Review #345: The Wild, the Innocent & The E Street Shuffle, Bruce Springsteen

Karla Clifton
3 min readJan 16, 2023

#345: The Wild, the Innocent & The E Street Shuffle, Bruce Springsteen

The more time I spend on the East Coast, the more I come to understand Bruce Springsteen. It’s not just his song titles or his lyrics, which drop so many New Jersey references that I started to forget that New Jersey is Philadelphia’s punch line. It’s the attitude.

RS puts it best by calling the E Street Band a “bar band.” That could be a dig, but is there anything better than a bar band? We hold them to pretty low standards, so they rarely disappoint us. All we ask is that they stay mostly in tune and have a great time.

In any case, Bruce is helming the most elevated bar band in the world. I was shocked to learn that Springsteen’s debut wasn’t a commercial success — and even more surprised to learn that this one wasn’t, either, despite having what is sometimes called “the best rock’n roll track of all time,” “Rosalita (Come Out Tonight).” I saw this one live, and it’s the most vivid memory from that night. The look on Bruce’s face when he tells Rosalita to Jump a little higher was rapt. He was having a great time. The best time, in fact.

Part of the reason this record didn’t make much of a splash is because the execs that signed Bruce, Clive Davis and John Hammond, left Columbia at around this time, so there was a little less Springsteen love from their label. It’s not even clear what date the record was released — Spotify and Springsteen’s website both list September 11 of ’73, but they were in the studio until September 23rd, so that doesn’t track.

It’s a shame, because this is an epic, chaotic, unexpected record. One of the notes I wrote down was “They never use the instruments that I expect.” The brass instrument throwdown on “The E Street Shuffle” blew my mind, as did the literal circus horns of “Wild Billy’s Circus Story.” “Kitty’s Back” is a jazz jam that apparently gets a different treatment every time they play it live. “This is still Bruce?” my boyfriend kept asking. Yep — still the Boss.

Most of all, I wasn’t expecting this record to be so damn romantic. “4th of July, Asbury Park (Sandy)” grants us audience to an ill-fated declaration of love and freedom — he loses the waitress, who understandably won’t set herself on fire for him anymore, but he wins the rest of us over. “Incident on 57th Street” is just West Side Story, but what a West Side Story. “New York City Serenade” was maybe my favorite lyrically — for some reason, when he says No, she won’t take the train, I felt like he was singing about me. And I take the train every day!

This is the last Bruce album we’re gonna see (I get a little sadder every time I say that), and I’m gonna miss him. He is the patron saint of the RS 500 list, after all. But I do feel like I have unraveled a bit of the mystery of Bruce Springsteen, even figured out why they made that Blinded By The Light movie: even when he’s not singing about you, he is.

Fun Fact: Bruce reportedly recorded “The Fever” for this record, but hated it and didn’t include it. His fans eventually bullied him into releasing it.

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