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The 100 Greatest American Rock ‘n’ Roll Bands #4: The E Street Band


The E Street Band has been Bruce Springsteen’s collective vision achievers since 1972.  While most bands during the 1970s were strictly built around guitarists, the E Street Band harkened back to the music before the British Invasion, using a saxophone for lead breaks and building a wall of sound similar to Phil Spector.  The band was put together in time for Bruce to record his 1973 debut album Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J., but didn’t show their cinematic sweep until their second release – The Wild, the Innocent & the E Street Shuffle.  Robert Christgau described their sound as “a funky, vivacious rock and roll that’s too eager and zany ever to be labeled tight, suggesting jazz heard through an open window with one r&b saxophone, or Latin music out in the street with zero conga drums.”  That sound would become more powerful on the Born to Run album with its world conquering title track and the Clarence Clemons showcase on “Jungleland.”  The band displayed its garage rock roots on 1978’s Darkness on the Edge of Town with the Animals inspired “Badlands” and the furious guitar ride of “Candy’s Room.”

The 1980 album The River had Bruce wildly veering between desperation (“Point Blank,” “Independence Day”) and shouting rockers (“Cadillac Ranch,” “Sherry Darling”).  That E Street Band wouldn’t record again until 1984’s Born in the U.S.A., an album that sold over thirty million copies and invented the category of Americana arena rock.  Country tinged material like “Downbound Train” and “I’m on Fire” stood beside the shout it out loud/is this patriotic or not title track.  Springsteen went in a quieter direction in the late 1980s (Clarence Clemons is only credited for backup vocals on the Tunnel of Love album) and the band was placed on hiatus in 1989.  The E Street band reformed as a touring vehicle in 1999 and performed on the later Springsteen albums The RisingMagicWorking on a Dream, and High Hopes.  The double live CD Hammersmith Odeon, London ’75 is highly recommended for a look at the E Street Band during their dramatic peak.  In the words of Bruce, “I told a story with the E Street Band that was, and is, bigger than I ever could have told on my own.”

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