We’ve all played the game before, in some form or variation: “If you were stranded on a desert island…”
Movies, food, music, and even PEOPLE can a desert island list be made. You might alienate some friends and family with such lists, but if they disagree you probably didn’t want them on your island anyway. When you theorize your next hypothetical list, maybe consider placing Bruce Springsteen on there. Of course, we assume he’d still be fine with the occasional three-hour set, even while stranded on a desert isle (Bruce would take his guitar, right?!). But that’s not the sole reason to have The Boss tag along; his very own desert island playlist is pretty damn good.
Springsteen shared his eight choices with BBC Radio 4 and we couldn’t be more on board with them.
Elvis Presley “Hound Dog”
“When I heard it, it just shot straight through to my brain. And I realized, suddenly, that there was more to life than what I’d been living,” The Boss said of The King‘s 1956 hit. “I was then in pursuit of something and there’d been a vision laid out before me. You were dealing with the pure thrust, the pure energy of the music itself. I was so very young but it still hit me like a thunderbolt.”
More interesting is the influence the song has on the sound of the E Street Band, even to this day. “It sounds great to this day. We still base our snare drum sound, one of the ultimate snare drum sounds, on ‘Hound Dog.'”
The Beatles “I Want To Hold Your Hand”
“This was another song that changed the course of my life,” Springsteen says of the Fab Four‘s first Billboard Hit 100 hit to reach #1 from 1963. “It was a very raucous sounding record when it came out of the radio. It really was the song that inspired me to play rock and roll music – to get a small band and start doing some small gigs around town. It was life changing. It’s still a beautiful record.”
The Rolling Stones “It’s All Over Now”
Bruce, an avid fan of the Stones, recalls the importance the band’s 1964 track for his burgeoning music career.
“‘It’s All Over Now’ held a special place for me because when I got thrown out of my first band, I went home that night and I was pissed off, so I said ‘All right I’m going to be a lead guitar player.’ And for some reason that solo felt like something I might be able to manage. I put the record on and I sat there all night until I was able to scrape up some relatively decent version of Keith’s solo. It was a very important record for me as it was the first solo I ever learned.”
Van Morrison “Madame George”
Van Morrison‘s seminal record was highly influential to The Boss. He describes the additional layers music can have to make it more meaningful, saying, “Astral Weeks was an extremely important record for me. It made me trust in beauty, it gave me a sense of the divine. The divine just seems to run through the veins of that entire album. Of course there was incredible singing and the playing of Richard Davis on the bass. It was trance music. It was repetitive. It was the same chord progression over and over again. But it showed how expansive something with very basic underpinning could be. There’d be no ‘New York City Serenade’ if there hadn’t been Astral Weeks.”
Marvin Gaye “What’s Going On”
Gaye brought social awareness to the forefront with What’s Going On (both record and song) and helped shape the lyrical content of Springsteen’s music for his entire career.
“This entire record [the What’s Going On album], from start to finish, is a masterpiece. It was sultry and sexual while at the same time dealing with street level politics. That had a big influence on me. Along with the idea that it was a concept record without being cursed by that name. It was a record that had a thread you can follow from the first song to the last and it created a world that you could walk into and then come back out of. But bring along with you things that you learned and energy and a source that you’d found for living.”
James Brown “Out Of Sight”
The way Springsteen describes James Brown might be the way folks describe The Boss when they listen to his music.
“Pure excitement, pure electricity, pure ‘get out of your seat, move your ass.’ Pure sweat-filled, gospel-filled raw, rock and roll, rhythm and blues. It’s like a taut rubber band.”
The Four Tops “Baby I Need Your Loving”
It would have been impossible to live through the 1950s and ’60s without hearing the very best Motown had to offer. And for a budding musician like Bruce Springsteen, it also laid out the blueprint for finding success.
“I had to have some Motown because Motown was an incredible part of my youth. Also, if you wanted to know how to write, how to structure successful pop records, you could learn it all from Motown. The sound of the band, the importance of a great singer. Motown was the school where you wanted to go to learn your craft.”
Bob Dylan “Like A Rolling Stone”
Springsteen was considered a second coming of Bob Dylan for some time and anyone would be remiss to exclude him as a major influence on Bruce. Heck, The Boss even inducted him into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
“When I inducted Dylan into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, I said ‘the snare drum that opens this song feels like someone kicked open the door to your mind.’ ‘Like a Rolling Stone’ feels like a torrent that comes rushing towards you. Floods your soul, floods your mind. Alerts and wakes you up instantaneously to other worlds, other lives. Other ways of being. It’s perhaps one of the most powerful records ever made and it still means a great deal to me along with all of Dylan’s work.”