Bruce Springsteen, “4th Of July, Asbury Park (Sandy)”

Written by July 7th, 2013 at 2:40 pm

bruce springsteen asbury park

“You travel around Nashville, Atlanta, Tennessee and ‘Hey! What’s Asbury Park like?’ And I play them this number. This is a song based in New Jersey or actually anywhere along the coast.”

The quote above is taken from an introduction Bruce Springsteen gave to a performance of “4th Of July, Asbury Park (Sandy)” back in 1974. Springsteen had recorded and released it the previous year as part of The Wild, The Innocent And The E Street Shuffle, an album full of evocative story songs, many of which still play a big part in the Boss’ legend some 40 years down the line.

If there was a problem with Springsteen’s pre-Born To Run recorded material, it was that the instrumental mixes were often a bit of a muddle, denying the chance for some of the talented performers in the early incarnation of the E Street Band to really shine. Luckily, “Sandy” doesn’t have this problem, as the track features the resonant accordion work of Danny Federici. Via Federici’s playing and Springsteen’s pinpoint descriptions, the listener is transported to the Jersey Shore every time the song plays.

The song is told from the point of view of a narrator trying to convince the title character into one last night of passion, some figurative fireworks exploding in tandem with the ones that soar on Independence Day. Even as the narrator makes the boardwalk sound unmistakably romantic, his itchiness to leave it all behind is palpable. A faulty Tilt-A-Whirl and a tryst with the boss’ daughter have soured him on the whole thing.

The final verse is a show-stopper. Springsteen sings it beautifully, handling the overstuffed lines with the finesse of a fast-talking player while still capturing the hurt the guy feels at seeing his ex with another guy. Bruce even name-drops Madame Marie Castello, who was an actual fortune-teller in Asbury Park for 76 years until her death in 2008 (“Did you hear the cops finally busted Madame Marie for tellin’ fortunes better than they do.”)

With each dramatic exhortation to Sandy, the narrator takes another step away from Asbury Park, from his past, from his childhood. It’s pretty clear that Bruce Springsteen didn’t have to use much imagination to come up the details that make this such an enduring slice of life. Yet the wistful emotions are what really render “4th Of July, Asbury Park (Sandy)” so powerful, and that holds true no matter where your own personal fireworks might be hailin’ tonight.

  • KD

    I promise I’ll love you forever, (I Swear!) is often how he sung it Live.

    Great Great imagery (as are ALL of his songs)

  • Tom

    The verse referring to the Tilt-A-Whirl is missing…

  • Brian

    even though he seems to have changed the last line of the first verse live, the album recording says “chasing all those silly new york VIRGINS BY THE SCORE.”

    Also, where do you derive a “tryst with the boss’ daughter”?

  • Randy Hansen

    Great song. Too bad he still doesn’t write like this. His last 3 albums have been travesties.

  • frank paterno

    Look online for the live version with Danny Federici, shortly before he passed away. It’s a really fine version of the song.

  • Brucef

    Bruce at his best for sure, at a time when he was the best. His pre-fame days of youth still fresh in his mind and in his lyrical library. Every descriptive line carries with it the weight of authenticity, and of course any true story told well is the best story to hear. There’s a sadness in these lyrics thats not so easily defined, It isn’t just about a pleading romeo down on his luck. Its also about growing up and moving on to a more responsible chapter in life. The singer understands that life may never again be this magnificent and carefree. A new day is dawning ‘the aurora is rising’ and he wants one last perfect memory to keep if not to take Sandy with him altogether. Its true that its not a song he would write today. I’ve always appreciated his ability to write within the context of his life and thoughts in the present. I think thats what makes him continue to be relevant and sustainable. Great stuff, ‘Sandy’ is one of my favorites.

  • Wayne

    Great song, thanks

  • AV1RICKSTER

    Great song & lyric before he became his present day moronic self. Spirits in the Night & Rosalita – my 3 favorites.

    The “man of the people” who doesn’t pay union wages – raises horses for an enormous tax break – telling everyone else to “pay their fair share” while he avoids it like the plague so his daughter can show horses up and down the coast.

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