Bruce Springsteen – Rock And Roll Is Here To Stay (Godfatherecords G.R. 969/970/971)
Saginaw Civic Center, Saginaw, MI, USA – 3 September 1978
Disc 1: Intro, Good Rockin’ Tonight, Badlands, Streets Of Fire, Spirit In The Night, Darkness On The Edge Of Town, It’s My Life, Factory, Heartbreak Hotel, The Promised Land, Prove it All Night
Disc 2: Racing In The Street, Thunder Road, Jungleland, Paradise By The “C”, Fire, Sherry Darling, Intro/Guitar Tuning/Banter, (I Don’t Want To Hang Up) My Rock And Roll Shoes, Candy’s Room, Adam Raised A Cain, Mona/She’s The One, Growin’ Up
Disc 3: Backstreets, Rosalita (Come Out Tonight), Born To Run, Quarter To Three
The show presented to us here by Godfather has not exactly been a staple of Springsteen’s unofficial catalogue. It also gets barely a mention in books on Springsteen. Even The Light In Darkness, which chronicles the 1978 tour, contains no personal reminiscences of the show. Perhaps this has something to do with the fact that it was Springsteen’s only performance in a venue that was, as Mike Taylor reports in The Michigan Daily, “only half-filled.” To my knowledge, it never had a vinyl release, although (I Don’t Want To Hang Up) My Rock And Roll Shoes appeared on the double 12″ EP release The Boss Hits The Sixties (Holsten Team Records), which was copied as Rockin’ Days by The Amazing Pig (precursor of Swingin’ Pig). The song also appeared on the single LP compilation Rock Through The Jungle on the Swingin’ Pig label itself. The solitary CD release of the whole show was Winged Wheel’s 3CD set Killers In The Sun. Three songs, however, did appear on one of the splendid series of CDs which Great Dane produced to accompany copies of the Italian fanzine Follow That Dream. The five-track EP of covers, entitled Good Rockin’ Tonight, contained, in addition to the title track, (I Don’t Want To Hang Up) My Rock And Roll Shoes and Heartbreak Hotel, together with performances of Sha La La and You Never Can Tell from 1974-5. Morever, seven songs from the show (Streets Of Fire, It’s My Life, Factory, Jungleland, (I Don’t Want To Hang Up) My Rock And Roll Shoes, Candy’s Room and Adam Raised A Cain) appear as a generous bonus on Crystal Cat’s Roxy Night. The ubiquitous (I Don’t Want To Hang Up) My Rock And Roll Shoes also appeared on Eagle Records’ 2-CD compilation Rock & Roll Is Here To Stay.
The show gets off to an exciting start with a performance of Good Rockin’ Tonight that is energetic enough to at least get close to transcending my reservations (expressed in previous reviews) about placing old rockers in the Darkness-heavy first set. Then comes the absolutely superb combination of a blistering rendition of Badlands and an intensely emotional Streets Of Fire. Saxophonist Clarence Clemons is the star performer during an excellent Spirit In The Night and it is wonderful to listen to the song again in its 1978 incarnation after the bloated performances of recent shows. An emotionally affecting Darkness On The Edge Of Town is succeeded by what Taylor calls Springsteen’s “stirring version of the old Animals’ tune” It’s My Life. It is indeed stirring overall and very atmospheric, though it suffers a little from the omission of the spoken introduction that can be heard at some shows and the climactic shout of “don’t push me!” lacks a little conviction.
Springsteen effectively conjures up the spirit of Elvis in an enjoyable Heartbreak Hotel, though the song’s appearance in the midst of the Darkness material is jarring, especially as it follows the sombre Factory, which begins with a reminiscence about Douglas Springsteen’s series of dead-end jobs, and it would surely have been better placed in the second set, perhaps in conjunction with Fire. A wonderfully stirring performance of The Promised Land leads into Prove it All Night, with the customary ’78 intro, timed by Brucebase at 5:15 with a guitar solo of 3:23. It is one of the most effective intros from the tour and the only one that I have heard that rivals the Winterland version of 15 December. The guitar work later in the song is also superb. Roy Bittan shines in a splendid version of Racing In The Street and he provides the piano part that links the song to a very fine performance of Thunder Road. The spoken introduction to the latter song is very similar to that of Passaic (19 September), though neither it nor the linking piano part is quite so effective here. The climax of the first set is a magisterial Jungleland, given the kind of performance that makes your scalp tingle. The transitions from Clemons’ achingly poignant sax solo to Bittan’s beautifully understated piano solo and then to Springsteen’s emotionally- and sexually-charged vocals are magical and those few lines seem to tell a whole story on their own (“Beneath the city two hearts beat/Soul engines running through a night so tender/In a bedroom locked in whispers of soft refusal and then surrender/In the tunnels uptown the Rat’s own dream guns him down/As shot echo down them hallways in the night/Nobody’s watching when the ambulance pulls away/Or when the girl shuts out that bedroom light”).
The second set kicks off with what might just be the best performance of the slight but hugely enjoyable Paradise By The “C”, dominated by the sax playing of Clemons, who is introduced by Springsteen as, “the Master of Disaster.” This is followed by a sultry Fire and a contender for the tour’s best performance of the fun “frat-rocker” Sherry Darling. Then comes what Brucebase points out was the “only tour performance of Chuck Willis’ 1958 hit ‘(I Don’t Want To) Hang Up My Rock ‘N’ Roll Shoes,’ which would reappear 31 years later on the final night of the Working On A Dream tour.” The song seems to have been played in response to a minor onstage problem. As Taylor relates: “When [Springsteen] became frustrated after trying to tune his guitar, he sent it backstage and led the boys through an impromptu, yet thoroughly rousing ‘(I Don’t Want to Hang Up) My Rock and Roll Shoes.'” Even if unscheduled, the song was not unrehearsed, as Springsteen says, “let’s do the one we practised this afternoon.”
Candy’s Room is played at a feverish pace and then comes a brutally heavy Adam Raised A Cain, burning with emotion. As was usual at this time Bo Diddley’s Mona features the band making noises which seem to imitate nocturnal forest creatures and, also as usual, the song segues into an explosive She’s The One. Then comes what Brucebase calls, “one of the last performances of ‘Growin’ Up’ of this tour – and a great version.” The song is preceded by a lengthy tale, the commencement of which (“I remember I was asleep one night and I was awoken by a strange sound”) has members of the audience howling like wolves in anticipation of a version of the “teenage werewolf” story. However, as Springsteen goes on to say, the audience gets a “different story tonight,” the one which involves him seeking career advice from God, during which the audience enthusiastically joins in with every mention of “that goddam guitar.” Appropriately, given that the story commences with Springsteen waking up, Bittan slips a few seconds of the French nursery rhyme Frère Jacques into the song’s opening.
An impassioned Backstreets contains the spoken “Sad Eyes” interlude. Here, as elsewhere, Springsteen includes the section which was to grow into a whole new song (and I swore I´d drive all night, I´d drive all night, I´d drive all night, I´d drive all night, I´d drive all night, I´d drive all night, I´d drive all day, I´d drive all night just to buy you some shoes…..or to taste your tender charms). The second set then comes to a tumultuous end with Rosalita, which contains the customary band introductions. The encore numbers, a frenetic Born To Run and an appropriately frantic and raucous twelve-minute rendition of Gary US Bonds’ Quarter To Three during which Springsteen claims several times that, “I can’t go on!” (of course, he does), wrap up the show in fine style.
Overall, this is an excellent show, which has garnered high praise from several commentators. Lynn Elder, appraising the Winged Wheel release in the third volume of You Better Not Touch, contends that, “the show itself is truly magical,” and awards it 10 out of 10 for performance. Brucebase states that, “this show is said to be one of the finest of the tour – a performance that often lives in the shadow of the radio broadcasts but is definitely on the same level.” The notes on Jungleland state that, “it begins to sound redundant to call this out as a special show given how many there were on the tour, but it truly is,” and posters on the site agree, with comments such as; “It’s a magnificent performance” (slipkid68); ” one of the best concert[s] of the tour” (JKBruce); “Great, great show.” (hobbes4444) and “one of the best shows ever!” (olli66). Similar acclaim appears on the Stone Pony London message board: “the best performance of the Darkness tour and that means one of the greatest performances ever, period.” (LB); “This show, overshadowed by the broadcasts of the same year, is one of the best of Bruce’s career…it’s my favorite show ever.” (Roland); “great show” (AndreaWozzup) and “great great show” (Long Walk Home). Alongside these views, Taylor’s comment that it was “a fine concert” comes across as remarkably restrained.
There is only one known recording of the show and it most recently re-emerged, as Brucebase points out, in a torrented version, “from the JEMS master cassettes,” which is unsurprisingly utilized by Godfather for this release. As Brucebase goes on to say, “the quality of this transfer is a substantial upgrade over ‘Killers In The Sun,'” to which Elder awards a nonetheless good rating of 8 out of 10 for sound. Despite being described by Elder in the third volume of You Better Not Touch as deriving from, “an average audience tape,” the seven Crystal Cat bonus tracks sound quite impressive to my ears, though the three rough-sounding songs on the Great Dane EP are unsurprising awarded only a 5 by Elder. Notes on the Jungleland site, by “Butterking for JEMS,” state that, “for the fresh transfer, every minute JEMS recorded is available in best-ever quality. The tape is clear, sharp and on par with our best work from the tour,” and a post by JEMSHQ adds that, “this is the only high-resolution digital transfer made of the master tapes.” Markbrow, posting on Jungleland, states that, “I heard this recording played on the XM Springsteen channel the other day and had to really concentrate to figure out if it was a soundboard or an audience. An amazing recording.” Markbrow’s comments are certainly applicable to several songs on this release, such as Spirit In The Night and Racing In The Street, though elsewhere the tape clearly does sound like an audience recording, albeit an excellent one with clarity, depth and presence. The opening number, Good Rockin’ Tonight, is alone in lacking something in the way of clarity and balance . This recording is notorious for its audience noise – more specifically the frequent loud interventions of one audience member. “Too bad there’s so much audience noise on the tape,” states Elder, citing in particular the yelling of, “the guy next to the taper.” He was not so placed by coincidence, as Butterking relates: “That voice you hear shouting requests like ‘SUM-UR-TIME-BLOOZ’ is J’s old friend and taping buddy, ML. Never bashful, ML let his voice be heard and while it adds a lot more audience noise than you find on most other JEMS masters, it also adds a certain charm to the recording.” Those who doubt how charming such yelling might be are in luck – Godfather has removed it without the excisions being too obvious. There is some audience chatter at times, but it is not overly intrusive.
Rock And Roll Is Here To Stay comes with Godfather’s trademark tri-fold sleeve featuring several era-appropriate photographs (all save one being onstage shots) and the sleeve also reproduces Taylor’s article, in which he writes about the shows in Providence and Detroit, as well as Saginaw. The brilliant performance and the very impressive sound make this stunning new release a mandatory purchase for the Springsteen collector.
If you liked this review, buy me a cup of joe. (Suggested: $3 a shot or $7.5 for a double)Bruce Springsteen - Rock And Roll Is Here To Stay (Godfatherecords G.R. 969/970/971),