“Nebraska” by Bruce Springsteen 1982 Columbia

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Bruce Springsteen
Bruce Springsteen “Nebraska” 1982 Columbia

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Bruce Springsteen “Nebraska” 1982 Columbia

Nebraska is the sixth studio album by Bruce Springsteen. The album was released on September 30, 1982, by Columbia Records.

Sparsely-recorded on a cassette-tape Portastudio, the tracks on Nebraska were originally intended as demos of songs to be recorded with the E Street Band. However, Springsteen ultimately decided to release the demos himself. Nebraska remains one of the most highly regarded albums in his catalogue.

Side one

“Nebraska” – 4:32

“Atlantic City” – 4:00

“Mansion on the Hill” – 4:08

“Johnny 99” – 3:44

“Highway Patrolman” – 5:40

“State Trooper” – 3:17

Side two

“Used Cars” – 3:11

“Open All Night” – 2:58

“”My Father’s House” – 5:07

“Reason to Believe” – 4:11

All songs written by Bruce Springsteen.

Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band – Nebraska Live, compilation of Nebraska record during the “Born In The U.S.A.” tour 1984-1985 on E. ST. Records.

0:00:00 – Nebraska 

Bob Devaney Sports Center, University Of Nebraska, Lincoln, Nebraska, NE, 1984-11-18

0:05:47 – Atlantic City 

Joe Louis Arena, Detroit, Michigan, MI 1984-07-30

0:11:00 – Mansion On The Hill 

Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum Arena, Oakland, CA, 1984-10-21

0:14:52 – Johnny 99 

Tacoma Dome, Tacoma, WA, 1984-10-19

0:19:36 – Highway Patrolman 

Tacoma Dome, Tacoma, WA, 1984-10-19

0:26:03 – State Trooper 

Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum Arena, Oakland, CA, 1984-10-21

0:30:11 – Used Cars 

Joe Louis Arena, Detroit, Michigan, MI, 1984-07-30

0:36:06 – Open All Night 

The Spectrum, Philadelphia, PA, 1984-09-14

0:47:15 – My Father’s House

The Spectrum, Philadelphia, PA, 1984-09-14

0:54:04 – Reason To Believe 

Hilton Coliseum, Iowa State University, Ames, IA, 1984-11-16

0:59:59 – Shut Out The Light 

Greensboro Coliseum, Greensboro, NC, 1985-01-18

1:05:48 – Sugarland 

Hilton Coliseum, Iowa State University, Ames, IA, 1984-11-16

1:09:20 – Man At The Top 

Alpine Valley Music Theater, East Troy, WI, 1984-07-12

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Bruce Springsteen
Bruce Springsteen “Nebraska” 1982 Columbia

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The songs on Nebraska deal with ordinary, blue collar characters who face a challenge or a turning point in their lives, but also outsiders, criminals and mass murderers with little hope for the future – or no future at all, as in the title track, where the main character is sentenced to death in the electric chair. Unlike his previous albums, very little salvation and grace is present within the songs. The album’s uncompromising sound and mood combined with its dark lyrical content has been described by a music critic as “one of the most challenging albums ever released by a major star on a major record label.

Initially, Springsteen recorded demos for the album at his home with a 4-track cassette recorder. The demos were sparse, using only acoustic guitarelectric guitar (on “Open All Night”), harmonicamandolinglockenspieltambourineorgansynthesizer (on “My Father’s House”) and Springsteen’s voice.After he completed work on the demos, Springsteen brought the songs to the studio and recorded the album with the E Street Band.However, he and the producers and engineers working with him felt that a raw, haunted folk essence present on the home tapes was lacking in the band treatments, and so they ultimately decided to release the demo version as the final album. Complications with mastering of the tapes ensued because of low recording volume, but the problem was overcome with sophisticated noise reduction techniques.

Springsteen fans have long speculated whether Springsteen’s full-band recording of the album, nicknamed Electric Nebraska, will ever surface. In a 2006 interview, manager Jon Landau said it was unlikely and that “the right version of Nebraska came out”. But in a 2010 interview with Rolling Stone, E Street Band drummer Max Weinberg praised the full band recording of the album as “killing.” Other songs demoed during the Nebraska sessions include “Born in the U.S.A.”, “Downbound Train“, “Child Bride” (which later evolved into “Working on the Highway“), “Pink Cadillac”, “The Big Payback”, “Johnny Bye Bye”, and “Losin’ Kind” (later reworked into “Highway 29” on 1995’s The Ghost of Tom Joad).

In 1989, Nebraska was ranked 43rd on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the 100 greatest albums of the 1980s. That same year, Richard Williams wrote in Q magazine that “Nebraska would simply have been a vastly better record with the benefit of the E Street Band and a few months in the studio.”
In 2003, Nebraska was ranked number 224 on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the 500 greatest albums of all time. Pitchfork Media listed it as the 60th greatest album of the 1980s. In 2006, Q placed the album at number 13 in its list of “40 Best Albums of the ’80s”. In 2012, Slant Magazine listed the album at number 57 on its list of “Best Albums of the 1980s”.

Covers

Being a highly influential album, the songs of Nebraska have been covered numerous times. Notably, country music icon Johnny Cash’s 1983 album Johnny 99 featured versions of two of Springsteen’s songs from Nebraska: “Johnny 99” and “Highway Patrolman”. Cash also contributed to a widely praised tribute album, Badlands – A Tribute to Bruce Springsteen’s Nebraska, which was released on the Sub Pop label in 2000 and produced by Jim Sampas. It featured covers of the Nebraska songs recorded in the stripped-down spirit of the original recordings by a wide-ranging group of artists including Hank Williams III, Los Lobos, Dar Williams, Deana Carter, Ani DiFranco, Son Volt, Ben Harper, Aimee Mann, and Michael Penn.[19] Three additional tracks covered other Springsteen songs in the same vein: Johnny Cash’s contribution was “I’m On Fire”, a track from Springsteen’s best-selling album Born In The USA.

In 1993, The Band included a cover of “Atlantic City” on their album, Jericho.
Minneapolis Celtic rock band Boiled in Lead covered “State Trooper” on its 1994 album Antler Dance. Minnesota indie-rock band Halloween, Alaska covered “State Trooper” on its 2004 self-titled debut album. American indie rock band The National performed a live cover of “Mansion on the Hill” in 2008 for the band’s The Virginia EP.
In 2012, folk/Americana duo Shovels & Rope released a cover of “Johnny 99”, and frequently played the song as the set closer on their North American tour that same year.
Alt-country singer Steve Earle covered “State Trooper” on his live album in 1996 in addition to including a live recording of it on the 2002 reissue of his debut album Guitar Town, and also included a live version of “Nebraska” as the B-side of the “Copperhead Road” single sent to radio stations. Kelly Clarkson compared her effort to move away from mainstream to edgier and more personal music on her third studio album My December to Springsteen’s Nebraska.

The Indian Runner

The song “Highway Patrolman” would provide the inspiration for the motion picture The Indian Runner released in 1991. The film follows the same plot outline as the song, telling the story of a troubled relationship between two brothers; one is a deputy sheriff, the other is a criminal. The Indian Runner was directed by Sean Penn, starred David Morse and Viggo Mortensen.

Bruce Springsteen
Bruce Springsteen “Nebraska” 1982 Columbia

Bruce Springsteen: Nebraska
The Rolling Stone Magazine Review

The song “Highway Patrolman” would provide the inspiration for the motion picture The Indian Runner released in 1991. The film follows the same plot outline as the song, telling the story of a troubled relationship between two brothers; one is a deputy sheriff, the other is a criminal. The Indian Runner was directed by Sean Penn, starred David Morse and Viggo Mortensen.

After ten years of forging his own brand of fiery, expansive rock & roll, Bruce Springsteen has decided that some stories are best told by one man, one guitar. Flying in the face of a sagging record industry with an intensely personal project that could easily alienate radio, rock’s gutsiest mainstream performer has dramatically reclaimed his right to make the records he wants to make, and damn the consequences. This is the bravest of Springsteen’s six records; it’s also his most startling, direct and chilling. And if it’s a risky move commercially, Nebraska is also a tactical masterstroke, an inspired way out of the high-stakes rock & roll game that requires each new record to be bigger and grander than the last.

Until now, it looked as if 1973’s dizzying The Wild, the Innocent & the E Street Shuffle would be the last Springsteen album to surprise people. Ensuing records simply refined, expanded and deepened his artistry. But Nebraska comes as a shock, a violent, acid-etched portrait of a wounded America that fuels its machinery by consuming its people’s dreams. It is a portrait painted with old tools: a few acoustic guitars, a four-track cassette deck, a vocabulary derived from the plain-spoken folk music of Woody Guthrie and the dark hillbilly laments of Hank Williams. The style is steadfastly, defiantly out-of-date, the singing flat and honest, the music stark, deliberate and unadorned.

Nebraska is an acoustic triumph, a basic folk album on which Springsteen has stripped his art down to the core. It’s as harrowing as Darkness on the Edge of Town, but more measured. Every small touch speaks volumes: the delicacy of the acoustic guitars, the blurred sting of the electric guitars, the spare, grim images. He’s now telling simple stories in the language of a deferential common man, peppering his sentences with “sir’s.” “My name is Joe Roberts,” he sings. “I work for the state.”

As The River closed, Springsteen found himself haunted by a highway death. On Nebraska, violent death is his starting point. The title track is an audacious, scary beginning. Singing in a voice borrowed from Guthrie and early Bob Dylan, he takes the part of mass murderer Charlie Starkweather to quietly sing, “I can’t say that I’m sorry for the things that we done/At least for a little while, sir, me and her we had us some fun.” The music is gentle and soothing, but this is no romanticized outlaw tale à la Guthrie’s “Pretty Boy Floyd.” The casual coldbloodedness, the singer’s willingness to undertake the role and the music’s pastoral calm make Starkweather all the more horrific.

Springsteen follows with another tale of real-life murder, this one involving mob wars in Atlantic City. With “Nebraska” and “Atlantic City,” his landscape has taken on new, broader boundaries, and when he begins “Mansion on the Hill” with a reference to “the edge of town,” it’s clear that his usual New Jersey turf has opened its borders to include Nebraska and Wyoming and forty-seven other states. Crowds on the final leg of his last tour saw hints that Springsteen was heading toward this territory when he talked of Allan Nevins and Henry Steele Commager’s history of the United States and Joe Klein’s Woody Guthrie: a Life, and when he sang the songs of Guthrie, John Fogerty and Elvis Presley, all uniquely American stories.

The keynote lines on Nebraska — “Deliver me from nowhere” and “I got debts that no honest man can pay” — each surface in two songs. The former ends both “State Trooper” and “Open All Night,” while the latter turns up in “Atlantic City” and “Johnny 99.” The album’s honest men — and they outnumber its criminals, though side one’s string of bloodletters suggests otherwise — are all paying debts and looking for deliverance that never comes. The compassion with which Springsteen sings every line can’t hide the fact that there’s no peace to be found in the darkness, no cleansing river running through town.

As on The River, the most outwardly optimistic songs on the new album are sung by a man who knows full well that his dreams of easy deliverance are empty. In “Used Cars,” the singer watches his father buy another clunker and makes a vow as heartfelt as it is heartbreakingly hollow: “Mister, the day the lottery I win/I ain’t ever gonna ride in no used car again.” And the LP’s one seeming refuge turns out to be illusion: in “My Father’s House,” a devastating capper to Springsteen’s cycle of “father” songs, the house is a sanctuary only in the singer’s dreams. When he awakens, he finds that his father is gone, that the house sits at the end of a highway “where our sins lie unatoned.” By this point, the convicted murderer of “Johnny 99” is one of the few characters who’s seemingly figured out how to retain his dignity. He asks to be executed.

If this record is as deep and unsettling as anything Springsteen has recorded, it is also his narrowest and most single-minded work. He is not extending or advancing his own style so much as he is temporarily adopting a style codified by others. But in that decision are multiple strengths: Springsteen’s clear, sharp focus, his insistence on painting small details so clearly and his determination to make a folk album firmly in the tradition. “My Father’s House” may be the only cut on side two that can stand up to the string of songs that open the record, but inconsistency is perhaps inevitable after that astonishing initial stretch: the title track; “Altantic City”; and “Highway Patrolman,” an indelible tale of the ties that bind and the toll familial love exacts, with one of Springsteen’s most delicious, delirious reveries — “Me and Frankie laughin’ and drinkin’/Nothing feels better than blood on blood/Takin’ turns dancin’ with Maria/As the band played ‘Night of the Johnstown Flood.'”

By the end of the record, paradoxically, the choking dust that hangs over Springsteen’s landscape makes its occasional rays of sunlight shine brighter. In “Atlantic City,” for example, a rueful chorus makes the song sound nearly as triumphant as “Promised Land”: “Everything dies, baby that’s a fact/But maybe everything that dies some day comes back/Put your makeup on, fix your hair up pretty/And meet me tonight in Atlantic City.”

Finally, it comes down to that: an old dress and a meeting across from the casino is sometimes all it takes. “Reason to Believe” adds the final brush strokes, by turns blackly humorous and haunting. One man stands alongside a highway, poking a dead dog as if to revive it; another heads down to the river to wed. The bride never shows, the groom stands waiting, the river flows on, and people, Bruce sings with faintly befuddled respect, still find their reasons to believe. Naive, simple and telling, it is the caption beneath Bruce Springsteen’s abrasive, clouded and ultimately glorious portrait of America.


By Steve Pond
October 28, 1982
Rolling Stone Magazine

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