Springsteen and Southside live at the Agora – 1978!


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Here’s something guaranteed to put a quick thaw on your post-New Year’s winter doldrums.

Let’s turn back the clock thirty years. 1978 was an astounding year for rock and roll in Cleveland.

WMMS was ten years old – and we threw a year-long anniversary celebration. The actual anniversary was August, 1968, when prior owners Metromedia changed the call letters of WHK-FM to WMMS. We intentionally overlooked the fact that WMMS was not in a rock format for the entire decade. We did use it as a marketing tool to procure artists for free concerts and $1.01 shows by adding a “Tenth Anniversary” tag to it. We did and it worked.

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Though there were many WMMS Tenth Anniversary concerts and events, the one that will always be first and foremost is Bruce Springsteen’s live concert broadcast at the Agora on Wednesday, August 9, 1978. For many Springsteen aficionados that show stands as Bruce and the Band’s all-time best live performance. I concur.

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Springsteen had played the Agora four years earlier – June 3, 1974, when few knew his name and music. Note the misspelling of Springsteen’s name in the Agora ad.

The club was a little over half-full. Some of those at the show were college students from the Jersey Shore and Philadelphia. Springsteen played for just short of two-hours and the concert was edited to fifty minutes for its Wednesday, 10 PM broadcast on WMMS.

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That show had been originally scheduled for February 18th – but was canceled, along with three other dates on the tour, due to the hasty departure of original E Street Band drummer Vinnie Lopez.

The WMMS Tenth Anniversary Springsteen show was Springsteen’s second performance at the Agora. It was carried live on WMMS and on an ad hoc network of regional stations: WABX/Detroit, WDVE/Pittsburgh, WEBN/Cincinnati, WLVQ/Columbus, WXRT/Chicago, KSHE/St. Louis and KQRS/Minneapolis.

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Springsteen and members of his E Street Band returned to the Agora 22 days later.

It was the end result of an accidentally-on-purpose booking of another Springsteen-connected Jersey Shore band – Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes. They headlined a WMMS Night Out at the Agora on Thursday, August 31, 1978 – the day before the long Labor Day weekend.

Coincidentally, Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band were booked at the Richfield Coliseum the same evening.

978 was also the debut of Onstage at the Agora on WJW, Channel 8 in Cleveland, which was simulcast on WMMS. Southside Johnny’s concert was the second show to be taped for the series.

At the conclusion of the show, the surprise guests appeared – Bruce, Miami Steve, Clarence, and other E Streeters – and jammed with the Jukes for three songs: “The Fever,” “ I Don’t Wanna Go Home,” and “Havin’ A Party.”

Regrettably, Miami Steve would not allow that segment of the concert to be broadcast on TV and it had to be cut for the Onstage at the Agora show. He felt it would take attention away from Southside’s performance.

Over the last few years, the Southside-Springsteen video from that show found their way into cyberspace. Just in case you haven’t seen them – here’s the omitted video from that amazing night.

Little known fact: Following the Coliseum show and prior to the Agora performance, Springsteen taped an interview with WNEW-TV /New York for PM Magazine .

For more on Bruce Springsteen see Chapter 15 of The Buzzard.

The Fever

I Don’t Wanna Go Home

Havin’ A Party

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22 Responses to “Springsteen and Southside live at the Agora – 1978!”

  1. Hey John,
    I am really enjoying your blogs. It’s great to think back to that era!
    This is not really a comment about Bruce, but the other phenomenal concerts in 1978.
    Who can forget the 3 awesome World Series of Rock concerts with the Stones having a record 83,000 screaming fans in attendence? Also, the November 17 Heart concert that was broadcastlive from the coliseum to 9 East Coast cities. The list goes on and on. …..
    Just heard about your book and can’t wait to get it. Thanks to you and all the other Buzzards for contributing to all our great memories.

  2. As a fan of “The Boss” the late seventies early eighties were great times to catch Springsteen live in Cleveland. But of all the shows I went to (including a New Years Eve show) the Agorga show was the best for him and the band and the best rock show I ever saw.

  3. & I helped with the damage by loading up my ’78 Chevy wagon with Southside, road manager Pete Croken and various Jukes and we headed out to the Coliseum for the Bruce show.

    Hitting the backstage, we had tickets and passes waiting and then hung out with the band before the show. They gave us the section on the side of stage left but, as the show began, more and more people spotted Johnny & came over looking for autographs.

    Crocken said, “Let’s get out of here.” That wagon wasn’t in the good a shape but we made record (LeBron speed) time getting back up I-77 to downtown (I was praying nothing would fall off the car at that speed). Then Bruce showed up after his show, but that’s a whole tale for another time.

  4. […] Former WMMS program director John Gorman has a great remembrance of the show: […]

  5. […] 9, is the 30th anniversary of Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band’s legendary free WMMS 10th Anniversary concert at the Cleveland Agora on E […]

  6. […] Springsteen and Southside live at the Agora 1978 (Gorman) Thirty Years Ago – The WMMS 10th Anniversary Concert with Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band – Live at The Cleveland Agora! (Gorman) […]

  7. […] WMMS own John Gorman, program director of the Cleveland, OH radio station shares some of his memories in his blog “THE BUZZARD – Inside the Glory Days of WMMS and Cleveland Rock audio”.

    The finest story in his great blog adventure book is the one about a night in August 1978, when the Jukes hit the stage at the AGORA, and a guy who was just playing in the neighborhood showed up to join the party.[…]

  8. Lindi Reichel Says:

    I’ve got a bootleg, two eight-track recording of this concert. (I have to wedge a folded up piece of cardboard just right to hear only one track at a time, but what a show!!)

  9. Just out of college and I worked the door that night. What a night. Seems like yesterday.

  10. Great, Great!!! Can I get a copy??

    • I’ve got an MP3 of the concert taken from the soundboard of the FM broadcast. Let me know if you are still looking for it.
      Cleveland Rocks!

      • Paul, Not sure if I’m getting to you.. Having problems with my server. I would like a copy of the mp3..
        Thanks.

      • Hey Paul-
        I was at the Agora show and had the whole concert on cassettes (taped by an unlucky friend who did NOT have tickets and listened at home!)
        Any chance I can get the concert from you? My precious cassettes of the concert were eaten by my car many years ago!
        THX

      • Paul,

        Had a cassette of the show that disappeared. Would like to get a copy if you would be kind enough to share it. Please advise me how to obtain it . Thanks, Fred

  11. Ya, Cleveland Rocks! For sure that night.. Yes I want a copy… Get back to me..

  12. Ted Stevens Says:

    TommyZ, go here for a download of the 1978 Agora concert…it’s amazing, I just downloaded it.
    http://addictedtovinyl.com/blog/2008/05/10/just-in-time-for-summer-bruce-springsteen-the-e-street-band-live-at-the-cleveland-agora-8978/

  13. Ted, thank you.. Sorry I didn’t get to you sooner.. I was out of country.. As you said ” AMAZING “.. Music is live with his personality, this concert is special..And as you said, the download was perfect.. Hope to find a copy of his visit with SouthSide Johnny during the same week that was live on radio.. Thanks again!!!!!!!!!!!!

  14. TommyZ ….
    Sorry about the delay. I can still provide you with an MP# of the ’78 Agora concert if you need it. I’ll try to check this blog a bit more regularly!

  15. Thanks for posting this. The entire story is totally cool.

  16. Was at the Coliseum show and when I heard about the SSJ “duet” afterwards, I was heartbroken for missing that *secret* concert @ The Agora. I didn’t get tix to see Bruce live at The Agora broadcast show om 8/9. Instead, I have vivid memories of sitting in my bedroom in Mentor on a raint night…. recording (cassette!) the live show for posterity! Who’d have thought all these years later I’d be discussing these memories online from Ft.Myers, FL —where I now live 😉 Life is grand —and so was Springsteen in Tampa 2012!

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