Everybody’s Rockin’ Tonight (Godfatherecords G. R. 598/599/600)
Fox Theatre, Atlanta, GA, USA – 30 September. 1978
Disc 1: Introduction, Good Rocking Tonight, Badlands, Spirit In The Night, Darkness On The Edge Of Town, Independence Day, The Promised Land, Prove It All Night, Racing In The Street, Thunder Road, Jungleland
Disc 2: Introduction, Santa Claus Is Coming To Town, Night Train, Fire, Candy’s Room, Because The Night, Point Blank, Not Fade Away/Gloria/She’s the One, Backstreets
Disc 3: Rosalita (Come Out Tonight), Born To Run, Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out, Devil With The Blue Dress Medley, Raise Your Hand
The show in Atlanta on 30 September 1978 was originally due to be played on 23 July, but was one of two shows postponed due to Springsteen’s throat infection (two others were cancelled and not rearranged). The high demand for tickets led to a second show being added the following night (though Atlanta Constitution writer Bill King reported that many fans were still left ticket less and disappointed), before Springsteen and the band took a month’s break. The show was broadcast on around twenty FM radio stations in the south-eastern United States, one of five such broadcasts during the Darkness Tour (for details of the others see my review of Godfather’s Driving That Dusty Road).
Given that it was broadcast, it is odd that there was, to my knowledge at least, no LP release of the complete show; indeed there seem to have been only three complete, or almost complete, CD releases. Papillon squeezed the show on to two discs for its release Fox Theatre Presents The Boss by omitting the opening number, Good Rocking Tonight and tacking Raise Your Hand, the closing number, onto the end of the first disc. Here’s To Ya (Turtle Records) presented the complete show as a two-disc set and a single disc. The version generally regarded to be the best of the previous releases is the CD-R set The Same Old Played Out Scenes, issued by Doberman.
Additionally there have been several partial, single disc issues taken from the above releases and which are characterized by the Killing Floor Database as “pure trash.” Individual songs from the show have also appeared on numerous LPs and CDs, and Godfather included several of them as bonus tracks on their release of the 21st September Passaic show, Singin’ Our Birthday Songs.
Springsteen opened many of the Darkness Tour gigs with a classic rocker, as befitting someone with a sense of his own place in rock music’s development (as he puts it, “you’ve got a lot to live up to when you walk out on that stage – a certain tradition from the early rockers up to now that I believe in a lot”).
As drummer Max Weinberg put it, “Bruce encompassed the history of performance.” Here, as on several other occasions, the chosen oldie is Good Rocking Tonight, written and recorded by Roy Brown in 1947 and most famous in its incarnation as Elvis Presley’s second single for the Sun label in 1954 (under the slightly amended title Good Rockin’ Tonight). The high-voltage performance here is tremendously exciting, surely making a major contribution to the “raw animal vitality and almost unbelievable intensity” which King discerns in this show.
As I noted in my review of Passaic Night I have reservations about the wisdom shown by Springsteen in starting some of the Darkness Tour shows with songs such as this. The emotional intensity of the famous Passaic concert of 19 September, for example, would have been entirely undermined by such a move. The intensity King claims is demonstrated here is present, but it is an energetic intensity rather than an emotional intensity, and in consequence a rather different atmosphere from the one we find at Passaic pervades the first set of this show.
One result of this is a knock-on effect which results in high-energy performances of the next two songs. Badlands receives a performance which seems to emphasize the song’s underlying defiant optimism. Following this, Springsteen and the band seem to positively revel in the base, grubby sexuality of the tumultuous Spirit In Night. Even Darkness On The Edge Of Town comes across as a little less sombre, not, perhaps, to the song’s advantage. Before the song Springsteen tells the story of an earlier show in Atlanta, at the Electric Ballroom, illustrating the fact that he was then less well known. While he jumped into the audience, an audience member leaped up on to the stage and stood next to Steve Van Zandt, shouting, Go, Bruce!” It is a mildly amusing tale, but surely not a suitable preface to a song such as this. (Springsteen played at the Electric Ballroom on 21 and 23 August 1975, and the latter show is available from Godfather as Sparks On The Ballroom, already reviewed.)
Independence Day, however, is appropriately moving, with an excellent vocal turn by Springsteen and a poignant saxophone solo from Clarence Clemons, who is rightly name checked at the song’s conclusion. This is followed by a vigorous rendition of The Promised Land, “complete,” as King puts it, “with a fantastic duet featuring Springsteen’s harmonica and Clemmons’ [sic] sax,” and some splendid guitar work from Steve Van Zandt. Prove It All Night features the customary Darkness Tour opening, with Roy Bittan’s piano complementing Springsteen’s searing guitar, and of course a further guitar solo later in the song. It is a thrilling performance.
Racing In The Street and Thunder Road are played in tandem, linked by Bittan’s piano part, and Springsteen’s introduction to the latter closely follows the Passaic performance, ending with reference to the sign pointing down the little dirt road called Thunder Road and reading, “this is the land of peace, love, justice and no mercy.” However, the story is told more effectively on the Passaic recording, helping to make the Passaic versions of the songs the best live performances. Nonetheless, the versions here are very fine and Bittan’s piano contribution to Racing In The Street is impressive. The first set, and the first disc, then conclude with Jungleland, wonderful as ever in live performance, with excellent guitar and piano solos.
Despite it still being September, disc two and the second set kick off with Santa Claus Is Coming To Town. Even more remarkably, it is this festive number’s fourth appearance on the tour, the first being at the second Passaic show on 20 September (the song’s first appearance since the gig in Toronto on 21 December 1975). Here, as elsewhere, Springsteen justifies its inclusion by telling the audience, “it might be a little early for this next song but we might not see you around Christmas time.” (For some reason, this short spoken intro is tracked separately.) The performance is suitably boisterous and at times you can hear the laughter in Springsteen’s voice.
It is preceded by a story which is backed by the music that had previously been utilized for this purpose during performances of the slow version of The E Street Shuffle and most familiar from the legendary Main Point show of February 1975. This is not entirely inappropriate as the stories are similar. Prior to The E Street Shuffle, Springsteen described the imposing figure of Clarence Clemons appearing out of the torrential rain; here the figure emerging from the fog and the snow, though initially misidentified as Clemons, is revealed by his cry of “Ho! Ho! Ho!” (Of course, the immediately recognizable deep voice reveals that, on stage, if not in the story, any resemblance between Santa and a certain substantially-built saxophonist is definitely not coincidental.)
The next song is unique – Springsteen and the E Street Band’s only rendition of Night Train. Before the song begins, Springsteen makes references to popcorn and the need to clean up. Just prior to this, as Santa Claus Is Coming To Town concludes, he can be heard to say, “I gotta fix this up” and, as Night Train starts, he refers to, “a little break down.” According to the Brucebase website, the need to clean up was the result of fake snow which fell on to the stage during Santa Claus Is Coming To Town, though perhaps there was a further issue, as the clear implication is that there was some need to play an instrumental number due to a technical problem.
Night Train was written and recorded by Jimmy Forrest in 1951 and released as a single the following year. It began as an instrumental noted for its tenor sax part. Several sets of lyrics were later written for the song, which is perhaps best known from James Brown’s version from 1962, during which he shouts out the names of numerous American cities. Springsteen does something similar here, shouting the names of Atlanta and three other cities receiving the broadcast, Dallas, Miami and Houston.
He says little else, effectively making this version an instrumental, which is propelled principally by Clemons’ vibrant sax. Godfather’s booklet notes suggest that Night Train made a surprising return at the show on Rotterdam on 29 August 1988. In fact the song played there after a long lay-off was Paradise By The C and Godfather’s claim seems to be based on a misreading of the entry for Atlanta in the concert listing of the Backstreets book, Springsteen: The Man And His Music.
After this, we get the sultry Fire, played straight through with no pause in the middle for stage antics, and a scintillating Candy’s Room, which is subjected to a swift fade-out right at the end. This is followed Because The Night which, following the fade-out, begins just as the first note is played. The guitar and piano intro is tremendously effective here, with Springsteen’s rather restrained guitar creating an almost ghostly atmosphere at this point, prior to the scorching solo later in the song.
Next comes the poignant Point Blank, in a terrific rendition very similar to the Passaic version of 19 September. After this, Not Fade Away, with its characteristic animalistic cries serves as the prelude to a tremendously spirited She’s The One. There is a fairly lengthy instrumental transition and, after She’s The One has begun, but before the first verse is sung, Springsteen and the band interpolate a snippet of Gloria.
Concluding the second disc is a tremendous version of Backstreets, with a splendid, fully-developed Sad Eyes spoken interlude, which contributes to this running the Winterland performance close as best live version of the song. There is another fade-out at the end of She’s The One. Happily, the song itself has finished, so the fade occurs during the audience response, but it is our misfortune to lose what I estimate to be around forty seconds of the opening of Backstreets.
Unfortunately, the closing song from the second set, Rosalita (Come Out Tonight) appears at the start of the third disc.
Disc two lasts for fifty-five minutes, so it could easily have been included there; I presume that Godfather has simply followed the disc breaks on the Doberman issue. Rosalita gains an instrumental prelude of over two minutes’ duration which is more sedate that the song itself and which has a pronounced Latin flavour. Thereafter comes an explosive performance of the song which includes, as was then customary, contains the band introductions.
Godfather’s booklet notes quite rightly describe the encores as “simply outstanding.” First comes a fast, tremendously exciting Born To Run, at the end of which the audience erupts into cheers and applause, and this is followed by a splendidly ebullient Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out. However, it is the final two numbers which truly merit Godfather’s description.
A stupendous performance of the Devil With The Blue Dress Medley is suffused with energy, enthusiasm and pure joy. At one point Springsteen announces a “strictly visual” section, jokingly advising radio listeners to “get in real close and look at that thing!” After this, the cheering and applause brings Springsteen back to the stage for a final song, a stunningly energetic rendition of the Eddie Floyd number, Raise Your Hand, during which he exhorts listeners to turn up their radios to maximum volume and open all their windows and then offers some tongue-in-cheek advice on how to deal with any cops who turn up as a result of neighbours’ complaints.
Lynn Elder, author of bootleg guide Bruce Springsteen: You Better Not Touch, awards Fox Theatre Presents The Boss seven out of ten for sound quality, stating that the show “has not circulated in the quality of the other ’78 broadcasts.” The Killing Floor Database contends that it has “quite good sound with a range of dynamic.” The same website refers to the “good quality” of the sound on Here’s To Ya, while noting that “Raise your hand and Detroit Medley [are] taken from a different source.”
Of The Same Old Played Out Scenes, it writes: “Probably the best recording (obtained from 4 different sources) of this show.” I understand that the necessity to draw on more than one source tape was a result of widespread violent thunderstorms which interfered with radio reception. Although the bonus tracks on Singin’ Our Birthday Songs were sourced from Here’s To Ya, this new title is a remastering of Same Old Played Out Scenes. Overall, the sound is very impressive; perhaps not quite of the standard of the Passaic and Winterland shows, but the difference is not overly significant. The sound has good dynamics, with a nice stereo separation which allows individual instruments to be heard clearly.
The packaging of the previous releases left much to be desired. Elder refers to the Papillon release’s “ugly cover and package with many errors in the booklet.” The Killing Floor concurs, stating, “poor package,” and refers to the “awful package” of the two-disc Turtle volume before stating of the single disc volume, “the package, if possible, is even worse.”
There are, of course, no such problems with the Godfather release, which comes in the usual tri-fold sleeve, the front cover of which features a very effective onstage shot of Springsteen. There are also several other onstage photos from the era, mostly of Springsteen alone, though Clarence Clemons and Steve Van Zandt also feature. Track listing and band personnel are on the sleeve, while the foldover booklet features three further onstage shots of Springsteen and the customary Joe Roberts notes.
This release presents a concert characterized by its freshness and vitality. This may seem to be an odd thing to write about the eighty-sixth show of what Christopher Sandford, in Springsteen: Point Blank, refers to as Springsteen’s “longest and largest road-trip yet.”
Perhaps the energy and enthusiasm so effectively displayed here derives from a desire to impress a large radio audience from a region of the USA outside the main centres of Springsteen fanaticism; perhaps it has something to do with anticipation of the break that was to ensue following the next night’s show at the same venue – whatever the reason, it makes listening to these CDs a most enjoyable experience.
Attendees were clearly impressed; King quotes two audience members who stated, “I don’t see how he does it,” and “I’m astounded.” Despite its obvious qualities, this would not be a first choice for more casual fans seeking the best of the Darkness Tour; they are directed to the Passaic and Winterland shows available on the Crystal Cat sets Passaic Night and Winterland Night already reviewed. However, anyone whose interest in Springsteen goes even slightly beyond the casual will want, and will gain much pleasure from, this fine release.