Land Of 1000 Dances (Godfatherecords G.R. 274/275)
The Palladium, New York, NY – 30 October, 1976
Disc 1: Night, Rendezvous, Spirit In The Night, It’s My Life, Thunder Road, [Mona/]She’s The One, Something In The Night, Backstreets, Growin’ Up
Disc 2: Tenth Avenue Freeze Out, Jungleland, Rosalita (Come Out Tonight)/Land Of A Thousand Dances, A Fine Fine Girl, 4th Of July, Asbury Park (Sandy), Raise Your Hand, The Promise, Born To Run
Bonus track: The Palladium, New York, NY – 29 October 1976: Quarter To Three
As is well-known, Springsteen was embroiled in an acrimonious legal wrangle with manager Mike Appel during the latter half of 1976 and the early months of 1977. Prevented from recording with his new mentor John Landau, live shows became Springsteen’s only means of musical expression and he seemed determined to put everything into them. As Christopher Sandford writes in Born To Run, “forced out of the [Record] Plant and on to the road Springsteen’s live act…hit fever pitch.” Robert Santelli, in Greetings From E Street, concurs, stating that, “no studio work meant that his and the E Street Band’s creative energy went into the live shows, which turned out to be some of the most memorable of their careers.”
Sandford points out that Springsteen “both enlarged and improved his shows” at this time. Preparation was meticulous. Before playing the Spectrum in Philadelphia, for example, Springsteen undertook a three-hour soundcheck. However, the shows still had an inspirational, seemingly spontaneous quality. Reviews from the time reflect this dichotomy, referring to “an element of calculation” and the “contrived ” nature of aspects of the performance but also to “high-voltage excitement” and the projection of “the greatest ebullience of any performer around these days.”
Land Of 1000 Dances is Godfather’s third release from the 1976-77 period. It showcases a concert that seems not to have appeared on CD before, although one song, A Fine Fine Girl, has already been included as a bonus track on a previous Godfather set, Home Of The 76ers.
The show starts with Night from the Born To Run album. Loud, fast and relatively brief, it is an ideal concert opener and was used as such frequently at this time. Rendezvous, a tuneful medium-paced song which centres on a midnight assignation, follows, its lyrics echoing the theme of the previous number (Night: “Till you’re out on that midnight run/losing your heart to a beautiful one”; Rendezvouz: “Meet me at midnight/ we’ll be riders, girl, of the night”). Failing to make the cut for Darkness On The Edge Of Town, the song (which had made its live debut on 1 August at the Monmouth Arts Centre. Red Bank, NJ) was recorded by Greg Kihn and Gary US Bonds before a Springsteen version finally appeared on Tracks. An excellent rendition of Spirit In The Night, propelled by Clarence Clemons’ earthy sax, is followed by one of the high points of this release, a cover of The Animals’ It’s My Life. In common with other performances from this time, the song starts with a superbly atmospheric instrumental section with some evocative guitar preceding Springsteen’s tale of coming home late and having to pass through the kitchen of the family home where his father had been sitting in the dark, drinking and waiting for the return of his wayward son. The inevitable argument, of course, results in Springsteen telling his father that he can do what he wants with his own life. A stirring rendition of the song itself smoulders with bitterness and anger.
Thunder Road is played in its full band incarnation, essentially similar to the album version save for a brief piano prelude. The audience are delighted when they recognise the harmonica introduction and spend much of the song clapping along, entirely appropriately for what many regard as the archetypal Springsteen number. An instrumental version of Mona then precedes an energetic rendition of She’s The One, which, as on other dates at this time, features tubular bells.
Another highlight of this recording is Something In The Night. Backed by piano and organ, Springsteen performs a version with a subtly different tune from the album version, beautifully enhanced by a melancholy trumpet part. It is a superb performance. The song was clearly evolving during this tour. There were three different versions vocally, each featuring a different final verse. The song, like Rendezvous, debuted at the Monmouth Arts Centre on 1 August and the first version was played until the show at the Spectrum Arena, Philadelphia, PA on 25 October. The second version was played once, at the next Spectrum concert two days later. Springsteen reverted to the first version for the initial two shows at the Palladium and the third version debuted during the concert under review. There was also an instumental change. Initially the backing was piano and organ, the trumpet being added for the first time at the performance of 26 September at the Vets Memorial Coliseum, Phoenix, AZ.
Backstreets features an early version of the spoken interlude. This is less focused on romantic betrayal than later versions and when Springsteen reaches the lines “when the bells of midnight ring…we could slip away,” the tubular bells make a hugely effective entry. The next song, Growin’ Up, also contains a spoken section, this time a tale featuring Springsteen, Steve Van Zandt and “this girl that we were both going out with.” Driving on a back road in the early hours they encounter an extra-terrstrial who, rather improbably, is trying to find the New Jersey Turnpike. Their old ’63 Impala then (even more improbably) defeats the alien’s spacecraft in a race, resulting in him granting them a wish – and the wish, of course, is that “we wanna be rock ‘n’ roll stars!” Springsteen returns to this theme at the end of the song, explaining that “here we are today!” It is endearingly goofy and it is hard not to smile as disc one comes to its close.
Disc two opens with a barnstorming performance of Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out featuring the Miami Horns, or seemingly (as related by the Brucebase website) four brass players masquerading as the Miami Horns. Brucebase states that the genuine brass section from Southside Johnny’s band played with Springsteen from 1 August until 26 September, during a break in the Jukes’ touring schedule due to Southside’s illness. They were then replaced by four Philadelphia-based musicians, Ed De Palma (sax), John Binkley (trumpet), Steve Paraczky (trumpet) and Denis Orlock (trombone), who continued to be referred to by Springsteen as the Miami Horns despite having no connection with Southside Johnny. It is noteworthy, however, that in the band introductions Springsteen refers to them as “from…Asbury Park, New Jersey – the Miami Horns.”
A performance of Jungleland that is very close to the album version precedes the last song of the main part of the set, Rosalita. Like other performances at this time Rosalita features the ‘Miami Horns’ to great effect but there is also a unique aspect to this rendition. Springsteen is joined onstage by Patti Smith who sings part of Land Of A Thousand Dances, the 1962 Chris Kenner song (with the “na, na, na” hook added on Cannibal & The Headhunters’ 1965 version) which formed part of Land, the centrepiece of her debut LP Horses. A member of the audience apparently suggests that this was an impromptu performance: “[I] saw a commotion in front of the stage…I don’t think security knew who Patti Smith was. It took a minute or two before Bruce motioned to let her come up.”
The brass players remain for the first song of the encore, a light-hearted, upbeat and gender-transposed version of the Darlene Love number A Fine Fine Boy. The tempo then slows for 4th Of July, Asbury Park (Sandy), which is followed by a tight and funky performance of Eddie Floyd’s Raise Your Hand, again featuring the brass players to excellent effect.
Next up is The Promise. This slow, heartfelt song had its first performance on 3 August at the Monmouth Arts Centre. It seems to have been omitted from Darkness On The Edge Of Town (according to one source in favour of Racing In The Street) due to the widespread belief that the song’s theme of trust betrayed was a reference to Springsteen’s relationship with Mike Appel. Christopher Sandford clearly thinks so, as he writes that the song, “though not explicitly about Appel…cut to the bone of their feud.” Springsteen, however, curtly stated, “I don’t write songs about lawsuits!” This incredibly poignant number remained perhaps Springsteen’s finest unreleased song until a new recording appeared on the one-disc distillation of his career-retrospective, 18 Tracks. The tempo increases once more as the concert ends triumphantly with Born To Run.
Godfather add an appropriate bonus track in the shape of Gary US Bonds’ Quarter To Three from the previous night’s show, featuring a guest appearance by Bonds himself. Springsteen invited Bonds to sing with him after performing with Bonds during his show at Fat City, Seaside Heights, NJ on 22 October. When Bonds was told by the club’s owner that Bruce Springsteen wanted to join him onstage his response, as he said in a later interview, was “Bruce who? I didn’t recognize the name! But the guys in my band did so I said OK. When I introduced him the place went crazy.”
The source of this release is a good, clear mono audience tape. There is a change in the sound part way through Rendezvous and a brief glitch near the end of Spirit In The Night, but otherwise this is very listenable. The audience is quite prominent and individual listeners may have differing views on whether this is intrusive or atmospheric. Godfather’s latest issue comes in the usual tri-fold sleeve with some nice photographs, including some featuring Springsteen and Patti Smith from the show, and a touching dedication to the recently-deceased Danny Federici. Concert recordings from this period, once very rare, are now beginning to emerge, demonstrating that there were some fine shows played during this turbulent stage of Springsteen’s career. Collectors are indebted to Godfather for bringing this performance to light and this release is well worth having.