The Story Behind Every Bruce Springsteen Song in ‘Blinded by the Light’
Gurindha Chadha's new film Blinded By the Light tells the story of a British teenager of Pakistani descent whose life is altered when he's introduced to the music of Bruce Springsteen. In a rare move, Springsteen allowed 12 of his songs to be used in the soundtrack. They range from some of his biggest hits to live renditions to a song Springsteen has never released. Here's the story behind every song in Blinded By the Light.
"DANCING IN THE DARK"
Released as the lead single from 1984's Born in the U.S.A., "Dancing in the Dark" became the highest-charting single of Bruce Springsteen's recording career. It spent four weeks at No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100, where it was kept out by Prince's "When Doves Cry."
The title track to The River, Springsteen's first No. 1 album, was recorded the first time he ever performed it. In September 1979, Springsteen, Jackson Browne, Tom Petty, Bonnie Raitt and other musicians concerned about nuclear power played the No Nukes concerts at Madison Square Garden calling themselves Musicians United for Safe Energy (MUSE). Springsteen introduced "The River," a tale of a shotgun marriage that has grown cold, by saying that it was about his sister and brother-in-law. The benefits were turned into a triple-album and a movie.
Bruce Springsteen's fourth record, Darkness on the Edge of Town, kicked off with "Badlands," a rousing statement of purpose. But the lyrics didn't come as easily as the title and music. "I kept writing and writing until I had a song that I felt deserved that title," Springsteen told Brian Hiatt in 2010. "I didn’t have any problem thinking really hard about what I was doing. I didn’t have any problem spending hours and hours in pursuit of what I was after. I honored, I believed, I respected the characters in my songs. ... I felt they deserve my time, they deserve my greatest effort, and I will do honor by them and by myself if I do this right.” Springsteen's riff took the opening from a particular favorite of his, the Animals' "Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood," and put it into a major key.
Bruce Springsteen originally intended to give "Cover Me" to Donna Summer for her Quincy Jones-produced self-titled 1982 album. But Springsteen manager Jon Landau thought it was too good to give to someone else and suggested that he pick a different song. Summer ended up recording "Protection," which featured Springsteen on guitar and vocals, and the E Street Band's Roy Bittan on piano. "Cover Me" became the second single from Born in the U.S.A., and it peaked at No. 7. "Protection" was only released in Europe and Japan, and didn't chart.
The previously unreleased live take of "Thunder Road" used in Blinded By the Light features only Springsteen and Roy Bittan. It was recorded at the Roxy in Los Angeles on Oct. 18, 1975, where it opened the show. "Thunder Road" also served as the opening track of Springsteen's Live 1975-85 box set.
"PROVE IT ALL NIGHT"
"Prove It All Night" stalled at No. 33 on the singles chart, but it's long been a highlight of Springsteen's live shows. He wrote this Darkness on the Edge of Town track after a conversation with a cab driver in New York City, according to Rolling Stone. “He was just talking about how ... all your life you gotta prove something to somebody,” Springsteen said. “He says, ‘I gotta go home, I gotta prove it to my wife – I come to work, I gotta prove it to my boss.'”
As with "Cover Me," Springsteen wrote "Hungry Heart" for another artist. In this case, Ramones frontman Joey Ramone asked for a song. But again, Landau thought the track had potential as a hit, so Springsteen kept "Hungry Heart" for himself and recorded it with a Phil Spector-style arrangement and slightly sped-up vocal. Landau's instincts proved to be correct. "Hungry Heart" became Springsteen's first Top 10 single, peaking at No. 5 in late 1980.
"BECAUSE THE NIGHT"
Springsteen was still at work on "Because the Night" when Jimmy Iovine requested something for a Patti Smith project he was producing. Smith completed the lyrics and it became a No. 13 hit in 1978; 10,000 Maniacs then took the song two places higher in 1993. "Because the Night" remained a concert staple for Springsteen, however, and he later released it twice – on Live 1975-85 and then on 2010's The Promise, a collection of outtakes from the Darkness on the Edge of Town sessions.
"THE PROMISED LAND"
Another live track, "The Promised Land" stems from Springsteen's performance at the Concert for Valor. Held on Veterans Day at the National Mall in Washington, D.C., the event also featured Dave Grohl, Metallica and Rihanna. In addition to this Darkness on the Edge of Town track, Springsteen also performed "Born in the U.S.A." and "Dancing in the Dark" solo, and he and Grohl sat in with the Zac Brown Band for a cover of Creedence Clearwater Revival's "Fortunate Son."
"BLINDED BY THE LIGHT"
With its ramshackle sound and stream-of-consciousness imagery, the opening track on Springsteen's debut album led to comparisons with Bob Dylan that seemingly every singer-songwriter of the early '70s was saddled with. "Blinded By the Light" failed to chart in 1973, but four years later, Manfred Mann's Earth Band took it to No. 1, marking the only time a Springsteen-penned song has reached the top of Billboard's Hot 100.
"BORN TO RUN"
After his first two records flopped, Springsteen was on the verge of being dropped by Columbia if he couldn't come through with a hit. Then the phrase "born to run" came to Springsteen while he was working on some ideas at the edge of his bed, and it matched the music he was hearing in his head. “I had these enormous ambitions for it,” he later said. “I wanted to make the greatest rock record that I’d ever heard. I wanted it to sound enormous, to grab you by your throat and insist that you take that ride, insist that you pay attention – not just to the music, but to life, to being alive.” Then-manager Mike Appel leaked it to some radio stations, and the response restored his label's faith. They moved Springsteen to a better studio to help bring his vision to fruition on the album of the same name.
"I'LL STAND BY YOU"
"I'll Stand By You" was originally written for inclusion for Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, the first movie in the franchise, but rejected by Warner Bros. The song first gained public attention when it surfaced on a 2017 bootleg. Now, it's become the only unreleased Bruce Springsteen song on the Blinded by the Light soundtrack.