Nebraska (album)

Nebraska (album)
Studio album by Bruce Springsteen
Released September 30, 1982 (1982-09-30)
Recorded Mostly January 3, 1982 at Springsteen's Colts Neck, New Jersey bedroom
Genre Americana, folk rock, folk
Length 40:50
Label Columbia
Producer Bruce Springsteen
Bruce Springsteen chronology
The River
Born in the U.S.A.

Nebraska is the sixth studio album by Bruce Springsteen, released in 1982 on Columbia Records.

Sparsely-recorded on a cassette-tape Portastudio, the tracks on Nebraska were originally intended as demos of songs to be recorded with the E Street Band. However, Springsteen ultimately decided to release the demos themselves. Nebraska remains one of the most highly-regarded albums in his catalogue.[citation needed] The songs on Nebraska deal with ordinary, blue collar characters who face a challenge or a turning point in their lives. Unlike his previous albums, very little salvation and grace is present within the songs.



Initially, Springsteen recorded demos for the album at his home with a 4-track cassette recorder. The demos were sparse, using only acoustic guitar, electric guitar (on "Open All Night"), harmonica, mandolin, glockenspiel, tambourine, organ and Springsteen's voice.

Springsteen then recorded the album in a studio with the E Street Band. However, he and the producers and engineers working with him felt that a raw, haunted folk essence present on the home tapes was lacking in the band treatments, and so they ultimately decided to release the demo version as the final album. Complications with mastering of the tapes ensued because of low recording volume, but the problem was overcome with sophisticated noise reduction techniques.

Springsteen fans have long speculated whether Springsteen's full-band recording of the album, nicknamed Electric Nebraska, will ever surface. In a 2006 interview, manager Jon Landau said it was unlikely and that "the right version of Nebraska came out".[1] But in a 2010 interview with Rolling Stone, E Street Band drummer Max Weinberg praised the full band recording of the album as "killing."[2] Somewhat different band arrangements of most of these songs were heard on the 1984-1985 Born in the U.S.A. Tour and have been played in various guises ever since.

Other songs demoed during the Nebraska sessions include "Born in the U.S.A.," "Downbound Train," "Child Bride" (later retitled "Working on the Highway"), "Pink Cadillac" and more. Some have leaked on bootlegs.

"I was just doing songs for the next rock album, and I decided that what always took me so long in the studio was the writing. I would get in there, and I just wouldn't have the material written, or it wasn't written well enough, and so I'd record for a month, get a couple of things, go home write some more, record for another month — it wasn't very efficient. So this time, I got a little Teac four-track cassette machine, and I said, I'm gonna record these songs, and if they sound good with just me doin' 'em, then I'll teach 'em to the band. I could sing and play the guitar, and then I had two tracks to do somethin' else, like overdub a guitar or add a harmony. It was just gonna be a demo. Then I had a little Echoplex that I mixed through, and that was it. And that was the tape that became the record. It's amazing that it got there, 'cause I was carryin' that cassette around with me in my pocket without a case for a couple of week, just draggin' it around. Finally, we realized, "Uh-oh, that's the album." Technically, it was difficult to get it on a disc. The stuff was recorded so strangely, the needle would read a lot of distortion and wouldn't track in the wax. We almost had to release it as a cassette."

Bruce Springsteen, recalling the early stages of the recording of the album, Rolling Stone Interview, December 1984[3]:3


The album begins with "Nebraska", a first-person narrative based on the true story of 19-year-old spree killer Charles Starkweather and his 14-year-old girlfriend, Caril Ann Fugate, and ends with "Reason to Believe", a complex narrative that renders its title phrase into contemptuous sarcasm. The remaining songs are largely of the same bleak tone, including the dark "State Trooper," influenced by Suicide's "Frankie Teardrop".[4] Criminal behavior continues as a theme in the song "Highway Patrolman": even though the protagonist works for the law, he lets his brother escape after he has shot someone (this became the basis for the Sean Penn-directed film The Indian Runner). "Open All Night", a Chuck Berry-style lone guitar rave-up, does manage a dose of defiant, humming-towards-the-gallows exuberance.

Springsteen stated that the stories in this album were partly inspired by historian Howard Zinn's book A People's History of the United States.[5]

A music video was produced for the song "Atlantic City"; it features stark, black-and-white images of the city, which had not yet undergone its later economic transformation. "Atlantic City" was released as a single in the UK, but not the U.S.

Critical acclaim

Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
PopMatters (favorable)[6]
Yahoo! Music (favorable)[7]
Treble (favorable)[8]
Allmusic 5/5 stars[9]
Rolling Stone 5/5 stars[10]
Sputnikmusic 4.5/5 stars[11]
Robert Christgau (A-)[12]
Rhapsody (favorable)[13]
Rolling Stone 4.5/5 stars[14]

In 1989, Nebraska was ranked #43 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 100 greatest albums of the 1980s. In 2003, the album was ranked number 224 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 500 greatest albums of all time. Pitchfork Media listed it the 60th greatest album of the 1980s. In 2006, Q magazine placed the album at #13 in its list of "40 Best Albums of the '80s".[15]


Country music icon Johnny Cash's 1983 album Johnny 99 featured versions of two of Springsteen's songs from Nebraska: "Johnny 99" and "Highway Patrolman". Also the title of the track "Mansion on the Hill" is derived from the lyrics of Van Morrison's "Cyprus Avenue".

Emmylou Harris covered the song "My Father's House" on her 1986 album "Thirteen."

Hank Williams III and covered the song "Atlantic City" on his 2002 album "Lovesick Broke & Driftin'."

Jamie T also covered the song "Atlantic City" as a b-side on his Emily's Heart EP and he regards "Nebraska" as one his favourite albums ever."

Cash also contributed to a widely-praised tribute album, Badlands - A Tribute to Bruce Springsteen's Nebraska, which was released on the Sub Pop label in 2000 and produced by Jim Sampas. It featured covers of the Nebraska songs recorded in the stripped-down spirit of the original recordings by a wide-ranging group of artists including Hank Williams III, Los Lobos, Dar Williams, Deana Carter, Ani DiFranco, Son Volt, Ben Harper, Aimee Mann & Michael Penn. Three additional tracks covered other Springsteen songs in the same vein: Johnny Cash's contribution was I'm On Fire, a track from Springsteen's best-selling album Born In The USA.

The Nebraska Project took place at Winter Garden/World Financial Center, New York City, on January 14, 2006, as the opening night concert of the 2006 New York Guitar Festival ( This live celebration and re-creation of the seminal album, produced by Festival creator and artistic director David Spelman and co-produced by A.J. Benson, and hosted by WFUV DJ John Platt, presented a diverse line-up of artists who covered the songs in album sequence. Line-up was as follows: "Nebraska": Michelle Shocked / "Atlantic City": Jesse Harris / "Mansion on the Hill": The National / "Johnny 99": Chocolate Genius / "Highway Patrolman": Martha Wainwright with Marc Ribot / "State Trooper": Dan Zanes with Vernon Reid / "Used Cars": Laura Cantrell / "Open All Night": Otis Taylor / "My Father's House": Mark Eitzel / "Reason to Believe": Kevin Kinney with Lenny Kaye / Encore (comprising all artists, plus special guest Bruce Springsteen): Oklahoma Hills / Plus instrumental interludes by Gary Lucas, Harry Manx, Marc Ribot, Kerryn Tolhurst & David Spelman.

Kelly Clarkson compared her effort to move away from mainstream to edgier and more personal music on her third studio album My December to Springsteen's Nebraska.[16]

Automatic 7 covered "Atlantic city" on their third album 'At Funeral speed'

The song "State Trooper" was covered by The Veils, in the "Like a Version" segment of the Australian radio show Triple J. Also covered by Steve Earle on his Live album in 1996.

Canadian band Cowboy Junkies covered the song "State Trooper" in their first album Whites Off Earth Now!! (1986). They also included an a-capela cover of "My Father's House" in their Rarities, B Sides and Slow, Sad Waltzes album (1999).

The Cash Brothers included a song called "Nebraska", inspired from the album, in their first album Raceway (1999). The song was included in a 2005 tribute album by Uncut magazine, Thunder Road - Songs inspired by The Boss.

Chris Cornell regularly includes a cover of State Trooper in his setlist, which involves looping the main guitar riff towards the end of the song and performing a solo over the top of the riff.

The short stories in Deliver Me From Nowhere, a book by Tennessee Jones published in 2005, were inspired by the themes of Nebraska.[17]

Track listing

All songs written by Bruce Springsteen

Side one
No. Title Length
1. "Nebraska"   4:32
2. "Atlantic City"   4:00
3. "Mansion on the Hill"   4:08
4. "Johnny 99"   3:44
5. "Highway Patrolman"   5:40
6. "State Trooper"   3:17
Side two
No. Title Length
1. "Used Cars"   3:11
2. "Open All Night"   2:58
3. "My Father's House"   5:07
4. "Reason to Believe"   4:11

Alternate Master (1st CD Master)

The first CD release of the album in Japan used a different master tape than the one used on the LP or U.S. and European CD releases. The tape speed appears to be slightly faster than the original master tape, leading to shorter track lengths. "My Father's House" feature an additional 28 seconds of synthesizer not included in other versions of the album. This version of CD, which was released twice in Japan, is now unavailable except on the collector's market.

  1. "Nebraska" – 4:25
  2. "Atlantic City" – 3:50
  3. "Mansion on the Hill" – 4:01
  4. "Johnny 99" – 3:41
  5. "Highway Patrolman" – 5:41
  6. "State Trooper" – 3:09
  7. "Used Cars" – 3:04
  8. "Open All Night" – 2:52
  9. "My Father's House" – 5:36
  10. "Reason to Believe" – 4:06



Chart positions

Year Chart Position
1982 U.S. Billboard 200 3
Album tracks
Year Single Chart Position
1982 "Atlantic City" U.S. Billboard Top Tracks 10
1982 "Johnny 99" U.S. Billboard Top Tracks 50
1982 "Open All Night" U.S. Billboard Top Tracks 22


External links

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