Sparks Fly On E Street: Bruce Springsteen, "Drive All Night" (1980)

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There are many, many songs in the rock & pop canon that employ yearning as the source material. Or maybe it’s the glue that holds things together. My baby left me and I want her back. It’s an old story that somehow never manages to get old. Maybe that’s because, if you’ve ever been in that particular situation, it feels life-changing. You’re being pulled in several directions at once and you’re afraid that you’ll never be the same.

I’ve always wondered about “Drive All Night,” since some people seem to think that the “buy you some shoes” line needed more thought, or that it rests among Bruce’s worst lyrics. But when I first heard it, it made me wonder what he was thinking about. And that’s the thing…sometimes it’s not so much what the intent was, but what the listener can bring to the situation. The great thing here is that the line — whose malleability can give it so many meanings — remains in stark contrast to “And taste your tender charms…,” which seems universal. Nearly everybody’s been there.

In any event, Bruce wears his passion on his sleeve here. Check out this version from Madison Square Garden, shot from the Big Man’s side.

This song has always felt like the true end of The River to me, but we do have one more entry…

Next Up: Wreck On The Highway

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Mark Saleski

Mark Saleski

Mark Saleski is a writer and music obsessive based out of the woods of central New Hampshire. A past contributor to, and Salon, he originated several of our weekly features including the Friday Morning Listen, (Cross the) Heartland, WTF! Wednesday, and Sparks Fly on E Street. Follow him on Twitter: @msaleski. Contact Something Else! at
Mark Saleski
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  • JC Mosquito

    This to me is the only flaw on a near-perfect album, making it “Born to Also Ran” more beside than behind “Born to Run.” Side Four would have better been served by eliminating this long meandering prayer/existential howl with the superficial “Living On the Edge of the World,” which gets flipped over on its back with “Wreck On the Highway.” And of course, Start Side Four with “Roulette” to show that’s it’s all luck of the draw anyway – some get the spirit of the 3 minute pop song, here and gone – some get the ghost of Roy Acuff.

  • Mark Saleski

    well, i dunno…i’ve always liked it. but then again, i find everything Bruce did from the start through Nebraska to be flawless.