Blinded By The Light: The Springsteen-Penned Manfred Mann Hit, Lyrics And Meaning

By | February 17, 2021

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Left: Bruce Springsteen on August 22, 1975 in Atlanta, Georgia. Right: single sleeve for Manfred Mann's 'Blinded By The Light.' Sources: Photo by Tom Hill/WireImage;

Between Bruce Springsteen's version and Manfred Mann's cover, is there a definitive "Blinded By The Light"? Springsteen's opening salvo into the world of rock n' roll, is everything that people love about the Boss' early work. The first track from his 1973 debut album Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J. is exploding with teenage lust, a need to escape, and the thrum of glistening cars speeding away from a small town.

The track's rambling sound and sometimes nonsensical lyrics led to the inevitable Bob Dylan comparisons. The song may not have been a hit for Springsteen but it set him up as the next big thing. Springsteen may not have had a hit with this song but it was a number one single four years later for Manfred Mann's Earth Band, albeit with altered lyrics and music that take the song out of the freewheelin' territory of Dylan and into the synthy blue eyed soul groove of artists like ELO and Elton John.

Springsteen fans tend to acknowledge that Mann worked some magic with Bruce's song -- they don't hate it, but they'd never say it's better than the original. But in the Darwinian world of classic-rock radio, Mann's version is an all-time staple, while Springsteen's doesn't get the spins. 

Madman's Bummers

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Originally titled "Madman's Bummers," the song tells the story of Springsteen's life up until that point. He references the people in his life, they places they went and the way they killed time waiting around for real life to begin. New Jersey, specifically the boardwalk of a Jersey Shore town, is palpable in each second of this track.

The first verse of the song spills out of Springsteen's mouth like marbles falling on the pavement. Each line tells a small story about his life as a child in New Jersey. "Madman drummers bummers" is a reference to the E. Street Band's first drummer. Being "in the dumps with the mumps" is just what happens when you're young. The song isn't as laser focused as the massive singles that he released in the late '70s and into the '80s, but it's clear from this first verse that he's already on track to be one of the 20th century's greatest storytellers.

Like many of Springsteen's best songs the specificity of "Blinded By The Light" lets the listener believe that the track is as much about them as it is about the person singing. The fact that Springsteen can do that time and time again is the evidence of his true genius.