There is a reason Nebraska is cited as the Springsteen record for non Bruce fans. Unlike the slick sheen that covers much of his other studio output, Nebraska is raw, on edge, dirty, and sounds at times fevered, like the initial moments after you wake in the middle of the night and are unsure where you are. Listening to the album after dark, on vinyl, by yourself, and/or driving at night, alone, is an altogether music geek rite of passage. It’s a desolate album, and at the time of its recording, was probably the last thing Springsteen’s audience was expecting.
The story goes that soon after the release of (his commercial breakout album) The River, the Springsteen famously stole away in a room by himself and recorded these demos on a four track thinking the band would later flesh them out. Apparently the E-Street-ified versions took the soul out of the recordings and Springsteen decided to release the album as is. One of the tracks that did not make the cut on Nebraska is the demo’d, acoustic, version of “Born In The U.S.A.” It’s stark, barren, and outright spookyness sound 180 degrees different from the bastardized, fist-pumping version that saw an official release four years later on an album of the same name. Long traded in bootleg format, the acoustic, Nebraska version of “Born In The U.S.A.” saw an official release in 1999 via the Tracks box set.