Bruce Springsteen’s first single off of debut album Greetings From Asbury Park was “Blinded by the Light”. And it performed poorly. A flop, as some say. He earned the title “The New Dylan” after a decade of performing his music and wanted to do something different. But before that, there was “Blinded by the Light”.
A cover of the song by Manfred Mann was much more popular. He had changed a few of the words. For instance, that line that I heard a million high school kids butcher on the bus ride to school for a whole two years, “cut loose like a deuce” was changed to “revved up like a deuce” in Manfred Mann’s cover of “Blinded by the Light”. It gave it a bit more of a punch and more context. The Deuce (not douche, thank goodness) was a Ford Hotrod from 1932. This version of the song was the opposite of Springsteen’s flop, and it went to #1 on the charts in early 1977.
The song was originally called “Madman’s Bummers,” a phrase taken from the string of words that held only meaning to Bruce Springsteen himself. In an interview with VH1 Storytellers, the song’s meaning gets a little clearer. It appears Bruce Springsteen was writing for himself, having a little walk down the street of his memory. In the interview, he broke everything down.
“Blinded by the Light” by Manfred Mann
- “Madman drummers bummers” – Vinnie “Mad dog” Lopez was the first drummer in the E Street Band.
- “Indians in the summer” – This was Bruce’s little league baseball team as a kid.
- “In the dumps with the mumps” – literally means being sick with the mumps.
- “Boulder on my shoulder” – having a “chip” on his shoulder.
- “Some all hot, half-shot, heading for a hot spot, snapping fingers clapping his hands” – This is about being a “know it all kid growing up, who doesn’t really know anything.”
- “Silicone Sister” – Bruce mentions that this is arguably the first mention of breast implants in popular music – recalling a dancer at one of the local strip joints in Asbury Park. “
There was also that line about the rhyming dictionary, which is exactly what he relied on heavily writing the song in his bedroom. Whatever this song is really about, it’s a catchy tune… whether you’re singing it wrong or right.
Editor’s note: This article was originally published on February 14, 2020.