Backstreets

BACKSTREETS - V1 uncirculating
BACKSTREETS - V2a 6:44 WAR / BTRS / BTRCS / UBTROC / ROOI
BACKSTREETS - V2b 3:12 private cdr
BACKSTREETS - V2c 6:26 ESRR / BTRS
BACKSTREETS - V3a 6:33 DDITV / BWNH / BTRS / UBTROC / ROOI
BACKSTREETS - V3b 6:02 BTRCS
BACKSTREETS - V4a 6:32 URT1 / BTRS / BTRCS
BACKSTREETS - V4b 6:42 UBTROC
BACKSTREETS - V4c 6:05 WAR / BWNH / ROOI
BACKSTREETS - V5 6:27 BORN TO RUN

Note: Much is made about how it took 6 months to finish the song, "Born To Run". However, Jungleland, Thunder Road, and Backstreets all probably took longer. Bruce Springsteen was determined to create a masterpiece, and he held off the record company and his managers until it was made, and even then his team had to convince him that it was done, to get him to stop. The musical tracks to these songs seemed to come together much more quickly than the lyrics, Backstreets being a prime example. The circulating outtakes are organized mainly by the progression of the lyrics, which are described below. The bridge was finally completed with the album in July 1975, months after all the music was in place. Some of these takes feature lavish overdubs of guitars and strings, but when the composition was finally complete, the experimentation was dropped, and the album version was Bruce's powerful vocal in front of the E Street Band.

After Roy Bittan and Max Weinberg joined the E Street Band in August 1974, "the new band went to [914 Sound Studios] Blauvelt in late October, made stabs at, "Backstreets" V1 (a late-night betrayal song)", Jungleland, and "So Young and in Love” (an up-tempo number)". You can add "She's the One" and "Walking In the Street" to the agenda, and all this occurred October 16-17, 1974. Apparently, these sessions did not go well, and after several months of slow progress, Bruce asked Jon Landau to come aboard in March 1975, and one of his first moves was to move the album #3 sessions to the Record Plant. On April 25, their second week there, Bruce opened his book to his latest lyrics for "Backstreets" (which was about 2 verses), and V2a was recorded; it can be identified because the 2nd verse starts with "Running in the dark"; also, the bridge is mostly unwritten, with, "Save yourself a new guitar string to get you around by", not one of his best lines. But by the 3rd verse, and on to the end, Backstreets is taking shape, with the band working hard, led by Roy's majestic piano, Danny's organ, Max and Garry. They have just learned Backstreets, and though sloppy, they are already playing like the machine they are. V2b is a short 3:12 take, and circulates in some private CDR sources; this is the same take and mix as V2a. Version 2c, released on E Street Radio, almost got it's own version, which would have been called "the guitar version", and the end actually sounds different, but that is Bruce guitar dominating this mix.

Version 3, the "strings Backstreets", was cut May 19 or 23, and now has "St. Johns" in the 2nd verse; the bridge needs work, in fact the bridge is so bad, that instead of "the heroes in the funhouse ripping off the __", two guitar solos would have been preferable. But a great piece of rock and roll music is starting to rise. v3a and 3b are vastly different mixes; the only reason they are not separate versions is they share the same lyrics, and were probably cut on the same day. Version 4 had to be cut on May 23 or July 6; the source quality is poor (version 4b is pitch correction remastered by Fanatic Records, V4c is 30 seconds short), but what stands out is the second verse is complete. However, the bridge remains incomplete; the writer envisions a confrontation of great emotional power, but the words are still not there. The strings do not make the song, and when they go away, they are not missed. Bruce and the band have conquered the end of the song. Version 5, which is the album take and final mix, was completed on July 6 or 18, 1975, probably the latter, with a vocal overdub of the bridge, which makes Backstreets the classic powerhouse that it is, one of Bruce's finest compositions. Nobody who listens to this song can come away without being impressed by the musicianship of Roy Bittan; Backstreets remains his finest hour. It would be hard to pull off a song that projects this kind of power, without a roomful of fantastic musicians, and a vocalist equal to the task. When critics were raving about Bruce Springsteen in the fall of 1975, Thunder Road, Jungleland and Backstreets were the best of the best; their reaction was from being blown away multiple times by the same album.

The story only started here. Soon after the band took Born To Run on the road, Bruce and especially Roy started performing Backstreets with another segment added after the third verse and chorus, refusing to let all the built up emotion go to waste. Bruce developed "Sad Eyes" and "Drive All Night" during these interludes, with his voice and the piano dictating the pace of emotions, eventually joined by Max pounding his drums to add to the build up, which would finally go back to Backstreets and finish the song. This went on for years, through many tours, becoming a regular part of the show, with nobody quite knowing what to expect each night.

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