Bruce Springsteen announced details of his upcoming LP High Hopes (out January 14th) this morning. It’s unlike any other release in his catalog in that half of the songs have been heard before, either on record or onstage. Three of those tracks are covers from acts that have not received much mainstream exposure, while the other nine are Springsteen originals. Songs like “This Is Your Sword” and “Hunter of Invisible Game” are complete mysteries, but here are earlier versions of the six tunes we’ve heard before.
Hardcore Springsteen fans were shocked when he opened the second show of his 2013 Australian tour with this cover of a 1987 Tim Scott McConnell song. It was recorded by the E Street Band during their 1995 reunion sessions and released the following year on the Blood Brothers EP, but it had never been played live and remained quite obscure. Tom Morello added a fiery guitar solo, making the E Street original seem rather limp by comparison. Still, nobody could have predicted this new arrangement would wind up the title track on a new album.
“Dream Baby Dream”
In December of 1984, Bruce Springsteen raved to Rolling Stone about the New York punk rock group Suicide. “They had that two-piece synthesizer-voice thing,” he said. “[Their track ‘Frankie Suicide’] is one of the most amazing songs I’ve ever heard.” Nineteen years later, he honored the band again by closing out most shows on his solo acoustic Devils and Dust tour with a haunting rendition of their 1979 song “Dream Baby Dream.” A new studio recording of the song surfaced last month in an online video celebrating the fans on the Wrecking Ball tour.
“Just Like Fire Would”
The opening night of Springsteen’s 2013 Australian tour featured a stellar live rendition of “Just Like Fire Would,” a 1986 song by Australian punk legends the Saints. It was the only time the song surfaced on the tour, but during downtime he recorded it at Studios 301 in Sydney. This new version features Tom Morello on guitar.
“American Skin (41 Shots)”
Toward the end of Springsteen’s 1999/2000 reunion tour with the E Street Band he debuted “American Skin (41 Shots)”, which was directly inspired by the tragic death of 23-year-old African immigrant Amadou Diallo. The New York police department mistook Diallo’s wallet for a gun and shot him 41 times outside his Bronx apartment. A vocal minority interpreted the song as anti-police and it generated a ton of controversy. A live version was released on the 2001 LP Live in New York City, and he revived it onstage this summer after George Zimmerman was declared not guilty in the death of Trayvon Martin. This new studio version also features Tom Morello on guitar, though they’ve never played it together in concert.
“The Ghost of Tom Joad”
Rage Against the Machine covered the title track to Springsteen’s 1995 LP The Ghost of Tom Joad on their 2000 disc Renegades, and eight years later Rage guitarist Tom Morello joined the E Street Band at an Anaheim, California gig to play the song live. It was the beginning of Springsteen’s unlikely musical partnership with Morello, and the next year they played it again at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s 25th anniversary show at Madison Square Garden. That version was officially released, and they played it every night on Springsteen’s 2013 Australia tour.
This song about about the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall first surfaced at a 2003 benefit concert for DoubleTake magazine. Springsteen played it again on two Devils and Dust tour stops, but it hasn’t been heard in the past eight years. “The title and idea were Joe Grushecky’s,” Springsteen wrote in a message accompanying the High Hopes press release. “Then the song appeared after Patti and I made a visit to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington. It was inspired by my memories of Walter Cichon. Walter was one of the great early Jersey Shore rockers, who along with his brother Ray (one of my early guitar mentors) led the ‘Motifs.’ The Motifs were a local rock band who were always a head above everybody else. Raw, sexy and rebellious, they were the heroes you aspired to be.”