Born To Be Wild (Godfatherecords G.R. 323)
Gillette Stadium, Foxboro, MA – 2 August 2008: Summertime Blues , Little Latin Lupe Lu, Who’ll Stop The Rain; Sprint Center, Kansas City, MO – 24 August 2008: Boys, It’s All Over Now , Save The Last Dance For Me, Rockin’ All Over The World; Hersheypark Stadium, Hershey, PA – 19 August, 2008: Boom Boom, Gloria; North Charleston Coliseum, Charleston, SC – 16 August 2008: Double Shot (Of My Baby’s Love); Veterans Memorial Arena,Jacksonville, FL – 15 August 2008: You Can’t Sit Down; Giants Stadium, East Rutherford, NJ – 31 July 2008: Pretty Flamingo, Jersey Girl; The Roadhouse At The Lakeside, Milwaukee, WI – 30 August 2008: Wooly Bully, Born To Be Wild; Richmond Coliseum, Richmond, VA – 18 August 2008: Quarter To Three, Twist And Shout; Giants Stadium, East Rutherford, NJ – 28 July 2008 – Detroit Medley; Sommet Centre, Nashville, TN – 21 August 2008: Good Rockin’ Tonight, I Walk The Line, I Fought The Law
This is Godfather’s second Magic Tour compilation. The first, entitled Something In Those Nights and subtitled Magic Tour, 3rd Leg Gems, was a collection of rarities and highlights (both originals and covers) from the second American leg of the tour. This new release, covering the fifth and final leg of the tour, concentrates solely on cover versions. The sleeve notes explain the rationale for this release thus: “This compilation collects almost all the covers played during 2008 summer leg of Magic Tour. Only St. Louis show has left uncovered in this cd, since the whole night is already available on Godfather Records catalogue.”
The CD opens with Eddie Cochran’s Summertime Blues from the second concert of the tour’s fifth leg. The Backstreets website refers to this concert as being “a more fun, upbeat show than the opening night,” and the song perfectly encapsulates this, as does the next number Little Latin Lupe Lu. The latter song was an audience request and (unheard on the CD), Springsteen said, “the band will not be ready for this one…oh, they will not be ready!” The person requesting the song helpfully wrote “key of F” and the lyrics on the back of the sign (in a “Bruce handwriting font”) and Springsteen placed this where he could see the words – not surprising, given that this was his first performance of the song with the E Street Band since 1977. Despite needing the occasional direction from Springsteen, the band pulls off an effective, rocking version of the song, featuring an organ solo from Charlie Giordano. Bearing in mind that this show had been delayed by a massive thunderstorm, Who’ll Stop The Rain? was always likely to be given its tour premiere and it is nice to hear this song, played often in the 1980s, in a more recent incarnation. “This is for the coach,” says Springsteen, presumably a reference to Bill Belicheck, head coach of the New England Patriots.
“This is the last official night of the Magic Tour,” Springsteen informed the audience in Kansas City on 24th August, “so anything can happen!” – and it duly did. The first song from this concert on the CD is Boys, the Shirelles song that is more well-known as Ringo Starr’s first vocal contribution to The Beatles and, emulating his drumming hero, Max Weinberg sings! This was again in response to an audience sign reading “Let Max Sing” and Springsteen pointed out that “this has never been done before.” Whether anyone would want it to be done again is another matter – let’s file this performance under the category of “interesting.”
The next song also features an unexpected vocal performance, this time from Soozie Tyrell, who takes the lead vocal and contributes a violin solo to It’s All Over Now. This is a song she performs with her own band and it is an enjoyable performance, well worthy of inclusion. Springsteen himself sings one verse and joins Tyrell on the choruses. A slow, atmospheric version of Save The Last Dance For Me follows. It is rather short at less than two and a half minutes, as the song was used here as an introduction to Dancing in The Dark. Fortunately, there is enough of a break between the two numbers to avoid the song being cut short in an unnatural way. Finally from Kansas City, the band rocks out in a performance of John Fogerty’s Rockin’ All Over The World. Incorrectly referred to on Springsteen’s official website as a “Creedence cover,” this was in fact a Fogerty solo release.
The Hershey concert brings a song that appeared often in shows during 1988, John Lee Hooker’s Boom Boom, which features an organ solo from Giordano and a driving, insistent version of Gloria. The band is joined for the latter song by Joe Grushecky, who makes a major vocal contribution, and his son Johnny. Giordano is prominent again in Double Shot (Of My Baby’s Love), playing Farfisa-style organ on a song referred to by Springsteen as an example of “fraternity rock” when he introduced performances of Sherry Darling at shows in 1978. Live performances have been very rare. The Point Blank website describes this as “a song [Springsteen] had only played with the band at a couple of shows in 1978 and 1981 (and always in South Bend, Indiana).” You Can’t Sit Down, a number 3 hit for the Dovells in 1963, gets its first airing for nearly a decade, a snippet of the song at that time having been worked into Light Of Day. Its appearance in Jacksonville, in an enthusiastic performance, presumably stems from the fact that Steve Van Zandt played with the Dovells on the Florida oldies circuit in the early 1970s (where he acquired the nickname “Miami Steve”). The song, together with Little Latin Lupe Lu, was part of the superb encore from the classic show at the Boston Music Hall on 25 March 1977 (available on Godfather’s indispensible From The Dark Heart Of A Dream – see earlier review) and it is nice to have these more recent versions.
From the Giants Stadium concert of 31 July come two of the highlights of this release, both again tour premieres. First is Pretty Flamingo, which features a spoken introduction in which Springsteen goes over his numerous (non-romantic) encounters with Patti Scialfa through the years, leading him to conclude that he doesn’t believe in love at first sight. The song features a gentle guitar backing for the vocals which gives a very restrained feel that is enhanced by the short piano and organ solos. It is a pleasing contrast to, and an effective complement to, the classic rendition from the Roxy in 1975 (available on the admirable Crystal Cat release The Roxy Theatre Night, also reviewed earlier). As we are in Springsteen’s home state, we are then treated to a gorgeous rendition of Tom Waits’ Jersey Girl, a song Waits wrote for his wife, Kathleen Brennan. Unlike performances from the 1980s, when the rough edge was removed from the lyrics (“the whores down on 8th Avenue” becoming “the girls” and “that little brat of yours” becoming “little girl”), the more mature Springsteen leaves Waits’ words intact and the song is the better for it.
The Milwaukee concert came after the official end of the Magic Tour and celebrated the 105th anniversary of Harley-Davidson motorcycles. The Backstreets website describes this show as “a fuel-injected, good time rock ‘n’ roll blowout” and the two songs here bear out this description. The first of them sees Giordano prominent in a choppy, rhythmic rendition of Wooly Bully. “We can’t leave without this one, I guess,” said Springsteen of the very final number, adding, “I hope we know it.” The band then launches into a driving version of Born To Be Wild, bringing the show to a triumphant conclusion.
The CD most definitely continues in encore territory with the next few songs. In the list of cover versions in Dave Marsh’s Born To Run, published in 1979, the words “every night” are appended to Gary US Bonds’ Quarter To Three. Things have changed and Godfather’s sleeve notes point out that, until this tour, it “was only played twice after 1981.” Quarter To Three is followed by Twist And Shout and the Devil With The Blue Dress Medley and then the CD ends with three interesting performances from Nashville. Good Rockin’ Tonight had not been played since 1980 and, according to Magnus Lauglo on the Backstreets website, “Nils spent a couple of seconds explaining the song to Charlie.” Appropriately for a concert played in close proximity to the Country Music Hall Of Fame, Springsteen performs a short rendition of Johnny Cash’s classic I Walk The Line as a lead-in to I’m On Fire. As with Save The Last Dance For Me, there is enough of a pause for the song to end without the music being cut off. Finally, I Fought The Law is a tribute to the late Joe Strummer, the concert taking place the day after what would have been his 56th birthday.
As stated in the first paragraph, Godfather gives us almost every cover from the tour’s fifth leg. It was sensible to omit those songs which appear on the St. Louis CD Lyin’ In The Heat Of The Night, which is a mandatory purchase for all Springsteen collectors. However, by limiting this release to a single (albeit well-filled) CD, Godfather deprive us of two songs, Seven Nights To Rock and Mona. Seven Nights To Rock, which was included in the Hershey concert, can be found on three of Godfather’s releases of European Magic Tour dates (4th Of July, Come On Man…Stand On It! and Saturday, Everybody Rocks). Mona was played as the introduction to She’s The One at the Nashville concert, its first appearance since 10 September 1981 (which was its only performance on the River tour). A version of this song can be found on Winterland Night, Crystal Cat’s release of the essential 15 December 1978 show in San Francisco.
Aside from this minor caveat, however, it must be acknowledged that this is another superb release from Godfather. The sound is largely very good, and often excellent, which really adds to the enjoyment of listening to this CD. The order of the songs has been thoughtfully planned. They appear in the order in which they were played at each concert but the concerts are not themselves in chronological order. This allows the songs to appear in a logical and satisfying sequence, so that, for example, Summertime Blues, which has been used as a show opener (though not in this performance) begins the CD, whereas obvious encore numbers such as Quarter To Three, Twist And Shout and the Medley appear near the end. The packaging is also excellent. Godfather’s usual tri-fold sleeve features concert shots and posed photographs of Springsteen which are tinted in a style reminscent of old sepia-tinted photos and postcards. There are sleeve notes and also a booklet which gives details of songwriters and original artists. It would be difficult to argue that a single CD of cover versions constitutes an essential purchase. but with such high all-round production values and so many songs that are a joy to listen to, it would be a great shame if you were to let this release pass you by.