Before Bruce Was 'The Boss'

He was just a skinny kid playing the club circuit in the early 1970's but, for Bruce Springsteen, an album called "Born to Run" was about to change all that.

As he went into a studio to make the record, his first two albums had been flops and his record label was growing restless.

On CBS News Sunday Morning, CBS News Correspondent Anthony Mason takes us back to Springsteen's lean years, to the time when "Born to Run" was born, when Springsteen struggled to create the classic that would prove he really could live up to all his promise.

Now, "Born to Run" has become a classic, a seminal album in every way, and it's being reissued.

In fact, by any accounting, "Born to Run" is considered one of the great rock records of all time, a remarkable confluence of events and musicians that led to one of popular music's most successful ventures.

Mason asked Springsteen if it ever amazes him that he was only 24, when he made "Born to Run.

"It was just rock music, you know," Springsteen answered. "That's (what) 24-year-old kids would do, you know."

In 1974, when Springsteen and his E Street Band went into a studio to record his third album, he was a promising singer struggling to hang onto a recording contract.

"We'd had a couple of what were considered flops, and that was two records, two strikes. Three strikes, you're out, maybe," he told Mason.

"Greetings From Asbury Park," Springsteen's debut album, had sold only 20,000 copies. His second album sold even less than that.

Bruce Lundvall, who was the head of marketing for Columbia Records at the time, says the performance of those two records was "very disappointing. And people were beginning to question, 'Well, is Springsteen really gonna be a long-term artist here?' "

"Was the company sweating it out while he was working for over a year?" Mason wanted to know.

"Well, some of us were, sure, you know," replied Lundvist.

Mason put it to Springsteen directly: "When you started writing songs for this album, were you saying to yourself, 'It's my last chance?' "

"I lived with a lot of death anxiety, so I always thought that," Springsteen chuckled. "That's the way I always write, you know: 'Oh, this is the last one.'

"I was reaching; I wanted to make one of the greatest, you know, rock records ever."

Springsteen had a sound in his head, cinematic lyrics, and an epic layered sound that paid homage to producer Phil Spector.

He tells Mason, "We would cut with the live band, just a small section of us, three or four of us, and then layer things on, you know."