Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Memorable Springsteen (Part Two)

Springsteen After Study Hall (May 25, 1974)

I was a budding music obsessive lost in the alcohol-stoked wilderness of high school. My high school – Archbishop John Carroll (Radnor,PA) – was to host Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band in concert in our school theater. Two fellow students (hi Jack, hi Maura) were organizing the show and needed to sell (I believe) 300 tickets at the princely sum of $4.00 apiece to break even. Despite daily homeroom announcements and constant prodding by a dozen or so music fanatics (where was the internet when we needed it?), ticket sales stalled significantly south of the magic 300 number. I did turn my ticket in for the refund, though – that was probably the cost of a case of Schlitz.

Time and Newsweek Covers (October 27, 1975)

In a marketing coup that may have ultimately backfired, Springsteen is accorded an honor heretofore reserved for world leaders and tragedies. To put this in perspective, on 10/29/75 Springsteen plays the Sacramento (CA) Memorial Auditorium and the Sacramento Union newspaper reported only 600 of the 2,500 tickets were sold. It would be like The Hold Steady getting simultaneous Time and Newsweek covers – it just couldn’t happen. But it did.

The Kid Sees Bruce (December 27, 1975)

By December 1975, Bruce mania had enveloped Philadelphia and four Tower shows sold out instantly. I’ll never forget the thunderous, deafening applause that greeted the band as they strutted onstage. They knew… this was their time. From the opening “Tenth Avenue Freeze Out”, through a pie-eyed, exuberant “Quarter to Three” (a song I didn’t know at the time) and ending with a cathartic rock-throne claiming “Twist and Shout”, I knew I was done. I’ve been trying to recapture the explosive magic of this show ever since.

The Camp Out - Scooter Proves It All Night (October 1980)

My brother and I probably camped out more than two dozen times in an effort to get not just concert tickets, but great concert tickets. Before the internet, eBay, ticketbastard and Live Nation, it used to be pretty simple to get great seats – you just had to work for them. And one nasty little October night my little bro’ slept encased in garbage bags (it was the closest we could come to rain gear) and never budged from the old EFC office stoop at 18th & Lombard. While I shuttled between the line, my car, my friend’s apartment, and a dive bar or two, there were literally “Tear drops on the city, bad Scooter searching for his groove”. Which leads to…

Playing Is The Best Thing To Do (December 9, 1980)

Besides finishing with their own heartfelt, revival tent tribute, a jaw-dropping “Twist and Shout”, Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band did the only thing they could do following John Lennon’s death… they played rock and roll. And my brother and I... we believed in the healing power of music. Jay Cocks captured the moment better than I ever could in the 12/22/80 issue of Time magazine.

Springsteen could probably have let Lennon's death pass unremarked, and few in the audience at his Philadelphia concert last Tuesday would have been troubled. But instead of ripping right into the first song, Springsteen simply said, "If it wasn't for John Lennon, a lot of us would be some place much different tonight. It's a hard world that asks you to live with a lot of things that are unlivable. And it's hard to come out here and play tonight, but there's nothing else to do."
Then Bruce and the E Street Band tore into Springsteen's own anthem, "Born to Run", making it clear that playing was the best thing to do. Guitarist Steve Van Zandt let the tears roll down his face, and organist Danny Federici hit the board so hard he broke a key. By the second verse, the song turned into a challenge the audience was happy to accept: "I wanna know love is wild, I wanna know love is real," Springsteen yelled and they yelled back. By the end, it sounded like redemption, John Lennon knew that sound too. He could use it like a chord change because he had been chasing it most of his life.

Where Do All The Hippies Meet? (April 13, 1984)

Such was the excitement surrounding Springsteen during Born in the USA mania that even shows by Clarence Clemons and the Red Bank Rockers quickly sold out based solely on the hope that Springsteen might surface. Well one night we gambled and won. Word spread quickly that Springsteen was in the house at Ripley’s– a dingy club located in the heart of South St. (you probably know it as the site of the recently closed Tower Records). Hearts fluttered and anticipation gave way to imminent euphoria as Clarence and the band were half-way through an instrumental version of “Fire”, and then he stopped and did the "lean on the little guy" routine. In a flash Springsteen materialized and the two of them just stood stone-like at midnight like world conquerors and basked in the unfettered din of a spastic, hyper-ventilating audience. “Like Romeo and Juliet. Samson and Delilah” sang Springsteen and the apoplectic crowd heaved and surged like a 40 foot wave. It truly seemed like the floor would buckle. Next they obliterated Fogerty’s “Rockin All Over the World” – and for ten minutes time stopped.

Bruce Springsteen Releases The Rising (July 30, 2002)

Less than a year after the unfathomable, Springsteen addressed 9/11 and its aftermath with some of the most emotional, devastating songs of his career. Yes, there were a couple of duds and failed experiments (“Let’s Be Friends” or “Worlds Apart”, anyone?), but the best of The Rising (the title cut, “My City of Ruins”, Lonesome Day”, “You’re Missing”) spoke eloquently to questions with no answers, bore a beam of light through the muck, and was quite frankly, the right record, by the right guy, at the right time. A staggering achievement.

“He’s The Boss And I’m The Employee” (October 13, 2004)

So spoke Eddie Vedder before he and Bruce Springsteen launched into “Better Man”, their third roof-shaking duet following “No Surrender” and “Darkness on The Edge of Town” during the final 2004 Vote For Change concert. To say that Vedder was Springsteen’s equal that night on Bruce’s home turf would be possibly selling Vedder short. I’m not a big Pearl Jam fan, but Eddie Vedder is a Rock Star. I don’t think I’ve ever seen two higher-wattage performers share a stage. Now I’ve gotta see Pearl Jam.

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