Live 19 Feb 2003 version
[Spoken intro:] This was uh... one of my first "I gotta get the hell out of Freehold" songs [he had just finished performing FREEHOLD]. So I... wrote a lot of those, a lot of those... remember that one time they was considering making "Born To Run" a state song, a state popular song in some fashion. But they realized that they, they, they didn't think they can do that with a uh... the fact that some of the imagery of the... that was a song sort of celebrating leaving New Jersey, but decided that they... but I didn't know that meant that much. I can understand that, you know? They had to go for those, those weary, of those... kinds of things, but uh... I wanna sing this one, this was uh... wrote this one in Long Branch, fabulous Long Branch, New Jersey, a little free town by the shore. This was kind of... that was one of my songs sort of, you know, that sort of chance to recast yourself and find your redemption out there which uh... they been into me real good in Catholic school, good Catholic boy who always chased them out. And that's never gonna stop, but that's alright. So this is something uh... this is what that was all about I guess.
The screen door slams, Mary's dress sways
Like a vision she dances across the porch as the radio plays
Roy Orbison singing for the lonely
It's me and I want you only
Turn me home again
I just can't face myself alone anymore
Don't you run back inside, darling you know just what I'm here for
So you're scared and you're thinking that maybe we ain't that young anymore
Show a little faith, there's magic in the night
You ain't a beauty, but hey you're alright
Well that's alright with me
You can hide 'neath your covers and study your pain
Make crosses from your lovers, throw roses in the rain
Waste your summer praying in vain, a saviour rise from these streets
I'm no hero, that's understood
All the redemption I can offer, girl, 's beneath this dirty hood
With a chance to make it good somehow
Hey what else can we do now
Except roll down the window and let the wind blow back your hair
The night's bustin' open, these two lanes will take us anywhere
We got one last chance to make it real
To trade in these wings on some wheels
Climb in back, heaven's waiting down on the tracks
Oh oh come take my hand
We're riding out tonight to case the promised land
Oh oh oh Thunder Road, oh Thunder Road, Thunder Road
It's lying out there like a killer in the sun
Yeah I know it's late but we can make it if we run
Oh oh oh Thunder Road, sit tight, take hold, Thunder Road
Now I got this guitar and I learned how to make it talk
The car's out back if you're ready to take that long walk
From your front porch to my front seat
The door's open but the ride it ain't free
I know you're lonely, those words that I ain't spoken
But tonight we'll be free, all the promises will be broken
There were ghosts in the eyes of all the boys you sent away
They haunt this dusty beach road in skeleton frames of burned-out Chevrolets
They scream your name at night in the street
Your graduation gown lies in rags at their feet
In the lonely cool before dawn
You hear their engines roaring on
When you get to the porch they're gone on the wind, so Mary climb in
It's a town full of losers, and we're pulling outta here to win
[Spoken outro:] It's... It's uh... So that one uh... That strange line, "I'm not that young anymore"; I was 24 years old. Whoa! You know (chuckles)... But uh... So that was a kind of a song that envisioned everything. You know, I think I wrote that, and I remember I wrote the "Born To Run" album and it always sounded like morning to me, that song, the beginning, the harmonica intro... that's how it come in. It ended out the first on the record. And the record kinda cycled from morning to night; it ended up with uh, "Jungleland". And uh... well that song always felt like morning to me where everything just from morning feels possible. And uh... put enough of those moments together so if something happens. And like this, you know I had the band, and came out with that fade on the end; it was a big big part of the song. Uh, it's kinda where the fusion that the characters are moving into. And so I uh... it was just one of those songs where it just... I guess... felt everything, everything.
[From the Q&A session at the end of the show, explaining why he played THUNDER ROAD that night:] [...] Uh "Thunder Road" because Born To Run... I wanted to play something from Born To Run 'cause... a central record for me and that song is real real big. It still, it still encompasses so much in my work that even when I play it, and like, it's just, it's just big, it just takes on me a lot.
[From the Q&A session at the end of the show, when asked "what was 'The Promise' about?":] [...] What was "The Promise" about... I don't know. You know, must've been about sex (chuckles). I can't say, you know. Well, but... I guess it was about... that was sort of... after Born To Run, I wrote that for Darkness I think. And uh, I was ref-reflecting on sort of the flip side of "Thunder Road" I think. I was reflecting on the, uh... responsibilities and, and... that I thought came with my fortune at that time and, and how it sort of fitted into my life and... that's generally what I remember it, it being about in some fashion.
The above lyrics are for the live 19 Feb 2003 performance of THUNDER ROAD at Somerville Theatre in Somerville, MA, during the first of the two DoubleTake magazine benefit shows. The song was played solo on acoustic guitar and harmonica and was followed by a line-by-line explanation.
Founded by Harvard psychiatrist Robert Coles, DoubleTake magazine has been in business since 1995, but started facing financial problems a few years later. Springsteen's relationship with the publication goes back to late 1997 when he was interviewed by Will Percy (nephew of the late Walker Percy, a writer/novelist Springsteen admired) at Springsteen's farmhouse in Rumson, NJ. Part of the audio-recorded interview was printed in the March 1998 issue of the magazine. The interview is probably one of the most philosophical of Springsteen's career -- it dealt with the effect books and movies have on Springsteen's writing and the culture of celebrity, among other things. Springsteen also became friend with magazine founder Robert Coles when the two met in 1998. He praised his book A Secular Mind, and even attended one of his classes in Harvard. In November 2004 Coles published in his book Bruce Springsteen's America - The People Listening, A Poet Singing.
Tickets for the two fundraisers were priced at $500 and billed as "An Intimate Evenings Of Music And Conversation With Bruce Springsteen". These were solo acoustic shows, played on acoustic guitar (or piano on a few songs), held at the small Somerville Theatre (900 seats capacity). Springsteen chatted between songs, and closed out each night with a Q&A session, taking questions from the audience. The unprecedented "conversation" element of the shows made them unique to Springsteen fans.
The almost one million dollars raised from the ticket sales went to the non-profit DoubleTake Community Service Organization Corporation, publishers of DoubleTake magazine, which owed $600,000 to vendors and contributors. "The concert was a success beyond our wildest dreams," managing editor Kirk Kicklighter commented, "[But] we never really had a plan for what we were going to do after the concert." By the fall of 2004, the magazine was no longer publishing, officially put on "hiatus".
List of available versions of THUNDER ROAD on this website:THUNDER ROAD [Album version]