Entries in Bruce Springsteen (8)


Into The Fire: 9.11 and Bruce Springsteen's The Rising

Words // Scott Pingeton

"We need you now."

As the story goes, those were the words spoken from the open window of a passing car to Bruce Springsteen as he walked the familiar streets of the Jersey Shore in the days immediately following September 11, 2001.  The same streets that in younger, more innocent days were the backdrop of the songwriter's vivid tales of friendship, loyalty and better times ahead.  What America needed was someone to put into words the intense feelings of sadness, uncertainty, anger, pride and loss that we were all feeling at that time.  We needed a song everyone could sing.  And who better than Springsteen, the common man's poet laureate?

Springsteen found inspiration in the stories and emotions that followed in the wake of the attack, channelling his own grief and the grief of an entire nation into songs.  The resulting album, his first with the E Street Band in 17 years was The Rising - popular music's most significant and direct reflection on the events of 9.11.  Like his best work, Springsteen took very personal moments, experiences and emotions and put them into a context we could all relate to, take comfort in and rally around.  The album avoids flag-waving machismo, and instead tells its story through everyday heroes.

The album is full of powerful imagery - none stronger than the them of "rising up". From the title track's refrain of "come on up for the rising" to the gospel-tinged "My City Of Ruins" with its call to "rise up" - this was Springsteen's "We Shall Overcome" message.  It's a powerful image - rising up as a nation, from the ashes of the collapsed towers, the ascent to heaven.  And the album cover - a ghostly black-and-white image of Springsteen with smoldering fire-orange text of "The Rising" bisected by white text, recalling at the same time a crucifix and one of the damaged towers.

Bruce Springsteen - Into The Fire

"Into The Fire", one of the most affecting songs on the album, tells the story of a firefighter lost in the towers:

Well the sky was falling and streaked with blood
I heard you calling me, then you disappeared into dust
Up the stairs, into the fire
Up the stairs, into the fire
I need your kiss, but love and duty called you someplace higher
Somewhere up the stairs, into the fire

But from the depths of despair comes strength and hope as they prayer-like chorus builds to a rousing, inspiring refrain:

May your strength give us strength
May your faith give us faith
May your hope give us hope
May your love bring us love

In a somewhat unexpected twist, the album does not portray the attack and its aftermath solely from the American perspective.  "World's Apart" uses a relationship metaphor to preach compassion and warn against letting the actions of a few drive two entire cultures apart. "We’ll let blood build a bridge/ over mountains draped in stars/ I’ll meet you on the ridge/ between these worlds apart."  On "Paradise", one of the album's most subtle and beautiful songs, Springsteen sings from the perspective of a suicide bomber:

In the crowded marketplace
I drift from face to face
I hold my breath and close my eyes
I hold my breath and close my eyes
And I wait for paradise
And I wait for paradise

And the album isn't without its uplifting moments - afterall, music is supposed to be an escape from the burdens of reality.  "Mary's Place" is a rethinking of Sam Cooke's classic "Meet Me At Mary's Place", with a refrain of "let it rain, let it rain, let it rain" clearly representing a rebirth - washing away the blood and tears and starting anew.  "Waiting On A Sunny Day" is nothing but pure fun - a throwaway song on the album that has become a live staple.

So what is The Rising's legacy? As an album it is far from Bruce Springsteen's best - but it may be his most important.  It's not an album I go back to all that often, but I usually dust it off every year around this time and remember September 11, 2001 - and maybe that is it's legacy.  It serves as a time capsule of a moment, emotions captured just as vividly as magazine photographs and newsreel video.

Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band LIVE - Ullevi Rising (Gothenburg Sweden 6.22.03)


Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band Live in Gothenburg Sweden 6.22.03

After The Rising was released, Springsteen took the E Street Band on the road for what turned out to be a 15 month, multi-leg world tour.  I saw at least 6 shows on the tour - not including the private rehearsal I snuck into and the night I spent listening outside Fenway Park - and I personally saw the shows evolve.  Early in the tour the shows were somber but intense.  I was there when the tour pulled into New York City's Madison Square Garden for what was an emotional night - not the party you normally expect at an E Street Band show.  But as the tour went on, the shows loosened up.  Much of the Rising material was still in the set - "Into The Fire", "The Rising", "Lonesome Day", "My City Of Ruins", "Worlds Apart", etc - but more of the hits, rarities and covers were back in the set.  This was quintessential Springsteen.

By the time the band rolled into Gothenburg Sweden's Ullevi Stadium - a building the band famously nearly tore down (literally) in 1985 - they were a well-oiled machine, and the shows were 3+ hour marathons.  The second night at the 50,000+ capacity Ullevi Stadium featured a standard set, plus rarities like "Jackson Cage", "Racing In The Street", "Detroit Medley" and a 12-minute cover of "Twist & Shout".  The show was captured in the form of a pristine audience recording which has been circulating for years.  An equally pristine soundboard recording has surfaced more recently.  I took the liberty of mixing the two recordings which results in an absolutely incredible recording.  This is pretty much as close as you'll get to official-release sound quality.  Enjoy and please share!

Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band
Ullevi Stadium - Gothenburg, Sweden
June 22, 2003

The Promised Land
The Rising
Lonesome Day
Jackson Cage
My Love Will Not Let You Down
Atlantic City
Empty Sky
The River
Waiting On A Sunny Day
Darlington County
Growing Up
Worlds Apart
She's The One
Mary's Place (lower bitrate due to file size, download full set below for best quality)
Racing In The Street
Into The Fire
No Surrender
Thunder Road
Hungry Heart
Born To Run
Detroit Medley
My City Of Ruins
Land Of Hopes And Dreams
Dancing In The Dark
Twist & Shout

Full set download (mp3 zip):  Part 1  |  Part 2


RIP Clarence Clemons

More than "The Big Man", Clarence Clemons was the heart and soul of the E Street Band.  His saxophone helped define the band's early, jazzier sound as well as the roaring anthems for which he is best known.  The Big Man stood side-by-side with Bruce Springsteen for nearly 40 years as a bandmate, friend and onstage foil.  The music world has lost an icon.

Paradise By The "C"


Don't Look Back: The Remains

The Remains were Boston's first great rock n' roll band.  In the mid 60s when the British Invasion bands like The Beatles, Stones, Animals and Kinks were releasing hit after R&B-inspired hit, The Remains were Boston's answer.  The singles were tough and gritty, less like the sugary Motown-inspired early Beatles hits and more like Eric Burdon's Animals - as far as I'm concerned "Don't Look Back" is a classic that should have propelled the band to stardom.

While The Remains had a hit with "Diddy Wah Diddy" and even garnered national attention with a performance on the Ed Sullivan show and opening slot for The Beatles on their final tour.  However, by the time The Beatles, Kinks and Stones started to mature, polish their sound and experiment with psychedelia, The Remains had called it quits. 

Now the band that has been described as "America's Lost Band" will be honored as Hall Of Fame inductees at the Boston Music Awards on December 5.  They will also perform at the event (tickets available here).  A well deserved and overdue honor for a band that never saw the success they deserved.  In the words of Jon Landau, "they were how you told a stranger about rock'n'roll."

The Remains - Don't Look Back by visible voice 

Bruce Springsteen - Diddy Wah Diddy live at Fenway Park


Bruce Springsteen - "Darkness On The Edge Of Town (2009)"

By Seth Mitchell

Bruce Springsteen's first three records, culminating with Born To Run, showcased the songs of an idealistic, romantic young man.  The songs were lyrically complex - Springsteen was a scruffy street poet, singing songs of friendship and dreams.  The arrangements were as ambitious as the stories the songs told - first dense and jazzy, and later epic with massive crescendos and Phil Spector-inspired production.  Springsteen and his E Street Band rode a huge wave of hype after the release of Born To Run an album that introduced his music to a much wider audience outside of the I-95 corridor, but with it brought expectations and pressure.  And then there was the lawsuit that kept Springsteen out of the studio, and also cast a shadow of doubt over his future recording career.  Rather than make concessions over the rights to his songs, Springsteen dug in for battle - a process than changed his outlook on life, and forever changed the way he approached music.

The roughly 3 years between the release of Born To Run and Darkness On The Edge Of Town saw Springsteen turn away from the hopeful and outward-looking songs of Born To Run, and instead turned the focus towards darker, more mature themes - loneliness, uncertainty and responsibility.  During that time Springsteen also started listening to punk and country music, which undoubtedly influenced his writing and vision for the album.  All of this contributed as much to the sound of Darkness, as much as the lyrics.

The new documentary "The Promise:  The Making of Darkness On The Edge Of Town" leads viewers through the rigorous and trying process of recording the album.  Archival footage shows Springsteen and the band in the studio, sessions that were long, exhausting and trying.  Springsteen talks at length about the sound he was looking for - stark, stripped-down, raw - and the trouble he had actually getting that sound on tape.  A sterile, "dead"-sounding studio.  Weeks spent getting the snare sound right.  The inability, until Chuck Plotkin became involved, to get a mix that wasn't muddy.

In the years since Darkness On The Edge Of Town was released, Springsteen has been quoted as saying that he wasn't happy with the way the record sounded.  If he has any regrets, it isn't for lack of work and determination.  In putting together the upcoming "Promise" box set Springsteen got the band together for another shot at recording the record.  After 30+ years of playing and living with these songs, the band played the entire album, in order, to an empty theater and filmed it.  Without a live audience to play to, the band could focus on the performance and the sound - this was their chance to finally correct the flaws they hear in the original.  While the DVD of the full performance will not be available until the box set is released November 16, listen to a rip of Darkness On The Edge Of Town from the documentary - the passion and intensity with which the song is performed is incredible:

Bruce Springsteen - Darkness On The Edge Of Town (2009)  (fixed)



Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band: Live at Winterland '78

The posts have been in short supply lately as I've been in the process of moving.  I am sore, tired and surrounded by mountains of boxes as I type this - but internet has been restored and visible voice is back in business.  I've had little chance to listen to much new music in between unpacking and getting things back to normal.  There's plenty of great audio/video coming soon - but I haven't had time to do the proper editing.  So, I'll reach back into the "archives" and share one of the most jawdroppingly powerful examples of live music I've ever heard...

For a large portion of my adolescence I was obsessed with the music of Bruce Springsteen.  I first saw Springsteen in 1999 when he reunited the E Street Band after a 10 year hiatus for a massive world tour.  I saw the last of 5 straight sold out nights at the Garden, and was instantly converted.  And it's a good thing - at the time my taste in music was a mess (Metallica, Fuel, Live - yes, it was that bad).  The level of my Springsteen obsession was probably unhealthy for a time, but after I had immersed myself in everything the man has released, I branched out.  In an effort to find new and exciting music that retained a bit of the qualities that made Springsteen's music resonate so much with me I soon discovered Ryan Adams, Wilco, Pete Yorn - these artists, in turn, turned me on to Gram Parsons, Big Star and The Smiths.  As unlikely as it sounds for someone my age, I credit Bruce Springsteen with my musical curiosity and passion.

When you boil it all down, Bruce Springsteen's music is about grit, passion and determination.  Nothing in the Springsteen canon exemplifies this more than the legendary Darkness On The Edge of Town tour of 1978.  Delayed by a protracted and bitter legal battle with former manager Mike Appel, the Darkness On The Edge of Town album was much darker than his previous record, Born To Run.  Gone was a bit of the optimism, and in its place was a bit of cynicsm.  The characters were no longer "pulling out of here to win", they were stuck in the darkness on the edge of town, in dead-end jobs, crying themselves to sleep at night.  Their dreams may have passed them by.  When Springsteen and crew brought these songs on the road, they came to life with a burning intensity.  Shows on the Darkness tour were no longer just a party, they were a much-needed catharsis both for the band and the audience.  The guitars were dirtier, the screams were louder, the emotion was palpable.  By December of 1978 when the band took the stage in San Francisco at the famed Winterland Ballroom (site of The Last Waltz), Springsteen's voice was hoarse and ragged but the band was tighter than ever.  This was the setting for what is probably the most famous show of Springsteen's career - broadcast on FM radio to much of the west coast, and now available to all in pristine sound quality.  This is a document of one of the greatest live rock n' roll bands of all time at the height of their power.  At just over 3 hours, Springsteen would go on to play even longer shows on subsequent tours - but for me, even though I wasn't there to witness it, nothing matches the energy and intensity of the legendary string of shows in late-1978.

These days my Springsteen obsession ebbs and flows - and with the exciting news about a massive Darkness On The Edge Of Town box set soon to be released, it's flowing once again.  For those of you that may picture Bruce as the fist-pumping charicature he became circa-1984 - please do yourself a favor and listen to his earlier stuff, and start with this legendary recording from Winterland 1978.  Enjoy

Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band
Winterland Ballroom - San Francisco CA
December 15, 1978

Streets Of Fire
Spirit In The Night
Darkness On The Edge Of Town
The Promised Land
Prove It All Night
Racing In The Street
Thunder Road
The Ties That Bind
Santa Intro
Santa Claus Is Coming To Town
The Fever
Candy's Room
Because The Night
Point Blank
Mona / Preacher's Daughter
She's The One
Rosalita (Come Out Tonight)
Born To Run
Detroit Medley
Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out
Raise Your Hand
Twist & Shout (no audio exists)


The Promise: Springsteen to open vault for Darkness box

Bruce Springsteen will release a Darkness on the Edge of Town retrospective on November 16, featuring 3 CDs and 3 DVDs.  The set will include a remastered copy of the album, 2-CDs of outtakes from the Darkness sessions, a making-of documentary and - the piece de resistance - a full show DVD from Houston 1978. 

For even the casual Springsteen fan, this is the holy grail.  For those who may not know, the Darkness tour is stuff of legend - marathon shows, off-the-charts intensity and, don't forget, a smoldering 10 minute version of Prove It All Night like this (but in HD)...

I officially cannot wait for November 16.  Check out brucespringsteen.net for a clip from the documentary and a fantastic outtake "Save My Love".


Cover Me: Bruce Springsteen

Cover Me will be a recurring feature on visible voice that will showcase exceptional or interesting covers.  Cover songs are a tricky thing; done well they can highlight influences and similarities between the covering band and the covered that may or may not be apparent at first and in rare cases even transcend the original to become something entirely new.  Done poorly and the result can reduce an otherwise great band to the level of a wedding band, or worse, me in my bedroom playing Neil Young songs on a slightly out-of-tune acoustic guitar.

The inaugural edition of Cover Me features Bruce Springsteen, the artist for which this segment gets its name.  With a new wave of artists heavily indebted to Springsteen's work, he is a natural target for the cover treatment.  However, while the songs may be musically straightforward, channeling the passion from which the songs were written and the intensity with which they are performed is a daunting and difficult task, but these bands are up to the task.  Each of bands featured below takes a classic Springsteen song and adds their own original stamp, while still paying respect to the original:

Streets of Philadelphia (Marah)
Atlantic City (The Hold Steady)
The River (Josh Ritter)
Nebraska (Deer Tick)