Tuesday, 15 November 2016

The greatest live album of all time

30 years ago, the best live album ever was released. Yes, that's Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band's "Live 1975-85". The first Springsteen album I saw on the Greek music press was "Darkness On The Edge Of Town". The first album from which I heard songs on the radio was "The River" (and yes, the first song I heard was "Hungry Heart"). And the first album I owned was, of course, "Born In The U.S.A". I was gradually becoming a fan while reading the lyrics of that album, but it was this 5 LP set that made me the big fan that I am today.
Before it came out, I bought the 12'' single that preceded it, "War", thinking that I could probably not afford to buy the whole album. This was a very wise purchase as it also featured "Merry Christmas Baby" and an amazing 10 minute version of "Incident On 57th Street". Thankfully, when It did come out, the price was pretty reasonable so I bought it at once. I had already heard of his famous 3 hour live shows so this album was, as I believed then, the closest I could get to that experience. Indeed, I would have to wait nearly 22 years to finally see Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band live in person!
I was probably already hooked after the first few notes of "Thunder Road" and that is why, to this day, this is my favourite version. Little did I know that the next song "Adam Raised A Cain" would be the first song I would hear Bruce play live at the Parc De Princes stadium in Paris, France, on the 27th of June 2007.
Some of the songs I already knew. "Jersey Girl" in this particular version, I already had, as a b-side to the "Cover Me" 12-inch single. "Because The Night" I had already known, like most people, from Patti Smith. And weirdest of all, "Racing In The Street" was featured on Queen drummer Roger Taylor's second solo album "Strange Frontier". Seeing as Queen were (and still are) my favourite band, I had bought that album. "This Is Your Land" I had already heard in a television programme, probably about Woody Guthrie. Plus there was that cover version of "Born To Run" by Frankie Goes To Hollywood on their debut album...
With the help of the 36-page booklet featuring the lyrics of all the tracks, I immersed myself in the songs and the stories that Bruce told in them. And not just the stories in the lyrics but the stories Bruce himself narrated at the beginning, or in the middle of songs (Like the story in "Growin' Up" and its sequel at the beginning of "The River"). They spoke of an America that was totally different of the one I knew from the movies and TV series and the one reported from in the news. That was when I started dreaming of a road trip across the US from one cost to the other, something which I did 14 years later, in the late summer of the year 2000. I made that dream come true and I owe it all to Bruce Springsteen.
I also noticed a couple of songs about murderers that both ended up in the chair ("Nebraska" and "Johnny 99", both of course from the "Nebraska" album, here in much "richer" versions).
Finally, I also started "pairing" songs. What did that mean? Well, I would pick a couple of songs that, in my mind, one complemented the other. Like, for example, "Thunder Road" and "Growin' Up" which I thought that there were both great "opening" song. Now "Thunder Road" was the opener on "Born To Run", but "Growin' Up" was not the opener on "Greetings". I felt, however, that if "Live 1975-85 did not open with "Born To Run", it should open with "Growin' Up".
Another couple were "Sandy" and "Rosalita". That one's easy. They both had girls' names (and brackets) in their titles! Then I had "Badlands" and "Backstreets". Well, they both begin with "B" and end with "S" and they're totally different as far as musical styles are concerned. But I felt somehow that they both told similar stories. Finally there was "10th Avenue Freeze-Out" and "Incident On 57th Street" (And yes, yes, I know "Incident" is not featured on the album, but as I've mentioned before, it's on the b-side of the "War" 12-inch single, which, for me, is part of the whole set). Well, these two both tell stories about something that happened on a certain street (Actually, one of them is on an avenue, but there you go).
Four months later, in early 1987, I would buy the album again! By then, I had a CD player and I could not resist the similar box with 3 CD's instead of 5 LP's. Plus, I was studying in another country at that time and I had of course left the vinyl box set at home.
Fast forward to the noughties when I decided to "complete" my collection. One of the first items I bought when I opened an account on eBay was the 3 cassette box set. And after that, I decided to buy the singles that were released from the album. I got "Fire" on 12-inch vinyl which features "For You" which is not on the album and the CD single of "Born To Run" (which is apparently, the first CD single Bruce ever released)

30 years later, when someone asks me to name my 10 favourite albums (or the 10 records I would take with me on a desert island), "Live 1975-85" is always on both lists. "But, no!" they go, "you have to pick 'proper' albums like 'Born To Run' or 'Darkness On The Edge Of Town', no compilations or live ones". "But it is a proper album!" I insist. "It's just... well, a bit longer!".
Admittedly when you are asked which 10 records you would take with you on a desert island and one of those you pick is... 5 records instead of one, it's cheating, but it's my desert island, so what if my luggage is a little bit... heavier?
Needless to say, every year, i pick a day (usually on a Sunday), when I put on my headphones and listen to the complete album from start to finish...

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