Cover Me: "Blinded By The Light" Springsteen Vs. Manfred Mann

Cover Me: "Blinded By The Light" Springsteen Vs. Manfred Mann

Back in 1973, a young artist named Bruce Springsteen released his first album.  It was a very Bob Dylan-esque album; acoustic-guitar driven with lyrics more like prose than Rock 'N' Roll.  The first song on the album was "Blinded By The Light."  Flash-forward three years.  Manfred Mann's Earth Band, formerly of "Doo Wah Diddy Diddy" fame, released a cover version of "Blinded By The Light."  Which one do you think is best?

Cover Me: "Blinded By The Light" Springsteen Vs. Manfred Mann

We wrote at length HERE about how Manfred Mann could be considered the most successful cover band in Rock history (by the way, their version of "Doo Wah Diddy Diddy" was a cover!).  By the time 1973 came along, they'd had hits with Bob Dylan tunes, covered Randy Newman a couple of times, and even put out an album featuring Rock/Progressive versions of Classical music.  Covering "Blinded By The Light" probably wasn't a huge challenge for them, only because of their experience.  But what they did with the song to make it almost completely different from the original should be noted, caressed, and loved very deeply.

Before going on and on, let's listen to both songs.  First, the original.

Now, the cover.

We included versions with lyrics because the words are so integral to our expert analysis.  "Revved up like a deuce, another runner in the night."  Nobody's singing about "douche," although it sure sounds like it.

Before digging deep, do we really need to?  Same song but totally, 100% different interpretations.  We mentioned Springsteen's acoustic-laden performance, with saxophone, some organ, clean electric guitar, and an almost hippy vocal.  What about Manfred Mann's (technically, they were Manfred Mann's Earth Band)?  Heavier style, lead guitar, emphasis on Moog synthesizer and harmony vocals.  The question is, which version is better?

If you're into Dylan and stripped down music; something closer to the heartland than a concert arena, then Springsteen's original wins.  If you're into singing out loud, air drums and air guitar, and more of a Pink Floyd-ian influence, then Manfred Mann's version wins out.

Either way, Springsteen wins, if only because it's his song.

Personally, I (your writer, Dave Philp) heard the Manfred Mann version first.  If you grew up on station wagon AM radio in the '70s, you heard this song (the 3+ minute "single" version) a lot, just like you heard "Baker Street" and "Listen To What The Man Said" all the time by Gerry Rafferty and Paul McCartney & Wings, respectively.  It wasn't until I got into high school and Springsteen, around 1984, that I first heard the original version of "Blinded By The Light."  And if you grew up singing along to Manfred Mann's version (and using the word "douche" without even knowing what it meant), it was almost impossible to sing along to Springsteen's version.  His is wilder, less stable.  It's like Bruce Springsteen never sang it the same way twice, and he knew it and didn't care.  You know that Manfred Mann performed their version almost note for note every time they played it.  It was that kind of hit for them.

And because Springsteen didn't need to do it the same with each performance, he probably kept it fresher, at least with his fans and band.

Does that make his version better?  If you ask me, and you're not but I'm pretending you are because my mind is like that, I'm going to say no.  Theversions are so different.  You can like one one day and the other another day.  But consistenly?  I'd still have to go with the "original" version that I heard, Manfred Mann's Earth Band's cover of "Blinded By The Light."

What do you think?  Agree or disagree?  Let us know, okay?

Dave Philp is Assistant Professor of Music Management at William Paterson University and Chief Organizer Guy of YouChoose, a live events music fundraising and social media company that has raised many, many thousands of dollars for non-profit causes. Join the good fight and help change your corner of the world by visiting YouChoose now: To sign up for our email newsletter, click HERE. Mmkay?