As great at the Nassau show is, I always considered it the little brother to the great 1978 Darkness shows such as Passaic, Winterland, Agora, the Roxy, and Atlanta (all radio broadcasts, well booted, and known to fans as Winterland Night, Passaic Night, Summertime Bruce, and Roxy Night). For many of us, we can hear a moment in one of these and know exactly what show is being played. “Bootleggers, roll your tapes” is from Roxy, and “vomiting in your girl’s purse” was from the Agora show. They are like old friends that never lose our love.
I never felt the same way about Nassau Night, the great 12/31/1980 show that many consider one of Springsteen’s greatest performances. It’s an amazing show, 38 songs played in just under 4 hours. While I always thought the Darkness shows were emotionally focused, intense, and tight, Nassau always seemed bigger and less intimate to me. I didn’t have the same emotional connection as I did the ’78 shows. The band had moved to arenas, the thematic pattern of the show had changed, the crowds were bigger, and the shows were longer and just bigger. The performances are outstanding, but my connection to it was not the same. Compared to the concise and focused Darkness shows, the River shows were a marathon collection of highs and lows, emotional mood swings, before finally ending with a frenzied encore set that left the fans and band exhausted.
With the release of 12/31/1980 Nassau show as part of his live concert series, I finally admit that this show is close to being an equal to those great 1978 shows. The band is well seasoned and running on all cylinders from start to finish. Yes, it is a sprawl compared to the tightness of the Darkness shows. Running almost 4 hours, Nassau contains most of The River, along with fan favorites from prior tours and a few covers. The performances are outstanding, and the mix of old and new songs gives the listener time to really listen to what is being performed. Only Springsteen would have a “mini-set” in the middle of the show that would be considered a “beer-run/bathroom break” today: playing three slow songs in a row. But, when Fade Away, The Price You Pay, and Wreck On The Highway are played here, the emotional intensity and intimacy with the audience is second to none at the time.
Compared to today, 1980 is almost the dark ages with the way information flows. Today, you get home from a show and within hours someone has already posted a recording online. Back then bootlegs were purchased at flea markets and “underground” record stores. Despite this, the crowd warmly receives Rendezvous (never released) and is already singing the first verse to Hungry Heart (prompted by Bruce). I know it was his first “hit” single, but the song was only two months old from the time it was released. I remember being at one of the Landover MD shows the month before and people were singing the first verse already.
Bruce himself has said that “the best music is essentially there to provide you something to face the world with”. His music has always been the soundtrack of my life, and shows like Nassau are moments in time that can never be replaced. Springsteen and the E Street Band have been captivating me for over 40 years and I have no intention of ending this relationship with them and the music they present to me. This series of live releases give us the chance to go back, and dust off those cobwebs and remember the way our lives used to be, how much we have changed since then, and how much we are still the same.
“At the end of every hard day, people find some reason to believe”.
“Stay hard, stay hungry, stay alive”.
Amen Bruce, Amen.
There are few things more important than music in my life. Breathing, health, family and friends will always be on the top of my list, but after that there is music. Music is the very essence of who I am and I cannot ever live without it.
Music has been with me for as long as I remember. I started playing the piano at the age of 5, and remember buying my first records at 11 or 12 years old. I cannot imagine driving in my car, exercising, or performing any other passive function without listening to music. As I write this article I am listening to music. It is all around me, and I am always thinking about it.
Music is the way I express myself, and moves me in ways that I cannot accurately describe. Without any warning, music can make me laugh or cry, lighten my mood, move me, it can remind me, and inspire me like nothing else.
The the right sound at the right time, in the right situation, affects me like almost nothing else in my life. The other day How Can I Be Sure by The Rascals shuffled on my phone and the beauty of the song hit my emotional center with such force that I was close to tears, brought on by the beautiful lyrics and amazing instrumentation behind the words. Similarly, while driving the other day I Don’t Want To Go Home by Southside Johnny And The Asbury Jukes came on and it lifted my spirit as I thought about summer, the beach, youth, and anything but the 18 degree temperature outside.
I am very open minded about music and listen to so many different genres that when someone asks me what type of music I like best I am unable to answer them. Bruce Springsteen is my favorite artist (I have seen him over 60 times and am not ready to end that ride), and if I had to make a list of other favorites the Beatles would be number two, but after that things get rather confusing. For example the last 12 songs I have listened to on my iphone are:
- REM – Driver 8
- Grateful Dead – Big Railroad Blues
- Genesis – Ripples
- Rush – Subdivisions
- Springsteen – Streets Of Fire (Live ’78, Passaic)
- O.A.R – Shattered (Turn The Car Around)
- Bob Dylan – Tonight I’ll Be Staying Here With You
- The Band – Get Up Jake
- Pearl Jam – I Am Mine (Live)
- Phish – Ghost
- The Verve Pipe – Colorful
- Linkin Park – Bleed It Out
So, you can imagine my lack of surprise when some of my friends call me a music snob. You can imagine how hard it is for me to make a mix CD for friends. I like so much, and have so much material to draw from (close to 1000 cd’s, a few hundred albums sitting in a closet, and over 6000 tracks on my itunes library) that choosing the “right” songs for a mix is an impossible labor of love that totally depends on the mood I am in.
In a future article I will write about the social side of music, what that means to me, and how it has changed for me over the last 40 years. I will talk about how in the old days your collection took up a wall in a room (and organizing it, if you did,, was a labor of love) and today it may fit into a hard drive the size of your hand. I will talk about how I have shifted from an album oriented approach to listening to music to a track approach, how streaming makes exposure to music much easier, and how all of this is good and sometimes limiting to how we share and listen to music.
Thank for listening. If you love music as much as I do, I hope you found this article interesting.
And remember, it is possible to “learn more from a three minute record than we ever learned in school”.
Happy birthday to me. Woo friggin hoo.
Another lap around the sun. Another lap getting lost, wasting time, being productive some days and others not getting a thing done, and wondering what I want to do with my life when I grow up. Another lap of laughter and tears and happiness and grief and hard work and absolute amazement of the good and the bad in this world. Another lap wondering how Plan A is going, and thinking about Plan B, C, D, etc.
Being overly reflective? Yes. Less work years ahead of me than behind. Wondering about the career choices I made in my life. One kid out of the house and thinking about a different future for himself (and we told him, take the chances now before you get old and regret it, just make sure you can pay your bills), and another kid that will leave the house in the fall to start the next phase of his life.
I think it’s ok to reflect now; after all it’s MY birthday. I think its ok to wonder where it all went and what I could have or should have done differently. I know I am not alone. Not only us, but all of our friends have kids that our moving on and parents (those of us that still have them around) that are really aging and we are getting those aches and pains and sprains and tears and torn cartilage and more gray hairs, and we are beginning to see that we are not young anymore.
I DO have a lot of gratitude. I have an amazing wife, and two wonderful boys who make me proud, each in their own way, have a lot of close family, and am blessed with many dear and close friends.
We continue to take the laps around the sun. We don’t give up. We continue to go through the everyday grind of life. We get up in the morning and go to work each day (paraphrasing The Boss), we take care of our chores, and we pay our bills, and fold the laundry, and call the plumber and go to our kid’s games. And in all of that chaos it is so easy to forget to take a minute and smell the flowers blooming in the spring and pull out of the bottom of our pocket the good things in our lives that often get pushed there by all the crap that we have to do.
Enjoy life, it’s too darn short. Today is my birthday. Happy birthday to me.