The song depicts a young couple's romantic escape to the New Jersey city Atlantic City, but also wrestles with the inevitability of death as the man in the relationship intends to take a job in organized crime once arriving in the city. The opening lines of "Atlantic City" refer to mafia violence in nearby Philadelphia, with Springsteen singing: "Well they blew up the chicken man in Philly last night, now they blew up his house too." (The "chicken man" was a mafia boss named Philip Testa .

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