We love songs for different reasons. Sometimes it’s the beat that we enjoy grooving to. Sometimes it’s the melody and music where as the lyrics are just accompaniment. Then there are songs that stand out for the lyrics themselves. You can see the scene, the characters, and the emotions of the musician as if you wrote the song yourself. When lyrics are done well, they take you to a whole different place. One of these songs for me is “Thunder Road”, the opening track off of Bruce Springsteen’s seminal album Born To Run.
This whole song could be the plot of my favorite movie that was never made. It’s a song about two naive kids trying to outrun their doomed adulthood. There’s the narrator, who isn’t a hero, and Mary, who ain’t a beauty but she’s alright. The two are young lovers who are caught between their dreams and what is expected of them. Life is hard and doesn’t seem to be going anywhere for either the narrator or Mary. The narrator is breaking away from his hopeless situation and he wants to take Mary with him, but she is hesitant. The narrator pleads to her to come with him, telling her that she can’t wait anymore for a savior – it’s now or never. The two travel to Thunder Road, which they hope will take them to the promise land. They don’t know if they’ll make it, but they’re making a run for it.
There are two lines that stand out the most to me, one in the beginning and one in the middle:
“Roy Orbison is singing for the lonely / Hey that’s me, and I want you only”
This line is just so cool. Springsteen was a huge Roy Orbison fan, and there’s no doubt Springsteen felt like Orbison’s music was speaking to him during his troubled adolescence. This could possibly be one of my favorite line in any song.
The other is more sensual:
“There were ghost in the eyes of all the boys you sent away / They haunt this dusty beach road in the skeleton frames of burned out Chevrolets.”
This line is a powerful visual. I can see the looks of those boys who all wanted Mary but were denied. Those kind of memories are hard to get rid of.
This song has everything. Great characters, emotion, powerful music, everything that you could ever want in a song. It’s a song that any person can relate to, and it’s an example of when great lyrics makes a song.
Click here to see the full lyrics to go with watching the live version of “Thunder Road”, which I think I think is one of the best live videos I’ve seen. This is rock n roll at its finest.