Posts Tagged ‘Danny Federici’

Less than a month before the release of his physically and sonically mega box set Live/1975-85, Bruce went completely the opposite direction, stripping down to play his first all-acoustic set since 1972 at what would become Neil Young’s annual Bridge School Benefit Concert.

During a guest DJ session on E Street Radio, Nils Lofgren recounted getting a call from Bruce to join him for the Bridge (Lofgren was also on the bill as a solo artist). Along with Danny Federici, the trio worked up and rehearsed the set in a New York City studio in early October 1986. But as Nils tells it, in an anecdote that conveys deep admiration for the confidence and prowess of his bandleader, on show day at Shoreline, Bruce called a major setlist audible. It wouldn’t be enough to merely play acoustic; Springsteen would go one step further and open the show a capella.

Here was the biggest rock star in the world, last seen 12 months earlier wrapping his staggeringly successful Born in the U.S.A. tour in front of 85,000 fans at the LA Coliseum, taking the stage and singing “You Can Look (But You Better Not Touch)” accompanied only by his snapping fingers. Nils described Bruce’s audacious performance as Elvis-like in its physicality, and grainy bootleg video of the show confirms that. What an entrance.

The Bridge ’86 is a special show. The short but oh-so-sweet set reconnected Springsteen with acoustic performance and can be viewed in hindsight as helping spur a decade or more of solo appearances like the Christic concerts and acoustic recordings like The Ghost of Tom Joad that followed.

The line-up for the inaugural Bridge benefit included Bruce, Nils, Don Henley, Robin Williams (who briefly referenced his famous “Elmer Fudd does Bruce Springsteen” bit during his stand-up set that night), Tom Petty, and host Neil Young (who had his own special guests in Crosby, Stills & Nash). Not unlike the M.U.S.E./No Nukes shows, another benefit where some of these same artists shared a bill, “Broocing” throughout the concert made it clear who most of the audience had come to see.

Following “You Can Look,” Bruce delivers an astounding rebuttal to the jingoistic appropriation that surrounded the title track of his last album. “This is a song about the snake that came around and began to eat its tail,” Bruce says introducing his first public airing of the original solo acoustic arrangement of “Born in the U.S.A.” Any misconstruing of or ambiguity as to the song’s meaning is vanquished over the next five minutes in a spellbinding performance. Until the Bridge, one could only speculate as to what “Born in the U.S.A.” would have sounded like on Nebraska. Now we know.

Nils and Danny then take the stage, and we get an exquisitely rare outing for this E Street Trio. What magic they weave. “Seeds” arrives as a companion to “Born in the U.S.A.” Angry and defiant in 1985, the 1986 model of “Seeds” is instead weary and knowing, sounding like a tune from a bygone era. “Darlington County” is next, preceded by a mini-edition of the story that introduced “Open All Night” in 1984 of Bruce getting pulled over on the turnpike. Nils provides charming harmony vocals throughout the show, none better than what he offers here, as “Darlington” takes its time driving down from New York City.

Strumming and singing brightly, Lofgren shines again on “Mansion on the Hill,” as does Federici. Danny first vamps a little “Lady of Spain,” as Bruce gets his guitar ready, then adds rich accordion swells that paint the song an emotionally tinged hue.

“Fire” will be familiar to those who own Video Anthology on VHS or DVD, where the Bridge version was showcased. Before it starts, Danny is again tapped to fill time due to minor technical difficulties, and he drops a dose of Duke Ellington’s “Satin Doll.” Uncannily, Federici used the song in much the same manner in the earliest E Street days circa 1973-74. Though “Fire” is rightly remembered as a Clarence Clemons showcase, the acoustic version, carried by Bruce’s deep vocal, is pure delight, peaking when Lofgren and Springsteen raise their voices way up to sing, “your words they liiiiiie.”

“Dancing in the Dark” rides a particularly passionate lead vocal along with some fine accordion work from Federici in the final third that pushes the Shoreline audience towards rapture. “Glory Days” always had a bit of a campfire singalong vibe underneath it, and that comes through in this charming take that has the swooning audience joining in.

Serving as something of an encore, “Follow That Dream” lends poignancy to the evening as Springsteen dedicates the song to Neil and Pegi Young. In its River tour incarnation (as heard on the London ’81 archive release) “Follow That Dream” is stark and solemn. In 1986, it transforms into an uplifting song of hope, performed less as a mediation and more as an instruction.

For the final song of the set, “Hungry Heart,” the trio is expanded with backing vocals and guitar from special guests David Crosby, Graham Nash, Stephen Stills, and Young, putting a spirited ending on just under an hour of acoustic enchantment.

Bridge School ’86 is a significant moment in the rebirth Springsteen as an acoustic artist. Since that show, Bruce has done two fully acoustic tours and a Broadway run that carried on in the spirit of ’86. Perhaps someday, Bridge School ’86 could still inspire an E Street Trio tour as well.

Words by By Erik Flannigan

ORDER NOW: 12/29/80 - NASSAU COLISEUM

December 29th, 1980 Night two of the legendary three-show stand at Nassau Coliseum 1980 is a barnstormer. It features the tour premiere of “Night” as the opener and, in its lone River tour performance, an extraordinary “Incident On 57th Street” into “Rosalita” to close the set. Spanning 35 songs, Nassau  29th beautifully blends deep River cuts (“Stolen Car,” “Wreck on the Highway,” “Point Blank”), seasonal nuggets (“Merry Christmas Baby” and “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town” and fan favorites (“Fire,” “Because the Night”).

One of the most thrilling times to be a sports fan is when your team is in the midst of a winning streak. They occur in all sports, but in baseball and especially basketball, winning streaks are irresistible because of the unique way they place team chemistry, a “never give up” mentality, and moments of individual brilliance against a backdrop of ever-rising stakes. Who doesn’t want to tune in to see if your team can push their streak to 17, 21, or 33 in a row?

It could be argued that the entire live performance history of Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band is one long winning streak. That acknowledged, and with the benefit of hindsight and live recordings, fan consensus has coalesced around notable E Street streaks: the last two weeks of the 1977 tour with the Miami Horns; the late-’84 stretch of the Born in the U.S.A. tour.; and the final U.S. leg of Magic 2008 to name but a few.

The River tour boasts a few of its own streaks, and without question, Thanksgiving to New Year’s Eve 1980 is among the best of them. A staggering run of shows throughout the Northeast culminated in a three-night stand at the Nassau Coliseum on Long Island. With his first chart-topping album and a Top Five single (“Hungry Heart”) in hand, Bruce and the band closed out 1980 more popular than ever.

Shows that wrapped that leg of the tour offered an intoxicating mix of musician-athletes performing at their peak, newfound confidence drawn from a long-awaited commercial breakthrough, and a continued hunger to prove it all night.

Supporting a double album of new material, that hunger was manifest in the increasing duration of the concerts and the stunning number of songs performed. In fact, until records were broken in 2012, the late-’80 River shows were the longest of Bruce’s career. Other shows and tours have their own distinct qualities, but if you are talking about a run of epic Springsteen concerts, the Thanksgiving-New Year’s ’80 streak is the reference point.

Nassau Coliseum 29/ 12/80 and its sister show 31/12/80 (reissued in a newly remixed and remastered edition) each stretch to 35 or more songs and live up to the legend of Bruce’s four-hour concerts by running close to that (counting the between-sets intermission). There may be other eras where the band played this well, but there is no period where they played better.

Both stunning performances are packed with delicious rarities along with some of the strongest versions of core material ever caught on multi-tracks. With a bounty of more than 70 songs between the two shows, there’s too much good stuff to cover, but here are ten things to listen for as you relive these magical nights.

1.Springsteen debuted his brilliant take on Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Who’ll Stop the Rain” three shows earlier at Madison Square Garden. It has endured as one of the band’s finest covers, popping up a few times on tours ever since. The versions performed on 29/12 and 31/12 are musically rich and heartfelt, pointing to the musical direction Bruce would explore six months hence on the band’s first proper tour of Europe.

2. Having just read Joe Klein’s biography of Woody Guthrie, Bruce covers “This Land Is Your Land” for the first time during the three-show Nassau stand, calling it an “angry song…an answer to Irving Berlin’s ‘God Bless America’.” With the possible exception of a one-off performance of Bob Dylan’s “Chimes of Freedom” in 1978, it is the first protest song Springsteen performed in concert with the E Street Band and signals the start of his public turn toward social and political commentary.

3. The paternal pairing of “Factory” and “Independence Day” on 29/12 is not only an evocative stretch of storytelling, but could pass for a dramatic monologue at a Broadway theater.

4. One of the signature sequences of early River tour shows is Roy Bittan’s mini-suite of “The River” into “Badlands.” 1980 performances of “The River” start with an original piano prelude (echoed by Danny Federici) before Bruce’s plaintive harmonica wail starts the song formally. Shortly after “The River” ends, Bittan starts into his interpretation of Ennio Morricone’s theme from the Sergio Leone filmOnce Upon A Time In The West. As Bittan plays the moving piano refrain, electric guitar chords start to chime in, building energy that crescendos when the intro gives way to an explosive “Badlands.” Magnificent.

5. The River tour is the height of Stevie Van Zandt’s role as backing vocalist, at times reaching the point of co-lead vocals. He’s a marvel at these shows on expected songs like “Two Hearts” and “Prove It All Night,” but listen for him in more unexpected places like the chorus of “Thunder Road” for signs of just how into it he is at Nassau.

6. Bruce’s spirited vocal on “For You” is full of fresh intonations distinct from other renditions.

7. The earnest story that leads into “Stolen Car” on 12/29 might melt your heart; the moving performance itself will have you reaching for a tissue or three.

8. The gorgeous, stripped-down arrangement of “The Price You Pay” on 31/12 starts solo. The band joins softly in the second verse, and we’re treated to the alternate third verse found in the single-disc version of The River included in The Ties That Bind box set. As good as it gets.

9. While we’ve heard the incredible version of “Incident on 57th Street” from 29/12 before (it was released as the b-side to “War” from Live 1975/85), hearing it in context of the show is so much sweeter. “This is a song we haven’t done in a real long time,” says Bruce, as he tests out the chords on his guitar. “No, it ain’t ‘Kitty’s Back.’ I hope I remember all the words….” Roy tinkles out the first few notes, the crowd swoons in recognition of the song, Max comes with his drum intro, and the lead guitar sends us soaring. If that wasn’t enough, after nearly ten majestic minutes, it rolls straight into “Rosalita” as it does on The Wild, the Innocent & the E Street Shuffle.

10. You want rarities? We got rarities. Beyond the aforementioned, the Nassau shows feature “Rendezvous,” the first-ever version of the “Hungry Heart” b-side “Held Up Without a Gun,” sublime seasonal nuggets “Merry Christmas Baby” and “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town,” plus Happy New Year covers of “In the Midnight Hour” and “Auld Lang Syne.” All that, plus 15 of the 20 songs on The River, including the under-played “Fade Away,” “Wreck on the Highway” and “The Price You Pay.”

A Final Note: Jon Altschiller’s new mix and mastering on 31/12/80 moves the listener from the 40th row to the first, proximity that reveals incredible new detail and musical power.

After electing to Plangent Process 29/12/80 for release, it was clear that 31/12/80 also deserved a Plangent-transferred new mix and mastering to match, as the version released in 2015 was not up to the same standards.
While the Plangent Processed and remixed version of 31/12/80 is being sold as a standalone release, anyone who bought the original can access the new upgraded audio for free via the “My Stash” section of the nugs.net app, which provides streaming access to all shows purchased as downloads or CDs (no subscription required). Previous buyers of New Years Eve ’80 can log in with the account credentials they used to buy the show the first time.

ORDER NOW: 12/31/80 - NASSAU COLISEUM

December 31st, 1980 For the first time, multi-track master tapes of the classic New Year’s Eve 1980 show have been transferred via Plangent Processes and newly remixed by Jon Altschiller for superior sound. This upgraded edition breathes fresh life into a jaw-dropping 38-song performance which is packed with highlights, including “Spirit in the Night,” “Rendezvous,” “Fade Away,” “The Price You Pay,” “Held Up Without a Gun,” “In The Midnight Hour,” “Auld Lang Syne,” “Twist and Shout” and “Raise Your Hand.” The all-time fan favorite has never sounded better.

The Band:

  • Bruce Springsteen – Lead vocal, guitar, harmonica; Roy Bittan – Piano, keyboards; Clarence Clemons – Tenor and baritone saxophones, percussion, backing vocal; Danny Federici – Organ, glockenspiel, accordion; Garry Tallent – Bass; Stevie Van Zandt – Electric and acoustic guitars, backing vocal; Max Weinberg – Drums

Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band had been on the road for well over a year when the Born In The USA tour wrapped up with a four-night stand at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in late September 1985. Springsteen was at the absolute pinnacle of his success after seeing six straight singles from the album hit the Top Ten (with a seventh on the way) and sold out stadiums and arenas anywhere he played. A professional crew was on hand to record every night of the run for the Live 1975-85 box set, but they wound up only using recordings from night three. The tape of opening night on September 27th, 1985 has sat in the vault for the past 34 years, but today Springsteen has released it as part of his ongoing live download series.

Memorial Coliseum, Los Angeles, 1985 represents the apex of Bruce Springsteen’s mass popularity. No concerts performed before or since represent the same level of mainstream cultural impact inherent in the final four performances that wrapped the mammoth Born in the U.S.A. tour.

According to the LA Times, on September 27th, opening night of the sold-out stand, Bruce and the band played to 83,000 people. That means over the course of four sold-out shows, more than 330,000 people clicked the turnstiles at the site of two Olympic Games, to see not world-class athletes but the world’s greatest live performer. Staggering.

Springsteen long factored for the person in the very last row at his concerts, but now that fan was 100-150 yards from the stage. Scaling up production elements at stadiums to deliver a comparable level of band-to-fan connection was crucial, and that affected everything from the sound of Max’s drums and the quality and size of the stage-side video screens to the clothing the band wore on stage, which was brightly colored to help boost the visibility and discernibility of individual members from far away.

Los Angeles 1985 starts as it must with a dazzling “Born in the U.S.A.” Jon Altschiller’s zoomed-in mix (with a notably livelier audience levels) dials in a difficult-to-achieve balance of synthesizer and guitar. The deepest notes of the former provide a sternum-compressing whoosh that anyone who saw a BIUSA stadium show will remember; the latter more forward and clearer than we often hear on 1985 recordings. As Bruce sings, “long gone daddy in the U.S.A.,” we get some real chugga chugga licks, followed later by an extended solo that’s up there with the great ones that append the song on the 1988 Tunnel of Love tour. As for Max Weinberg, he absolutely crushes one of the best live versions of “Born in the U.S.A.” ever released.

At this point of the 1984-85 tour, the E Street Band was a machine in the best sense of that word, operating under both Bruce’s and the individual players’ master control. The transition from “U.S.A.” to “Badlands” is lush with Danny Federici organ swirls, and we can hear every band member in sharp detail right down to Clarence Clemons’ percussion.

LA 1985 is rife with distinct moments worth highlighting: Bruce singing out, “debts that no honest man could pay” with particular passion on “Atlantic City,” and matching that energy again for the last line of “Downbound Train”; the happiness in his voice ahead of “Glory Days” as he talks about turning 36 four days prior; Patti Scialfa’s soaring high notes that raise “Trapped” to full crescendo; Clarence’s under-appreciated solo on the same song releasing the pent-up tension that makes the arrangement so mesmerizing; the heightened peaks of the extended “Cover Me” that finally relent to the breakneck release of “Dancing in the Dark” (the exclusion of which from Live/1975-85 still puzzles); Roy’s best Jerry Lee Lewis impression splashing all over a rip-roaring and rarely played “Stand On It.”

But the E Street MVP this night is Nils Lofgren. LA 1985 is an opportunity for reappreciation of how much of the load he carried on the tour and the many spots when he shined. His intro to “Seeds” oozes dirtier than you might recall, and the hypnotic prelude to “I’m on Fire” alters the tone of the song significantly.

As Nils plays, Springsteen’s spoken introduction to “I’m on Fire” (omitted on Live/1975-85) subtly shifts the song’s narrative, too. He speaks of the struggles endured by his father and mother, and of his fear that, if he didn’t get out, whatever sense of hope and happiness was figuratively dying inside his dad would be his fate as well. Lying awake in bed, thinking dark thoughts like one of the characters he wrote about on Nebraska, the narrator confesses he understands how one could snap. It makes the “Hey little girl is your daddy home” that follows more of a disturbing dream.

What’s commendable given the circumstances and stakes surrounding LA 1985 is that Bruce is still taking risks and using his status to make a statement. The night marks the daring debut of Edwin Starr’s righteous anthem “War,” written by Barrett Strong and Norman Whitfield. With lyrics taped to his forearm, Springsteen tears into the anti-war cry, in a version appealingly raw compared to the finished track that would later become the first single released from Live/1975-85. For a man whose messages and political views had been co-opted and misinterpreted of late, “War” allows zero ambiguity, no more so than when Bruce implores, “Tell your mama!” Nils adds another compelling guitar intro here, as Bruce sounds his solemn warning that “blind faith in anything…will get you killed.”

The bulk of LA 1985 is made up of what might be called a refined stadium setlist, optimized for maximum impact in venues of this scale. Over the last 34 years, so-called stadium friendly material suggested something that couldn’t compare to the greatest theater and arena performances that preceded it. Yet listening today, one marvels at how skillfully the band is playing in front of 83,000, not merely showing themselves up to the task of reaching that distant back row but retaining the tightness, power, and nuance that made them the best live act in the world. In other words, don’t sleep on ‘85.

Stadium staples aside, let’s not overlook the second of the night’s world premieres. “Alright, let’s try it” serves as the rallying cry to the live debut of “Janey, Don’t You Lose Heart,” the charming Born in the U.S.A. outtake and “I’m Goin’ Down” b-side that is a kindred spirit to another equally enchanting leftover, “Be True.” Both share a certain mid-tempo melodic romanticism that marks a lot of the songs Bruce often left on the cutting room floor. It’s a winning version that curiously omits The Big Man’s recorded sax solo in favor of piano solo by The Professor. Listen for Bruce hooting encouragement and howling with glee as Roy takes the spotlight. He clearly likes Janey.

The show wraps fittingly with a cover of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Travelin’ Band,” resplendent with Clarence’s baritone sax, Roy’s piano fills, and nearly a dozen tour-stop name checks. It’s the perfect selection for the end of the line, recalling the mystery train that left the station at a St. Paul arena 15 months earlier and wound up conquering the world by the time it came to a halt in LA, playing to an audience more than five times the size.

Thanks Erik Flanagan

Bruce Springsteen  took the stage at the Capitol Theatre in Passaic, New Jersey 40 years ago as a man on a mission to prove that he wasn’t a flash in the pan who could be washed up at just 28. that night he delivered to the 3,200 fans in attendance not merely a great show but the concert that many consider the single-best performance of his career, one captured for posterity on a WNEW-FM simulcast broadcast throughout the East Coast and recorded with then state-of-the-art video technology at the venue itself.

“I’d just recently vanished for three years,” Springsteen wrote in his autobiography, Born to Run. A dispute with his manager had delayed the release of his follow up to the Born to Run album for nearly three years, an impossibly long time in the industry at the time. “[I] had barely felt visible most of my life, and if I could help it, I wasn’t going back.”

Richard Neer was simulcasting the show that night and realized from the start that something was different. “Usually Bruce would say something before the show for the simulcast in a joking way like he was a boxer ready to take the ring.” But there was no mock Muhammad Ali on this night.

Bruce didn’t say anything that night,” remembers Neer, He was so amped up, “He just couldn’t wait to get out there. Bruce has done so many shows and many argue which one was the best one. But this one had a lot of energy. It meant a lot for him and the band to be in New Jersey. It seems ridiculous now, but then he really had to prove he wasn’t a one-album guy.” While many shows on this tour opened with a cover, Springsteen decided to begin this night with a version of “Badlands” delivered with such fiery passion that it’s hard to believe there was anywhere left to go for the remaining three-plus hours.

Springsteen shows are communal events. And the birth of that really began on this tour. His fans by then had absorbed his recordings to the point where they could participate in the show in some odd dichotomy of both choreography and spontaneity. The audience never really knew how far and exactly when Springsteen would let them venture into the show—or how far he literally would venture into the crowd. On this night, it was farther than ever before, this was after Clarence Clemens took the saxophone solo into the crowd as well in “Spirit In The Night.”

Springsteen’s story telling, now honed to the point where he can carry a Broadway show not merely with his music but his words, is in fine form in “Thunder Road,” as well as his politics and his humanity. The power of the introduction moves the crowd to a spiritual connection rarely seen in rock and roll. Suddenly, he has more than 3,000 backup singers. There’s one big stage at a Springsteen concert, especially in that period, and the audience was on it. And that would become a defining characteristic of the Springsteen concert experience.

This tour featured for the first time the two-set Bruce concert experience. The show was broken up this way, Springsteen says, so he could give the audience the new material from the Darkness On The Edge Of Town album that he felt they needed to hear, along with the then more established music that they wanted to hear.

“The live power, the strength of the of the E Street Band proved invaluable and, night after night, we sent our listeners away, back too the recorded versions of this music, newly able to hear their beauty and restrained power,” Springsteen wrote.

The “Darkness” material was so powerful live that this bifurcation soon became unnecessary. And songs from Darkness also bled into the second set. They were received with enthusiasm rarely seen at shows featuring new material. “Candy’s Room” here is the best example of this, about two hours into the show. Bruce’s restraint as he holds the artillery that he and the audience knows is coming in full fury is thrilling.

But Springsteen doesn’t want you to feel just something at a concert. He wants you to feel everything. The entire range of human emotion condensed into one, unforgettable night. And his commitment every night to delivering this has never been better chronicled.

“I want an extreme experience,” he told The New Yorker in 2006. When you leave, he wants, “your hands hurting, your feet hurting, your back hurting, your voice sore, and your sexual organs stimulated!”

“10th Avenue Freeze Out” is three hours into the show, with Bruce drenched despite playing on what Neer said was a very cold September night. But his enjoyment is palpable and infectious.

“For an adult, the world is constantly trying to clamp down on itself,” Springsteen said in that 2006 interview. “Routine, responsibility, decay of institutions, corruption: this is all the world closing in. Music, when it’s really great, pries that shit back open and lets people back in, it lets light in, and air in, and energy in, and sends people home with that and sends me back to the hotel with it. People carry that with them sometimes for a very long period of time.”

There’s no letup, with the show closer featuring fans on the stage as Bruce triumphantly exiting with a woman from the crowd strapped to his arm.

Could it really be that Springsteen’s greatest concert ever was in a former porn palace in Passaic, N.J., a site that became a venue only to fill the area void created by he closing the Fillmore East? (The Capitol declined after a Sgt. Pepper year in 1978 featuring not just Springsteen but also The Rolling Stones and The Who; it eventually closed when the then Brendan Byrne Arena was opened a few miles away in East Rutherford, ironically by Springsteen before the paint was even dry.)

Part of this show’s legacy was that it was recorded in radio quality and went on to become one of the most bootlegged concerts in history. Not to mention the video. Here it’s listed in the top spot on a very well-thought-out list of Springsteen performances. And note the live recording released by Springsteen last year was of the show at the venue the next night, featuring a revamped set list (another Springsteen innovation to keep the crowd even more on edge). Of course, the top Springsteen performance ever is no doubt a very strong contender for the best rock concert in history, too. All in an obscure New Jersey town, with Springsteen spurred on by fear of irrelevance and a desire to live out one of his iconic songs.

“Everybody’s got a hunger, a hunger they can’t resist
There’s so much that you want, you deserve much more than this
But if dreams came true, oh, wouldn’t that be nice
But this ain’t no dream we’re living through tonight
Girl, you want it, you take it, you pay the price”

Prove It all Night with the classic, searing, intense guitar work that was the hallmark of the ’78 Darkness Tour. From the 19th September, 1978 Passaic show. Play this LOUD.

Radio broadcast, soundboard tapes (all three nights in Passaic were recorded by the Record Plant’s mobile unit, both on multi-track and live-to-two track) and professionally shot in-house black and white video. Probably one of the best all-time concert recordings. Broadcast on WNEW-FM New York and nine other stations in the north-east, including WBCN-FM and WCOZ-FM Boston, WIOQ-FM Philadelphia and WIYY-FM Baltimore. Set includes great versions of “Because The Night” and “Fire,” and also includes what many consider to be the finest examples of “Racing In The Street” and “Thunder Road” ever. ”

Bruce Springsteen's 'Darkness on the Edge of Town': 10 Things You Didn't Know

On June 2nd, 1978, Bruce Springsteen released the album Darkness on the Edge of Town his first since 1975’s Born to Run had made him a big draw, it arrived after a lengthy lawsuit with his former manager Mike Appel where he was unable to enter a recording studio.

With three years on the sidelines because of the lawsuit with Appel an eternity at that time for a musician – Springsteen has said that he felt he needed to reintroduce himself. To make another dense record rooted in rock’s past,  In the three years between Born to Run and Darkness, he’d simply learned a lot and during this time he played some of the best live shows of his career. He spent a great deal of time in court, for one thing; he began listening to Hank Williams and old-time, class-conscious country music. He’d seen the films of John Ford and Howard Hawks and John Huston, and read the novels of John Steinbeck and John Dos Passos that Jon Landau had given him. The concerns of the lower-middle class became the concerns about which he began feeling most passionate, and those things are reflected in his writing, and his writing became more compact and direct as a result.

Although the lyrics didn’t directly reference the suit, his bitterness showed in the songwriting. Gone was the cinematic romanticism of his first three albums, replaced by stark portraits of blue-collar American life that would form the basis of Springsteen’s writing for the next decade.

Darkness On The Edge reached No. 5 on the Billboard albums chart, and the tour, where he and the E Street Band made their first ventures into headlining arenas, The tour solidified his reputation as one of the most exciting live acts in rock n’ roll. Many of its tracks, including “Badlands,” “The Promised Land” and “Prove It All Night” as well as the outtake “Because the Night” have still to this day continued to play an important role in his concerts to this day.

But the 10 songs released on Darkness represented a fraction of the music recorded for the album, with 57 song known titles recorded during the sessions, . Is “Darkness on the Edge of Town” Bruce Springsteen’s best album?.

Several other artists wound up benefiting from his surplus; Southside Johnny, Robert Gordon, Greg Kihn and Gary U.S. Bonds all recorded songs from this period that Springsteen felt didn’t jibe with the album’s bleak mood. But while “Prove It All Night” was the only single , two artists enjoyed massive hit smashes with his Darkness castoffs: The Pointer Sisters went all the way to Number Two with their recording of “Fire” – a song Springsteen claimed to have originally written in 1977 for Elvis Presley and Patti Smith scored the biggest hit single of her career with “Because the Night,” which reached  Number Five in the U.K charts.

Smith, who was recording her album Easter with Jimmy Iovine at the same time the latter was working on Darkness, took the unfinished “Because the Night” and added a verse inspired by her long-distance relationship with future husband Fred “Sonic” Smith. “I knew that I wasn’t going to finish the song, because it was a love song, and I really felt like I didn’t know how to write them at the time,” Springsteen recalled in The Promise, explaining his decision to give the song to Smith. “A real love song like ‘Because the Night,’ I was reticent to write; I think I was too cowardly to write at the time. But she was very brave. She had the courage.”

Darkness is the first Springsteen album where he sounds like the Springsteen whose legend was secured around this time. Springsteen finally found a way to match the yearning of youth with a grounded sense of adult experience, and it happened toward the end of a period of broad excess when the genre so badly needed it. The production is a wonder of amalgamation, too: He melded the West Coast’s spacious, very polished style with the power and force of Middle American and punk rock.

By the summer of 1977, the E Street Band – then consisting of guitarist Miami Steve Van Zandt, saxophonist Clarence Clemons, pianist Roy Bittan, organist Danny Federici, bassist Garry Tallent and drummer Max Weinberg  had become a road-hardened unit capable of bending almost telepathically to any of Springsteen’s musical whims, so it made perfect sense for Springsteen to record the songs for Darkness live in the studio with his band. Unfortunately, Springsteen’s endless search for the ultimate sound completely counteracted any efficiency that might have otherwise resulted from such an arrangement. Unhappy with the sounds they were getting at New York’s Atlantic Studios, Springsteen moved the recording sessions to the Record Plant, where he, co-producer Jon Landau and engineer Jimmy Iovine spent interminable weeks trying to capture the perfect drum sound.

Every song on the first side has a corresponding track on the second in the same sequence. “Badlands” and “The Promised Land” are about America, “Adam Raised a Cain” and “Factory” are about father-son relationships and so on.

Darkness on the Edge of Town is consistently among my top album from Springsteen’s catalog. I think the excruciating editing process he went through with this album speaks volumes about the focus and quality of the story he was telling at that time. What is the best song on the record?

As the opening song, “Badlands” not only sets the tone for everything that follows, it’s also a hell of an introduction to the album with those massive drums barreling into the picture. Every song on the album, more or less, stems from “Badlands.”

 “Racing in the Street,” because it turns the bombast of what came before completely inside out. If Born to Run was about the desperate desire to be free of your old life, your hometown and every preconceived notion, this album – and, my goodness, this song – was about what happens to those who were left behind. Even the expected early-career “car songs” tend to feature people lost in a cul-de-sac of regret. “Racing in the Street” is my favorite song by anybody. it was the perfect anthem  cruising around town, only realizing later that it had this other meaning. How anyone can comprehend how Springsteen wrote that last verse, given that he hadn’t yet been in a serious relationship. “Racing in the Street” and “Darkness on the Edge of Town.” The story he tells in the former is so specific and evocative that it really haunts the listener. That’s why it’s not even surprising when the couple from “Racing” ages a decade or two, and reappears, as I see it, in “Darkness.” Springsteen couldn’t get them out of his head any more than I could, and the stunning outro gives the listener time to contemplate their fate. It also remains phenomenal to me that early versions of the song didn’t even include the little girl he drove away.

“Racing in the Street” is a great narrative and a great song. The lyrics speak of desolation, lost chances and the things the desperate do just to live, both in the world and with themselves. Springsteen gives those words life and breath, and puts his voice in the middle of it all; there’s no separating it from either the story or the telling of it. The music is stark and brooding — it’s a keyboard song on a guitar album, and Roy Bittan and Danny Federici refuse to leaven the mood as they might on other songs. Bittan’s piano figure that runs through the song is every bit the match for the lyrics, and then Federici wraps an organ countermelody around the piano. … God, it gives me chills to this day.

The outtakes found on Tracks and The Promise show him writing very different material than what was released on the final album, the best tracks, sound like more chapters to the Darkness story. While the outtakes were informative, in particular for completists, they only confirmed Bruce Springsteen’s brilliance as an editor Darkness on the Edge of Town still sounds perfectly balanced. He was writing all these great songs rooted in ’60s pop and R&B like “Talk to Me,” “Save My Love” and “Ain’t Good Enough for You.” The finished product only reflected one side of him. And I like the idea of Jon Landau whispering in one ear about the art of the rock album and Steven Van Zandt in the other about more hit singles.  It gave me an even greater appreciation for his creative vision. He went through an agonizing period of writing and editing to arrive at the final product that was true to the feelings he wanted to evoke. He writes fantastic songs, and there are quite a few in those outtakes, but they didn’t fit the theme. When you have so many songs, and great ones at that, those are tough decisions to make. Dilute the album’s message or let the songs languish in the vault? But I’ve always felt that one of Springsteen’s gifts to his fans is that he has allowed us to look back at his editing process. I’ve always appreciated a peak at his rewriting, and how he’s not afraid to hold onto a a piece of music or lyric when he doesn’t think he’s done justice to it yet.

I’d read interviews with him in the past talking about how he’d write something like “Fire” or “Rendezvous” or “Bring on the Night” and have to set them aside, because they didn’t fit the tone of the work he was recording. To hear some of those songs on Tracks and The Promise was great, The overarching thing I take away from them (and from the outtakes from The River) was just how mind-blowingly prolific a songwriter he was at the time. Like, two-albums-a-year prolific.

Almost every other song on Darkness sounds epic, both in the lyrics and the music. “Factory” is a quiet, personal ode to his father that scales down the album’s bigger themes. If replaced with “The Promise” which is way closer to what Darkness is all about. Plus, they’re both slower cuts, so it would fit into that missing slot perfectly.

The other songs tend to feel like they were left off for a reason because of differences in production values, because they are clearly unfinished or (quite often, actually) because upbeat tracks like “Save My Love” and “Gotta Get That Feeling” just don’t fit thematically. That said, the brilliantly ambiguous “Breakaway” might just have made the cut.

“The Promise” belongs on there, but you couldn’t find anything better that’s thematically similar to go in its place (“The Brokenhearted,” “City of Night”?). It could have another kinda love song, “Don’t Look Back.”

I do think “The Promise” would have made a great addition. It’s among his most heartbreaking, and fits well with the tone of the record. In addition “Racing in the Street” I’d surely go with the one he chose for Darkness, but the sped up recording on The Promise really hits the spot sometimes.

“Hearts of Stone,” is another great song which Springsteen gave to Southside Johnny, but which also was a standout cut on the Tracks box.

Springsteen 11/19/2007

The last U.S. tour stop of 2007 would prove to be Danny Federici’s final show as a full-time member of the E Street Band. Boston ’07 is a fitting farewell to Phantom Dan and catches Bruce and the band firing on all cylinders at the height of the “Magic” tour. Rich with core album tracks including “Radio Nowhere,” “Gypsy Biker,” “Livin’ In The Future” and “Girls In Their Summer Clothes,” Boston also features the tour debuts of “This Hard Land” and “Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out” with guest Peter Wolf.

Bruce Springsteen brought the E Street Band to TD Banknorth Garden in Boston for a two-night stand in November of 2007 to end the first leg of a tour in support of Magic.  Springsteen has released an official recording of the concert from November 19th, 2007 which wound up being multi-instrumentalist Dan Federici’s final complete performance with the band.

Federici passed away just fourth months later on April 17th, 2008 due to melanoma. While he would perform with the group for portions of a show in Indianapolis on March 20, 2008; he never played a whole show with The Boss and his famed backing band after that night in Boston. Danny was spotlighted throughout the concert at the TD Banknorth Garden on songs such as “Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out,” “Sandy” and “Kitty’s Back.”

“Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out” was a tour debut as was “This Hard Land.” Peter Wolf joined the ensemble to add backing vocals to “Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out.” Springsteen and his band put an emphasis on material from Magic, which was their new album at the time. In total, eight songs from the LP made the 24-song setlist. to purchase the official recording of Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band’s November 19th, 2007 performance in a variety of formats.

  • Bruce Springsteen – Lead vocal, electric and acoustic guitars, harmonica; Roy Bittan – Piano, keyboards, accordion; Clarence Clemons – Tenor and baritone saxophones, percussion, backing vocal; Danny Federici – Organ, keyboards, accordion; Nils Lofgren – Electric and acoustic guitars, pedal steel, backing vocal; Patti Scialfa – Electric and acoustic guitars, backing vocal; Garry Tallent – Bass; Stevie Van Zandt – Electric guitars, mandolin, backing vocal; Max Weinberg – Drums; Soozie Tyrell – Violin, acoustic guitar, percussion, backing vocal
  • Additional musician: Peter Wolf – backing vocal on Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out 

Image result for bruce springsteen berkeley 1973 images

On March 2nd, 1973, a young, scraggly, a no-name punk from New Jersey landed in Berkeley, California., just weeks after the release of his first studio album, “Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J.”, to record a performance for the King Biscuit Flower Hour radio show. A certain Bruce Springsteen opened the show that night for Blood Sweat and Tears, ravaging his way through a seven-song set, each tune picking at the essential storytelling-songwriting so heavily influenced by Dylan in those early years.

This performance showcases an early iteration of the E Street Band, with bassist Garry Tallent, keyboardist and accordionist Danny Federici, and Springsteen’s essential partner, saxophonist Clarence Clemons. (The world wouldn’t see the full classic lineup, including guitarist Steve Van Zandt, until 1975.) But it’s the Boss himself who steals the night with an unrelenting energy and obvious wealth of ambition. Some tracks, like “Wild Billy’s Circus Story” and “Bishop Danced,” are folkier and more story-driven. (The latter, with its fluttering accordion, has been rarely performed and never appeared on a true studio recording). Others, like “Lost in the Flood,” “Spirit in the Night” and “Blinded By the Light,” have remained constant in Springsteen’s 40-year touring career. He also offers a fun, fast-tempo “Does This Bus Stop at 82nd Street?”—cheekily chiming in, “A song about New York City, 82nd Street bus,” after a near two-minute intro. Springsteen completes the set with “Thundercrack,” an 11-minute epic that allows each member of the band to jam, with some provocative guitar work about halfway through.

You can tell the young Springsteen is having a great time as he performs—something that has never changed. This is quite possibly the very first professional live recording of The Boss to surface, recorded 45 years ago on this date.

The Band

Bruce Springsteen: guitar vocals Clarence Clemons: saxophone Danny Federici: organ Vini Lopez: drums Garry Tallent: bass

What makes this show particularly interesting and historical is that a few weeks earlier, Springsteen had actually been part of the very first King Biscuit Flower Hour, which was broadcast over three decades ago (February 18th, 1973). On that broadcast, Bruce only performed two songs and had to share the bill with Blood, Sweat & Tears and jazz-fusion pioneers, the Mahavishnu Orchestra.