Thunder Road

CHRISSIE'S SONG - V1 uncirculating
WINGS FOR WHEELS - V2 uncirculating
THUNDER ROAD - V3a 4:39 BIS / WAR / ET / BWNH / BTRCS / UBTROC
THUNDER ROAD - V3b 5:07 BTRS
THUNDER ROAD - V4 4:35 BIS / WAR / ET / BWNH / BTRS / BTRCS / UBTROC
THUNDER ROAD - V5 5:03 ESRR / BTRS
THUNDER ROAD - V6 5:22 WAR / BWNH / BTRS / BTRCS / UBTROC
THUNDER ROAD - V7 4:44 BORN TO RUN / ESSENTIAL / GREATEST

Note: Started out as a 1972 song called "Angelina", then after further development, Bruce did V1, a solo recording in October 1974 at 914 Sound Studios, Blauvelt NY of "Chrissie’s Song", including the line "Leave what you’ve lost, leave what’s grown cold, Thunder Road". Sometime between November 1974 and January 1975, Bruce took 'Chrissie' and the following lyrics from "Walking In the Street", and combined them into a composition he now called "Wings For Wheels" V2, recorded in February. The line, "they case the promised land" and verse, "Oh baby I can't lay the stars at your feet, but I think we could take it all, just you and me, Oh come on and see there's a lot of room, For you baby in this front seat". On February 5, 1975 at the Main Point, Bryn Mawr, PA, with Angelina his new girl in the song, Ed Sciaky introduced the radio broadcast that included 'Born To Run', 'She's the One', 'Jungleland', and 'Wings For Wheels'. A memorable moment, not preserved for album #3, was Suki Lahav’s violin behind Bruce: "Now the season's over and I feel it getting cold, Well, I wish I could take you to some sandy beach, where we'd never grow old, ah, but baby, you know that's just jive, tonight's bustin' open and I'm alive, Oh, do what you can do to make me feel like a man". But "Wings" had a horrible jazz ending ("snake charmer's song with a beat"), and sometime after March 9 (the last time "Wings" appeared on a set list), Bruce took the music he had written for "Walking In the Street", and patched it on to the end of "Wings for Wheels"; now his new lyric "this is a town for losers, I'm pulling out of here to win" was followed by the new instrumentral outro. "The night's bustin' open, these two lanes will take us anywhere", and a poster for a 1958 Robert Mitchum movie in the lobby of a movie theater, provided the final ingredients for "Thunder Road".

The exact mechanics behind moving "Walking In the Street" to "Wings For Wheels" is not known, but besides being mostly ignored, there seems to be no end of alternate explanations for the magic that suddenly came to "Thunder Road". While the contributions of people like Landau, Roy Bittan, and Max Weinberg cannot be overlooked, nothing came close to the new instrumental ending. According to the 2005 documentary, "Wings For Wheels the Making of Born to Run", Landau says he helped restructure some songs. Meanwhile, the film shows the band performing the old Wings for Wheels outro on February 6, 1975 at Widener College, Chester, Pennsylvania; then it cuts to the now familiar instrumental ending of "Thunder Road", implying Landau was the person who made the change, or you be the judge. Bruce has never breathed a word about this, which worked out quite well, except he claims to have lost the completed tape of "Walking In the Street", recorded May 28, 1975, which is also why it could not go on "Tracks". Another point of view is that most of "Walking In the Street" was incorporated into "Thunder Road", which brings up the question, what was recorded in two takes on May 28 at the Record Plant?

April 13, 1975 was the day Jon Landau officially joined the album #3 production team. Louis Lahav, chief engineer, and his wife Suki, the violin player, quit and returned to their native Israel at the end of February (this is often misreported as months later, which is incorrect, and the story that she and Bruce were in love, and that the Lahavs left to save their marriage, has nothing to do with "Thunder Road"). Jimmy Iovine reported to work at the Record Plant on April 18, after Landau was instructed to find better accommodations. Thunder Road and Jungleland were the first two songs recorded that day, and a total of three versions of "Thunder Road" would be recorded over April 18-19 and 23, 1975. V3a is a full-band version, the girl is now Chrissie, and ends with the build up, instrumental outro, 2 refrains led by Clarence, to a quick, full ending (no fadeout). V3b has 2 extra refrains for an extra long ending. The lyrics are getting there, but the guitar is not yet talking, and "Leave what you’ve lost, leave what’s grown cold, Thunder Road" from "Chrissie's Song" is still there. V4 is a haunting acoustic solo version, one of Bruce’s greatest studio performances; the girl is now Christina, but otherwise no lyrical changes. V5, released on E Street Radio, is from April 23, starts with Roy Bittan's piano, base rhythm and Bruce's vocal and guitar (no organ or sax). "Leave what you’ve lost, leave what’s grown cold" now replaced with "Sit tight, take hold", a major change. The final refrain is led by piano, with Bruce's overdubbed guitar. V6, recorded, or at least overdubbed, on July 15 or 16, and we are almost ready to open "Born To Run". This take opens with saxophone and Roy's piano, which dominates the first 2 minutes with Bruce's now awesome vocal, introduces us to Mary, and rocks all the way through, dominated by guitar. The long outro mixes guitar, sax and piano just like the album, and has 7 refrains, though one variation only has 5. V7 now has piano and harmonica opening without sax, glock, the talking guitar and Mary, and after 12 hours mixing and dubbing guitars, was completed on July 16, 1975, with Mike Appel on background vocals.

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