Roulette

ROULETTE - V1 1:30 LM-4 / ATMF / PYP / MT2
ROULETTE - V2 2:28 DROC1 / RRR / RO
ROULETTE - V3 3:39 LM-4 / LMEC1 / PYP / SA / DBTR
ROULETTE - V4a 3:37 DROC2 / SMM / BTR
ROULETTE - V4b 3:29 DBR
ROULETTE - V4c 3:46 DROC1 / RO
ROULETTE - V4d 3:47 RO
ROULETTE - V4e 3:45 RO / RN
ROULETTE - V4f 3:39 ATMF
ROULETTE - V4g 3:34 ATMF
ROULETTE - V4h 3:43 BACK / 1988 Single
ROULETTE - V4i 3:47 TRACKS
ROULETTE - V4j 3:48 RIVER: OUTTAKES

Note: V1 is an acoustic demo recorded a few days after the Three Mile Island nuclear accident on March 28, 1979, which inspired the song. Recording sessions for Album #5 began at Power Station studios on April 3, with engineer Bob Clearmountain. Multiple takes of "Roulette" were recorded over the first two days, followed by several days of mixing by Clearmountain and Springsteen. The song was set aside until April 1980, when Springsteen, engineer Neil Dorfsman, and his co-producers Landau and Van Zandt were reviewing all completed masters, and recording or re-recording instrumental and vocal tracks as needed. Over April 11 and 12 new "Roulette" tracks were recorded, including vocals, and Dorfsman mixed or remixed some of the tapes. He recalls that the new vocals were discarded in favor of the original April 1979 tracks. Toby Scott mixed it as one of the five extra tracks designated for b-sides, etc., after finishing the twenty primary tracks Springsteen had designated for The River.

V2 is incomplete, with double-tracked lead vocals and a slower tempo. The lyrics show some variations to later versions, and the tape fades out during the guitar solo. The vocal in V3 is not finished, while V4 is the master recorded in April 1979, with multiple vocal, keyboard, guitar and other instruments recorded in 1979–80 at Springsteen's direction, for dubbing and mixing. For unknown reasons, many of the mixes created by Clearmountain, Dorfsman, and Scott leaked out to bootleggers, in addition to the officially released b-side and remixed album cuts on Tracks and The Ties That Bind 2015 anniversary box. There are at least eight different mix variations in circulation, and more exist in private collections. The Tracks mix features more snare drum but less guitar than the mix found on the 1988 b-side to "One Step Up". Bruce states in his autobiography that "Roulette" was recorded shortly after the MUSE benefits of September 21 and 22, 1979, but that is incorrect. In a 1998 interview with Mojo magazine, Springsteen bared his soul. "It was the first song we cut…and maybe later on, I thought it was too specific. I may have just gotten afraid—it went a little over the top, which is what's good about it. In truth it should have probably gotten put on. It would have been one of the best things on the record."

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