Everyone who has heard of Bruce Springsteen knows that the Boss is famous for one thing besides writing great music: he’s a Jersey boy and not afraid to say it. Growing up in Monmouth County, the man grew from a youth of modest means to a superstar with albums like Born to Run. Over the decades, his albums have spawned many singles and have inspired “Greatest Hits” collections, but amongst every album, there were bound to be a few great songs that didn’t quite make the cut and become hits. Of these less-popular tunes, here are what I consider to be the five greatest songs he’s released that have not tacked a place on the charts:
1. The E Street Shuffle (1973)
This track, the first off his second studio album, The Wild, the Innocent & the E Street Shuffle has had its fair share of success with fans. Bruce is known to play it every now and then at live performances, but the song never managed to become a single or enjoy any time on the charts. It could be perhaps because the song could be considered very experimental for its time. It begins with a dissonant horn section battling furiously before coming together for a final seven notes and starting off the song. Then, the main guitar riff kicks in followed by a bouncy R&B rhythm that makes this song one of the Boss’s more danceable tunes. If you enjoy classic R&B, soul, or funk music, this might be the closest you’ll get to hearing it on a Bruce album.
2. Backstreets (1975)
Believe it or not, only two singles emerged from Born to Run, “Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out” and “Born to Run”. However, you’ll find plenty of professionally-shot performances of Springsteen playing this tune in concert. The reason “Backstreets” most likely failed to chart was due to its length at six minutes and thirty seconds. If you can listen to this lengthy track all the way through, you’ll find a song driven by beautiful piano and organ arrangements with Bruce recounting a fond memory of an ambiguous relationship in his youth with a person named “Terry”. It is unclear in the song whether Terry was an old male buddy of his or a former female love interest, but the song has a particular feel in both lyric and music that can trigger a sense of nostalgia in anyone.
3. Atlantic City – Live (1993)
“Atlantic City” itself was a single on Nebraska, but this live version featured on his album In Concert/MTV Plugged is a completely different animal. The Nebraska version is a somber acoustic number that tells the tale of a man who’s fallen on hard times and turns to the mob to make ends meet. This live version is a full-band number accompanied with some great piano riffing that turns the song into something bigger, more aggressive, and completely different. Though the versions share the same guitar chords, lyrics, and melodies, they sound like two separate songs if listened to back-to-back. This live version would fit anywhere on a Springsteen playlist featuring some of his louder tracks.
4. Gypsy Biker (2008)
Bruce’s often-overlooked 2008 album Magic is a collection that differs a bit from his classic sound, but still retains enough familiar elements that it can fit in a playlist with his older material. The album’s sound is a culmination of everything Bruce has tried out thus far musically, with some extra surprises added in. “Gypsy Biker” is a song driven by guitar and harmonica that rocks in a way that differs from many of his other harder, faster tunes. It’s a song that shows, even in his older years, the Boss still has the chops to compete with the younger generation of bands emerging today. It’s an entrancing song featuring romanticized lyrics about a rebellious biker. It would have been the perfect theme song for Sons of Anarchy.
5. Outlaw Pete (2009)
Bruce has played “Outlaw Pete” a number of times during live performances, but there is one reason why it has never charted as a single: the song is eight minutes long. The song is one of the more popular non-singles in recent years, as it even has a graphic novel version that tells the story from the song. The song tells the story of the title character and how he came to prominence as an outlaw and how he survives being hunted down in his adult years. The eight minutes takes listeners on a journey, both musically and lyrically that changes in dynamic with every passing minute. It is certainly one of the more entertaining songs in the Boss’s catalog to listen to.
(all images taken from WikiMedia Commons)