1978-09-30, Fox Theater, Altanta, GA

Darkness on the Edge of Town Tour
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Eyewitness accounts

Were you there? Write about it!
John Hocking wrote: This originally appeared on the Yahoo Listserve, "Lucky Town Digest," on January 31, 2005. September 30, 1978 was the first time I saw Bruce.
Bruce has played the Fox Theater in Atlanta three times. The three shows were September 30 and October 1, 1978, and late January, 1996, on Superbowl Sunday, on the Ghost tour. [This is wrong. He apparently played a show at the Fox in 1977.]

It is an historic ornate venue that hold less than 5,000, which as we know is small for a rock show, but big, even huge, for other performances. Broadway touring companies play there frequently but its a barn for that purpose. I saw "South Pacific" there perhaps 20 years ago and have not been back. On the other hand, in addition to seeing the three Bruce shows, I've
seen Tom Petty, The Kinks, Cheap Trick, The Rolling Stones, and other mid-level groups on their way up, down, or hanging out in the middle at "The Fabulous Fox."

Although I've written about "the first time I saw Bruce" before, it always comes out a little different. Every version is true and its such a fond memory that I enjoy revisiting it every five or so years.

On September 30, 1978, I had my eyes opened to a new form of art that I did not know existed when I experienced my first Bruce Springsteen and the E-Street Band concert. That show was broadcast on radio stations throughout the southeastern United States and is widely bootlegged.

I went alone on September 30, a Saturday, and with friends the next night, a show for which I understand there exists only one poor partial tape, thus no set list exists for the October 1 show and, for example, that show does not appear at all in the Backstreets hard cover book which purported to list all
shows as of the date of publication.

We all can only see Bruce Springsteen the first time once. I had been listening to Darkness and BtR, and little else, except for an occasional spin of Greetings or Wild, for about three months.

Other than that, I had never heard of the guy prior to reading the Dave Marsh review of Darkness that appeared in Rolling Stone. Other than reading the accompanying story in Rolling Stone I was unaware that he was anything special live.

The show was sold out and I paid $18 for a ticket somewhere
towards the back of the orchestra. I'm guessing face value was $10. Being alone, it was easy to upgrade myself.

I had seen the Rolling Stones play at the Fox under the name, "The Cockroaches" earlier that summer. They were a pretty good little bar band and had put on a once-in-a-lifetime show, since they were playing stadiums except, as I recall, this one show at this little venue.

I loved BtR and Darkness, but I had seen a lot of bands live, including the Stones in 1969 on the Gimme Shelter/Let It Bleed tour when they were at the peak of their power, and *that* opened my eyes to a phenomenon that would change my life:
Big big time rock, big arena, big sound, off-the-map excitement. It would be hard to invent hyperbole that exaggerated how big a deal the Rolling Stones were in 1969. They were probably the second biggest band ever to tour, surpassed only by the Beatles, who hadn't toured since 1966.

The Who, with Keith Moon in 1975, were enormously exciting, too. I'd rank them second of all shows I'd seen at that time. Although it will sound funny and is almost embarrassing to write, I thought the Eagles did an awesome job of replicating their album sound and were a very good live act. As I drove
the 65 miles to Atlanta it was inconceivable to me that anyone could be better than the Stones or the Who.

I remember seeing a bumper sticker that said, "The Boss is Back." I had no idea what that meant.

I spent much of the show in the duel roles of participant and
observer/critic. So while at one level I was a fan enjoying the show, at
another I was a skeptical and analytical. Thus, for example, as I enjoyed
the guitar work on Prove it All Night, part of me was watching analytically
and making mental notes, "that's pretty good, the way he has turned that
very good album song into something exceptional and better live."

For me that first time, Bruce didn't hit me like a freight train right out
of the gate. The show evolved and grew on me. Slowly, slowly, over the
three, plus, hours, I came to the realization that this guy was better.
Better than whom? The Rolling Stones? The Who? Oh ya, better than those
bands and better than everybody that had ever been or ever would be.

Its a rough analogy, but comparing Bruce to some other band or performer is a little like the comparing Yosemite and Yellowstone National Parks, the crown jewels of the National Parks in the United States (probably soon to be sold off for vacation homes for rich Republican campaign donors). When you drive into Yosemite in the Sierra Nevada mountains, about four hours east of the San Francisco Bay Area, and get close enough to pull of the road and get a good look at Yosemite Valley, it hits you like a freight train. "Holy shit, look at that." You're probably going to go the rest of your life and never be so impressed with a view. You don't have to be Ansel Adams to point a $15 throw-away camera and take the greatest photograph you'll ever take. El Capitan on the left is 4,000 feet of granite rising straight up
from the valley floor (for those of you who aren't fluent in multiple languages, unlike myself who had two years of high school French before getting a "D" in French 1A in college, El capitan means "The Captan" in one European language or another). It extends from its base on the north side of Yosemite Valley, which has an elevation of about 4,000 feet to about, oh, 8,500 feet at its top. And that's over 4,000 feet straight up, as in 90 degrees from the valley floor. IMO, no picture can do this view justice. Ya gotta see it and if you do you'll never forget it. There is no subtly in this view of Yosemite
Valley. Never, ever visit California without checking this claim out.

Yellowstone, on the the other hand, which is located a thousand miles from civilization in the northwestern corner of Wyoming, and spills into Montana, has nothing that compares to Yosemite Valley. Oh, its got plenty of cool stuff: Old Faithful and many other geothermal marvels; Lake Yellowstone, a really big, pretty, natural lake out of which the Yellowstone River flows; the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, a spot where that river stops meandering through the meadows and drops violently about a thousand feet into a dramatic canyon; and grizzly and black bears, buffalo, elk, moose, deer, wolves, cats of prey, beaver, wild swan and a zillion other bird species, and pretty much every animal that was there when Lewis and Clark passed by 200 years ago.

But Yellowstone, I believe, is the far more interesting place. It allows time travel; a trip 200 or 500 or 5000 years back. Its the only place where we can go to see what the part of North America that is now the lower 48 United States was like before Columbus (Sadly, there are no native Americans. When your ancestors exterminated part of the human race, all the
Kings Horses and All the Kings Men can't put Humpty Dumpty back together again.)

Yellowstone is HUGE. You can stand on a bluff and look 50 miles in every direction and you're still looking at the Park. It takes perhaps a week or more to begin to appreciate it. Where else can you go on a day hike and encounter the animals that were there when the Constitution, hell, the Magna Carta, was written. Both Yosemite and Yellowstone are treasures. But Yosemite hits you immediately, but after you've seen Yosemite Valley and perhaps a grove of 15 foot in diameter Sequoia trees, its sort of down hill.

Yellowstone is the opposite. No big bang on a par with Yosemite, but the more you see, the longer you stay, well... the more you see, the more you appreciate its magnificence, it wonder, its magic. Its one impressive experience after another, each better than the last. The whole of Yellowstone is more impressive than the sum of the many many parts. If our current leader was in power in 1872 when Yellowstone became the world's first National Park, it would now be the largest strip mined, clear cut, piece of land in the world instead of a living miracle that we can count on, hopefully forever.

To me, on September 30, 1978, the Rolling Stones and The Who were Yosemite to Bruce's Yellowstone.

This is not to suggest that Bruce didn't begin with a bang. He came out and just flew around the stage, whipping the electrical chord on his guitar around to
give him room to move. He was almost over the top. Could this guy be for real?

At least he wasn't Jim Morrison on heroin, and that experience was also in my memory bank, but he could have done some big lines of the Deserter's drug of choice 30 seconds before hitting the stage. The metaphoric sparks flying from him were almost visible. I only know from the boot that he opened with
"Have You Heard the News?" I have no first hand recollection, probably because I was distracted by this whirling dervish of energy.

I do have a very distinct memory of the Badlands guitar solo. It was waaay louder than need be. It was so much louder than the band, I thought the mix was screwed up with *TOO MUCH LEAD GUITAR*. It dominated. It screamed. It soared. It stunned.

It was perfect.

I believed I had seen a lot of big time rock shows, and probably the best there were. I considered myself a connoisseur of the genre and not easily impressed. Thus, as I describe above, I spent much of the show in the duel roles of participant and observer/critic. So while my heart was awed by watching Not Fade Away morph into "She's the One," part of me was noting
analytically, that's amazing how he used Buddy Holly's classic to turn She's the One into another show highlight.

The first time one sees Bruce is a great treat in a lot of ways, made better I think by my ignorance of him, and of setlists and bootlegs. Everything is a surprise. Not Fade Away becomes She's the One. So cool.

I kept being surprised. Every song is better than the album version. And there were songs that appear on no album that are among the best I'd ever heard. I'd only heard "Because the Night" once before and that was when Patti Smith opened for the Rolling Stones. Jesus f**king Christ, when he came back to the mic to sing the last chorus of Because after the long guitar solo I don't think I'd ever experienced better hard rock, and I
thought at the time, still do, that The Who have the best hard rock songs
ever written.

But Bruce's show was more than the great songs. Much much more. The songs become better as a group than they are individually. Just as BtR and Darkness, the albums, are better than any song, his show was a classic example of the whole being more than the sum of the parts. There is pacing;
there is humor, and tragedy, and optimism, and despair. This is more than a rock concert. It is a show. It is theater. It is performance art taken to a level I not only had never seen, I had no idea it was possible. It is the Yellowstone of rock and roll.

But when it can't get any better, he somehow figured out a way to move Yosemite Valley into the northwestern corner of Wyoming. And he did it with what I believe is the best art of any kind I had ever seen, or would ever see, and I've never changed my mind about this. Better than any Van Gogh or Monet painting, better than Pacabelle's Canon or the best of Nutcracker,
better than E.T. or Annie Hall, better than My Fair Lady or The Sound of Music, better than The Grapes of Wrath or The Catcher in the Rye, better than Harvey or Hamlet.


I loved Backstreets on the album. Somehow it seems to sit there
unobtrusively, obscured, the last song on side One, nearly hidden, sandwiched between Thunder Road, Tenth Avenue, and Night which precede it, and the title track, She's the One, and the magnificent, symphonic Jungleland that is such a fitting finale to one of the greatest records ever made.

Backstreets was the song I was listening to when I "got" Bruce Springsteen. I was listening on headphones, loud, much louder than my wife (of less than six months) liked. I flipped the switch so that the sound filled the house and ran upstairs yelling to her, "listen to this, just LISTEN."

I heard the pain in his voice, the pain of losing the girl, or more
abstractly, the pain of any loss or failure, when it hurts so bad it perhaps gives a glimpse of why people commit suicide - they've lost, or think they have lost, any reason to live.

I would be devastated at the loss of my wife. I can't imagine the pain and anger I'd feel and don't care to try. But I'd go on. I'd have to. I have an 8-year old daughter to whom I'd be father and mother. But if I lost my daughter I can't imagine why I'd get out of bed. Let's move on.

Bruce is trying to convey intense emotional pain that cannot be expressed adequately with words. We need some help and here is a singer trying to provide that help. And if he succeeds, if the listener understands that he or she is not alone in hurting so badly, a suicide may be prevented. REM takes a shot at the same theme in "Everybody Hurts," in a very different way. I believe that both Everybody Hurts and Backstreets, one a great song, one of
REM's best, the other a work of sublime genius, written by the world's greatest singer/songwriter, are similar in thematic intent.

Bruce speaks for us all because we are all human, we all have been or will be deeply hurt. The reasons for the hurt and the pain vary, but the emotion is universal.

The singer tries to express this hurt with words, words he has written, but he knows he has come up short. So he gamely attempts to convey the pain with his voice, the *way* he sings those words. And this singer is as good as any who has ever sung at using his voice to express this emotion, but its
still not enough.

He needs help and that help is in his hands. Its a guitar. And he uses the guitar to go beyond where his words and voice left off, and it screams, screams in pain, and screams some more, but still, it is inadequate.

Live, in 1977 and 78, the singer tries even harder. He tells us a story about why he hurts so much. He loved a girl. He tells us that he would drive all night just to buy her some shoes, just to buy her a Christmas present. He explains to her and to us how much she meant to him. And finally, maybe, a few of us, understand. She was his life. She was his only reason to exist.

"But you lied. Didn't you? You lied."

As as he thinks about it, he realizes the lies have to stop. And his pain is joined, joined not replaced, by another emotion: anger. Anger about the lies, anger about betrayal, angry about... it doesn't matter. Again, he speaks for every man (and woman). The source of our pain and anger will be different for each us. For some, as Jeff so eloquently shared, the song and his experience are similar. He has written the best literal interpretation of Backstreets I have read.

But what must it be like to hear your too-skinny daughter say, "Daddy, I'm hungry," and have no money to buy food. What must it be like to have your child die in Iraq a week after reading a letter from him saying, "I am so mad at George Bush..."

But hurt is relative. I've been dumped by a girl I loved and it hurt for a year.

I watched my mother cry uncontrollably as I moved her out of the house she'd lived in for 50 years into a facility that could provide the care she needed, less than a year after persuading her to give me power of attorney to control all aspects of her life, a persuasive campaign that included the promise I would never move her. I've buried both my parents and helped and watched my wife bury both of hers. I've had one of my closest friends go home from work on Wednesday and never come back and delivered the funeral eulogy to 250 people on Monday.

I've lived a charmed life of good fortune. I can't imagine the pain and anger that someone with less good luck has experienced.

One September 30, 1978, during the "you lied" story, I completely lost my observer role. I forgot what song was being sung. I was completely caught up in the emotion of the pain and the anger. I've transcribed the story below, but its a hollow shell of what it sounds like live.

As he screamed with increasing intensity that this had to stop, stop, STOP, STOP, STOP, I was reduced to mumbling incoherently in stunned awe. When he paused after the last STOP, I did nothing. I'm not part of the applause you hear on the boot of that show. I don't remember what, if anything I was
thinking. I think my mouth was agape and I was simply in shock.

Then, I heard,

"Hidin' on the backstreets
Hidin' on the backstreets..."

and realized what was happening.

Just as he had taken song after song on the albums to new levels, he had done the same with Backstreets; except
whereas Prove It was quantitatively better, perhaps twice as good or three times as good as on the album, and Racin' was three or four times as good, Backstreets was qualitatively better. In fact, it was a different song.

At the end, after singing "Hiding on the backstreets 25, 26, 27 times? his voice becames more primal scream than song.

I think I got it. I understood, finally, both Backstreets and Bruce.

The words, his voice, the screaming guitar, the emotional telling of the story, the building repetition of, "Hidin' on the backstreets," the primal scream, together created a whole that was more than the sum of the parts.

I'll never understand why this version of Backstreets was left off of "Live 75-85" and thus why Tramps like Vivian have to ask what we're talking about. Maybe it was because a big part of the whole was the impact of seeing Bruce as well as hearing him. Dave Marsh once wrote that some people thought
Bruce pretentious to do the song this way. I have no idea what this means.

Of course I can only describe my reaction. But I've listened to those boots a hundred times and never for a second thought Backstreets as performed on the Darkness tour had less than almost mystical intensity. That performance was perhaps the most important part of a show in which those many parts
created a whole, the likes of which I had never seen, or imagined possible.

On that night I believe I both understood what Backstreets was about and I came to understand that a genius walked among us. Nothing in almost 27 1/2 years, 45 shows, and tens of thousands of hours of listening, talking and typing about Bruce Springsteen has caused me to waver in those opinions.

Athens, GA


*Born to Run* (1975)

One soft infested summer me and Terry became friends
Trying in vain to breathe the fire we was born in
Catching rides to the outskirts tying faith between our teeth
Sleeping in that old abandoned beach house getting wasted in the heat
And hiding on the backstreets, hiding on the backstreets
With a love so hard and filled with defeat
Running for our lives at night on them backstreets

Slow dancing in the dark on the beach at Stockton's Wing
Where desperate lovers park we sat with the last of the Duke Street Kings
Huddled in our cars waiting for the bells that ring
In the deep heart of the night to set us loose from everything
to go running on the backstreets, running on the backstreets
We swore we'd live forever on the backstreets we take it together

Endless juke joints and Valentino drag where dancers scraped the tears
Up off the street dressed down in rags running into the darkness
Some hurt bad some really dying at night sometimes it seemed
You could hear the whole damn city crying blame it on the lies that killed
Blame it on the truth that ran us down you can blame it all on me Terry
It don't matter to me now when the breakdown hit at midnight
There was nothing left to say but I hated him and I hated you when you went

Laying here in the dark you're like an angel on my chest
Just another tramp of hearts crying tears of faithlessness
Remember all the movies, Terry, we'd go see
Trying to learn how to walk like heroes we thought we had to be
And after all this time to find we're just like all the rest
Stranded in the park and forced to confess
To hiding on the backstreets, hiding on the backstreets
We swore forever friends on the backstreets until the end

Hey baby, its good to see you back again,
Honey.... you're still looking fine
Its been such a looooooooooong time

But I remember you
Yeah, I remember you
Standin' on the corner
The Richmond Avenue
With your hair up tied all up high
And that crazy look in your eye
For every boy that was passing you by

And I swore
right then I swore
that I'd drive all night
drive all night
I'd drive all night
I'd drive all night

Just to buy you some shoes
And to taste your tender charms
To have you hold me in your arms
For just one kiss
Baby for just one kiss
And a look from your sad eyes

You had such lonely sad eyes
You had such pretty sad eyes

And Baby they cried all night
Baby they cried all night
Baby the rains came tumbling down
Tears, they fall

La la la la la, La la la la la, La la la la la,
La la la la la, Oh La la la la la la

And me
I was just your fool
I thought that somehow I could stop some of your crying
That maybe I could stop your crying
I could stop your crying

But I didn't know

That Baby you'd been lying
Baby you were lying
Baby been lying
You were so young
you could tell such pretty lies

I wanna hurt you so bad
I wanna hurt you so bad
I wanna hurt you so bad
I wanna hurt you so bad

But now you're back
So now you've come back
Well baby, well I'm back too
And I know, I'm saying some things about me and about you

And its time we stopped
Its time we stopped
little girl we've stopped
little girl we've got to stop
little girl we've got to stop
Little girl we've got to stop
Little girl we've got to stop
Little girl we've got to stop
Stop Stop Stop Stop Stop Stop Stop Stop

Hidin' on the backstreets
Hidin' on the backstreets
Hidin' on the backstreets
Hidin' on the backstreets
Hidin' on the backstreets
Hidin' on the backstreets
Hidin' on the backstreets
Hidin' on the backstreets
Hidin' on the backstreets
Hidin' on the backstreets
Hidin' on the backstreets
Hidin' on the backstreets
Hidin' on the backstreets
Hidin' on the backstreets
Hidin' on the backstreets
Hidin' on the backstreets
Hidin' on the backstreets
Hidin' on the backstreets
It all right

We'll go hidin' on the backstreets

On the backstreets
On the backstreets
On the backstreets
On the backstreets
On the backstreets
On the backstreets
On the backstreets



Oh, Oh, oh,

Oh, oh, oh oh, oh, oh, oh


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