Sparsely-recorded on a cassette-tape Portastudio, the tracks 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 catalogue. The songs on Nebraska deal with ordinary, blue collar characters who face a challenge or a turning point in their lives, as with well as outsiders, criminals and mass murderers, who have 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 his previous albums, very little salvation and grace is present within the songs. The album's uncompromising sound and mood, combined with its dark lyrical content has 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."
- 2 Themes
- 3 Critical reception
- 4 Homage
- 5 Track listing
- 6 Unreleased outtakes
- 7 Personnel
- 8 Charts
- 9 Certifications
- 10 References
- 11 External links
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.Springsteen then recorded the album in a studio with the E Street Band. However, he and 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.
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".
"I was just doing songs for the next rock album, and I decided that what always took me so long in the studio was the writing. I would get in there, and I just wouldn't have the material written, or it wasn't written well enough, and so I'd record for a month, get a couple of things, go home write some more, record for another month — it wasn't very efficient. So this time, I got a little Teac four-track cassette machine, and I said, I'm gonna record these songs, and if they sound good with just me doin' 'em, then I'll teach 'em to the band. I could sing and play the guitar, and then I had two tracks to do somethin' else, like overdub a guitar or add a harmony. It was just gonna be a demo. Then I had a littleEchoplex that I mixed through, and that was it. And that was the tape that became the record. It's amazing that it got there, 'cause I was carryin' that cassette around with me in my pocket without a case for a couple of week, just draggin' it around. Finally, we realized, "Uh-oh, that's the album." Technically, it was difficult to get it on a disc. The stuff was recorded so strangely, the needle would read a lot of distortion and wouldn't track in the wax. We almost had to release it as a cassette."
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 (this became the basis for the Sean Penn-directed film The Indian Runner). "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.
|The Rolling Stone Album Guide|||
In 1989, Nebraska was ranked #43 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 100 greatest albums of the 1980s. In 2003, the album was ranked number 224 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 500 greatest albums of all time. Pitchfork Media listed it as the 60th greatest album of the 1980s. In 2006, Q magazine 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".
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 Poplabel 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, andMichael 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 USA.
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. Indie rock band The National recorded a live cover of "Mansion on the Hill" for The Virginia EP. 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 short stories in Deliver Me From Nowhere, a book written by Tennessee Jones published in 2005, were inspired by the themes of Nebraska.
All songs written and composed by Bruce Springsteen.
- Side one
- "Nebraska" – 4:32
- "Atlantic City" – 4:00
- "Mansion on the Hill" – 4:08
- "Johnny 99" – 3:44
- "Highway Patrolman" – 5:40
- "State Trooper" – 3:17
- Side two
- "Used Cars" – 3:11
- "Open All Night" – 2:58
- "My Father's House" – 5:07
- "Reason to Believe" – 4:11
Unlike the previous few albums, Nebraska didn't contain a lot of unreleased material from its sessions. The original solo version of "Born in the U.S.A." was released on Tracks while "The Big Payback" was a b side and eventually released on The Essential Bruce Springsteen. Most of the other unreleased songs can be found through various bootlegs though never have been given a proper and official release.
- Losin' Kind
- Child Bride
- Downbound Train
- Pink Cadillac
- Bruce Springsteen – vocals, guitar, harmonica, mandolin, glockenspiel, tambourine, organ, synthesizer
- Mike Batlin – recording engineer
- David Michael Kennedy – photography
- Dennis King - mastering
- Andrea Klein – design
|Canada (Music Canada)||Gold||50,000^|
|United Kingdom (BPI)||Gold||100,000^|
|United States (RIAA)||Platinum||1,000,000^|
^shipments figures based on certification alone