Complete Bruce Springsteen discography
A guide to Springsteen collector's items, including unreleased b-sides, promos, limited editions, overseas releaes and guest appearances.
Record Collector , 1985-07
By Peter Doggett
Over the last year, Bruce Springsteen has become recognised as the most popular rock performer in the world, thanks to the massive success of the "Born In The U.S.A." album, and the interest caused by his current worldwide tour. This surge in popularity, fuelled by blanket coverage in the media, has also helped to increase the attraction of some of the lesser-known avenues of Bruce's career as far as collectors concerned; and this month we are covering the rarest and most interesting items he has produced.
After ten years when new Springsteen releases were few and far between, the last twelve months have seen a sudden flood of 7" and 12" discs in the shops. Springsteen has been as careful and perfectionist as ever in the preparation of his recent albums, but like almost every other modern artist, he has had to bow to the demands of contemporary marketing techniques when it has come to producing singles. Five 45s were culled from the "Born To Run" and "Darkness On The Edge Of Town" albums, without any noticeable commercial succes. Both "Born To Run" and "Badlands" might have made a chart compiled on the American system, where airplay is taken into account alongside actual sales, but despite Springsteen's patronage by a number of influential British DJs, he didn't make the singles charts until 1980, when "Hungry Heart" reached the exulted heights of No. 44. Subsequent singles from "The River" and "Nebraska" did little to improve this record, and it is only in recent months that Springsteen has matched the commercial potential of his records with succes. Even these triumphs were hard-won. The "Dancing In The Dark" and "Cover Me" singles both achieved their greatest succes several months after they originally entered the charts. "Dancing In The Dark" wasn't even officially reissued in January this year, but still made the Top 5 after peaking at No. 28 in June 1984. "Cover Me" first charted last autumn, but achieved greater succes this spring, when it reached No. 16.
These improved chart performances obviously owe much to Springsteen's current media status, as probably the most respected man in rock'n' roll; but collectors will also have noted the number of unreleased tracks and alternate takes which have surfaced in recent months. This policy began with "Hungry Heart", which featured the otherwise unavailable "Held Up Without A Gun", a 75-second burst of powerhouse rock left over from the sessions for "The River". The follow-up, "Sherry Darling", was similarly graced with new material. The flipside here was actually one of the best tracks to come from the 1980 sessions. "Be True" was a Spector-flavoured love song, with a haunting melody, affecting lyrics and one of Clarence Clemons' most majestic sax breaks as the icing on the cake. Had the song been included on "The River", it would rightly have been lauded as a classic, particularly as it echoed the more ambitious composing style of Bruce's earlier albums; but on the back of a flop single, it was lost, although in the States it did see the Top 20 as the coupling of the hit single, "Fade Away".
"Sherry Darling" was followed by "The River", which was actually Springsteen's biggest hit to date (No. 28), but neither the 7" nor the 12" versions of this single featured any new material - although the 12" version did act as a mini-greatest hits compilation, by including "Born To Run" and the stage favourite "Rosalita".
The next unissued B-side turned up on "Open All Night", the second single taken from "Nebraska", Springsteen's sparse, bare vision of small-town America. "The Big Payback", though sharing its name with a James Brown classic from the mid-Seventies, was a stripped- down Springsteen original, rockier than most of the album, but obviously dating from the same acoustic sessions. Neither single from "Nebraska" hit, and "The Big Payback" may have escaped the attentions of many Springsteen collectors.
The singles pulled from "Born In The U.S.A." have contained almost an album's worth of non-LP material. Columbia in the States have now taken five singles from the LP, eash of which has featured an unissued B-side. Four of those tracks have now been released in this country, although British collectors have so far been denied the group of "Dancing In The Dark" remixes that were included on a U.S.-only 12" single last year.
In this country, "Dancing In The Dark" appeared as a 7" black vinyl and picture disc release, and in extended, remixed form as a 12" release. The 7" and 12" black vinyl editions were republicised early this year, with no changes to their presentation. All versions of the single featured the flipside "Pink Cadillac", a bragging, Chuck Berry-style rocker not included on the "Born In The U.S.A." album.
"Cover Me", issued as the follow-up in Britain and America, has been subjected to a series of alternate issues which have angered many collectors. When the single was originally issued late last year, it appeared as a 7" release, 7" picture disc and 12", as well as being part of a doublepack 7" release with the original "Dancing In The Dark" coupling. The flipside of all these releases included "Jersey Girl", a Tom Waits song recorded live in concert in 1981, and which proved to be one of Springsteen's most affecting vocal performances. Added to the 12" release was a 'dub' version of "Dancing In The Dark", which merely destroyed the coherence and verve that made the original such a great record.
Second time around, "Cover Me" was issued in a limited edition poster sleeve for the first 10,000 copies of the 7" single; while for the 12" a completely new release was prepared, featuring five tracks. Two of these were alternate mixes of "Cover Me", prepared by producer Arthur Baker in New York. Besides the original 12" couplings ("Jersey Girl" and the "Dancing In The Dark" dub), this new release also included "Shut Out The Light", the U.S. flipside of the "Born In The U.S.A." single. This was a chilling acoustic song, built - like almost all of Springsteen's recent material - around the simplest possible chord changes, which deals with the problems faced by a man, probably a Vietnam veteran, returning home to face the expections and oppressive goodwill of family and freinds. The only problem for hardcore Springsteen collectors was that, having already bought one "Cover Me" 12" for its unissued material, they now had to buy another.
Mean while, U.S. Columbia had issued two further new songs, all taken from the "Born In The U.S.A." sessions. "I'm On Fire" was the album's fourth American single, backed by the short "Bye Bye Johnny", which mixed elements of Chuck Berry's song of the same name with some fresh Springsteen lyrics, that refer to the death of Elvis Preslye, without actually being the full-scale 'tribute' to Elvis that many reporters had described when they heard the song in concert. A fifth single has now been taken from the album in the States: "Glory Days" is backed by "Stand On It", another simple, churning rocker, as yet unissued in Britain.
The latest batch of U.K. releases have combined tracks from two American singles. The 7" couples "I'm On Fire" with "Born In The U.S.A.", While the 12" adds "Rosalita" (not, as mentioned in the weekly music press, a new version, but the familar 1974 LP track) and "Bye Bye Johnny", as well as substituting a seven-minute 'freedom mix' of "Born In The U.S.A." in place of the album version. Once again, Arthur Baker's remix of a Springsteen track does little more than lose the flow and power of the original: it is strange that an artist who so obviously dedicates himself to capturing exactly the right sound on his records should now be so keen to allow his material to be butchered and tampered with by an outside producer. Effective though these 'disco' mixes may be on the dancefloor, it is difficult to see their connection or relevance to the rest of Springsteen's career.
Three of Springsteen's albums have been made available on Compact Disc; while three have been reissued as part of CBS's budget, ?2.99 series. "Darkness On The Edge Of Town" has managed to qualify for both honours, being relegated to the budget series just four months after it was issued on CD. Compact Disc versions of "The River" and "Nebraska" will no doubt follow in due course, although the simple recording techniques used for the "Nebraska" sessions might yet preclude the album's release this ultimate of hi-fi formats.
Springsteen's most recent airplay in this country has come from "Trapped", the Jimmy Cliff song which was his contribution to the charity album, "We Are The World" (CBS USAIDF 1). Springsteen first introduced the song into his live shows in 1981, alongside "Bye Bye Johnny", and although the recorded version is less intense than some of his early live renditions, "Trapped" is still one of Bruce's most gripping performances. Media and public reaction to the song suggest that it might have been a hit in its own right, so it is possible that Columbia may decide to issue it as a single, in lieu of any new product from the Springsteen camp. Besides this new track, of course, Springsteen is also one of the many American rock stars featured on the single of "We Are The World", which is available as a 7", 12" and on the charity album.
Springsteen has contributed fresh material to two other compilation albums. His appearance was one of the highlights of the five-day season of "No Nukes" concerts in America, and he was represented by two tracks on the resulting triple-album set. He duetted with Jackson Browne on the old Maurice Williams and the Zodiacs hit, "Stay", while his live showcase of Mitch Ryder hits, the "Detroit Medley", was also included. Both Springsteen tracks were issued on an American 12" promo single (Columbia AS 11442) alongside Browne's "The Load Out", while the original album (Elektra K 62027) is still available.
In 1980, Columbia Records in the States issued a children's album called "In Harmony", which featured specially recorded tracks by a number of American performers, such as James Taylor and Carly Simon. The following year, the venture was repeated, and "In Harmony 2" (CBS 85451) benefitted from the inclusion of Springsteen's 1975 live recording of "Santa Claus Is Back In Town". This song had previously been distributed to radio stations in a longer and more amusing version back in 1975 (available on cassette tape only), before being bootlegged. The final released version was issued on two Columbia U.S. promos. AS 1329 (12") and AS7 1332 (7"). The "In Harmony 2" album is now quite hard to find, and although the Springsteen track is its major attraction to collectors, it also includes tracks from Dr. John, James Taylor, the Doobie Brothers and many others.
In our first Bruce Springsteen feature (issue 21) we mentioned the only other live track officially issued by CBS or Columbia. This was a 1973 recording of "Wild Billy's Cirkus Song", issued as part of the Columbia Palyback series of advance promos (AS 52). Other Playback releases featuring Springsteen include AS 45, which features the first LP track, "Blinded By The Light", and AS 66, which includes "Rosalita".
Unissued tracks feature on early test pressings and acetates of two of Springsteen's albums. The first copies of Springsteen's debut, "Greetings From Asbury Park", apparently included "American Tune", while early pressings of the 1978 "Darkness" album featured the fiery rocker, "Don't Look Back", which was also played on stage during this period. Equally collectable are the first versions of the U.S. "Born To Run" album, which included a different photograph inside as well as script lettering by Ralph Steadman. Each of these items could fetch well in excess of ?100 in Mint condition.
To break the tension imposed by his own tortuous working methods, Springsteen has become involved in a number of lighter and more pleasurable outside projects over the past decade. When Souhside Johnny and the Asbury Dukes, a bar-room R&B band from Bruce's hometown, made their debut in 1975, it was no suprise to find Springsteen's name among the credits. Bruce supplied the album's nostalgic sleeve-notes, as well as donating "The Fever", one of his finest songs, which is given a classic R&B performances by Johnny and the Dukes, and "You mean So Much to me". The latter song, an uptempo soul number arranged round a traditional New York structure, was a vehicle for the duet vocals of Johnny Lyon and Ronnie Spector, whose collaboration with the E Street Band was repeated on her own single, "Say Goodbye To Hollywood", in 1977.
The follow-up to Southside's "I Don't Wanna Go Home" (Epic EPC 81515) was "This Time It's For Real" (EPC 81909), which included three Springsteen/ Miami Steve Van Zandt originals. "Little Girl So Fine", which featured the Drifters, was custom-built for their sound, and featured some "Save The Last Dance For Me" vocal touches "Love On The Wrong Side Of Town" was a Ronettes-type song with a Gene Pitney arrangement; and "When You Dance" mixed a simple rough R&B style With African Drums,
The third Asbury Dukes album completed Springsteen's gifts to the band. For "Hearts Of Stone" (EPC 82994), Bruce wrote the title track, the hard rockin' "Talk To Me" (which he had taped himself during the 1978 "Darkness" sessions) and "Trapped Again" (copenned with Soutside Johnny and Miami Steve). It is no coincidence that subsequent Soutside albums have lacked distinctive material - and commercial succes.
Springsteen was also heavily involved with two albums by one of his early heroes, Gary U.S. Bonds. "Dedication" featured Bruce's vocals on the cajun favourite, "Jole Blon", and his own "This Little Girl", while he also wrote "Your Love" (a great R&B vocal showcase for Bonds, Chuck Jackson and Ben E. King) and the uptempo title track. All four tracks were co-produced by Springsteen and Miami Steve (EMI America AML 3017).
The follow-up, "On The Line", was entirely co-produced by Buce and Steve (AML 3022), and although Bruce is not listed among the studio musicians, his guitar and backing vocals can be heard on several tracks. There are no less than seven Springsteen songs on the album: the driving "Hold On", Bowie-ish "Out Of Work", "Club Soul City" (a clone of "Your Love" from the last LP), the passionate and repetitive "Love's On The Line", the vintage "Rendezvous" (first issued by Greg Kihn on BSERK ="= in 1979), the cajunflavoured "Angelyne" and the graceful ballad, "All I Need". The album lost some of the fire and urgency of its predecessor, however, and the Bonds/Springsteen pact hasn't been renewed since.
Other Springsteen songs have been given away by the composer: Patti Smith rewrote Bruce's "Because The Night" for her "Easter" album (Arista SPARTY 1043), while Warren Zevon did the same with "Jeannie Needs A Shooter" On "Bad Luck Streak In Dancing School" (Asylum K 52191). Robert Gordon ("Fresh Fish Special", Private Stock PVLP 1038) covered "Fire" with Buce on piano, while the same song was also picked up by the Pointer Sisters (who also recorded "The Fever"). Donna Summer recorded Bruce's "Protection" on her self-named 1982 LP (WB K 99163), with Springsteen on guitar, while Bruce wrote and produced "Savin' Up" on "Rescue", the first album by saxophonist, Clarence Clemons, recorded with the Red Bank Rockers (CBS 25699).
Session appearances by Springsteen have been rare, but not unknown: he contributes a 'rap' to Lou Reed's "Street Hassle" (Arista SPARTY 1045), and a count-in to the Dictators' "Faster And Louder" (on the "Blood Brothers" LP, Asylum K 53083); while Bruce's vocals can also be heard behind Graham Parker on the latter's "The Endless Night" (on "The Up Escalator", Stiff SEEZ 23). Two albums on which Bruce does not appear, however, are those by his former sideman and close friend, Miami Steve (alias Little Steven and the Disciples of Soul), although his first album in particular should appeal to fans of Springsteen's other guest appearances.
With Springsteen apparently keener than ever before to allow previously unissued material to appear in the shops, it is very likely that the next few years will see something of a boom in new releases, adding to a record legacy which is already one of the strongest left by any artist in the rock field.