Atlantic City (song)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
"Atlantic City"
Bruce Springsteen - Atlantic city.jpg
Single by Bruce Springsteen
from the album Nebraska
B-side"Mansion on the Hill"
RecordedJanuary 3, 1982
StudioThrill Hill East, Colts Neck, New Jersey
GenreFolk rock
Songwriter(s)Bruce Springsteen
Producer(s)Bruce Springsteen
Bruce Springsteen UK singles chronology
"Cadillac Ranch"
"Atlantic City"
"Open All Night"

"Atlantic City" is a song written and recorded by Bruce Springsteen, which first appeared on Springsteen's 1982 solo album Nebraska. Springsteen has often played the song in a full band arrangement in concert.


Springsteen first recorded two demos of the song in April 1981 at his home in Colts Neck, New Jersey. Initially he titled the song "Fistful of Dollars" (from the Clint Eastwood movie "A Fistful of Dollars"). He recorded another demo in late 1981, this time changing the title to "Atlantic City". He recorded at least five takes on his Portastudio at Colts Neck during a two-week period, December 17 to January 3, 1982, with take three chosen for Nebraska. In a letter to Jon Landau, Springsteen noted that "this song should probably be done with the whole band really rockin' out". At The Power Station on April 26–28, 1982, with the E Street Band during the 'Electric Nebraska' sessions, Springsteen spent three days trying to make a rock record out of the demo. Landau insisted on releasing the solo version, "No way was it as good as what he had goin' on that demo tape".[1][2][3]


Springsteen wrote in his Greatest Hits sleeve notes that he recorded the track in his bedroom "for $1,050 (the cost of the four-track Tascam recorder), mixed through an old Gibson guitar unit to a beat box". He provides the vocals, guitar, harmonica, tambourine, organ, and synthesizer for the song.

The song depicts a young couple's escape to Atlantic City, New Jersey, but it also wrestles with the inevitability of death as the man in the relationship intends to take a job in organized crime upon arriving in the city. The opening lines of "Atlantic City" refer to mafia violence in nearby Philadelphia, with Springsteen singing: "Well, they blew up the chicken man in Philly last night/Now they blew up his house too." The phrase "chicken man" refers to Philadelphia crime family mafia boss Philip Testa, who was killed by a rival gang operator who planted a bomb in his Philadelphia house in March 1981.[4] The song evokes the widespread uncertainty regarding gambling during its early years in Atlantic City and its promises to resurrect the city, as well as the young man's uncertainty about taking the less-than-savory job: "Everything dies, baby, that's a fact, but maybe everything that dies someday comes back."

The song is also included on his 1995 Greatest Hits album and on the 2003 compilation The Essential Bruce Springsteen. "8 Years", a 2006 episode of the television series Cold Case, was based around nine Springsteen songs, with "Atlantic City" played during its climactic murder scene.[5] In 2012 following Hurricane Sandy, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie quoted the song's chorus during a cameo on Saturday Night Live.[6]

The song plays over the opening of episode 3 of season 4 of Billions. A few scenes later, the character "Dollar" Bill Stern (played by Kelly AuCoin) sings the opening lines of the song.

Music video[edit]

A music video, directed by Arnold Levine, was produced for "Atlantic City", which received moderate play on MTV in the United States. Springsteen does not appear in the video, which features stark, black-and-white images of Atlantic City. The video also contained clips of the demolition of the main dome of the Marlborough-Blenheim Hotel.

Live performances[edit]

From the Born in the U.S.A. Tour on, "Atlantic City" has made fairly regular appearances in Springsteen's band concerts, with a soft-hard-cycle arrangement very similar to that of "Darkness on the Edge of Town". Such live versions appear on Springsteen's In Concert/MTV Plugged (1993) and Live in New York City (2001) albums. For the 2006 Bruce Springsteen with The Seeger Sessions Band Tour, "Atlantic City" was drastically rearranged and featured multiple outros; as such it appears on the Live in Dublin (2007) album. Goose covered the song during their "Live at T's House" show in May of 2020.

Other versions[edit]

The Band covered the song for their 1993 album Jericho. Rolling Stone called it a "clear highlight". After the Band split up, Levon Helm continued to perform "Atlantic City" in his solo performances.

Country artist Riley Green covered the song on his 2018 EP County Line.[7]


  1. ^ "Nebraska Studio Sessions". Brucebase. Retrieved 22 August 2019.
  2. ^ Burke, David. Heart-of-Darkness-Bruce-Springsteens-Nebraska. London: Cherry Red Books. Retrieved 22 August 2019.
  3. ^ Heylin, Clinton (2012). Song by Song. London: Penguin. Retrieved 22 August 2019.
  4. ^ Greene, Andy (4 February 2016). "Readers' Poll: The 10 Best Bruce Springsteen Songs of the 1980s". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 7 February 2018.
  5. ^ "Cold Case; Hot Tunes; Springsteen's Soundtrack". The New York Times. Retrieved 2016-10-25.
  6. ^ "Chris Christie on 'SNL'". Retrieved January 5, 2013.
  7. ^ Greene, Andy (August 15, 2013). "Flashback: The Band Cover Bruce Springsteen". Rolling Stone. Retrieved January 1, 2020.

External links[edit]