7 Lesser-Known Bruce Springsteen Songs You Need to Hear

With a career that spans six decades (and counting), Bruce Springsteen has become one of rock ‘n’ roll’s most enduring creators. He’s performed his classic songs everywhere—on stadium stages, during the Super Bowl halftime show, in Broadway theaters—and his ubiquity is matched by his endurance. The guy is simply a force of nature. 

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With more than 20 albums, Springsteen’s catalog includes a number of deep cuts and hidden gems that haven’t received the same attention as his radio singles. Here are seven of those lesser-known songs. 

7. “Girls in Their Summer Clothes”

This Magic highlight was a minor hit, scraping the outermost edges of the Billboard Hot 100 in 2008. It’s a lushly orchestrated pop song about a man’s stroll through small-town America, appreciating the restaurant options (Frankie’s Diner, Pop’s Grill) and the female pedestrians.

“I wanted one thing on the record that was the perfect pop universe,” Springsteen told The New York Times in 2007. “[The song] is the longing, the unrequited longing for that perfect world.” Despite its lack of commercial success, “Girls in Their Summer Clothes” won a Grammy Award for Best Rock Song in 2009—a triumph that surprised everyone, including Springsteen himself. “I didn’t even know I was up for a Grammy!” he told MTV News. “I opened the newspaper on Monday and saw that I had won, and thought, ‘Well, that’s great!'”

6. “Out in the Streets”

Hardcore fans will surely know “Out in the Streets,” which is one of Springsteen’s 10 most-played songs in concert. Casual listeners may have overlooked this live staple from The River, however. Sandwiched between “Hungry Heart” and “Crush on You,” it’s one of the brightest moments on the album, with an irresistible pop chorus—When I’m out in the street, whoa oh oh oh oh!—that’s perfect for crowd singalongs. No wonder it’s become such an integral part of Springsteen’s live set, with more than 750 performances since its debut in 1980.

5. “All That Heaven Will Allow”

The Mavericks’ cover of “All That Heaven Will Allow” was a hit in 1995, reaching No. 49 on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart. Springsteen’s original recording wasn’t even released as a single, but that didn’t stop it from becoming one of the highlights from Tunnel of Love. On an album filled with songs about broken promises and rocky relationships, “All That Heaven Will Allow” was something different: a sunny love song that finds its narrator standing outside a dance club, bribing the bouncer to let him through the doors, electrified by the promise of the woman who awaits him inside.

[RELATED: The 39 Best Bruce Springsteen Quotes]

4. “Jackson Cage”

Located 15 miles south of Freehold, New Jersey, where Springsteen grew up, Jackson Township serves as the setting for “Jackson Cage.” It’s one of the hardest-hitting (and under-appreciated) songs on The River, with lyrics that detail the hardscrabble life of a woman in the northeast. She just melts away like the scenery in another man’s play, Springsteen sings during the first verse, while the E Street Band plays breakneck, bar-band rock ‘n’ roll behind him. “Jackson Cage” made its debut during the first night of The River Tour and has only been played 121 times since as of this writing. 

3. “Youngstown”

“Youngstown” traces the rise and fall of an industrial town in Ohio. The narrator is a Vietnam vet who, like his father, returns to the Rust Belt and takes a job at the local steel mill, only to watch in dismay as the factory shuts down during the late 1970s. It’s a haunting piece of historical fiction, originally released as a stark, sparse ballad on The Ghost of Tom Joad. Several years after the album’s 1995 release, Springsteen reconvened the E Street Band and added “Youngstown” to the band’s reunion tour setlists. That electrifying version—which peaks with Nils Lofgren’s guitar solo—is arguably the song’s definitive performance and can be heard on Live in New York City.

2. “Meeting Across the River”

Springsteen assembled an all-star cast for this deep cut from Born to Run. Upright bassist Richard Davis had played on Van Morrison’s Astral Weeks. Trumpet veteran Randy Brecker had toured with Art Blakey and Stevie Wonder. Paired with Roy Bittan’s upright piano and Bruce Springsteen’s vocals, those instruments turned “Meeting Across the River” into a jazz number fit for a Broadway musical or a film noir. Even the lyrics were theatrical, highlighting a snippet of conversation between two criminals who’re gearing up for a big job. Springsteen played “Meeting Across the River” less than 15 times during the 1970s and didn’t revisit the song until 1999, making it the least-performed track from Born to Run

1. “Downbound Train”

During the mid-1980s, seven of Born in the U.S.A.‘s 12 tracks became Top 10 hits on the Billboard Hot 100. “Downbound Train” wasn’t one of them, but the song’s spectacular third verse—a haunting, dreamlike section that finds Max Weinberg laying down his drumsticks, allowing Roy Bittan’s ghostly synthesizer to drive the momentum instead—makes this song the long-lost hit that got away. 

Photo by M. Von Holden/FilmMagic

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