Bruce Springsteen was little more than a regional star in the early to mid 1970’s as he set out to define what was becoming known as “the Jersey shore sound.” His initial struggles and hard times with bands like Dr. Zoom & the Sonic Boom and the Sundance Blues band, changed almost overnight with the release of the “Born to Run” album in late 1975. Springsteen became an instant superstar with his radio airplay friendly album. As a result of this popularity, the car culture grabbed onto these hard driving songs, absorbing them into the popular culture of the time.
Springsteen had already developed a reputation in the music industry as a hit making writer having penned the Manfred Mann hit “Blinded by the light” and the Pointer Sister’s “Fire.” Once the general public discovered “The Boss” through feature articles in Time and Newsweek, both ran in the same month, critics began to dissect the lyrics of his songs. One of the most reviewed songs for the street philosophers to deconstruct was the opening song on the Born to Run album, “Thunder Road.”
For Chevy fans, “Thunder Road” spoke directly to the heart and mind of the bow tie crowd. The mid to late 70s saw the demise of the great Chevy muscle cars and the introduction of metric midsize and underpowered compacts, there wasn’t a lot for Chevrolet fans to cheer about. Springsteen’s lyric “Skeleton frames of burned out Chevrolets,” seemed to sum it up.
Melissa Etheridge covers Thunder Road:
As dark as that phrase sounds, it is much more optimistic than the original words penned in that line; “Skeletons found by exhumed shallow graves”. Springsteen was encouraged to get away from the darker lyrics and add the Chevy line so that it represented the blue collar crowd better. Blue collar is what Springsteen and Chevrolet became synonymous with.
Cowboy Junkies cover Thunder Road:
Originally written as a companion song to the title song “Born to Run”, “Thunder Road” took on a life of it’s own. Rolling Stone magazine placed it as #86 on its “500 Greatest Songs of All Time.” Julia Roberts, when asked which song lyric described her most accurately, chose “You ain’t a beauty, but hey, you’re alright” from “Thunder Road.” It has been discussed as the best opening track of all time and it is ranked as one of Springsteen’s greatest songs, and often appears on lists of the top rock songs of all time.
Badly Drawn Boy covers Thunder Road:
Everyone is familiar with the Springsteen version of “Thunder Road” yet there seems to be an endless batch of cover versions of the tune. Surprisingly, most of the cover versions of the song are slower, darker and almost sinister compared to the original.
Tori Amos covers Thunder Road:
From rocker Melissa Etheridge, Cowboy Junkies, Badly Drawn Boys and Tori Amos to Kevin Rowland have all tried their hand at covering the power ballad. Rowland, whose Dexy’s Midnight Runners were a one-hit wonder in the 80’s, does a decent job in his cover version. If you’ve ever wanted to know what happened to Dexy’s Midnight Runners… this is it.
Dexy’s Midnight Runner’s Kevin Rowland covers Thunder Road:
Indie folk singer Mary Lou Lord, a close friend of Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain also did a fair job of covering the song in an acoustic version. Lord could have turned it into a career if it had not been for a rare vocal cord affliction known as spasmodic dysphonia. She has recently began to perform regularly again, but it seems as if her career missed the biggest opportunities in the 80’s when indie folk was big.
Mary Lou Lord covers Thunder Road:
The oddest cover that we’ve heard of Springsteen’s classic was performed by the band Tortoise. Mostly known for their instrumental work, Tortoise joined forces with Bonnie Prince Billy for an off-key version of the song. Sit tight… take hold… Thunder Road.
Tortoise with Bonnie Prince Billy cover Thunder Road:
Having sampled all the different versions of the song covered from every angle, we have to agree that Bruce’s version still rules supreme. As for the others… they are not Chevy or blue collar enough.