Certain Songs #136: Bruce Springsteen – “Born to Run”


Album: Born to Run.

Year: 1975.

Back in the mid-1980s, when Bruce Springsteen was the biggest music artist in the world not named “Michael Jackson,” I used to give a post-closing-shift ride home to one of my Video Zone co-workers, Mindy. She lived at the edge of Clovis, near where Tollhouse made its weird diagonal run towards the Sierra Nevadas.

That was, you know, 30 years ago, before suburban sprawl brought the mountains ever closer, and way before they built the 168 to help formalize that closeness. So Tollhouse past midnight – seemingly lit only by the lights of three radio towers – was one of those roads that represented “getting the hell out of Fresno.” 

Many nights after dropping Mindy off at the house where she was staying, I would linger at the stop sign at Tollhouse and Fowler, and look up Tollhouse and those radio towers, thinking “man, if my life was a Bruce Springsteen song,  I could just get on this road and never come back. I could escape everything and everyone.”


Of course, my life wasn’t a Bruce Springsteen song. And it especially wasn’t “Born to Run.” My youthful wildness didn’t manifest itself in screaming down boulevards in hemi-powered drones. My youthful wildness manifested itself in drinking too much and not graduating college in a timely manner. But man, did riding through mansions of glory in suicide machines seem like it was way more fun that ditching class to go see a movie with Jay.

Right? Discovering if love was wild or real by dying on the street in an everlasting kiss with a girl named Wendy sounded like the most exciting thing that could ever possibly happen. Let’s go! But, of course, it wasn’t ever going to happen. Not to me, not to anyone, probably. But, man, who could hear this song and not want to live it, even for a little while? 

In concert – because with Bruce, the phrase “in concert” always seems to come up – they would turn on the house lights for “Born to Run.” That way you could sing along with thousands of other strangers who were also – for a few minutes – escaping their perfectly unexciting normal lives because we gotta get out while we’re young because tramps like us baby we were born to run!

“Born to Run” performed live in the mid-1980s

My Certain Songs Spotify Playlist:

Every “Certain Song” Ever

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