With its images of returning veterans, Chevy races and post-Vietnam America beginning to erode, this grand, apocalyptic parable foreshadows themes Springsteen would explore throughout his career. It was, he says, about "trying to get a feeling for . . . the forces that affected my parents' lives . . . the whole thing of the wasted life." (Tellingly, he performed it during the Vote for Change concert in 2004.) The recording also marks Van Zandt's first appearance on a Springsteen album: Although he didn't play guitar, Van Zandt supplied the sound-effects blast that opens the song.