This is the second installment in David Hewitt’s guest blog series chronicling his legendary career working with some of the biggest names in music. If you missed his first post, you can read it here.
Tales of Recording Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band Live (Part Two)
The MUSE Shows, September 19-23, 1979, Madison Square Garden, New York, NY
MUSE stands for Musicians United for Safe Energy, an activist group formed by Jackson Browne, Graham Nash, John Hall and Bonnie Raitt, advocating against the use of nuclear energy. In 1979 the group organized a series of concerts with hundreds of musicians and production professionals coming together to support and promote the cause. The event presaged many live benefit shows to come, such as Live Aid and the concerts for Amnesty International.
The shows, documented in the subsequent record album and film (all known as No Nukes), ran five consecutive days and included stars like Crosby, Stills & Nash, James Taylor with Carly Simon, The Doobie Brothers, Tom Petty, Peter Tosh and, of course, Bruce Springsteen. Not that it was all without a grand finale – or, as we used to know them, “celebrity train wrecks!” This, thankfully, would be a good one.
Madison Square Garden is a difficult venue for remote trucks. The arena is about five stories above street level and there is a spiral concrete ramp that winds up to the backstage area. The old Record Plant White Truck could clear all the overhead obstacles and drive right up. The Black Truck, however, was a different story. Even though I designed it to clear the Lincoln Tunnel going into New York City, it had trouble clearing some of the lighting fixtures hung above the MSG ramp. We dumped the air ride suspension and even bled some air out of the rear tires, but it was still scraping the lights. Finally, we had stagehands standing on the fuel tanks with long poles pushing the light fixtures up out of the way.
We had two days of shows before Bruce, so things were pretty well sorted by the time we got to his first set on September 21. He played a 12-song set, which included the premiere of “The River” and my favorite, “Stay,” with Jackson Browne and Rosemary Butler. During that show we had a bit of a scare. When the Bruce fans started rockin’, the whole floor of the arena started to move up and down. It got so bad that we had to hold on to the Ampex MM1200 24-tracks, because they were rolling around on their castors. I’ve recorded a number of shows in the Garden, but never felt it move like that. Later, I found out from producer Marc Bauman that, yeah, 19,000 hockey fans will do that too.
Bruce’s second show on September 22 was just as wild and made for a great recording.
This was the infamous scene where Bruce dragged his former flame, Lynn Goldsmith, up on stage, after he spotted her taking photos (when Bruce thought she had agreed not to do so). He introduced her to the crowd as his ex-girlfriend, and then proceeded to have her escorted swiftly offstage. I don’t think it made the film!
Wikipedia states, “This was the first official appearance of Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band’s much ballyhooed live act on record, and their ‘Detroit Medley’, a staple of the encores of their regular shows, achieved considerable album-oriented rock airplay.”
I recommend finding the vinyl three-record set on Asylum Records or the CD reissue on Elektra/ Rhino.
Check back soon for David’s next entry featuring more behind the scenes stories from his time on the road.