The Wild, The Innocent & The E Street Shuffle - Studio Sessions - Overview


Following the completion of the debut LP sessions on October 26, 1972, Greetings From Asbury Park, New Jersey was commercially released January 5, 1973. Despite positive critical response, it sold 22,000 copies. Springsteen continued composing new material after the sessions ended, and was allegedly supplied with a reel-to-reel recorder by Mike Appel and/or Jim Cretecos to make home demos on his own. No audio from September-December 1972 has ever emerged, but a recording session was held at 914 Sound Studio, Blauvelt, NY on January 29-30, 1973, where takes for "Saga Of the Architect Angel", "Ballad Of A Self-Loading Pistol", "Janey Needs A Shooter", "Winter Song", and "I Met Her At A Tourist Trap In Tijuana" were made. On February 19-20, 1973, "Song For Orphans" was recorded, and probably "Tokyo" and "Vibes Man"; this is unconfirmed, but stylistically and chronologically speaking the recordings of "Tokyo" and "Vibes Man" are the only ones that fit the timeline. Previously thought to date from mid-1972, both seem to fit the E Street Band rather better than the solo songs Springsteen was composing in 1972. "Tokyo" was played live with the band in April 1973, while "Vibes Man" would later become the coda to "New York City Serenade", after Bruce combined it with another song from early 1973, "New York [City] Song".

Recording sessions for The Wild, The Innocent & The E Street Shuffle (WIESS) are thought to have begun in mid-May 1973, but so far, records for only two songs have been found, "Circus Song" and "The Fever". However, there are indications of a lot of missing information from 914 Sound Studios, between June 1972 and March 1975. Studio time at 914 Sound was slotted in during breaks in the Greetings tour, and often took place after midnight, when the owners were not around. Though only two sessions are on record, Bruce did not perform between May 13 and 23. According to Craig Statham in Springsteen - Saint in the City, "The recording went on for four months, with a total of 50 days and nights of studio work". It is reported Columbia Records executives did not overrule proposed track selections for the album, but their influence was felt, and there were threats that there would be no album at all.

According to known studio logs, sessions began at 914 Sound Studios on Friday, June 22, 1973 to record the base tracks, but the final live performance before this was on June 15, and sessions may have begun the following week, or much earlier in May. On June 28, David Sancious rejoined the not-yet-known-as-the-E-Street-Band, and contributed overdubs and mixing help to tracks already recorded. In a late 1970s interview in Thunder Road magazine, Sancious verified that most of the session songs had already been recorded by the time he joined. Four is the actual number, there are no June log entries for "4th of July, Asbury Park (Sandy)", "Incident on 57th Street" and "Rosalita (Come Out Tonight)". Contributions were made by non-band members Suki Lahav (background choir vocals), Richard Blackwell (congas, percussion) and Albee Tellone (baritone sax). Sancious overdubbed instrumental tracks and background vocals onto recordings, and experimented with different mixes. No alternate takes of the album tracks have ever been released or bootlegged, but we know there were many, especially "Circus Song", which was re-named "Wild Billy's Circus Story" for the album. Alternate mixes of "Kitty's Back" and "4th Of July, Asbury Park (Sandy)" do circulate, along with a recording of "New York City Song" from June 22, before it ceased to exist. According to studio logs, two song were recorded that have not circulated in any fashion, "Fire On The Wing" and "Never On A Sunday. There may be more, we only have information on a fraction of the recording sessions.

Some critics looking back have commented that songs such as "Santa Ana", "Thundercrack", "Zero and Blind Terry", "The Fever" and "Seaside Bar Song" might have formed the core of a strong record. "Fever" became an underground hit after Appel leaked it to radio stations, but Springsteen did not include it, and the others, on the final track sequence, because there was no room. The seven songs that made the cut were all that could fit on a 12" vinyl pressing, and Columbia had no interest in a double album. Springsteen remembers, "I wrote several wild, long pieces…arranged to leave the band and the audience exhausted and gasping for breath", but "Incident" and "Rosalita" were chosen over "Zero" and "Thundercrack" in the end.

One night in August, Columbia A&R Chief Charlie Koppelman and Kip Cohen drove up to 914 Sound Studios, and made Appel and Bob Spitz play an early version of the album. Koppelman's reaction was, "Fellas, we may have come to the end of our days with Bruce Springsteen. This is not an album we are going to put out." When Appel reported back to Springsteen, Bruce "restructured, remixed and got rid of the filler", and added "Incident On 57th Street" and "Rosalita (Come Out Tonight)" in September. When Koppelman played the finished album, he acquiesced, and it was released on November 5.

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