Thursday, August 13, 2015

40 Year Itch : The Boss Plays The Bottom Line

    The ten-show stand at the Bottom Line early in the (Born to Run) tour remains a rock date to rival James Brown at the Apollo or Dylan at Newport. At the Bottom Line, Springsteen became himself. By adding Van Zandt as a second guitar player, he was liberated from some of his musical duties, and he became a full-throttle front man, leaping off amps and pianos, frog-hopping from one tabletop to the next. ~ David Remnick, The New Yorker

   On August 13, 1975, twelve days before the release of Born To Run, Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band began a five night, ten show stand at The Bottom Line. This was a new E Street Band, with keyboardist Roy Bittan and drummer Max Weinberg replacing David Sancious and Ernest "Boom" Carter, respectively. Steven Van Zandt, who'd played in an earlier band with Springsteen, joined as second guitarist.

    Columbia Records executives were frustrated by Springsteen's lack of success. They purchased a quarter of the tickets at the 500 seat venue and distributed them to music industry types to get the word out.  Even so, not all of the shows were sold out until after WNEW-FM broadcast the fifth show. After that, people were lined up around the block to get in.

    There are bootlegs of these shows all over the internet. Listening, you have to remind yourself how little known some of these legendary songs were at the time . In "Tenth Avenue Freeze Out", during the second show, when Springsteen sings "And the Big Man joined the band", there is absolutely no reaction from the crowd. A week later and from then on, it would become one of the great applause lines of every show.

   Robert De Niro, in New York shooting Taxi Driver, caught one of the Bottom Line shows. He watched as the crowd yelled "Brruuuuuuce!" and Springsteen responded with "You talkin' to me?".
De Niro would make that line his own in an improvised scene shot within the next couple of days.

   The shows had their desired effect. Ken Tucker wrote in the Soho Weekly News "I have just come from the best rock and roll performance I've ever seen in my long, decadent life". The Village Voice's Paul Nelson responded in the affirmative to his cover story " Is Springsteen Worth The Hype?": "On my feet, clapping, never wanting it to end, I ask myself when I've ever been so moved by a concert."
   "It was our coming-out party," Springsteen says. "And some sort of transformation occurred over those five nights. We walked out of that place in a different place."


  1. Nice story about De Niro and The Boss and how artists influence eachother and let themselfs be influenced. First time I read/heard about it. So thanks for that.

  2. This will be sacrilegious I know to the billions nay zillions of Bruce fans out there but, as I always say to my mates, Bruce as averagely OK as he is, simply isn't fit to change the broken strings on Nils Lofgren's guitar. There, I've said it. As odd as it is, Nils reluctance to advance his own career has contributed to his detriment. Go check out his solo albums and you'll know what I mean.