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written by Ron Harlow
Without ever trying, I’ve heard “Blinded by the Light” by Manfred Mann’s Earth Band countless times, and so have you. It sounds like the guy is singing, “ripped up like a douche.” Recently, a friend tried to convince me the disputed lyric is actually “deuce.” I was skeptical. Then he tried to convince me the song is a Bruce Springsteen cover. I was incredulous.
I’m no more than an average Springsteen fan. I was there when he played Wrigley Field in 2012. I didn’t actually see him; I was sitting on the curb on Waveland Avenue. But I liked what I heard; when I wasn’t listening to the girl I was more interested in sitting next to me on the curb. I own used copies of Born to Run and Born in the USA on vinyl, but I’ve never taken a head-first dive into Springsteen’s discography, which is why I’d never listened to his first album: Greetings from Asbury Park, NJ.
“Blinded by the Light” is the 1973 album’s first track and single. Greetings was reviewed positively by critics, but unsuccessful commercially. “Blinded by the Light” never appeared on the top singles charts.
Manfred Mann’s Earth Band formed in London in 1971. They’ve released seventeen studio albums, most recently in 2014. But none was more successful than 1976’s The Roaring Silence, which peaked at number ten on the U.S. album charts. Roaring is anchored by their cover version of “Blinded by the Light,” which became the number one single in the U.S.
MMEB’s “Blinded by the Light” is a powerful prog-rock anthem distinctive from Springsteen’s original version, which is more laid back folk-rock and sounds like it’s being played at the Stone Pony in Asbury Park. The line in the original’s chorus is “cut loose like a deuce.” Manfred Mann changed the line to “revved up like a deuce,” but it’s his heavy South African accent that makes it sound like “douche.”
Springsteen’s “Blinded by the Light” is poetry. By my count, his lyrics rhyme 102 times over six verses. Mann’s single might have been more commercially successful because it’s catchy. He repeats singing the line “blinded by the light” nineteen times, while Springsteen uses the line just six times between his three choruses. Which of the two are you more likely to remember the title of?
It feels somewhat unjust that Springsteen’s original didn’t get the recognition it deserved, but only somewhat. One of the most successful music careers ever really took off in 1975 when Born to Run was released, one year before Manfred Mann’s Earth Band’s one shining moment.
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