JUNGLELAND - V1 uncirculating
JUNGLELAND - V2 uncirculating
JUNGLELAND - V4 uncirculating

Note: The first circulating live performance of "Jungleland" is from July 12, 1974, although the May 9 show at the Harvard Square Theatre, Cambridge, MA may be the actual debut. There is a good quality soundboard from the July 12 show, a test recording stopped by Mike Appel after 'Kitty's Back' and 'Jungleland' were complete. The song at this juncture is confused, sounding like a mini jazz opera, and David Sancious has still got Bruce under his 'New York City Serenade' spell. The song resolves itself quite differently, "the girls cry … in Port Authority halls, In the tunnel of machines they’ll hear the screams drowned out by the roarin’ train…The Rat reappears on Flamingo Lane, Then an angel rises from the sands and disappears down in Jungleland". Fortunately, the peyote wore off, Sancious and drummer Boom Carter gave their notice and moved on. But on August 1, before David and Ernest left, this is the version 2 that the E Street Band set out to record. However, he has already starting playing with that final verse, evidently unhappy with it. So the coloured girls are now jungle girls, and the Magic Rat reappears just in time to save the barefoot girl "from the edge of an on-coming train". The take borders on ridiculous, but Springsteen would use the same modus operandi when recording 'Backstreets', using meaningless lines where the lyrics were still unwritten. These lines were gone by the end of October.

V1 of the studio record was from January 8, 1974, a rehearsal session at 914 Sound Studios, Blauevelt, New York. At present, no audio or lyric sheets exist for this session. On August 1, 1974, V2 is a complete take (described above), known to exist from this session (see illustration), but audio has yet to be released. Bruce continued to play Jungleland live, and in the studio; V4 was attempted on October 17, along with V3, the famous 1:33 segment of Bruce and Suki Lahav recording vocals for dubbing, has been dated to 1974 because of the presence of Suki, who left United States permanently in March 1975. Here she is talking live to Bruce and singing the song coda with heavy echo. Roy Bittan also plays piano. This is the last known circulating studio audio, until sessions resumed at the Record Plant on April 18, 1975. Peter Knobler’s 1975 Crawdaddy profile describes one evening at 914 when ‘they spent until 4 a.m. playing “Jungleland” … fourteen times straight through. Inevitably, someone would blow a line and the entire take would be shot.’ After the October 17 studio take, the original final verse, described above, was largely rewritten, now looking much like the final album track. He would not keep the jazz solo or the section, "hear the animals sing oh oh oh"; the chimes would last until March 1975, but they were gone by the Record Plant sessions.

For the second half of 1974 and the first half of 1975, second verse lines like, "there’s a crazy kind of light tonight, brighter than the one that sparkles for prophets" survived, until they were changed in July 1975 to, "The midnight gang's assembled and picked a rendezvous for the night". Another, that had the exact same life span, was "The streets alive with tough-kid Jets in Nova-light machines, boys flash guitars like bayonets and rip holes in their jeans", until it became, "The street's alive as secret debts are paid, contacts made, they vanished unseen, Kids flash guitars just like switch-blades hustling for the record machine". He also changed the bridge and the final verse, "In the tunnel of machines you’ll hear the screams drowned out by the trains"; by late October 1974, it became "In the tunnel of machines the magic Rat chases his dreams", and finally Bruce got brave at the Record Plant, "In the tunnels uptown, the Rat's own dream guns him down", killed by the runaway American dream. After Sancious left, the three new members, Roy Bittan, Max Weinberg and Suki Lahav, quickly asserted themselves into Jungleland, joining Bruce, Clarence, Garry and Danny seemlessly, bringing the song to new heights. Bruce obviously devoted major blocks of time arranging Jungleland, utilizing his new players. The E Street Band lost it's jazz sound, and became a solid rock and roll band.

Jon Landau moved the BTR sessions to the Record Plant on April 18, 1975, where the other circulating outtakes emanate from. Sessions resumed without Suki, who had returned to Israel after her last show in March, with her husband, engineer Louis Lahav, who was replaced by Jimmy Iovine. Suki would appear on "Born To Run" by overdubs of her violin and background vocals. Much of the first day was devoted to Jungleland, heard in V5, and with the band recording base tracks. V6 has the same opening as v5, but after that uses the guide vocal by Bruce, strings and no sax, also in V7. Studio logs show V5-7 were all recorded between April 18 and April 25, 1975. V8 is the final version being overdubbed on July 14, lacking a lead guitar track, with different vocals, but the lyrics are now done. Final takes for V9, the album track, came down to the last minute on July 20, according to Bruce, "Clarence and I finishing the “Jungleland” sax solo, phrase by phrase, in one (room), while we mixed “Thunder Road” in another, singing “Backstreets” in a third as the band rehearsed (for the Tour that was to begin that evening) in a spare room upstairs".

This is the song where Springsteen shows he has learned how to paint a scene lyrically and musically, and situate the listener at the heart of it. It took him sixteen months to write, refine, and record it. He went through take after take, saying “again,” “again,” “again,” as he sought something he found only by experimenting with various musical styles. He will never again write a song this long, this character-laden, or this operatic. It begins with violin by Suki Lahav, dubbed from 914 Sound Studios, which sets the elegiac tone for the song. Then a tinkling piano carries us to the first verse. In the second verse, the organ joins in at “churches to the jails.” Springsteen's writing technique uses dualism to paint the landscape, "hungry and hunted"; "what’s flesh and what’s fantasy". He places us into the heart of the action, when "we take our stand down in Jungleland". In the third verse, Springsteen turns the scene into a rock ’n’ roll West Side Story, “An opera out on the Turnpike, a ballet being fought out in the alley.” “Jungleland” is a “real death waltz" where "Kids flash guitars just like switch-blades" Musically, this is where there is a key shift in the song as Springsteen shouts rather than sings “The hungry and the hunted explode into rock’n’roll bands." Then "They face off against each other out in the street down in Jungleland" leads us into a guitar solo by Bruce, refined by a year of performances. The he pans out for the bridge, four lines that describe other parts of the movie for us, and leads us into the non-verbal part of the tale, where we are carried away by a sax solo by Clarence Clemmons, the high point of his career, that lasts more than two minutes. When we return to earth, the rat and the barefoot girl are in bed, and their "two hearts beat", just as Spanish Johnny and Puerto Rican Jane's had in another great song. Finally "In the tunnels uptown, the Rat's own dream guns him down", but that is not the end. Springsteen pans out again, changing chords and keys, "Outside the street’s on fire in a real death waltz", but then switching up to a piano-and-violin chord that fades into silence, as the poets "try to make an honest stand", but they "wind up wounded, not even dead tonight in Jungleland". With cries like a wolf howling, accompanied by piano and violin, “Jungleland” comes to a close. The howls were improvised (he never did this in all the live performances), but Landau recalls that when he heard them he knew that had to be how the record ended.

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