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Arts and Entertainment

Springsteen's Cleveland Connection
The Boss came to town in 1978

Kabir Bhatia
The new deluxe edition of "Darkness" features hours of concert footage and outtakes along with lavish packaging and improved sound. But the original vinyl was "good enough" to leave a lasting impression on listeners in 1978.
Courtesy of Columbia Records
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Bruce Springsteen's "Darkness on the Edge of Town" is being reissued this month in a deluxe edition.  The tour that followed the album's release in 1978 made a memorable stop in Cleveland.

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In the post-MTV era, artists spend 3 to 5 years making an album.  In 1978, that was considered commercial suicide.  But Bruce Springsteen had no choice.  After his third LP, "Born to Run," hit big in 1975, Springsteen was forced out of the recording studio by legal problems.  Once resolved, he penned and quickly recorded a batch of tunes about the betrayal and pain he'd bottled up for three years.  The tour that followed, though, is legendary for the intense cocktail of joy and sorrow gushing from the stage over 117 shows.

Springsteen's Darkness Tour ended on New Year's Day, 1979, at the Richfield Coliseum.  But on a hot August 9th night, he had the walls sweating at the much smaller Cleveland Agora during a legendary 3-hour concert broadcast by WMMS.  Then-Program Director John Gorman was looking for a way to celebrate the Buzzard's tenth anniversary when he heard about the tour.  Springsteen's record label was concerned about the momentum lost during 3 years without any product, and wanted Springsteen to do radio broadcasts to help album sales.  Gorman called Columbia Records and pointed out that Bruce was still Boss in Cleveland.

“(GORMAN)…The pitch that we made was, they haven’t forgotten Springsteen here.  We were playing unreleased material, live material, anything we could get our hands on.  Springsteen had become, without a doubt, one of our most popular artists…”

But Columbia needed little convincing due to Cleveland's reputation for enthusiastic crowds.

“(GORMAN)…I guarantee you, we will have the most energetic crowds that will know the words to every song that Bruce plays.  Unlike the audiences on either coast, they don’t sit on their hands.  You know, they’re not too cool for the room, you know, they respond.  And I think the intimacy of the Agora, and having it a live broadcast, and originate from Cleveland, that entire band put so much extra into that concert.  There is something about those days when he would play Cleveland, he just gave you a better show than you would see anywhere else (laughs).  I was fortunate enough to see it and be there…”

Bootleg recordings of the WMMS show are highly prized among Springsteen collectors, as are any tapes from the Darkness tour.  1978 is a good vintage for Brucelegs, and the new "Darkness On the Edge of Town" boxed set is loaded with an entire concert in Houston from that year along with dozens of outtakes.  And the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame's exhibit, "The Life and Music of Bruce Springsteen," runs through February 27.

Listener Comments:

Great story, see and read more behind the scenes details from the Darknesss era here

Posted by: james (new york) on November 13, 2010 12:11PM
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