Born in the U.S.A. is the seventh studio album by Bruce Springsteen, released on June 4, 1984. A critical and commercial triumph, it was a departure from the dark Nebraska, and songs of pessimism and isolation. Without consciously trying to form a concept, the grab bag of songs expressed signs of hope in the daily fight of the ordinary American in following the American Dream. Complemented by synthesized arrangements, several pop-flavored, radio-oriented tracks, and Springsteen's willingness to create videos for MTV, it extended his popularity and appeal to mainstream audiences. The album was supported by an enormous commercial campaign that helped create several hit singles, as well as remixes and music videos.
Born in the U.S.A. was the best-selling album of 1985 in the United States (and also Springsteen's most successful album ever), selling 15 million copies, and 30 million worldwide. The album produced a record-tying string of seven Top 10 singles (tied with Michael Jackson's Thriller and Janet Jackson's Rhythm Nation 1814) and also a worldwide concert tour (the two-year Born in the U.S.A. Tour) that was a success. The album was lauded by most critics and is often considered one of Springsteen's finest albums (Rolling Stone magazine rated it the 86th-greatest album of all time, his second on the list) along with his 1975 breakthrough, Born to Run. The scathing condemnation of the title track is often misinterpreted as a patriotic anthem as a result of the repeating chorus. Its cover (a close-up of Springsteen's rear in front of an American flag, as he was photographed by Annie Leibovitz) became an iconic image of the era.
In October 1981, Springsteen started working on a song called "Vietnam Blues", about the plight of the returning Vietnam veterans. He was searching for ideas, when one day, he saw a script lying on his coffee table, and began singing it’s title, “Born In the U.S.A”. Sent by film director Paul Schrader, with a request that he write the music, it had been there for days. In the words of Springsteen from his book “Born to Run”, “The film would later be released as Light of Day, featuring my song of the same name, my polite attempt at paying Paul back for my fortuitous and career-boosting theft.”
It was recorded on January 3, 1982, with the rest of the Nebraska demos that eventually formed most of the Nebraska album. However, the plan at the time was to record these songs with full band arrangements in the recording studio. On April 27, 1982 at the Power Station in New York, on the second day of what would later be called “the Electric Nebraska sessions”, he taught it to the E Street Band. Where most of the other attempts to record the January demos were to end in failure, “Born In the U.S.A.” within minutes, exploded. One take went on for over eight minutes, and was definitely one of the highlights of Max Weinberg’s career. After the session, which finished around three in the morning, “Springsteen drove by Weinberg’s house with a boom box and a cassette of Toby Scott’s rough mix of the song”, which they played “about 20 times”. Landau later said they did 5 takes that day, and take 4 was the one chosen for the album. While the electric attempts at songs like "Nebraska", "Atlantic City" and "Johnny 99" were considered inferior to the January 3 demos, there were a solid group of rock recordings made in late April - May 1982. "Downbound Train" and "Working On the Highway" (formerly "Child Bride") were both completed, along with "Darlington County", "I'm Goin' Down", "I'm On Fire", and "Glory Days". With January's "Cover Me" and BITUSA, eight solid rock tracks were completed. In May 1983, Springsteen cut another song, "My Hometown" at The Hit Factory and In October, two final tracks considered for the album "Bobby Jean" and "No Surrender".
After listening to the album, Jon Landau's comment to Bruce was it needed a single. According to Dave Marsh in Glory Days, Bruce was not impressed with Landau's approach. "Look", he snarled, "I've written seventy songs. You want another one, you write it." Despite this reaction, Bruce sat in his hotel room and wrote the song that night, "Dancing in the Dark" was recorded on February 14, 1984 at The Hit Factory, in six takes. As he wrote on his 1998 book Songs, "It went as far in the direction of pop music as I wanted to go – and probably a little farther." However, Springsteen noted that "My heroes, from Hank Williams to Frank Sinatra to Bob Dylan, were popular musicians. They had hits. There was value in trying to connect with a large audience."
One of the songs that was about to be left off the album was "No Surrender". Springsteen claimed that this was because "you don't hold out and triumph all the time in life". His other co-producer, Steve Van Zandt, convinced him otherwise: "He argued that the portrait of friendship and the song's expression of the inspirational power of rock music was an important part of the picture."
Born in the U.S.A. became the first compact disc manufactured in the United States for commercial release when CBS and Sony opened its CD manufacturing plant in Terre Haute, Indiana in September 1984. Columbia Records' CDs previously had been imported from Japan.
All songs written by Bruce Springsteen.
- "Born in the U.S.A. – 4:39
- "Cover Me" – 3:27
- "Darlington County" – 4:48
- "Working On the Highway" – 3:11
- "Downbound Train" – 3:35
- "I'm On Fire" – 2:37
- "No Surrender" – 4:00
- "Bobby Jean" – 3:46
- "I'm Goin' Down" – 3:29
- "Glory Days" – 4:15
- "Dancing In The Dark" – 4:00
- "My Hometown" – 4:34
The liner notes of the album feature an Italian phrase, "Buon viaggio, mio fratello, Little Steven", which is Italian for, "Good journey, my brother, Little Steven". E Street Band member Little Steven Van Zandt left the E Street Band during the making of Born in the U.S.A. to pursue a solo career. He would return to the band during the brief 1995 reunion and during the 1999-2000 Reunion Tour.