Recent Springsteen writings

this train carries saints and sinners.

Recent Springsteen writings

After spending so much time away from Springsteen-land, in rapid succession they pulled me back in.

I wrote about the latest official Archive release, at the Roxy in 1975, for Backstreets [since it is still the only website left in the world that is one giant webpage, ctrl-F for “AIN'T NOBODY HERE FROM BILLBOARD… BUT YOU ARE”]. This was a highly enjoyable exercise, even if it very much led to me doing way more research than was likely required — but at this point I regard those meanderings as part of my process and if I didn’t use something for this piece, chances are it will come very much in handy for something else in the future.

For me, it was important to contextualize this show in the run of 1975 shows, which tend to be dwarfed by the Main Point broadcast (and sure enough, those fanboys hit me on Twitter minutes after the release was live to remind me of its existence), even though that wasn’t part of this tour, it was a one-off, it was a different band and a very different set of circumstances—not to say that the Main Point show isn’t incredible, and isn’t important, because of course it is; it’s just the end of that era, and I don’t particularly worship or hold as sacred any one era of live Springsteen.

I really love this particular run of shows at the Roxy, mostly because the radio broadcast-ed show was one of the first bootlegs I ever bought by Springsteen or anyone else, which probably just fixates the damn thing in your mind, because it’s the album you are listening to all the time. An inflation calculator type-thing tells me that $75 in 1978 (when I bought my bootleg) is equal to close to $300 today, and it was quite honestly a huge purchase, and a big decision to just buy that as opposed to buying a bunch of other things. But I knew as soon as they dropped the needle on what was, indeed, called AIN’T NOBODY HERE FROM BILLBOARD TONIGHT, I had to own it. So, I did.

[A funny story I told on Twitter was about when I was waiting for the doors to open at the Barclays Center for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony in 2014, noted fan (and co-author of the awesome Rock and Roll Tour of the Jersey Shore book) Stan Goldstein greeted me with, “There’s somebody here from Billboard tonight!” which I thought was HILARIOUS.]

[Apropos: Bruce Springsteen Makes It Right, Inducts The E Street Band Into Rock Hall]

The Archive release is not the radio broadcast, but rather the early show on 10/18/75, the same show that provided “Thunder Road” on the 1975-85 box set. Not all of the Archive shows are for the casual fan, but this one I recommend strongly if you feel like taking the plunge.

Pitchfork asked me to write about the audio release of Springsteen on Broadway, which was more challenging than I initially anticipated. I am one of those writers that enjoys most* constraints on assignments, whether it’s word count or tone or voice — it can be strangely liberating.

(*I hate writing around embargoed information. In the digital age it just ends up making you look dumb when you do backflips to NOT reference something that someone else references two seconds after your piece is live.)

In the case of the Pitchfork piece, it was the concept of that this was a review of the audio recording, not a review of the Netflix show, not a review of the actual Broadway show. On the other hand, having had seen both the Netflix version and the Broadway show, information gleaned from those experiences allowed me to better evaluate the audio recording of the experience, so I allowed myself to refer to those as touchpoints, but not as the overall focus of the piece.

Edited out of the original was this, however, which I still stand by until my grave:

(These additions mean that missing in action, despite its long service in the set, is the criminally-underrated and ever-topical political rumination “Long Walk Home,” from 2007’s Magic album.)

If you haven’t, make time to read through Chris Phillips’ piece at Backstreets, which gets to serve as the paper of record for this outing, as well it should. It ties up all of the loose ends, and chronicles the entire arc of the engagement, and covers all of the things I really wanted to try to work into my piece, but couldn’t because of the aforementioned constraints.

A couple of left-out observations:

1) Bruce’s comfort at the piano - it was always a special treat when he took to the piano — thinking especially at things like the Asbury Park Christmas Shows (of blessed memory)—but he has a level of intuitive comfort now that is just fabulous. The first thing it made me think of was Dylan’s transition to the piano from the guitar in the early 00’s, although (hopefully) not for the same reasons. (And I think Bruce is an exponentially better pianist than Bob is, or at least better than Bob chooses to be onstage.)

2) The “Freehold coffee music”: I was texting back and forth with Mr. Phillips to fact check some things earlier in the week, and he made reference to the “Freehold coffee music” which made me PANIC because I did not stay for the absolute end of the Netflix press screening because of time constraints, and I thought I missed something. But I did not. Do make sure to let the credits run through, because there is a different version of that lovely, Copland-esque melody from that passage of the show that runs behind it, and I hope some industrious soul tapes it and makes it available.

3) RELEASE THE ALBUM, BRUCE: I briefly toyed with heading down to the Walter Kerr last night to see Himself arrive or wave goodbye, but knew it would be the kind of eBay vulture, touristy clusterfuck that I particularly dislike, so I wisely stayed home. I joked with a friend that if I had gone, that I would have brought a sign that said NOW RELEASE THE ALBUM PLEASE. I know I am in the minority of people WHO WANT A NEW RECORD (correction, added 10:45pm) vs those who just want live E Street and don’t care about his recorded output, but I just cannot understand why anyone who is a fan of his music would not want as much creativity as possible from Bruce Springsteen as long as he is still on this planet and breathing.


Chanukah is over but Christmas is still around the corner, a book would make a lovely gift!

You can also buy me a coffee, if you felt so inclined. I am off from my day gig for the next two months while I dig into initial research for my Patti Smith book and anything is helpful!