BALLAD OF A SELF-LOADING PISTOL

Studio version


Father, I have come to tell you about something I done
Well, as the night reared its light head into a baby's sun
We rolled down into the town from where the Black Throats come
And you know there was a robbery, there was a holdup
Oh, there was a shootout, and there was a killing
And there's blood on my hands
Today I killed a man

Well now, sister, you know me well
And you ask me, well, how it was I felt
Well, she had an appetite for loving only a fading beauty could possess
She knew just what she wanted and she wouldn't take less
I figured it was a small town, it was at sundown
It was just a small crowd of people around
Oh, but he wouldn't put his guns down
No, he wouldn't put his guns down
Woah, he wouldn't put his guns down
Now his blood's on my hands
Today I killed a man

And papa, you showed me the beauty of buckshot
The love song a bullet sings as she whistles
And showed me the story of the self-loading pistol

Well now, father, I have come to tell you about something I done
He had a widow running through town screaming
He had a brother and his tears were streaming
Now I'm moving on the border with a rifle on my shoulder
'Cause daddy, you showed me the beauty of buckshot
The love song a bullet sings as she whistles
And showed me the glory of the self-loading pistol

And I just come to tell you that it don't hurt no more
No, it don't hurt no more 'cause your son, he's an outlaw
Oh, your son, he's an outlaw
Yes, your son, he's an outlaw
Oh, your son, he's an outlaw
Now, your son, he's an outlaw
Oh, your son, he's an outlaw
And this blood feels good on my hands
Today I killed a man

Hmm
Hmm


Intro

BALLAD OF A SELF-LOADING PISTOL is a song written by Bruce Springsteen who recorded it in studio in early 1973. The song has not yet been officially released. The above lyrics are transcribed from the only known studio take of the song.

Title

The song is known under the titles "Ballad Of A Self-Loading Pistol", "The Ballad Of The Self-Loading Pistol", "The Story Of The Self-Loading Pistol", and "Shootout In Chinatown". The latter however is probably a different song that later evolved into BALLAD OF A SELF-LOADING PISTOL. See SHOOTOUT IN CHINATOWN for more details.

Bruce Springsteen used the title "The Story Of The Self-Loading Pistol" on handwritten lyrics sheets, but these were very early work-in-progress drafts of the song. See early draft #1 and early draft #2 for more details.

In his 2012 book E Street Shuffle: The Glory Days of Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band, Clinton Heylin uses the title "Ballad Of A Self-Loading Pistol". Heylin had access to Sony's database of Springsteen recording sessions and he probably used the title as it appears in the database. Therefore, this website will use the same title, "Ballad Of A Self-Loading Pistol".

Composition and Recording

1972 was a massive songwriting period for Bruce Springsteen. Following the completion of his debut album sessions in October 1972, he continued composing new material. BALLAD OF A SELF-LOADING PISTOL probably saw the light during that period. According to Brucebase, Springsteen was allegedly supplied with a reel-to-reel recorder by Mike Appel (Springsteen's former manager) and Jim Cretecos (Springsteen's former co-manager) and is thought to have made some home demos on his own during this period. None of that home-recorded audio has ever emerged.

According to Sony's database of Springsteen recording sessions, BALLAD OF A SELF-LOADING PISTOL was demoed on 29-30 Jan 1973 at 914 Sound Studios in Blauvelt, NY. These sessions were produced by Mike Appel and Jim Cretecos, and engineered by Louis Lahav. A solo acoustic guitar recording of BALLAD OF A SELF-LOADING PISTOL is in circulation among collectors, and most probably it's the one cut during the 29-30 Jan 1973 sessions. The above lyrics are transcribed from that circulating studio version of BALLAD OF A SELF-LOADING PISTOL.

In his 2012 book E Street Shuffle: The Glory Days of Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band, Clinton Heylin writes that BALLAD OF A SELF-LOADING PISTOL, WINTER SONG, and I MET HER IN A TOURIST TRAP IN TIGUARA were "demoed across the same two days at the end of January 1973 presumably with a view to inclusion on the second album."

Bootleg Releases

The studio version of BALLAD OF A SELF-LOADING PISTOL can be found on the bootleg The Unsurpassed Springsteen Volume 6 (Yellow Dog Records).

Bruce Springsteen -- The Unsurpassed Springsteen Volume 6 (Yellow Dog Records)
Bruce Springsteen -- The Unsurpassed Springsteen Volume 6 (Yellow Dog Records)

Live History

As far as it's known, Bruce Springsteen has never performed BALLAD OF A SELF-LOADING PISTOL live.

Covers

As far as it's known, no artist has recorded and released Bruce Springsteen's BALLAD OF A SELF-LOADING PISTOL.

Available Versions

List of available versions of BALLAD OF A SELF-LOADING PISTOL on this website:

BALLAD OF A SELF-LOADING PISTOL [Studio version]
BALLAD OF A SELF-LOADING PISTOL [Early draft #1]
BALLAD OF A SELF-LOADING PISTOL [Early draft #2]

Page last updated: 24 Oct 2015