After 1980’s double-album “The River” landed Springsteen his first top-10 hit with “Hungry Heart” and showcased the power of The E Street Band better than any of his previous records, Springsteen (with money to his name for the first time) was on the cusp of mega stardom.
Inspired by Flannery O’Connor, Hank Williams and Terrence Malick, after “The River” tour he wrote songs he described in “Born to Run” as “an unknowing meditation on my childhood and its mysteries.”
On Jan. 3, 1982, Springsteen retreated to the bedroom of Colts Neck, N.J. house with his guitar tech and a four-track Japanese tape machine and recorded demos of those songs in three or four takes each, “tapping into white gospel, early Appalachian music and the blues.”
“After that, I went into the studio, brought in the band, re-recorded and remixed everything,” Springsteen wrote in “Born to Run.” “On listening, I realized I’d succeeded in doing nothing but damaging what I’d created.”
So they cleaned up the demos on the cassette, which he’d been carrying around in his back pocket, and, in 1982 released the folk noir masterpiece “Nebraska.”