The River (Bruce Springsteen album)

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The River
Bruce Springsteen - The River.jpg
Studio album by Bruce Springsteen
Released October 17, 1980 (1980-10-17)
Recorded The Power Station, New York
March 1979 – August 1980
Genre Rock, heartland rock
Length 83:47
Label Columbia
Producer Jon Landau, Bruce Springsteen, Steven Van Zandt
Bruce Springsteen chronology
Darkness on the Edge of Town
The River
Singles from The River
  1. "Hungry Heart"
    Released: October 21, 1980
  2. "Fade Away"
    Released: January 22, 1981
  3. "I Wanna Marry You"
    Released: 1981
  4. "Sherry Darling"
    Released: 1981 (UK only)
  5. "The River"/"Independence Day"
    Released: May 1981 (UK only)
  6. "Cadillac Ranch"
    Released: 1981 (UK only)
  7. "Point Blank"
    Released: 1981 (UK only)
Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Absolute Punk 93%[9]
AllMusic 5/5 stars[1]
Chicago Tribune 3.5/4 stars[2]
Christgau's Record Guide A−[3]
Melody Maker (favorable)[4]
Q 5/5 stars[5]
Rolling Stone (favorable)[6]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide 4/5 stars[7]
Sounds (favorable)[8]

The River is the fifth studio album, and the first double album by Bruce Springsteen. The album was released on October 17, 1980. Rolling Stone ranked it at number 253 on their list of the greatest albums of all time.


The sources of The River go back into earlier parts of Springsteen's recording career. "Independence Day", "Point Blank", "The Ties That Bind", "Ramrod", and "Sherry Darling" were leftovers from his previous album, Darkness on the Edge of Town, and had been featured on that 1978 tour, as had parts of "Drive All Night" as a long interpolation within "Backstreets."[10] "The River" had premiered at the September 1979 Musicians United for Safe Energy concerts, gaining a featured spot in the subsequent documentary No Nukes.[10]

Originally, the album was to be a single set entitled The Ties That Bind and released in late 1979.[11] Springsteen added darker material after he'd written the title track. Indeed, The River became noted for its mix of the frivolous next to the solemn. This was intentional, and in contrast to Darkness, for as Springsteen said during an interview, "Rock and roll has always been this joy, this certain happiness that is in its way the most beautiful thing in life. But rock is also about hardness and coldness and being alone ... I finally got to the place where I realized life had paradoxes, a lot of them, and you've got to live with them."[12]

On November 8, 2009, at a concert, Bruce Springsteen spoke about the album, saying: "The River was a record that was sort of the gateway to a lot of my future writing. It was a record we made after Darkness on the Edge of Town. It was a record made during a recession - hard times in the States. Its title song is a song I wrote for my brother-in-law and sister. My brother-in-law was in the construction industry, lost his job and had to struggle very hard back in the late 70s, like so many people are doing today. It was a record where I first started to tackle men and women and families and marriage. There were certain songs on it that led to complete records later on: "The River" sort of went to the writing on Nebraska, "Stolen Car" went to the writing on Tunnel of Love. Originally it was a single record. I handed it in with just one record and I took it back because I didn't feel it was big enough. I wanted to capture the themes I had been writing about on Darkness. I wanted to keep those characters with me and at the same time added music that made our live shows so much fun and joy for our audience. So in the end, we're gonna take you down to The River tonight."[13]

"Hungry Heart" was Springsteen's first U.S. pop singles chart top ten hit single, reaching number five.[14] (Springsteen had not intended the song to be for himself, having initially written it for The Ramones; manager/producer Jon Landau convinced Springsteen to keep the song for himself.) The album hit number one on the U.S. pop albums chart, a first for Springsteen, and sold 1.6 million copies in the U.S. between its release and Christmas.[15] "Fade Away" reached number 20.[14]

The album was followed by a lengthy tour of North America and Western Europe during 1980 and 1981.[16] Since its release, The River has been certified quintuple platinum by the RIAA in the U.S., making it one of Springsteen's best-selling albums and his highest certified studio release after Born in the U.S.A. and Born to Run.[17] In 2003, the album was ranked number 250 on Rolling Stone‍ '​s list of the 500 greatest albums of all time.[18] In a December 2013 interview, Springsteen's manager Jon Landau said that they were currently working on a deluxe reissue box set of The River.[19]

Track listing[edit]

All songs written by Bruce Springsteen.

Side one
No. Title Length
1. "The Ties That Bind"   3:34
2. "Sherry Darling"   4:03
3. "Jackson Cage"   3:04
4. "Two Hearts"   2:45
5. "Independence Day"   4:50
Side two
No. Title Length
1. "Hungry Heart"   3:19
2. "Out in the Street"   4:17
3. "Crush on You"   3:10
4. "You Can Look (But You Better Not Touch)"   2:37
5. "I Wanna Marry You"   3:30
6. "The River"   5:01
Side three
No. Title Length
1. "Point Blank"   6:06
2. "Cadillac Ranch"   3:03
3. "I'm a Rocker"   3:36
4. "Fade Away"   4:46
5. "Stolen Car"   3:54
Side four
No. Title Length
1. "Ramrod"   4:05
2. "The Price You Pay"   5:29
3. "Drive All Night"   8:33
4. "Wreck on the Highway"   3:54

The Ties That Bind: The River Collection[edit]

The Ties That Bind: The River Collection
Box set by Bruce Springsteen
Released December 4, 2015 (2015-12-04)
Recorded The Power Station, New York 1979-1980
Genre Rock, heartland rock
Label Columbia
Producer Jon Landau, Bruce Springsteen, Steven Van Zandt
Bruce Springsteen chronology
Ippodromo delle Capannelle, Rome 2015
The Ties That Bind: The River Collection
Singles from The Ties That Bind: The River Collection
  1. "Meet Me in the City"
    Released: October 16, 2015
  2. "Party Lights"
    Released: November 23, 2015

It was announced on October 16, 2015 that Springsteen will celebrate the 35th anniversary of The River by releasing the long awaited box set titled The Ties That Bind: The River Collection on December 4, 2015. The 10” x 12 box set contains 52 tracks on 4 CDs with a wealth of unreleased material along with 4 hours of never-before-seen video on 3 DVDs or 2 Blu-Ray discs. The first two discs feature the remastered version of The River while the third disc contains the previously unreleased The River: Single Album. Originally titled The Ties That Bind and at one point intended as the follow-up to Darkness on the Edge of Town, this ten song album was heavily circulated among fans as a bootleg for many years. The fourth disc The River: Outtakes spans the entire The River sessions in 1979 and 1980 and contains eleven previously unreleased outtakes. Disc five contains the 60- minute documentary, The Ties That Bind which was produced and directed by Grammy and Emmy-winning filmmaker Thom Zimny and features an intimate interview with Springsteen as he reflects on writing and recording of The River. The film transitions between Springsteen telling the stories behind the music — and illustrating them with solo acoustic guitar performances — interspersed with period concert footage and rare photos of Bruce and the band in and out of the studio. The sixth and seventh discs feature Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band: The River Tour, Tempe 1980, a new film produced from footage professionally filmed in 1980 using four cameras and recorded in multitrack audio. The film features 24 songs clocking in at 2 hours, 40 minutes on 2 DVDs (or one Blu Ray) from Springsteen’s November 5, 1980 concert at Arizona State University in Tempe, AZ which is widely regarded as one of Springsteen’s finest performances. Also included is 20 minutes of footage from the late September, 1980 River Tour rehearsals held in Lititz, PA. Included in the box set is also a 148 page coffee table book featuring 200 rare or previously unseen photos and memorabilia including a new essay by Mikal Gilmore.[20]

On October 16, 2015 along with the announcement of the box set, "Meet Me in the City", one of the eleven unreleased outtakes, was released through Springsteen's website and on iTunes to promote the release of the box set. On November 23, 2015, "Party Lights" was released to promote the box set and made available through iTunes. Much like with The Promise, Springsteen recorded new vocals for some of the outtakes in the set.

Track listing[edit]

All songs written by Bruce Springsteen.

Disc Three
No. Title Length
1. "The Ties That Bind"   3:35
2. "Cindy"   2:25
3. "Hungry Heart"   3:28
4. "Stolen Car"   4:30
5. "Be True"   3:54
6. "The River"   4:56
7. "You Can Look (But You Better Not Touch)"   2:09
8. "The Price You Pay"   5:51
9. "I Wanna Marry You"   3:28
10. "Loose Ends"   4:04
Disc Four
No. Title Length
1. "Meet Me in the City"   3:35
2. "The Man Who Got Away"   3:31
3. "Little White Lies"   2:39
4. "The Time That Never Was"   3:39
5. "Night Fire"   4:44
6. "Whitetown"   3:23
7. "Chain Lightning"   2:49
8. "Party Lights"   3:09
9. "Paradise By the "C""   3:10
10. "Stray Bullet"   6:09
11. "Mr. Outside (Demo)"   2:15
12. "Roulette"   3:53
13. "Restless Nights"   3:45
14. "Where the Bands Are"   3:46
15. "Dollhouse"   3:33
16. "Living on the Edge of the World"   4:19
17. "Take 'em As They Come"   4:30
18. "Ricky Wants a Man of Her Own"   2:46
19. "I Wanna Be With You"   3:23
20. "Mary Lou"   3:23
21. "Held Up Without a Gun"   1:19
22. "From Small Things (Big Things One Day Come)"   2:39

Unreleased outtakes[edit]

Springsteen wrote a large amount of music during album sessions, many of which has been released and even with the 2015 box set, a lot still remains unreleased. Songs such as "Held Up Without a Gun", "Be True", and "Roulette" were featured as b sides, the first two on the album's singles and the last on a Tunnel Of Love single. "Mary Lou", "I Wanna Be with You", "Bring on the Night", "Ricky Wants a Man of Her Own", "Loose Ends", "Dollhouse", "Where the Bands Are", "Living on the Edge of the World", "Restless Nights", "Take 'em as They Come" were released on the Tracks box set with "From Small Things (Big Things One Day Come)" on The Essential Bruce Springsteen collection. Prior to the album being recorded, Springsteen had intended to release an album called The Ties That Bind. Of the songs recorded for that release, most made The River however an alternate version of "Stolen Car" was released on Tracks while a rockabilly version of "You Can Look (But You Better Not Touch)" and "Cindy" remained unreleased until 2015. During The River sessions, Springsteen also recorded "Jole Blon", "Dedication", "Your Love" and "This Little Girl", songs he would eventually give to Gary U.S. Bonds for two of his albums on which Springsteen produced and appeared on along with other members of the E Street Band. "Janey Needs a Shooter" was also given to Warren Zevon, which he re-worked and recorded.[21]

  • "Janey Needs a Shooter"
  • "Find It Where You Can"
  • "Break My Heart"
  • "Out on the Run (Looking for Love)"
  • "Under the Gun"
  • "I Don't Wanna Be
  • "Chevrolet Deluxe"
  • "Slow Fade"
  • "Jole Blon"
  • 'Do You Want Me to Say Alright"
  • "Time That Never Was"
  • "Angelyne"
  • "A Thousand Tears (William Davis)"
  • "I Will Be the One"
  • "Tonight"
  • "I'm Gonna Treat You Right"
  • "Dedication"
  • "Your Love"
  • "This Little Girl"





Region Certification Sales/shipments
Australia (ARIA)[41] 3× Platinum 210,000^
Canada (Music Canada)[42] 2× Platinum 200,000^
France (SNEP)[43] 2× Gold 442,400[44]
United Kingdom (BPI)[45] Platinum 300,000^
United States (RIAA)[46] 5× Platinum 5,000,000^

^shipments figures based on certification alone


  1. ^ William Ruhlmann (1980-10-10). "The River - Bruce Springsteen | Songs, Reviews, Credits, Awards". AllMusic. Retrieved 2014-02-11. 
  2. ^ Kot, Greg (August 23, 1992). "The Recorded History of Springsteen". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved July 8, 2013. 
  3. ^ Christgau, Robert (1990). Christgau's Record Guide: The '80s. Pantheon Books. p. 381. ISBN 067973015X. 
  4. ^ Paolo Hewitt (1980-10-11). "Bruce Springsteen: The River (CBS) . By Paolo Hewitt : Articles, reviews and interviews from Rock's Backpages". Retrieved 2014-02-11. 
  5. ^ Williams, Richard (December 1989). "All or Nothing: The Springsteen back catalogue". Q. p. 149. 
  6. ^ Nelson, Paul (December 11, 1980). "Bruce Springsteen The River > Album Review". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 20 April 2014. 
  7. ^ Sheffield, Rob (2004). "Bruce Springsteen". In Brackett, Nathan; Hoard, Christian. The New Rolling Stone Album Guide. London: Fireside. pp. 771–773. ISBN 0-7432-0169-8.  Portions posted at "Bruce Springsteen > Album Guide". Retrieved 20 February 2014. 
  8. ^ Phil Sutcliffe (1980-10-11). "Bruce Springsteen: The River. By Phil Sutcliffe : Articles, reviews and interviews from Rock's Backpages". Retrieved 2014-02-11. 
  9. ^ [1]
  10. ^ a b The Words and Music of Bruce Springsteen - Rob Kirkpatrick - Google Books. Retrieved 2014-02-11. 
  11. ^ Marsh, D. (1981) [1979]. Born to Run. Dell Publishing Co. p. 247. ISBN 0-440-10694-X. 
  12. ^ Dave Marsh (2004). Bruce Springsteen: Two Hearts - The Definitive Biography, 1972-2003. Routledge. p. 228. ISBN 978-0-415-96928-4. 
  13. ^ Transcribed Bruce Springsteen Quotes
  14. ^ a b "Bruce Springsteen - Chart history". Billboard. Retrieved 2014-02-11. 
  15. ^ "Bruce Springsteen - Chart history". Billboard. Retrieved 2014-02-11. 
  16. ^ "Bruce Springsteen The River Tour Song Count". Retrieved 2014-02-11. 
  17. ^ "Gold & Platinum Searchable Database - January 29, 2014". RIAA. Retrieved 2014-01-29. 
  18. ^ "Rolling Stone 500 Greatest Albums of All Time (2012 Updated List) - Ones I Own". Listology. 2012-07-22. Retrieved 2014-02-11. 
  19. ^ Andy Greene On October 15th, 2015, it was announced that "The Ties That Bind: The River Collection" will be released on December 4th, 2015. Like Born to Run and Darkness, this is a multiple CD/Blu-Ray release with the remastered album, a long-rumoured early single version called "The River: Single Album", with early versions of certain songs, an disc of outtakes from the sessions, and a performance from November 1980 from Tempe, AZ that has never before been released. As well, there is a new documentary from Thom Zimmy about the River Sessions. (2013-12-17). "Bruce Springsteen on New Album 'High Hopes': Exclusive Interview | Music News". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2014-01-29. 
  20. ^
  21. ^
  22. ^ a b Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970-1992. St Ives, N.S.W.: Australian Chart Book. ISBN 0-646-11917-6. 
  23. ^ Library and Archives Canada. Retrieved 2012-04-04
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  25. ^ "InfoDisc : Tous les Albums classés par Artiste > Choisir Un Artiste Dans la Liste" (in French). Retrieved 2012-04-04. Note: user must select 'Bruce SPRINGSTEEN' from drop-down
  26. ^ Oricon Album Chart Book: Complete Edition 1970-2005. Roppongi, Tokyo: Oricon Entertainment. 2006. ISBN 4-87131-077-9. 
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  28. ^ " Bruce Springsteen – The River" (ASP). Hung Medien. VG-lista. Retrieved 2012-04-04. 
  29. ^ Salaverri, Fernando (September 2005). Sólo éxitos: año a año, 1959–2002 (1st ed.). Spain: Fundación Autor-SGAE. ISBN 84-8048-639-2. 
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  31. ^ "Chart Stats: Bruce Springsteen – The River" (PHP). UK Albums Chart. Retrieved 2012-04-04. 
  32. ^ "allmusic ((( The River > Charts & Awards > Billboard Albums )))". Retrieved 2012-04-04. 
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  34. ^ "Top 100 Albums". RPM. 1980-12-20. Retrieved 2012-04-04. 
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  36. ^ "Les Albums (CD) de 1980 par InfoDisc" (PHP) (in French). Retrieved 2012-01-29. 
  37. ^ a b "Complete UK Year-End Album Charts". Archived from the original on 2012-01-11. Retrieved 2014-04-29. 
  38. ^ "Top 100 Albums of 1981". RPM. 1981-12-26. Retrieved 2012-04-04. 
  39. ^ "Dutch charts jaaroverzichten 1981" (ASP) (in Dutch). Retrieved 2014-05-01. 
  40. ^ "Billboard.BIZ: Top Pop Albums of 1981". Archived from the original on 2013-01-15. Retrieved 2014-05-01. 
  41. ^ "ARIA Charts – Accreditations – 2008 Albums". Australian Recording Industry Association. Retrieved 2012-04-04. 
  42. ^ "Canadian album certifications – Bruce Springsteen – The River". Music Canada. Retrieved 2012-04-04. 
  43. ^ "French album certifications – Bruce Springsteen – The River" (in French). InfoDisc.  Select BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN and click OK
  44. ^ "Les Albums Or". (in French). SNEP. Retrieved 2012-04-04. 
  45. ^ "British album certifications – Bruce Springsteen – The River". British Phonographic Industry. Retrieved 2012-04-04.  Enter The River in the field Keywords. Select Title in the field Search by. Select album in the field By Format. Select Platinum in the field By Award. Click Search
  46. ^ "American album certifications – Bruce Springsteen – The River". Recording Industry Association of America. Retrieved 2012-04-04.  If necessary, click Advanced, then click Format, then select Album, then click SEARCH

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Guilty by Barbra Streisand
Billboard 200 number-one album
November 8 - December 5, 1980
Succeeded by
Kenny Rogers' Greatest Hits by Kenny Rogers