The next time I saw Bruce Springsteen was at Wembley Arena in May of 1981, on The River tour, and by this time the shows had become marathons, with 30 songs or more. I took my girlfriend Jenny, the first time she ever saw him, and she’s remained a fan ever since.
When Bruce was next in London he’d graduated to the big stadium next door, three shows no less on July 3, 4 and 5. I went to all three, on the 3rd with tickets supplied by CBS and on the 4th and 5th with tickets bought from touts. I simply enjoyed the first night so much I didn’t want to miss any of them
On the 3rd the concert was followed by an after-show party for which the invitations were ‘Bruce Passports’, scans of which are below. Bruce didn’t show but some the E Streeters were there.
On the 4th – American Independence Day – Bruce walked out alone, armed with only an acoustic guitar and sang The River track ‘Independence Day’, a ballad, to a crowd of 80,000 or more who’d been waiting around for hours and were gagging for rock’n’roll. That took bottle, I thought. Then it was into a blistering ‘Born In The USA’. On one of the shows – I can’t remember which – Bruce played the Stones’ ‘Street Fighting Man’, doubtless because it refers to ‘London town’. He did the same thing in Hyde Park fairly recently, expect he chose the Clash’s ‘London Calling’ that time.
Towards the end of all those Wembley concerts Bruce broke off to relate a monologue about how he and Steve Van Zandt climbed over the wall of Graceland, Elvis Presley’s Memphis home, in 1976. He’d seen a light in an upstairs window and wondered whether Elvis was up there, reading maybe, but as he walked through the grounds he was stopped by a guard. “I told him I had a band, that I was playing at a club in town,” he told us. “I even said I’d been on the cover of Time and Newsweek but this guy just looked at me and threw me out.”
In the event Elvis wasn’t home anyway. A year later Elvis would die at Graceland. “I used to wonder what I would have said if Elvis came to the door… it was like he came along and whispered some dream in everybody’s ear and somehow we all dreamed it. And maybe that’s why we’re all here tonight. I remember later when a friend of mine called to tell me he had died. It was so hard to understand how somebody whose music took away so many people’s loneliness and gave so many people a reason to live and a sense of all the possibilities of living, could have died so tragically. It’s easy to let the best of yourself slip away. So I’d like to do this song for you tonight, wishing you all the the longest life and the best of everything.”
The song was ‘Can’t Help Falling In Love’, with Bruce leading a choir of 80,000 in his tribute to the King. Then he and the band went headlong into a 20-minute ‘Twist And Shout’ to close the shows.