Thunder Road – Bruce Springsteen


Thunder Road is one song that keeps you going, its optimism written that way in the narrative is simply inspiring. It comes from and opens Bruce Springsteen’s 1975 album Born To Run, his make or break effort, which paid off anyway. Considered one of the best rock songs, it placed 86th in Rolling Stone magazine’s top 500 songs of all time and came out in the list of other all-time greats. It is also covered by many artists including Melissa Etheridge and the Cowboy Junkies.

“The lyric to “Thunder Road” describes a young woman named Mary, her boyfriend, and their “one last chance to make it real”,” Wikipedia writes. Julia Roberts identifies with the line, “You ain’t a beauty, but hey you’re alright.” It went on to discuss that the song underwent many stages of writing and re-writing before Bruce settled with the final recorded draft. The song’s title took the same evolution in a way from being known early as Wings for Wheels or Glory Road.

The general comment in puts it succinctly, “Bruce Springsteen brought honesty to Rock and Roll. Dropping pretenses of sex and drugs and death and despair, he went ahead with his song. Even as a 21 year old college student, I can only sense the underlying value in this song. I can see a 40 year old divorcee hearing it one night on the radio and picking up his life. I can see a mother of 3 hearing it and realizing she is still beautiful. It is a sad fact that most of popular literature and music is focused on youth — either the wildness and freedom of being in it, or the confusion and sadness at losing it. And while Springsteen touches on it here, there is no doubt that the song is looking forward. He’s trying to treat life as and up-and-down ride, not as some bell curve that we’re all gonna be on the downside of someday. The hope and maturity of it is untouched by any other song in Rock history.”

To months ago, lew bew wrote, “It’s gotten to the point where I just feel bad for those that haven’t heard and related to this song. I’m 25 and I find that so little know of this song and the power of it. I get on my motorcycle and hear this song every time I hear my bike start up– I literally feel sorry for those that haven’t had the rush yet. This song has gotten me through much. Just wanna buy Bruce a beer at some local dive bar n say, ” Thanks, man.”

The screen door slams, Mary’s dress sways
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

You can hide `neath your covers and study your pain
Make crosses from your lovers, throw roses in the rain
Waste your summer praying in vain
For a savior to rise from these streets
Well now I’m no hero, that’s understood
All the redemption I can offer, girl, is beneath this dirty hood
With a chance to make it good somehow
Hey what else can we do now?
Except roll down the window and let the wind blow back your hair
Well the night’s busting open
This two lanes will take us anywhere
We got one last chance to make it real
To trade in these wings on some wheels
Climb in back – Heaven’s waiting on down the tracks
Oh-oh come take my hand
Riding out tonight to case the promised land
Oh-oh Thunder Road, oh Thunder Road, oh Thunder Road,
Lying out there like a killer in the sun
Hey I know it’s late we can make it if we run
Oh Thunder Road, sit tight take hold, Thunder Road

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 and there’s 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 a town full of losers and I’m pulling out of here to win.

Here’s a live version of the song performed in Hammersmith Odeon in 1975.

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