|Studio album by Bruce Springsteen|
|Released||September 30, 1982|
|Recorded||mostly January 3, 1982|
|Studio||Thrill Hill East, Springsteen's Colts Neck, New Jersey bedroom|
|Bruce Springsteen chronology|
|Singles from Nebraska|
Sparsely recorded on a 4-track cassette tape Portastudio 144, the songs on Nebraska were originally intended as demos of songs to be recorded with the E Street Band. However, Springsteen ultimately decided to release the demos himself. Nebraska remains one of the most highly regarded albums in his catalog.
The songs on Nebraska deal with ordinary, down-on-their-luck blue-collar characters who face a challenge or a turning point in their lives. The songs also treat the subject of outsiders, criminals and mass murderers with little hope for the future -- or no future at all - as in the title track, where the main character is sentenced to death in the electric chair. Unlike previous albums, which often exude energy, youth, optimism and joy, the vocal tones of Nebraska are solemn and thoughtful, with fleeting moments of grace and redemption woven through the lyrics. The album's reverb-laden vocals and mood combined with dark lyrical content have been described by music critic William Ruhlmann as "one of the most challenging albums ever released by a major star on a major record label." Because of the album's sombre content, Springsteen chose not to tour in support of the album, making it Springsteen's only major release that was not supported by a tour.
Initially, Springsteen recorded demos for the album at his home with a 4-track cassette recorder. The demos were sparse, using only acoustic guitar, electric guitar (on "Open All Night"), harmonica, mandolin, glockenspiel, tambourine, organ, synthesizer (on "My Father's House") and Springsteen's voice. The songs themselves also have sparse composition, and many of the songs are simple three chord songs. After he completed work on the demos, Springsteen brought the songs to the studio and recorded the album with the E Street Band. However, he, the producers, and engineers working with him felt that a raw, haunted folk essence present on the home tapes was lacking in the band treatments, and so they ultimately decided to release the demo version as the final album. Complications with mastering of the tapes ensued because of low recording volume, but the problem was overcome with sophisticated noise reduction techniques.
The demo recording sessions done by Springsteen featured a total of 17 songs, where 10 of them ended up on Nebraska, and the demo for "Born in the U.S.A." would appear on the Tracks compilation. The remaining six unreleased demos are circulating among Springsteen fans.
Springsteen fans have long speculated whether Springsteen's full-band recording of the album, nicknamed Electric Nebraska, will ever surface. In a 2006 interview, manager Jon Landau said it was unlikely and that "the right version of Nebraska came out". But in a 2010 interview with Rolling Stone, E Street Band drummer Max Weinberg praised the full band recording of the album as "killing." Other songs demoed during the Nebraska sessions include "Born in the U.S.A.", "Downbound Train", "Child Bride" (which later evolved into "Working on the Highway"), "Pink Cadillac", "The Big Payback", "Johnny Bye Bye", and "Losin' Kind" (later reworked into "Highway 29" on 1995's The Ghost of Tom Joad).
The album begins with "Nebraska", a first-person narrative based on the true story of 19-year-old spree killer Charles Starkweather and his 14-year-old girlfriend, Caril Ann Fugate, and ends with "Reason to Believe", a complex narrative that offers a small amount of hope to counterbalance the otherwise dark nature of the album. The remaining songs are largely of the same bleak tone, including the dark "State Trooper", influenced by Suicide's "Frankie Teardrop". Criminal behavior continues as a theme in the song "Highway Patrolman": even though the protagonist works for the law, he lets his brother escape after he has shot someone."Open All Night", a Chuck Berry-style lone guitar rave-up, does manage a dose of defiant, humming-towards-the-gallows exuberance.
Springsteen stated that the stories in this album were partly inspired by historian Howard Zinn's book A People's History of the United States. A music video was produced for the song "Atlantic City"; it features stark, black-and-white images of the city, which had not yet undergone its later economic transformation.
|Encyclopedia of Popular Music|||
|The Rolling Stone Album Guide|||
|The Village Voice||A-|
In a contemporary review for The Village Voice, Robert Christgau believed that unlike other singer-songwriters such as Bob Dylan and Robert Johnson, "Springsteen isn't imaginative enough vocally or melodically to enrich these bitter tales of late capitalism with nothing but a guitar, a harmonica, and a few brave arrangements. Still, this is a conceptual coup, especially since it's selling." In the newspaper's annual Pazz & Jop critics poll, Nebraska was voted the third best album of 1982. In 1989, it was ranked 43rd on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 100 greatest albums of the 1980s. That same year, Richard Williams wrote in Q magazine that "Nebraska would simply have been a vastly better record with the benefit of the E Street Band and a few months in the studio."
In 2003, Nebraska was ranked number 224 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 500 greatest albums of all time.Pitchfork listed it as the 60th greatest album of the 1980s. In 2006, Q placed the album at number 13 in its list of "40 Best Albums of the '80s". In 2012, Slant Magazine listed the album at number 57 on its list of "Best Albums of the 1980s". The album was also included in the book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die.
Being a highly influential album, the songs of Nebraska have been covered numerous times. Notably, country music icon Johnny Cash's 1983 album Johnny 99 featured versions of two of Springsteen's songs from Nebraska: "Johnny 99" and "Highway Patrolman". Cash also contributed to a widely praised tribute album, Badlands: A Tribute to Bruce Springsteen's Nebraska, which was released on the Sub Pop label in 2000 and produced by Jim Sampas. It featured covers of the Nebraska songs recorded in the stripped-down spirit of the original recordings by a wide-ranging group of artists including Hank Williams III, Los Lobos, Dar Williams, Deana Carter, Ani DiFranco, Son Volt, Ben Harper, Aimee Mann, and Michael Penn. Three additional tracks covered other Springsteen songs in the same vein: Johnny Cash's contribution was "I'm on Fire", a track from Springsteen's best-selling album Born in the U.S.A..
Minneapolis Celtic rock band Boiled in Lead covered "State Trooper" on its 1994 album Antler Dance. Minnesota indie-rock band Halloween, Alaska covered "State Trooper" on its 2004 self-titled debut album. American indie rock band The National performed a live cover of "Mansion on the Hill" in 2008 for the band's The Virginia EP.
In 2012, folk/Americana duo Shovels & Rope released a cover of "Johnny 99", and frequently played the song as the set closer on their North American tour that same year.
Alt-country singer Steve Earle covered "State Trooper" on his live album in 1996 in addition to including a live recording of it on the 2002 reissue of his debut album Guitar Town, and also included a live version of "Nebraska" as the B-side of the "Copperhead Road" single sent to radio stations.Kelly Clarkson compared her effort to move away from mainstream to edgier and more personal music on her third studio album My December to Springsteen's Nebraska.
The song "Highway Patrolman" would provide the inspiration for the motion picture The Indian Runner released in 1991. The film follows the same plot outline as the song, telling the story of a troubled relationship between two brothers; one is a deputy sheriff, the other is a criminal. The Indian Runner was written and directed by Sean Penn, and starred David Morse and Viggo Mortensen.
The short stories in Deliver Me From Nowhere, a book written by Tennessee Jones published in 2005, were inspired by the themes of Nebraska.
All tracks written by Bruce Springsteen.
|3.||"Mansion on the Hill"||4:08|
|8.||"Open All Night"||2:58|
|9.||"My Father's House"||5:07|
|10.||"Reason to Believe"||4:11|
|Canada (Music Canada)||Gold||50,000^|
|United Kingdom (BPI)||Gold||100,000^|
|United States (RIAA)||Platinum||1,000,000^|
*sales figures based on certification alone