Saturday, January 5, 2013

Greetings 40

40 years ago today, Bruce's debut album, Greetings From Asbury Park, N.J. was released on Columbia Records. It was advertised by the label as one that had the singer putting more lyrics into one single song than most artists do on an album. Bruce was also hailed as the new 'Dylan' at the time; for those who've been seeing his live shows in Asbury Park and other parts along the Eastern Seaboard for the few years prior to 1973, this statement couldn't have been more silly. Bruce had already gained a small faithful following in and around Jersey, but the rest of America took a while to catch up; record sales were dismal despite considerable publicity from Columbia. In fact it wasn't until Born To Run, obviously, that things started to move, but that's another story.

Lester Bangs was one of the earliest champions of Bruce's music; he wrote a glowing review in Creem magazine. Simply put, Greetings was and still is a brilliant album, with the exception of two duds -- The Angel and Mary Queen Of Arkansas. It's in dire need of a remaster, the sub-par sound quality doesn't do the seasoned, shit-hot backing band justice. The best parts of any E Street show now is when the band breaks out a Greetings tune. Spirit In The Night has seen a sort of revival (pun intended) and has become a mainstay on the current tour. I was also lucky to hear Does This Bus Stop At 82nd Street? live in UK last year. From 'humble' beginnings, it has now evolved into something much bigger (and much more fun) onstage.
For You, like Blinded By The Light, is another early gem choked full of words, and one of the few live songs that surprisingly work well on the piano as it does full band. I hope Bruce lets the band have at it some point during the upcoming tour (ideally Australia!), as so far he's only done it solo, thrice. My personal favorite version is one from the Roxy show of 1978, which was an 'outtake' that almost made it onto the 1975-85 live boxset. Growin' Up made it though, and of course, It's Hard To Be A Saint In The City, the showstopper. It's incredible street poetry with an incredible spirit, elevated to even higher heights onstage with the famous guitar duel.

Last but not least is Lost In The Flood, an ultra-rare live one these days, and it should stay that way. It's safe to say it's one of many fans' favorites, as revealed in the recent BTX Top 20 list. And here's why -- the song made its return only one time during the last night of the Reunion Tour at Madison Square Garden. It's on the second disc of the Live In New York City album, in all its earth-shattering glory. The last time it was performed before 2000 was all the way back in 1978, on the Darkness Tour. The difference between the early ('75) versions and ones now is miles apart. And from 2000, the 'previously forgotten' song has taken on a whole new life, streaming back into the fan consciousness. It has become one of THE songs in the Springsteen cannon, just like Jungleland, just like New York City Serenade, just like Racing In The Street. An outstanding recent version of Lost In The Flood can be heard on the Gothenburg (Night 2) bootleg last year. Saint In The City also appeared in the same show!

To best get acquainted with Greetings, listen to the original '73 record, then listen to the Buffalo boot from '09, where the band played it in its entirety for the first and only time. It was also Clarence Clemon's final show with the E Street Band. Bruce best sums it up before the performance, "This was the miracle, the record that took everything from way below one."


P.S. Also today 31 years ago, Bruce recorded Nebraska in his bedroom. Here's something I wrote exactly a year ago [link].