"Thunder Road," performed by Bruce Springsteen / by Patrick Shea

Performer: Despite being an incredible writer and amazing performer, Bruce Springsteen has not had a #1 on the Billboard Hot 100. He has had 26 songs on the Hot 100 through the course of his career, the highest on the charts being "Dancing in the Dark" at #2.

Writers: Bruce Springsteen

Title: An evocative two words that compliment the rest of the song's lyrics rather than encapsulating the song's main idea.

BPM: 140

Length: 4:50

Structure: Lyrically, the structure is pretty loose. Harmonically, we hear a structure similar to a verse/chorus/bridge structure, but with some variations. We also hear several melodic themes being established and developed throughout the course of the song. Interestingly, the lyrical lack of structure supports the song's meaning in evoking freedom and forward movement, while the musical repetition and development supports the song's meaning in evoking the underlying patterns that both of these characters are stuck repeating throughout their lives. See more on this below.

Points of Interest:

1) I'm writing again about songs that explore the idea of saying goodbye. "Thunder Road" interests me in this respect for two reasons: first, because the narrator's story is the emotional opposite of Bob Dylan's "Tonight I'll Be Staying Here With You," which I wrote about last week; and second, because "Thunder Road" has two characters each grappling with their own sets of things to say goodbye to, and those sets of things overlap in an interesting way.

2) In "Tonight I'll Be Staying Here With You," the narrator's "tonight" is pretty surely indefinite. He's throwing away his suitcase and his train ticket, and he's staying here with the woman he loves. He sings a happy and triumphant goodbye to an unsatisfying and lonely life. In contrast, the narrator of "Thunder Road" talks a big game about leaving indefinitely, but phrases like "but tonight we'll be free," "we got one last chance to make it real," and "what else can we do now?" make the escape of tonight seem like it will be over tomorrow. There's an underlying desperation, and a sense of no possible good choice to make, no satisfaction to be had. The narrator is at the end of his road, and he's looking for Mary to help him forget about that for a night.

3) Mary also has a choice to make: does she say goodbye to the narrator, or does she say goodbye to sadness for a night? Springsteen complicates this choice in the last section of lyrics by showing Mary's past, full of "all the boys you sent away" with "their engines rolling on." Clearly, the narrator sees himself as being different than all those other guys, but he isn't; and so his escape is the exact thing that Mary has been trapped in her whole life. Who will get to say the triumphant goodbye to reality? One or the other of these characters, but cannot be had.

4) Thoughts? Post in the comments below.