Born to Run, 1975
Springsteen once described Born to Run's grand finale as a "spiritual battleground." He was referring to the song's narrative, but he could just as well have been talking about its creation. Recording began in mid-1974 alongside "Born to Run," but the sessions hit a wall, prompting Springsteen to change studios. A Spanish-flavored intro was cut, numerous takes were made and discarded, and most famously, in a 16-hour fit of inspired obsessive-compulsiveness, Springsteen led Clarence Clemons through every note of his soaring sax part, over and over, until it was perfect. "All we could do was hold on – smoke a lot of pot and try to stay calm," said Clemons of the sessions. The result was a nine-minute epic, a tale of outlaw love gone wrong, beginning with Suki Lahav's searching violin and Roy Bittan's jazzy piano and building into a miniature rock opera, peaking with Clemons' magnificent extended solo, which was in fact edited together from pieces of takes by Springsteen. It was worth the effort, wowing even Clemons, who considered the solo collage a pinnacle of his musical partnership with Springsteen. "To me," the sax man said in his memoir, "that solo sounds like love."