Ice Stadium, Stockholm, Sweden – 8 May,1981
Disc 1: Run Through The Jungle, Prove It All Night, The Ties That Bind, 10th Avenue Freeze-Out, Darkness On The Edge Of Town, Independence Day, Factory, Who’ll Stop The Rain, Two Hearts, Out In The Street, The Price You Pay, This Land Is Your Land, The River, The Promised Land, Badlands
Disc Two: Cadillac Ranch, Sherry Darling, Hungry Heart, Because The Night, You Can Look (But You Better Not Touch), Wreck On The Highway, Point Blank, Backstreets, Candy’s Room, Ramrod, Rosalita
Disc 3: Born To Run, Detroit Medley/High School Confidential, Can’t Help Falling In Love, Rockin’ All Over The World
Bonus Tracks: Festhalle, Frankfurt, West Germany – 14 April, 1981: The Promised Land, The River, Thunder Road, Fire, Racing In The Street, Born To Run, Detroit Medley/Shake, Rockin’ All Over The World
In October 1980 Springsteen released his fifth abum, The River, and began a lengthy tour which took him to Europe for the first time since the four shows in London, Stockholm and Amsterdam in November 1975. The two concerts in Stockholm on 7th and 8th May 1981 were the last on the European mainland, Springsteen then playing the delayed UK dates and thereafter returning to the USA to complete the tour. Springsteen had acquired a relatively substantial fan-base in Scandinavia, perhaps partly due to the Stockholm show of 1975, and Patrick Humphries, in the narrative section of Bruce Springsteen: Blinded By The Light, published in 1985, contends that, “the European and Scandinavian concerts impressed even his critics with their commitment and their length.” The Johanneshovs Isstadion show of 8th May was particularly remarkable, the Brucebase website stating that, “this show is considered by many to be the best of all the European shows.” Ed, in a review on the website The Promise, concurs, arguing that, “the two shows in Stockholm are considered by many to be the best of the European (if not the entire) tour,” and he also refers to the 8th May concert as a “terrific show.” An anonymous reader comment adds that, “in my opinion this is THE best show of the River tour.”
Both of the Stockholm concerts appeared as 3-LP sets, Follow That Dream (7 May) and Teardrops On The City (8 May). Teardrops (no label) was a spectacular production. Chris Hunt, in the “Bruce Files” section of Blinded By The Light, describes it thus: “Cover: Superb colour gatefold. Sound: Excellent. Remarks: Excellent all round production makes this possibly the best bootleg ever made.” The front and rear covers portrayed Springsteen on stage and the sleeve opened out to show numerous photographs of Springsteen in performance, laid out on a flat surface together with the setlist written on file paper, a ticket stub, a camera and a portable cassette recorder containing a tape. The implication seems to be that the whole production process, from recording and photographing the show, to issuing the LPs, was carried out by the same individuals. Whether or not this is the case, Teardrops On The City was a Swedish release.
The show soon appeared in several further vinyl incarnations, some complete and some partial, but all inferior to Teardrops. Live In Stockholm (no label), which came in a box with a black-and white insert, is described by the Killing Floor Database as “an inferior copy of TEARDROPS ON THE CITY.” The Stockholm Tapes (no label) was a 6-LP set which copied both Follow That Dream and Teardrops. The artwork featured a black-and-white copy of the Teardrops front cover and Killing Floor states that “the sound quality is much reduced from the original LPs,” though Hunt still rates it as “very good.”
As stated above, there were also partial releases of the 8th May show, both with and without songs from the 7th. These were invariably shoddy productions. Eight songs from 8th May appeared on the 3-LP set Bruce Springsteen Live 1981, the majority coming from 7th May. This release was copied from Follow That Dream and Teardrops. If it was intended to showcase the highlights of the two concerts, it failed miserably. No fewer than six songs (Prove It All Night, 10th Avenue Freeze-Out, Backstreets, Candy’s Room, Ramrod and Rosalita) appear twice, in versions from both nights. Moreover, the performances of Candy’s Room and Ramrod from the 7th are duplicated, constituting the closing tracks on side 4 and the opening tracks on side 5!
Single-disc distillations of these shows were even shoddier. Truth O’ Trash (International Ltd) claimed merely to have been recorded “live in the 80’s.” Brucebase maintains that it contains songs from the 8th May, being a ”copy of sides 11/12 of The Stockholm Tapes – without Twist and Shout.” (The website neglects to mention that Can’t Help Falling In Love is also not included.) Hunt and the Killing Floor Database, however, both contend that this disc reproduces sides 5 and 6, and therefore contains performances from the 7th May. As Truth O’ Trash reproduces exactly the track listing of sides 5 and 6 of The Stockholm Tapes (and therefore also of Follow That Dream), the latter argument would seem to prevail. (Incidentally, International Ltd also copied sides 1 and 2 of The Stockholm Tapes, containing the opening songs from the 7th as Dead Trousers.)
Surplus copies of The Stockholm Tapes were recycled as the single LP The Gov’ner Strikes Back. The cover failed to mention Springsteen though collectors were presumably supposed to recognize the well-known cartoon reproduced from the cover of the noted early bootleg release The Jersey Devil (and gov’ner is, of course, a synonym for boss). As Brucebase points out, each sleeve “contains one of the LP’s from The Stockholm Tapes. You have no idea which one you will get – Matrix numbers struck out.” Bearing in mind that the discs had blank labels and the cover merely stated “live in your town,” it seems unlikely that prospective purchasers were even aware that the records had previously formed part of that set. The sleeve also claimed that “the first ten copies come with the extra bonus 12″, Kraftwerk: ‘Geisterfahrer,’” which must surely qualify as the most bizarre bonus disc in bootlegging history.
The CD history of this show is far less convoluted. Teardrops On The City (no label), which appeared in the eary 1990s, reproduced the packaging of the original LP. The front jewel case insert featured the same stage shot found on the LP cover and a single sheet foldover insert mimicked the design of the gatefold sleeve. The only other silver CD issue to feature a substantial amount of material from the 8th May show is Follow That Dream (Golden Stars). This release of the 7th May concert utilized the additional playing time of the CD medium to add nine bonus tracks from the 8th. The new Godfather set has brought the complete show back into circulation on silver discs for the first time in many years, although the Piggham label produced a CD-R version, Teardrops On The City Revisited.
The show begins, according Dave Marsh in Glory Days, with ”the wildest…new song rendition…a scarifying slowed down Creedence Clearwater Revival’s ‘Run Through The Jungle’ with at least one original verse.” This intense performance is unfortunately imcomplete, the taper missing the beginning, so that we ony get two-and-a-half minutes of the song. This is followed by Prove It All Night. Shorn of the long piano and guitar introduction that had been so effective in 1978, the song more closely resembles, both in sound and performance, the official version from Darkness On The Edge Of Town. However, there is a longer coda with a short organ solo and a more extensive guitar part. The next number is The Ties That Bind which features, in Humphries’ words, “glorious Searchers-infuenced opening chords.” One of the songs from The River that had appeared in concerts during the 1978 tour, it is again given a reading close to the album version. An exuberant rendition of Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out, featuring a rather different sax solo from Clarence Clemons, is succeeded by a stark and powerful Darkness On The edge Of Town, which is marred by the fade-out that prevents the song reaching its conclusion.
Independence Day, one of the outstanding tracks from The River, was also premiered during the 1978 tour. Humphries refers to the song as “a white flag flying over the no man’s land that exists between parents and their errant children.” Springsteen prefaces the song with an account of his problematic relationship with his father. The first few notes of the understated instrumental backing are missing, though all the words are intact. With a focus on the mutual inability of parent and teenager to understand each other’s viewpoints, Springsteen points out that he needed to make peace with his father on order to make peace with himself. “It took us thirty years,” he points out, “just to be able to tell each other that we loved each other.” It is a moving preamble to an equally poignant rendition of the song. In the spoken introduction, Springsteen also states that, by the time of these confrontations, his father had been a factory worker for over ten years and that he had consequently suffered the humiliations that inevitably attend a life of low-paid menial employment. Appropriately, then, Independence Day is immediately followed by a haunting rendition of Factory, enhanced by Springsteen’s harmonica part.
The sombre mood created by these songs is dissipated by Springsteen’s version of another Creedence Clearwater Revival number, Who’ll Stop The Rain? This was first played at New York’s Madison Square Gardens on 19 December 1980, and thereafter featured in all but three River Tour concerts (those being two of the London shows and the performance in Largo, MD, on 5 August 1981). Things move further up-tempo with Two Hearts and Out In The Street, the latter’s “defiant” mood, according to Humphries, failing to disguise the fact that it “finds Springsteen at his most brash and feeble.” Despite Humphries’ derision, I would argue that this is more effective than most of the other rather vacuous “rockers” from The River, and it works well in a live setting. The Price You Pay, described by Humphries as “an epic song, in both ambition and achievement,” completes a trio of songs from The River. It receives a fine performance that is unfortunately marred by a small cut and some extraneous noises that sound as if the taper was having some problems with his machine.
The show’s third cover version is Woody Guthrie’s This Land Is Your Land. Springsteen’s interest in Guthrie had been kindled by his reading of Joe Klein’s Woody Guthrie: A Life and the song made its initial appearances at the three Nassau Coliseum shows at the end of December 1980. The song was composed as a riposte to Irving Berlin’s jingoistic God Bless America but ironically, as Dave Marsh points out, Guthrie “went to his grave immensely troubled that the most radical of his lyrics were forgotten as his finest song was adopted by the very jingoists and false patriots the song meant to attack.” Springsteen is well aware of Guthrie’s true intentions. He told the audience in Paris that, “it’s been misinterpreted a lot. It was written as a fighting song.” However, in a further irony, by performing the number in a version that is much slower and less obviously folk-based than the original, he creates, in Marsh’s uncharacteristically critical view, an “interpretation…smack dab in the middle between Woody Guthrie…and Irving Berlin.”
A short and simple, though rather beautiful, piano introduction leads into The River. Along with Independence Day, this is one of the two truly moving songs from the River album and it is one of the songs from the album which deals, as Paul Nelson stated in his Rolling Stone review, with “grim reality.” Humphries points out that the song was based on conversations Springsteen had with with his brother-in law. His sister married early in life and the couple suffered hard times when her husband, a construction worker, lost his job. Awareness of the circumstances which inspired the song makes this poignant rendition even more affecting. The River is followed by stirring renditions of The Promised Land and Badlands, which bring both the first set and the first disc to a close.
The second set opens with songs intended to get the audience moving and they clearly have the desired effect. Disc 2 begins with Cadillac Ranch, a number described by Humphries as “throw-away,” but which (as is the case with Out In The Street) is effective in live performance. The party atmosphere is then enhanced by an exuberent Sherry Darling and a crowd-pleasing rendition of Hungry Heart. Springsteen stated that the song was an evocation of the effects the Beach Boys and Frankie Lymon had on him. Christopher Sandford, in Springsteen: Point Blank, calls the song “audaciously commercial, singalong pop,” and the ecstatic audience gleefully sing the first verse, a ritual dating from the show in Chicago a week into the tour. A hectic version of Because The Night follows without the longer guitar introduction that was a feature of the song in 1978, though there is a fairly lengthy solo later in the song and this is succeeded by a furiously-paced rendition of the slight You Can Look (But You Better Not Touch).
After all this activity the pace slows and the volume abates for the reflective Wreck On The Highway. A song which Humphries refers to as “stripped down to the bone musically and lyrically,” it provides a haunting conclusion to the River album and it is equally atmospheric here. The serious mood continues with Point Blank which, along with The Ties That Bind, Sherry Daring and Independence Day, had been performed during the 1978 tour before apearing on The River. Described by Humphries as “chilling” and “bitterly resigned” the song lost its overt but not overstated drug abuse theme to concentrate on, as Springsteen tells the audience, “two people that once had [a] connection but got broken apart.” The change of emphasis came late, as Marsh points out when he states that it was “the last song completed for the new album – Bruce added he central monologue only in the final days of recording.” Marsh goes on to say that “in Stockholm he nearly rewrote it again,” adding some extra lyrics in an impassioned vocal performance.
Some wordless vocalising by Springsteen then introduces Backstreets, impressive here as it invariably is in concert, and this is followed by the searing guitar work of Candy’s Room. A driven version of the rather vacuous Ramrod then gives way to the second set’s closer, a barnstorming performance of Rosalita, complete with band introductions.
Disc 3 begins with the encores. A fine performance of Born To Run is missing its beginning, the taper seemingly caught out by the start of the encore as he was with the start of the show. A frenzied performance of the Devil With The Blue Dress Medley, which incorporates Jerry Lee Lewis’ High School Confidential, provides the highlight among the encores. Perhaps surprisingly at such a stage in the show, Springsteen inserts a slow and quiet number in the shape of his “favourite Elvis Presley song” Can’t Help Falling In Love, from the 1961 film Blue Hawaii. Normal service is resumed in the shape of John Fogerty’s Rockin’ All Over The World and Twist And Shout, entirely appropriate show closers which leave the audience ecstatic.
Godfather provides a bonus in the shape of eight songs from the Frankfurt concert of three weeks earlier, of which Thunder Road, Fire, Racing In The Street and Shake (included in the medley) are unrepresented in the Stockholm show. They are all fine performances, with a superb Racing In The Street, featuring Roy Bittan’s gorgeous piano playing, providing the highight.
Although, as stated earlier, Chris Hunt rates the sound quality of the original LP as “excellent,” other commentators have been less impressed. Ed’s review on the website The Promise refers to the first CD incarnation as being “in sound quality that isn’t too bad” and a reader comment adds that “the sound of the recording doesn’t live up to the show itself.” Ed states that the Piggham CD-R is “remastered” and a further reader comment contends that it is “improved sound quality.” All LP and CD reissues of this show derive, directly or indirectly, from the original vinyl release, which presumably limits the extent to which the sound can be improved. The sound is mono, and despite lacking a little depth and sounding rather “flat” at times it is generally quite clear and detailed. The slower, quieter songs fare better and listening to these, one can understand why Hunt felt able to describe the sound as excellent. The sound on the louder and faster songs sometimes gets congested, as on You Can Look (But You Better Not Touch). However, this is not invariable, and some more raucous numbers, such as the medley and Rockin All Over The World, sound remarkably fine. Overall, although the difference is minimal, Godfather’s new release does have a little more presence than the original CD issue. The sound quality of the bonus tracks is slightly less good than that of the main show, though still very listenable.
This release comes in Godfather’s usual impressive packaging. The customary tri-fold sleeve reproduces the front and back covers of the original LP, though the black-and-white photgraphs from the inner side of the gatefold sleeve are nowhere to be found. Instead there are colour onstage photos, some of which show Springsteen, Clarence Clemons, Steve Van Zandt and Garry Tallent hamming it up during a show. There is also a booklet with further photographs and notes. This was a notable LP release of an important show and the original CD issue has been unavailable for many years; Godfather deserves the gratitude of collectors for restoring it to circulation.