Nebraska - Studio Sessions

Commercially Released: September 30, 1982
Label: Columbia Records
Produced by Bruce Springsteen
Recorded by Mike Batlan at Colts Neck, New Jersey December 1981 - May 1982
Mixed by Bruce Springsteen and Mike Batlan
Mastered by Dennis King at Atlantic Studios, New York City
Mastering Consultants: Bob Ludwig (Masterdisk) and Steve Marcussen (Precision Lacquer)
Design by Andrea Klein
Photography by David Michael Kennedy


"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. Work-in-progress demos of the Nebraska material circulate among collectors, but these are not professionally made recordings and were never intended to be. Recorded during a break in The River Tour at Springsteen's home in Colts Neck, NJ in late March and early April 1981 and shortly after it concluded, 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.


Perhaps fed-up with the rudimentary equipment, in early December 1981 Springsteen asked his guitar technician, Mike Batlan, to set up a no-frills "porta-studio" in a bedroom of Bruce's Colts Neck, NJ rental home. Some modification work was done to the room to make it more receptive to achieving a decent sound, but it was in no way a professional environment - Bruce would record while sat on a chair positioned at the end of the bed. Batlan purchased a Teac Tascam (Series 144) 4-track cassette recorder, two Shure SM57 mics and two microphone stands. The $900 Teac unit was relatively new to the market, and for the first time allowed multi-track recording for the consumer market, utilizing cheap cassette tapes. The Teac was the beginning of a home recording revolution.

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. Since the Teac deck recorded tape at a faster speed than normal for improved audio quality, the tapes it produced could not be played on a standard cassette player. Therefore, Springsteen and Batlan had to "mixdown" the master tapes. For this, they used two decks - an old Gibson Echoplex and an aging and water damaged Panasonic boom box. The Panasonic had previously suffered a drenching while Springsteen and Garry Tallent were enjoying a canoe trip. Apparently dead, it had sprung back into life some time later while Bruce was watching TV. The Gibson Echoplex was used to add a thick layer of 1950s style echo to every track. Using these unsuitable decks, 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. After listening and offering his feedback, Landau returned the tape to Springsteen and he carried it into the studio in his pocket, with no case.

It was during the E Street Band sessions at Power Station studios in late 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 since "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 early May. Work progressed quickly - by the second week of May the backbone of a new album was complete: "Cover Me", "I'm On Fire", "Darlington County", "Glory Days", and "I'm Goin' Down" were all in the can.

However, Springsteen was not happy. He wasn't used to such smooth progress, it was too easy. Despite having the biggest album of his career at his fingertips, he changed direction. There was something about the performances and atmosphere on the demo tape that stuck in his mind, and so a suggestion was raised: "Why don't you just put out those demos?" However, this would not be a simple procedure since the Teac was a consumer unit, and transferring the mixed master recordings directly to vinyl proved impossible, much to Springsteen's frustration. According to Toby Scott, eventually Bruce handed him his original solo demo cassette tape (still missing the protective case) 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, but the layer of echo it had produced would have to remain. 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 heads of all the Gibson and Panasonic decks used were never cleaned or aligned (the Panasonic also ran imperceptibly fast, perhaps a result of the water damage), 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."

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 U.S.A. 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."

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.


# Song Title Running Time Release
2. ATLANTIC CITY 3:56 NEBRASKA / 1982 single
3. MANSION ON THE HILL 4:01 NEBRASKA / 1982 b-side
8. OPEN ALL NIGHT 2:51 NEBRASKA / 1982 single

Total Running Time: 40:48

Additional Recordings

Song Title Running Time Release
THE BIG PAYBACK 1:55 ESSENTIAL / 1982 b-side
JOHNNY BYE-BYE 1:46 TRACKS / 1985 b-side


Song Title Running Time Release

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. 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. The song was 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'.

ATLANTIC CITY - V4 take 1 uncirculating
ATLANTIC CITY - V5 - take 4 4:00 LM-1
ATLANTIC CITY - V6b - take 3 - stereo mix 3:43 NEBRASKA
ATLANTIC CITY - V7 uncirculating

Note: Two demos (V1 & V2) were recorded in April 1981, under the title "Fist Full Of Dollars", 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. Some lyrics would remain for "Atlantic City", including the opening lines "Well they blew up the chicken man in Philly last night / Now that town sets in for a fight."

The story continues in late 1981, still at Colts Neck with V3. The lyrics are getting into shape; The rest is Bruce trying variations of the chorus. V4, V5 and 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 1, V4 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." And indeed, Bruce went into the studio for two weeks from late April 1982 and spent the first day working on "Atlantic City", and a number of takes were cut at the Power Station over three days on April 26–28, 1982. However these recordings remain unheard; information from various sources suggests this was with the band, but we can't confirm.

BORN IN THE U.S.A. - V1 2:22 FFOD / HNWB / MT2
BORN IN THE U.S.A. - V7a (take 1) 3:06 LM-1 / HNWB
BORN IN THE U.S.A. - V7b (take 1 mix 2) 3:06 TRACKS
BORN IN THE U.S.A. - V8 (take 2) private
BORN IN THE U.S.A. - V9 (take 3) private
BORN IN THE U.S.A. - V10 (take 4) private
BORN IN THE U.S.A. - V11 (takes 5-8) uncirculating
BORN IN THE U.S.A. - V12 (take 9) 8:09 THLBB / UH / GS / BUERM / MI
BORN IN THE U.S.A. - V12b (take 9 edit 2) 4:52 LM-19 / THLBP
BORN IN THE U.S.A. - V13 (take 10) 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

Note: Writing and recording began at Springsteen's house in Colts Neck, NJ during the fall of 1981 with a set of acoustic demos. V1 evolved, both musically and lyrically, from the bluesy demo "Vietnam". V1 includes the chorus "born in the USA" that Springsteen lifted from the title of a script of a Paul Schrader movie given to him by Jon Landau, as well as many lyrical elements that would remain in the final released version. The demo begins its transition with V2, a brief snippet of the "Born In The U.S.A." riff, the opening verse, and then the sardonic chorus "Born baby in the USA / I believe in the American way". V3-V6 were all recorded soon after, and see Springsteen developing the lyrics with every take. V7 was recorded between December 17, 1981 and January 3, 1982 on the TEAC Portastudio that Mike Batlan had set up in Bruce's home, and was included on the demo cassette tape 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 via Batlan and was pressed on 'Lost Masters I' in 1996, before V7b was mixed in 1998 and officially released on Tracks.

When Bruce and the E Street Band entered Power Station on April 26, 1982, the aim was to re-record the songs on his demo tape in a professional studio environment. Logs indicate that work on "Born In The U.S.A." began on the second day, and continued on April 28 and May 3. What work was done on what day is unclear, but it appears that the bulk of the song was recorded across ten takes on a single night, most likely May 3. A Power Station mixsheet dated to May 3 exists, which supports this position. We know that Springsteen initially attempted to re-record his demo tape alone, which may have occurred on April 27 and 28.

On May 3, Springsteen and the band cut a number of takes of a rocking electric reimagining of that original acoustic demo. In take 2 Bruce sung the first verse over his electric guitar, before bass and drum joined in. Take 3 sees Max accompanying Bruce right from the opening, yet the famous organ riff is nowhere to be found. Take 4 begins with Springsteen singing the first verse a cappella, before the band join in. We now skip ahead to take 9, where the riff is now in place alongside other new elements, some of which did not make the final track. Brief audio of the opening verse of takes 2, 3, 4, and the multitracks of take 9 first emerged in April 2022, played by Toby Scott at a public event in Mexico City. Recollections vary as to the origin of the riff; Roy Bittan remembers Springsteen demonstrating the song on acoustic guitar before he improvised the organ riff on a new Yamaha CS-80 synth, and the first take evolved from there. Max Weinberg, however, recalls the first recording was as "a country trio" with a country beat (Max may have been referring to the arrangement found in takes 2-4 above), and the main riff came from Springsteen's guitar. Weinberg doesn't dispute Bittan's memories though.

The eight minute V12 is the full length of take 9. With some edits, including using all or parts of take 10 (V13) for the ending, this take eventually became the first song on side one of Born In The U.S.A (V12b). V12c continues where V12b fades out with an extended synthesizer ending. Toby Scott recalls a total of eight to ten takes, with take six (or nine, recollections seem to vary) as the master. V14a-V14c are 12" dance remixes by Arthur Baker that were recorded at Shakedown Studios in New York City in September 1984. Toby Scott was the recording engineer for the remixes (which include additional vocals by The Latin Rascals), and all were mixed by Bob Clearmountain. The remixes were first released in December 1984. Baker utilized several aspects of the original mixes that were removed for the final album take.


Note: The only recording known is from a Portastudio session at Colts Neck 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", although there is audio evidence (a band rehearsal of "Working On The Highway" that pre-dates the recording of "Child Bride") that indicate he was working on both songs simultaneously.

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.


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

DOWNBOUND TRAIN - V3 take 3 2:22 LM-1 / HNWB / MT2 / ESR
DOWNBOUND TRAIN - V5 uncirculating

Note: V1 and V2 are brief acoustic demos that were recorded at Springsteen's home in Colts Neck, NJ in late 1981. V1 includes the closing line used in both the Nebraska take and the final Born In The U.S.A. album version: "don't it feel like you're a rider [baby], on a downbound train." 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."

Power Station logs show sessions took place on April 27 and 28 and May 3, 5 and 6 (V4). V4a features Springsteen's 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. Nearly a year later Bruce returned to "Downbound Train" on February 3, 1983 (V5) at Thrill Hill West, his Hollywood Hills garage studio. However, it was the 1982 cut that was issued on Born In The U.S.A. in 1984.


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

FADE TO BLACK - V2 0.50 LM-7
FADE TO BLACK - V3 0:45 LM-10
FADE TO BLACK - V6 uncirculating

Note: V1–V5 are all acoustic demos recorded at Springsteen's home in Colts Neck, New Jersey. V1 is an early demo with basic lyrics while V2 is merely harmonies, both were probably recorded in late June 1981. V3 (which consists of the title repeated over a basic melody) was possibly recorded later in the year. The Lost Masters artwork claims that the contents of 'Lost Masters X' were recorded in early 1983, but this is doubtful, given that the likes of "Glory Days" and "Wages Of Sin" were recorded at Power Station in April and May of 1982, respectively. V4 and V5 are identical performances combined into a single track on both 'How Nebraska Was Born' and 'Fistfull Of Dollars'. Both are listed here for completeness. This performance (probably from late 1981) is much more developed, and includes the line "you're crying in the corner, makeup running down your face," which is similar to a line found in "Wages Of Sin". According to logs, V6 was recorded at Power Station on May 11, 1982 - this take could be solo or with the band.

DEPUTY - V1 uncirculating
DEPUTY - V2 uncirculating
DEPUTY - V3 uncirculating
DEPUTY - V4a 5:30 LM-1 / HNWB
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." Logs show takes at Power Station on April 30, 1982, either solo or with the band.

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.

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 stereo mix 3:36 NEBRASKA
JOHNNY 99 - V6 take 3 uncirculating
JOHNNY 99 - V7 uncirculating

Note: V1 is similar to the released version, with some lyrical variations. V2 is closer still. Both are acoustic demos 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. In late April 1982 Bruce recorded takes at the Power Station on April 27–28 and May 3, 1982. These cuts may be solo or with the band.

JOHNNY BYE-BYE - V2 uncirculating
JOHNNY BYE-BYE - V3a 1:45 LM-16 trk 10 / UH / GS
JOHNNY BYE-BYE - V3b 1:45 LM-18 trk 13
JOHNNY BYE-BYE - V3c 1:39 LM-18 trk 10
JOHNNY BYE-BYE - V3d 1:51 1985 b-side / BACK
JOHNNY BYE-BYE - V4 2:55 LM-16 trk 11 / MT2 / ESR
JOHNNY BYE-BYE - V5 2:58 LM-17 trk 12 / GS
JOHNNY BYE-BYE - V6 3:41 LM-17 trk 13 / GS

Note: 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." Bruce decided to use those lines in 1981 in the opening verse of a new song that used most of the lyrics from Darkness On The Edge Of Town outtake "Come On (Let's Go Tonight)", calling it "Johnny Bye-Bye".

The story begins between legs of the River Tour in March 1981 when Springsteen recorded an acoustic demo (V1) at his home, combining lyrics from "Come On (Let's Go Tonight)" with some newly written lyrics over a new dark and foreboding arrangement. This recording can be found on bootlegs 'Fistfull Of Dollars' and 'How Nebraska Was Born' under the title "Bye Bye Johnny". The Elvis Presley references already contained within "Come On (Let's Go Tonight)" made a perfect match with Berry's classic, keeping the lines about the death of Elvis and adding lines about Memphis.

Springsteen premiered his new song on May 13, 1981 in Manchester, UK with a short spoken introduction: "I think everybody remembers where they were when they heard that Elvis died, it is a hard thing to understand". The refrain "come on, come on, let's go tonight" remained in place at the end of the first and second verses, and "bye-bye Johnny, oh Johnny bye-bye" was now added at the close, solidifying the connection to Berry's original. Despite performing the song regularly on the River Tour, Bruce did not record it as part of the January 1982 Nebraska demos at Colts 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 "Johnny Bye-Bye" was recorded on April 27, 1982, at Power Station, New York. This audio does not circulate, but is listed above as V2. In all likelihood, this is a solo take. Studio documentation shows that Springsteen returned to the song in the winter of 1983, with sessions on January 4, March 9, and March 24 at Bruce's Hollywood Hills converted studio at his home in Los Angeles, now arranged with a bouncy hillbilly blues rhythm and a re-written third verse. According to the Tracks liner notes, the official V3 was recorded in January, 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 at Thrill Hill West 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, 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 did not make the final cut. After the lawyers met, Bruce and Chuck became composing partners, the song now registered as Springsteen-Berry.


Note: Brief instrumental recorded at Springsteen's home in Colts Neck, NJ from mid-September 1981 thru May 1982.

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 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.

V4 is an acoustic take on January 3, 1982, one of the fifteen demos that Springsteen put on a tape. This is the definitive circulating take, but was not chosen for Nebraska. 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." V5 was recorded at Power Station on April 30, 1982. At that time Springsteen was attempting to re-create that demo tape magic in a more professional environment - this take could be solo or with the band. A year later Bruce would make one more attempt to record "Losin' Kind", this time at Thrill Hill West, his Hollywood Hills studio, on March 12, 1983 (V6). Without bootlegs, we would never know that "Losin' Kind" exists; officially, it has never been released.


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.

MANSION ON THE HILL - V1a uncirculating
MANSION ON THE HILL - V1c stereo mix 3:55 NEBRASKA
MANSION ON THE HILL - V2 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 "Mansion On The Hill". The first song completed for Nebraska, and only one recording was made - the four variants above are merely alternate mixes. Springsteen recorded multiple takes at Power Station on April 27, 28, and 30, 1982 either solo (Springsteen would re-record the Nebraska tracks around this time in a failed attempt to reproduce his demos in a professional environment) or with the band.

MY FATHER'S HOUSE - V1 uncirculating
MY FATHER'S HOUSE - V2a uncirculating
MY FATHER'S HOUSE - V2b stereo mix 5:35 NEBRASKA / SFEM / HNWB

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 1986/87 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.


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.

STARKWEATHER - V1 1:09 LM-1(17) / HNWB
STARKWEATHER - V2 1:05 LM-1(18) / 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(1)
NEBRASKA - V6b take 4 mix 1 4:25 NEBRASKA / ESSENTIAL: 2003
NEBRASKA - V6c take 4 mix 2 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 stereo mix 4:16 NEBRASKA
NEBRASKA - V7 uncirculating

Note: The first song recorded, and the first song in the final running order, for Nebraska. V1 and 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 line-up, the song is about the Charles Starkweather murder spree in the 1950s. "Nebraska" was later recorded over three days at Power Station on April 27, 28 and 30, 1982; these recordings could be either solo or with the band, or possibly both.

WANDA (OPEN ALL NIGHT) - V2 take 1 uncirculating
WANDA (OPEN ALL NIGHT) - 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 stereo mix 2:48 NEBRASKA
OPEN ALL NIGHT - V4 uncirculating

Note: In early 1981 Springsteen took the storyline and lyrics from 1979 River outtake "Living On The Edge Of The World" to create a new composition, "Open All Night". The first audio we have is a curious solo acoustic demo that was recorded at Springsteen's home in Colts Neck, NJ during a gap in the River Tour in late March or early April 1981. The opening verses of this demo are lifted from "Living On The Edge Of The World", while the third is from another Born In The U.S.A. outtake, "This Hard Land". Two takes were included on Springsteen's demo tape, V2 and V3. Both were recorded between December 17, 1981 and January 3, 1982, also at Colts Neck; only V3 has surfaced in three different mixes. The only song on Nebraska with electric guitar accompaniment. Springsteen used the title "Wanda (Open All Night)" in an early song line-up. A number of takes were recorded by Springsteen at the Power Station on April 27, 1982. It is unknown if these are with the band or solo, and any completed recordings remain in the vault.


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.

REASON TO BELIEVE - V1a take 1 4:00 LM-1
REASON TO BELIEVE - V1c take 1 stereo mix 3:56 NEBRASKA
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: On January 3, 1982 two complete recordings were made but 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 is a full-band rehearsal (missing the opening lines) of the song Springsteen recorded solo in January 1982. This performance is a work-in-progress, with some lyrical variation including an extra third verse, suggesting it was recorded before "Reason To Believe" was completed, probably during a band get-together at Springsteen's house some time between the end of the River Tour and late December 1982. 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 just the second verse. V5 is multiple studio takes from April 27–28, 1982 at Power Station. These takes could be solo or with the band.

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.


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

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 Power Station on April 27, 1982; this is probably a solo take. Also known as "Robert Ford And Jesse James".

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.

STATE TROOPER - V1 uncirculating
STATE TROOPER - V2 uncirculating
STATE TROOPER - V3 uncirculating
STATE TROOPER - V4 uncirculating
STATE TROOPER - V5c stereo mix 3:04 NEBRASKA

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, Bruce did not attempt to re-record "State Trooper" in April 1982, unlike the majority of the songs found on the Nebraska demo tape.


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

THE BIG PAYBACK - V2 1:55 ESSENTIAL / 1982 b-side / HNWB

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

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 stereo mix 2:59 NEBRASKA
USED CARS - V8 uncirculating

Note: V1–V3 are acoustic demos 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). Take 1 was "a little dirty recording wise," according to Springsteen. V8 was cut during sessions at the Power Station on April 30, 1982, and could either be solo or with the band.


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".


Note: Short acoustic demo in the early stages of development that was recorded at Springsteen's home in Colts Neck, NJ at some point between mid-September 1981 and May 1982.

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".

Band 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 September 30, 1982. To this day, the fan-named "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.

According to the logs that we have, sessions started on April 26, 1982 at Power Station, and ran for three weeks (May 14). In the first week Bruce concentrated on the Nebraska material, possibly with the band. At some point in the sessions he attempted (apparently unsuccessfully) to reproduce the atmosphere of the demo tape - this may have occurred in the first week, but that is unconfirmed. By the next Monday Bruce changed tack and moved on to the band material. On this page is the Calendar chart of each day, and the songs recorded.

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