I have a theory.
Before I share this theory, I should disclose that I am neither a mathematician, a scientist, nor a musician. I don’t really understand statistics and only barely do I grasp the scientific method (I mean, I get it, but I don’t ever use it unless I’m trying to figure out why my cat sometimes barfs a lot). I am in no way qualified to form theories at all, let alone to be so convinced that this one is correct.
Except I know that it is.
My theory is this:
“Thunder Road” is the greatest pop song of all time.
I know I might be in the minority here. There are plenty of people who would point to the Beatles, Michael Jackson, or whatever contrarian hipstery shit they forgot they learned from High Fidelity. There are a few idiots who would try to convince the world that modern pop is more transcendent and swear on their Lady Gaga, Katy Perry, and Britney concert special/autobiography/attempts at humanization DVDs.
But those people are wrong. Everyone else is wrong. “Thunder Road” is the greatest pop song of all time, followed by Queen’s “Somebody to Love,” which is followed by Elton John’s “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road,” which is followed by every track on the Rolling Stones’ “Exile on Main Street.” Which is then followed by roughly ¼ of T. Rex’s “Electric Warrior.” Give or take. Maybe I just adore that album.
“Thunder Road” is also the opening track on the best Springsteen album of all time. I know everyone else loves “Born in the USA,” but from the content to the cover photo to the absolute brilliance of this dude’s third fucking album that’s stood solidly up since 1975, “Born to Run” captures Bruce Springsteen in a rare moment, one in which he was establishing himself as an icon but didn’t even know it yet.
I mean, look at this guy. Lookit him! What a minstrel! What a rogue! What an adorably gifted genius who probably struck this pose a thousand times in a thousand bars up and down the dive circuit. And then he did it for the album, and even though Clarence Clemons only appeared on the inner cover, the respect and familiarity are still there. Damn. I mean goddamn.
Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band were relatively small time in 1975, hanging on with the Jersey crowd but not yet widely popular or commercially viable. Still, record contracts being a holy compassionate relic compared to what they are now, “Born to Run” got made and from its piano-and-harmonica intro that sounds more like America to me than anyone’s rendition of “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” to the impossibly beautiful poetry of the lyrics to that glorious, rapturous bridge that is well overdue to take over the air drum solos inspired by “In the Air Tonight,” which isn’t even good because Phil Fucking Collins? He Phil Fucking Sucks.
What I’m saying is that if “Thunder Road” was my prom theme, I probably would have put out that night. Because if anyone involved with my youth had any sense at all, they would have taken a cue from “Born to Run,” opening with “Thunder Road” and closing with “Jungleland” and I would probably still be guaranteed to die happy.