A Night For The Vietnam Veterans (Godfather GR 256/257/258)
The Forum, Los Angeles, CA – August 20th, 1981
Disc 1: Arena announcement, Bruce Springsteen intro., Robert Mueller intro., Who’ll Stop The Rain, Prove It All Night, The Ties That Bind, Darkness On The Edge Of Town, Johnny Bye Bye, Independence Day, Trapped, Two Hearts, Out In The Street, Promised Land, The River, This Land Is Your Land, Badlands
Disc 2: Thunder Road, Hungry Heart, You Can Look But You Better Not Touch, Ramrod, Cadillac Ranch, Sherry Darlin’, Jole Blon, Wreck On The Highway, Racing In The Street, Candy’s Room, Ramrod, Rosalita
Disc 3: Jungleland, Ballad Of Easy Rider, Born To Run, Detroit Medley (including You Can’t Sit Down, Sweet Soul Music, & Shake), Twist And Shout. Bonus tracks: Proud Mary, Deportee (Plane Wreck At Los Gatos) (Los Angeles, August 28th, 1981), Stolen Car (Los Angeles, August 23rd, 1981), Follow That Dream (Los Angeles, August 21st, 1981), Jackson Cage (Los Angeles, August 24th, 1981), I Fought The Law, Quarter To Three (Los Angeles, August 28th, 1981)
Our nation’s antipathy towards the conflict in Vietnam reached such animosity that it extended not only towards the government but also the common soldiers who were drafted and served in the military. Several years after our evacuation of Saigon, wounds began to heal and public consciousness of the experience of the veterans began to change with films such as The Deer Hunter in 1978 and Apocalypse Now in 1979 and the building of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington D.C. in 1982. The rock establishment, always willing to support a worthy cause, also played a role in this act of public atonement and the greatest example of such is Bruce Springsteen And The E Street Band’s show at the Sports Arena in Los Angeles. The band were booked for six sold out shows at the venue in late August, 1981, but the opening show of the run was dedicated to the Vietnam Veterans Of America association.
Organized by a wheelchair bound veteran named Bob Muller, the proceeds from the show was dedicated to the organization. With each song laden with emotion, many collectors claim this to be one of the very best Bruce Springsteen concerts on record. It is certainly one of the most poignant concerts ever which transcends specific fandom and appeals to anyone with a conscience. At first a mediocre quality audience recording was in circulation and the early titles focused upon the rare, one-time-only cover of The Byrds’ “Ballad Of Easy Rider.” This can be found on the vinyl The Future Of Rock And Roll, Live Rarities (Butterfly), Who’s Been Covered By The Boss (Jour SS24) and on compact disc on Acoustic Tales (Flamingo Records FR 01), Cover’s Story (Finfagel TIBX004789), Live Rarities (Leopard LCD116-1). The complete concert from the first tape can be found on the 3CD A Night For The Vietnam Veterans (Winged Wheel WW 9408/09/10).
In 2001 a virtually complete, excellent quality audience recording surfaced and can be found on two prior releases: the fan produced cdr Written On The Wall and on the silver A Night For The Vietnam Veteran (Scorpio). In addition to the improved sound quality, it also has “This Land Is Your Land” and “Twist & Shout” complete for the first time. There is a bit of tape flutter during the first song “Who’ll Stop The Rain” and during “You Can Look But You Better Not Touch” but otherwise is in excellent quality. The tape begins with the house announcer welcoming people to the arena and telling them that alcohol, knifes and fireworks are not allowed. This comes from the first tape source and lasts only thirty seconds. Springsteen’s opening announcement is comes in afterwards where he says:
“Hello. Listen, listen for a second. Tonight we’re here for the men and the women that fought the Vietnam war. And, yesterday, yesterday I was lucky enough to have met some of these guys and it was funny because I’m used to coming out in front of a lot of people and I realized that, that I was, I was nervous and I was a little embarrassed about not knowing what to say to ’em. And, it’s like when you feel like you’re walking down a dark street at night and out of the corner of your eye you see somebody, you see somebody getting hurt or somebody getting hit in the dark alley but you keep walking on because you think it don’t have nothing to do with you and you just wanna get home. Well Vietnam turned, turned this whole country into that dark street and unless we, unless we’re able to walk down those dark alleys and look into the eyes of the men and the women that are down there and the things that happened, we’re never gonna be able to get home and then it’s only a chance. You guys, you guys out there that are eighteen and nineteen years old, it happened once and it can happen again. So, I guess all I’m saying is you gotta go down there and you gotta look and we got the easy part, because there’s a lot of guys here tonight that had to live it, and live it every day and there’s a lot of guys here that made it home to America but died and didn’t make it down here tonight. So what I wanna ask you to do, is I wanna ask you to give a few minutes of your attention and listen to a friend of mine, a Vietnam veteran named Bob Muller.”
Muller follows by saying: “Thank you. Very exciting to be here tonight. It’s a great night for Vietnam veterans. You may have been hearing about Vietnam veterans and not really understand what it’s all about. Very simply, there was a lot of controversy and there’s a lot of pain surrounding the tragedy of Vietnam, and because of that, a lot of people are trying to forget it and pretend that it never happened. That doesn’t do much for the families of the 55,000 Americans that were killed in Vietnam, it doesn’t do much for the 300,000 that were wounded fighting that war. But tonight is the first step in ending the silence that has surrounded Vietnam. It is the beginning of thanking all the people that have worked so hard for these years all over the country, people like in LA, the Shad Meshads, the team leaders from the Vet centers, the Center for Veterans Rights, all the Vietnam veterans, and it’s bringing us together and by that it’ll make sure that the programs are enacted, it’ll make sure that the lessons are learned and that the Vietnams aren’t allowed to happen again. Last thing I gotta say, it’s a little bit ironic after the years that we’ve been trying, when the businesses haven’t come behind us and the political leaders have failed to rally behind us, that when you remember the divisions within our own generation about the war, that it ultimately turns out to be the very symbol of our generation, Rock ‘N’ Roll, that brings us together… and it is Rock ‘N’ Roll that is going to provide the healing process that everybody needs. So let’s not talk about it, let’s get down to it, let’s Rock ‘N’ Roll!”
The first song of the set is their cover of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Who’ll Stop The Rain.” The liner notes say this is the first time they ever performed this song, but that isn’t exactly true. It had its debut performance on December 18th, 1980 at Madison Square Garden, New York City, NY, during The River tour, and was played at 92 of the 95 remaining shows on the tour. Another early highlight is “The River” where Springsteen stops singing halfway through to shake hands with the veterans sitting by the stage. Before covering Woody Guthrie’s “This Land Is Your Land” Bruce says, ‘‘I started to play this song, I guess, when we were towards the end of the last American tour and we were over in Europe, this song was written by Woody Guthrie and people, when I was, I remember when I was over, I think I was, I was in France, somebody asked me how I could sing this song when I knew that it wasn´t true….and the title of this song is ‘This Land Is Your Land’ and that’s like a challenge, I guess that’s like, that’s a dream that no matter how much it gets stepped on or run over, that don’t ever, don’t ever die, this is for you guys.”
The set closes with a fourteen minute version of “Rosalita” where Springsteen introduces the band in the middle. A sublime ten minute version of “Jungleland” begins almost an hour of encores. The “Detroit Medley” includes “I Hear A Train”, “Sweet Soul Music” and “Shake.” The exhausting evening ends with and long, improvisational “Twist & Shout,” a fun way to end almost three hours of music. The rest of the third disc is filled with rarities from the remaining shows in Los Angeles including the only performance of Guthrie’s “Deportees” and the debut of “Proud Mary.” Godfather package this title in a tri-fold cardboard sleeve and include a booklet with liner notes written by Joe Roberts. Also included is a miniature reproduction of the concert poster with a reproduction of the concert review from Rolling Stone which discusses not only the performance but also speaks about how his efforts inspired other artists to do likewise. This concert is absolutely essential and Godfather have produced a really nice version of the show.