NEW YORK — Someone was willing to pay big bucks for an early glimpse of what would become the Boss’ “runaway American dream.”
A handwritten, working lyric sheet for Bruce Springsteen’s 1975 hit “Born to Run” sold at Sotheby’s Thursday for $197,000, well exceeding pre-sale estimates of between $70,000 and $100,000.
The auction house didn’t reveal the identity of either the seller or the telephone bidder who bought the document, which used to be in the collection of Springsteen’s former manager, Mike Appel.
The title track of Springsteen’s 1975 multiplatinum album has revved up generations of fans, from its opening view of “the streets of a runaway American dream” to its high-octane chorus: “tramps like us/baby we were born to run.” Some Springsteen aficionados still refer to themselves as “tramps.”
Most of the lines in this rough 1974 version, written in Long Branch, N.J., are apparently unpublished and unrecorded, but the manuscript does include “a nearly perfected chorus,” the auction house said. It’s one of only two identified manuscripts that include the rock anthem’s most famous lines, according to Sotheby’s.
“This town’ll rip the (out your) bones from your back / it’s a suicide trap (rap) (it’s a trap to catch the young) your dead unless / you get out (we gotto) while your young so (come on! / with) take my hand cause tramps / like us baby we were born to run,” reads the manuscript, written in blue ink on an 8 1/2-by-11 sheet of ruled notepaper.
There are also some enigmatic notes in the margins, words including “wild” and “angels” and what looks like “velocity,” the letter “t” crossed with a curlicue flourish.
“Although Springsteen is known to have an intensive drafting process, few manuscripts of ‘Born to Run’ are available,” Sotheby’s said.
Springsteen’s website describes the “Born to Run” album as “a sheer epic fueled by tangible energy, the idealized notion of escape and the romance of youth.”
His “Darkness on the Edge of Town” album came out three years after “Born to Run.” For much of that interlude, Springsteen was prevented from releasing music due to a lawsuit involving Appel. Material from the “Darkness” sessions may have been influenced by the acrimonious fallout from their business breakup.
“If ‘Born to Run’ was epic cinema, ‘Darkness’ was brutal reality, its characters not dreaming of idealized escape as much as struggling against their circumstances,” notes Springsteen’s website.
Over the years, Springsteen and Appel have gotten back on good terms.
In November 2009, Springsteen invited Appel and his son to fly with the E Street Band to its tour finale in Buffalo, and during the show, Springsteen publicly acknowledged Appel’s contributions to his career.