Hit Parade

Tramps Like Us Edition

Bruce Springsteen went from “new Dylan” to pop pinup when he learned to keep the catchy songs for himself.

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Episode Notes

Bruce Springsteen has been a legend so long, it’s easy to forget that, for his first decade, he had trouble getting a hit. Yes, even the legendary “Born to Run”: It missed Billboard’s Top 20. And yet, several of Springsteen’s songs became big hits for others: the song with the misheard lyric about “a deuce” that went to No. 1 for a British band. The song he couldn’t finish that became a hit for a punk priestess. The song he refused to let his record label hear that became a massive hit for the Pointer Sisters. The hit he almost gave away to the Ramones.

In his second decade, on the other hand, Springsteen wasn’t just a hitmaker—he was the archetype: the symbol of flag-waving American rock, even when the song was less patriotism than protest. Advertisers, other pop stars, President Ronald Reagan—everybody glommed onto Bruce, and virtually all of them got him wrong. Just in time for summer, Hit Parade takes on the Boss, pop star. How did Bruce Springsteen invent his persona and find his truth?

Podcast production by Asha Saluja.

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About the Show

Chris Molanphy, a pop-chart analyst and author of Slate’s “Why Is This Song No. 1?” series, tells tales from a half-century of chart history. Through storytelling, trivia, and song snippets, Chris dissects how that song you love—or hate—dominated the airwaves, made its way to the top of the charts, and shaped your memories forever.

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  • Chris Molanphy is a feature writer and critic who writes widely about music and the pop charts.