"Point Blank" is a song written by Bruce Springsteen and first released on Springsteen's 1980 album The River. In Europe, it was also released as a single in 1981, backed by another song from The River, "Ramrod" Although it was not released as a single in the US, it did reach #20 on the Billboard Mainstream Rock Tracks chart.
"Point Blank" was written in 1978, and was the first song Springsteen wrote after completing the Darkness on the Edge of Town album. "Point Blank" had its live premiere on July 7, 1978 in a concert on the Darkness Tour at the Roxy Theatre in West Hollywood, California, at which "Independence Day" was also premiered. In its 1978 incarnation, the lyrics dealt with the singer's girlfriend's drug addiction. A live 1978 performance from Houston, Texas is included on a DVD in The Promise box set.
"Point Blank", along with the title track, "Wreck on the Highway" and "Independence Day," is one of the verse-chorus songs on The River that was essentially a short story or character sketch. As with "The River" and "Independence Day," this song deals with the disappointments of working-class family life. With The River, Springsteen figured out how to create an album on which happy songs like "Sherry Darling" could co-exist with painful songs like "Point Blank." And "Point Blank" is one of the most painful songs on the album. The emotions covered by the song include disappointment, fear, loneliness and desperation.
"Point Blank" is also one of several songs on the album dealing with the conflict between dreams and reality. The singer dreams that he is still with his former girlfriend and they are dancing together. But waking up, he realizes he saw the girlfriend standing in the doorway trying to stay out of the rain, looking "like just another stranger waitin' to get blown away." The ex-girlfriend is the subject of the song's narrative. She grew up fast, but rather than getting the life she wanted, she ended up on welfare. The singer sings that:
I was gonna be your Romeo you were gonna be my Juliet
These days you don't wait on Romeo's
You wait on that welfare check
This was the third reference to a Romeo in a Springsteen-penned song, earlier ones being "Incident on 57th Street" from the 1973 album The Wild, the Innocent & the E Street Shuffle and "Fire", which was covered by Robert Gordon in 1978.
The music is highlighted by Roy Bittan's sensitive piano playing and Springsteen's singing, alternating between vulnerability, disbelief and anger.
Author Rob Kirkpatrick describes the theme of the "Point Blank" as "you're born dying." Jeffrey Symynkywicz described the theme as being that "there is an inexorable decline that is carved at the heart of life." Springsteen has stated that one of the themes of the song is the fact that if you ease up as you get older, you effectively cease to exist. When introducing the song at a 1981 concert, Springsteen stated:
A song ain't no good until somebody hears it. By yourself you can't have an effect. You have to reach out. This is a song about someone who loses that power, which is the most powerful thing in the world – your ability to affect your friends' lives ... and my life ... and maybe I can do somethin' for you. So ... this is called "Point Blank."
There are at least two theories as to the origin of the title. One theory is that it comes from the 1967 Lee Marvin movie Point Blank. Another is that it came from a comment made by an ex-girlfriend during the heat of an argument. File Hashes
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