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


1973 is the year Bruce Springsteen becomes a jukebox graduate, a band leader, and producer. He wrote twice as many songs as he needed for his second album, and had to grow up and make some very hard choices, which left "Santa Ana", "Zero and Blind Terry", "Thundercrack" and "The Fever" in the dust. David Sancious joined the band mid-way during the sessions, and quickly asserted his influence, helping to create "New York City Serenade" from two existing compositions, and adding his jazz arrangements to "Kitty's Back" and "The E Street Shuffle".

Following the completion of the debut LP sessions in October 1972, "Greetings From Asbury Park, NJ" was commercially released January 5, 1973. 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 Tiguara" 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 be found as the coda to another song from April, "New York Song".

Recording sessions for the The Wild, The Innocent & The E Street Shuffle (WIESS) album are thought to have begun in mid-May 1973, but according to records now in the possession of Sony, only two songs were worked on, "Circus Song" and "The Fever". However, there are also indications these records are not complete; in fact, there appears to be a legacy of missing information from 914 Sound Studios from June 1972 to March 1975. Studio time at 914 Sound was slotted in during various itinerary breaks in the Greetings tour. However sessions dragged on much longer than originally anticipated, and this eventually caused some gig rescheduling and cancellations during the July – September period. Contrary to myth, Columbia Records executives did not overrule any proposed track selections for the album, but their influence was felt.

Sessions took place at 914 Sound Studios June 22-26 to record the base tracks. On June 28, 1973, David Sancious joined the not-yet-known-as-the-E-Street-Band, and only contributed overdubs, mixes and additions. 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. They continued on June 28-July 2, July 11-16, August 4-12 and September 10-25, and included contributions by Suki Lahav (vocals), Richard Blackwell (congas, percussion) and Albee Tellone (baritone sax). Sancious overdubbed his parts onto recordings, embellished additional “frills” instrumentation, vocals and experimented with different mixes. No audio evidence has yet emerged that any of the basic recordings of were re-recorded from scratch with Sancious. Indeed, one of the most noteworthy aspects to the audio evidence that has emerged from the WIESS Sessions is that there is not one genuine alternate take to be found – all song recording variations are merely alternate mixes of the same basic recording. According to studio logs, just one song was recorded but has not yet circulated in any fashion, the intriguing "Fire On The Wing".

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. “The Fever” had gained a following on the radio after Appel leaked it to radio stations, but Springsteen dropped it, and the others, from the final track sequence for the WIESS. The seven songs that made the cut were all that could fit on a single 12" vinyl pressing. Springsteen remembers: “I wrote several wild, long pieces … that were arranged to leave the band and the audience exhausted and gasping for breath.” Springsteen had not compiled nearly enough material for Columbia to consider releasing a double album. In fact, the WIESS almost didn’t come out. One night in August, CBS A&R chief Charlie Koppelman and Kip Cohen drove up to 914 Studios, and made Appel and Bob Spitz play an early version of the album. Koppelman's reaction was, “Fellas, we may have run 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, Springsteen “restructured”, remixed and “got rid of the filler.” When Koppelman took another listen, he acquiesced, and the album was given a firm date on Columbia’s fall release schedule.

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