HIGHWAY PATROLMAN

Album version

My name is Joe Roberts, I work for the state
I'm a sergeant out of Perrineville, barracks number 8
I always done an honest job, as honest as I could
I got a brother named Franky, and Franky ain't no good

Now ever since we was young kids, it's been the same come down
I get a call on the shortwave, Franky's in trouble downtown
Well if it was any other man, I'd put him straight away
But when it's your brother sometimes you look the other way

Yeah me and Franky laughin' and drinkin', nothin' feels better than blood on blood
Takin' turns dancin' with Maria as the band played "Night of the Johnstown Flood"
I catch him when he's strayin' like any brother would
Man turns his back on his family, well he just ain't no good

Well Franky went in the army back in 1965
I got a farm deferment, settled down, took Maria for my wife
But them wheat prices kept on droppin' till it was like we were gettin' robbed
Franky came home in '68 and me I took this job

Yeah we're laughin' and drinkin', nothin' feels better than blood on blood
Takin' turns dancin' with Maria as the band played "Night of the Johnstown Flood"
I catch him when he's strayin', teach him how to walk that line
Man turns his back on his family, he ain't no friend of mine

Well the night was like any other, well I got a call 'bout quarter to nine
There was trouble in a roadhouse out on the Michigan line
There was a kid lyin' on the floor lookin' bad, bleedin' hard from his head
There was a girl cryin' at a table and it was Frank, they said

Well I went out and I jumped in my car and I hit the lights
Well I musta done a hundred and ten through Michigan county that night
It was out at the crossroads, down 'round Willow bank
Seen a Buick with Ohio plates, behind the wheel was Frank

Well I chased him through them county roads
Till a sign said "Canadian border five miles from here"
I pulled over the side of the highway and watched his taillights disappear

Me and Franky laughin' and drinkin', nothin' feels better than blood on blood
Takin' turns dancin' with Maria as the band played "Night of the Johnstown Flood"
I catch him when he's strayin' like any brother would
Man turns his back on his family, he just ain't no good


Page last updated: 22 Sep 2010

Intro

Music and lyrics by Bruce Springsteen, HIGHWAY PATROLMAN is the fifth track on his 1982 solo album Nebraska. DEPUTY was the original title of the song, but it was re-titled HIGHWAY PATROLMAN upon its release.

Springsteen recorded the song as a home demo on or around 03 Jan 1982 at Thrill Hill Recording (Springsteen's home studio) in Colts Neck, NJ. The track has the same stark, bleak atmosphere as the remainder of its parent album, and in terms of instrumentation, contains simply vocals, very quiet harmonica, and finger-picked acoustic guitar. Dave Marsh wrote in his book Glory Days: Bruce Springsteen in the 1980s, "Springsteen's voice quakes as he sings the final verse, and when Joe [Roberts] finally watches his brother's 'taillights disappear,' the voice breaks and Bruce fumbles the guitar pick, which he has otherwise strummed steadily throughout the song."

The above lyrics are for the home demo recording of HIGHWAY PATROLMAN as released on the Nebraska album. It features Bruce Springsteen solo on vocals, acoustic guitar, and harmonica. This recording was laid on a four-track cassette recorder, part of what became the famous Nebraska demo tape of January 1982.

Nebraska

Following The River Tour, Bruce Springsteen and The E Street Band were supposed to start recording the next album in New York City in February 1982. Bruce decided to record multi-channel, professional sounding, finished demos of some songs he had written during the period. He felt the upcoming band sessions would progress faster than they had for his previous three albums if he records these finished demos and demonstrates them to The E Street Band.

To achieve his goal, in December 1981, he asks his guitar technician, Mike Batlan, to set up a no frills "porta-studio" in a spare room of his home in Colts Neck, NJ. Some modification work was done to the room making it more receptive to achieving a decent sound. Batlan purchased a Teac Tascom Series 144 4-track cassette recorder, two SM57's microphones, and two microphone stands. The sound was mixed through an old Gibson Echoplex, and an old Panasonic boom box acted as the mix-down deck.

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Springsteen recorded during the first few days of January, with most of the songs cut in one all day/night session on 03 Jan 1982. There were 15 songs recorded on tape, and some of them were recorded 2 or 3 times in slightly different arrangements. The tape was never conceived to result in a commercially released album, as the songs were recorded by the E Street Band with multi-instrument arrangements, during what's known as the "Electric Nebraska Session". However two or three months later, Springsteen recorded two additional songs (MY FATHER'S HOUSE and THE BIG PAYBACK) at home on the same equipment – thus making a total of 17 different songs.

Most of the E Street Band arrangements of these songs were discarded and the original solo demos from the tape were released on the Nebraska album. Max Weinberg revealed to Rolling Stone in June 2010 that the recording of the "Electric Nebraska Session" does exist. He said that "the E Street Band actually did record all of Nebraska and it was killing [...] It was all very hard-edged. As great as it was, it wasn't what Bruce wanted to release. There is a full band Nebraska album, all of those songs are in the can somewhere."

Nebraska was released on Columbia Records on 20 Sep 1982. It was produced by Bruce Springsteen.

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The album features 10 new Springsteen compositions and clocks at 40:50.

Nebraska track list:

  1. NEBRASKA
  2. ATLANTIC CITY
  3. MANSION ON THE HILL
  4. JOHNNY 99
  5. HIGHWAY PATROLMAN
  6. STATE TROOPER
  7. USED CARS
  8. OPEN ALL NIGHT
  9. MY FATHER'S HOUSE
  10. REASON TO BELIEVE

Recording

As Springsteen himself confirmed, only one recording of HIGHWAY PATROLMAN was made on the Nebraska demo tape of January 1982. That recording is circulating under two alternate mixes: the official mix which was officially released on Nebraska in 1982, and a merely different mix which later appeared on several bootlegs, including The Lost Masters Vol. 1 (Labour Of Love).

Bruce Springsteen -- The Lost Masters Vol. 1 (Labour Of Love) [bootleg cover art]

Other Official Releases

Other versions of HIGHWAY PATROLMAN were also officially released:


The live 18 Nov 2006 version of HIGHWAY PATROLMAN was officially released on the Live In Dublin album and hme video in 2007.

Music Video

Sean Penn is a lifelong Bruce Springsteen fan, and he also briefly dated Springsteen's younger sister Pamela. HIGHWAY PATROLMAN was the inspiration for the Sean Penn directed 1991 film The Indian Runner (see info about the film below), and in 2000, Penn directed a video for HIGHWAY PATROLMAN in which he used scenes from The Indian Runner to create a moody visual interpretation of the story. The previously unreleased video was included on Springsteen's The Complete Video Anthology / 1978-2000 DVD which was released in 2001.

Video Anthology Home Video

Video Anthology / 1978-88 is a collection of 18 Bruce Springsteen music videos and concert performances, released in VHS format on 31 Jan 1989. The home video was also released on LaserDisc.

[Click here to display/hide detailed track listing]

Sonny reissued the video on 16 Jan 2001 in DVD format. Titled The Complete Video Anthology / 1978-2000, the new release added a second disc with 15 additional music video, concert performances, and television appearances.

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[Click here to display/hide detailed track listing]

Live History

HIGHWAY PATROLMAN appeared live for the first time on the opening night of the Born In The USA Tour, on 29 Jun 1984 at Saint Paul Civic Center Arena in Saint Paul, MN. It was played a total of 27 times on that tour, with the E Street Band, and Patti Scialfa on background vocals.

[Click here to display/hide detailed Born In The USA Tour performances list]

HIGHWAY PATROLMAN was performed 25 times during the 128-date-long The Ghost Of Tom Joad Solo Acoustic Tour. On this tour, the song was played solo acoustic.

[Click here to display/hide detailed The Ghost Of Tom Joad Solo Acoustic Tour performances list]

In preparation for the Devils & Dust Solo Acoustic Tour, HIGHWAY PATROLMAN was performed during both of the tour's two public warm-up rehearsal shows that took place in April 2005 in Asbury Park. The song is also known to have been practiced during at least two of the private rehearsals that took place in March and April 2005 in Asbury Park prior to the tour's first leg.

[Click here to display/hide detailed Devils & Dust Solo Acoustic Tour rehearsals performances list]

HIGHWAY PATROLMAN was performed 12 times during the Devils & Dust Solo Acoustic Tour.

[Click here to display/hide detailed Devils & Dust Solo Acoustic Tour performances list]

HIGHWAY PATROLMAN appeared only once on The Seeger Sessions Tour, on 17 Nov 2006 in Dublin. That unique performance was included on the Live In Dublin CD and DVD in 2007. See the live 18 Nov 2006 version for more details.

[Click here to display/hide detailed The Seeger Sessions Tour performances list]

Appearance in Movies

HIGHWAY PATROLMAN was the inspiration for the Sean Penn directed 1991 film The Indian Runner, but the song does not appear in the movie's soundtrack. The Indian Runner was Penn's directorial debut.


Plot: The story of two completely different brothers and the strained relationship that forms between them after the younger brothers returns from Vietnam.

Starring: David Morse, Viggo Mortensen, Valeria Golino, Patricia Arquette, Jordan Rhodes, Charles Bronson
Directed by: Sean Penn
Produced by: Don Phillips
Written by: Sean Penn
Distributed by: MGM
Release date: 20 Sep 1991

A cover of HIGHWAY PATROLMAN was used in the Peter Bogdanovich directed 1990 film Texasville.


Plot: Jacy Farrow (Shepherd), the girl who broke Duane Jackson's (Bridges) heart, has returned to Anarene, Texas. And now Duane is not only harried by a busted business, a sarcastic wide (Potts) and rambunctious son - who steals his mistresses - but also by Jacy, who's come home to find herself and the love she left behind.

Starring: Jeff Bridges, Timothy Bottoms, Cybill Shepherd, Cloris Leachman, Randy Quaid
Directed by: Peter Bogdanovich
Produced by: Peter Bogdanovich, Barry Spikings
Written by: Peter Bogdanovich, Larry McMurtry
Distributed by: Columbia Pictures
Release date: 28 Sep 1990

Covers

A few artists have recorded and released Bruce Springsteen's HIGHWAY PATROLMAN, including:


Johnny Cash -- Johnny 99

LP - Columbia (FC 38696) - USA, 1983
CD - Koch Records (KOC-CD7980) - USA, 1999

See Johnny Cash's cover version for more details.

Various artists -- For You: A Tribute To Bruce Springsteen

CD - Totem Records (TTM 480499 2) - Italy, 1995

This is a various artists Bruce Springsteen tribute album. HIGHWAY PATROLMAN is performed by Lost Weekend.

Various artists -- Badlands: A Tribute To Bruce Springsteen's Nebraska

CD - Sub Pop (SPCD 525) - USA - 2000
CD - Sub Pop (9878-70525-2) - Germany, 2000
CD - Warner Music Japan (WPCR-10845) - Japan, 2000

This is a various artists Bruce Springsteen tribute album. HIGHWAY PATROLMAN is performed by Dar Williams.

Various artists -- Light Of Day: A Tribute To Bruce Springsteen

3-CD - Good Sounds (DM 797-02) - Spain, 2003
2-CD - Good Sounds (DM 797E-02) - Spain, 2003
2-CD - Schoolhouse Records (SHR0022-2) - USA, 2003
2-CD - Sony (MHCP-928/9) - Japan, 2005
2-CD - Revolver (REVXD 244) - UK, 2005

This is a various artists Bruce Springsteen tribute album. HIGHWAY PATROLMAN is performed by Sid Griffin.

Svante Karlsson -- Autograph

CD - Leco Music (LMD 7 391872 200326) - Sweden, 2003

Stephen Simmons -- The Superstore

CD - Locke Creek Records (unknown catalogue number) - USA, 2007

The Bruceband -- Nebraska Electric

CD - no label (88690-2) - Holland, 2008

This is a Bruce Springsteen tribute album consisting of full-band recordings of the complete Nebraska album.

Big Fat Teddy -- Hurt

CD - Back Seat Vinyl (no catalogue number) - USA, 2008

Various artists -- Long Distance Salvation: A Tribute To Bruce Springsteen's Nebraska

Digital album - unknown label (unknown catalogue number) - USA - 2012
LP - unknown label (unknown catalogue number) - USA - 2012

This is a various artists Bruce Springsteen tribute album. HIGHWAY PATROLMAN is performed by Joe Pug. The album is available in digital form for download and on limited edition colored vinyl.

Various artists -- I Hear You're From Australia - My Name's Bruce Too

2-CD - Laughing Outlaw (LOR160CD) - Australia, 2013

This is a various artists Bruce Springsteen tribute album. HIGHWAY PATROLMAN is performed by Bill Jackson.

Available Versions

List of available versions of HIGHWAY PATROLMAN on this website:

References

Much of the above info about the home demo recording is taken from Brucebase.

Request

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