Saturday, September 20, 2008

Thirty Years Ago

September 19, 2008:

Thirty years ago today, my life changed a little.

No, I wasn't there. I was up in my bedroom 20 miles away from Passaic's Capitol Theater, 7 months from having a driver's license, alone with my combo radio/tape recorder, listening quietly for the first time to Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band play live. I had gotten in to Bruce the summer before... well, the summer before the summer before. But here was
the lawsuit, and the endless wait for the album. Now, finally, there were concerts, and WNEW had announced this one. ON THE RADIO. WNEW was kinda like Bruce radio at that time, a seeming bastion of sanity in the disco wasteland. They'd had a midnight playing of Darkness the night before it was released... which of course I taped off the radio. But now, 'round 'bout Labor Day, they said, "special announcement at 9pm!," and so I tuned in. Special announcement -- Bruce, in concert, on the radio! September 19, and don't miss it! I waited it out, I don't know how... maybe by watching the Yankees beat up the Red Sox. But finally, the night arrived.

There were many little highlights for me. The WNEW DJs hyping it up. The Bruuuuuuuuuucing that came from the crowd. Bruce changing the day of the week to Tuesday (or whatever the hell night it was) and leading a call and response during "Spirit in the Night." Taking gifts from the audience... socks and underwear... an Islanders jersey. Just that general feeling of non-stop excitement, something even bigger than that summer's pennant chase; I didn't watch the game that night, not even on mute (must not have been on TV), but I remember Bruce asking for the score.

I had been getting in to the Darkness album, sometimes playing along on my harmonica. I had decided that "Racing in the Street" was basically "Thunder Road" turned upside down and so if I was just doodling by myself I'd play 'em together. I had nooooo idea, but I could basically have been wiped off the floor when Bruce played 'em together that night.

The WNEW guys warned that Bruce might play stuff that wasn't released. There were only two that night, at least only two new
original ones, but I studied 'em hard. The next day in the school cafeteria, that would be the debate: "Independence Day" or "Point Blank"? "Point Blank" got most of the votes.

There was a halftime interview, recorded a couple nights earlier at the Palladium. Bruce talked about it being show 86 out of 95, or some such, and said he was sorry he didn't get to play down "home home," except there weren't many venues there. Maybe the Arts Center. He said he'd like to play the Arts Center. Said it with a strange Massachusetts accent, too, I was wonder how he could say "Arts" like that, that kinds of mangling was the province of my Boston-native father.

My tape deck was having problems; it crapped out during the interview but I started again for the 2nd set, then it crapped out again right at the start of the guitar solo in "Kitty's Back." I spent the next, oh... 18 months or more trying to find someone -- anyone -- who had taped it. (I finally bought the Piece de Resistance CD more than a decade later when I was living in Milan) I still have my own tapes downstairs, they are relics now... still with my handwriting on 'em, now 30 years old.

The concert went on and on and on, it seemed like it wouldn't ever end... not that I cared. He started playing stuff I didn't know, and I just wished I had somehow been able to go. It'd be another two and a half years before I'd get to see it in
person, and by that time Bruce and the band played only arenas. But, the first time? On the radio. 30 years ago, tonight.