Frankie Goes To Cleveland (Masterpiece ESB 1976A/B/C/D)
Allen Theater, Cleveland, OH, USA – 7 April, 1976 (discs 1 and 2); Cameron Indoor Stadium, Duke University, Durham, OH, USA – 28 March, 1976 (discs 3 and 4)
Disc 1: Night, Tenth Avenue Freeze-out, Spirit In The Night, It’s My Life, Thunder Road, She’s The One, Born To Run, Incident On 57th Street, Frankie
Disc 2: Backstreets, Growin’ Up, It’s Hard To Be A Saint In The City, Blinded By The Light, Jungleland, Rosalita (Come Out Tonight), 4th Of July, Asbury Park (Sandy), Detroit Medley, Quarter To Three
Disc 3: Night, Tenth Avenue Freeze-out, Spirit In The Night, It’s My life, Thunder Road, She’s The One, Born To Run
Disc 4: Meeting Across the River, Backstreets, Blinded By The Light, Jungleland, Rosalita (Come Out Tonight), Raise Your Hand, 4th Of July, Asbury Park (Sandy), Detroit Medley
The Cleveland show presented here has been released before though has not been available for some time. It was released on LP as Live In Allen Theater Cleveland 76. This 2-LP set came in either black or red vinyl and was missing the final song Quarter To Three. A single album entitled Blinded By Life did include Quarter To Three but obviously did not contain the complete concert, beginning with Frankie and going on to the end of the show. There has been one (misdated) CD release, Live At The Allen Theater, Cleveland, Ohio April 4th 1976 (Scorpio Records) and a CD-R from Doberman, Runners In The Night.
The show gets off to a terrific start with an exciting rendition of Night, an effevescent Tenth Avenue Freeze-out and a sinuous, hugely enjoyable Spirit In The Night. Then comes a hugely atmospheric rendition of The Animals’ It’s My Life, with the usual spoken introduction in which the teenaged Springsteen returns home late to be confronted by his father who has been wating for him in the kitchen. The notes on the Jungleland website, by “Wayne Darlington for JEMS and the ER Archives” rightly point out that Springsteen’s live performances of this song are “always passionate,” and his vocal performance here clearly reflects that observation. Then a short piano intro from Roy Bittan introduces a fresh and sprightly Thunder Road , the first of a trio of songs from Born To Run. A spirited She’s The One comes complete with a substantial harmonica intro (with a second harmonica part coming near the end of the song) and it is followed by a sizzling Born To Run. Incident On 57th Street is played in what Lynn Elder, in Springsteeen: You Better Not Touch, rightly calls a “great version.” Disc one then concludes with Frankie, which Clinton Heylin, writing in E Street Shuffle: The Glory Days Of Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band, reckons to be “one of Springsteen’s most important works.” The perormance is excllent. Elder calls this, “perhaps the definitive version of the [then-]unreleased ‘Frankie.'” Darlington concurs, stating that this is, “the best ’76 recording of the sublime ‘Frankie.'”
Disc two begins with a passionate rendition of Backstreets, which Darlington refers to as “ripping.” Then comes a double shot of youthful vigour in the shape of two songs from Greetings From Asbury Park, N.J., Growin’ Up and It’s Hard To Be A Saint In The City. Elder remarks that this is a”great version” of Growin’ Up and Darlington refers to, “a spirited duo of ‘Growin’ Up’ into a sizzling ‘Saint in the City.'” Springsteen stays with the debut album for Blinded By The Light, “which,” in Elder’s words, ” is delivered in a rousing rendition with lots of vocal and guitar contributions from Miami Steve,” though Springsteen omits the final part of the lyric, from “And now in Zanzibar…” onwards. Darlington calls it, “utterly delightful.” The epic Jungleland, while nonetheless poignant, has a freshness and vitality which reflects the fact that it was then a relatively new song. A storming, set-closing Rosalita (Come Out Tonight), as usual, contains the band introductions, complete with a snippet of the Theme From Shaft to represent saxophonist Clarence Clemons. The encore begins with the wistful, nostalgic 4th Of July, Asbury Park (Sandy), before the Detroit Medley and Quarter To Three bring things to a suitably wild conclusion.
Elder contends that “the real strength…is the show itself…a brilliant show.” According to the comment on springsteenbootlegs.blogspot.co.uk, it is “an awesome show…great performance! There’s nothing quite like a good Chicken Scratch show, and this is one of the best.”
Elder rates the sound of the Scorpio release as seven out of ten, writing that: “Quality-wise, this is a very good recording for early ’76, narrower in fidelity than most ’78 boards, but very clear. There isn’t much hiss, but a high pitched noise is evident in the background of a few tracks.” Quarter To Three is missing approximately half-a-minute at the start. Referring to these older releases both The Killing Floor database and the Lebanese Tribute To Bruce Springsteen website note that Incident On 57th Street “fades out” and that Rosalita consists of “chopped up/multiple sources.” Posting on the Jungleland website, wishy9 mentions of the Doberman version: “Decent to good sounding recording. Be forwarned [sic], ‘Incident’ cuts out at six minute mark. Pretty painful.” A couple of decades later we are able to enjoy the show in upgraded sound. Brucebase states that, “a version from a first or second generation reel also circulates, as does a JEMS transfer from what is believed to be a second generation tape. The latter is the one to get, a material upgrade over all other circulating tapes.” Of this new version Darlington writes:
“ER used high-end tape decks and good tape, so his copies of even well-known shows may well be improvements…
This board tape has never been considered A-list, but I think the ER version (surely the lowest generation source to circulate) is excellent and as strong if not stronger than any other ’76 board.
Close listening reveals bits of rarely heard off-mic chatter, unusual clarity in areas like the sound of Max’s foot-pedal playing on the high-hat and one of the best Garry Tallent mixes on any ’70s board. We did spend some time in the mastering lab pulling out clicks and taming what had always been overly bright sound…a material upgrade of an under-appreciated show.”
This release utilized the JEMS source and the sound is indeed full, clear and dynamic. Though the balance on Night, the opening number, leaves a little to be desired there is a clear improvement thereafter, making this release an extremely enjoyable listen. There is no sign of the “high pitched noise” which Elder notes is present on the old Scorpio release. There are still some problems of incompleteness: a glitch excises a few seconds of Spirit In The Night, the gorgeous rendition of Incident On 57th Street is unfortunately still subject to the swift and “painful” fade at six-and-a-quarter minutes, Rosalita fades out shortly after eight minutes (still some way from the end due to the band intros) and the incomplete Quarter To Three begins abruptly with no fade in.
Discs three and four of this release contain the show from the Cameron Indoor Stadium, Duke University, Durham, NC played on 28 March 1976. This was recently released by Godfather as Run South, Young Man and readers are directed to my review of that release for details of what I considered to be a “terrific” performance. There is no significant difference in sound quality, though to my ears the sound here has just a little more presence. However, this new version makes a mess of the disc break, omitting around ten seconds’ worth of the instrumental noodling which introduces Meeting Across The River at the start of disc two, including it instead at the end of disc one.
The discs are housed in a thick jewel case with some onstage shots from the era on the front and back of both inserts. There is no booklet. The outer sides of the inserts are sideways-on, as a glance at the rather striking front cover picure of Springsteen and Clemons above clearly shows.
Bonus CD-Rs – Frankie Goes To Cleveland Vol. 2 (ESB 4876A/B): Allen Theater, Cleveland, OH, USA – 8 April, 1976
Disc 1: Night, Tenth-Avenue Freeze-out, Spirit In The Night, It’s My Life, Thunder Road, She’s The One, Born To Run
Disc 2: Incident On 57th Street, When You Walk In The Room, Frankie, Backstreets, Growin’ Up. It’s Hard To Be A Saint In The City, Jungleland
If you are fortunate enough to acquire limited stickered version of this set with the bonus CD-Rs you find yourself with an incomplete recording of the next night’s show in Cleveland. According to Brucebase, the setlist is “likely to be missing ‘Rosalita (Come Out Tonight)’ and the encores.”
The setlist and performance are essentially similar to those of the previous evening. The one known exception is the performance of The Searchers’ When You Walk In The Room. The song is only known to have been played once in 1976 and never again until a single performance at the Wachovia Spectrum in Philadelphia on 19 October 2009. (This was also the show where Springsteen was joined onstage by an Elvis impersonator for All Shook Up and Blue Suede Shoes and both When You Walk In The Room and the Elvis numbers can be heard as bonus tracks on Godfather’s release of the following night’s performance, A Dream Where Everything Goes Right.)
Brucebase notes that this show is sourced from a “soundboard tape of good (albeit flat) sound dominated by bass guitar.” I found that the sound on this release left something to be desired, being rather muddy (particularly during the opening number) and lacking in sharpness. There is also some hiss/hum, which is particularly prominent on disc two. Unfortunately, there are some cuts in the second Cleveland show too. Incident On 57th Street is again incomplete though to a lesser extent, the cut coming just before the lyric “the cops have found the vein” and continuing until Janey wakes up to find Johnny “up and putting his clothes on.” Jungleland cuts out just after the start of the piano solo, and we are returned to the song just before the end.
The bonus discs are housed in a slimline jewel case with a front insert only. Both sides of the insert feature onstage shots of Springsteen and the track listing appears on the reverse.
Overall, this is a flawed though still desirable release. The first Cleveland show has been unavailable on silver disc for a long time and this upgrade is most welcome. Why it was paired with a show from a diferent venue which has been recently released on its own is hard to fathom. It would surely have made sense to produce a four-disc set with both the Cleveland shows or (in view of the second show’s incompleteness and problematic sound) a two-disc set with the second show as a bonus. Many Springsteen collectors will have already acquired the Run South, Young Man, and they will therefore effectively have to pay over the odds for the Cleveland show. Having said that, this release constitutes a most attractive package for those who do not already have the Godfather release, especially bearing in mind the inclusion of the second Cleveland show on the bonus discs.