It seems like just yesterday a young girl walked into a record store and picked up an album by a rocker who had a lot of buzz around him. Listening to that album changed that girl’s life. The girl was me, and the album was Born To Run by Bruce Springsteen.
To commemorate the 30th anniversary of the album that catapulted Springsteen into the mainstream public eye, Sony remastered and re-issued the album in 2005 along with two DVDs. There’s also a 48-page booklet in the set which includes photos never before published. The set is invaluable to any Springsteen fan and was a terrific way to give fans something worth buying in addition to the CD.
Born To Run – CD
The eight tracks that were on the original album are on the CD. They have been digitally remastered and are probably of the highest quality I’ve ever heard. That’s not to say they have lost any of their grittiness or edginess. They still have the same heart and emotions that they had all those years ago. While the distortion I hear when I drop the needle of the turntable on that same album I bought all those years ago might be nostalgic, the improved quality of the remastered CD is really appreciated.
When contrasted between the two, there’s a remarkable difference. Many of the nuances in the music were missed in those early years. Listening now I can pick up some of the more delicate notes in the piano’s track, or the subtlety with which the sax sometimes grows into the song.
” Thunder Road
” Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out
” Born to Run
” She’s The One
” Meeting Across The River
DVD 1 – Hammersmith Odeon Nov 18 1975
I know even I am guilty of forgetting at times just how long Bruce Springsteen has been making music. Watching the live concert from London in 1975 was a real eye-opener. Just the look of the band and The Boss himself was a sight to behold. With the hats and suits, some of the guys are wearing, they look like a bunch of pimps. It’s young in Bruce’s career and he’s got a look that’s a cross between Bob Dylan and Mike Nesmith of The Monkees with a wool hat on while on stage.
Line-up consists of Clarence Clemons on saxophone, Roy Bittan on piano, Gary Tallent on bass guitar, Miami Steve Van Zant on guitar, Max Weinberg on drums, and Danny Federici on organ.
This concert had some legendary status around it. In some circles, it was billed as one of the worst performances of Springsteen’s career. For those of us who have seen Springsteen live, that’s hard to believe. The poor performance was attributed to the culture shock the band felt having ventured to the U.K. for the first time, as well as the impossibility of the band living up to the hype the record company had stirred up in advance of the performance.
I am happy to say, that the myth surrounding that performance has now been debunked. This concert footage might be primitive and unrefined, but it’s still a great performance by Springsteen and the E-Street Band. The graininess and poor quality of the lighting at the time make it seem like the video footage could have been restored better, but I am guessing it’s the best they could do with the medium it was recorded on.
The concert opens with Thunder Road, my favorite song. Could it get any more perfect than that? It’s not 100% perfect to the album, but it’s close to the song I love. This is a big difference from more recent concerts where he’s experimented a bit and lost some people with a favorite song that sounds totally different. Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out is next. Clarence’s sax is awesome as he’s there in an all-white suit and looking real good.
The concert continues with Spirit in the Night, a fantastic song from his first album. I really liked some of the live riffs on this in between his vocal performance. It really showcases the talent of The E Street Band. Bruce gets silly during this, which is pretty funny and indicative of what his marathon shows in the future would be like.
Next up is Lost in the Flood. This is not as well-known and worth seeking out for this rare live performance. The piano accompaniment, in the beginning, is excellent. Followed by She’s The One which sounds a lot different live, especially the intro with Bruce on harmonica.
Born To Run was hardly the classic song then that it is now. Instead, it was new and fresh and Bruce has the same passion singing it back then that I’ve seen him give live throughout the 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s. It probably is the song that most closely resembles the album cut, but hearing it live is always worth it for the passion it conveys without the engineering.
The E-Street Shuffle/Having a Party is another one that starts off so different live that I couldn’t identify the song at first. It’s probably in this performance that I notice that Bruce isn’t as relaxed and throwing caution to the wind as he will be in later performances. Then, he will seem to be having a great time on stage, as if it’s just him and the guys hanging out and having a great time and he just happened to invite 50,000 other friends along for the ride. In this performance, he’s not quite as sure of letting loose, and it’s something I was waiting for during this song.
It’s Hard To Be A Saint In The City is an excellent song with driving riffs and a lot of energy. Backstreets is another song with a great piano introduction. This is one of those songs that my Mom used to claim he was just screaming through, but I love it. There’s some nice use of the organ on Kitty’s Back in the pre-synthesizer days of music, along with a great extended instrumental bit in the middle. This song is the one that seems to be a precursor to the shows when the band would just get onstage and jam together, seeming like it would go on forever. The wool hat Springsteen was wearing at the beginning of the show mysteriously disappears and re-appears on his head during this song, making me believe that they have bounced back again between footage from various shows.
Next up is Jungleland where the wool hat becomes part of the act. Bruce uses it as something of a prop. This epic has also become a favorite and one that isn’t often played at concerts due to its length. Having it back-to-back with Rosalita (Come Out Tonight) is a real treat. Springsteen starts it off quite differently than the recording, but as soon as the music starts the crowd goes wild with those familiar riffs.
Never afraid to push the envelope, Springsteen brings in an accordion to accompany the band on 4th of July, Asbury Park (Sandy). That’s something most rockers wouldn’t even think of trying. There’s terrific energy from the whole band as they play through Detroit Medley. They switch off on rhythms and really seem like they are loosening up and having a lot of fun.
Finishing off the show is For You which is another song of his that I really like a lot that’s rarely played in concert anymore. Springsteen performs it here slower than the recorded version, so it’s really unique footage. Finally, the show closes with Quarter to Three.
DVD 2 – Wings for Wheels: The Making of Born to Run
The making of the album is recounted with members of the band, as well as those who were helping to shape Springsteen’s career at the time. Springsteen himself talks about what went into it quite a bit, making it a must-have. I found it interesting to hear that Bruce feels the album is a continuing narrative of one long summer night. This is the record he says that changed not only his life but the lives of his friends in the band.
Bruce reflects on those days and how it all came together, along with current and former members of The E Street Band. How Patti Scialfa can reflect on it since she wasn’t with the band at the time is reaching a little bit. Don’t get me wrong, I really like her a lot, but it just seems like she’s put on this DVD because she’s the Boss’s wife.
There are plenty of images and clips of Bruce and the band from that time. Bruce sits at the piano and talks about how the various songs were formed and came about. I was really interested in just how important he saw the introductions to each song and how he saw them as the set-up for the characters and their emotional context.
I didn’t realize that Columbia was getting ready to drop Springsteen from the label if the next album didn’t take off. With all that pressure on him, he managed to create what I consider to be the greatest album in rock & roll.
Credit must be given to both Springsteen and Jon Landau when they are talking about Bruce’s former manager Mike Appel. They have nothing but praise for the man, even though there was a parting of the ways soon after Born To Run was released.
” Live at the Ahmanson Theater, Los Angeles 1973 – Bruce and the band perform Spirit in the Night, Wild Billy’s Circus Story, and Thunder Crack in this concert footage from very early in his career.
I am so glad I picked this up when I saw it about a year back. I hadn’t known it was out, but I couldn’t resist it once I saw it. The remastered CD may not be enough to get some fans to plonk down cash on another release, but everything else included in the anniversary addition makes it worth the price tag.