“I’ve got an old friend around here somewhere,” Steve Van Zandt told the crowd near at the end of his set at Asbury Park’s Paramount Theater on Wednesday night. “I don’t know where.” That seemed like a safe bet that Bruce Springsteen was somewhere in the house, but it wasn’t certain until Disciples of Soul kicked into “Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out” and Springsteen walked out onto the stage as the crowd went into complete hysterics. “Little Steve and the Disciples of Soul!” Springsteen yelled into the mic before beginning the song.
It was an almost mirror image of their set just four days earlier at the Saban Theater in Beverly Hills, California when Springsteen also came out for “Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out.” And just like that show, he followed it up with “Sun City” and Southside Johnny’s “I Don’t Want To Go Home.” But just because it was a cross-country rerun, it was no less thrilling for the Asbury Park crowd.
“Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out” played a vital role in Steve Van Zandt’s history with Springsteen and the E Street Band. The guitarist was good friends with Bruce going back to their teenage days playing little clubs around Asbury Park in their respective bands and played together in Steel Mill between 1970 and 1971. But when the E Street Band came together the following year, he wasn’t a part of it. That changed when he visited the Record Plant in the summer of 1975 near the end of the Born To Run sessions. The group was recording “Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out” and struggling to find the right horn arrangement for Randy and Michael Brecker to play on the song.
Steve, however, heard the whole thing in his head and walked right into the studio and gave the Breckers specific instructions. “He was totally, absolutely cocky confident that he had it — and he did have it,” producer Mike Appel said. “The Brecker brothers followed him immediately…He was the savior of that horn session. It was completely his idea. Nobody else offered anything in the way of changing any of the notes or anything like that. It literally stayed the way he did it from the moment he got [the Breckers] started on it.”
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When the E Street Band hit the road to support Born To Run in late July of that year, Van Zandt was their newest member. He left in 1984 to fully devote himself to his solo career, a decision he later said cost him an absolute fortune because he missed out on the lucrative Born In The USA tour. He’s found time for both in his life today, and now that Springsteen says he has the songs for another E Street Band album, their story has at least one more chapter to go.