This day, after looking at whatever issues were most directly connected with government, Mr. Weiler closed by saying, Have any of you heard of this guy on the cover? Bill Barry and I rather tentatively raised our hands, sure that somewhere or another wed heard of this Bruce Springsteen guy.
Now, 30 years later, Springsteen and the album that catapulted him to fame, Born To Run, are both certifiable icons. In celebration Columbia has released a remastered version of the disc, along with two companion DVDs. One is a live concert at the Hammersmith Odeon in London from 1975, the other is Wings for Wheels: The Making of Born To Run, which also includes footage from a 1973 concert.
Anyone who listened to rock music in the 70s and 80s heard Born To Run, Thunder Road, Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out, and Jungleland. The new version has a pristine sound that still delivers a wallop few albums have ever matched.
Of particular interest are Shes the One and the nearly forgotten Meeting Across the River, featuring a plaintive Randy Brecker trumpet obligato. If you havent listened to the recording in a while, its a refreshing blast of pure rock spirit, delivered with gusto and finesse. Plus Bruce sings his heart out.
NO HOLDS BARRED
Springsteen became the definitive live performer, his concerts legendary for his storytelling and the bands no-holds-barred approach. Thats why the concert pieces included in this are so interesting. The London show took on a legendary status over the years, one view being that it was great, another that it was awful.
The first is correct. Bruce opens the show with Roy Bittan on piano for a stripped-down Thunder Road. The full band joins him for Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out, Miami Steve Van Zandt resplendent in an orange suit, while sax man Clarence Clemons, clad in a white suit and fedora, received a heros welcome. The band is tight, rocking and supporting Bruce at every turn.
Wings For Wheels completes the package. It includes concert footage from 1973, with Clemons, Van Zandt, Danny Federici on keyboards, bassist Garry Tallent and drummer Vinnie Lopez. Its raw, inelegant and curious, finding Springsteen at the piano singing as if he had marbles in his mouth.
Its the documentary section of Wings that puts the album into a historical and personal context. Everybodys trying to get out, Bruce says in the disc of the song stories that filled Born To Run. Yet Bruce was also trying to get in, into the epic quality of the songs he was doing.
ON THE LINE
Pressure was being exerted from all angles, from the label, from the media hype (the next Dylan). If this record didnt make it, it was obvious it was going to be the end of the recording career, said Van Zandt. He felt everything was on the line at that moment, said pianist Roy Bittan.
Yet Springsteen says most of the pressure came from within. The pressure was always kind of from myself. You know, you wanted to play great, you wanted to write something that was explosive, he said.
Ultimately, of course, Bruce and the band produced one of the greatest rock records of all time. The follow-up, Darkness on the Edge of Town, was probably just as good, maybe even better, but it was Born To Run that saved a career and launched it at the same time. We wanted it to be something that people would never forget, said Springsteens manager, Jon Landau.
That they did. All hail the Boss.