Maybe my quickest digital buy

Last week, Springsteen put his first truly archival download-only show on the Web: August 9, 1978, at the Agora in Cleveland. Bootlegged for years as Agora Night and other titles, the show is one of the best radio broadcasts of the Darkness tour. And the bootlegs have had a pretty good sound quality. But this official release — mastered from tapes the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame found in boxes, I like to imagine in some vast Raiders of the Lost Ark-like warehouse — sounds amazing.

All lossless for $12.95 (and plain MP3 for $9.95):

Star local radio DJ and critical Boss evangelist Kid Leo gets all kinds of mentions. Summertime Blues opens the show. Badlands and Prove It are raw and fast and fantastic. She’s the One gets Not Fade Away and Gloria as intros, and the thing is fierce. Growin’ Up gets the teenage werewolf story AND Bruce and Clarence meeting God. And more. Let it rock.

From a bootleg version (so imagine how good the new one sounds):

Last week’s songs

Joe Strummer, Johnny Appleseed, via No Depression.

Lord, there goes a Buick forty-nine
Black sheep of the angels riding, riding down the line
We think there is a soul, we don’t know
That soul is hard to find

Bruce Springsteen, Atlantic City.

Everything dies baby that’s a fact
But maybe everything that dies someday comes back

Gaslight Anthem, Break Your Heart.

And oh, my my, it would break your heart,
If you knew how I loved you, if I showed you my scars
If I played you my favorite song lying here, in the dark
Oh my my, it would break your heart

On repeat in my tabs this week — thank you, No Depression

The first two links come from its quality email newsletter.

Drive-by Truckers, The Day John Henry Died. How have I not heard it before? Jason Isbell, you’re such a damn good songwriter. I mean, come on…

I watched the rain; it settled in. We disappeared for days again.
Most of us were staying in, lazy like the sky.
The letters flew across the wire filtered through a million liars.
The whole world smelled like burning tires the day John Henry died.

Bruce and E Street covering Clampdown. Solid cover, really clean mics.

Lucinda Williams, Are You Alright? I think I’ve posted this song here before, back when… I don’t remember. I associate with some Will Ferrell movie… one of the comedies… and that seems odd. Anyway. Was great to hear it prominently in True Detective when I caught up on that this week.

Meditation outtakes

One of the strangest Springsteen bootlegs out there is the Lost Masters series. The collection runs dozens of discs and is packed with outtakes from studio sessions in the late ’70s and early ’80s. Fan legend holds a disgruntled engineer leaked them after leaving the family. Whatever the real story, the set is truly for aficionados. A few of the outtakes are good enough to have made it, eventually, to the Tracks box set in the late ’90s, or other archival releases since. Other songs are unchosen cuts of released recordings, many often good ones, all offering alternative universes of the catalogue. Others still — maybe the majority — are lost gems or simply lost, never finding their final form or never becoming more than musical fragments. Try listening to a half-dozen takes in a row of a song that never came together. Like I said, for the aficionados. The students, the curious.

But, occasionally, the fragments stick. After more harried days, a half-song from Lost Masters that comes to mind as I try to wind down is Your Love Is All Around Me. There are two takes of the song, with just ’83 Bruce in the Hollywood Hills in likely a too-big house, and only a semblance of lyrics.

On the first take, the tape is skipping all over the place, and the goal is to get words on tape, to strum and hope for magic. None comes. Directly.  No great phrases fall out of the sky, but a mood emerges around the guitar. A single phrase sticks and repeats, wrapping around the neck and then the body. “You love is all around me now, a round me now, around me now….”

The second take of the song seems to realize a meditation is in hand. Rare falsetto almost throughout, a setup verse sits at the beginning, and then we go wondering, with a single thought in focus and other images drifting — pushed? — away. The song winds down at one point only to revive. No, we’re not done here. No, peace is still elusive. The song ends in name only.

Videos: Springsteen’s best/most unexpected covers down under

Counting down…

5. Auckland, New Zealand. Opening with a cover of Lorde’s Royals. Count this as most unexpected, not best. Great, adventurous idea. Okie-style, though, was not the right choice. But let’s get more experiments like this.

4. Sydney, Australia. Covering INXS, getting loud — Don’t Change.

3. Adelaide, Australia. Highway to Hell opening.

2. Brisbane, Australia. Opening with Stayin’ Alive (yes, that one), turning out so much better than expected, into It’s Hard to be a Saint in the City.

1. Hunter Valley, Australia. Opening with an awesome 10-minute version of Spill the Wine. Here’s the official video, which is great, except for in how it makes Seeds, the show’s fourth song, appear to be the second song. Just bizarre. It’s nothing new if you’ve heard the sources of the Live ’75-’85 box set, but I thought we’d left that weirdness behind us. Still… spill the wine.

‘What if the protagonist of Darkness on the Edge of Town was a computer hacker?’

I’ve never read anything by William Gibson. But I most definitely should. Lindsay recently found his Paris Review interview and sent it my way.

On coming up with the word “neuromancer”:

Coming up with a word like neuromancer is something that would earn you a really fine vacation if you worked in an ad agency. It was a kind of booby-trapped portmanteau that contained considerable potential for cognitive dissonance, that pleasurable buzz of feeling slightly unsettled.

I believed that this could be induced at a number of levels in a text—at the microlevel with neologisms and portmanteaus, or using a familiar word in completely unfamiliar ways. There are a number of well-known techniques for doing this—all of the classic surrealist techniques, for instance, especially the game called exquisite corpse, where you pass a folded piece of paper around the room and write a line of poetry or a single word and fold it again and then the next person blindly adds to it. Sometimes it produces total gibberish, but it can be spookily apt. A lot of what I had to learn to do was play a game of exquisite-corpse solitaire.

On finding excitement in cyberspace:

I knew that cyberspace was exciting, but none of the people I knew who were actually involved in the nascent digital industry were exciting. I wondered what it would be like if they were exciting, stylish, and sexy. I found the answer not so much in punk rock as in Bruce Springsteen, in particular Darkness on the Edge of Town, which was the album Springsteen wrote as a response to punk—a very noir, very American, very literary album. And I thought, What if the protagonist of Darkness on the Edge of Town was a computer hacker? What if he’s still got Springsteen’s character’s emotionality and utterly beat-down hopelessness, this very American hopelessness? And what if the mechanic, who’s out there with him, lost in this empty nightmare of America, is actually, like, a robot or a brain in a bottle that nevertheless has the same manifest emotionality? I had the feeling, then, that I was actually crossing some wires of the main circuit board of popular culture and that nobody had ever crossed them this way before.

Too long since a Bruceleg day

The new issue of Backstreets arrived the other day, and Flynn McLean has a terrific column catching up on the best Springsteen bootleg releases of the last couple years. His list of course sent me hunting for them on the Web, as gray and snowy as it is this afternoon, and I had some success, both with the links below and the YouTube video above, a missing link between Pink Cadillac (a B-side, mind you) When the Lights Go Out (dead until Tracks) and On the Prowl, one of my favorite totally thrown-away Bruce songs ever.

The boot fruits of this afternoon’s searches:

The Fox. Finally an amazing tape of the Darkness show at Atlanta’s Fox Theater. Was always a boot a listener wanted to be great. Now it is.

Doucuer de Vivre. Sequel to the one and only Piece de Resistance.

The Ties That Bind. Upgraded version of the long-circulating album that nearly was, destined for the trash bin and partial revival on The River.