"Thunder Road" as written by and Bruce Springsteen....
The screen door slams, Mary's dress waves
Like a vision she dances across the porch as the radio plays
Roy Orbison singing for the lonely
Hey, that's me and I want you only
Don't turn me home again, I just can't face myself alone again
Don't run back inside, darling, you know just what I'm here for
So you're scared and you're thinking that maybe we ain't that young anymore
Show a little faith, there's magic in the night
You ain't a beauty but, hey, you're alright
Oh, and that's alright with me

You can hide 'neath your covers and study your pain
Make crosses from your lovers, throw roses in the rain
Waste your summer praying in vain
For a savior to rise from these streets
Well now, I ain't no hero, that's understood
All the redemption I can offer, girl, is beneath this dirty hood
With a chance to make it good somehow
Hey, what else can we do now?
Except roll down the window and let the wind blow back your hair
Well, the night's busting open, these two lanes will take us anywhere
We got one last chance to make it real
To trade in these wings on some wheels
Climb in back, heaven's waiting on down the tracks

Oh oh, come take my hand
We're riding out tonight to case the promised land
Oh oh oh oh, Thunder Road
Oh, Thunder Road, oh, Thunder Road
Lying out there like a killer in the sun
Hey, I know it's late, we can make it if we run
Oh oh oh oh, Thunder Road
Sit tight, take hold, Thunder Road

Well, I got this guitar and I learned how to make it talk
And my car's out back if you're ready to take that long walk
From your front porch to my front seat
The door's open but the ride ain't free
And I know you're lonely for words that I ain't spoken
But tonight we'll be free, all the promises'll be broken

There were ghosts in the eyes of all the boys you sent away
They haunt this dusty beach road in the skeleton frames of burned-out Chevrolets
They scream your name at night in the street
Your graduation gown lies in rags at their feet
And in the lonely cool before dawn
You hear their engines rolling on
But when you get to the porch, they're gone on the wind
So Mary, climb in
It's a town full of losers, I'm pulling out of here to win


Lyrics submitted by oofus

"Thunder Road" as written by Bruce Springsteen

Lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Universal Music Publishing Group, Downtown Music Publishing

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Thunder Road song meanings
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  • +16
    General CommentBruce Springsteen brought honesty to Rock and Roll. Dropping pretenses of sex and drugs and death and despair, he went ahead with his song.

    Even as a 21 year old college student, I can only sense the underlying value in this song. I can see a 40 year old divorcee hearing it one night on the radio and picking up his life. I can see a mother of 3 hearing it and realizing she is still beautiful.

    It is a sad fact that most of popular literature and music is focused on youth -- either the wildness and freedom of being in it, or the confusion and sadness at losing it. And while Springsteen touches on it here, there is no doubt that the song is looking forward. He's trying to treat life as and up-and-down ride, not as some bell curve that we're all gonna be on the downside of someday. The hope and maturity of it is untouched by any other song in Rock history.
    ballzofsnoon April 27, 2002   Link
  • +8
    My InterpretationWhile this song can have multiple meanings, I think it's true intended meaning was to be a song about growing up. It all makes sense if you listen to and try to understand the lyrics and symbolism in the song. It's maybe not directly about "growing up", but more so an invitation to someone to step out of their shell and try living an adult life with trust rather than the one they've lived locked away and distant from society for so long.

    // Break-down is simply my interpretation; my use of 'Bruce' is simply a man's name for referencing lyrical interpretation

    "The screen door slams, Mary's dress sways
    Like a vision she dances across the porch
    As the radio plays
    Roy Orbison singing for the lonely
    Hey that's me and I want you only
    Don't turn me home again, I just can't face myself alone again"

    // This verse is referring to any girl-- Mary, for example-- leaving a place where she's been locked away for so long and dancing her way to freedom and a new beginning. She's care-free and ready to start her new life.

    "Don't run back inside, darling, you know just what I'm here for
    So you're scared and you're thinking
    That maybe we ain't that young anymore
    Show a little faith, there's magic in the night
    You ain't a beauty, but hey you're alright
    Oh and that's alright with me"

    // Bruce is referring to 'running back inside' as Mary going back to the life she's retreated to for so long. Mary's been close to escaping for so long, and he's telling her now to not run back inside because it'll just be more of the same. 'So you're scared and you're thinking that maybe we ain't that young anymore' is referring to Mary being afraid to finally break free, but realizing that she's not going to be a kid forever and must take the step towards adulthood on our own.

    "You can hide `neath your covers and study your pain
    Make crosses from your lovers, throw roses in the rain
    Waste your summer praying in vain
    For a saviour to rise from these streets"

    // This is referring to Mary always 'hiding beneath her covers' and wishing she could be free. She's spent so much time reminiscing on past lovers and has spent so many summers in regret wasting time waiting for someone to save her. However, all the while it's HER that needs to make change and grow up-- not someone else.

    "Well now I'm no hero, that's understood
    All the redemption I can offer, girl, is beneath this dirty hood
    With a chance to make it good somehow
    Hey what else can we do now?"

    // Bruce is stating that he's not a hero, but has come to offer Mary 'one last chance' to step outside and experience life. He's not coming to save her life; just to give her a chance to be free. While he's not a god, the redemption he can offer is his car as an escape-- which could be symbolism referring to any means of just escaping.

    "...Except roll down the window and let the wind blow back your hair
    Well the night's busting open
    These two lanes will take us anywhere
    We got one last chance to make it real
    To trade in these wings on some wheels
    Climb in back - Heaven's waiting on down the tracks"

    // Bruce is offering Mary a chance to live a free life and is claiming that the roads of life can take you anywhere. You never know where you're going to end up, and if you go ahead and take the chance to 'make it real', giving up your past life (i.e. wings) for a new life (i.e. wheels), you never know what could happen. Heaven-- referring to a new and better life-- is always waiting for you.

    "Oh-oh come take my hand
    Riding out tonight to case the promised land
    Oh-oh Thunder Road, oh Thunder Road, oh Thunder Road
    Lying out there like a killer in the sun
    Hey I know it's late, but we can make it if we run
    Oh Thunder Road, sit tight take hold, Thunder Road"

    // Bruce is offering his hand as assistance to Mary in finding her new adult life. He's helping her move on to find a new and better beginning. In his car they are 'riding out to case the promised land'-- or the better life they both know exists. It's a bumpy and rough road (i.e. Thunder Road) but they can make it if they try.

    "Well I got this guitar and I learned how to make it talk
    And my car's out back if you're ready to take that long walk
    From your front porch to my front seat
    The door's open but the ride it ain't free
    And I know you're lonely and there's words that I ain't spoken
    But tonight we'll be free, all the promises'll be broken"

    // Bruce is telling Mary that he's got his guitar and his car (which, to him, is all that's needed to start a new life), and a new life is just a walk away. Although it's a long walk, growing up is a long journey for everyone. If Mary can make the long walk from her front porch (which could he her parent's house where she's been kept for so long), a better life can happen. Bruce is also stating that while the door's open, the ride "ain't free". She has to grow up and give something back to Bruce for taking her on this journey, whether it be making love or something else.

    "There were ghosts in the eyes of all the boys you sent away
    They haunt this dusty beach road
    In the skeleton frames of burned out Chevrolets
    They scream your name at night in the street
    Your graduation gown lies in rags at their feet
    And in the lonely cool before dawn you hear their engines roaring on
    But when you get to the porch they're gone
    On the wind, so Mary climb in
    It's a town full of losers and I'm pulling out of here to win."

    // This is arguably the most meaningful verse of any song ever written. 'Ghosts in the eyes of all the boys Mary sent away' is referring to the non-existence of all of the past men who attempted to take advantage of her without having her true interests in mind. They didn't care about her growing up or getting a better life, they just wanted Mary. The "graduation gowns laying in rags at their feet" is another symbolic phrase referring to forgetting your past and starting fresh. Mary has always wanted someone to save her from her trapped life, and when she "hears the engines roaring on" of the men who have previously attempted to pick her up she's always been left in the dust-- which "..but when you get to the porch they're gone" refers to. Bruce is telling her that the town is full of losers who will abandon a woman like has happened to Mary so many times before, and he's here to save her for real this time and pull out of town 'to win'.

    Another strong symbolic message in the song is the use of the name 'Mary'. Mary can be any girl, and this song is truly one anybody can relate to. Rather than use "Jessica", "Amy", "Melissa", the use of 'Mary' reflects the vastness of the song and the number of people to whom it can relate.

    The song, in recap, is just a story of growing up. There comes a point in everyone's life where chances have to be taken. You're going to be scared, but if you just "make the long walk" and face your challenges head-on, you'll achieve a new and better life.

    Thunder Road, the greatest song ever written.

    Interpretation by Brian Wallenstein.
    vyfx.comon October 07, 2009   Link
  • +3
    General CommentThis is such a great song. I dont understand really what it means, but for some reason it means something to me. It reminds me of summers and stuff for some reason.
    egut521on June 05, 2002   Link
  • +3
    General CommentI used to listen to this in my room as a teenager (on an LP - ha) and just cry. I wanted someone to come and offer me a way out from my boring teenage life and add a spark of adventure without pretense. This song made that prospect "real" to me. 2 unperfect people with a chance to find something better if they leave their hang-ups and past behind, and NOT become one of the losers who never get out. In otherwords, win. Fast Forward 25 years and it still hits me the same way every time I hear it. It's so powerful that it instantly brings me back to that bedroom and all of those emotions. The lyrics are pure, the sentiment real and uncorny, and the circumstances, most importantly, believeable. Bruce is one heck of a storyteller.
    LolaBaton October 19, 2004   Link
  • +3
    General CommentQuite simply..........the Greatest Song of All Time.
    RogerClyneon April 07, 2010   Link
  • +2
    General Comment"You can hide `neath your covers and study your pain
    Make crosses from your lovers, throw roses in the rain
    Waste your summer praying in vain
    For a saviour to rise from these streets..."

    That is some kind of scary-good songwriting. perfect soundtrack for those summer nights when you cant sleep and theres nothing else to do but get in the car and waste some gasoline... If listening to it doesnt make you feel a little haunted at times like that, well...you must not have grown up in America. Or grown up anywhere at all!
    halo26on January 25, 2006   Link
  • +2
    General CommentA songwrite myself, I once wrote a song with the following verse:
    "I got a '57 Chevy, with three on the tree.
    She's gone half a million miles,
    and she's till runnin' clean.
    They're playin' Bruce on the radio,
    and I'm opening the door.
    Girl tonight we're gonna push it
    half a million more."
    Obviously, my song was completely inspired by Thunder Road, which is why I threw in the reference. Thunder Road is the perfect rock and roll song. Has been performed fast, slow, and with all varieties of instrumentation, and it is always magnificent.
    IJBandon February 20, 2006   Link
  • +2
    General Commentthe most romantic song ever....visions of being young and reckless with 'romantic dreams in my head' and no real responsibilities....

    what a fucking lyrical genius..
    discmannnnnon August 25, 2006   Link
  • +2
    General CommentI just love this song though I do not understand every sinlge image used for my english is not the best.

    Anyways here is what I am dreaming of while listenting to it: I picture myself playing a night-time open air concert in front of 300.000. It’s the last song. The band already left so I am alone on stage. Dead silence. A stunned crowd not cheering throughout the lines at all.
    Rapturous applause after I finished the last chord. I walk off the stage and into the night – without saying one word. Dissapear and never perform again.
    Der muede Joeon July 27, 2007   Link
  • +2
    General CommentCan't add too much more to what's been already said, but no one has mentioned the line

    Riding out tonight to case the promised land

    For some reason I just think that's a brilliant piece of imagery....talking about "casing" a place like criminals "case" a bank or a house before they rob it, before they make the big score...and apply that language to talking about the promised land. ...just vintage Springsteen.
    SteveAon March 22, 2008   Link

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