His third album, Born to Run was Springsteen's breakthrough hit and launched his career in the United States and around the world. His first album to feature Roy Bittan and Max Weinberg, Born to Run was preceded by hype due to overwhelming critical acclaim. While his previous two albums, Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J. and The Wild, the Innocent and the E Street Shuffle, received good reviews, popular success had been scarce; Born to Run cemented Springsteen's reputation among critics and established his first mainstream fanbase.
The album is noted for its use of introductions to set the tone of each song (much of the record was composed on piano, not guitar), and for the Phil Spector-like "Wall of Sound" arrangements and production. Indeed, Springsteen has said that he wanted "Born to Run" to sound like "Roy Orbison singing Bob Dylan, produced by Spector."
In terms of the original LP's sequencing, Springsteen eventually adopted a "four corners" approach, as the songs beginning each side ("Thunder Road", "Born to Run") were uplifting odes to escape, while the songs ending each side ("Backstreets", "Jungleland") were sad epics of loss, betrayal, and defeat. (Originally, he had planned to begin and end the album with alternative versions of "Thunder Road".)
Upon release, the album peaked at number 3 on the Billboard album chart and spent over two years in the top 100 best-selling albums. Most reviews were immediate raves, even to the extent of writer Greil Marcus comparing the introduction to "Backstreets" to The Iliad.
The album's reputation has not suffered over time. Rolling Stone's 2002 list of the greatest 500 albums of all time ranked Born to Run at number 18. In 2003, Born to Run was ranked as the most popular album in the first Zagat Survey Music Guide. Also in 2003, the TV network VH1 named it the 27th-greatest album of all time. In 2003, it was one of 50 recordings chosen that year by the Library of Congress to be added to the National Recording Registry.