Twenty-six years ago, Bruce Springsteen not only teamed up with his longtime buddy Joe Grushecky to produce his LP American Babylon, but he also joined his band the Houserockers for a series of special club gigs they dubbed the October Assault Tour.
Bootlegs of those shows have circulated in Springsteen fan circles for years, but they’re releasing the 13 songs from the Nick’s Fat City gig in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, as part of a 25th-anniversary edition of American Babylon (available on CD and vinyl this week), which also includes three previously unheard Springsteen/Grushecky demos from the time period. Here’s a lyric video of “Light of Day” from the Pittsburgh concert. They didn’t film any of the shows, but the video includes plenty of photos.
Grushecky first met Springsteen in 1980 when the Iron City Houserockers were recording their album Have a Good Time But Get Out Alive! near the studio where Springsteen and the E Street Band were cutting The River. One day, Steve Van Zandt was brought over to play on the Grushecky song “Junior’s Bar.”
“[Van Zandt] was going back and forth between our session and The River with Springsteen and the E Street Band,” Grushecky told Rolling Stone in 2011. “One night I walked with him to the Power Station and he introduced me to Bruce. Over the years we became friends. We had a lot of similarities in upbringing and age and the whole nine yards. He was playing the same songs in New Jersey that I was playing here in Pittsburgh.”
Grushecky was dropped by his label in 1984, and he took a job as a special education teacher to support his young family. And even though Springsteen’s life and career went in a wildly different direction during this time, he remained close to Grushecky, and they started collaborating on new songs together in the Nineties.
“I had this really good lyric for a song called ‘Homestead’ and I had written some music,” Grushecky said in 2011. “Bruce had been encouraging me to write some better songs. My music wasn’t up to the standard of the lyrics. I said, ‘Hey, if you want to do something with this, be my guest.’ Lo and behold, we started writing together.”
That one writing session lead to American Babylon and the October Assault Tour, where they played a set that mixed tunes from the new album with covers like “Brown Eyed Girl” and “Mustang Sally” and a handful of Springsteen originals like “Murder Incorporated” and “Light of Day.”
They never made another album together, and Grushecky works at Sto-Rox High School as an Emotional Support Teacher to this day, but he’s remained tight with Springsteen and they have performed together numerous times over the years, most notably at the annual Light of Day Parkinson’s charity event in Asbury Park. On November 12th, they’ll be interviewed together on Apple Music Hits by George “Strombo” Stroumboulopoulos.