With modest sales from his first two albums and under pressure from Columbia Records to deliver a record that would produce a greater commercial impact, Bruce Springsteen’s ‘Thunder Road’ kicked the doors wide open and was the perfect opening track to light the touch paper of his 1975 commercial breakthrough Born To Run. Imbued within the song’s gentle piano and harmonica intro is an anticipatory sense that something special was waiting on the horizon and, gradually building in intensity, we are left with a rousing anthem of last chance adventure, ebbing youth and the escapist possibilities of the open road.
The song’s title comes from a Robert Mitchum film of the same name, even though Springsteen admitted to never actually having watched it: “I never saw the movie; I only saw the poster in the lobby of the theatre”. The lyrics also reference Roy Orbison (of whom “The Boss” owed a huge debt of influence) and his 1960 hit ‘Only The Lonely’. Concluding with an instrumental coda of wailing saxophone and Fender Rhodes electric piano, the former played in inimitable fashion by the late Clarence Clemons, ‘Thunder Road’ was placed by Rolling Stone magazine at number 86 of their 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.