Nebraska - Studio Sessions


disco_nebraska.jpg
Commercially Released: September 20, 1982
Label: Columbia Records
Produced by Bruce Springsteen
Recorded by Mike Batlan at Colts Neck, New Jersey March (1981 - May 1982)
Mastered by Dennis King 
Mastering Consultants: Bob Ludwig (Masterdisk) and Steve Marcussen (Precision Lacquer)
Design by Andrea Klein
Photography by David Michael Kennedy

Overview

"I was living in a place called Colts Neck, New Jersey — and I remember I saw Badlands, and I read this book about them, Caril [Fugate, an accomplice of Charles Starkweather], and it just seemed to be a mood that I was in at the time. I was renting a house in this reservoir, and I didn't go out much, and for some reason, I just started to write. I wrote Nebraska, all those songs, in a couple of months. I was interested in writing kind of smaller than I had been, writing with just detail — which I kind of began to do on The River. I guess my influences at the time were the movie and these stories I was reading by Flannery O'Connor — she's just incredible."
- Bruce Springsteen in 1984

The Nebraska sessions were never conceived to result in a commercially released album. Bruce’s intention was to create a batch of multi-channel, professional-sounding, finished solo demos to demonstrate to The E Street Band at sessions for the follow-up to The River album due to start in New York City in February 1982. By creating professional demos Springsteen felt the band sessions would progress faster than they had for his previous three albums. These are not professionally made recordings. They were never intended to be. It appears Springsteen only used a common, run-of-the-mill cassette recorder. None of these songs exhibit a finished songwriting product. These are song fragments, both musically and lyrically. There is much stopping and starting heard, as Springsteen records bits and pieces, manually stopping the recorder then returns sometime later to add more ideas…and so on and so forth.

recording_teactascam144-tapedeck.jpg

During and after the River tour in 1981, demo recordings continued at Springsteen’s home in Colts Neck, NJ from late March to early April 1981 during a break in the tour, and then from mid-September 1981 thru May 1982 (mostly 1981) following the end of the tour. In early December 1981, Springsteen asked his guitar technician, Mike Batlan, to set up a no-frills "porta-studio" in a spare room of Bruce’s Colts Neck, NJ home. Some modification work was done to the room to make it more receptive to achieving a decent sound. Batlan purchased a Teac Tascam (Series 144) 4-track cassette recorder, two Shure SM57 mics and two microphone stands. The sound was mixed through an old Gibson Echoplex and an old Panasonic boom box acted as the mixdown deck.

Legend dictates that the bulk of the songs were recorded in one all day/night session on January 3, 1982. Springsteen himself has said it took three days, although he later said it took "no more than a few weeks" in Songs. There were fourteen songs recorded and it seems unlikely that Springsteen and Batlan could have recorded and mixed those fourteen songs in (at best) a few days, especially since it involved some thirty-nine takes. Batlan has said that the actual recording began on December 17 or 18 and ended around January 3, which seems more realistic. In any case, Springsteen sent a cassette comprised of fourteen demos to Jon Landau, along with what is almost certainly a live recording, not a studio demo, of a fifteenth song, "Johnny Bye Bye". The tape also included seven alternate takes and five alternate mixes. However, two or three months later, with a few of these fifteen songs by then earmarked for coverage by the E Street Band, Springsteen recorded two additional songs ("My Father's House" and "The Big Payback") at home on the same equipment, thus making a total of seventeen different songs seen on the list below.

It was during the E Street Band sessions in late March and early April of 1982 that Bruce first attempted to record full-band arrangements of the demos. However, it soon became apparent to him that a majority of these songs did not lend themselves well to these full-band arrangements. Springsteen would later write in Songs, "I went into the studio, brought in the band, rerecorded, remixed, and succeeded in making the whole thing worse." It should be noted that most of the Nebraska songs were not recorded in "rock" arrangements, as the fan-coined title "Electric Nebraska" may suggest. Instead, Bruce had Max Weinberg add light percussion, or Roy Bittan a synth pad. However, not every re-arrangement was a failure, "Born In The U.S.A.", "Downbound Train", "Pink Cadillac" and the re-written "Working On The Highway" were all successfully recorded with the band during the Born In The U.S.A. sessions. Also see a day by day calendar of the "Electric Nebraska Sessions".

According to Toby Scott, it was in April 1982 that Bruce handed him the original solo demo tape and said, "there's something about the atmosphere on this tape – can't we just master off this tape?" In effect, Bruce was asking Scott if it was possible to make the sound quality good enough to release some of the songs as a solo album. It took Scott a few weeks to get back to Bruce with a definitive answer. If Scott's answer had been “no” then there is unlikely to have ever been a Nebraska album. At one point Bruce even went back into the studio with an acoustic guitar to try and re-record the album, but the result lacked the atmosphere and feeling of isolation only found on that original cassette. Eventually, however, Scott said "yes", so by late May it had been decided to issue the album, ahead of the still-in-progress E Street Band album. Despite Scott's confirmation that the tape was usable, the task to produce the album was not an easy one, for example, the old Gibson Echoplex used as mixer was long gone. In addition, the tracks were recorded with the varispeed knob turned to "fast", before Batlan turned it back to the twelve o'clock position for mixdown. The Panasonic boom box had fallen into a river in the meantime, and was recovered from the muddy bottom and hosed down before springing back to life one Sunday morning soon after. The heads of all the Gibson and Panasonic decks used were never cleaned or aligned, and finally, Springsteen had carried the only tape copy around in his jacket pocket for three months.

Toby Scott was later interviewed about the process of recording Nebraska:
"Well, of course, you could just about hear the moans coming from all the engineers in the room. We were all trained to get the best sound possible on the best equipment, and here was our artist asking us to go against pretty much everything we knew. And I said 'yes Bruce, we could. I'm not sure you'll like it, but we could.' I could've said no, that the sound wasn't good enough to master off of, but that's not what it's all about. We work for the artist, and we're there to help them achieve their vision, even if it goes against all the rules of engineering. I guess that's probably part of why I'm still working for Bruce after all these years.

"So I gave that cassette to an assistant and told him to copy it onto a good piece of tape. Then we went around to four or five different mastering facilities, but no one could get it onto a lacquer - there was so much phasing and other odd sonic characteristics, the needle kept jumping out of the grooves. We went to Bob Ludwig, Steve Marcussen at Precision, Sterling Sound, CBS. Finally, we ended up at Atlantic in New York, and Dennis King tried one time and also couldn't get it onto disk. So we had him try a different technique, putting it onto the disk at a much lower level, and that seemed to work. In the end we ended up having Bob Ludwig use his EQ and his mastering facility, but with Dennis' mastering parameters. And that's the master we ended up using."

"The album sounds the way it does because of all those factors - the multiple tapes, the dirty heads, the varispeed - it's all part of the overall atmosphere, and part of what Bruce liked about the songs. At the end of the day, he was able to get his ideas down on tape, in his own environment, thanks to a PortaStudio and a pair of 57's, and that was the equipment he needed to get the sound he was looking for."
Courtesy: tascam.com

The title for the album was narrowed down to three choices "Open All Night", "January 3, 1982" and the ultimate winner, "Nebraska". The Nebraska album was released with only ten of the seventeen songs recorded on it. "The Big Payback" turned up later in 1982 as a b-side to "Open All Night" in parts of Europe and "Born In The USA" was issued on the 1998 outtakes compilation Tracks. Of the five "missing" songs – three of them ("Pink Cadillac", "Downbound Train" and "Johnny Bye Bye", as well as "Born In The USA") were re-recorded with multi-instrument arrangements during the 1982-83 Born In The USA sessions and released either on that album or Tracks. The two remaining songs ("Child Bride" and "(The) Losin’ Kind"), despite being among the most compelling of all the Nebraska session songs, remain officially unreleased. So to date twelve of the seventeen songs from this session have been officially released in their original arrangements. Fortunately, complete takes of all four of the other studio recorded songs are circulating in excellent quality. The alternate takes of some songs (see session details below) have also yet to surface.

In September 2014, Bob Ludwig was interviewed by Backstreets prior to the release of Springsteen's first seven albums in remastered form and spoke about the methods required to remaster the album utilizing the Plangent Process. "The process allows the tape playback to sound closer to the output of the mixing console than ever before", explains Ludwig. "It yields better separation, less distortion and a solidity to the sound that can be really remarkable." Recovering lost frequencies and digitally correcting wow and flutter and other timing issues, the Plangent Process reveals, as Ludwig puts it, "a sonic depth and clarity not heard since the original mix-down session." Nebraska, given the nature of its origin, has always been tricky. That material was recorded to cassette, which caused many engineering headaches when preparing the album for release in 1982. Fortunately, Ludwig didn't have to go back as far as the mix-down cassette Bruce carried in his pocket. He explains that for the other six albums in the box, "we used all the original 1/4-inch, two-track mix masters, so nothing needed to come from multi-track. //Nebraska was the exception. The original album was mixed to a cassette, and we could not cut vinyl from that, so during those Nebraska sessions, I made a 1/2-inch master reel which contains the correct takes, edited together, at the correct speed and with the correct azimuth Bruce wished for the album. That reel was used for the original vinyl cut, cassette masters and CD mastering, and it is what we worked from here."
Courtesy: backstreets.com//

The Nebraska and Born In The U.S.A. sessions really cannot be separated, but a dividing line was created after the solo Nebraska sessions on January 3, 1982. New songs after that date were placed in the Born In The USA sessions section.

Released

# Song Title Running Time Release
1. NEBRASKA 4:25 NEBRASKA
2. ATLANTIC CITY 3:56 NEBRASKA / 1982 single
3. MANSION ON THE HILL 4:01 NEBRASKA / 1982 b-side
4. JOHNNY 99 3:36 NEBRASKA
5. HIGHWAY PATROLMAN 5:36 NEBRASKA
6. STATE TROOPER 3:10 NEBRASKA
7. USED CARS 3:01 NEBRASKA
8. OPEN ALL NIGHT 2:51 NEBRASKA / 1982 single
9. MY FATHER'S HOUSE 5:07 NEBRASKA
10. REASON TO BELIEVE 4:02 NEBRASKA

Total Running Time: 40:48

Visit our release-pages for additional information.

Additional Recordings

Details

STARKWEATHER - V1 1:09 LM-1 / HNWB
STARKWEATHER - V2 1:05 LM-1 / HNWB
STARKWEATHER - V3 take 1 uncirculating
STARKWEATHER - V4 take 2 uncirculating
STARKWEATHER - V5 take 3 uncirculating
STARKWEATHER - V6a take 4 m 4:25 LM-1
NEBRASKA - V6b take 4 mix 1 4:25 NEBRASKA / ESSENTIAL: 2003
NEBRASKA - V6c take 4 mix2 early fade 4:25 uncirculating
NEBRASKA - V6d take 4 mix 3 bad harp 4:25 uncirculating
NEBRASKA - V6e take 4 mix 4 glock 4:25 uncirculating
NEBRASKA - V6f 4:16 NEBRASKA (stereo mix)
NEBRASKA - V7 uncirculating
NEBRASKA - V8 uncirculating
NEBRASKA - V9 uncirculating

Note: The first song recorded, and the first song on the album. V1-V2 are takes of the introduction and first two lines, recorded in late 1981 at Springsteen's home in Colts Neck, NJ. Six takes were recorded on January 3, 1982, including V6b take 4, the title track of the album. V6 above are alternate mixes. Mix #1 is complete, with a 12-string guitar. #2 fades early, #3 is noted as "bad harp no good". Take #4 is with glock. Listed as "Starkweather" in an early song lineup, the song is about the Charles Starkweather murder spree in the 1950s. V7 recorded with the band at The Power Station on April 27-28 and 30, 1982, during the 'Electric Nebraska' sessions.

FIST FULL OF DOLLARS - V1 3:44 FFOD / HNWB / MT2
FIST FULL OF DOLLARS - V2 2:24 FFOD / HNWB
ATLANTIC CITY - V3 1:40 FFOD / HNWB
ATLANTIC CITY - V4 take 1 uncirculating
ATLANTIC CITY - V5 - take 4 4:00 LM-1
ATLANTIC CITY - V6a - take 3 3:56 NEBRASKA / ESSENTIAL / GREATEST
ATLANTIC CITY - V6b - take 3 3:43 NEBRASKA (stereo mix)
ATLANTIC CITY - V7 uncirculating
ATLANTIC CITY - V8 uncirculating
ATLANTIC CITY - V9 uncirculating
ATLANTIC CITY - V10 uncirculating

Note: Before he writes the music, and lastly the lyrics, the first thing Bruce Springsteen does is choose a title! This is how he writes many of his songs, and he chose Fistfull of Dollars from the Clint Eastwood movie. The two demos (V1 & V2) he recorded in April 1981, had the title in them, but they also had quite a few verses written, all about Atlantic City. You can hear him turning pages of his notebook as he worked on them. FFOD never went anywhere, but as for Atlantic City…..
The story continues in late 1981, still at Colts Neck, V3 lines are getting into shape; The rest is Bruce trying variations of the chorus. V4, V5 V6 were recorded on his Portastudio at Colts Neck during a two-week period, December 17 to January 3, 1982, with V6 take 3 chosen for Nebraska. Take 5 v5 is the only outtake from this session. In a letter to Jon Landau, Springsteen noted that "this song should probably be done with the whole band really rockin' out". V7 was cut at The Power Station on April 26-28, 1982, with the band during the 'Electric Nebraska' sessions. Landau insisted on releasing the solo version, "No way was it as good as what he had goin' on that demo tape". The three days working on the full-band arrangement, however, paid off handsomely for years after taking it on the road.

MANSION ON THE HILL - V1a uncirculating
MANSION ON THE HILL - V1b 4:00 LM-1
MANSION ON THE HILL - V1c 4:01 NEBRASKA
MANSION ON THE HILL - V1c 3:55 NEBRASKA (stereo mix)
MANSION ON THE HILL - V2 uncirculating
MANSION ON THE HILL - V3 uncirculating
MANSION ON THE HILL - V4 uncirculating

Note: Written by Springsteen during the River Tour, although the themes found in the song were explored prior to this, during the Darkness sessions. For example, the lyric "there's a palace on the edge of town / risin' from the factories and railroad shacks" can be found in the Darkness box set facsimile book, which is very similar to a lyric found in the final version. The first song completed, and only one recording was made - the four variants above are merely alternate mixes. V2 was recorded at The Power Station on April 27, 28 and 30, 1982. Cut with the band during the so-called 'Electric Nebraska' sessions.

JOHNNY 99 - V1 3:50 FFOD / HNWB
JOHNNY 99 - V2 3:26 FFOD / HNWB
JOHNNY 99 - V3 uncirculating
JOHNNY 99 - V4 take 1 uncirculating
JOHNNY 99 - V5a take 2 3:30 LM-1
JOHNNY 99 - V5b take 2 3:36 NEBRASKA / ESSENTIAL: 2015
JOHNNY 99 - V5c take 2 3:36 NEBRASKA (stereo mix)
JOHNNY 99 - V6 take 3 uncirculating
JOHNNY 99 - V7 uncirculating
JOHNNY 99 - V8 uncirculating
JOHNNY 99 - V9 uncirculating

Note: V1 is similar to the released version, with some lyrical variations. V2 is closer still. Both were recorded at Springsteen's home in Colts Neck, NJ from mid-September to December 1981. Three different, complete, recordings were made on January 3, 1982, but only one has surfaced (V5), in three alternative mixes. One of the recordings has a different ending verse. V7-V9 were later recorded with the band at The Power Station on April 27-28 and May 3, 1982 during the 'Electric Nebraska' sessions.

DEPUTY - V1 uncirculating
DEPUTY - V2 uncirculating
DEPUTY - V3 uncirculating
DEPUTY - V4a 5:30 LM-1 / HNWB
HIGHWAY PATROLMAN - V4b 5:36 NEBRASKA
HIGHWAY PATROLMAN - V4c 5:37 NEBRASKA (stereo mix)
HIGHWAY PATROLMAN - V5 uncirculating

Note: Four different takes were recorded - the three variants of V4 are merely alternate mixes. The original title was "Deputy". In a letter to Jon Landau, Bruce said he "worked very long on this and always had the feeling I was comin up short. Not really finished but is about as good as I can get it at the time. Don't think the ending was quite strong enough". Also recorded with the band at V5 Recorded at The Power Station on April 30, 1982.

STATE TROOPER - V1 uncirculating
STATE TROOPER - V2 uncirculating
STATE TROOPER - V3 uncirculating
STATE TROOPER - V4 uncirculating
STATE TROOPER - V5a 3:05 LM-1
STATE TROOPER - V5b 3:10 NEBRASKA
STATE TROOPER - V5c 3:04 NEBRASKA (stereo mix)

Note: Five takes were recorded. The two variants of V5 are merely alternate mixes. In a letter to Jon Landau, Bruce wrote "I dreamed this one up comin back from New York one night. I don't know if it's even really a song or not, but I did it, so I figured I'd throw it on. It's kinda weird". According to studio logs, not one of the songs attempted with the E Street Band during the so-called 'Electric Nebraska' sessions of April 1982.

USED CARS - V1 3:17 FFOD / HNWB
USED CARS - V2 2:30 FFOD / HNWB
USED CARS - V3 2:45 FFOD / HNWB
USED CARS - V4 uncirculating
USED CARS - V5 uncirculating
USED CARS - V6 take 1 uncirculating
USED CARS - V7a take 2 3:00 LM-1
USED CARS - V7b take 2 3:01 NEBRASKA
USED CARS - V7c take 2 2:59 NEBRASKA (stereo mix)
USED CARS - V8 en uncirculating

Note: V1 recorded at Springsteen's home in Colts Neck, NJ from mid-September to December 1981, similar to the released version with some lyrical and melodic variations. Then four different, complete, recordings were made - only one has surfaced (three mixes). V2 was "a little dirty recording wise", according to Springsteen. V8 recorded at The Power Station on April 30, 1982. Cut with the band during the so-called 'Electric Nebraska' sessions.

WANDA - V1 1:24 FFOD / HNWB
WANDA - V2 take 1 uncirculating
WANDA - V3a take 2 mix 1 2:50 LM-1
OPEN ALL NIGHT - V3b take 2 mix 2 2:51 NEBRASKA
OPEN ALL NIGHT - V3c take 2 mix 3 2:48 NEBRASKA (stereo mix)
OPEN ALL NIGHT - V4 en uncirculating

Note: "Wanda" V1 is a curious demo, the first two verses from "Living On The Edge Of The World", the third from "This Hard Land". Recorded at Springsteen's home in Colts Neck, NJ from late March to early April, 1981. V2 and V3 were recorded January 3, 1982, also at Colts Neck; only V3 has surfaced in three mixes. Listed as "Wanda (Open All Night)" in an early song lineup. V4 was recorded with the E Street Band, at The Power Station on April 27, 1982, during the so-called 'Electric Nebraska' sessions.

MY FATHER'S HOUSE - V1 uncirculating
MY FATHER'S HOUSE - V2a uncirculating
MY FATHER'S HOUSE - V2b 5:35 NEBRASKA (stereo mix) / SFEM / HNWB
MY FATHER'S HOUSE - V2c 5:07 NEBRASKA / CHAPTER

Note: Two different, complete, recordings on separate cassettes were made on May 25, 1982, over five months after the vast majority of the Nebraska tracks were cut. Only one take has surfaced (three mixes). V1 and V2a do not include any synthesizer (the synthesizer was likely added at The Power Station). V2b includes an additional 28 seconds of synthesizer at the end that was cut from the official release. The master tape for this longer version was accidentally sent to Japan in 1985 and released on the first-ever CD print run of the album, as well as a second pressing of the Japanese CD in 1986-87. The long version was also utilized on original 1986-7 export editions of the Japanese CD sent to Europe and the USA. The mistake was eventually corrected on all versions. The long version has not been officially available anywhere since 1995. Some early promotional copies of the album sent to press and radio stations (certainly in the UK, and perhaps worldwide) also included the synth coda.

REASON TO BELIEVE - V1a take 1 4:00 LM-1
REASON TO BELIEVE - V1b take 1 4:02 NEBRASKA
REASON TO BELIEVE - V1c take 1 3:56 NEBRASKA (stereo mix)
REASON TO BELIEVE - V2 take 2 uncirculating
REASON TO BELIEVE - V3 3:34 private
REASON TO BELIEVE - V4 0:50 private
REASON TO BELIEVE - V5 uncirculating

Note: Two different, complete, recordings were made - only one has surfaced, which is take #1. This take circulates in three different mixes. The second (unused) take has an extra verse. Inspired by Springsteen's own experience driving down Highway 33 on his way to Millstone, a township in Monmouth County. V3 and V4 are band rehearsals from Colts Neck in April 1982. V3 is a full-band take (missing the opening lines) of the song Springsteen recorded solo in January 1982. A work-in-progress, with some lyrical variation including an extra third verse. The first verse is sung by Springsteen alone accompanied by electric guitar, before drum and bass join in for the rest of the song. A driving beat features throughout. V4 is a short take of the second verse. V5 is from April 27-28, 1982 with the band at The Power Station. Shortly after Springsteen would decide to release the solo version of "Reason To Believe" on Nebraska.

THE ANSWER - V1 1:56 FFOD / HNWB / MT2
THE ANSWER - V2 3:17 FFOD / HNWB / MT2
LOSIN' KIND - V3 take 1 uncirculating
LOSIN' KIND (Patrolman) - V4 take 2 4:47 LM-1 / HNWB / MTQ / MT2
LOSIN' KIND - V5 take 3 uncirculating
LOSIN' KIND - V6 electric uncirculating
LOSIN' KIND - V7 thw uncirculating

Note: V1 & V2 are portions of two takes that are far from rough demos. Bruce wrote an extensive poem about a troubled young man who had two visions of events, what he perceived in the present, and a spiritual self that could see Frank was headed for disaster. Bruce refers to this as "kind of like a James M. Cain story", and it also could have been a 1940s hard luck Jimmy Cagney movie. Both versions were recorded at Springsteen's home in Colts Neck, NJ between December 20, 1981 and January 3, 1982, and are combined a single file. Springsteen wrote to Landau, "Searched and searched for a better title, spent many hours on this task but no good. I like the verses but I can't seem to find a better punch line. Kind of like a James M. Cain story. Could be done with more of a band arrangement." V4 is an acoustic take on January 3, 1982, one of the 15 Nebraska demos. This is the definitive circulating take, but was not chosen for Nebraska. V5 recorded at The Power Station on April 30, 1982, with the band during the 'Electric Nebraska' sessions. Bruce would make another attempt V6 to record "Losin' Kind" at Thrill Hill West, his Hollywood Hills studio, on March 12, 1983. Without bootlegs, we would never know that "Losin' Kind" exists; officially, it has never been released.

THE BIG PAYBACK - V1 1:56 MT2
THE BIG PAYBACK - V2 1:55 1982 b-side / ESSENTIAL: BONUS / BACK / HNWB

Note: Two different recordings were 'cut at home shortly after the Nebraska album', according to Springsteen's Essential notes. Only one has surfaced. Likely recorded January-April 1982, the exact date is not listed in the studio logs.

VIETNAM - V1 3:15 FFOD / HNWB / MT2
VIETNAM BLUES - V2 2:00 FFOD / HNWB / MT2
BORN IN THE U.S.A. BLUES - V3 2:22 FFOD / HNWB / MT2
BORN IN THE U.S.A. - V4 0:30 FFOD / HNWB
BORN IN THE U.S.A. - V5 4:45 FFOD / HNWB
BORN IN THE U.S.A. - V6 3:10 FFOD / HNWB
BORN IN THE U.S.A. - V7 2:55 FFOD / HNWB
BORN IN THE U.S.A. - V8 4:00 FFOD / HNWB
BORN IN THE U.S.A. - V9a take 1 3:06 LM-1 / HNWB
BORN IN THE U.S.A. - V9b take 1 mix 2 3:06 TRACKS
BORN IN THE U.S.A. - V10 take 2 8:09 THLBB / UH / GS / BUERM / MI
BORN IN THE U.S.A. - V11a take 4 mix 1 4:34 BITUSA / ESSENTIAL / GREATEST / CHAPTER
BORN IN THE U.S.A. - V11b take 4 mix 2 4:52 LM-19 / THLBP
BORN IN THE U.S.A. - V12 uncirculating
BORN IN THE U.S.A. - V13 take 9 uncirculating
BORN IN THE U.S.A. - V14a freedom mix 7:20 1984 EP
BORN IN THE U.S.A. - V14b radio mix 6:10 1984 EP
BORN IN THE U.S.A. - V14c dub mix 7:36 1984 EP

“I’m a long gone daddy I don’t need you anyhow. ”
—Hank Williams 1948

Note: Writing and recording began at Springsteen's home in Colts Neck, New Jersey during October 1981 as the demo, "Vietnam" or "Vietnam Blues". V3 is now titled "Born In the U.S.A. Blues", re-titled after Jon Landau sent Springsteen a Paul Schrader script called "Born In the U.S.A.". V4 is a taken from November 1981, with the lyrics "Born baby in the USA, I believe in the American way". V5 thru V8 were recorded in December, and V9 was recorded on the portastudio Mike Batlan had setup on January 3, 1982. Bruce included it on the "Nebraska demos" cassette tape he sent to Jon Landau. In his notes to Landau, Bruce described the song as a "little ditty. should be done very hard rockin". A copy leaked to bootleggers from Batlan, then V9b was mixed in 1997 and officially released on Tracks in 1998. V10 and V11 were recorded in just four takes (two complete), at The Power Station with the E Street Band, on April 27, 1982. V10 is the 8 minute+ extended jam ending, where Max Weinberg takes his shot at the title, as Bruce would say. V11a (take 4) became the first song on side one of the album, "Born In the USA". V11b continues where 11a fades out, with an extended synthesizer ending; it was leaked out of the sessions, and released unofficially on the bootleg, 'This Hard Land'. V12 represents takes 5-8 on April 28, 1982, and V13 is take 9 on May 3, 1982. V14a thru V14c are dance remixes of V11, undertaken by Arthur Baker, and recorded at Shakedown Studio in New York City in September 1984. Toby Scott was the recording engineer for the remixes (which include additional vocals by The Latin Rascals), which were first released in December 1984.

DOWNBOUND TRAIN - V1 1:11 FFOD / HNWB
DOWNBOUND TRAIN - V2 0.34 LM-10
DOWNBOUND TRAIN - V3 take 3 2:22 LM-1 / HNWB / MT2 / ESRR
DOWNBOUND TRAIN - V4a 3:17 THLRR / BUERM / TDB
DOWNBOUND TRAIN - V4b 3:14 LM-19 / GS
DOWNBOUND TRAIN - V4c 3:29 BITUSA
DOWNBOUND TRAIN - V5 uncirculating
DOWNBOUND TRAIN - V6 uncirculating
DOWNBOUND TRAIN - V7 uncirculating
DOWNBOUND TRAIN - V8 uncirculating
DOWNBOUND TRAIN - V9 uncirculating

Note: V1-V2 were recorded at Springsteen's home in Colts Neck, NJ in late 1981, brief demos which include the closing lines of both the Nebraska take and the final Born In The USA album version. V2 is just harmonies, with no lyrical content. V3 is a full, acoustic run through of the song on January 3, 1982, with the patented Nebraska ending. Described by Springsteen in his notes to Jon Landau as an "uptempo rocker for full effect / needs band / could be exciting". As such V4-V5 were later recorded with the E Street Band at The Power Station, on April 27-28 during the 'Electric Nebraska' sessions. Both V4a and V4b feature Springsteen's vocal count-in, a small lyrical variation in the first verse left over from the acoustic demo ("laid off down at the auto yard", rather than "lumber yard"), some vocal howls in the mid-section, more up-front acoustic guitar over the final verse, and a shorter fade-out. The acoustic guitar is perhaps slightly lower in the V4b mix. Additional sessions were held on May 3 V6 and May 5-6, V7-V8. Bruce returned to "Downbound Train" on V9 February 3, 1983 at Thrill Hill West, his Hollywood Hills garage studio.

CHILD BRIDE 5:22 LM-1 / HNWB / MT2 / GT / MTQ

Note: The only recording known is from a Portastudio Session, Colt's Neck NJ, on January 3, 1982. It is often incorrectly noted as being an alternate title for "Working On The Highway". They are, in fact, separate songs that bear no common melody. In his notes to Jon Landau, Springsteen wrote "in which the protagonist violates the Mann Act and is left to ponder his fate. This is a work in progress, or more like a work without progress. I worked a real long time on this song and could never quite get it right. I spent so much time on it I thought I'd include it to see what you think." As such, Bruce would later set it to an up-beat backing, dispose of the entire original ending and re-invent the song as "Working On the Highway".

COME ON (LET'S GO TONIGHT) - V1 2:32 FFOD / HNWB
BYE BYE JOHNNY - V2 uncirculating
BYE BYE JOHNNY - V3a 1:45 LM-16 trk 10 / UH / GS
BYE BYE JOHNNY - V3b 1:45 LM-18 trk 13
BYE BYE JOHNNY - V3c 1:39 LM-18 trk 10
JOHNNY BYE-BYE - V3d 1:51 1985 b-side / BACK
JOHNNY BYE-BYE - V3e 1:49 TRACKS
BYE BYE JOHNNY - V4 - with the Crickets 2:55 LM-16 trk 11 / MT2 / ESR
BYE BYE JOHNNY - V5 2:58 LM-17 trk 12 / GS
BYE BYE JOHNNY - V6 3:41 LM-17 trk 13 / GS

Note: While he was resting between legs of the River Tour in March 1981, Bruce glanced at his to-do list, which said "recycle orphaned lyrics from "Come On (Let's Go Tonight)", which had lost it's backing track to "Factory" in 1977, when Bruce changed lyrics and song direction. So he whipped together a demo V1, with new music that he recorded at home in April 1981, recycling the title, too. This totally different version of "Come On (Let's Go Tonight)" can be found on Nebraska bootlegs, 'Fistfull Of Dollars' and 'How Nebraska Was Born' under the incorrect name, "Bye Bye Johnny". A dark, foreboding arrangement used the discarded lyrics, including the part about Elvis dying, and became a Nebraska-style song. Just before he was sentenced to three years for being the real-life inspiration for "Child Bride" in 1962, Chuck Berry wrote "Bye Bye Johnny", a sequel to "Johnny B. Goode", where a mother sent her musician son off to Hollywood to be a star. "She drew out all her money from the Southern Trust, and put her little boy aboard the Greyhound Bus" wasn't a big hit for Chuck, but Bruce decided to use those lines in 1981, for a new song that used most of the lyrics from "Come On (Let's Go Tonight)", calling it "Johnny Bye-Bye" V2. He kept the lines about Elvis dying in 1977, added stuff about Memphis, and had a bouncy hillbilly blues thing going. On May 13, 1981, at Manchester, UK's Apollo Theatre, Johnny Bye-Bye became the first song since 'The Ties That Bind' in 1978 to be played live before being recorded. Springsteen sang it thirty-two times on the River tour. He did not record it as part of the January 1982 Nebraska demos at Colt's Neck; the legendary Nebraska version of "Johnny Bye Bye" does not exist. The version on the tape he sent Landau was almost certainly a live July 1981 recording. When the Nebraska tape was backed up in June 1982 in its entirety, alternate takes and all, there was still no "Johnny Bye Bye".
The first studio take of "Bye Bye Johnny" was recorded on April 27, 1982, at the Power Station, New York, during the 'Electric Nebraska' sessions. This audio does not circulate, but we'll call it V2. What would become the official versions were recorded on January 4, 1983 at Bruce's Hollywood Hills converted studio, Thrill Hill West, Los Angeles, CA, and five different mixes circulate. V3d, released February 6, 1985, as the B-side to "I'm On Fire", features a different drum overdub to that found on the mix chosen for Tracks, V3e. V3b and V3c have slight but noticeable variations in their mixes. V4 and V5 were recorded on March 9, 1983 at Thrill Hill West, Los Angeles, CA, and are different takes of a slower acoustic arrangement with a gentle synthesizer backing, slight lyrical differences and overdubbed with chirping crickets at the start and end. By far the definitive performance is V6, from March 24, 1983 at Thrill Hill West, which includes a poignant extra verse at the end, not found on the other versions. "Johnny Bye-Bye" was included on the July 1983 sequence for Born In The U.S.A., but was later deleted. After the lawyers met, Bruce and Chuck became composing partners, the song now registered as Springsteen-Berry.

FADE TO BLACK - V1 4:15 LM-7 / HNWB
FADE TO BLACK - V2 0.50 LM-7
FADE TO BLACK - V3 0:45 LM-10
FADE TO BLACK - V4 3:01 FFOD / HNWB
FADE TO BLACK - V5 2:57 FFOD / HNWB
FADE TO BLACK - V6 uncirculating

Note: "Fade To Black" V1 and V2 were recorded at Springsteen's home in Colts Neck, New Jersey in late June 1981, while V3 was recorded later in the year. The Lost Masters artwork claims that the content of 'Lost Masters X' was recorded in early 1983, but this is doubtful, given that the likes of "Glory Days" and "Wages Of Sin" were recorded at The Power Station in April and May of 1982, respectively. V4 - V5 were also recorded in late 1981 at Springsteen's home in Colts Neck, and are much more developed. V6 recorded with the E Street Band, at The Power Station on May 11, 1982.

RIDING HORSE - V1 0:40 FFOD / HNWB
RIDING HORSE - V2 0:50 FFOD / HNWB

Note: Recorded at Springsteen's home in Colts Neck, NJ from late March to early April, 1981.

ROBERT FORD AND JESSE JAMES - V1 1:15 FFOD / HNWB
JESSE JAMES - V2 4:10 LM-10
JESSE JAMES - V3 1:39 LM-10
ROBERT FORD - V4 uncirculating

Note: V1 recorded at Springsteen's home in Colts Neck, NJ from late March to early April, 1981 just a snippet, with mostly unintelligible lyrics. V2 from Springsteen's home in Colts Neck, NJ from mid-September 1981 thru May 1982, no relation to "Jesse James" from the We Shall Overcome - The Seeger Sessions album. May be related to "Robert Ford And Jesse James" which was demoed in early 1981. Some lyrics are eventually reused in "Outlaw Pete". V4 recorded at The Power Station on April 27, 1982; this may well be a full-band take. Also known as "Robert Ford And Jesse James".

MY HEART IS AN OPEN BOOK 1:30 FFOD / HNWB

Note: Recorded at Springsteen's home in Colts Neck, NJ from late March to early April, 1981 early, embryonic take of a rather strange song.

DANGER ZONE 1:26 FFOD / HNWB

Note: aka "Let The Girl Go Home". Recorded at Springsteen's home in Colts Neck, NJ from late March to early April, 1981.

SUMMER NIGHT 1:15 FFOD / HNWB

Note: Recorded at Springsteen's home in Colts Neck, NJ from late March to early April, 1981.

ALL I NEED - V1 2:50 LM-7 / HNWB
ALL I NEED - V2 uncirculating

Note: V1 recorded at Springsteen's home in Colts Neck, NJ in late June 1981, later soundchecked on July 8, 1981 at Brendan Byrne Arena, East Rutherford, NJ, a recording of which can be found on 'The Lost Masters Vol. V'. Eventually given to Gary U.S. Bonds. V2 was recorded at Hit Factory in January or February 1982. Probably the same core recording as found on the US Bonds album (i.e. the E Street Band) – but with the Springsteen lead vocal.

LONG WAY HOME (instrumental) 1:16 LM-10

Note: Recorded at Springsteen's home in Colts Neck, NJ from mid-September 1981 thru May 1982. Bruce working on his songwriting, comes up with another catchy tune…two faces have I…..

WHEELS MAKE THE WORLD GO ROUND 1:13 LM-10

Note: Song in the early stages of development. Recorded at Springsteen's home in Colts Neck, NJ from mid-September 1981 thru May 1982.

I NEED YOU - V1 2:00 LM-10
I NEED YOU - V2 0:46 LM-10

Note: V1 is a demo from January-April 1982, with incomplete, mumbled or unintelligible lyrics. V2 just contains background vocals. Recorded at Springsteen's home in Colts Neck, NJ from mid-September 1981 thru May 1982.

RULED BY THE GUN - V1 2:21 LM-10
RULED BY THE GUN - V2 5:07 LM-10
RULED BY THE GUN - V3 0:39 LM-10

Note: Recorded at Springsteen's home in Colts Neck, NJ from mid-September 1981 thru May 1982, V1 is an early workout, with some lyrics. V2 is a longer take with more lyrics, although some are mumbled, and V3 features harmonies and guitar work. 'Lost Masters' Error Alert: "Ruled By The Gun" #2 on 'Lost Masters Volume 10' is "Bells Of San Salvador" v1.

CLUB SOUL CITY - V1 0:55 FFOD / HNWB
CLUB SOUL CITY - V2 uncirculating

Note: V1 recorded at Springsteen's home in Colts Neck, NJ from mid-September to December 1981, short take of not much more than the title, repeated. V2 recorded at The Hit Factory in January or February 1982. Probably the same core recording as found on the Gary U.S. Bonds album (i.e. the E Street Band) – but with the Springsteen lead vocal. Known to have been soundchecked twice in 1992 (June 21 in Milan and July 25 in East Rutherford) but never performed live.

VIETNAM BLUES - V1 3:15 FFOD / HNWB / MT2
VIETNAM BLUES - V2 2:00 FFOD / HNWB / MT2

Note: Recorded at Springsteen's home in Colts Neck, NJ from mid-September to December 1981, uses lyrics that will later be found in "Born In The U.S.A." and "Shut Out The Light".

LOVE IS A DANGEROUS THING 3:25 FFOD / HNWB / MT2

Note: well-developed demo. May have evolved into "When The Lights Go Out". Recorded at Springsteen's home in Colts Neck, NJ from mid-September to December 1981.

RED RIVER ROCK (instrumental) 0:57 FFOD / HNWB

Note: Bruce whistling "Red River Rock" over a guitar backing. Recorded at Springsteen's home in Colts Neck, NJ from mid-September to December 1981.

PRECIOUS MEMORIES 1:10 LM-1 / HNWB

Note: warm-up of the traditional song which has also been covered by Bob Dylan. Recorded at Springsteen's home in Colts Neck, NJ from mid-September to December 1981.

DREAM BABY 0:32 LM-1 / HNWB

Note: just the refrain of the Roy Orbison classic. Recorded at Springsteen's home in Colts Neck, NJ from mid-September to December 1981.

Stereo Mix

At some point during the album mixing sessions an alternative "stereo" mix of Nebraska was created, using the original four-track master tape as the source. This alternative mix was ultimately rejected by Springsteen, and he elected to instead use the original mono mix, as is. As a result the stereo mix was, presumably, placed on a shelf somewhere. Somehow, when it came to pressing Nebraska on to CD, this stereo mix was inadvertently shipped to Sony Japan and used for a number of CD releases, starting with the very first Japanese CD of Nebraska, which was issued in the country in 1985 with the catalogue number 32DP 357. The stereo mix was not only issued in Japan, but also utilised for several "Made In Japan" editions that were released in the US (CK38358 / DIDP 20040 11A2) and Europe (CDCBS 25100/DIDP 10040 [CK 38358]) the same year. It was re-issued in Japan in 1988 (25DP 5246) and for the last time in 1995 (SRCS 7860). The mistake was finally rectified in 1999 with the release of SRCS 9471.

It should be noted that since the songs were recorded in mono this is not a true stereo mix. Vocals and guitars remain dead-centre in the mix, and only the added reverb is in stereo. Despite this, the result is two quite contrasting albums. Most obvious difference is the addition of a keyboard coda to "My Father's House" extending the runtime of that song to 5:35, as well as slightly varying lengths of other songs, either due to changes in the fades or faster tape speed / higher pitch. The contrast in pitch is particularly noticeable if you perform an A/B comparison. The audio quality is a quite different experience as well, with the stereo mix providing an ambience and warmth that is not found in the mono original. There are also other small changes to the mix, such as the level of the background vocals at the end of "Atlantic City".

Electric Nebraska Sessions

On January 3, 1982, in a marathon session that went deep into the night, Springsteen recorded guitar-and-vocal tracks for 15 songs, with overdubs on a few. Two others, "My Father's House" and "The Big Payback," were recorded a few months later. But when the band tried to record Springsteen's new material, only four of the songs – "Born in the U.S.A.," "Pink Cadillac," "Downbound Train" and "Child Bride," which was later rewritten as "Working on the Highway" – translated to a full-band arrangement. Three of those wound up on Born in the U.S.A. two years later, while "Pink Cadillac" was the b-side of "Dancing in the Dark." The problem was that the characters were lost and adrift, and the raw, ghostly sound of the demos worked better than the E Street Band's bar-band rock. Six songs – "Atlantic City," "Highway Patrolman," "Johnny 99," "State Trooper", "Losin' Kind" and the title track – deal with characters who have turned to a life of crime. It didn't make sense to put a heavy backbeat to, say, "My Father's House," or a soul-inflected Clarence Clemons sax solo on "Used Cars." Springsteen's harmonica did the trick.

Unable to get the sound he wanted from the band, Springsteen asked engineer Toby Scott if there was any way to put out the cassette of the demos. Scott was able to do his magic, and Nebraska was released, to minimal hype, on Sept. 30, 1982. To this day, the "Electric Nebraska" sessions, outside of those four songs, have not been released either officially or on bootleg. But Springsteen has since figured out how to rock out on half of the Nebraska material. "Atlantic City," "Mansion on the Hill," "Johnny 99," "Open All Night" and "Reason to Believe" have all been somewhat regularly performed by the full band on various tours.

The Electric Nebraska sessions started on April 26, 1982, and ran for two weeks. On this page is the Calendar chart of each day, and the songs recorded.

1. ATLANTIC CITY NEBRASKA

Disclaimer | © 1996 - 2020 | Brucebase

icon_facebook.png icon_twitter.png icon_youtube.png
Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License