Top 5 Bruce Songs About New Jersey

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A few weeks ago, I created a list of what I consider the top 5 songs about the Armpit of America. Noticeably absent from that list were songs by Bruce Springsteen. Since the patron saint of New Jersey has written so many songs about the state, it would be impossible to pick just one. So I made this list of the top 5 Bruce Springsteen songs about New Jersey.

1. Born to Run – Perhaps the most famous of all Bruce’s songs, Born to Run takes us into a world of motorcycle-riding punks looking for love and a way to escape from this horrible state. Now you may be wondering why I would include a song that is so obviously about getting the fuck out of New Jersey (especially with lines like “Baby this town rips the bones from your back / It’s a death trap, it’s a suicide rap / We gotta get out while we’re young / ‘Cause tramps like us, baby we were born to run“). But, as anyone who has ever lived in this state knows, wanting to get the hell out of here is part of the whole Jersey experience.

2. Rosalita (Come Out Tonight) – In this fun little song, Bruce sings about the trouble a guy has trying to get the girl of his desire to go out with him. Though he pleads and pleads to get her to come out (to meet up with characters like Jack the Rabbit, Weak Knees Willie, and Sloppy Sue) Rosalita refuses, since her parents don’t approve of her rock-n-rolling suitor. Our hero refuses to give up, though, and explains to the girl that a record company just gave him “a big advaaaancceeee!!!” At this point, the narrator forgets about convincing Rosie to hang out with local hooligans and, instead, he’s dead set on getting the fuck out of New Jersey. Especially since someone slashed his tires, rendering his car “a dud, stuck in the mud, somewhere in the swamps of Jersey.” Though we don’t know if he was successful in ever getting Rosalita out of her room, it sure is fun watching him try.

3. Open All Night – Though not as well known as the other songs on this list, Open All Night is a tribute to the New Jersey Turnpike. Well, maybe tribute isn’t the right word. Bruce sings (or raps?) about how weird that hellish highway is and the sense of loneliness one gets when driving on it at night. The lyrics are so illustrative that anyone who has been lucky enough to have never driven on the Turnpike can get a pretty good image of it. With lines like, “Gotta find a gas station, gotta find a payphone / This turnpike sure is spooky at night when you’re all alone” and “Your eyes get itchy in the wee wee hours / sun’s just a red ball risin’ over them refinery towers” Bruce does an incredible job of making us feel like we’re riding down the Turnpike in his passenger seat.

4. 4th of July, Asbury Park (Sandy) – If there was a theme song to the Jersey Shore, it would have to be Sandy. With its accordion accompaniment, the song just makes you feel like you’re in the carnival-like atmosphere of the boardwalk. But, with Bruce’s vocals down to almost a whisper, he creates a more melancholy mood. This somber feeling is heightened when combined with the lyrics, which show that the narrator is pretty much over the whole Jersey Shore scene:

And me I just got tired of hangin’ in them dusty arcades bangin’ them pleasure machines
Chasin’ the factory girls underneath the boardwalk where they promise to unsnap their jeans
And you know that tilt-a-whirl down on the south beach drag
I got on it last night and my shirt got caught
And that Joey kept me spinnin’ I didn’t think I’d ever get off

While the narrator’s disillusionment can be tied in with the deterioration of the Asbury Park boardwalk, I like to think of it as some guy who is just getting older and is tired of the craziness of the shore. Though I’m not sick of the Jersey Shore yet, I know there will eventually come a time when I’ll be saying, “This boardwalk life for me is through / You know you ought to quit this scene too.”

5. Wrecking Ball – This is Bruce’s newest song, which he debuted at the five shows he did this past autumn at the old Giants Stadium. The song was written to commemorate the stadium in light of its future destruction. Wrecking Ball is perhaps the only song in history to be written from the point of view of a stadium. It begins:

I was raised out of steel here in the swamps of Jersey, some misty years ago
Through the mud and the beer, and the blood and the cheers, I’ve seen champions come and go
So if you got the guts mister, yeah if you’ve got the balls
If you think it’s your time, then step to the line, and bring on your wrecking ball

The lyrics are full of defiance, conjuring up images of an old man refusing to back down. You could even interpret it as though the characters from his earlier songs are singing, still as rebellious as they were in their younger days. Also, as Springsteen is now 60, and there are rumors that the previous tour with the E Street Band was their last, Wrecking Ball can also be interpreted as a sort of swan song. If that’s the case, then Wrecking Ball is the perfect way to say goodbye to two New Jersey landmarks.

Is there a song I missed? Do any of these songs not belong on the list? Do you think my interpretations are way off? If so, get the hell off my blog. Or give me a piece of your mind with a comment!

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8 Comments on “Top 5 Bruce Songs About New Jersey”

  1. mark m. Says:

    Great selection! I don’t really have any arguments with those songs, but here are a couple of others that could be considered:

    Jersey Girl- some might like the Tom Waits’ version better, but Bruce really nails it when he sings:
    “`cause down the shore everything’s all right
    You and your baby on a saturday night
    You know all my dreams come true
    When i’m walking down the street with you”


    10th Avenue Freezeout- Belmar and the formation of the E Street band. What could be more New Jersey?

    And what about a list of Top 5 Bruce Songs about NYC??? That would be a good topic too!

    Keep up the great work on the blog!!!

    • armpitofamerica Says:

      Well I included “Jersey Girl” on the other list, so I didn’t put it in this one. Yeah, 10th Avenue definitely deserves an honorable mention! If I did a Top 6 list, that one would have been on it!

  2. HeShaw5 Says:

    Great list – love the inclusion of Wrecking Ball.
    As a guy who comes from down in the valley, I would have loved to have seen The River on this list. If NJ is about anything, it’s young blue collar kids having unprotected sex!

    • armpitofamerica Says:

      I think the subject matter of The River goes way beyond New Jersey. Besides, don’t the characters in that song go swimming in the river? Who in their right mind would go swimming in one of New Jersey’s waterways???

  3. […] it’s commemorating their birthplace in song like Bruce Springsteen’s “Born to Run” ode to New Jersey and Jay Z’s “Empire State of Mind” or giving back in times of […]

  4. […] it’s commemorating their birthplace in song like Bruce Springsteen’s “Born to Run” ode to New Jersey and Jay Z’s “Empire State of Mind” or giving back in times of […]

  5. […] it’s commemorating their birthplace in song like Bruce Springsteen’s “Born to Run” ode to New Jersey and Jay Z’s “Empire State of Mind” or giving back in times of […]

  6. Randy Says:

    Atlantic City

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