Best Bootlegs: Bruce Springsteen – The Great White Boss

Because I may not know music, but I know what you should like

… and where to find it1

Crackly, Classic Springsteen

This compilation of Bruce Springsteen performances from the 1970s is an automatic must-hear for anyone  with an affection for outstanding ballads, anthems, and rock and roll; for those of us who treasured our discovery of The Boss before he became a commercial success with the 1975  release of his Born To Run album, it may be a necessity.

Philip Cohen, whose astonishingly immense and impressively high quality personal collection of live pop music performances is the source of this gem, explains its provenance:

In the late 1970s and early 1980s, there was a short-lived record store in North Miami, Florida, and they sold bootleg LPs, but some of their customers wanted the music on cassette, so the task fell to me to create cassette versions. I was agreeable to this because I could copy the LPs to 7.5 IPS reel to reel on the first play. But the fact remains, the pressing of the Springsteen three-LP set is fairly crackly.

William Ruhlmann’s entry in the All Music Guide provides details about the original performances:

Two of the LPs in this three-record boxed set are drawn from Bruce Springsteen’s early-show performance on August 15, 1975, at the Bottom Line club in New York, a set broadcast live on WNEW-FM. Springsteen’s stand at the Bottom Line, just prior to the release of Born to Run, helped to make him a national phenomenon, and you can hear why on this collection of songs drawn from his first three albums, along with such rock & roll covers as the Crystals’ “Then [S]he Kissed Me,” and the Searchers’ “When You Walk in the Room,” and Gary “U.S.” Bonds’ “Quarter to Three,” not to mention the extended introduction to “The E Street Shuffle,” in which Springsteen tells the story of how Clarence Clemons joined the E Street Band…

The Great White Boss includes a third bonus LP (at a 45-RPM running time) that features a version of Springsteen’s “You Mean So Much to Me” (later farmed out to Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes), recorded live in July 1973, on one side, and the never-released Springsteen songs “Don’t Look Back” (a powerful rocker that just missed being on Darkness on the Edge of Town) and “Action in the Streets,” recorded live in March 1977, on the other. With most of the album drawn from a radio broadcast, the sound quality is excellent for a bootleg.

Even the bits between songs and the song introductions are ineluctably, irreducibly, unmistakably Springsteen. As the blurb at the Big O site notes,

One of the joys and highlights of a Springsteen show is the stories he tells. As any fan knows, Springsteen doesn’t just tell you a story. He sort of drags it out, embellishes it and turns it into an epic tale, a sort of modern-day Homer. Anyone else would have just said, “And saxophone Clarence Clemons joined the band.” The way Springsteen tells it, they were down on their luck, the weather was shitty and Clemons shows up like the second coming of Godzilla. “I said, ‘Steven, am I crazy or this that dude carrying a saxophone?’ We figured, any guy at four in the morning, dressed in white, walkin’ like no rain with a saxophone was not to be messed with, was let to walk on by…”

As ongoing readers know, I can go on about this sort of music for far too long, but this is one of those situations in which you already have enough information to realize you want to listen to this collection of prime Springsteen tunes or you – well, you deserve our sympathy, not our condemnation.

The Great White Boss – Track List

Disc 1

1. 10th Avenue Freeze-Out
2. Spirit In The Night
3. Then She Kissed Me
4. Growin’ Up
5. It’s Hard To Be A Saint In The City
6. The E Street Shuffle
7. When You Walk In The Room
8. She’s The One
9. Born To Run
10. Thunder Road

Disc 2

1. Rosalita (Come Out Tonight)
2. 4th Of July, Asbury Park (Sandy)
3. Quarter To Three
4. Don’t Look Back
5. Action In The Street
6. You Mean So Much To Me

Download Links

As far as can be ascertained, these tracks have never been officially released on CD. The files are MP3s with a sample rate of 192 kbps.  They are downloaded as individual files directly from the site (rather than through a service such as RapidShare) and require no codes or extraction (i.e., the files are MP3s, not zip or rar). The files are not DRM-protected; consequently, they should play without problems in iPods and most other MP3 players. They can also be burned onto a CD.

On this site,  downloads are available for a limited time only. The downloads were working when I checked just prior to publishing this post. I have no way of knowing how much longer this will be be case.

Be aware that when loaded into an MP3 player,  the tracks will be listed by number rather than name  (e.g., “05 Track 205″ rather than “Action In The Street”). Similarly, other tag information (e.g., name of artist, name of album, etc) and the album art are not embedded in the file, but must be added manually if desired.  This is not an uncommon practice and requires only a modest – and at least in this case, well-compensated – investment of time and effort  to copy and paste the information in the correct slots.

The files from this compilation can be downloaded at the Big O Audio Archive.

  1. This post is part of the Heck Of A Guy Best Bootlegs Series. An explanation of this project is included in the first post in this category: Best Bootlegs: Otis Redding – A Soupçon Of Soul. []

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