December 25, 2014 by Jay Minkin
“We´ve got our own civil defense network tonight….don´t touch your dial this is not a test!” The Holy Grail of Bruce Springsteen concerts is finally going to be officially released as his archival concert project web site live.brucespringsteen.net has chosen The Boss’s legendary show at The Agora from August 9, 1978 will be made available on January 23rd.
Touring behind the long awaited Darkness on The Edge of Town album, the entire show was simulcast on Cleveland radio station WMMS to many other stations around the country including Cincinnati, Minneapolis, Columbus, Chicago, Detroit, St. Louis, and Pittsburgh to an estimated audience of 3 million listeners . For years bootleg copies of the FM broadcast of the show were played repeatedly until the songs and Springsteen’s banter had become burned into the listener’s collective memory. For many fans, these versions of the songs were the definitive versions. The concert opened with an introduction from Kid Leo which still gives me chills of excitement when I hear him say “Good evening and welcome to the WMMS 10th anniversary concert….I’m Kid Leo and I have the, uh, the duty and the pleasure of welcoming, ladies and gentlemen, the main event….round for round, pound for pound, there ain´t no finer band around, Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band!” The intimate bar crowd is going crazy as Bruce hits the stage and exclaims “Oh, gimme some lights! Leo, he must´ve memorized that at home. I know you did, Cleveland, how you doing? Are you ready to shake them summertime blues?” before launching into the Eddie Cochran anthem.
Not until now, however, has the pristine live stereo mix been heard. Seven 1/4 inch reel-to-reel tapes were unearthed in the Thrill Hill Archives and transferred via the Plangent Process, the same method used on the recent Album Collection Vol. 1 remastering project. The entire show is now available in High Definition 24 bit / 192 kHz audio, as well as on a 3 CD set and MP3 and CD-Quality downloads. “The tapes were part of an exclusive Springsteen exhibit “Asbury Park to the Promised Land” explains Springsteen’s concert archivist Toby Scott. “It wasn’t until the request to release this show came up that the tapes needed to be found. Last known location was the Rock’n Roll Hall of Fame. They informed me what box to look in and there they were, marked with the original indication of speed, tracks and show date. I had the tapes delivered to Plangent Processes for evaluation and transfer, if they seemed to be of adequate quality. After comparison to other copies of this show, this was the best version and potentially the original master tapes. Plangent transferred all seven reels using their unique process, which corrects any speed variations for accurate playback. This eliminates the wow and flutter usually found in the playback of any analog tape. This new transfer to the digital domain was done at 192 (samples per second) with 24 bit resolution. The resulting digital files were sent to Gateway Mastering for evaluation and mastering, as was done to the Box Set Volume 1, recently released to critical acclaim. The resulting new master will give a renewed vigor to the already exciting show.” The underrated Springsteen shines on lead guitar throughout, with the core E Street Band of “Professor” Roy Bittan (piano), The Big Man Clarence Clemons (saxophone), Danny Federici (organ), Garry W. Tallent (bass), Miami Steve Van Zandt (rhythm guitar), and Max Weinberg (drums) on fire for the 23 song set.
“My father wants me to be a lawyer, my mother wants me to be an author, but I got this guitar, you see,” said Springsteen during his storytelling portion of “Growing Up” The Boss known for his epic banter heard on the bootleg tapes of the legendary show will forever be part of this concert’s unique folklore. Kid Leo “praying for more watts …. I gotta blast this baby all the way to New Jersey” when Bruce bumps into him on the hill the night he is going to ask God about his vocation. Songs dedicated to fans like Jay Cocks in Cincinnati, Scott and the guys from Brookpark, and those famous Cleveland boys Joey and Jimmy are intertwined with personal reflections of life on the Jersey shore streets of Kingsley Avenue and Ocean Avenue. A Roy Bittan piano solo closing out “Racing in the Streets” has Bruce telling the audience ´´Last summer me and Steve and these two friends of ours, we drove out to Salt Lake City, Utah and we bought this used Ford, drove it down to Reno and uh….we were out along the desert someplace and just off the road there was this house that this Indian had sculptured from stuff that he’d scavenged all off the desert and out in front he had a, had a big sign, had a big picture of Geronimo, it said ‘Landlord’ over top of it….and then he had the big white sign that said ‘This is the land of peace, love, justice and no mercy’ and it pointed down this dirt road that said ‘Thunder Road’” before his harmonica played the first few bars of the classic song on worn out cassette tapes.
The show included Darkness On the Edge of Town outtakes like “Sherry Darling” which had fans searching the used record bins for “Fraternity Rock” albums like “Louie Louie”, “Farmer John” by The Premiers, and “Double Shot of My Baby´s Love” by The Swinging Medallions. Compositions that became hits for others including “Fire” and “Because The Night” were chestnuts from the Agora tapes including one of Bruce’s more touching song introductions for the unreleased “Factory” when he told this story “I grew up in a small town. I remember I used to see my old man twice a day, I used to see him once, once at night when I came in and he’d be sitting in the kitchen in the dark, smoking a cigarette, drinking a six pack of beer….then in the morning, my bedroom was out over the backyard and I could always hear him at six o’clock, popping the hood to one of those 100-dollar junk cars he used to buy, laying on the cold ground trying to get it started to go to work. He worked in a factory and his father did, I wrote this song for him”. Later after the birth of the compact disc, the Agora show was still a hard copy to find. Unusual titles like The Teenage Werewolf, another sound bite from the “Growing Up” track, were used to label the bootleg recordings.
When the Live 1975-’85 box set was released, there was much disappointment and debate as to why none of the Cleveland Agora tracks let alone the entire concert was not part of the package. Besides other bootlegs, most notably Lp’s from Passaic, NJ and San Francisco’s Winterland Ballroom, this was all Northeast Ohio Springsteen fans had in terms of live recordings before the Columbia Records release. So after all these years, it’s extra touching to know that the first release from the vault other than mostly 2014 Springsteen concerts by live.BruceSpringsteen.net is the Cleveland Agora 1978 show.
Spirit in the Night
Darkness on the Edge of Town
The Promised Land
Prove it All Night (’78 Intro)
Racing in the Street
Paradise by the “C”
Not Fade Away
Gloria/She’s the One
Rosalita (Come Out Tonight)
Forth of July, Asbury Park (Sandy)
Born to Run
Because the Night
Raise Your Hand
Twist and Shout