Bruce Springsteen, “Jungleland”

Videos by American Songwriter

Videos by American Songwriter

Bruce Springsteen

Born To Run, Bruce Springsteen’s most enduring and essential album, ends with “Jungleland,” a nine-and-a-half-minute-long sweeping epic that captures a slice of street life in New Jersey, circa 1975. It portrays a world of action, romance, and danger, where “midnight gangs assemble,” “lonely-hearted lovers struggle in dark corners” and “soul engines [run] through a night so tender.” Springsteen was at his poetic peak here: before he changed his writing style to capture the gritty working life realities found on Darkness On The Edge of Town, he cashed in his last “Next Dylan” dollar on Born To Run’s lyrical cache.

With four separate sections, “Jungleland” is Springsteen’s most intricate piece of music, and features one of the late Clarence Clemons’ most moving and lyrical solos. Professor Roy Bittan’s delicate piano work and Suki Lahav’s violin intro are other audio hallmarks.

“Jungleland” has become a live staple of the E Street Band’s repertoire, and ranks high on any true Springsteen fan’s greatest hits list.

During their show in Anaheim, California on June 19, U2 added a snippet of “Jungleland” to their song “Moment Of Surrender” in tribute to Clemons.

“Jungleland”

The rangers had a homecoming in Harlem late last night
And the Magic Rat drove his sleek machine over the Jersey state line
Barefoot girl sitting on the hood of a Dodge
Drinking warm beer in the soft summer rain
The Rat pulls into town rolls up his pants
Together they take a stab at romance and disappear down Flamingo Lane
Well the Maximum Lawman run down Flamingo chasing the Rat and the barefoot girl
And the kids round here look just like shadows always quiet, holding hands
From the churches to the jails tonight all is silence in the world
As we take our stand down in Jungleland

The midnight gang’s assembled and picked a rendezvous for the night
They’ll meet ‘neath that giant Exxon sign that brings this fair city light
Man there’s an opera out on the Turnpike
There’s a ballet being fought out in the alley
Until the local cops, Cherry Tops, rips this holy night
The street’s alive as secret debts are paid
Contacts made, they vanished unseen
Kids flash guitars just like switch-blades hustling for the record machine
The hungry and the hunted explode into rock’n’roll bands
That face off against each other out in the street down in Jungleland

In the parking lot the visionaries dress in the latest rage
Inside the backstreet girls are dancing to the records that the D.J. plays
Lonely-hearted lovers struggle in dark corners
Desperate as the night moves on, just a look and a whisper, and they’re gone

Beneath the city two hearts beat
Soul engines running through a night so tender in a bedroom locked
In whispers of soft refusal and then surrender in the tunnels uptown
The Rat’s own dream guns him down as shots echo down them hallways in the night
No one watches when the ambulance pulls away
Or as the girl shuts out the bedroom light

Outside the street’s on fire in a real death waltz
Between flesh and what’s fantasy and the poets down here
Don’t write nothing at all, they just stand back and let it all be
And in the quick of the night they reach for their moment
And try to make an honest stand but they wind up wounded, not even dead
Tonight in Jungleland

Copyright © Bruce Springsteen (ASCAP)

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