The 20 best songs from Bruce Springsteen’s CD boxset “Tracks” according to JV – part 2


What’s really the most amazing thing about this vast collection is that there really isn’t a bad song on it – Bruce Springsteen’s outtakes and leftovers are better than most artists’ released album tracks.


When we first started this task of finding the 20 best tracks off Tracks I was sure it would be an enjoyable but easy endevour. Not so.


They’re all so goddam good!


It took a lot longer than expected, and it was much more fun!



…and here are the rest from 10 to 1:


10. Janey don’t you lose heart:

You got your book baby with all your fears
Let me, honey, and I’ll catch your tears
I’ll take your sorrow if you want me to
Come tomorrow that’s what I’ll do
Listen to me
Recorded June 16 in 1983. Great track from the Born in the USA sessions. Steve Van Zandt on guitar and background vocals. When the song was being readied for release as the B-side to “I’m Goin’ Down” in 1985,  Nils Lofgren went into a studio and replaced Van Zandt’s vocal track.


Like “My Love Will Not Let You Down,” this was also on side two of Landau’s suggested track listing for Born in the U.S.A.  “Janey” has been played in concert ten times (5 times on the Rising tour). Clarence Clemons’ name is not on the credits on the box set but obviously he participates, and he magnificently plays on the song.

Live in Los Angeles 1985:

Here’s a great version from the Devils and Dust tour (2005) solo/piano:

9. Loose Ends

We met out on open streets
when we had no place to go
I remember how my heart beat
when you said I love you so
Then little by little we choked
out all the life that our love could hold
Oh no
Recorded June 18 in 1979 (The Power Station, NYC)- “The River” outtake.
If Bruce had released “The Ties That Bind” in 1979… it would have been the last track on that record. It would have been a magnificent album closer… but as the album grew into a double.. and new (and darker) songs came along.. Loose Ends was dumped.

Tracks version:

After checking out many live takes on youtube… I and up with this from Philadelphia (Wachovia Spectrum on October 20, 2009). In my view, the Magic/Working on a Dream tour versions is generally stronger than the Reunion tour versions.

8. My love will not let you down:

At night I go to bed but I just can’t sleep
I got something runnin’ around my head
oh that just won’t keep
In the silence I hear my heart beatin’,
time slippin’ away

One of the best Born In The USA outtakes, recorded on 05 May 1982 at The Hit Factory, New York City, NY, and published on Tracks and 18 Tracks. It became a big hit in the Reunion tour, and was included on Live In New York City (CD/DVD).

According to Dave Marsh’s book Glory Days, this song opened side two of Jon Landau’s first suggested track sequence for the album (Born in the USA).

Note that a demo acoustic tape containing MY LOVE WILL NOT LET YOU DOWN was recorded in early 1981, during a break in the latter part of The River.

The song was live debuted on 18 Mar 1999 Convention Hall, Asbury Park, NJ, during a warm up rehearsal for the Reunion tour. Also performed during another warm up rehearsal on the next day and at the same location. Played 41 times during the tour.

Tracks version:

Performed 30 times during The Rising tour, starting 09 Dec 2002 at USC Arena, Columbia, SC. The last known performance was on 27 Sep 2003 at Miller Park, Milwaukee, WI, during that tour.

Bruce Springsteen “My Love Will Not Let You Down” Live in NYC official concert DVD, very good version:

7. When you need me:

When you need me call my name
‘Cause without you my life just wouldn’t be the same
If you want me come sunny skies or rain
When you need me just call my name

Tunnel of Love outtake. Recorded on 20 Jan 1987 at Thrill Hill Recording.

It is the earliest Tunnel of Love recording on Tracks. “When You Need Me” is a  declaration of love and commitment. Max Weinberg was the only credited drummer on the Tunnel of Love album, therefore it is safe to assume that Gary Mallaber (drummer in Van Morrison’s band), recorded his drum part on “When You Need Me” relatively recently, that is likely the case as well with Soozie Tyrell’s violin (all according to the Backstreet liner notes)

“Both ‘When You Need Me,’ which once again borrowed a lot from both country and gospel, and ‘Lucky Man’ were very close to making it onto Tunnel of Love, but in the end it felt like the story I was trying to tell was complete, so they were left off.”

– Bruce Springsteen to POP magazine in 1998

Tracks version:

I can not find any information about the song beeing played live.

6. Stolen Car

Well I found me a little girl and I settled down
In a pretty little house in a pretty little town
We got married and promised never to part
Then little by little we drifted from each other’s hearts
Now I’m drivin’ a stolen car on a pitch-black night
And I’m doin’ my best to make it through

Recorded @ The Power Station on July 26, 1979.

This version is sometimes referred to as the “Son you may kiss the bride” version.. It’s an early version of the song which was first released on “The River” in 1980.

Bruce tells (as many other times) a story about a guy struggling to find meaning in his life, life just fades away…

“Stolen car is about a guy who felt disconnected and felt that he was fading away, disappearing..felt invisible. Growing up, I felt invisible. And that feeling is an enormous source of pain for people. ”
– Bruce Springsteen to MOJO Magazine

Good article on Wikipedia -> Stolen Car @ Wikipedia

Here are two live versions (“River versions”)..

Live at Oakland Stadium in Oakland, CA on September 18, 1985:

Live 15 May 2005 – Cleveland – Solo with Piano:

5. Back in your arms

In my dream our love was lost,
I lived by luck and fate
I carried you inside of me,
prayed it wouldn’t be too late
Now I’m standin’ on this empty road where nothin’ moves but the wind
And honey I just wanna be back in your arms
Back in your arms again
Back in your arms
Back in your arms again

Recorded on Jan 12 1995 at The Hit Factory NY
Live debut on 04 Aug 1999, East Rutherford, NJ.

Lovely soul ballad with great Bruce vocal.

We have to share the “Blood Brothers” DVD clip.
The Vocal here is even better than on tracks…

Live version from Bergen – 2009
(a concert both JV’s attended)

4. The Fever

When I get home from my job, I turn on the TV
But I can’t keep my mind on the show
When I lay down at night, I don’t get no sleep
So I turn on the radio
But Lord, the only thing I hear is you
whisperin’ in my ear
The words that you used to say
Well now the days grow longer
My love grows stronger
The fever gets worse every day
I got the fever for this girl

Outtake from “The Wild, the Innocent & the E Street Shuffle” recorded on May 16, 1973 @ 914 Sound Studios, NYC & probably written in 1971.

Slow, loose, moody, piano based R&B… lovely singing from Bruce. Probably considered too R&B’ish for the album..

In 1976, the song was covered and made famous by Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes who released it on their album I Don’t Want To Go Home.

Stunning “live in radio studio” version from 1974:
radio broadcast KLOL-FM Station, in Houston, Texas on March 8/1974

And off course.. the Houston December 8 – 1978 version:

3. Sad eyes:

Every day here you come walking
I hold my tongue, I don’t do much talking
You say you’re happy and you’re doin’ fine
Well go ahead, baby, I got plenty of time
Sad eyes never lie

Human Touch / Lucky Town outtake. It was recorded on the 25th of January in 1990 at Soundworks West, Los Angeles.
 In addition to beeing released on Tracks it was also released on several singles in 1998 and 1999. Springsteen told  Rolling Stone magazine that he tried to write something soul- oriented, to me it sounds like it could have been on the Tunnel of love album (a country feel), great bittersweet song that has been covered by many artists.
Tracks version:

First played live in 2005, 23th of July – Philips Arena, Atlanta, GA
(according to Brucebase), here’s a video of the event:

2. The Wish

Dirty old street all slushed up in the rain and snow
Little boy and his ma shivering outside a rundown music store window
That night on top of a Christmas tree shines one beautiful star
And lying underneath a brand-new Japanese guitar

Tunnel of Love outtake recorded on February 22, 1987 @ Thrill Hill Recording, Rumson, NJ

That’s a song I wrote for Tunnel of Love,
and it’s probably as directly autobiographical as I’ve ever gotten.
That may be why it didn’t get on the record. It was a combination of having recently gotten married and thinking about my mom.
– Bruce Springsteen (Los Angeles Times interview, 1998)

Live debuted @ Christic Institute Benefit show on 17 Nov 1990 at Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles, CA. The circulating soundboard recordings from this concert is a MUST for any Springsteen fan.

So I have to start with this version:

@ at The Convention Hall, Asbury Park NJ on December 8/2003
GREAT intro from Bruce.
“…This is a risky song if you’re in the Rock business… generally you can write about your mama if you’re in Country Music.. that’s all right…”

Well, this song (the studio version in particular) sure sounds very “Country” to me, and I’m not talking about the lyrics..:-) 

…and we also have to include the studio version from TRACKS:


1. The Promise

This time we’re “all in” lyrics wise:

Johnny works in a factory and Billy works downtown
Terry works in a rock and roll band
Lookin’ for that million-dollar sound
I got a little job down in Darlington
But some nights I don’t go
Some nights I go to the drive-in, or some nights I stay home
I followed that dream just like those guys do up on the screen
And I drive a Challenger down Route 9 through the dead ends and all the bad scenes
And when the promise was broken, I cashed in a few of my dreams

Well now I built that Challenger by myself
But I needed money and so I sold it
I lived a secret I should’a kept to myself
But I got drunk one night and I told it
All my life I fought this fight
The fight that no man can never win
Every day it just gets harder to live
This dream I’m believing in
Thunder Road, oh baby you were so right
Thunder Road there’s something dyin’ on the highway tonight

I won big once and I hit the coast
But somehow I paid the big cost
Inside I felt like I was carryin’ the broken spirits
Of all the other ones who lost
When the promise is broken you go on living
But it steals something from down in your soul
Like when the truth is spoken and it don’t make no difference
Something in your heart goes cold
I followed that dream through the southwestern flats
That dead ends in two-bit bars
And when the promise was broken I was far away from home
Sleepin’ in the back seat of a borrowed car
Thunder Road, for the lost lovers and all the fixed games
Thunder Road, for the tires rushing by in the rain
Thunder Road, Billy and me we’d always say
Thunder Road, we were gonna take it all and throw it all away

Recorded 12 Feb 1999 @ Thrill Hill Recording (Springsteen’s home studio) in Colts Neck, NJ

-> Check out Hallgeir’s post: “The Best Songs: The Promise

“The Promise” was originally recorded in 1977 for Bruce’s “Darkness On The Edge Of Town” album, but circumstances (ongoing trial with former manager Mike Appel) “forced” Bruce to leave it out of the album… too bad.. it would have made one of the greatest albums ever.. even better.

The reason was that Bruce felt critics would misinterpret the song and connect it with his relationship with Mr. Appel.. Even though some writers still insists on the connection.. I’m with Bruce on this one.

The song would have been perfect for “Darkness On The Edge Of Town”.. it’s a dark ballad that pays homage to all the lost souls out there..

My fav version is from the “Live In New York City” DVD:


and we need to include the 19.09.1978 (my fav Springsteen concert) version as well:

 Spotify playlist

We will be posting our individual lists shortly…

-Hallgeir & Egil

12 thoughts on “The 20 best songs from Bruce Springsteen’s CD boxset “Tracks” according to JV – part 2”

  1. Yes, we know, and that was the reason we included 18 Tracks in our post (in Part 1) , but I do remember that I was a bit irritated, having to buy that compilation after I bought the box set.

    – Hallgeir

  2. I enjoyed reading what you wrote. It should me noted, though, that “The Promise” and “The Fever” are not part of the TRACKS box-set. They were released on the single CD 18 TRACKS. This was some cause for consternation for many Springsteen fans.

  3. Hi Markus & thanks for your great comment.

    Let me start with the easy part…
    I agree that Dylan’s Tell-Tale Signs & Bootleg Series 1-3 are better and more satisfying than “Tracks” (Bob Dylan is after all my fav artist (check “about us”)… by far really).
    I also agree that “Tracks” don’t contain any Blind Willie McTell/Red River Shore .. but “18 tracks” version of “The Promise” was a great “unknown” version at least (although rather fresh).

    We have not cross-checked the outtakes vs. included songs on released albums and made our own tracklists sequence, although that would have been great fun… Our enthusiasm is more of the “General” kind… We feel there could easily have been a couple of great official albums in here.

    I also agree that Tracks has it’s share of “not-that-good” songs, but not a busload 😉

    Please check out our upcoming personal lists (will be published shortly), they are actually rahter different.

    This is my opinon… Hallgeir might disagree.

    BTW… What we really need is an official release of the “Passaic 09/19/1978” concert. .. and many other concerts. Bruce should, and hopefully will, take after “Rolling Stones Archive”.

  4. I’m a big Springsteen fan and was very excited prior to the release of Tracks.
    But I cannot share in your enthusiastic assessment of it. Sure, there are some beautiful songs in the collection and you certainly picked some favorites (Frankie, Loose Ends, Brothers Under The Bridge) but overall, to me, Tracks largely delivered proof that Springsteen’s instincts about what to put on a record and what to leave off were right in the first place.
    To my ears, The Darkness outtakes on The Promise are vastly superior to the majority of the Tracks material.
    I also find Bob Dylan’s Tell-Tale Signs and Bootleg Series 1-3 as well as Tom Petty’s Playback box much more satisfying than Tracks.
    Tracks gives interesting insight into Springsteen’s work process and has its share of lovely songs but, boy, there certainly are a busload of clunkers and very mediocre recordings on this as well (Goin’ Cali, Part Man Part Monkey etc.).
    And there really aren’t any heretofore unknown, mind-blowing jewels on this like we find among Dylan’s outtakes (Blind Willie McTell, Girl From The Red River Shore).

  5. Santa Ana is a great song, but it didn’t make mine or Egil’s list. Like a lot of great songs we had to leave it off.

    I will however take a good hard listen to it again, maybe it should have been on the list.

    – Hallgeir

  6. Hard to understand how Santa Anna doesn’t make the list. This track would have fit perfectly on the Wild and the Innocent–in fact, it’s hard to believe Bruce left it off to begin with.

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