Run South, Young Man (Godfatherecords G.R. 811/812)
Cameron Indoor Stadium, Duke University, Durham, NC, USA – 28 March, 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: 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
As is well-known, Springsteen’s legal wrangles with erstwhile manager Mike Appel resulted in a three year gap between the release of Born To Run and its successor Darkness On The Edge Of Town. During the intervening years, Springsteen and the E Street Band threw their energies into some excellent performances during a spate of unconventional touring.
The Brucebase website lists the show presented here as the third performance of the so-called Chicken Scratch Tour, beginning on 25 March 1976 in Columbia, SC and ending in Annaplois, MD on 28 May 1976. After a small number of stand-alone gigs, mostly at the Monmouth Arts Center in Red Bank, NJ, Brucebase lists the shows from Phoenix, AZ (26 September 1976) to Boston, MA (25 March 1977) as constituting the Lawsuit Tour. However, it is not unusual to find all of the shows from 1976-1977 coming under the umbrella of the Chicken Scratch Tour. Conversely, the Greasy Lake website includes the shows up to that at Annapolis as a continuation of the Born To Run Tour, and the Killing Floor database lists all the 1976-1977 dates as part of the Born To Run Tour.
The unusual nature of the early 1976 tour (whichever one it was!) is summed up in an article in the 20 May 1976 edition of Rolling Stone (the heading of which, “Springsteen Tour: Run South, Young Man,” provides the title for this release):
“It was originally conceived as a quick, one-month jaunt to battle boredom and frustration and to tighten up for the next album. But it’s become a two-month, 38-date extravaganza that answers the question: ‘Whatever happened to Bruce Springsteen?’
The tour, which began March 25th, takes Springsteen into the South, parts of the Midwest and Pennsylvania. He will become the first hard-rock performer to headline the Grand Ole Opry House in Nashville, and he is booked at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point…It’s a strange tour, coming at a time when when most major acts are planning Bicentenniel blitzes of ballparks and festivals in all the largest cities. But Springsteen had not planned a tour at all.”
After explaining about the “contractual fight” with Appel which would delay the new album and make the E Streeters “bored,” Rolling Stone goes on state that, “Springsteen and his band decided on a solution: a tour.” This would seem to confirm that the gigs from early 1976 were separate from, rather than being a continuation of, 1975’s Born To Run Tour.
Dave Marsh, in Bruce Springsteen: On Tour 1968-2005, essentially agrees with Brucebase, though he does not give the 1976-1977 tour a specific name. He does, however, give the following account of how the early 1976 tour got its unusual name: “The road crew called the shows that began on March 25 in Columbia, South Carolina, the Chicken Scratch tour, because if you mapped it out, there wer so many doublings back and forth across the South and the Midwest: Charlotte, Atlanta, back to Charlotte and Durham, just to start.”
Run South, Young Man allows us to hear Springsteen’s first and only performance at Duke University in Durham, NC (though in 2010, he joined Rosanne Cash there for one song, Sea Of Heartbreak ). However, the success of the million-selling Born To Run clearly made the audience familiar with Springsteen’s ouevre, as Rolling Stone reports: “At Duke University, in a town Springsteen had never played, the audience seemed to know all the moves, cheering in anticipation when he went into the slow break at the end of ‘Spirit In The Night.’ The show was in a 6,000-seat basketball arena, the largest hall in which Springsteen appeared.”
The concert begins with Night from the Born To Run album. Fast, loud and relatively brief, it is an ideal show opener, creating an immediately bouyant mood, and it was used in this capacity frequently in this era. Next comes another song from that album in the shape of an ebullient rendition of Tenth Avenue Freeze-out, the conclusion of which is greeted by enthusiastic clapping and cheering from the audience. Springsteen then revisits his debut album, Greetings From Asbury Park, N.J., for Spirit In The Night, which begins with a short intro dominated by swirling saxophone and drums. As the song starts, the audience again cheers loudly, bearing out the comments from Rolling Stone quoted above.
Then we are treated to a definite highlight of the show, Springsteen’s take on The Animals’ It’s My life. The song itself is prefaced with the customary story of how Springsteen’s father would sit in the darkened kitchen of their house, smoking and drinking, and waiting for his teenage son to come home so that he could vent his anger and frustration on him. It sets the scene magnificently for an appropriately impassioned performance, the emotional peak being reached with Springsteen’s anguished cry of “don’t push me!” One attendee, quoted by Bruebase, states, “I distinctly remember looking down the row of people and seeing that every single one of them had their mouths open (as did I) in stunned silence, mesmerized by the story and the music. It was thrilling,” and the notes on the Jungleland websiteabout this recording rightly call this “a passionate reading” of the song.
Thunder Road receives a light, fresh but not inconsequential performance, with a short piano intro from Roy Bittan, and the audience claps along for part of the song. It is the first of five straight songs from Born To Run, the next being She’s The One, played here with a harmonica intro but without a substantial rendition of either Mona or Not Fade Away to provide a preface, as was to become common. The first disc then finishes superbly with a wonderfully energetic and vibrant Born To Run, which has the audience clapping along immediately.
The Born To Run quintet continues on the second disc with the subdued and atmospheric Meeting Across the River, featuring an effective saxophone contribution from Clarence Clemons instead of the trumpet part found on the album version. My only disappointment with the performance is that it does not lead into Jungleland, as it does so effectively on the album. Instead the song is followed by a passionate rendition of Backstreets, which contains a brief, wordless mid-song vocalise.
Then it is back to the debut album for Blinded By The Light, one of only four known (and three recorded) live versions of the song from 1976. It is a most enjoyable performance and mister, posting on the Jungleland website, comments that, “a full version of Blinded In The Light [sic] (missed a verse on 4-7-76) makes this the best of only 3 recorded that year.”
The show is noteworthy, as both Brucebase and the Jungleland notes point out, as one of only a handful of shows to feature all eight songs from Born To Run and, according to Rolling Stone, it was the first to do so. Fittingly. the epic Jungleland, which closes the album, is the eighth and last to be played here. Its very satisfying performance is followed by a raucous Rosalita (Come Out Tonight), which includes the band introductions, complete with brief solos and a snippet of the Theme From Shaft to accompany the introduction of Clemons. Then comes the first confirmed live rendition of Eddie Floyd’s Raise Your Hand, the recording seemingly supporting that claim due to Springsteen being heard to call out chord changes to the band, a factor which does not prevent this being an excellent performance.
The encore begins with a splendidly wistful 4th Of July, Asbury Park (Sandy) and then the second disc concludes with a wild version of the Detroit Medley. It seems, however, that the concert did not end here. Rolling Stone refers to, “the three-song encore that ended with ‘Quarter To Three,'” and it is generally accepted that the song was played that night. However, Greasy Lake and Killing Floor both list Kitty’s Back as being performed between It’s My Life and Thunder Road, while omitting 4th Of July, Asbury Park (Sandy) and the Detroit Medley, which, as this recording attests, were played. Referring to the Rolling Stone review and the review in Duke University’s Student Newspaper, Killing Floor contends that, “there were 3 or 4 additional songs played that are not articulated in either review,” and Scott Diffee, recalling the show on Greasy Lake, claims it lasted for three-and-a-half hours, though I would suggest that this is unlikely for a performance from 1976, and that therefore Quarter To Three is likely to be the only omission on this release.
Overall, this is a most enjoyable performance. Diffee was clearly impressed by what he witnessed, writing: “This was a very high energy show…Bruce and the band were in excellent form and looked they were having more fun than the audience…The power of Bruce and this band during that time was huge. The energy was unmatched, the crowd was in a constant buzz…an unforgettable night.” Mister adds: “Great show…very impassioned playing and singing by the band.”
The provenance of the tape used for this release is described by Brucebase as follows: “Audience tape from the ER archives via JEMS. The tape entered circulation in August 2012, prior to this there was no circulating audio.” The Jungleland notes (by “Wayne Darlington for JEMS and the ER archives”) give further details:
“Hello and welcome to the first in a planned series of releases from the ER Archives, the collection of an active ’70s taper and trader who stepped away from collecting, leaving his tapes pretty much dormant until now. We’re still culling through the archive, but it is already clear that it contains some previously uncirculated shows as well as upgrades to circulating tapes, both audience and soundboard. ER used high-end tape decks and good tape, so his copies of even well- known shows may well be improvements. The first of them is this previously unknown recording from Duke University, March 28, 1976, making it the earliest document we have of the Chicken Scratch tour…The good news is that a few minor defects aside, this is a very nice recording for 1976 and all the songs are intact without cuts. I even heard some guitar bits and vocal parts I had never noticed before in other ’76 shows. The only missing track is the presumed set closer, ‘Quarter to Three.'”
Though not as clear and dynamic as on a high quality modern audience recording, the sound is indeed both impressive and enjoyable for a tape from this period. Posters on Jungleland have clearly been impressed with the sound quality of the tape, as these comments testify: “goodsounding” (streetlooner); “this sounds really good considering it’s [sic] age” (rainman7); “wow, great sounds!” (foreveryoung); “sounds fantastic” (larryrulz); “great sound” (mister).
Run South, Young Man comes with Godfather’s usual attractive tri-fold packaging, featuring numerous onstage shots from the era. The Rolling Stone article is reproduced in lieu of original sleeve notes, together with a photo of the article itself and there is also a photo of a ticket for the show.
Godfather has recently done a great job of chronicling the Wrecking Ball tour (and a further instalment, Hometown Boys, was released along with this set and will be reviewed in due course). I wrote in my review of Beneath A Peaceful Sky that, “Godfather’s releases from the Wrecking Ball Tour continue to demonstrate that, nearly forty years after the release of his first album, Springsteen is a relevant artist who continues to make valid musical statements and is, moreover, a superb live act.” While I would stand by that claim, I would nonetheless contend that Springsteen’s very best live performances date from the 1970s, and collectors are indebted to the Godfather label for making this terrific show available on silver disc for the first time.