Springsteen and Southside live at the Agora – 1978!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I Don’t Wanna Go Home
Havin’ A Party