Bruce Springsteen – The Legendary 1979 No Nukes Concerts To Be Released

Back in the ’70s, the No Nukes movement was alive and well (and yours truly even attended some protests.) I did not go to this concert but I remember the event well. And my first experience of the E Street Band was in this timeframe, specifically in 1977 when Bruce was in that “can’t record due to lawsuit” limbo. His most recent album had been Born to Run- Darkness was still a year out. (Seeing all the cool bands is damn near the only benefit I can think of about being old.)

In an article in Rolling Stone called Bruce Springsteen on Why He’s Finally Releasing His Full 1979 ‘No Nukes’ Shows, the Boss says. “I had some voodoo thing about that. Film and television were relatively cool mediums, and we were a hot band. I said, ‘If you want to feel that heat, you need to be at that show.’”

According to RS, he “made a rare exception to that rule in September 1979, when he agreed to perform at two No Nukes benefit concerts at Madison Square Garden alongside Jackson Browne, Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, Crosby, Stills & Nash, Bonnie Raitt, Jackson Browne, the Doobie Brothers, and Carly Simon.

“They were filming it,” Springsteen says. “They said, ‘You’ll have a choice of whether you’re in the movie or not.’ That meant I didn’t have to think about the cameras since I knew I could throw it away if I wanted to.” While he let the filmmakers use a few songs, most of them wound up in a vault.

Well, you’re in luck Springsteen-O-Maniacs. On November 16, a documentary called The Legendary 1979 No Nukes Concerts, is released for purchase on all digital film outlets. Three days later, it will be available as a two-CD plus DVD or two-CD plus Blu-Ray package (as well as on LP), and on the 23rd it will be up for digital rental.

The concert – held in November 1979 – did not come out of nowhere. The Three Mile Island meltdown had happened several months prior. Musicians United for Safe Energy approached Bruce to “help guarantee that Madison Square Garden would be packed for the final two shows of the five-night stand.

“That was a critical moment,” says Springsteen. “My friend Jackson Browne was very involved. He’s an activist and I was sort of a hired gun. But I was curious to see where else I could take my music, and where it would be helpful. We had enough success where I felt like I should be doing something with it, and that was where I was at that moment.”

Among other tunes, Springsteen played a then-new song, “The River,” which was basically the life story of his sister Virginia who was (somewhat uncomfortably) in the audience. “That song was a real turn in my songwriting,” says Springsteen. “I felt like I had broken through to a narrative type of songwriting that I previously hadn’t quite [figured out],” he says.

“That turned into Nebraska and The Ghost of Tom JoadDevils and Dust, and so many other things. That one song birthed so many other incarnations and so much other music. It was a really critical song in my development and I knew it when I wrote it.”

The film ends with a nine-minute version of the 1961 Gary U.S. Bonds classic “Quarter to Three,” complete with false stops and Bruce collapsing on the stage James Brown-style and getting revived by Clarence Clemons and a towel-waving Steve Van Zandt. (That’s Show biz – ME)

It also made him realize once again that he erred in not allowing the band to be filmed on many other occasions back then. “I wish we had filmed all the time,” he says. “It was a mistake. It was just a young, youthful, insecure, mistake at the time. I wish we’d filmed at least every tour we’d done once. That would have been really nice.”

Looking ahead, Springsteen hopes he can return to the road next year to finally support 2020’s Letter To You with a tour. “I’m hoping,” he says. “Like a lot of people. Everyone’s hoping. We’re just trying to figure out how to do that, like everyone else. If we can, if it’s possible, we will be [touring]. If it’s just not safe or not practical, we’ll be waiting it out like everyone else. We’re waiting and doing our best to see.”

In the meantime, No Nukes will allow concert-deprived fans to experience the E Street Band at the height of their powers. “It’s wonderful,” Springsteen says. “If you missed 1975 Hammersmith Odeon, it’ll knock your socks off. And if you weren’t around in 1979, it will show you what we were all about.”

Shoutout to Rolling Stone for much of this content.

Oh, and Happy 72nd birthday, Bruce.

35 thoughts on “Bruce Springsteen – The Legendary 1979 No Nukes Concerts To Be Released

  1. Thanks, Jim, this definitely looks intriguing. For all the Springsteen-O-Maniacs, who haven’t see it yet, here’s the setlist from brucespringsteen.net:

    Prove It All Night
    Badlands
    The Promised Land
    The River
    Sherry Darling
    Thunder Road
    Jungleland
    Rosalita Come Out Tonight
    Born To Run
    Stay
    Detroit Medley
    Quarter To Three
    Rave On

    And here’s the trailer. The amazing thing is Springsteen pretty much still rocks like this today at age 72!

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HUO41TDicD0&t=105s

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  2. I remember seeing a clip from some special where they showed the crowd “Broooocing!” and Petty making the comment something to the effect “It’s a good thing his name isn’t Fred” 😀

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        1. Dunno. It was pretty funny when he said it in that drawl of his. Petty was great but there aren’t too many performers in Bruce’s league.

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        2. Agree. Might have been him just joking. I’m glad that Springsteen is finally doing things like this. He also has been releasing classic shows of his like once a month or so for sale on his website – ones that were all the classic bootlegs – nice to hear them in better quality.

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  3. Back in the day there were only a few clips of Bruce kicking around. The ‘Rosailita’ one and a couple from this show. ‘The River’ if I recall. I remember some controversy around Bruce not making a statement about the cause. He let his music do the talking and helped raise dough. Nuff said. I was fortunate to see this stage of his career a couple times. Hard to beat him back then.

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    1. There is also a video from London that’s pretty good. Looking forward to this one. Didn’t realize you’d seen him in this era. The band in their prime.

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      1. June 78. Probably close to the same set list. The show was honed to the bone. If you google BS Vancouver Queen Elizabeth Theater there’s the set list and someone posted some pics from the show. You sent me down memory lane.

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        1. I think the capacity of that place was between 2500 – 3500. Probably the loudest show i was ever at. Id hop down to see him in Seattle too. I think it was a Xmas eve show but Im a little foggy on that one. I dont have instant recall like you.

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        2. I wish I did. I regret I didn’t save every ticket stub. BTW, I re-recorded that classic rock medley. It will make its way to the blog sooner rather than later and let the chips fall where they may.

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        3. I do remember much of those early shows and the cuts he played. Clarence ripped up ‘Paradise By the C’. He got people running back to their seats at intermission. The US Bonds was a killer encore. Not one weak spot.
          Good for you on pulling the trigger. Ill be tuning in. I hope folks get to hear daddy cool do his thing.

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        1. Yes, the loss of Federici and Clemons changed everything. And they are no longer young men. But hey, as long as they can still play upwards of 4 hours, how can we complain?

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        2. Well, we’ll get to see if those marathon shows are here to stay next year if rumours are true – along with the Letter To You songs there are rumblings of Tracks Vol 2 coming real soon

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        3. I’m holding out for “The Wild, The Innocent pt. 2 – Return to the Boardwalk.” Wherein we find out what ever became of Sandy, Rosalita, Billy, Diamond Jackie, Kitty, etc.

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        4. It’s rumoured to be more of a whole ‘lost’ albums project – the ‘electric’ Nebraska, the shelved album from the mid-90s…. but according to The Promise, Billy works downtown.
          As for the rest… I like to think there’s a little loophole in the space time continuum that allows that little piece of Asbury boardwalk life to go on forever and unaltered somewhere just out of reach of all the modern world and its bullshit.

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        5. The Wild The Innocent.. just keeps going up in my rankings. I listened to it in its entirety while queuing for petrol yesterday and it still sounded amazing – can make anything better. If I revisit my listings it’s gonna jump a few places

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        6. Tony, when you comment, do you click any of the boxes that are there? I ask because every time you ‘like’ or comment on something, it sends me an email telling me you’re a new follower. I checked with WordPress on this and that was their only guess. They wanted me to first rule that out.

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        7. The phone app? Ok, well that’s good to know. From an “ability to communicate” point of view, this is no big deal. Doesn’t affect you at all. But for whatever reason, your comments and/or likes trigger an email to me. (This one didn’t.) Gremlins I suppose.

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        8. Yeah or sometimes just replying through my notifications on the desktop app – sorry if I’ve been cluttering up your inbox

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        9. So odd. Hasn’t happened these past two comments. I won’t worry about it unless it gets crazy. If it does, I can take you out of the ‘subscribed’ list and you can re-subscribe. Could be something as stupid as that.

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