Does Bruce Springsteen sing waves or sway on “Thunder Road”
The internet does not seem to know the correct lyrics to Bruce Springsteen’s “Thunder Road”. Springsteen may not know that either.
The latest niche Twitter controversy began on July 3, when New York Times political reporter Maggie Haberman tweeted a photo of an empty theater stage and the words “A screen door slams, Mary’s dress swings.” Followers understood that she was attending Springsteen’s solo show on Broadway and quickly berated her for mutilating the lyrics.
“A little crazy, you messed up both lines,” @hansbungle growled. And it seems clear that Haberman made at least one mistake: the song begins with “The screen door slams.” But what about the second line? Haberman rendered it, presumably from memory, as “oscillations.” Some tweeters insist she is right, while others indignantly claim the lyrics are “the waves of Mary’s dress” and demand correction or even summary execution. “Thunder Road” is the epic dawn song that starts off “Born to Run,” the 1975 album that made Springsteen a star, and it’s such an expensive song people find it to be. worth discussing.
The strand even reached Springsteen’s bandmate and longtime friend Stevie Van Zandt, who tweeted: “Oy vey! Get that shit of Bruce lyrics out of my feed! “
Springsteen himself has carefully dispelled any doubt on the matter. In the original design of the “Born to Run” gatefold album, the lyrics are printed: “Mary’s dress waves. The CD reissue booklet says the same. So does its official website, brucespringsteen.net, and its official songbook, “Bruce Springsteen: Songs.” And right here on the page 220 of his hit memoir ‘Born to Run’, Springsteen puts an end to the argument. “‘Screen door slams, Mary’s dress swings’ – that’s a good opening line,” he writes. And there you have it, case closed, no need to continue this ridiculous –
Either Springsteen got the lyrics wrong in his own memoir, or he and his notoriously fastidious management team regularly signed badly printed lyrics. Both scenarios seem unlikely.
We like to think that the days when rock lyrics were a mystery are gone, and a person could live for years thinking that Jimi Hendrix sang “Excuse me while I kiss this guy” and Creedence Clearwater Revival saw a room. bath right. A plethora of lyric sites take the guesswork out and settle the barroom arguments.
The popular lyric sites Genius.com and AZlyrics.com use “sways”, but these sites sometimes perpetuate incorrect lyrics, which then spread to other, smaller lyric sites. In 2019, Sotheby’s auctioned off Springsteen’s handwritten lyrics for $ 62,500. On the page, in cursive, Springsteen wrote: “The screen door slams Anne’s dress swings.” More evidence for “sways” except that Springsteen was a compulsive rewriter, and Anne’s name makes it clear that these were only draft lyrics. In other versions of the song, he tried out the names Angelina and Chrissie before choosing Mary.
When he starred in the VH1 Storyteller series in 2005 and read the lyrics out loud, he almost certainly said “. ” At other times he seems to be reluctantly singing a vague “way. ” Springsteen is not one of the great enunciators of rock, and because “dress” ends with a whistle S, “suh-ways “is difficult to distinguish from” suh-waves “.
“I can’t believe this is even up for debate,” says Caryn Rose, author of the 2012 book “Raise Your Hand: Adventures of an American Springsteen Fan in Europe” and longtime contributor to Backstreets, a Springsteen fanzine. “Mary’s dress is wavy. People who hear “swings” should go get their ears cleaned.
Rose remembers hearing the debate as early as 1999, in groups on Usenet, an Internet chat system. “It’s old. And it resurfaces from time to time. But for me, the matter is settled.
Mike Appel was Springsteen’s manager during the “Born to Run” era. “I heard him sing it I don’t know how many times, and it was always ‘sways’,” said the 78-year-old. He submitted the lyrics when he recorded the song with the US Copyright Office. When I mention that the album says “waves”, he is surprised. “Really? Maybe I was wrong, but I’m pretty sure these are ‘swings’.
“I sang ‘sway, ‘“Says singer and violin player Sara Watkins, who covered” Thunder Road “on the 2019 Springsteen tribute album” Born to Uke. “But listening to the record again, knowing it’s a contentious point, I am 100% sure he sings ‘waves’. ‘ It’s a much richer picture – you imagine a breeze, you get a picture of the day. I guess I missed it, ”she concludes with a laugh.
Melissa Etheridge didn’t just cover “Thunder Road”, she duet it with Springsteen in her 1995 episode of MTV Unplugged. “I’m still singing, ‘Mary’s dress’ makes waves, ‘” she says. “I even talked about the lyrics with Bruce. We practiced the song and divided ourselves up who would sing what. In the middle he said, ‘Dude, there’s no chorus in this song! The words go on and on! ‘ But he would have told me if it wasn’t waves. ‘ He would have said, ‘You sing badly, honey.’ So it’s definitely “waves”.
The songwriters who covered the song agree that there is a significant difference between the two words. “My wife and I just discussed this,” Etheridge says. ” ” Balance “ is more feminine. ” ” Balance “ is sexier, ”adds country star Eric Church.
“Thunder Road” is Church Springsteen’s favorite song. “It had cinematic quality. It was visual – more than anything else, I could see it. It was more like a book or a movie than a song. Travel, freedom, despair, they’re all in there.
Church covered “Thunder Road” in concert for several years, as a prelude to his most beloved original song, “Springsteen”. “I think Bruce is singing ‘waves. ‘ But it could also be ‘sways. ‘ I sang it back and forth, ”he says. It’s not very helpful, Eric. Urged on to make a choice, Church laughs. “If I grabbed a guitar now, I’d make waves.‘ Final answer. “
“I’ve probably sung this song a thousand times,” says San Francisco rocker Matt Nathanson, “and I’ve always sung ‘sways. ‘ It is an infinitely better word. When you hear “waves” you see Central America. ‘Waves’ I feel like Indiana, and “sway” it feels like New Jersey.
Frank Turner, a British singer-songwriter (“I prefer the term artist”), first heard Springsteen as a child, back in the “Born in the USA” era, and considered the singer “completely ersatz and cheesy. “. His mind began to change when a friend gave him a copy of “Nebraska”, the austere and spooky predecessor of “Born in the USA”. And since hearing Springsteen do a stripped-down version of “Thunder Road” on VH1 Storyteller, “this is a contestant for my all-time favorite song. This is the song my wife stepped on in the gone when we got married.
Turner came up with a clever solution to the sway against waves debate: “I have been known to sing ostensibly ‘waves’. It’s a happy medium. Like centrism, nobody likes it. In concert, he adds, when he sings’ swaves’, some fans shout “It’s’ sways!” While others shout “It’s ‘waves!’ “
The baby boomers, who probably owned the first presses of “Born to Run” on vinyl and memorized the lyrics while cleaning the pot in the gatefold, came close to an original rendition. “Waves. Let the argument froth and fly,” David Simon, creator of “The Wire,” tweeted. Maggie Haberman, who is Gen X, doubled down on her response to Simon: “It’s swings.” Simon para: “There is the lyrics sheet on the original album. Which sort of solves the problem.
Unless, of course, not.
There are two approaches that don’t require us to choose one word and banish the other. The first is to embrace the postmodern opposition to interpretation (to interpret a text, wrote Roland Barthes in 1967, “is to impose a limit on this text”) and to accept it as an infinite mystery. “Once you release a song, you no longer have control over it. It’s up to the listener to interpret, ”says Sara Watkins. “It’s a little terrifying, but it’s also wonderful.” Poetry, she adds, is not just the words on a page, it’s what the poem makes the reader feel. A poem does not exist until someone reads it.
There is only one person who could end the conversation, but through a spokesperson, Springsteen declined to comment. “It’s almost like he doesn’t want us to know for sure,” Watkins recalls.
Matt Nathanson has a theory that sidesteps all the hubbub as well. Springsteen, he says, is a fabulist. He refers to a confession Bruce made in his Broadway show: “I come from a town where everything is tinged with a little bit of fraud,” he says. “So I am.” Later, Springsteen adds, “I’ve never seen the interior of a factory, yet that’s all I’ve ever written about. … I made it all up.
“Springsteen was created out of thin air,” says Nathanson. “I’m sure he knew he made a mistake, and he wants to rewrite the song as it should. ‘I wrote’ waves’ and I’m going to say I wrote ‘sways’, and people are going to believe it.’ He clung to the “waves” as long as he could, but he realized the ‘scales’ was better. “
“It’s his song,” said Turner, “and it’s up to him to do what he wants with it.”
Maggie Haberman conceded to David Simon shortly after her original tweet, possibly prematurely. We may never resolve this part. But it’s delicious that there are still questions Siri and Alexa can’t answer, and that people are fervently arguing over rock lyrics from over 45 years ago.