Nebraska - Studio Sessions


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Commercially Released: September 20, 1982
Produced by Bruce Springsteen
Recording Engineer: Mike Batlan
Recorded at Thrill Hill East (Springsteen’s home studio), Colts Neck, NJ, on or about January 3, 1982*

* except “My Father’s House” and “The Big Payback”, both recorded at the same location later - see notes below.

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, accomplice of Charles Starkweather], and it just seemed to be a mood that I was in at the time. I was renting a house on 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 stops the recorder then returns sometime later to add more ideas…and so on and so forth.

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 River tour, and then from mid-September 1981 thru May 1982 (mostly 1981) following the end of The River 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.

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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. Below is 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 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 listed above 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 utilising 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 Nebraska sessions on January 3, 1982. New songs after that date were placed in the BITUSA section, along with 3 songs that made the album, BITUSA (song), Downbound Train, and Working On the Highway. The starting point for Nebraska was the material Springsteen started recording after The River was completed. In all 30 songs are listed here, 11 released, 19 unreleased. Part two of the Nebraska-BITUSA period follows, covering 1981-1984.

Released

1. NEBRASKA 4:25 NEBRASKA
2. ATLANTIC CITY 3:56 NEBRASKA
3. MANSION ON THE HILL 4:01 NEBRASKA
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
9. MY FATHER'S HOUSE 5:07 NEBRASKA
10. REASON TO BELIEVE 4:02 NEBRASKA

Visit our release-pages for additional information.

Additional Recordings

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

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

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

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

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. Also recorded with the band at The Power Station in April 1982 during the so-called "Electric Nebraska" sessions. 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 - V5 take 3 3:30 LM-1
JOHNNY 99 - V6a take 2 3:36 NEBRASKA / ESSENTIAL: 2015
JOHNNY 99 - V6b take 2 3:36 NEBRASKA (stereo mix)
JOHNNY 99 - V7 uncirculating

Note: V1 is similar to the released version, with some lyrical variations. V2 is closer still. Recorded at Springsteen's home in Colts Neck, NJ from mid-September to December 1981.
Three different, complete, recordings V4 V5 were made on January 3, 1982, but only one has surfaced (three mixes)V6. One of the recordings has a different end verse. V7 was recorded at The Power Station April 27-28 and May 3, 1982 with the band 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: V1 curious demo, the first two verses are 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 different, complete, recordings were made - only one has surfaced (two mixes). Listed as "Wanda (Open All Night)" in an early song lineup. V4 Recorded at The Power Station on April 27, 1982. Cut with the band during the so-called 'Electric Nebraska' sessions. Working title was "Wanda".

MY FATHER'S HOUSE - V1 uncirculating
MY FATHER'S HOUSE - V2a uncirculating
MY FATHER'S HOUSE - V2b 5:35 NEBRASKA (stereo mix) / SPEM / 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. Also recorded with the band at The Power Station in April 1982 during the so-called "Electric Nebraska" sessions.
V3 and V4 are band rehearsals from Colts Neck in April 1982 during the so-called 'Electric Nebraska' sessions. 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. V2 is an short take of just the second verse. V3 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 - see the timeline below for more detail.

THE ANSWER - V1 1:56 FFOD / HNWB / MT2
LOSIN' KIND - 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 en uncirculating
LOSIN' KIND - V7 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. He had awareness and intelligence, but also passions and self-destructiveness, "that he couldn't resist". He beat, injured and possibly killed one person while robbing a bar, then crashed his car, almost killing his female accomplice and himself, all in a few early morning hours. Both versions were recorded at Springsteen's home in Colts Neck, NJ in late 1981, 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 the definitive circulating take, but was not chosen for Nebraska. Springsteen may have felt it was unfinished, or without an acceptable, or like "The Promise", it was too personal, dark or emotional. Many feel it is one of Springsteen's finest unreleased songs, and that it should have been released on Tracks. 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 and bachelor pad, on March 12, 1983. V5-V6 have never been released.

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

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.

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: Recorded at Springsteen's home in Colts Neck, NJ in late June 1981, V1 is an early take. V2 is merely harmonies. V3 Recorded at Springsteen's home in Colts Neck, NJ from mid-September 1981 thru May 1982. The Lost Masters artwork claims that the content of Lost Masters X was recorded in early 1983 - this is somewhat unlikely given that the likes of "Glory Days" and "Wages Of Sin" were recorded at The Power Station in April and May of 1982, respectively. Late 1981-early 1982 is far more likely. V4 - V5 recorded at Springsteen's home in Colts Neck, NJ from mid-September to December 1981, much more developed than the take recorded in late June. Subsequently recorded with the band at The Power Station in May 1982. V6 recorded at The Power Station on May 11, 1982. Cut with the band after several solo demo workouts in mid-late 1981.

COME ON (LET'S GO TONIGHT) - V1 uncirculating
COME ON (LET'S GO TONIGHT) - V2 2:07 DO-3 / UP / SC / LUTHER
COME ON (LET'S GO TONIGHT) - V3 2:10 LM-3 / LMEC2 / AM / UP
COME ON (LET'S GO TONIGHT) - V4 2:09 DDO / DO-1 / UP / DDOC / LES
COME ON (LET'S GO TONIGHT) - V5 2:16 PROMISE
THE FACTORY SONG - V6a 2:20 ODM / HOD / UP
THE FACTORY SONG - V6b 2:15 AM
FACTORY - V6c 2:15 DARKNESS
COME ON (LET'S GO TONIGHT) II - V1 2:32 FFOD / HNWB

Note: "Come On (Let’s Go Tonight)" was written in the Spring of 1977, and V1 was cut on June 1, 1977, complete with Vox [organ], at Atlantic Studios, on the first night of the Darkness sessions. The band picked up the rhythm quickly, but Bruce had much work to do on the lyrics. V2 is the earliest take we have in circulation, a rough workout, from either July 2 or 13 at Atlantic Studios, but further progress was needed on the lyrics. At this point, Bruce had written, "Well a man and he lost his only wife, He walks down the streets, babe, with death in his eyes, Well everybody wants heaven, but nobody wants to die, Come on, come on, lets go tonight." Two out of three verses had "death in their eyes". "Come On (Let's Go Tonight)" V3 represented a sudden shift; though it retained it's name (Sony logs show all sessions to the end of 1977 under this name), the lyrics were radically rewritten to the story of Douglas Springsteen, Bruce's father, who worked at a machine factory under harsh conditions. A well-known interview quote from Bruce, "I remember my old man was working in this plastics factory…and all I remember, when we used to go in that place, was him standing near ’em loud fucking machines". Now he sang "Factory takes his hearing, but he understands", but the third verse was the outcome of working under these conditions, "End of the day, factory whistle cries, Men walk through these gates with death in their eyes, And you just better believe, boy, somebody's gonna get hurt tonight, It's the working, the working, just the working life". It is possible that Bruce worked with both ideas for a while, but after September, all energies went toward "the Factory Song", though it was not named this until January 2, 1978. The only thing that remained from "Come On" was "death in their eyes". The new lyrics were worked on August 23, 24 and 30, and September 8, 1977 at the Record Plant. Also starting now was Roy Bittan playing his piano Floyd Cramer style to give it a Chet Atkins produced-country feel. Danny's organ was not in the mix at this point. V4 from November 2, 7, and 8, 1977 features violin overdubs by David Lindley, a well-known musician who played with Jackson Browne. V5, released on the "The Promise: The Darkness On The Edge Of Town Story" box set in 2010, is the finished take of "Come On (Let's Go Tonight)", with 2010 overdubs of David Lindley's violin. It is not known if there is a 1977 version of "Come On" with Lindley, though it could have been done easily enough, and it is not confirmed that V5 was completed in 1977. It still has it's first verse, modified by two words, "Put on your black dress baby, and put your hair up right, there's a party way down in factory town tonight, I'll be going down there if you need a ride, Come on, come on, let's go tonight", and adds the part about Elvis died (August 16, 1977), which had not been on any 1977 outtakes, until now. It is otherwise stripped of it's original lyrics, which went to "Factory", along with it's music, which is borrowed for the Promise take. The vocal is vintage, but the recording date has not been determined. The other parts of the song could easily have been assembled from existing tracks. V6 came from December 9 and 29, 1977, and overdub/mixing sessions on January 2, March 10 and 14, 1978, all at the Record Plant. The 1978 sessions were under the name "The Factory Song". Danny recorded new organ tracks which featured prominently in the final album version 6c. Bruce recorded new vocals, and changed, "Factory takes his hearing, but he understands" to "Factory takes his hearing, factory gives him life". V6c is mix take 28 from April 3, 1978, and it was pressed to metal acetate with the title "Factory Song" on April 12, 1978.

What ever happened to "Come On (Let's Go Tonight)"? In March 1981, Bruce wrote new music and recorded a demo at his home in Colts Neck, NJ, that 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, "Come On (Let's Go Tonight) II" V1. However, Springsteen decided to dump it once more, combining several lines, the Elvis part, new verses, and the first two lines from Chuck Berry's "Bye Bye Johnny", to create "Johnny Bye-Bye".

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
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: Not much more than a repeated guitar riff. Recorded at Springsteen's home in Colts Neck, NJ from mid-September 1981 thru May 1982.

UNTITLED (instrumental) 1:20 LM-10

Note: Guitar riff and harmonies. Recorded at Springsteen's home in Colts Neck, NJ from mid-September 1981 thru May 1982.

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 1:27 LM-10
RULED BY THE GUN - V3 5:07 LM-10
RULED BY THE GUN - V4 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 and V4 feature harmonies and guitar work, V3 is a longer take with more lyrics, although some are mumbled. From January-April 1982.

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 - V1 3:15 FFOD / HNWB / MT2
VIETNAM - 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 USA" 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 noticable 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 Spingsteen'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 back beat 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 one week, with an extra day or two in May. On this page is Calendar chart of each day, and the songs recorded.

1. ATLANTIC CITY NEBRASKA
2. NEBRASKA NEBRASKA
3. MANSION ON THE HILL NEBRASKA
4. JOHNNY 99 NEBRASKA
5. OPEN ALL NIGHT NEBRASKA
6. REASON TO BELIEVE NEBRASKA
7. BORN IN THE U.S.A. BITUSA
8. DOWNBOUND TRAIN BITUSA
9. JOHNNY BYE-BYE NEBRASKA
10. ROBERT FORD NEBRASKA
11. WILLIAM DAVIS NEBRASKA
1. ATLANTIC CITY NEBRASKA
2. NEBRASKA NEBRASKA
3. MANSION ON THE HILL NEBRASKA
4. JOHNNY 99 NEBRASKA
5. REASON TO BELIEVE NEBRASKA
6. BORN IN THE U.S.A. BITUSA
7. DOWNBOUND TRAIN BITUSA
8. WILLIAM DAVIS NEBRASKA

1. WORKING ON THE HIGHWAY BITUSA
2. NEBRASKA NEBRASKA
3. MANSION ON THE HILL NEBRASKA
4. HIGHWAY PATROLMAN NEBRASKA
5. LOSIN' KIND NEBRASKA
6. USED CARS NEBRASKA
7. GUN IN EVERY HOME BITUSA
8. ON THE PROWL BITUSA

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