On The Tracks 2.20 – The Pre-Nebraska Tapes
PRE NEBRASKA DEMOS
Harsher performance than on “Nebraska“. Includes a reference to the “Mansion on the Hill” as a symbol of the afterlife. Thematically it’s identical to the released version. After the title character is convicted of murder the song ends like this:
“Well I’m heading for that mansion on the hill I’m a thirsty man, gonna get my fill I don’t care what you say, Mr. Smith or Mr. Brown Step in my way and I’ll shoot you down Until the day that you understand It was more ‘n all this that put that gun in my hand“
FIST FULL OF DOLLARS V1 3.44 FFOD
V2 2.24 FFOD
Same story as “Atlantic City” w/o any mention of that town. This is an earlt version of that song with some of the lyrics which were later used. Sounds like Springsteen wants it to have a Bo Diddly beat. The signature lyric in “Fist Full of Dollars” goes like this:
“Some are gonna stand and some are gonna fall Some ain’t gonna get to play the game at all Where they give you the worst and they take the best For a fist full of dollars and a little bit less“
BYE BYE JOHNNY 2.32 FFOD
Again a much harsher performance than eventually released. No mention of finding Elvis‘ body, closer lyrically to “Let’s Go Tonight” but with the whole trip to Memphis for the funeral included. Ends with Bruce screaming “I wanna dance, I wanna dance, I WANNA DANCE!!” very weird.
FOLLOW THAT DREAM
Rambling performance w/most of the eventual lyrics in place but no real melody.
DANIEL IN THE LION’S DEN 0.47 FFOD
short clip, very fast and hard to understand. Does not appear to resemble the later version much.
THE MAN WHO GOT AWAY
Springsteen opens this song by moaning for 30 seconds and then sings a story very similar to “My Father’s House“. A Son leaves his family and friends and they’re all left to think about the man who got away.
RIDING HORSE 0.39/0.48 FFOD
Funny song about a guy who’s girlfriend is rather tall. “I gotta girl so tall and fair I need a stepladder to run my fingers through her hair”. He equates their lovemaking to riding a horse.
A short performance but unquestionably the same song he recorded as “My Love Will Not Let You Down” in 1982-83.
PARTY LIGHTS 1.00 FFOD
Fast take. The melody and song structure ends up on “Living On The Edge” and Bruce later uses the backing for “Fade Away” on a more complete acoustic demo of the song.
SUMMER NIGHT 1.10 FFOD
He mumbles for a minute. Sounds like the title I have but it could be anything.
MY HEART IS AN OPEN BOOK 1.25 FFOD
Bouncy little love song that owes a lot to Buddy Holly. Writtin in chapters. He tries it out twice, very different each time.
ROBERT FORD 1.11 FFOD
Very different from the Lost Master demo. Jesse James is mentioned but isn’t the focus of the story.
OPEN ALL NIGHT 1.20 FFOD
Sweet ballad that starts out with all the lyrics to the Nebraska song and halfway through evolves into “This Hard Land“. A minute and a half long but still a stunner.
DANGER ZONE (Let the Girl Go Home) 1.26 FFOD
Again he kinda mumbles his way through this. No idea what it’s about. Very short.
The full tape is 35 minutes long and has demos very similar in quality to the “Chevy Delux” demos from 1979. The first 4 songs are complete, the rest of the titles are fragments ranging in time from 20 seconds to 2 minutes.
The versions of “Follow That Dream” and “Bye Bye Johnny” are definitely prior to the 1981 European tour. The version of “Fist Full of Dollars” mentions the death of Phillip Tesla (the Chicken Man) which occurred in March of 1981. This makes it almost certain that this tape was recorded sometime the last week of March or the first week of April, 1981.
I have to admit to being a little confused over the “Fist Full Of Dollars” release as it does not appear to contain all the tracks on the tape that was known. Either they have left some off for some reason, or it’s a different source tape with less on it. Time will tell no doubt.