Monday, January 26, 2015

Summertime Bruce

When I was a teenager, growing up in Cleveland, there was no greater influence on my musical taste than the mighty WMMS 101 FM.  The Home of the Buzzard. 


Back before the days of corporate-controlled radio, stations like this had DJs that picked the music they wanted to play on their shows based entirely on its artistic merit.  The Buzzard was also one of the bad boys of midwestern FM radio in that they often put music on the air in advance of its release date, gave airtime to deep cuts and B-sides, played records in their entirety, and simulcast a wide variety of concerts from local venues.  This stuff was like manna from heaven for a teenager with very little disposable income, no driver's license and no car.

I was 15 years old on August 9th, 1978, and had yet to attend my first concert.  WMMS was celebrating its 10th anniversary, that year, and one of the festivities they lined up was a show from the Cleveland Agora featuring Bruce Springsteen & The E-Street Band. Darkness on the Edge of Town had just been released.  I'm not sure there was ever a more magical time for the band.  Everyone I knew wanted to attend that show.  For some of us, listening to the simulcast over the airwaves was just going to have to be good enough.  And it was.  It was an absolutely magical show that pretty much exceeded everyone's expectations.  Through the stereo in my bedroom in the suburbs, I shut out the world and joined the crowd at the Agora for what would eventually go down as one of the greatest rock and roll concerts of all time.  To this day, I cite that evening as being the night that I became a Springsteen fan for life.

Since the show was being simulcast, it was also being recorded.  Not only by every kid with a tape deck, but by others with more professional experience with such things.  For many years, I made do with cassette tapes of the show, first from my own tape deck and later by trading up to more "official" bootleg tapes.  With the advent of home CD recording technology, some of those tapes made their way to CDR, although many of those weren't any better than their homemade cassette source tapes.  More recently, the show has made its way to downloadable files, digitally tweaked and re-edited.  As often bootlegged as this show has been, and as highly regarded as the performance has been, it has never seen an official release from the original source tapes. ... Until now ...

Apparently, those source tapes were found in boxes loaned to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum.  You can read more about all that here, but the bottom line is that the Springsteen camp has just released (on triple CD and high quality download) the WMMS 10th anniversary concert from Cleveland's Agora on August 9th, 1978.  This looks to be the definitive version of a monumental - and personally crucial - Bruce Springsteen show.  You can bet that I'm all over this release.  I'm 15 again and in rock and roll heaven!

7 comments:

  1. "Through the stereo in my bedroom in the suburbs, I shut out the world and joined the crowd at the Agora for what would eventually go down as one of the greatest rock and roll concerts of all time. To this day, I cite that evening as being the night that I became a Springsteen fan for life." Immortal lines Rob. Love these lines. Sums it up.

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    1. Thanks Rajdeep! That was such a magical time. Truly formative. I'm so glad this is finally seeing an official release so that I can relive that magic, sounding as good as it did when I first heard it. ... or better!

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  2. Really enjoyed this one, Rob. Keep them coming!

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  3. Very nice, Rob! Your story brings back memories for me but my station was WDEK from DeKalb. Yes, northern IL had a cool radio station in the 70's & early 80's that played real music! I hadn't given it much thought in a long time, but your description of how WMMS influenced your musical interests hit home with me. Thanks for sharing!

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  4. I liked WMMS way back when. Pretty much until I got The Sex Pistols album. Then I was mad that they utterly ignored Punk. It was weird that the new music I was so excited about they completely ignored, but I guess that was the start of Classic Rock as a thing, instead of just Rock. But WMMS was the best station in the country through the 70's and we were lucky to have it. Cutting school and going to Coffeebreak Concerts at the Agora was a blast! I know a guy that has that Bruce show from the master tape because he worked with the studio that recorded the Bruce show and also the entire Todd show from the Agora that a few songs from Back to the Bars came from. He won't let them leave his house because he gave his word he'd never copy them. I have to respect that, but I'd sure like to have that Todd show!

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