It is quite unusual for a cover of a song to become a larger hit than its original. But it is not impossible. The British rock band, Manfred Mann’s Earth Band, managed to accomplish this feat in the 1970s with Blinded By The Light.
The track, originally written and recorded by Bruce Springsteen, was released on his Greetings From Asbury Park, N.J. album from 1973. Manfred Mann had bought this album based on a recommendation by a local disc jockey from Philadelphia. He was one of a modest number of people who had bought the album as that was before Springsteen made it big with the mega-hit album Born To Run in 1975.
Meaning of Blinded By The Light Song Lyrics
According to Springsteen, the song was written when he looked through a rhyming dictionary and searched for appropriate lyrical wording. Blinded By The Light is about the ups and downs of a young musician’s life. However, the message always subtly reflects that the downs are the source of the struggles that bring talented musicians to the pinnacle of success.
Its music track is high-energy, and the lyrics talk about the thrill and hope only found in adolescence. Blinded By The Light reflects the invincibility of a youthful attitude that is filled with immeasurable hope and optimism that, in life, anything is possible.
The lyrics are reminiscent of an early Bruce Springsteen, the days when he was just beginning his career. In doing so, he had the good fortune of meeting unique and interesting characters when introducing his music across the Jersey Shore and the local music markets of Philadelphia and New York City.
The first line of the song, “Madman drummers bummers and Indians in the summer with a teenage diplomat” is likely an autobiographical reference:
- “Madman drummers” refer to a drummer, Vini Lopez, who had several nicknames, including Mad Man and Mad Dog.
- “Indians in the summer” pertains to the Little League Team of Springsteen.
- “Teenage Diplomat” is a reference to Springsteen himself.
In the dumps with the mumps as the adolescent pumps his way into his hat
With a boulder on my shoulder feelin’ kinda older I tripped the Merry-go-round
- The first line is a reference, according to his Aunt Dora Kirby, to the fact that Springsteen refused to take off his baseball hat.
- A “merry-go-round” refers to baseball slang in which the pitcher consistently walks batters.
The song continues, adding other unrelated events, such as the beginning of verse 4:
Some silicone sister with her manager’s mister told me I got what it takes
She said I’ll turn you on sonny, to something strong if you play that song with the funky break
Blinded by the Light Lyric Controversy
When Manfred Mann’s Earth Band covered this Springsteen tune, the track became a super hit, despite the fact that the revised Blinded By The Light meaning was draped in controversy.
Springsteen originally wrote:
And she was blinded by the light
Oh, cut loose like a deuce
Another runner in the night
These were changed to:
Well she was blinded by the light
Wrapped up like a deuce
Another runner in the night
Note that the word ‘deuce’ references a 1932 Ford Model 18 with a V-8 engine, often called a Deuce Coupe, a two-seater hot-rod car, by automobile collectors and enthusiasts.
The controversy surrounded the fact that fans of the song notoriously misheard the lyrics, believing the “Wrapped up like a deuce” line sounded like “Wrapped up like a douche,” which references a feminine hygiene product.
Note that Mann wanted Springsteen to contribute to the record by singing the last part of the song. He even tried to reach out and ask him directly, avoiding the lengthy manager or publisher route.
But in the end, he sang the part he hoped Springsteen would have sung. Ironically, this part of the track is apparently the only time Mann’s voice can be heard on the recording of Blinded By The Light.
Blinded By The Light: Life as a Hit Record
Manfred Mann’s Earth Band’s cover of Blinded By The Light climbed slowly and steadily on the British rock charts but was outperformed in the United States. Its success was in spite (or perhaps because of) the attention the lyric controversy created.
In 1977, the cover by Manfred Mann’s Earth Band hit no. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in the United States. It also reached the top ten in Canada, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom.
Mann, when attempting to explain the source of the controversy, notes that the recording machine’s azimuth (something about how the tape head angles on the recording tape) created a sound that many believed were the word ‘deuce,’ ‘douche,’ and even, ‘dooce.’
And just like that, Manfred Mann’s Earth Band’s no.1 song hit a controversial road bump. Quickly, radio stations from the southern parts of the United States (a.k.a., the Bible Belt) complained they couldn’t play the song on air because it sounded like the lyrics include words about a vaginal douche.
The irony of the lyric controversy was not lost on Mann or Springsteen.
What Makes a Great Song Cover?
Manfred Mann’s Earth Band’s cover of the song Blinded By The Light is likely to be more well-known than the original recording by its songwriter. Perhaps, it was the band’s unique style and sound that created the difference, although Springsteen’s raw, brilliant lyrics and vision remain at the core.
What makes a great cover song is the talent that shines through. Both Springsteen and Mann are distinct and hugely talented musicians, with each of their versions completely unique and terrific musical compositions.
Blinded By The Light is pure evidence that a cover can rise to the level of the original if done with a balanced blend of creativity and a healthy respect for the songwriter’s original ideas.
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