ASBURY PARK - One of the coolest things about Bruce Springsteen is his penchant for making unannounced guest appearances, particularly at Jersey Shore clubs.
No, it doesn't happen very much these days, although it probably would have in April at the Wonder Bar, were it not for a pesky power outage. With Bruce working five nights a week on Broadway, no doubt he needs a bit of down time on his two days off.
But back in the 1980s, guest appearances, especially in Asbury Park, happened pretty frequently.
At the end of August 1989, for example, Asbury Park Press music writer Matty Karas wrote, "New Jersey Bruce Tramps have had the chance to see Springsteen on about two dozen nights over the past three months in one of the most extensive bouts of public club-hopping Springsteen has engaged in in years.
"He has performed, unannounced, at clubs in Asbury Park, Long Branch, Neptune, Point Pleasant Beach and Sea Bright, joining various bands for impromptu jams that have ranged from three minutes to more than an hour."
Always remember: If Bruce's name isn't on the ticket, there's no guarantee he's going to show up anywhere, no matter what the rumor mill may say. Go to see bands because you like them and want to support them, not because you hope The Boss will make an appearance.
If he happens to show up with a band you love, well, that's just an added bonus.
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Bruce at the Wonder Bar: Bruce Springsteen dances with mom at Wonder Bar to celebrate her birthday
There is always something special about a summer Springsteen jam at the Shore. What are your favorite Springsteen bar appearances? Tell me in the comments.
Here are five memorable Springsteen summer nights in Asbury Park:
Aug. 8, 1982, The Stone Pony, with Cats on a Smooth Surface
From early May through early October, Springsteen played 33 times at Jersey Shore clubs, including 14 times at the Pony in Asbury Park. His favorite band to jam with that summer? Pony house band Cats on a Smooth Surface.
Cats on a Smooth Surface ticket (Photo: Billy Smith Collection)
Back then, Cats included Bobby Bandiera on lead guitar and vocals, Harry Filkin on rhythm guitar and vocals, Peter Schulle on keyboard, Pete Gagen on drums, Ray Planet on sax and bass player John Micco.
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Springsteen actually rehearsed with Cats at Tower Recording Studios in Farmindale before joining them onstage this night for a rousing set that marked the band's fourth anniversary.
Learn more about Bruce's "summer bar tour" in 1982 in the above video.
The setlist (along with all other setlists in this story) is courtesy of our friends at the indispensible Brucebase:
Ready Teddy / From Small Things (Big Things One Day Come) / Around and Around / Jersey Girl / You Can Look (But You Better Not Touch) / Having a Party / Detroit Medley - Shake - Sweet Soul Music.
June 8, 1984, The Stone Pony, with the E Street Band
Less than a month before the start of the tour that would catapult him to superstar status, Springsteen convenes the E Street Band at his favorite club for a warmup show. World premieres at this special show include "Glory Days," "Darlington County," "My Hometown," and "Born in the U.S.A."
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The Wonder Bar, just off the Asbury Park boardwalk, where Robert Francis, 31, the self-proclaimed Dork of Deception, can be found performing. (Photo: Olivia Malesco)
The tour warmup show was one of three guest appearances by Bruce at the Pony in the first 10 days of June. On May 26, he had jumped onstage at nearby Xanadu, located at the corner of First Avenue and Kingsley Street (where Porta now is), for the first public performance of "Dancing in the Dark," with the band Bystander.
Setlist: Thunder Road / Out in the Street / Prove It All Night / Glory Days / The River / Darlington County / Dancing in the Dark / The Promised Land / My Hometown / Born in the U.S.A. / Badlands / Born to Run.
Aug. 9, 1987, The Stone Pony, with the E Street Band
Springsteen and the E Streeters played two consecutive Sundays at the Pony in August 1987. The first performance, on Aug. 2, was actually a bit longer, but I threw this one in there for selfish reasons; I was there that night. Nils Lofgren was absent, but Springsteen was joined by the rest of the E Street Band on a sultry night at the Shore.
Playing for Christmas money: Bruce Springsteen and band played for their Christmas money in 1973
A torrential rainstorm began shortly after the band left the stage and the sweat-soaked audience stumbled out into pouring rain. There was so much water in the street it seeped inside my friend's car that night. But we were so buzzed by what we'd just seen (and maybe a few beers), that we didn't even care.
Setlist: Light of Day / Darlington County / I'm Bad, I'm Nationwide / Fortunate Son / Ruby Baby / Stand By Me / Hang Up My Rock and Roll Shoes / Glory Days / Having a Party / Twist and Shout.
July 17, 2011, Wonder Bar, with the Sensational Soul Cruisers, featuring J.T. Bowen
Just about a month after the death of Springsteen's long-time bandmate and chief onstage foil, Clarence "Big Man" Clemons, The Boss joined a tribute in Asbury Park to Clemons, featuring the Soul Cruisers and J.T. Bowen.
Bowen was the lead singer in Clemons' band, C.C. and the Red Bank Rockers.
Springsteen joined the band for a joyous set of soul covers and one original, Bruce's "Action in the Streets," a staple of the Soul Cruisers set. Springsteen had not played the song live since 1977.
Setlist: Action in the Streets / Savin' Up / Ain't Too Proud to Beg / Sweet Soul Music / Shake / You Can't Sit Down / Raise Your Hand / Knock on Wood / 634-5789 (Soulsville, U.S.A.).
Bruce Springsteen and saxophonist Eddie Manion with Joe Grushecky and the Houserockers at the Wonder Bar, July 18, 2015. (Photo: Chris Jordan)
July 18, 2015, Wonder Bar, with Joe Grushecky and the Houserockers
The last time Springsteen has played a club show was one of his best, as he joined old friend Joe Grushecky for a raucous two-hour set on a hot and steamy night in Asbury Park. Saxophonist Eddie Manion, who has toured several times with Springsteen and the E Street Band, was also onstage at a packed Wonder Bar.
They played 15 songs together, including Grushecky classics "Pumping Iron" and "Talking to the King," and Boss-penned favorites "Darkness on the Edge of Town," "Adam Raised a Cain," and "The Promised Land."
By the end of the two-hour-long set, a large crowd had gathered outside the Wonder Bar, peering in through the windows at the band. The last song, "Light of Day," which included a snippet of "Land of 1,000 Dances," was dedicated by Bruce to the "people out in the street!"
Setlist: Never Be Enough Time / Adam Raised a Cain / Darkness on the Edge of Town / Racing in the Street ('78) / Chani Smokin' / Talking to the King / Save My Love / Frankie Fell in Love / Atlantic City / Pumping Iron / Code of Silence / Because the Night / The Promised Land / Pink Cadillac / Light of Day - Land of 1,000 Dances.
Jean Mikle: 732-643-4050, @jeanmikle, email@example.com