In 1976, Bruce Springsteen was the biggest cult star in the world - even with his face on the covers of Time and Newsweek, he wasn’t selling many records - but in August of that year he would reach millions of radio listeners with Blinded By The Light via Manfred Mann’s Earth Band. Their cover of the nearly three-year-old song would give The Boss his first number one as a songwriter.
The versions couldn’t be more different: Bruce’s original is a swinging jazz-rock shuffle, hampered by a dense mix that sounds as if saxophones, drums and guitars are duking it out to be heard. The Manfred Mann cover is powerfully streamlined rock - smooth and sleek, peppered by engaging, hooky guitar and organ lines.
But it’s in the hallucinatory Pink Floydian bridge section that things really get wacky. After an extended David Gilmour-esque guitar solo, a piano plays “Chopsticks” (where in the world did that come from?), a leitmotif that segues into a shimmering section of 10cc-ish “ahhs” that dovetails into Springsteen’s Dylan-inspired wordplay about brimstone baritones and anticyclone rolling stones.
Record buyers who first became familiar with Manfred Mann’s version of Blinded By the Light were startled to discover that Springsteen’s original had no middle eight at all.