“Someday we’ll look back on this and it will all seem funny,” sang Bruce Springsteen on “Rosalita (Come Out Tonight),” from his 1973 album The Wild, the Innocent & the E Street Shuffle. That kind of distance helped make an Oct. 28 50th anniversary symposium exploring the album — and attended by virtually every living person who played a significant role in making it — full of fond memories.
“It’s a lovely wild card; it’s a very youthful record,” said Springsteen himself of the album. “And it’s me really getting a chance to really express who I was, which I felt I didn’t have the opportunity to do that on the first album (Greetings From Asbury Park, N.J.). So this was finally … I felt, yep, all my talents came to fruition. My ability to write, my ability to write lyrics, my ability to write evocative music, and set cinematic scenes. Everything that I’ve basically done for the rest of my career really began on The Wild, the Innocent. … It was a wonderful record that holds up tremendously well.”
It was a day to explore everything about the album: its less-than-glamorous recording sessions at 914 Sound Studios in Blauvelt, N.Y. … its cover art … its outtakes … even its unusual title. Springsteen said the “E Street Shuffle” in it balanced the “Wild and Innocent” part. “It grounded it, and made it real,” he said.
A discussion of the album’s marketing was originally planned, but then abandoned, we were told, because the record company lost interest and there basically was no marketing. (Though it is now considered a classic, WIESS was not a big-seller at the time.)
The event was presented by the Bruce Springsteen Archive & Center for American Music at Monmouth University, at the West Long Branch school’s Pollak Theatre. Springsteen was not officially confirmed to attend ahead of time, but appeared in a one-on-one discussion with Archive executive director Robert Santelli about his songwriting for the album, and with E Street Band members Garry Tallent, Vini Lopez and David Sancious in a panel discussion about the making of the album.
Springsteen did not participate in the symposium-capping mini-concert, featuring the album’s seven songs, but Tallent, Lopez and Sancious did, as did two E Street-associated musicians who contributed to the album, Richard Blackwell and Albee Tellone.
Springsteen’s manager at that time, Mike Appel, was there, too, telling rambling and often very funny stories on two panels. So was Appel’s brother Steve, who worked as a roadie with the band and helped out with other tasks, as needed. Louis Lahav, who engineered the album, came all the way from Israel to talk about that, and his wife, Suki Lahav, who sang on two tracks (and also toured with the band as a violinist and singer for about five months in 1974 and 1975), made a virtual appearance via a pre-taped interview.
Just about everyone talked about that era as a life-changing, eye-opening time of their lives, despite the lack of money and sometimes comically low-budget touring conditions. “I remember having to threaten Mike Appel to give us $5 to get us into Disneyland,” Tallent remembered. “Disneyland was fun. And then we played The Troubadour (in West Hollywood) that night. Well, we didn’t really play it, because the amplifiers were not working.”
Photographs and film clips of the band during that era were shown, and Springsteen experts added historical perspective, and discussed the album’s impact.
The mini-concert included intense versions of “Fourth of July, Asbury Park (Sandy),” by Williams Honor, and “Incident on 57th Street” by Low Cut Connie’s Adam Weiner, plus a joyous grand finale version of “The E Street Shuffle,” with everyone participating. But the absolute highlight, for me, was Sancious’ masterful piano playing on “New York City Serenade,” and particularly his extended introduction, which really amounted to a hypnotic journey of a song in its own right.
So much was said during the panel discussions that it’s impossible to cover all the highlights (through I did transcribe two great stories in their entirety, HERE). But rest assured, the Archive taped everything and it will be available to see once its new building is built and opens (hopefully, in 2026).
The Archive — which presented a 50th anniversary Greetings From Asbury Park, N.J. symposium, in January — will continue to do them, in chronological order, with Born to Run up next, in 2025. With all that can be said about that album, it may have to be two days. Or a week.
For more on the Archive, visit springsteenarchives.org.
Here is the mini-concert’s setlist, and below that, a photo gallery by John Cavanaugh, and some videos. Enjoy!
“Fourth of July, Asbury Park (Sandy),” Williams Honor (Reagan Richards, vocals; Gordon Brown, guitar and backing vocals)
“Wild Billy’s Circus Story,” Wil Hercek (vocals, guitar) and Mike Caruso (pedal steel)
“New York City Serenade,” Pat Guadagno (vocals, guitar), David Sancious (piano), Richard Blackwell (percussion), Vini Lopez (backing vocals)
“Incident on 57th Street,” Adam Weiner (vocals, piano), Vini Lopez (backing vocals)
“Rosalita (Come Out Tonight),” Pat Roddy Band with Lisa Lowell (backing vocals) and Vini Lopez (backing vocals, percussion)
“Kitty’s Back,” Pat Roddy Band with Garry Tallent (bass), Vini Lopez (drums), David Sancious (organ), Richard Blackwell (percussion), Lisa Lowell (backing vocals)
“The E Street Shuffle,” all previous musicians plus Albee Tellone (mandolin). Lead vocals by Pat Roddy, Wil Hercek and Reagan Richards.
We need your help!
CONTRIBUTE TO NJARTS.NET
Since launching in September 2014, NJArts.net, a 501(c)(3) organization, has become one of the most important media outlets for the Garden State arts scene. And it has always offered its content without a subscription fee, or a paywall. Its continued existence depends on support from members of that scene, and the state’s arts lovers. Please consider making a contribution of any amount to NJArts.net via PayPal, or by sending a check made out to NJArts.net to 11 Skytop Terrace, Montclair, NJ 07043.