First Friday: Live from The Roxy
First Friday! It feels like it took forever for this one to get here.
I reckon the same thing could be said about the brand new release from the Bruce Springsteen vault, as this one captures the historic show with The E Street band from The Roxy on the Sunset Strip in Los Angeles on July 7, 1978 and the Darkness On The Edge Of Town tour. The show, broadcast live on then LA rock radio station KMET-FM, has been in the hands of collectors for the past forty years. But as great as it sounded, it never sounded like this.
For my money, the greatest piece of writing about the life and times of Bruce Springsteen will always be Dave Marsh’s cover story in Rolling Stone called Bruce Springsteen Raises Cain, from 8/24/78. Marsh was with the band as the Darkness…tour rolled through the wild west, and his writing keeps pace with his subject matter.
That almost forty years to the day later his request for a preserved performance be delivered is worthy of attempting to channel Madame Marie, or at least visiting with her descendants who now inhabit that building on the Asbury Park boardwalk.
Here’s Dave Marsh writing about the latter part of the show:
“The second half is, if anything, harder to believe. It begins, after the usual twenty-minute intermission, with Bruce stepping to the mike and saying: “All right all of you bootleggers out there in radioland. Roll them tapes!” And he comes on with a performance that deserves to be preserved: when a guitar has to be sent backstage for repairs, he calls a brief conference, and the band suddenly steps forward and sings, of all things, “Heartbreak Hotel,” with Bruce as the very incarnation of his hero. There’s an encore performance of “Independence Day,” another of those songs that didn’t make Darkness, this one the most moving ballad version of the “Adam Raised a Cain” story I have ever heard. During “Quarter to Three,” three hours into the set, Bruce climbs to the balcony and sings a chorus there before he leaps ten feet down to the piano, by some miracle uninjured. The houselights go up, and the kids are on their feet, chanting-no one is going home. And even when the announcement comes that the band has left the building, no one moves. “Br-u-ce, Bru-ce” the chant goes on and on, and suddenly the curtain is raised, and there they are (Max Weinberg fresh from the shower). They roll into “Twist and Shout” and finally, nearly four hours after it all began, the show is over.
Los Angeles Times rock critic Robert Hilburn is at a loss for words. “How do I come back and review this show,” he says despairingly, “after I just said that the Forum was one of the best events ever in Los Angeles? Who’s gonna believe me?” Maybe, I can only suggest, that is everybody else’s problem.”
It’s not, of course, that the performance wasn’t preserved. It’s just that now we have it as it was recorded live on site by the legendary Jimmy Iovine and recently mixed by Jon Altschiller from 24 track 2" 15 IPS tape source.
Famously, eight songs from this show were included on the 1986 Live 1975—85 collection.
Infamously, including a severely edited version of “Backstreets.”
Oh, and another song, “For You,” was used as a B-side.
There were incendiary covers (Buddy Holly & Elvis). There were premieres of songs (“Independence Day” and “Point Blank”) that would be released on The River two years later.
There was indeed a whole lot of shakin’ going on.
This becomes the fourth release from the archive series from the magical year 1978. It joins the August show from The Agora in Cleveland as the second radio broadcast to be released.
I’ve had the good fortune to have seen a number of shows at The Roxy. Most recently last October when Little Steven & The Disciples of Soul played a nine song showcase set for film and television and industry folks.
Upstairs after the show, the conversation went something like this:
Me: So, this room, huh?
Him: Yeah baby—lots of history right here.
Me: Including tonight.
Him: You know it!
As usual, Mr. Van Zandt was correct.
Happy 40th Roxy! A most welcome addition to any fan’s collection.