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April 30, 2023

Bruce Springsteen discusses the making of his 1982 album 'Nebraska' on 'CBS Sunday Morning'

The rocker talks about personal struggles he faced that led to the dark album he considers his 'masterpiece,' which was created in a small bedroom in Colts Neck, N.J.

Bruce Springsteen made "Nebraska," the dark and personal album he considers his "masterpiece," in a small bedroom in a fixed-up farmhouse he rented in Colts Neck, N.J.

The rocker joined "CBS Sunday Morning" for an interview in that very same room, which still sports the original orange shag rug, in an episode that aired Sunday, April 30. During the discussion with CBS correspondent Jim Axelrod, Springsteen talked about his personal struggles that led to the creation of the 1982 album.

"If I had to pick one album out and say, 'This is going to represent you 50 years from now,' I'd pick 'Nebraska," Springsteen said.  

"Nebraska" was written and recorded at a time in The Boss's life when he was experiencing the highs of success — he was fresh off a successful tour for "The River" album and had his first Top 10 hit, "Hungry Heart" — and yet he felt like something was missing. At 32, he was becoming an adult but also losing his sense of selfhood amidst major fame.

"I just hit some sort of personal wall that I didn't even know was there," Springsteen said. "It was my first real major depression where I realized, 'Oh, I've got to do something about it' ... you cannot succeed your way out of that pain."

He decided to take that pain and transform it into something good. While "Nebraska" ended up consisting of 10 tracks, Springsteen originally wrote 15 songs in a few weeks. On one January night in 1982, he recorded the album alone in his bedroom on a 4-track cassette machine.

Some of the songs that were left out, including "Born in the U.S.A." and "Pink Cadillac," were placed on future albums. Springsteen kept the notes for these songs in a binder with Snoopy on the front.

According to Springsteen the concept of the album came together after watching after watching "Badlands," Terrence Malick's film about Charles Starkweather, whose murder spree in the 1950s took place mostly in Nebraska. He decided to take the meanness and humanity of the world and put it together into a deeply personal album.

The "CBS Sunday Morning" segment also features an interview with author Warren Zanes, whose new book, "Deliver Me from Nowhere," offers a deep examination of the making of "Nebraska." Zanes talked about the sadness from Springsteen's childhood that permeated the music.

"Here's Bruce Springsteen making a record from a kind of bottom in his own life," Zanes said. "They were very poor.  And then he becomes Bruce Springsteen. He felt that his past was making his present complicated. And he wanted to be freed of it."

Some songs on the album, namely "Mansion on the Hill," "My Father's House" and "Used Cars," were written from children's perspectives as they try making sense of the world. Other songs profile adults who feel like outsiders.

Springsteen originally planned to have his E Street Band record the music he made on the cassette player in his tiny bedroom. But, in the end, he chose to put out the music exactly as it was.

"I knew what the 'Nebraska' record was," Springsteen said. "It was also a signal that I was sending that, 'I've had some success, but I do what I want to do. I make the records I wanna make. I'm trying to tell a bigger story, and that's the job that I'm trying to do for you.'"

Springsteen and the E Street Band are currently on a worldwide tour which stopped in Philadelphia in March and will be back in town Aug. 16 and Aug. 18 at Citizens Bank Park.

"CBS Sunday Morning" has been the No. 1 Sunday morning news program for 22 consecutive broadcast seasons. The news program highlights unique stories in topics like art, music, culture and politics, and airs Sunday mornings at 9 a.m.

Springsteen's full interview can be watched below.

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