The Meaning of Manfred Mann’s Earth Band’s “Blinded By The Light”

Not many know that the song “Blinded by the Light”, made famous by British rockers Manfred Mann’s Earth Band in 1976, was actually written and initially released by Bruce Springsteen on his 1973 album Greetings From Ashbury Park, N.J.

Released as the opening track on the seventh studio album from Manfred Mann Earth Band, The Roaring Silence, “Blinded by the Light” became a number one hit in America. This is ironically the only song written by Bruce Springsteen to ever reach number one on the Billboard Hot 100, with 1984’s “Dancing in the Dark” coming in close second when it reached number two.

Springsteen’s own version of the song did not get the same attention as the Manfred Mann version, and in fact it did not even make the charts despite being released as a single.

Perhaps this was because Springsteen’s version isn’t quite as catchy, but it’s more likely because everybody was wondering why Manfred Mann was singing about feminine hygiene products, and if I know Americans — probably belting out the falsely-perceived lyric at the top of their lungs: “Wrapped up like a douche, another runner in the night!”

However, that is not the actual lyric to the song, but more a mistake in the recording process that caused the actual line — “revved up like a deuce” — to sound like “revved up like a douche”.

Manfred Mann himself spoke about this, and his thoughts on how Springsteen may have felt about the song, in a 2007 interview with Record Collector Magazine:

I don’t think Springsteen liked our Blinded By The Light, ’cos we sang ‘wrapped up like a douche’, and it wasn’t written like that and I screwed it up completely. It sounded like ‘douche’ instead of ‘deuce’, ’cos of the technical process – a faulty azimuth due to tape-head angles, and it meant we couldn’t remix it.

Warners in America said, ‘You’ve got to change ‘douche’, ’cos the Southern Bible belt radio stations think it’s about a vaginal douche, and they have problems with body parts down there.’ We tried to change it to ‘deuce’ but then the rest of the track sounded horrible, so we had to leave it. We just said, ‘If it’s not a hit, it’s not.’

But in the end, it was No. 1 in America, and so many people came up to us after and said, ‘You know why it made No. 1? … Everyone was talking about whether it was deuce or douche.’ Apparently Springsteen thought we’d done it deliberately, which we hadn’t, so if I ever saw him I’d avoid him and cringe away like a frightened little boy.

Manfred Mann on the famous “douche” lyric from “Blinded by the Light”.
This is… Manfred Mann (1970), featuring a photo of Manfred Mann on the cover.

In 2005, Bruce Springsteen also spoke about the song during his VH1 Storytellers concert. He discussed the meaning of the lyrics, as well as the Manfred Mann cover that became infinitely more famous. He joked about how the Earth Band changed the lyric from “deuce” to “douche”, and how that is why the song skyrocketed.

You can watch him talk about this lyric, and the rest of the lyrics in the video below. Starting around 2:15 for his comments on Manfred Mann’s version.

Now, let’s dig into the lyrics, which tell an exciting tale of youthful energy and ambition. Springsteen explains in the video above that these lyrics are mostly autobiographical, with a bit of imagination thrown in. He was young and hungry, and he wanted to do something different with his songwriting.

Since Manfred Mann’s Earth Band’s version is more famous, we’re going to analyze the lyrics as they sang them, using some insight provided by Springsteen.

Here we go with the infamous opening lines:

Blinded by the light
Revved up like a deuce, another runner in the night
Blinded by the light
Revved up like a deuce, another runner in the night
Blinded by the light
Revved up like a deuce, another runner in the night

Intro lyrics to “Blinded By The Light” by Manfred Mann’s Earth Band.

In Springsteen’s version, this lyric goes, “Cut up like a deuce,” which is a reference to a Little Deuce Coop, a 2-seater hot rod. This a metaphor for his mind reeling fast, with the “Blinded by the Light” lyric being a reference to the wide world in front of you, with endless possibilities and dreams of the spotlight.

Manfred Mann’s official lyrics have the same meaning, but the lyrics that we all hear on the song give it a much different meaning, one that is quite dirty (or clean?) and we won’t discuss here.

Then we head into the first verse, which describes this youthful sensation with poetic lyrics:

Madman, drummers, bummers
Indians in the summer with a teenage diplomat
In the dumps with the mumps as the adolescent pumps
His way into his hat
With a boulder on my shoulder, feelin’ kinda older
I tripped the merry-go-round
With this very unpleasin’, sneezin’ and wheezin’
The calliope crashed to the ground
The calliope crashed to the ground!

First verse to “Blinded by the Light” by Manfred Mann’s Earth Band.

Each of these lyrics is pulled directly from Springsteen’s own life, with “Madman” being a reference to Vini “Mad Dog” Lopez, the original drummer for the E Street Band.

Vini “Mad Dog” Lopez with the E Street Band in the 70s.

The “Indians in the summer” is a reference to his Little League baseball team, who played in the summer, and also of course the popular term used for periods of hot weather in the fall.

The “teenage diplomat,” Springsteen explains, was he himself, who was feeling down in the dumps and sick, putting his hat on. He feels the weight of a boulder on his shoulder as the years begin to pass him by, heavier each and every day.

Finally, he references the boardwalk of the Jersey Shore where he was living at the time, with its merry-go-round, and all the unpleasant, sneezing, wheezing, tourists and hooligans around. The verse ends with the chaotic image of a calliope crashing to the ground before ripping into the chorus:

But she was blinded by the light
Revved up like a deuce, another runner in the night
Blinded by the light
Revved up like a deuce, another runner in the night
Blinded by the light
Revved up like a deuce, another runner in the night
Blinded by the light
Revved up like a deuce, another runner in the night

Chorus to “Blinded by the Light” by Manfred Mann’s Earth Band.

The chorus here introduces a woman to the story, suggesting that she is also young and energetic, feeling ready to take on the world at full speed but at the same time frozen in awe of the world at large.

Calliope (instrument).

Otherwise, you can enjoy some more “wrapped up like a douche” before the second verse comes in:

Some silicone sister with a manager mister
Told me I got what it takes
She said, “I’ll turn you on, son, into something strong
Play the song with the funky break”
And go-kart Mozart was checkin’ out the weather chart
To see if it was safe outside
And little Early-Pearly came by in his curly-wurly
And asked me if I needed a ride
Asked me if I needed a ride!

Second verse to “Blinded by the Light” by Manfred Mann’s Earth Band.

Here, the singer meets a woman who has undergone breast enhancement, who also has a manager. She seems to take a liking to this young man, and tells him to “play the song with the funky break”.

The second half of the verse is more obscure, and Springsteen sort of glosses over this part when discussing the song on VH1.

“Go-kart Mozart checking out the weather chart” implies that this is an artist, or driver who is fearful of taking a risk and is waiting for a sign that the time is right. Then comes along “little Early-Pearly in his curly-wurly” who offers him a ride. Perhaps this is another artist who is not afraid to take risks and instead takes a helicopter no matter the weather, and invites the singer to come along on his wild ride.

Then, the chorus drops in yet again before heading into the breakdown, with an extended instrumental section, followed by the bridge:

She got down but she never got tired
She’s gonna make it through the night
She’s gonna make it through the night

But mama, that’s where the fun is
But mama, that’s where the fun is
Mama always told me not to look into the eyes of the sun
But mama, that’s where the fun is

Breakdown and bridge to “Blinded by the Light”.

In the breakdown, the young woman is described as down, but never tired, and going to make it through the night. This means that she is facing some hard times but she won’t give up, and she’s going to get through them in one piece.

The bridge describes the sophomoric notion of wanting to do risky things for fun, and especially the things that your mother warns you about. In this case, the warning is about staring at the sun, to which Mann replies that it’s where the fun is.

Mannfred Mann’s Earth Band live in June 1974. Photo by David Miller.

Although this could be seen as a reference to drugs, Springsteen himself has never been a drug user, so while it does lend itself to that interpretation, that was probably not the songwriter’s intent.

Next up, we have the third verse — ripe with more riddle-like lyrics:

Some brimstone, baritone, anticyclone, rolling stone
Preacher from the east
Says, “Dethrone the dictaphone, hit it in it’s funny bone
That’s where they expect it least”
And some new-mown chaperone was standin’ in the corner
Watchin’ the young girls dance
And some fresh-sown moonstone was messin’ with his frozen zone
Reminding him of romance
The calliope crashed to the ground!

Third verse to “Blinded by the Light” by Manfred Mann’s Earth Band.

There’s a lot to unpack in this verse, starting right from the jump with the adjective-filled first line describing the “Preacher from the east” in the second line.

Brimstone is a word for sulphur, used in the Bible with the phrase “fire and brimstone” to describe bad things coming, or hell. Baritone means deep voice. An anticyclone is a weather system that is basically opposite a hurricane, associated with high pressure and calm, fine weather. Use of the phrase “Rolling Stone” by be a reference to Bob Dylan and his famous song, “Like A Rolling Stone”.

All of this seems to describe a cryptic, deep-voiced and calm traveling preacher who comes to town wanting to get rid of the dictaphone, also known as the voice recorder.

What I’m gathering from this is we are now in a seedy place, and this preacher is up to some not-so-great things if he wants to get rid of voice recorders, perhaps so that nobody can make a record of the things he says.

Next, we meet the “new-mown chaperone” who is standing in the corner, watching the girls dance. This could be a reference to someone who manages strippers, or a pimp, with a fresh haircut, keeping an eye on things.

And then a “fresh-sown moonstone”, or young man who is either drunk or high, naive, or both, is falling in love, or “messing with his frozen zone” (his heart), because somehow this reminds him of romance.

It doesn’t make much concrete sense, but there is an aura about it that describes things starting to spin out of control, and maybe the fortune and fame is not what you hoped it would be. There is also the possibility that this song is about drugs, and this is where things take a dark turn.

Whatever your own personal theory may be, I hope you’re ready to get wrapped up like a douche again, because we have another hit of that chorus before barreling into the long final segment of the song.

Here we go:

(Madman drummers, bummers)
Blinded by the light
(Indians in the summer with a teenage diplomat)
Revved up like a deuce, another runner in the night
(In the dumps with the mumps)
Blinded by the light
(As the adolescent pumps his way into his hat)
Revved up like a deuce, another runner in the night
(With a boulder on my shoulder, feeling kinda older)
Blinded by the light
(I tripped the merry-go-round)
Revved up like a deuce, another runner in the night
(With this very unpleasin’, sneezin’ and wheezin’)
Blinded by the light
(The calliope crashed to the ground)
Revved up like a deuce, another runner in the night
(Now, Scott with a slingshot finally found a tender spot)
Revved up like a deuce, another runner in the night
(And throws his lover in the sand)
Blinded by the light
(Some bloodshot forget-me-not said daddy’s within earshot)
Revved up like a deuce, another runner in the night
(Save the buckshot, turn up the band)
Revved up like a deuce, another runner in the night
(Some silicone sister with a manager mister)
Blinded by the light
Revved up like a deuce, another runner in the night
(Told me I got what it takes)
(She said, “I’ll turn you on, son, into something strong”)

Counter chorus to “Blinded by the Light” by Manfred Mann’s Earth Band.

There is a chorus being sung a few times here, with a reprise of the first verse interspaced, and then some new lyrics that were actually part of the second verse in Springsteen’s version, and finally a reprise of the second verse.

The lyrics that begin with the part about “Scott with the slingshot” describe a young man who was looking to get laid, who finally found himself a willing partner in a drunk young lady. She tells him that her Dad is around and he suggests that they turn up the music so that he doesn’t get blasted with a shotgun.

That’s enough from me, on this one. Listen to Manfred Mann’s version of “Blinded by the Light” below, and Springsteen’s version below that.

If you enjoy our content, follow @extrachill on Instagram to stay connected!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.