Meaning of Thunder Road by Bruce Springsteen & The Story Behind

The first two albums of Bruce Springsteen, published on the Columbia label, were not commercially successful. The company’s management took a risk again and did not lose. The musician recorded the record Born to Run, which topped the charts, sold millions of copies, got into all sorts of ratings and made the singer one of the most influential representatives of the global rock scene.

The album opens with Thunder Road. It reflected the mood of the author, who understood that this was his last chance, which he had no right to miss.

The story of creation and the meaning of the song Thunder Road

The lyrics and music were written by Bruce Springsteen.

The author explained what the ballad “Road of Thunder” is about.

The music sounds like an invitation. Something opens up to you… When I wrote the song, I hoped it would show what I got out of rock and roll: a sense of a more meaningful life, a larger experience, more frequent and good sex, a sense of celebration, more celebration, a sense of personal research, opportunities… the realization that all this is somewhere inside you.

VH1 Storytellers, 2005

This is my important appeal to the audience, to myself, to all those interested. My invitation to go on a long and very hectic journey. Hopefully in the company of the one you love, the people you love, and in search of a home that you can feel a part of.

An early version of the song was called Wings for Wheels. Springsteen performed it at a concert in Pennsylvania on February 5, 1975.

Bruce later changed the title but used the phrase “wings for wheels” in the song’s lyrics.

He borrowed the phrase Thunder Road from the film of the same name by Arthur Ripley, starring Robert Mitchum.

Bruce acknowledged the crime drama as an inspiration, but added:

I haven’t watched this movie. I just saw the poster in the lobby of the cinema.

In the working versions, the main character was called Christina and Angelina. The author also changed some lines. Max Weinberg is said to have persuaded Springsteen to make the lyrics to Thunder Road more upbeat and life-affirming.

Recording Thunder Road

The track was recorded at The Record Plant in New York. Bruce Springsteen recalled:

We were going to do a guitar album, but then I wrote all the songs on piano.

In addition to Springsteen, Garry Tallent (bass), Max Weinberg (drums), Roy Bittan (piano) and Clarence Clemons (saxophone) took part in the songwriting. Mike Appel and Steve Van Zandt provided background vocals.

Release and achievements

The public heard Thunder Road on the album Born to Run, released on August 25, 1975. The track was not released as a single.

The track fell in love with the listeners and for a long time became an indispensable element of Bruce Springsteen’s live performances.

The composition is included in several ratings of the best songs of our time, including the following:

  • 885 All-Time Greatest Songs – University of Pennsylvania radio station;
  • 500 Greatest Songs of All Time – Rolling Stone magazine;
  • 1001 Greatest Songs Ever – Q Magazine

Video of Thunder Road – Bruce Springsteen

The music video for the song “Thunder Road” was not filmed. Watch a video of Bruce Springsteen performing an acoustic version of Thunder Road.

Interesting Facts

  • Thunder Road also opens with Bruce Springsteen’s live album Hammersmith Odeon London 1975. It was recorded during the musician’s first performance in Europe.
  • In the sci-fi movie The Explorers, the spaceship Thunder Road is named after the song.
  • Bruce Springsteen performed Thunder Road at the funeral of James Berger. He worked at the World Trade Center and, immediately after the 9/11 attacks, helped people get out of the building until he died under the rubble. James was a fan of Springsteen and called Thunder Road his favorite song.
  • Actress Julia Roberts said she was best described by a line from Thunder Road: “You ain’t a beauty, but hey, you’re alright.” ).
  • In November 2016, Springsteen sang Thunder Road at a concert during the Hillary Clinton campaign.
  • In 2016, director Jim Cummings named the short film Thunder Road after the song. In 2018, he presented a full-length sequel, released under the same name.

Thunder Road Bruce Springsteen Lyrics

The screen door slams, Mary’s dress waves
Like a vision she dances across the porch as the radio plays
Roy Orbison singing for the lonely
Hey, that’s me and I want you only
Don’t turn me home again
I just can’t face myself alone again
Don’t run back inside, darling
You know just what I’m here for
So you’re scared and you’re thinking that maybe
We ain’t that young anymore
Show a little faith, there’s magic in the night
You ain’t a beauty but, hey, you’re alright
Oh, and that’s alright with me

You can hide ‘neath your covers and study your pain
Make crosses from your lovers, throw roses in the rain
Waste your summer prayers in vain
For a savior to rise from these streets
Well now, I ain’t no hero, that’s understood
All the redemption I can offer, girl, is beneath this dirty hood
With a chance to make it good somehow
Hey, what else can we do now?
Except roll down the window and let the wind blow back your hair
Well, the night’s busting open, these two lanes will take us anywhere
We got one last chance to make it real
To trade in these wings on some wheels
Climb in back, heaven’s waiting on down the tracks

Oh oh come take my hand
We’re riding out tonight to case the promised land
Oh oh oh oh Thunder Road
Oh, Thunder Road, oh, Thunder Road
Lying out there like a killer in the sun
Hey, I know it’s late, we can make it if we run
Oh oh oh oh Thunder Road
Sit tight, take hold, Thunder Road

Well, I got this guitar and I learned how to make it talk
And my car’s out back if you’re ready to take that long walk
From your front porch to my front seat
The door’s open but the ride ain’t free
And I know you’re lonely for words that I ain’t spoken
But tonight we’ll be free, all the promises’ll be broken

There were ghosts in the eyes of all the boys you sent away
They haunt this dusty beach road in the skeleton frames of burned-out Chevrolets
They scream your name at night in the street
Your graduation gown lies in rags at their feet
And in the lonely cool before dawn
You hear their engines roaring on
But when you get to the porch, they’re gone on the wind
So Mary, climb in
It’s a town full of losers,
I’m pulling out of here to win

Don Raye/Robert Mitchum
© Universal Music Publishing Group

Lyrics of Thunder Road Bruce Springsteen Alternate

The door slams, Mary’s dress flutters.
Like a vision, she dances on the porch to the sound of the radio.
Roy Orbison sings for the lonely
Hey, it’s me and I only want you.
Don’t send me back home
I can’t be alone with myself again.
Don’t run inside darling
You know why I’m here.
Are you scared and think maybe
We are not so young anymore.
Show a little faith, the night is full of magic.
You’re not pretty, but hey, you’re fine
Oh, and it suits me.

You can hide under the covers and delve into your pain
Cross out the names of lovers, throw roses in the rain
Wasting your summer in vain, praying in vain
About the savior who will appear on these streets.

So, I’m not a hero, that’s understandable.
All redemption I can offer, girl, is under that dirty hood.
There is also a chance to change everything for the better.
Hey, what else can we do?
We just have to lower the glass and let the wind blow your hair.
The night opens before us, these two lanes will take us anywhere.
This is our last chance to make the dream come true
Swap those fenders for wheels.
Get in the back seat, heaven is waiting for us at the end of the road.

Oh-oh, grab my hand
Tonight we’re leaving for the promised land
Oh-oh-oh-oh, thunder road
Oh thunder road, oh thunder road
Stretching like a killer under the sun
Hey, I know it’s late, but we’ll make it if we run.
Oh-oh-oh-oh, thunder road
Buckle up and hold on, thunder road.

I have this guitar and I know how to make it talk
And my car is back there if you’re ready to go the long way
From your front porch to my front seat.
The door is open, but the ride is not free.
I know you yearn for the words I didn’t say.
But today we will be free, and all promises will be broken.

There were ghosts in the eyes of all the guys you sent away.
They live in the carcasses of burned-out Chevrolets on this dusty beach road.
They scream your name in the night street.
The tatters of your prom dress are lying around and their legs,
And in the lonely predawn chill
You hear the roar of engines.
But when you go out on the porch, they are carried away with the wind.
So, Mary, get inside.
This city is full of losers
I’m leaving here to win.

  • Reference to Roy Orbison’s song Only the Lonely


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