I don't want to go home: Southside Johnny, the E Street Band, the Cleveland Agora, 1978.


I don't want to go home: Southside Johnny, the E Street Band, the Cleveland Agora, 1978.
they got the fever.

kind of a notebook dump, I got lost in this footage recently and wanted to share.

“Southside Johnny & The Asbury Jukes starting their show 3 hours late because their manager and rhythm guitar player Miami Steven Van Zandt played the August 30 gig at the Richfield Coliseum with the E Street Band, then hopped in a car and drove across town to the club,” read the entry in Brucebase. I was researching something else, but in a move that will be familiar to those who procrastinate, my first thought upon reading that was, “Hmmm. How long did it actually take to make that drive?”

This is where I learned that the former Richfield Coliseum no longer exists, but when it did, it was about 30 minutes south of Cleveland (I am also reliably informed that it was a very bad drive in the winter and would have taken longer, but this was August.). Like the former Palace of Auburn Hills here in the Detroit Metro Area, it was the venue built to accommodate the white flight to the suburbs. I don’t know where in Cleveland I thought the Richfield Coliseum was, probably in that area downtown where the ballpark and the arena are now? (I don’t know, I really didn’t think about it all that much! It was Cleveland!)


In any event, this ended up with me going to look for the pro-shot footage of the 20 minutes where Bruce, Clarence (and of course, SVZ) were onstage with Southside & the Jukes. You'll want to watch this because it's pro-shot, because it's from 1978, because it's at the end of what was clearly a packed and steamy gig: Southside is sweating, La Bamba has his shirt open, and the crowd down front has that glazed look you get at the end of a long summer night in a club with questionable HVAC.

You have Miami Steve in peak Sugar Miami Steve mode, the white puffy blouse, the black velvet vest, the matching beret perfectly set so he looks incredibly cool instead of the really awkward way I used to look when I tried to get away with wearing a black beret to high school.

Clarence is onstage - you'll hear him before you see him, and thank god for the Agora camera operator who blessedly knew what angle to switch to. It will take a minute, and then you will realize that he is wearing a mechanic's jumpsuit (or maybe it's pit crew? WHAT DO I KNOW. There's a Mercedes logo on the patch on the back.) There isn't a crease in the damn jumpsuit. It is August. In Cleveland. In 1978. You needed a switchblade just to cut through the air. We are not far from Lake Erie. Anyway, Clarence is wearing a mechanic’s jumpsuit and this ridiculous straw hat that looks like something you'd see on a matron down in Palm Beach. If it was worn by anyone else besides Clarence Clemons they would rightfully be the butt of every joke.

There is somebody in the audience who is dressed as La Bamba. It took me three viewings this time to notice this detail. They're right in the front, wearing suspenders and a fedora and I think a mustache, you can see them during "Having A Party" and Southside takes the hat off his head. I wish Holly Cara Price was still with us so I could call her and ask her to tell me all about it. (I only thought about it for a half a second this time.)

Meanwhile, meanwhile, Bruce strolls in after his gig wearing a black suit jacket and looking like he's just gotten out of an air-conditioned limo. (And there was a song before this one.) Bruce is in peak 1978 hawt mode. Southside makes a joke about Bruce not knowing the words and then there he is, appears out of nowhere, sliding in like a young Sinatra, slicking his hair back with one hand. Mmm-mmm. He is idling like a perfectly tuned engine, tightly coiled and ready to spring at the slightest touch. That engine is purrrrring, baby. Purring.

If there was a place that Bruce Springsteen ruled outside the state of New Jersey it would have been Cleveland in the 1970s. Before you make a burning river joke, it is unlikely that the place you grew up in had the kind of nightclub scene that Cleveland did or the kinds of audiences. They had Swingo's. They had the Agora. This show would have been sold out because of Southside, nevermind all the people who got shut out of Bruce's show at the Coliseum.

This is a bunch of friends hanging out. You can see the shared looks, the sly grins, the inside jokes, the eye rolls, the big, big smiles. It's a Southside audience, but at that time, that was also a Springsteen audience, especially in Cleveland. There's competition going on, but there was always competition going on between this group of people.


South holds the microphone out to the audience and they finish. the. line.:

MY MOON AT NIGHT, they scream back.

The next chorus, Bruce and Clarence are hanging out at Stevie's mic, leaning in for the harmonies, then leaning back out. Watch as Steve's arm shoots out to reel the Big Man back just in time for his bass line. I have talked, a lot, about how if there was one early Springsteen moment I could have been present for, it would have been that moment when they were in the studio recording Born To Run where Bruce and Steve exchange a look and then Steve walks up to the fucking Brecker Brothers and sings them their horn parts. Just, Stevie as -- not a bandleader, but a - musical director.

So "Fever" kind of meanders into this exchange between Bruce and Southside after the horn solo, the two of them facing off against each other, there's mutual respect and also deeply mutual understanding of where this thing that they both do is coming from. There's a big where they're trading vocal licks and Bruce hits this Little Richard squeal that I have never ever heard him even try before. They are pulling from the same influences, the same stage, the same nights at another shitty Jersey Shore club where a bunch of jamokes are yelling for some stupid song they have already played.

It's 1978 and while Bruce might be marginally bigger commercially - he's at the Coliseum, the Jukes are at the Agora - at the time, you know, the Jukes were a force to be reckoned with. Also, check Bruce out earlier during the harp solo, and remember that the first time the E Street Band backed Chuck Berry, somehow Southside managed to tag along to play harmonica, and at the end of the night, Chuck Berry was most impressed with Uncle South, who was not trying to be noticed. But this is a story for ANOTHER TIME.

Also on this YouTube video are "I Don't Want To Go Home" and then the last encore, "Havin' A Party," which the Agora sings like it is the national anthem. Which, in 1978, it kinda was?

This is where I finally get to espouse my long-held insistence that "I Don't Want To Go Home" is basically SVZ's attempt to write "Havin' A Party." It's the same vibe! You're never going to out-write "Havin' A Party" but you can try to generate the same feeling and he does. "I Don't Want To Home" has Bruce and Southside taking the mic together even though Bruce has a guitar on now -- he almost looks comfortable without one to hide behind in "Fever" -- and they both get their arms in the air to touch the sky.

"Get this bridge now," Southside joshes Bruce before the aforementioned bridge

But man, I think it's "Havin' A Party," because here they are playing the classics, the deep roots, it's like how it felt watching Bruce playing with Sam Moore at Convention Hall in 2003. There is just something in their faces when they are playing these old songs that they grew up with and learned to play with and played for years and years to make a living and also because there was nothing else they could ever think about doing. It was the Jukes that took "Havin' A Party" into modern rock and roll parlance. No one else was out there playing Sam Cooke songs at a rock show in the 70s. It means so much to see their reaction to this music because it is the thing that gives them joy and it is the stuff that is the foundation to all of this, all of that, all of us.

Bonus: Greg Dulli covering "Havin' A Party"