I was in junior high school in 1977 when Manfred Mann’s Earth Band scored a #1 hit with “Blinded by the Light.” There were two versions of the song, a short version of just under five minutes and the classic long version, which came in at just over seven. If you’re familiar with the song, you know the point where the two versions diverge and the long version moves into an instrumental section featuring Mann’s jazzy synthesizer. I loved the song back then and would always be disappointed if the version I heard on the radio was the short one. With so few commercial FM stations within range back in my small town in Kansas, it was rare to hear the long version. (The video above is the long version.)
I heard the song on XM Radio’s Channel 7 the other day – the long version on XM, of course – and it’s still hard to follow the lyrics. I was surprised to find out that the song was actually written by Bruce Springsteen for his debut album in 1973. Springsteen’s version, almost unrecognizable when compared to Mann’s, never charted; ironically, the song is the only one written by Springsteen to reach #1 status.
I was also surprised, and very disappointed, to find out about all the drug references in the lyrics. I was only 13 when the song was popular and in my naivete had no clue. I mean, seriously, at that age, what is “Some brimstone baritone anti-cyclone rolling stone preacher from the east; he says ‘Dethrone the dictaphone, hit it in its funnybone, that’s where they expect it least,'” and all the other strange lyrics, supposed to mean?
Manfred Mann, in various incarnations, also charted with “Do Wah Ditty” (remember the marching scene from “Stripes”?) and “The Might Quinn,” as well as with two other songs I liked back then, “Runner,” and “Sprits in the Night,” which I listened to for the first time in 20 years this week and realized (like “Blinded”) is full of drug references…ahh, the 80s were so much better.
Song: “Blinded by the Light”
Artist: Manfred Mann’s Earth Band
Where I heard it: XM Channel 7