Sparks Fly On E Street: Bruce Springsteen, “Born In The U.S.A.” (1984)

Bruce really did kind of blow up with Born In The U.S.A.. I’d just gotten out of college and was spending my first summer of true adulthood (read: lots of barbecues, beer, and time at the pool) with this album as the soundtrack. The massive amounts of radio play combined with the reach of MTV made Bruce a ubiquitous cultural presence.

Yeah, you just might hear this song anywhere, from your car to the Musak-driven speakers at the grocery store. There was this one day that I had to attend an offsite meeting (a “team-building” session…ugh, just typing that makes me cringe). During one of the many speeches, I heard somebody in the next function room playing the main riff on a piano. A lot of thoughts went through my head at that particular moment. I wondered why anybody would choose to install carpet that was this hideous. I wondered how many more of these awful meetings I’d be forced to endure during my career. I also wondered if the person playing that snippet on the piano thought about Bruce the same way that I did.

The answer to that last question is of course, no. Music serves a different purpose for every individual. I can’t really remember if I felt an odd kinship with that piano player in the next room, or if I just felt temporary relief at being transported out of that uncomfortable room for a few seconds. The latter feeling was something that would grow in importance as I got older, but I didn’t know that yet.

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