Bruce Springsteen’s 40 greatest songs

An all-star cast pick The Boss' best moments…

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35 Tunnel Of Love
Title track of 1987 album

JACKIE LEVEN: Although it has a faster tempo, it takes me back to the “Racing In The Streets” school of total believability. Here, Bruce isn’t selling you anything, you’re totally convinced this really did happen. You can feel the song, who he is and why he wrote it, without any of the kind of kaleidoscopic selling bullshit that gets between you and the artist. I like the album a lot. It has the same very craftsmanlike quality as Lou Reed’s New Sensations. A similar kind of directness which is very appealing and refreshing. It’s very non-studio somehow.
SHANNON MARY McARDLE: A masterpiece. I think the defining thing about Springsteen is his flexibility. If you compare this to The Wild, The Innocent…, or Nebraska, you can’t believe it comes from the same place. There’s always something different going on.
RUSSELL SIMINS: Tunnel Of Love is Springsteen’s most heartbreaking record. The A-side is all about falling in love and the B-side is about breaking up and feeling inadequate. I don’t want to talk about it too much in case I got it wrong, but I’m pretty sure the title track was about his pending divorce with Julianne and the amount of strength it takes to keep love alive.
STEVE WYNN: An inconsistent album, but a great song. I was amazed when the album came out and felt “Man, things aren’t going so well with Bruce and the missus” – and it turned out very quickly to be true. Nice of him to share it with us.
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34 Hungry Heart
The River album track, 1980

BRETT SPARKS: Originally written for The Ramones (can you fucking imagine?). A jingling Motown instant-hit. A perfect pop song.
RENNIE SPARKS: Another lesson in Buddhism from Master Bruce. All life is grasping. Grasping is suffering. Reminds me of the Buddhist hell-realm of the hungry ghosts, which is an ancient description of modern-day America, where each trip to the buffet table only leaves us hungrier.
JACKIE LEVEN: Once again, you really think he means it. It’s also one of his very best radio songs. When you travel in Germany, you hear it a lot in lifts, for some reason. There’s something very surreal about that.
SHANNON MARY McCARDLE: When I first heard this song on radio, I couldn’t believe it was Bruce. He really pushes his voice and it’s so darned catchy, too.
RODDY WOOMBLE: This is a tour bus favourite. When we’ve had a good show and we want to stay up drinking, we listen to the Live 1975-85 box set and pump our firsts in the air triumphantly. Apart from being a fantastic song, “Hungry Heart” has a lovely sentiment throughout it.
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33 Prove It All Night
Darkness On The Edge Of Town album track, 1978

DAMON GOUGH: I love this, especially the live version from bootlegs of the ’78 tour, where he padded it out into this big, dramatic monologue before the song actually started. I sort of agree with Bruce’s view that Darkness On The Edge Of Town has a lot of his best songs, but he was never happy with the recording. I’ve heard him say in interviews that it sounded a bit dry and lifeless. It’s an easy album to overlook. “Streets Of Fire” is a brilliant song. The guitar sound and solo is great, as is his voice. But live, those songs became something completely different. There’s a version of “Promised Land” – just Bruce and acoustic guitar from some Amnesty benefit – that sounds just magical.
BARNEY HOSKYNS: How spare and tight Darkness… sounded after the wall-of-sound street opera that was Born To Run, and how irresistibly simple and direct this stomping 4/4 promise of devotion still is. It’s the E Street gang in full swirling stride – urgent drum fills, yapping sax, a meaty soup of keyboards – with Bruce as Everyboy USA, heart blazing on his sleeve, laying down a mantra for all those epic live performances.
JULIAN WILSON: Bruce is still making his escape, with the girl and the car, with his dreams just intact, but this is the first time he did it in such an overt pop song. Complete with wind-in-the-hair sax solo, it’s catchy as hell but still very much in the heavyweight division. There’s a great extended live version on a 1978 Winterland, San Francisco bootleg (“Brought to you by the magic of bootleg,” says Bruce himself).
TIM DeLAUGHTER: Springsteen can be a tad dark and broody at times, but I like “Prove It All Night” because it manages to portray a cautious optimism without sacrificing the balls-out sound that makes him the boss. Listen closely and you’ll hear there’s hope and optimism in the voice of the down-trodden narrator.

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