Forty years ago today, Bruce Springsteen took fans on an unexpected detour down the sonic equivalent of a bleak, deserted rural highway with the release of his sixth album, Nebraska.
Nebraska is a 10-song collection of sparse songs that were recorded as demos on a four-track tape recorder in the bedroom of his Colts Neck, New Jersey, home. The Boss initially intended to present them to The E Street Band and rerecord them with his group in a studio, but decided instead to put them out in their raw, original form.
Arriving between Bruce’s first two chart-topping albums, 1980’s The River and 1984’s mega-smash Born in the U.S.A., Nebraska peaked at #3 on the Billboard 200. Not surprisingly, the record yielded no pop hits, although the songs “Atlantic City” and “Open All Night” reached #10 and #22, respectively, on Billboard‘s mainstream rock tracks tally.
Recorded at a time when Springsteen was dealing with bouts of depression, the album delves into a number of dark themes, focusing on various lost souls, criminals and killers. The title track is about the teenage mass murderer Charles Starkweather, who was executed by electric chair in 1959. “Atlantic City” looks at the decay of the New Jersey resort town before its revival as a gambling mecca. “Highway Patrolman” tells the story of a police officer who helps his brother get away with murder.
Nebraska is among Springsteen’s most critically acclaimed albums, described on his official website as “a raw, haunted acoustic record populated by lost souls searching not for salvation through music but simply a reason to believe.”
The record was ranked #150 on Rolling Stone‘s 2020 list of the “500 Greatest Albums of All Time.”
Here’s Nebraska‘s full track list:
“Mansion on the Hill”
“Open All Night”
“My Father’s House”
“Reason to Believe”
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