Story 1977-12-31 Capitol Theatre, Passaic, NJ

Story Of Music City Mike

“Promoter John Scher welcomed everyone to the theatre with the greeting of “It’s New Year’s in New Jersey.” Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes were the New Year’s Eve headliners at the Capitol. Riding high on the success of their first two records, the band was moving from the clubs to the small theater, and this night was their biggest show to date. The Jukes were joined this evening by their founding member, producer and song contributor, Miami (he wasn’t called “Little” yet) Van Zandt on guitar and backing vocals. His special presence added the extra treat of him doing the Sam and Dave thing with Johnny on duets of “Broken Down Piece of Man” and “You Don’t Know Like I Know.”

The Juke’s set was on the money, and of course, whenever they played there was always the possibility of a Springsteen appearance. While it didn’t always happen, this night it did and in spades! Of all of the concerts I have been to, this certainly was the biggest musical surprise I have ever witnessed.

Another Asbury Park band, The Shakes opened the night, and The Jukes timed their set to start around 11:15pm. After a few songs, it was the midnight hour and surprise, surprise, a “loose” Bruce joined them in singing the Juke’s trademark show-stopper, Sam Cooke’s “Having a Party” right after the Miami Horns played the requisite “Auld Lang Syne.” Rockabilly singer, Robert Gordon, who was currently being embraced by the punk community, also joined in on the fun during “Stagger Lee” as did a steady flow of E Street Band members throughout the show.

Bruce stayed on for the rest of the set singing a little, but mostly just playing some added guitar. But, he really started letting go when he and Johnny set out to end the night trading vocals on an exhilarating version of Jackie Wilson’s “Higher and Higher.” The audience then started to head out the doors into the cold New Jersey night. I myself was in the lobby when I heard things starting up again. Bruce wanted to play some more, and everyone quickly rushed back inside to their seats.

Bruce and the E Street Band had not played together for over 9 months, and the Boss was just itching to perform. “I’m drunk and silly as a fool” said the man before kicking things off with covers of “Little Latin Lupe Lu” and “You Can’t Sit Down” during which he and the entire E Street Band were joined by several Jukes.

WNEW-FM was broadcasting the show live on the radio. Station DJ and Springsteen friend, Richard Neer was producing and MC-ing the event on the air and thought he’d just keep the tape rolling for a loose Bruce and the boys. But, Bruce was looking to just have some fun, and probably would rather not see a bootleg recording of this last-minute sloppy reunion. He gave word to kill the broadcast after the first two numbers, and it was then time for he and his band to get down to some serious business.

The surprise 45-minutes of Springsteen continued with “Backstreets,” “Born to Run” and came to a close with a cover of Gary U.S. Bonds’ “Quarter to Three.” “Backstreets” was a long extended version that included its first ever wrap with the lyrical improvisation that would eventually become the song “Drive All Night.” Maybe the E Streeters were a little sloppy, but this still was the best time I have ever had at 2am in the morning in Passaic.”

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