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

Music | February 19, 2021

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; Discogs.com

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

source: pinterest

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.

Orange rhyming dictionary

source: Pamela Springsteen

It's not a stretch to say that "Blinded By The Light" is about Springsteen's life in New Jersey, but it wasn't a burst of emotional energy like it might seem. The real catalyst for this song was Springsteen's label. He explained:

I was under pressure from the A&R guy to have a song on the (debut) album they could release as a single. So I wrote the song one night in my bedroom, going through a rhyming dictionary. That rhyming dictionary was on fire that night.

With the help of his trusty rhyming dictionary Springsteen penned a track full of teenage heartbreak and the need to escape and not being as grown up as he thinks he is. His line about a "silicone sister with a manager mister" who makes a pass at him isn't just one of the first references to breast implants in rock music (or so says Springsteen), but it turns the song into a fish out of water story. Springsteen doesn't just need to escape his home life in this song, he's striving to recognize the place he calls home.

Cut loose like a what?

source: getty images

With the myriad syllables and rhymes spilling out of Springsteen's mouth in a Dylanesque grumble it's understandable that listeners are confused by a few of them. The most misheard lyric on this track is "cut loose like a deuce another runner in the night," the Boss' reference to a “little deuce coupe, as in two-seater hot rod.”

When the Manfred Mann's cover of the song charted in 1977, Mann's phrasing of "deuce" made listeners and fans of feminine hygiene products perk up. Many people listening in their cars heard Mann sing the line "revved up like a douche," which doesn't really make sense but that doesn't matter. As with "Purple Haze" and "Money For Nothing," listeners are prone to hearing what they want.

Springsteen has referenced this mishearing of his lyric, and he doesn't really care that people think he's talking about an intimate product. In an episode of VH1 Storytellers he even goofs on the fact that the song didn't become a hit until Manfred Mann changed the lyrics to be about feminine hygiene.

Manfred Mann took the song to new heights

source: bronze records

Manfred Mann's rock biography involves two distinct phases. Born in South Africa, Mann joined a band in England that was very successful on the UK charts and even came to America in the British Invasion. That band was called, somewhat confusingly, Manfred Mann, and was responsible for "Do Wah Diddy Diddy," a #1 hit in the U.S., and a cover of Bob Dylan's "Mighty Quinn" which peaked at #10. Those two songs and another, "Pretty Flamingo," all topped the UK chart, and Manfred Mann placed another 10 cuts in the UK top 10 before breaking up in 1969.

After a brief interlude with experimental jazz-rock (a band called Manfred Mann Chapter Three), Mann formed Manfred Mann's Earth Band in 1971. The group has released 15 albums and is still playing today, but the reason you know Manfred Mann's Earth Band is likely "Blinded By The Light." The song may not have been a hit for Springsteen, but the the Earth Band turned the New Jersey singer-songwriter's track into something that Yes fans could appreciate. It's not overly complicated and it never gets too prog-rock, but the album version of the song clocks in at over seven minutes and it always feels like a Moog solo is going to happen at any moment. Not that that's a bad thing, it's just overwhelming when you're not prepared.

Mann's cover went to number 1 on both the Billboard Hot 100 and the Cash Box Top 100, which is nuts. The band changed a few lyrics and cut the last two verses of the song while turning it into a legitimate hit. The band scored another hit penned by Springsteen later that year with "Spirit in the Night," but it didn't capture the audience's attention.

Springsteen's Rosetta Stone

source: reddit

"Blinded By The Light" may not have been Springsteen's big break -- that wouldn't happen for another two years -- but it showed the potential in this singer-songwriter from New Jersey. Every moment of this song acts as a blueprint for the songs that followed. You can hear bits and pieces of "Born To Run," "10th Avenue Freeze Out," and even a little bit of the optimistic bravado of "Prove It All Night" in this one song.

By the time Manfred Mann covered Springsteen's would-be hit, the Boss was already strapped to a rocket. If anything, their cover version helped Springsteen gain a second career as a songwriter who could give artists an anthemic single for the radio - not that the Boss needs another job.

The Lyrics To 'Blinded by the Light'

source: pinterest

Bruce Springsteen's original version:

Madman drummers bummers and Indians in the summer with a teenage diplomat
In the dumps with the mumps as the adolescent pumps his way into his hat
With a boulder on my shoulder feelin' kinda older I tripped the merry-go-round
With this very unpleasing sneezing and wheezing the calliope crashed to the ground

Some all-hot half-shot was headin' for the hot spot snappin' his fingers clappin' his hands
And some fleshpot mascot was tied into a lover's knot with a whatnot in her hand
And now young Scott with a slingshot finally found a tender spot and throws his lover in the sand
And some bloodshot forget-me-not whispers daddy's within earshot save the buckshot turn up the band

And she was blinded by the light
Oh, cut loose like a deuce another runner in the night
Blinded by the light
She got down but she never got tight, but she'll make it alright

Some brimstone baritone anti-cyclone rolling stone preacher from the east
He says, "Dethrone the dictaphone, hit it in its funny bone, that's where they expect it least"
And some new-mown chaperone was standin' in the corner all alone watchin' the young girls dance
And some fresh-sown moonstone was messin' with his frozen zone to remind him of the feeling of romance

Some silicone sister with her manager's mister told me I got what it takes
She said I'll turn you on sonny, to something strong if you play that song with the funky break
And go-cart Mozart was checkin' out the weather chart to see if it was safe to go outside
And little Early-Pearly came in by her curly-wurly and asked me if I needed a ride

Oh, some hazard from Harvard was skunked on beer playin' backyard bombardier
Yes and Scotland Yard was trying hard, they sent some dude with a calling card
He said, do what you like, but don't do it here
Well I jumped up, turned around, spit in the air, fell on the ground
Asked him which was the way back home
He said take a right at the light, keep goin' straight until night, and then boy, you're on your own

And now in Zanzibar a shootin' star was ridin' in a side car hummin' a lunar tune
Yes, and the avatar said blow the bar but first remove the cookie jar we're gonna teach those boys to laugh too soon
And some kidnapped handicap was complainin' that he caught the clap from some mousetrap he bought last night
Well I unsnapped his skull cap and between his ears I saw
A gap but figured he'd be all right

He was just blinded by the light
Cut loose like a deuce another runner in the nigh
Blinded by the light
Mama always told me not to look into the sights of the sun
Woah, but but mama that's where the fun is
I was blinded

Oh mama, oh mama
I was blinded
Oh mama, oh mama
I was blinded by the light

Manfred Mann's Earth Band version, as mentioned earlier, substitutes "Revved up like a deuce" for "Cut loose like a deuce." But more jarringly (for Springsteen fans), the single version puts the elements of the song in a blender and finishes up at less than four minutes in length. It starts with the "Blinded by the light" chorus, then gives us verse 1 ("Madmen drummers"), then the chorus again, then jumps to verse 4 ("silicone sister"), and also does away with Springsteen's last two verses (from "hazard from Harvard" onward). Instead, the song winds down by alternating lines from the chorus and Springsteen's first verse, part of his second, and his fourth -- like so:

Blinded by the light
(Madman drummers bummers, Indians in the summer)
Revved up like a deuce, another runner in the night
(With a teenage diplomat)
Blinded by the light
(In the dumps with the mumps as the adolescent pumps)
Revved up like a deuce, another runner in the night
(His way into his hat)
Blinded by the light
(With a boulder on my shoulder, feelin' kinda older)
Revved up like a deuce, another runner in the night
(I tripped the merry-go-round)
Blinded by the light
(With this very unpleasin', sneezin' and wheezin)
Revved up like a deuce, another runner in the night
(The calliope crashed to the ground)
Blinded by the light
(Now Scott with a slingshot finally found a tender spot)
Revved up like a deuce, another runner in the night
(And throws his lover in the sand)
Blinded by the light
(And some bloodshot forget-me-not said daddy's within earshot)
Revved up like a deuce, another runner in the night
(Save the buckshot, turn up the band)
Blinded by the light
(Some silicone sister with a manager mister)
Revved up like a deuce, another runner in the night
(Told me I got what it takes)
Blinded by the light
(She said, "I'll turn you on sonny to something strong")

She got down, but she never got tired
She's gonna make it through the night

Tags: Blinded By The Light | Bruce Springsteen | Manfred Mann | Manfred Manns Earth Band | Song Meanings, Lyrics, And Facts

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Jacob Shelton

Writer

Jacob Shelton is a Los Angeles based writer. For some reason this was the most difficult thing he’s written all day, and here’s the kicker – his girlfriend wrote the funny part of that last sentence. As for the rest of the bio? That’s pure Jacob, baby. He’s obsessed with the ways in which singular, transgressive acts have shaped the broader strokes of history, and he believes in alternate dimensions, which means that he’s great at a dinner party. When he’s not writing about culture, pop or otherwise, he’s adding to his found photograph collection and eavesdropping on strangers in public.