Live from the Capitol Theatre: 20 great YouTube finds

capitol theatre videos

Van Morrison at the Capitol Theatre in Passaic in 1979.

As you may have noticed, there are some great old black and white clips from the Capitol Theatre in Passaic on YouTube. These were never intended to be released in any form; they were made to be shown on the theater’s screens while the bands played, so that everyone could see what was going on, close up. But they survived — or, at least, some of the films that were made have — and have made their way onto YouTube. I’ve asked Capitol Theatre owner John Scher how they got there, and even he’s not sure.

But anyway, they’re there, and they contain some amazing footage, including some stuff you aren’t likely to see anywhere else, like John Belushi jamming with the Allman Brothers Band, and Dustin Hoffman reading poetry, and Rick Danko of The Band singing “I Can See Clearly Now” at a solo show. I’ve collected some of my favorite finds below, in chronological order.

Built in the 1920, the Capitol was most active as a rock concert venue from the early ’70s to the mid-’80s. It closed in 1989 and was demolished in 1991.

There are many more gems on YouTube, including complete concerts for some of the shows these clips came from. I could easily have made this list longer, and may post another set, as part 2, at some point. (Aug. 16 Update: I have now posted part 2, here) (Aug. 20 Update: Part 3 is now available as well, here.).

Here are the clips, in chronological order:

“When Will I Be Loved,” Linda Ronstadt, Dec. 6, 1975

“I’m So Afraid,” Fleetwood Mac, Oct. 17, 1975

“Prelude/Angry Young Man,” Billy Joel, Oct. 2, 1976

“Sugar Magnolia,” Grateful Dead, April 27, 1977

“I Can See Clearly Now,” Rick Danko, Dec. 17, 1977

“(Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher and Higher,” Southside Johnny & the Asbury Jukes with Bruce Springsteen and Steven Van Zandt, Dec. 31, 1977

“Eight Miles High,” Roger McGuinn and Gene Clark, March 4, 1978

“You Belong to Me,” Elvis Costello & the Attractions, May 5, 1978

“Flowers of Red,” Harry Chapin with Chevy Chase, Oct. 21, 1978 (benefit for Bill Bradley’s senatorial campaign)

“Vote the Democratic Way,” The Roches, Oct. 21, 1978 (benefit for Bill Bradley’s senatorial campaign)

Dustin Hoffman talk and poetry reading, Oct. 21, 1978 (benefit for Bill Bradley’s senatorial campaign)

“Hey Bartender!,” The Allman Brothers Band with guest John Belushi, April 20, 1979

“Citizen Ship,” Patti Smith Group, May 11, 1979

“Into the Mystic,” Van Morrison, Oct. 6, 1979

“The Payback,” Southside Johnny & the Asbury Jukes, Dec. 31, 1979

“Clash City Rockers,” The Clash, March 8, 1980

“Accidentally Like a Martyr,” Warren Zevon, April 18, 1980

“Take Me to the River,” Talking Heads, Nov. 4, 1980

“52 Girls,” The B-52’s, Nov. 7, 1980

“Controversy” Prince, Jan. 30, 1982


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1 comment

Mark L July 21, 2020 - 12:27 pm

Saw Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers there in June, 1980. Holding out hope that some day some video may surface from that show. With Tommy Tutone as the opening act, years before “Jenny” :-)


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