On Aug. 9, 1978, Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band played the Agora in a performance broadcast live on WMMS. It has since become the most famous Springsteen bootleg of all time. The show was part of a free small-club tour Columbia Records hoped would revive The Boss’ fame, after it began to fade following Born to Run. The man who made WMMS into an FM rock giant, John Gorman, brought Springsteen to town for that show and was in the audience.
The Agora was the best rock club in America. I’ve been to rock clubs in a lot of cities during the same period of time and nothing compared to what we had at East 24th Street.
Cleveland was in chaos at the time. City services were falling apart, the crime rate, everything. … 1978 was the best of times and the worst of times. But the one thing that was happening — the most positive thing in Cleveland — was rock ‘n’ roll. If you were young, you knew you were living in the hotbed of rock ‘n’ roll.
Springsteen played much longer than he was supposed to. You can always tell a person who was really at that show because they get so passionate they’ll talk your ear off. I’ve seen many, many, many concerts over the decades, and nothing compares to the electricity I saw that night. It was one of those things where the audience and the band were in a mind meld. Watching that show, it was just like one high after another. It just kept building and building, and building and building. … Max Weinberg, the drummer, said it was the best concert they’d ever done in their life.
The only thing that went wrong that night is Springsteen did a second encore, which was “Twist and Shout,” that did not get broadcast originally. Luckily, they ran tape on it. If you listen to the bootlegs, you’ll hear that it’s slightly different fidelity than the rest of it.
In those days, radio ratings were different. … We were only rated for 16 weeks out of the year and this Springsteen concert happened outside of ratings. I remember it being a hot, sticky, rainy, kind of terrible August evening. So, people weren’t outdoors. They were inside. Those radios had to be cranking everywhere.
We were already calling ourselves the rock ‘n’ roll capital of the world. But that night with that Agora concert, we proved it. The only thing I could say after that concert was: “What are we going to do next? How do we top this thing?”
— as told to Jim Vickers
Discover the limited edition Bruce Springsteen book, The Light in Darkness.
The Light In Darkness is a collector’s edition, we are almost sold out. Less than 200 copies remain.
A great companion piece to The Promise box set, it focuses on the 1978 Darkness on The Edge of Town album and tour.
Read about the iconic concerts from fans who were there – the Agora, Winterland, Roxy, MSG, Capitol Theatre, Boston Music Hall, The Spectrum and over seventy more!
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The Light in Darkness