Thunder Road

One of my favorite Bruce Springsteen songs is “Thunder Road.” It is a vintage Boss song as it tells a story in such a vivid manner to wonderful music. When I think of how a piano can accentuate a rock and roll song, this is the song I think of most often, especially with the closing of the song. But, with Bruce, the words always resonate and are lifted up by the tune.

Here are the first and last verses of the song, which illustrate his clever wordsmithing and storytelling:

The screen door slams
Mary’s dress waves
Like a vision she dances across the porch
As the radio plays
Roy Orbison singing for the lonely
Hey that’s me and I want you only
Don’t turn me home again
I just can’t face myself alone again
Don’t run back inside
Darling you know just what I’m here for
So you’re scared and you’re thinking
That maybe we ain’t that young anymore
Show a little faith there’s magic in the night
You ain’t a beauty but hey you’re alright
Oh and that’s alright with me

Well I got this guitar
And I learned how to make it talk
And my car’s out back
If you’re ready to take that long walk
From your front porch to my front seat
The door’s open but the ride it ain’t free
And I know you’re lonely
For words that I ain’t spoken
But tonight we’ll be free
All the promises’ll be broken
There were ghosts in the eyes
Of all the boys you sent away
They haunt this dusty beach road
In the skeleton frames of burned out Chevrolets
They scream your name at night in the street
Your graduation gown lies in rags at their feet
And in the lonely cool before dawn
You hear their engines roaring on
But when you get to the porch they’re gone
On the wind so Mary climb in
It’s town full of losers
And I’m pulling out of here to win

To me, these words help me see Mary, with her heart beating, crossing the porch with the wind blowing her dress as she dances as she walks. I can easily hear the screen door slam with Roy Orbison singing in the background. As an aside, there is a great tribute concert with Orbison just before he passed away, with Springsteen and many others playing along that showed how much influence Orbison had on their careers.

But, back to Mary and her unnamed suitor. Note the repeated references to only, lonely and alone. Those are the thirsts they are trying to quench. She is like many people, not beautiful, but alright looking. My guess is he is in the same boat. I love the reference to the “long walk” from her porch to his front seat, which is not that long, physically, but very long mentally. It is a walk of faith in their future.

When I first heard the song, I interpreted it was a ride to take the next step in their relationship. They were headed down to the “beach road.” She had turned away other boys, but loved this one and yearned for him to say the words “ain’t spoken” she knew he felt. Yet, the last line makes me believe they are leaving town as he is “pulling out of here to win.” Are they running away? Or, is consummating a relationship and expressing his love winning? I go back and forth on this.

I would be interested in your thoughts and interpretations. Does this rank up there with your favorite Springsteen songs? What are some of your others and why?

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10 thoughts on “Thunder Road

  1. My favorite Springsteen song? Hmmm… spontaneously I’d say “Born in the USA”. I was released at a wonderful time in my life and one of my kids was born in the USA.

    • Roseylinn, this one is worth a listen. I had the good fortune to go to one of his concerts and he wears you out as he plays for so long. Thanks for stopping by. Keith

  2. Note to Readers: As I mentioned to Roseylinn, if you get a chance to see Bruce Springsteen in concert, you must go. He and his group will leave you exhausted as they play so well and for a long time.

  3. Pingback: Awards! | Hummingbird Redemption

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