Readers Poll: The Greatest Bruce Springsteen Songs - Rolling Stone
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Readers Poll: The Greatest Bruce Springsteen Songs

Selections include ‘Born To Run,’ ‘Rosalita’ and ‘Atlantic City’

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Last weekend we gave our readers the challenge of picking their single favorite Bruce Springsteen song. It's not an easy decision. Do you go for an iconic song like "Born To Run," or a slightly lesser known (but equally brilliant) track like "Backstreets"? Do you pick a rocker like "Rostalita (Come Out Tonight)" or a quiet, acoustic track like "Atlantic City"? Our readers went for all of the above. Click through to see the winners. 

By Andy Greene

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10. ‘Racing In The Street’

The devastating loss of Clarence Clemons was clearly on the minds of some voters as some of his greatest sax work is represented in the list – which kicks off with 1978's "Racing In The Street." While the debate still rages about whether you can put fuelie heads on a 1969 Chevy 396, the song is a longtime fan favorite and contains some of the greatest keyboard/organ work in the Springsteen catalog. 

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9. ‘Darkness on the Edge of Town’

The title track to 1978s Darkness On The Edge Of Town remains one of Springsteen's most powerful statements. He's performed it solo acoustic, with various incarnations of the E Street Band and even with the "Other Band" in 1992/93 – but for our money the definitive version was cut under two years ago at Asbury Park's Paramount Theater. Shortly after the Working On a Dream Tour ended in late 2009, Springsteen and the members of the E Street Band who played on the original (with Charlie Giordano subbing for the late Danny Federici) convened at theater to play Darkness On the Edge of Town straight through for a DVD shoot. It culminated with this fiery rendition of the song. By the end, the veins in Bruce's head seem to be on the verge of exploding. 

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8. ‘Atlantic City’

In March of 1981, mob boss Philip "The Chicken Man" Testa was killed when a nail bomb exploded under his front porch. He lived about an hour away from Atlantic City, and owned a bar on the boardwalk where Donald Trump later built a massive casino. The incident kicked off an incredibly bloody mob war, and inspired Bruce Springsteen to wrote one of his most evocative songs. In early drafts of the tune, when it was still called "Fistful of Dollars," Springsteen can be heard methodically shaping the tune until he settled on the final form. It's the highlight of his stellar 1982 disc Nebraska, though check out Live In New York City for a amazing live take with the E Street Band. 

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7. ‘Backstreets’

Like most Bruce Springsteen songs, "Backstreets" is significantly better live in concert. The tale of lost love wraps up side one of Born to Run, but onstage it really popped. To many fans, the definitive versions are found on the 1978 tour. Bruce would typically slow the song down in the middle to deliver a passionate "Sad Eyes" rap, which eventually evolved into 1980's "Drive All Night." 

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6. ‘Badlands’

Almost no song in the Springsteen catalog gets a crowd riled up like "Badlands." The opening track to Darkness on the Edge of Town has a drum intro so memorable that Best Coast swiped it for their 2010 song "Girlfriend," and it just gets more anthemic from there. Earlier this year, Springsteen performed it in Boston with the Dropkick Murphys. The place went absolutely insane. 

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5. ‘Rosalita (Come Out Tonight)’

"Rostalita (Come Out Tonight)" was the highlight of countless Springsteen live shows during the E Street Band's original incarnation between 1973 to 1988. In the 1990s, Springsteen had enough and only played it on extremely special occasions in New Jersey. In 1999, the reunited E Street Band played a 15-night stand at Jersey's Continental Airlines Arena. Most nights the fans held up signs for "Rosalita," but Springsteen didn't budge until the very last night. "It's been a great gift being able to stand up here and make this music come alive and to look out into your faces," he told the crowd before the final song. "How could I say thanks? I know there's a way. I'm sure there's a way. I haven't seen any of those stupid signs. So maybe just once . . ."  It would be another four years before it became a regular part of the setlist again.

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4. ‘The River’

When Bruce Springsteen's sister Virginia was just 17 she became pregnant, and wound up marrying her high school boyfriend. Their struggle inspired Springsteen to write "The River," about a couple in a similar situation. He debuted the song in 1979 at the No Nukes concert at Madison Square Garden, and he dedicated the song to his sister and brother-in-law. Twenty years later, he played the song on the E Street Band's reunion tour in a drastically slowed down, sax-heavy arrangement – making it somehow even sadder. Check it out here. 

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3. ‘Jungleland’

In his book Big Man: Real Life & Tall Tales, Clarence Clemons recalled the origins of the Born to Run album. "In the beginning, I think Bruce was going for a rock opera kind of thing about this character called Magic Rat," Clemons wrote. "He had lots of songs and themes that were built around this narrative he had in his head. Eventually he let that go." The Magic Rat did make it into the album's epic closer "Jungleland," which contains Clarence's most famous sax solo. In the summer of 2009, they played it at London's Hyde Park right as the sun was coming down. Check it out here. 

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2. ‘Born To Run’

In early 1974, Bruce Springsteen was listening to Duane Eddy's 1960 hit "Because They're Young" when a similarly twangy, dramatic guitar riff came into his head. It soon became the intro for the "exhilarating, orgasmic" new song the struggling 24-year-old singer-songwriter was trying to create: He called it "Born to Run." "I had these enormous ambitions for it," says Springsteen, now 56. "I wanted to make the greatest rock record that I'd ever heard, I wanted it to sound enormous, to grab you by your throat and insist that you take that ride, insist that you pay attention – not just to the music, but to life, to being alive." – Brian Hiatt

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1. ‘Thunder Road’

When Bruce Springsteen arranged the track order on Born to Run, he wanted the album to convey the sense of one long, sweaty day in New Jersey. "There is something about the [piano] melody of Thunder Road' that suggests a new day," Springsteen told Rolling Stone in 2005. "Which is why that song ended up first on the record, instead of 'Born To Run.'" Springsteen spent months slowly tweaking the song before he cut it in the studio, often playing those in-progress versions on the road. It was originally called "Wings For Wheels," but when he saw the poster for Robert Mitchum's 1958 movie Thunder Road he knew he had a title. 

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