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A Bruce Top Five

Just about any obsessive Bruce Springsteen fan — or obsessive Beatles fan, Stones fan, REM … U2 … Smiths … Adele … Zeppelin … Sinatra … Streisand … Pearl Jam … The Who … Billy Joel … Elton John … Billie Holliday … Depeche Mode … Eminem … Jimmy Buffett … Cole Porter … Elvis … Nirvana … Bee Gees … Public Enemy … Blondie … Bob Dylan fan — will tell you it’s pointless to make a Top 5 list.

Why is it pointless? Because of that word: “Obsessive.” If five songs in the oeuvre of any longstanding artist can sum up how you feel about him/her/them then you  are, by definition, not obsessive about them. Take the Springsteen song Leah. It is a minor song on what I suspect any casual Springsteen fan would call a minor album, “Devils and Dust.” It is such a small piece of the Springsteen universe that a typical Bruce fan probably would not be able to see it using even the most powerful telescope.

I think about the song Leah probably once every two or three months. I love that song. I was in the car just the other day, and I thought: “I’m in the mood to hear ‘Leah.’ And I asked Siri to play Leah, off my “Springsteen Plane” playlist and Siri responded by playing Dylan’s “Lay Lady Lay,” which might have been my last break with the Apple iPhone*.

*More on my switch to the Google Phone in some post in the future — OK, let’s be realistic, probably never.

Anyway, I wouldn’t put Leah in my Top 5 Springsteen songs … or Top 10 … or probably not Top 25. But I love it. My Springsteen experience would be a little bit less vivid without it. There are probably 50 Springsteen songs like that for me.

So, no, a Top 5 Springsteen list isn’t a really good idea for me.

Then this tweet came out:

Chris Mack is the Xavier basketball coach. I think the world of Chris Mack. He was born in Cleveland where I’m from. He grew up in Cincinnati very close to where I lived. He was director of basketball operations for one of my favorite people, the late Skip Prosser. He coaches Xavier, a team I wrote about at length when I was columnist at the Cincinnati Post and still follow pretty closely. Chris is also one heck of a basketball coach.

But that list hurts my heart.

Understand, it doesn’t hurt my heart because it’s a bad list — there are no bad musical tendencies as far as I’m concerned. I’ve long believed deeply that music is personal, and no one should feel anything but pride for that the music that they love. It’s all just music, you know? If you like “Broken Wings” more than you like “I Heard it Through the Grapevine,” or “Achy Breaky Heart” more than you like “Folsom City Blues” or the Michael Bolton version of “Georgia On My Mind” more than the Ray Charles version, um, that’s cool. I swallowed hard on the last one, but that’s cool, really, life is too short to listen to music because it’s SUPPOSED to be great rather than listening to music that lifts your spirit and moves you high and low and makes you dance. No, it’s true, if those are your musical tastes you won’t get to be in charge of music at my next party (like I throw parties). But really, whatever music takes you to that place is the right music.

So, if those are Chris Mack’s five favorite Springsteen songs, that’s awesome. Listen in good health, my friend.

Thing is, it’s a bit like me listing off my five favorite Beethoven compositions.

You know, I like the fifth symphony. And, um, I really like that fifth symphony. Remember when they made it a disco song? So cool. So the fifth symphony and, wait, um, Fur Elise! I like that one, the girls have played that one on the piano. And, I like the fifth symphony. And, oh, wait, he did Ode to Joy, right? I like that one too. So how many is that? Seven? Oh, it’s only three. OK, wait, what did I say? Fifth symphony, right? Ode to Joy. Um, what was the third one I said? Oh yeah, Fur Elise. Um … Oh yeah, how about that song from the Nutcracker? That one’s great and, what’s that? That’s Tchaikovsky? OK, scratch that one.

I actually do like Beethoven’s music (hey, I have a playlist!), but the only correct answer for anyone who would ask me my five favorite Beethoven compositions is: “Yeah, I don’t feel like I know Beethoven well enough to give you a Top 5. I just like listening to it.” Anything else would hurt the hearts of those people who love Beethoven.

And if someone asks you to name your Top 5 Springsteen songs and you take four from the “Born in the USA” album and your fifth is Springsteen’s first big radio hit, one that he won’t even sing at concerts anymore (he just walks around and lets the crowd sing it), well, just understand that you will hurt some people’s hearts.

Some people have had a little fun with it:



But it has occurred to me — Chris Mack put himself out there. He likes Springsteen, and put on the spot to name his top 5 he chose five songs that Spingsteen DID record, and he put himself out there, and if I’m going to joke about it …

… then I have to put myself out there too. Any Top 5 list I would put out there would tick off people too, would expose me as a rube to more hardcore Springsteen fans while revealing me to be absurdly cantankerous to the more laid-back Bruce lovers (for instance, no matter when I did the list, I would not have a Born in the U.S.A. song on it. There are many good songs on it — Born in the U.S.A. is brilliant both rocking and accoustically and Darlington County is great and so on — but none of them rise up for me).

So, no, I can’t leave Chris Mack just hanging like that. Here you go, to mock and pick aprt, my Top 5 Bruce Springsteen songs as of 10:19 a.m. Eastern time on Saturday, October 22. It could change by noon, but that will be too late.

— Born to Run.

Well, of course. I am of the belief that every Bruce Springsteen Top 5 is really a Top 4 because you are required by Sprinsteen Law to put Born to Run on your list. It is, in my view, everything that the Boss has ever tried to get into his music, all inside one sprawling four-minute, 31 second jam about love and cars and youth and daily life grinding you down and the soaring hope of two young lovers and an open highway.

And it still rocks. I don’t care if it is or isn’t one of your five favorite Springsteen songs. It has to go in the Top 5.

— The Promise.

My favorite Bruce Springsteen song. Springsteen really wrote it about his own agonizing fight with his business partner Mike Appel, which does take some of the romance out of it, but the song has come to take on so much more than that. It was between this and “Independence Day” for the “song that connects me with my father” category on this list.

For the tires rushing by in the rain.

— Rosalita (Come Out Tonight).

There needs to be one early Springsteen song on the list, before Born to Run, a song that captures him when he had nothing but hunger and dreams and fury and lust and the ambition to be the greatest rocker that ever was. It could be “Blinded by the Light,” which he wrote with a rhyming dictionary. It could be “It’s Hard to be a Saint in the City,” which has those suffocating lyrics that any self-aware writer/artist/athlete/movie protagonist should be able to recognize from her or her own vibrant youth, when we had SO MUCH to say but didn’t quite have the control to say it.


I had skin like leather and the diamond-hard look of a cobra
I was born blue and weathered but I burst just like a supernova
I could walk like Brando right into the sun, then dance just like a Casanova

There’s a lot going on there. This was Springsteen unleashed, and it’s such a big part of why so many of us love him — so much inside him trying to get out.

But I chose Rosalita instead. Rosalita is a wild, messy, tangled, ebullient opera with Jack the Rabbit and Weak Knee Willie, featuring a father who knows that Bruce doesn’t have any money, a record company giving out a big advance, the swamps of Jersey, a half-dream of Southern California, and the very essence of Springsteen’s wide open pursuit of Rosalita:

Windows are for cheaters
Chimneys for the poor
Oh, Closets are for hangers
Winners use the door.

One of the happiest songs ever recorded.

— You’re Missing

OK, here’s my crazy wildcard just for this list.

Here’s what I figure: One of the five songs has to be a post-9/11 release. Here’s why: One of the most wonderful things about being a Springsteen fan is his longevity. He’s Willie Mays. He’s Jack Nicklaus. He’s Tim Duncan. He had the extraordinary prime when he was as good as anyone ever. But then, he just kept going, finding new ways to achieve heights. I don’t know that anything Springsteen released after 1990 was as good as “Jungleland” or “Thunder Road” or “Racin’ in the Streets” or “Atlantic City” or 50 other incredible songs he recorded before he turned 40. Man, I love Jungleland.

But it is the last 15 years that have connected him to audiences in a way that no one of his era connects. The biggest stars of his time do reunion tours. From afar, they do not seem to record much that furthers their musical reach. Bruce is still stretching for something. Don’t get me wrong, he’s released some real stinkers the last 15 years — the whole “Outlaw Pete” thing left me gagging and the “Queen of the Supermarket” chapter is better left unread.

But there have been so many good songs too.

The obvious choice for the modern Bruce song would be “The Rising,” which I think captures the moment that Springsteen seemed to get his voice back after a few years in the creative wilderness. “Devils and Dust,” and “The Wrestler” and “Long Walk Home,” and “Land of Hopes and Dreams” and other carry a lot of the old Springsteen power.

And, I’ve made clear my love of some songs that might not be widely loved like the aforementioned “Leah” and “Girls in Their Summer Clothes.” I think “Waitin’ on a Sunny Day,” is undereappreciated too because it’s Bruce’s homage to the great Motown songs.

I chose “You’re Missing” to fill this spot, though, because I love the simplicity of it. The young Bruce never could have written it. This is just the simple pain of loss.

Coffee cups on the counter, jackets on the chair
Papers on the doorstep, but you’re not there
Everything is everything
Everything is everything
But you’re missing

It gets me every time.

— Badlands

And, finally, a Bruce Top 5 in my mind must include an anthem. I suppose you could argue the Born to Run is an anthem, but it’s basically everything else too — a love song, a rage against the machine, a grasp for something bigger, etc. We need a real anthem.

There are many choices — I was thinking this was where I could slot in Jungleland — but I think in the end you have to go with Badlands. For one its’ a great song — great on the record, greater still in concert. And i think it contains the three-line lyric that sums it all up.

For the ones who had a notion
A notion deep inside
That it ain’t no sin to be glad that you’re alive 

Here at the end of the list, it occurs to me that my “Springsteen Plane” playlist is that one that I probably listen to more than any other. I listen to it when I’m on planes and I’m writing or dozing off or just looking out the window.

These are the 10 songs on it.

1. Youngstown
2. Streets of Philadelphia
3. Leah
4. She’s The One
5. Wreck on the Highway
6. If I Should Fall Behind
7. Walk Like A Man
8. My Ride’s Here
9. Dream Baby Dream
10. Blood Brothers

I love all 10 of those songs — offer a whole different Springsteen feel. None of those 10 songs are on my Top 5. That’s because doing Springsteen Top 5 lists are pointless. They can only get you made fun of on Twitter.


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112 Responses to A Bruce Top Five

  1. Mike says:

    Not a big Bruce fan here. Like the first four albums quite a bit, Wild Innocent and Darkness most of all.

    I like plenty songs on River and Born in USA but never favorite albums. And I gave up after that.

    So I find it interesting that in the midst of a piece extolling post-Darkness era, four of the five songs are from the Darkness and earlier era.

    Which I would posit is as it should be.

    Anyhow, great piece – as always.

    • Mike says:

      Didn’t realize folks would do their own Top 5 (though how could I not know?). Anyway, my quick 5 without giving it too much thought:

      Kitty’s Back
      Incident on 57th St
      Thunder Road

      (Hard to leave off Rosalita, Born to Run, Promised Land, and Candy’s Room, but so be it.)

  2. Chris says:

    No “Darkness On The Edge Of Town” ???? Wow.

  3. ItsSkylineTime says:

    First off, I’m not really a Bruce “fan” per se. I like him, I don’t worship him. But if I were to do a Top 5 list it’d be (and I’m not at all sure of the order): Born To Run (simply classic for all the reason’s Joe says), One Step Up and Valentine’s Day (Tunnel of Love is his best, most personal album, IMO), Meeting Across the River (what other rock star could pull this song off?) and Candy’s Room (feeling obliged to put one of his fun ones on there).

  4. Fred Dobbs says:

    His music is ok but he comes off as so phony with the accent and the attitude – what a poser!

    • Karyn says:

      . . . not sure if serious . . .

      • JustBob says:

        I wasn’t familiar with “Leah”, which Joe discusses above briefly. After giving it a listen, I agree with Fred’s comment about the accent. That pretty much sucks.

        Saw Bruce in concert in ’95. Good show, not great. Of course, I wasn’t a huge fan to begin with. Only went because a girl wanted to go, so I took her.

  5. F Joseph says:

    Thunder Road. Impossible to name just 10 let alone 5.
    Born to Run
    Drive All Night
    Land of Hope and Dreams
    My City in Ruins
    Promise Land
    Racing in the Streets

  6. wechslerh66 says:

    “My Ride’s Here”? Can’t beat the Zevon original for me, but wow. Nice.

  7. charlie b says:

    Meeting across the river – have always hoped someone would make a movie based on this song

    Born to Run and Rosalita – being from NJ and always having the desire to escape as a kid, both of these songs spoke to me

    Kitty’s Back – just a fun song

    Jungleland – one of the greatest rock songs ever written

    My top 10 might change a lot, and there isn’t much difference between 5 and 20, but these 5 have always been my top

  8. Don says:

    Impossible task, but if you only have five cards in your hand, one of them will NOT be a wild card. All five should have what Springsteen fans so prize: scope, power, depth. They will inherently be obvious choices. So …

    Born To Run
    Thunder Road
    Darkness on the Edge of Town
    The River
    The Rising

  9. Dale says:

    Thunder Road and Jungleland – the spectacular bookends to my favorite album ever
    Badlands – I sing this at the to of my lungs in the car. Still.
    Human Touch – I’m sure most don’t like it as much, but I’ve always loved its sound and mood
    Into the Fire – still puts a lump in my throat every damn time I hear it

  10. No One Important says:

    A top 5. It would be different if you asked me tomorrow.

    NYC Serenade
    Land of Hope and Dreams
    Drive All Night

  11. Matt says:

    My Hometown
    Born To Run
    Cautious Man
    The River

  12. Matt says:

    Meanwhile, at the Apple headquarters, Tim Cook assembles his crack staff for an important meeting. He tells the team: “We are in trouble. Today, we lost Posnanski”.

  13. Kuz says:

    Unknowing brush with pre-greatness story:
    I was born exactly one month after Bruce Springsteen about 10 miles from Freehold, NJ. When I was a Sophmore in high school I briefly sang in a band that would play at Catholic Youth Organization dances in Keyport, NJ. on Friday nights. There was a great local band that also had played there called the Castiles. Decades later I learned that Bruce was in that band. And sure enough, two Castiles songs are on his “Chapter and Verse” album. Whenever I hear “on highway 9” it brings back great memories.

  14. Richard Aronson says:

    My top five Beethoven pieces (counting symphonies as one piece):

    Beethoven’s 9th Symphony (written while mostly deaf, greatest feat of composition ever)
    Beethoven’s 6th Symphony
    The Emperor Concert
    Beethoven’s 4th Piano Concerto
    The Moonlight Sonata

    I could go five more. The thing is, the Symphonies are as long as half a dozen or more Springsteen songs, and the concerti three or more. You just can’t compare them.

    I also deplore the lack of Beatles from your list. They put out a CD entirely of just their #1 hits, and although there are bouts of similarity (especially in the early hits) each song has something different and brilliant about it; nobody else can fill a full length CD with number one hits. And I think Gershwin and Mozart belong on your list as well. No other song writers in the history of music were hugely popular in every musical form popular when they were composing (which today would have to include film scoring; only McCartney of the popular modern song writers has climbed that mountain; Danny Elfman is fantastic for his film scores, but not many folks remember Oingo Boingo any more).

    • Ed says:

      If you really want to go with composers Bach probably belongs before ANYONE, including Mozart and Beethoven. But that wasn’t really the point of the piece.

    • Mike says:

      Beethoven’s 9th Symphony (written while mostly deaf, greatest feat of composition ever)

      I’d say it’s the greatest feat of composition ever, even if written by someone with full hearing. The deafness just makes it all the more ridiculous. For my money, greatest piece of music ever composed.

      Three ABSURD movements of amazing music. Just off the charts. And THEN you get the fourth, with the Ode to Joy. Oh, my.

    • Ryan says:

      George Strait has had 61 #1 hits in his career. He could fill approximately 5 full length CDs with #1 Hits if he wished. He did release a double album over 10 years ago with the 50 #1s he had up to that point.

      • Gary Mehok says:

        And how many of those tunes did Strait write? That would be zero. Nothing against him…he’s one of the best singers of my lifetime. But the Beatles writing, arranging, and playing their songs makes it a lot more of an artistic achievement, in my mind.

  15. Bob McNamara says:

    I am a Johnny Cash fan in much the same way that you are a Springsteen fan, so seeing it called “Folsom City Blues” hurts my heart.

    • Bob McNamara says:

      Coincidentally, I was listening to the WTF podcast this week, and in his interview with Margo Price, Mark Maron called it “Folsom City Blues” as well. Odd to see or hear this twice in just a few days.

    • kia says:

      It would be a great name for an EPL team!

  16. virgil bosley says:

    Thanks for this post. I especially agree with part that your list could change by noon. My favorites change all the time.

  17. murr2825 says:

    I could have written this word for word (well, not as well) until the Plane list, but who’s quibbling?

    And every single word you wrote about Rosalita is etchable (is that a word?) in stone. It’s a song that gets off a lot of “best of” lists or is otherwise lower than it should be. Might be THE happiest song ever recorded and has often been my choice as The Greatest Record Ever Recorded; there can be an infinite number of GRERs, says my friend Carl. They just have to take turns.

    • murr2825 says:

      I suppose I should chime in with my list:

      Born to Run
      Promised Land
      Kitty’s Back
      And….oh hell this is impossible

  18. Mike says:

    I’m Going Down is my favorite song by The Boss

  19. Dave says:

    Thunder Road. Given a choice between that and Jungleland, if I *had* to choose just one, this is it.

    Spirit in the Night. Best “feel” for those who never knew his old stuff. I find it funny that people think Manfred Mann did this first.

    Down bound Train. Personal reasons related to time and place. And life.

    The Rising. Joe couldn’t do it but I can.

    Born to Run. Well, DUH.

    Not included are several (SEVERAL!) old songs like Kitty’s Back and Growin’ Up. I tried to take something from just about every incarnation except true solo stuff. And yeah, Jungleland would definitely make the top 10.

    Come to think about it, Kitty’s Back is better than any of the 5 I mentioned. Damn!

    • invitro says:

      “Down bound Train. Personal reasons related to time and place. And life.” — You didn’t spell it right, either. How many jobs does the narrator have in that song, anyway?

  20. invitro says:

    I liked Springsteen almost as much as Joe did for a few years, before I realized that he was a political moron. Anyway, here is the correct top 5 list:

    Prove It All Night
    Candy’s Room
    Out in the Street

  21. invitro says:

    ‘If you like “Broken Wings” more than you like “I Heard it Through the Grapevine,”’ — Not sure why “Broken Wings” has been the target of Joe’s ire so many times. It’s a pretty great song. It’s not “That’s What Friends Are For.” It’s not “I Just Called to Say I Love You.” It’s not any number of awful #1 rap songs that are so bad I’ve even forgotten their titles. “Achy Breaky Heart” isn’t so awful, either. (But Michael Bolton is.)

  22. Brian says:

    There are just so many Bruce songs that have been worn thin by classic rock radio. I’m talking about truly great songs, like Born to Run and Jungleland. I don’t know when it was, but one day several years ago I realized that I was flipping the channel when they came on the radio because I just wasn’t interested in the millionth listen.

    That was all true until I attended one of the last dates of the River Tour. Hearing those songs live infused them with a new energy. I find that I no longer reflexively flip the channel when they come on the radio. Rather I listen and relive the live performance.

    Anyway, the requisite list:

    Bobby Jean
    Streets of Philadelphia
    Darkness on the Edge of Town

    Don’t know why, but Bobby Jean has always been my favorite.

  23. Steve H says:

    Jungleland, not least for Clarence’s solo
    Candy’s Room, such a deeply complex character sketch and such great guitar tone
    Kitty’s Back, Bruce at his most fun and another great guitar showcase
    Independence Day, Bruce at his most serious and a song every man can identify with
    One Step Up, when life starts getting emotionally complicated

    Symphony #9 “Choral,” culminating in a monumental statement of human unity that’s ALSO a boisterous drinking song (BTW the whole “he wrote it when he was deaf” thing is irrelevant; he could hear it in his head, and when you’re freakin’ Beethoven you don’t have to check your music on piano to make sure you got it right.)
    Piano Sonata #23 “Appassionata,” an emotional earthquake that’s off the Richter scale (though best heard when played by Sviatoslav Richter)
    String Quartet #15, a journey into eternity
    Piano Sonata #30, the Jungleland of solo piano, an absolute anthem
    Symphony #7, the supreme orchestral expression of joy; joy elevated to cosmic experience

  24. Kathleen says:

    B to R
    10th ave freeze out
    Bobby Jean
    Jersey Girl …..cause I am

    Guess I belong to the fanatic fan since my son and I waited in line 15 hours 3weeks ago at his book signing in LA and yes it WAS worth it.

  25. Rob Smith says:

    This is a minority opinion, but here goes:
    The protagonist in Queen of the Supermarket is the recipient of a wonderful gift: he sees something beautiful and life-affirming in the midst of the mundane, and no one else sees it but him. He’s not in a great place, otherwise he would have the guts to talk with her- it seems that he’s just holding on every day the hopes of a look, a glance, a smile, anything to cling to to keep him going another day. Then, when it happens, the effect is explosive, profane and transformational, or so it seems. The coda sounds like a cardiac monitor; the protagonist is back on life support, until the next day when he once again grabs his cart. One of my favorites, nearly always makes me cry.

  26. moviegoer74 says:

    I like, but do not love, Springsteen. I get the love, but I don’t share it. I have every album from The Rising and earlier, plus the Tracks box set and the Live box set. Nothing post The Rising. I saw him twice in concert on The Rising tour. Didn’t enjoy the shows that much. They were fine, I enjoyed them, but I was expecting the epic, legendary shows you hear about and they were decidedly not. No longer than most other concerts. It probably didn’t help that it was Shea Stadium in early October and unseasonably cold.

    Nevertheless, it’s still fun to make a Top 5 list, so here’s mine (not in order):

    Cover Me
    The Ghost of Tom Joad
    My Father’s House
    It’s Hard to Be a Saint in the City
    Waitin’ on a Sunny Day

    Had a hard time leaving Atlantic City off the list but I didn’t want two from the same album.

  27. Silver says:

    Open All Night
    Long Time Comin’
    All That Heaven Will Allow
    Seaside Bar Song
    Thunder Road

  28. Dodger300 says:

    My post 9/11 crazy, wild card pick would be Last to Die from 2007s Magic album.

    It embodies Bruce’s push back against almost a decade of crimes that Bush comitted against our country.

  29. invitro says:

    Top 20 R.E.M. songs:
    1. 9-9
    2. Pretty Persuasion
    3. Perfect Circle
    4. Laughing
    5. Wolves, Lower
    6. Seven Chinese Bros.
    7. The One I Love
    8. The Sidewinder Sleeps Tonite
    9. Little America
    10. Moral Kiosk
    11. Good Advices
    12. Ignoreland
    13. Shaking Through
    14. Sitting Still
    15. Maps and Legends
    I could do 100 more.

    • Mike says:

      Solid, if a bit too skewed to the first 3 albums. I obviously like Life’s Rich Pageant more than you since I’d throw tons of those songs onto my list and you have none.

      • invitro says:

        LRP sounds to me like they’re becoming stadium rockers. Now I think being a stadium rocker is a pretty great thing to be, but I think R.E.M. (and Springsteen) can be even greater. Also my problem with LRP is that it has the first songs by them that I don’t like: What If We Give It Away, Cuyahoga, Underneath the Bunker, and especially The Flowers of Guatemala… those all sound yucky to me. I could’ve put Just a Touch, Fall on Me, These Days, or Begin the Begin on my little list… I love all those. And Superman of course. Anyway their first three albums (and Chronic Town) are among my very most favorite albums ever and I’ve yet to get tired of them after hundreds of complete listenings each.

        • Mike says:

          I like all those songs (ok, “Underneath the Bunker” is ok, but not crying if it never made the cut), ESPECIALLY “Flowers of Guatemala.” And from the “songs that are good” group, you don’t include “I Believe”???

          • invitro says:

            “I Believe” is OK. I think the lyrics are a little childish, that’s the main reason it’s not a favorite. (Just to be clear… I’ve listened to LRP over a 100 times in full and have enjoyed it plenty… I don’t want to sound like I think it’s a mediocre album or anything. :))

    • Brian Schwartz says:

      Nice list, but they were still good after 1986.

      • Charlie B says:

        Once a year or so I’ll put Green on. Will listen and think – damn, why isn’t this in my discussion for greatest albums ever…

        And then Stand comes on and I remember.

        • invitro says:

          Yes, they were good after 1986, and even great, but to me they weren’t very often ultra-artistic, and they were that *all the time* before 1986. Both artistic and hard rocking, that’s The R.E.M. I Love! (The same goes for Nirvana, some Pearl Jam, Springsteen, etc etc just about everybody.) I cried not putting “What’s the Frequency, Kenneth” and “Circus Envy” and “Stand” on there.

          Yes, I love “Stand” and it is my favorite song on Green. I like several other songs on Green too, Turn You Inside-Out, Get Up, Orange Crush, I Remember California. But it has a lot of poor songs. World Leader Pretend, Hairshirt, and The Wrong Child are among their worst songs ever (through the year 2000 anyway).

          • Mike says:

            I like “World Leader Pretend.”

            Most interesting development for me has been the rehabilitation of “Monster.” Like most of us, I hated it when it came out. Seemed like a grab for early-to-mid-90s grungry/post-punkish street cred, which seemed silly and gratuitous. And to my 1994 ears, ikt neither (i) sounded like what I thought they were reaching for, nor (ii) sufficiently of REM quality.

            But now when I listen, I like it a lot. I love the guitar sound Buck captures. I feel what Berry insisted on when they went into the studio – that the album had to rock. And he does. And most of all, Stipe is just on, in that theatrical/performance mode he always had lurking beneath the depths. His songs, and his vocals are really powerful. Very emotional.

            In 1994 I couldn’t possibly appreciate a song like “Tongue.” By ANY group, least of all REM. But now? I love it.

          • invitro says:

            Yeah, they were grabbing for a piece of the grunge pie with Monster, but to be fair, they’d been threatening to make a loud rock album for several years. I liked it quite a bit when it came out and actually haven’t changed much at all in my opinion of it. Automatic was a bolt out of the blue to me, a shockingly good album after I thought they’d settled down to pop complacency. So I didn’t expect much from Monster. My favorites on it are Kenneth, Circus Envy, Let Me In, and You. I knew a girl who loved R.E.M. but disowned them because of the campy crossdressing stuff in Crush With Eyeliner. I clearly remember the multimedia file with pics and other stuff you could download from the Internet for Monster. I think this was the first one of those for any artist, or nearly so. And I loooove that cover art.

          • X. Yoomin McCarthy says:

            “Find the River” is REM’s best song.

          • invitro says:

            No, “Find the River” is the most overrated R.E.M. song.

  30. invitro says:

    Top 5 Nirvana:
    1. Frances Farmer Will Have Her Revenge on Seattle
    2. All Apologies
    3. Smells Like Teen Spirit
    4. Radio Friendly Unit Shifter
    5. Aneurysm

    • Mike says:

      Invitro – I never realized you were actually Steve Albini in disguise.

      • invitro says:

        I actually look exactly like a few years younger version of Albini. 🙂

        • Mike says:

          Sorry to hear that.

          Anyhow, you’re a rare one (as if anyone who follows this blog doesn’t know). Most folks unabashedly choose Nevermind. Many, wanting to hang on to their notions of early street cred choose Bleach. But you, straight to In Vitro.

          I like In Vitro a lot more than many folks I know. As I alluded to, Albini’s production was a good match with Cobain’s vision (and what he CLAIMED, later on, he’d wished Vig had gone for on Nevermind). Plus, the songs are fantastic and the playing is balls out.

          But, IMNSHO, Nevermind can’t be denied. The songwriting was untouchable. And — Curt’s latter day protestations notwithstanding — the Vig production ideas were exactly the right match.

          25 years later I MIGHT eliminate about 5-10% of the “glossiness.” But I’ll with it in exchange for what we got.

    • Michael C Lorah says:

      I’m a casual Springsteen fan (really only learned to appreciate his music in the last three or four years, after a decade of living in New Jersey) and I really don’t feel versed enough in the catalog (or sufficiently committed to the catalog) to consider my Springsteen top five.

      I’d probably pick at least four songs off Nebraska if pressed. It’s the album I listen to the most, easily. But I won’t pick.

      But Nirvana – yeah, I go deep with Nirvana and their catalog is small enough that it’s not a self-defeating process (still hard, but not murderously difficult)(picking my top five Neil Young or Willie Nelson tunes would be an arduous process of crippling second-guessing – including Springfield/CSNY and all Willie’s duet recordings, these two guys have contributed close to 1300 songs to my music library!).

      1. Radio Friendly Unit Shifter (always loved the sonic assault of this one. Didn’t hurt that they kicked off their set with it at the first concert I ever attended)

      2. Aneurysm

      3. Where Did You Sleep Last Night (not theirs, but if that performance doesn’t give you chills every single time, even twenty-plus years later…)(this pick eliminates Love Buzz and Man Who Sold the World from contention, as we’ll only allow one cover)

      4. Come As You Are (love that guitar riff)

      hmmm… this is harder than I thought it would be. School? Pennyroyal Tea? You Know You’re Right? All Apologies, for the more melodic end of things? In Utero is my favorite album, but are those songs necessarily my favorite songs?

      5. Drain You – I’m gonna give the tie-breaker to my favorite Nirvana tune to play the drums to when I was in high school and still had a kit.

      • invitro says:

        Since you asked, the top ten Neil Young songs:
        1. Sedan Delivery
        2. Birds
        3. Tired Eyes
        4. Powderfinger
        5. Tell Me Why
        6. T-Bone
        7. Heart of Gold
        8. Thrasher
        9. After the Gold Rush
        10. Tonight’s the Night (Part 1)
        I haven’t yet gone deep into Young’s massive catalog, though I’ve tried. But I know his three classic albums front to back and love more than life itself. Those are among the most underrated albums in music, but his pre-1970 stuff is among the most overrated. Neil had to get away from those losers Stephen Stills and David Crosby to find his true voice.

        • Mike says:

          Powderfinger, FTW.

        • Dan says:

          Good calls – I’d try to find room for Pocahontas, Needle and the Damage Done, Crime in the City, but then what goes…

        • Michael C Lorah says:

          T-Bone?! Wow! That’s one I never expected to see on a Neil top ten! 😀

          Mike and Dan also have a couple great, great tunes.

          Me, I go stupid deep with Neil. I have it all, excepting only a few totally unnecessary double-dips like LIVING WITH WAR-IN THE BEGINNING (the LIVING WITH WAR album without the choir) or MIXED PAGES OF STORYTONE (edited together versions of the solo and orchestral versions of STORYTONE – both of which I DO have!) or GREATEST HITS (bc I can just make a playlist!)

          Your list is a very good one, but I can’t leave off “Cortez the Killer,” “Ambulance Blues” (those two probably fight for the top slot, gun to my head), “Crime in the City,” any of several Crazy Horse epics from RAGGED GLORY, the drunken heartache of “Borrowed Tune,” “Don’t Be Denied,”Long May You Run,” “Like a Hurricane,” “Will to Love,” “Ohio,” “Mr Soul,” “I Believe in You,” “Free World,” “Cocaine Eyes,” “No Hidden Path,” “Unknown Legend,” “Love and War,” “Grey Riders,” “Ramada Inn”…

          Have I embarrassed myself yet? 🙂

  31. invitro says:

    Top 10 Pearl Jam:
    1. Jeremy
    2. Satan’s Bed
    3. Whipping
    4. Animal
    5. Red Mosquito
    6. Tremor Christ
    7. Sometimes
    8. All Those Yesterdays
    9. Black
    10. Hail, Hail

  32. Scott says:

    1- Racing in the Streets
    2-The Price you Pay
    3-Living Proof
    5- Happy

  33. AndyL says:

    Cheating by listing 10 (Chronologically)

    Growin’ Up
    For You
    Spirits in the Night
    Incident on 57th Street
    Thunder Road
    Prove It All Night
    The Ties That Bind

  34. JaLaBar says:

    I am not particularly a Springsteen fan. However, Rosalita is one of my top 10 favorite songs by any artist, so my list would probably be Rosalita five times. What I am is a Deadhead.

    Terrapin Station
    It Must Have Been The Roses
    Brokedown Palace
    Scarlet Begonias

    I think.

  35. invitro says:

    My top 5 Smiths songs:
    1. Reel Around the Fountain
    2. Bigmouth Strikes Again
    3. Stop Me If You Think You’ve Heard This One Before
    4. The Hand That Rocks the Cradle
    5. Ask
    6. Pretty Girls Make Graves
    7. Panic
    8. The Boy With the Thorn in His Side
    9. Oscillate Wildly
    10. How Soon Is Now?
    Note: I haven’t listened to the Smiths’ albums nearly as obsessively as the other artists I’ve typed lists for so far :).

    • Pat says:

      This is incorrect. Nothing from Meat Is Murder or Strangeways, and no “There Is a Light…”?! To say nothing of your misuse of the DH spot for instrumentals: “Money Changes Everything” beats “Oscillate” hands down.

  36. invitro says:

    Since Mike mentioned Steve Albini, I can’t resist… my top 20 Pixies songs.
    1. Letter to Memphis
    2. Cactus
    3. Motorway to Roswell
    4. River Euphrates
    5. Palace of the Brine
    6. Here Comes Your Man
    7. Velouria
    8. Space (I Believe In)
    9. Allison
    10. Broken Face
    11. Break My Body
    12. Alec Eiffel
    13. Silver
    14. Blown Away
    15. Debaser
    16. Mr. Grieves / Crackity Jones
    17. Wave of Mutilation
    18. Brick Is Red
    19. Hang Wire
    20. Something Against You
    Hon. Mention: Um Chagga Lagga
    Hon. Mention: Winterlong (cover)

    • Mike says:

      Pixies are funny. They truly never had a bad song. So, obviously all the songs you list are great, and deserve to be in consideration. BUT . . .

      . . . any list that fails to include EVEN ONE of “Gouge Away,” “Number 13 Baby,” “Bird Dream of the Olympus Mons,” “Gigantic”(!!), or the cover of Jesus and Mary Chain’s “Head On” is invalid upon submission.

      Back to the drawing board.

      (I’m kidding.)

      (Sort of.)

      (I love “Wave of Mutilation.”)

      • invitro says:

        “Gouge Away” would’ve been my #21. “Head On” is great. I don’t need to ever hear “Gigantic” again. “Bird Dream”, seriously? The slow version of “Wave of Mutilation” is a bad song, and they’ve made plenty of bad songs since their regrouping. “The Navajo Know” and “Stormy Weather” are bad songs; the Pix had a tendency to put filler at the back of their albums.

        • Mike says:

          Wouldn’t call those “bad” songs. But agree not up to the quality of the rest of their respective albums. Also don’ know if the slow version of “wave” is “bad.” It is inferior.

          Yes, I really like “Bird Dream.”

          • invitro says:

            Ok, you made me change my mind on Bird Dream. Maybe I was thinking of a different song :(. A lot of people love that slow version of Wave of Mutilation. I just say nope. Funniest thing about the Pixies to me: their four albums are almost equal in quality. Kinda like… the Ramones maybe?

  37. Gordon Pearson says:

    1. Growing up
    2. Thunder Road
    3. the river
    4. marys place
    5. incident on 57th street
    6. Loose change

    (yeah, this is a ridiculous exercise)

  38. Tabitha Coldsore says:

    Top 5 Right Said Fred Songs:

    1. “Mr. Bad Vibe”
    2. “Why Do I?”
    3. Deeply Dippy”
    4. “Jesus is a Clubber”
    5. “Sunshine Sex Drive”

    (Honorable Mention: “I’m Too Sexy”)

  39. invitro says:

    Still no word from the fans of Adele, Streisand, or Jimmy Buffett. Most probable reason: their top five songs list is empty.

    • Michael C Lorah says:

      I’ll throw a little credit to Adele. Her stuff’s overproduced (I sometimes wonder how great she’d sound if she recorded with the Swampers at Muscle Shoals in 1970), but her voice is incredible and her best songs are very good.

      I don’t know that I have a top five. I’m not much familiar with her catalog beyond the radio hits, but I can’t deny enjoying “Rolling in the Deep,” “Hello,” or “Rumor Has It” every single time I hear them. To their credit, I’m still not sick of them and they’re hard songs to escape.

  40. Rick Collarini says:

    Not the Springsteen obsessive Joe is, but isn’t Hungry Heart from The River ant not Born in the USA?

  41. MarkW says:

    Like many here, I am basically a Bruce Tourist and not really a fan… but the joy exploding from “Rosalita” when he says “The record company, Rosie, just gave me a big advance!” gives me goosebumps every time.

  42. Dan says:

    Wasn’t there a Springsteen song ranking based on BR voting a few years ago?

    Why, yes, yes there was –

    The results at that time (from 5 to 1, I think):

    Thunder Road
    Born To Run

  43. Lori says:

    True story here, Joe. I was fortunate enough to attend the 9/9/16 Philly show in the pit. My first time in the pit in 41 years since I first saw Bruce live in college as one of the “little pretties” in the nosebleed section. My brother offered to make me a sign of my favorite song title to hold up in the pit and after much agonizing I had it down to between “You’re Missing” and “The Promise”. I went with “The Promise” and I have to believe he saw the sign even though he did not play that song that night. My brother and I drove from Philly to Pittsburgh to be in the pit for the 9/11/16 show. The fourth song he played that night was “You’re Missing”. Now the rest of the top 5 for me is more difficult but Backstreets has to be in there. Human Touch speaks to me as does Tougher Than the Rest. His artistry is such that each cd I play of his becomes my favorite for the time I am listening to it. That’s why he is the Boss.

  44. Mike Searls says:

    Great songs mentioned, bring back memories of some songs long forgotten or maybe, it is just old age!

    Here’s my 5: NYC Serenade, For You, Point Blank, The River, & My Father’s House.

  45. invitro says:

    My top five Michael Jackson!
    1. Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough
    2. Wanna Be Starting Something
    3. Billie Jean
    4. Beat It
    5. Shake Your Body (Down to the Ground)

    • Ryan says:

      No Man in the Mirror?

      • Brett Alan says:

        Sorry, that was accidental.

        I was going to agree on invitro’s top five until I saw that it included group stuff. I’ll go:

        1. I Want You Back
        2. The Love You Save
        3. Don’t Stop Til You Get Enough
        4. Enjoy Yourself
        5. Wanna Be Startin’ Something

        That’s about as mainstream as my list would ever get for an artist I really like. Michael wasn’t one to make great b-sides or other oddballs.

        While I’m at it, here’s the Springsteen list:

        1. Thunder Road (specifically the version that opens the live box)
        2. Murder Incorporated
        3. Rosalita (Come Out Tonight)
        4. Santa Claus Is Coming To Town
        5. Growin’ Up

        The top three are clear to me, but for the other spots I could go “If I Should Fall Behind” or “Light Of Day”.

  46. Stu says:

    Have been a huge Bruce fan since shortly after I turned down a chance to see him at the Main Point in Bryn Mawr PA. Will cheat and do 10:
    Jungleland (top 5 rock song ever)
    Point Blank
    Born to Run
    Incident on 57th Street
    Lost in the Flood
    Wreck on the Highway
    The Fever
    Prove it all Night (but only if it is the 78 Live version)

    All of them tell a story/paint a picture in a way that no one else can do.

  47. invitro says:

    I re-listened to three U2 albums to make my list of their top songs… I get tired of U2 sometimes but golly they have so many wonderful songs.
    1. Where the Streets Have No Name
    2. Desire
    3. Bad
    4. One Tree Hill
    5. One
    7. A Sort of Homecoming
    8. Even Better Than The Real Thing
    9. Running to Stand Still
    10. The Fly
    11. With or Without You
    12. In God’s Country
    13. Pride (In the Name of Love)
    14. Mofo
    15. Angel of Harlem
    16. Red Hill Mining Town
    17. Lemon
    18. Discothèque
    19. Stay (Faraway, So Close!)
    20. Mysterious Ways

  48. Kuz says:

    Waiting for someone to mention a Noble Laureate. Whoops, I guess I just did.

  49. […] A Bruce Top Five […]

  50. Norminator says:

    1- No Surrender
    2- Thunder Road
    3- Incident on 57th street
    4- Born to Run
    5- Growing up

    • Norminator says:

      No one mentioned “No Surrender” with one of the best lines of any song…We learned more from a 3 minute record than we ever learned in school”.

    • Pat says:

      Keep looking; you’ll find more inexplicable omissions than just that. Not that “Mansion on a Hill” is an undoubted top-5… but no one put it up? Maybe “Because the Night” doesn’t count… but nobody chose it? “Brothers Under the Bridge” might make my top 5, but nobody else. Nobody chose “I’m on Fire,” and yeah I get it… but that’s a great song. Only Joe mentioned “Walk Like a Man,” which would be my batters-box music every year on my father’s birthday, except for the I-can’t-play-baseball thing. Nobody mentioned “American Skin,” and I understand not everyone liking it… but that’s a great song.

      This is all by way of agreeing with Joe’s main point: Top-5 lists for artists like Bruce are an impossible, futile but still fun exercise.

      You are right about that line, though. Great line.

      • mrh says:

        Funny, I was thinking thru my top 5 and I’d put Because the Night on it.

        Thunder Road
        Lost in the Flood
        Because the Night
        Atlantic City
        Better Days

  51. Matt R says:

    Thunder road is truly one of the best songs ever written. By anyone. Any era.

    1. Thunder Road
    2. Rosie (live, from the 70s when the band was soooo tight)
    3. Jungleland (the epic to end all epics)
    4. Born to Run (you have to)
    5. Living Proof/Better Days (declarations for fortysometings)

  52. Gary Mehok says:

    1. Rosalita
    2. Blinded by the Light (Bruce’s version, only)
    3. Drive All Night
    4. Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out
    5. All That Heaven Will Allow

    Yeah, it’s crazy to not include Thunder Road, and Working on a Dream, and Prove it All Night, and yeah, even Born to Run…impossible task, to list only five.

  53. val says:

    When I was in high school, one of the things my friends and I did was make batting lineups out of an artist’s repertoire. And Bruce was one of the most interesting. it was a little different than setting up a mix tape lineup since we’d try to apply the songs to baseball sensitivities. Oh, and this was pre-River, but looking back, I don’t think I’d change anything. I think my lineup went….

    Leading Off: Candy’s Room. Song that starts slow and then gets faster. Like a guy who walks a lot and then gets you the stolen base.

    2nd: Need a good bat control guy here, so you need a song that’s solid. Growing Up.

    3rd: Best hitter goes here so too does the best song. No brainer: Born to Run

    4th: Power hitter, power song: Jungle Land

    5th: Second clean up: Badlands. There was a lot of disagreement about this slot. Doug and Todd both preferred 10th Avenue Freezeout, but three songs in a row from the same album, that seemed to me like batting three righties in a row…

    6th: Blinded by the Light

    7th: Second lead off, needed something with pep: Rosalita

    8th: Thunder Road

    9th: We were all pretty opposed to the DH, but I really didn’t know how to translate this exercise into pitching, so I went with a DH in this slot and decided to be offbeat. Santa Clause is Comin to Town.

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