beat too much / 'til you spend half your life just coverin' up”. The incipit is one of the most iconic in the history of rock'n'roll: in the summer of 1984 it opened with these verses, those of the title track, destined to become a hit (in the literal sense of the term: it hits the system), the album that established Bruce Springsteen as one of the greatest rock stars of his generation, which Sony Music has reissued on the occasion of the fortieth anniversary – here the Rockol special – in the form of a reissue on translucent red vinyl (can be purchased

here: the packaging also includes a gatefold cover and an exclusive booklet with archive material from the time, new liner notes written by Erik Flannigan and a four-color lithograph print).

Springsteen before becoming a global icon

When the June 4, 1984 Columbia Records shipped “Born in the USA” to record store shelves, Springsteen had already been an international star for a decade.

The Boss, who started from the industrious and working-class province of New Jersey, made his debut in 1973 with “Greetings from Asbury Park, NJ” (the following year, seeing him in action on stage, future manager Jon Landau wrote in the columns of The Real Paper: “I saw the future of rock and roll and his name is Bruce Springsteen”), then with records like “The wild, the innocent & the E Street Shuffle”, “Born to run”, “Darkness on the edge of town”, “The river” and “Nebraska” had become one of the brightest stars of stars and stripes rock. With “Born in the USA” the singer-songwriter, who was 34 years old at the time, became icon, as popular as global pop phenomena such as Michael Jackson and Madonna. To get to that status the Boss worked hard, like a classic working class herobut the exploit went far beyond his expectations. “Born in the USA” was the son of “The River”, the existential double album that represented the maturity of the former boy from New Jersey invested with the role of spokesperson for his generation. Between “The river” and “Born in the USA” the dark “Nebraska” was born, recorded with a portable 4-track multitrack using only the acoustic guitar, the harmonica and little else in a period of depression. The 1984 album took shape in three very long and exhausting years of work. Which culminated on May 4, 1984, a month before the album's release, with the release of the first single.

The shock of “Dancing in the dark”

“Dancing in the dark” was a shock for those who had started listening to Springsteen since his debut with “Greetings from Asbury Park, NJ”: those very Eighties keyboards and that horrendous video clip directed by Brian De Palma which portrayed Springsteen all muscled up represented a sort of watershed in the history of the Boss, between what it had been up to that moment and what it would have been from “Born in the USA” onwards. It's rock'n'roll, baby. But even more impactful, compared to “Dancing in the dark”, was the same “Born in the USA”, the song that inspired the title of the entire work.

The song had been born a couple of years earlier together with those of “Nebraska”: excluded from that acoustic, lo-fi and solo masterpiece, that bitter denunciation on the condition of Vietnam War veterans had turned into a .stadium anthem. One of those magics of which only the E Street Band, back alongside the Boss, would have been capable, transfiguring the piece in the studio and making it pure rock dynamite (who knows something about this June 21, 1985 was at San Siro on the night of the rocker's first, legendary show in Italy).

Songs from “Born in the USA”

Keeping them company, between the grooves of a vinyl with one of the most recognizable and iconic covers of all time, another handful of classics that became the soundtrack of those particular years in the history of the USA, a country that was going through significant social changes and politicians: from “Bobby Jean” (dedicated to his musical brother Little Steven, who in the meantime had left the E Street Band) to “Cover me“, from “My hometown” to “Glory days“, from “Downbound train” to “No surrender” (containing a verse destined to become a generational manifesto: “We Learned more from a three-minutes record than we ever learned in school”), among themes such as American dream, patriotism, unemployment and the difficulties of war veterans reintegrating into society.

The cover (iconic) and the impact of the record

And what about the cover? The famous one photo of Springsteen from behind, with the stars and stripes in the background, taken by rock star photographer Annie Leibovitz, became an iconic image and helped solidify Springsteen's image as “The Boss,” the true representative of the American common man. “Born in the USA” captured that perfectly zeitgeist of the pop-rock culture of a generation. Holds the unbeaten record of 7 singles from the album's tracklist in the Top Ten Singles, sold 17 million copies and the related tour had 156 sold-out live shows all over the world. Nothing would ever be the same for that big boy who left New Jersey chasing his rock'n'roll dreams.