August 26 is always a day that occasions me to fall into a reverie. Before the night of August 26, 1978 I was one person. After that night I changed and eventually everything in my life changed. That night had deep reverberations like a church bell whose echoes go on for years.
You'd be forgiven for scoffing when I tell you that the event in question was my first Bruce Springsteen concert. Especially if you've never seen him play live. If you have had that experience you're either down with me or you're at least sympathetic and understanding. You would right now be nodding your head imperceptibly and a smile would be playing on your lips. The Springsteen smile.
I'll lay it all out for you so you can see how many times I came excruciatingly close to changing my life a few years earlier. You see, 1978 in Bruce terms is rather late to the party, especially when you're from the east coast. Philadelphia being my hometown makes it even more egregious since that town embraced Springsteen so early and fervently. Strike Three because one of my closest friends, Michael Waldman, was already fully onboard the Bruce train and kept getting me to take a ride. And I kept finding excuses not to go.
You honestly won't believe how close I came. I turned down a ride from door to door and a ticket to the show at Detroit's Masonic Hall in February of 1977. Mike was driving from our college digs in Grand Rapids to Detroit that night with my much more savvy roommate Kate. I guess homework was more important to me that night. That, or washing my hair.
Two years earlier, Mike, who was way ahead of his time with Rock and Roll merchandising, decided to manufacture posters of Bruce and sell them to starry-eyed fans during the week of shows at Upper Darby's Tower Theater the week between Xmas and New Years in 1975. He knew my boyfriend Robert and I couldn't care less and we always needed cash, so he paid us to stand outside after a couple shows that week and hawk these gems for a dollar as audience members made their way to their cars with glazed eyes after the show. Since there was little or no concert merch in those days people groped for the posters like lemmings to the sea. We sold out.
Believe it or not, I pressed my ear up to the side door and said to my boyfriend, "Hey this sounds pretty good, why don't we buy a ticket and watch the rest of the show?" There were still tickets available. They were four dollars. Robert replied, hey, it's half over. I know - don't even.
One of those nights as we were packing up our gear and being paid in the alleyway near the theater, Bruce's tour bus rounded the corner from the back parking lot. He saw our small gang on the street and figured we were fans waiting for a glimpse of him. He grinned and waved, with beard and cap, looking just like the cover of the recently released Born to Run album (which in fact just celebrated its fortieth anniversary this week). We waved back cheerfully and I think one of us may have snarkily said the word sucker. It may have been me.
We definitely thought we had one over on him. The truth was the opposite but it took me three more years to find it out. I was the sucker. Big time. What in the hell was I thinking? I had not, as yet, been blinded by the light, so to speak.
Some time later, Mike sent me a postcard on which he had scribbled the lyrics of Saint in the City and attributed then to the writer. Bruce Springsteen wrote this? I remember thinking. This bears further investigation. Those lyrics were pure genius.
As luck would have it, not long this after a local radio station played an entire live Springsteen concert on the radio. This would have been early 1978. I about lost my mind when I heard that rasping laugh. Those delicious winding tales. And of course the music which mixed the magic of Motown, the chugging charge of Stax-Volt, and the dancing joy of R&B, with Springsteen's own anthemic rock and roll. I was head over heels and suddenly placed seeing Springsteen play a concert on the top of my To-Do List.
Fate was finally in my corner. This was just before the release of Darkness On The Edge of Town and the subsequent tour. The tour was announced; my location at the time (Providence, Rhode Island) was on it. When tickets went on sale I bought them immediately and then spent three months gazing at them every day in their special place in my dresser drawer. That's when tickets went on sale months before a show.
Finally the day came and the show commenced. And as I've said earlier, there was the me that walked into the Providence Civic Center that night and a different me that walked out after the show.
The rest of the story is for another time, but for now, I just want to say Thank You, Bruce.