WAGES OF SIN

Official studio version

When we fight and I wanna talk it out
You won't say nothing, nothing at all
You just sit there, you won't open that pretty mouth
I think you like keeping my back up against the wall
Wages of sin, you keep me paying
Wages of sin, for wrongs that I've done
Wages of sin, you keep me paying
Wages of sin, one by one

I walk in the apartment, there's clothes thrown all over the place
You're crouched in the corner with makeup running down your face
I don't wanna believe what my, what my heart keeps saying
You keep me on the line so you can keep me paying
Wages of sin, we keep paying
Wages of sin, for the wrongs that we've done
Wages of sin, yeah, we keep paying
Wages of sin, that's how we have our fun

Ah ah ah

I remember when I was a little boy out, out where the cottonwoods grow tall
Trying to make it home through the forest before the darkness falls
Baby all the sounds I heard, even if they weren't real
I was running down that broken path with the devil snapping at my heels
I tried so hard, so hard in every way
Swore someday I'd grow up and just throw it all away
Cried all the tears, baby, that I could cry
Stomached all my fears 'til they came rushing up inside
Darling I'm losing and it's a mean game
Still I play on and on just the same
Wages of sin, yeah, I keep paying
Wages of sin, for some wrong that I've done
Wages of sin, well, I keep paying
Wages of sin, one by one

Ah ah ah, ah


Page last updated: 11 Feb 2014

Intro

Music and lyrics by Bruce Springsteen, WAGES OF SIN is a Born In The USA outtake that was released on the Tracks box set in 1998.

Composition and Recording

According to the Tracks booklet liner notes, WAGES OF SIN was recorded on 10 May 1982 at The Power Station in New York City, NY.

In a Billboard interview published in November 1998, Springsteen said, "['Wages Of Sin'] was a real find. I forgot I wrote it. It may have been one of those songs that cut close to the bone at the time, so i put it to the side. It was actually cut for Born In The USA. What happens is very often you have your own personal sensitivities about a particular piece of music or you may be uncomfortable with the way you've sung or what the song is about and you steer away from that a little bit, and I think that's what happened on that one."

Lyrics

The line "You're crouched in the corner with makeup running down your face" is similar to a line in the most developed of the circulating takes of the home demo FADE TO BLACK. The lines "Trying to make it home through the forest before the darkness falls" and "I was running down that broken path with the devil snapping at my heels" are similar to lines in the Nebraska track MY FATHER'S HOUSE.

A typed lyrics sheet for WAGES OF SIN was auctioned in March 2012 on GottaHaveRockAndRoll.com. The lyrics are hand-annotated in red ink by Bruce Springsteen, leading to the final draft printed on the Tracks box set booklet. It seems that this sheet was part of a larger stack that served as a proof that was passed through Springsteen for final revisions before the lyrics get printed on the booklet.

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Available Studio Takes

Five acoustic home demo takes of WAGES OF SIN are in circulation – see Acoustic demo #1, Acoustic demo #2, Acoustic demo #3, Acoustic demo #4, and Acoustic demo #5. They are more upbeat than the official studio version and, according to Brucebase, they were recorded at Springsteen's home in Colts Neck, NJ, following the end of The River Tour, sometime between mid-September 1981 and May 1982, but most probably in 1981.

The Tracks Box Set

In the liner notes of his Tracks box set, Bruce Springsteen introduces the box set as follows:

During long intervals between my record releases, as I was spending more and more time in the studio, when I met a fan out on the street I was often asked, "What are you guys doing in there?" I regularly pondered that question myself.

What we were doing in there was making a lot of music, a lot more music than I could use at any one time. As a result, my albums became a series of choices – what to include, what to leave out? I based my decisions on my creative point of view at the moment – the subject I was trying to focus on, something musical or emotional I was trying to express. In certain instances, as on Darkness on the Edge of Town, Nebraska, and The Ghost of Tom Joad, these choices crystallized the album I was making. On some of my other records the reasons I had for choosing one song over another, in hindsight, feel a good deal less significant. One of the results of working like this was that a lot of music, including some of my favorite things, remained unreleased.

This collection contains everything from the first notes I sang in the Columbia recording studio, my early and later work with the E Street Band, through to my music in the 90s. It's the alternate route to some of the destinations I travelled to on my records, an invitation into the studio on the many nights we spent making music in search of the records we presented to you. I'm glad to finally be able to share this music; here are some of the ones that got away.

-- Bruce Springsteen, September 1998

Bruce Springsteen's albums were thematically linked even if they were not strictly concept albums; so some tracks that didn't fit the theme of the album ended up orphaned, not necessarily because they didn't meet his high standards, but because, he says, they didn't fit in with the tone or themes he mined for each set. Many of these unreleased studio outtakes got under the hands of bootleggers. Discussing that issue in 1984, Springsteen told Rolling Stone's Kurt Loder, "We record a lot of material, but we just don't release it all. [...] I always tell myself that some day I'm gonna put an album out with all this stuff on it that didn't fit in. I think there's some good material there that should come out. Maybe at some point, I'll do that."

During a break in The Ghost Of Tom Joad Solo Acoustic Tour, Springsteen thought that "if it's gonna be a year or longer in between records, I have all this music that I know is very good that I never released and I should release some of it whether it was just a CD or something. In that period of time, I should put something out because people would like to have it and I'd like to see it get out." He told Toby Scott (his audio archivist and recording engineer), "send me all the archives, send everything that we recorded". Scott then went to work gathering the potential material from Springsteen's massive audio library (located, along with Sony's sound archives, in the high-tech Iron Mountain facility near Buffalo, NY). "For a week or so," he told Billboard in a Nov 1998 interview, "I just listened to everything that I'd done that we hadn't put out. I made some very brief notes in a notebook, and then I just put it away. It was something that I could do at some point when I get to that place in a new project where I'm not sure how long it's going to take and it would be nice to sort of fill the gap so the fans wouldn't be so long without hearing any music from me".

Springsteen told Mark Hagen in an interview for Mojo magazine published in January 1999, "So it began just with that idea and we listened to about 250 songs, maybe more, I made quick notes in a notebook and put it away. A year went by, more maybe, and I came off the Tom Joad tour and I began to write acoustically again and I wrote about half a record. Then I got stuck and said, 'Well, I'm going to put this aside for a while.' Then I wrote half of an electric record, and hit the same place. So I thought, instead of waiting for another year to put something out I'll put some of this music together. So once again I went back to the archives." According to interview comments made by engineer Toby Scott (Springsteen's audio archivist and recording engineer), it was in February 1998 during solo sessions being conducted at Thrill Hill Recording (Springsteen's home studio) in Colts Neck, NJ, that Springsteen told Scott that the time was right to proceed with the long-anticipated box set of archived, unreleased studio takes. Thrill Hill Recording served as the main operational center for all Tracks project activities. Note that the "Thrill Hill Recording" name is used for whatever home studio Springsteen is recording at, whether it's in Rumson, NJ, Colts, NJ, or Beverly Hills, CA.

Springsteen told Billboard that the songs were culled from between 200 and 300 tunes. According to Toby Scott, the number was down to about 128 songs by late June 1998. It was then narrowed down yet again in July to about 100 songs that were prepped for the Tracks release. Although the project was originally projected to be a 6-disc set, there was a commercial decision made later in the summer to reduce the size of the release to a 4-disc (66-track) set. The package was delivered to Sony in mid-September in order to facilitate the mid-November 1998 release schedule.

Unreleased songs from the Greetings From Asbury Park, NJ sessions were not included on the box set due to ongoing and still-unresolved court proceedings involving most of these unreleased 1972 recordings. The court battle wasn't resolved until in 2001 (April 2001 in the UK and June 2001 in the U.S.), and those recordings are now free for release at any time. The opening four tracks of the box set – which were culled from Springsteen's 03 May 1972 Columbia Records audition – were not part of the court proceedings.

The Tracks box set was released on Columbia Records on 10 Nov 1998, issued on both compact disc and audio cassette formats. It's a 4-disc (or 4-cassette) set consisting of a total of 66 tracks (almost 4.5 hours long), 10 of which were heretofore unavailable single B-sides, 6 were demos and alternate versions of already-released material, and 50 (48 studio and 2 live) were never-before-released songs recorded during the sessions for Springsteen's many albums. Some tracks were treated with a recent touch-up here or there to give the older recordings a fresh polish.

  • Disc 1 consists of material from 1972 to 1980, including Springsteen's very first Columbia Records audition for legendary A & R executive John Hammond. This disc also features additional songs most of which recorded for (but never released on) Springsteen's first four albums.
     
  • Disc 2 consists of material from 1979 to 1983, taken primarily from the recording sessions of The River, Nebraska, and Born In The USA. Springsteen describes this disc as "almost the completely other album from 'The River'."
     
  • Disc 3 consists of material from 1982 to 1987, taken primarily from the recording sessions of Born In The USA and Tunnel Of Love.
     
  • Disc 4 consists of material from 1989 to 1998, taken primarily from the recording sessions of Human Touch.
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Tracks disc 1 track list (CD format):

1.MARY QUEEN OF ARKANSASRecorded at CBS Studios, New York City, NY, on 03 May 1972
2.IT'S HARD TO BE A SAINT IN THE CITYRecorded at CBS Studios, New York City, NY, on 03 May 1972
3.GROWIN' UPRecorded at CBS Studios, New York City, NY, on 03 May 1972
4.DOES THIS BUS STOP AT 82ND STREETRecorded at CBS Studios, New York City, NY, on 03 May 1972
5.BISHOP DANCEDRecorded live at Max's Kansas City, New York City, NY, on 31 Jan 1973
6.SANTA ANARecorded at 914 Sound Studios, Blauvelt, NY, on 28 Jun 1973
7.SEASIDE BAR SONGRecorded at 914 Sound Studios, Blauvelt, NY, on 28 Jun 1973
8.ZERO AND BLIND TERRYRecorded at 914 Sound Studios, Blauvelt, NY, on 28 Jun 1973
9.LINDA LET ME BE THE ONERecorded at Record Plant, New York City, NY, on 28 Jun 1975
10.THUNDERCRACKRecorded at 914 Sound Studios, Blauvelt, NY, on 28 Jun 1973
11.RENDEZVOUSRecorded live at Nassau Coliseum, Uniondale, NY, on 31 Dec 1980
12.GIVE THE GIRL A KISSRecorded at Record Plant, New York City, NY, on 10 Nov 1977
13.ICEMANRecorded at Record Plant, New York City, NY, on 27 Oct 1977
14.BRING ON THE NIGHTRecorded at The Power Station, New York City, NY, on 13 Jun 1979
15.SO YOUNG AND IN LOVERecorded at Record Plant, New York City, NY, on 06 Jan 1978
16.HEARTS OF STONERecorded at Record Plant, New York City, NY, on 14 Oct 1977
17.DON'T LOOK BACKRecorded at Record Plant, New York City, NY, on 02 Jul 1977

Tracks disc 2 track list (CD format):

1.RESTLESS NIGHTSRecorded at The Power Station, New York City, NY, on 11 Apr 1980
2.A GOOD MAN IS HARD TO FIND (PITTSBURGH)Recorded at The Power Station, New York City, NY, on 05 May 1982
3.ROULETTERecorded at The Power Station, New York City, NY, on 03 Apr 1978
4.DOLLHOUSERecorded at The Power Station, New York City, NY, on 21 Aug 1979
5.WHERE THE BANDS ARERecorded at The Power Station, New York City, NY, on 09 Oct 1979
6.LOOSE ENDSRecorded at The Power Station, New York City, NY, on 18 Jul 1979
7.LIVING ON THE EDGE OF THE WORLDRecorded at The Power Station, New York City, NY, on 07 Dec 1979
8.WAGES OF SINRecorded at The Power Station, New York City, NY, on 10 May 1982
9.TAKE 'EM AS THEY COMERecorded at The Power Station, New York City, NY, on 10 Apr 1980
10.BE TRUERecorded at The Power Station, New York City, NY, on 21 Jul 1979
11.RICKY WANTS A MAN OF HER OWNRecorded at Record Plant, New York City, NY, on 16 Jul 1979
12.I WANNA BE WITH YOURecorded at The Power Station, New York City, NY, on 31 May 1979
13.MARY LOURecorded at The Power Station, New York City, NY, on 30 May 1979
14.STOLEN CARRecorded at The Power Station, New York City, NY, on 26 Jul 1979
15.BORN IN THE USARecorded at Thrill Hill Recording, Colts Neck, NJ, in Jan 1982
16.JOHNNY BYE-BYERecorded at Thrill Hill Recording, Beverly Hills, CA, in Jan 1983
17.SHUT OUT THE LIGHTRecorded at Thrill Hill Recording, Beverly Hills, CA, in Jan 1983

Tracks disc 3 track list (CD format):

1.CYNTHIARecorded at The Hit Factory, New York City, NY, on 20 Apr 1983
2.MY LOVE WILL NOT LET YOU DOWNRecorded at The Hit Factory, New York City, NY, on 05 May 1982
3.THIS HARD LANDRecorded at The Hit Factory, New York City, NY, on 11 May 1982
4.FRANKIERecorded at The Power Station, New York City, NY, on 14 May 1982
5.TV MOVIERecorded at The Hit Factory, New York City, NY, on 13 Jun 1983
6.STAND ON ITRecorded at The Hit Factory, New York City, NY, on 16 Jun 1983
7.LION'S DENRecorded at The Power Station, New York City, NY, on 25 Jan 1982
8.CAR WASHRecorded at The Hit Factory, New York City, NY, on 31 May 1983
9.ROCKAWAY THE DAYSRecorded at The Hit Factory, New York City, NY, on 03 Feb 1984
10.BROTHERS UNDER THE BRIDGES ('83)Recorded at The Hit Factory, New York City, NY, on 04 Sep 1983
11.MAN AT THE TOPRecorded at The Hit Factory, New York City, NY, on 12 Jan 1984
12.PINK CADILLACRecorded at The Hit Factory, New York City, NY, on 31 May 1983
13.TWO FOR THE ROADRecorded at Thrill Hill Recording, Colts Neck, NJ, in Feb 1987
14.JANEY DON'T YOU LOSE HEARTRecorded at The Hit Factory, New York City, NY, on 16 Jun 1983
15.WHEN YOU NEED MERecorded at The Hit Factory, New York City, NY, on 10 Jan 1987
16.THE WISHRecorded at The Hit Factory, New York City, NY, on 22 Feb 1987
17.THE HONEYMOONERSRecorded at The Hit Factory, New York City, NY, on 22 Feb 1987
18.LUCKY MANRecorded at The Hit Factory, New York City, NY, on 04 Apr 1987

Tracks disc 4 track list (CD format):

1.LEAVIN' TRAINRecorded at Oceanway Studios, Los Angeles, CA, on 27 Feb 1990
2.SEVEN ANGELSRecorded at Oceanway Studios, Los Angeles, CA, on 29 Jun 1990
3.GAVE IT A NAMERecorded at Thrill Hill Recording, Colts Neck, NJ, on 24 Aug 1998
4.SAD EYESRecorded at Soundworks West, Los Angeles, CA, on 25 Jan 1990
5.MY LOVER MANRecorded at Soundworks West, Los Angeles, CA, on 04 Dec 1990
6.OVER THE RISERecorded at Soundworks West, Los Angeles, CA, on 07 Dec 1990
7.WHEN THE LIGHTS GO OUTRecorded at Record Plant, Los Angeles, CA, on 06 Dec 1990
8.LOOSE CHANGERecorded at Record Plant, Los Angeles, CA, on 31 Jan 1991
9.TROUBLE IN PARADISERecorded at Soundworks West, Los Angeles, CA, on 01 Dec 1989
10.HAPPYRecorded at A & M Studios, Los Angeles, CA, on 18 Jan 1992
11.PART MAN, PART MONKEYRecorded at Soundworks West, Los Angeles, CA, in Jan 1990
12.GOIN' CALIRecorded at A & M Studios, Los Angeles, CA, on 29 Jan 1991
13.BACK IN YOUR ARMSRecorded at The Hit Factory, New York City, NY, on 12 Jan 1995
14.BROTHERS UNDER THE BRIDGERecorded at Thrill Hill Recording, Beverly Hills, CA, on 22 May 1995

Live History

WAGES OF SIN was performed once during the 133-date-long Wrecking Ball Tour, on 08 May 2013 in Turku, Finland. The song was played in an arrangement very close to the studio version.

[Click here to display/hide detailed Wrecking Ball Tour performances list]

Covers

As far as it's known, only one artist has recorded and released Bruce Springsteen's WAGES OF SIN:


Various artists -- Badlands: A Tribute To Bruce Springsteen's Nebraska

CD - Sub Pop (SPCD 525) - USA - 2000
CD - Sub Pop (9878-70525-2) - Germany, 2000
CD - Warner Music Japan (WPCR-10845) - Japan, 2000

This is a various artists Bruce Springsteen tribute album. WAGES OF SIN is performed by Damien Jurado and Rose Thomas. See Damien Jurado and Rose Thomas' cover version for more details.

Available Versions

List of available versions of WAGES OF SIN on this website: