New York, NY
August 15, 1975 Early Show
WNEW Pre-FM Safety Reels via JEMS
"From The Coastline To The City: The Pre-FM Reels"
Transfer: pre-fm safety reels > DAT > .wav > iZotope RX 6 and Ozone 6 restoration, repair and mastering > Peak Pro 6 (post production) > xACT 2.37 > FLAC
01 Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out
02 Spirit In The Night
03 Then She Kissed Me
04 Growin’ Up
05 It's Hard To Be A Saint In The City
06 The E Street Shuffle > Havin’ A Party
06 When You Walk In The Room
07 She’s The One
08 Born To Run
09 Thunder Road
10 Kitty’s Back
11 Rosalita (Come Out Tonight)
12 4th Of July, Asbury Park (Sandy)
13 Quarter To Three
14 DJ Intro
The legendary Bottom Line broadcast is one of the most familiar, beloved and bootlegged Springsteen recordings of all time. Tapes recorded off air have been the source of every vinyl, CD and digital release to date, and there have been many, dating all the way back to Bruce Springsteen Live on Coral Records, one of the very first bootleg LPs.
As historic as the Bottom Line performance is, its audio quality is also legendarily problematic. There have been laudable efforts in the digital era to upgrade the show, among them The Way It Was: The Complete Bottom Line broadcast, which composites an off-air reel-to-reel recording with patches from other releases, including tracks from WNEW’s 1988 rebroadcast.
Speaking of those problems, Scoper writes in his notes for The Way It Was: “No attempt was made to enhance the limited stereo soundstage or to remove clicks/pops/hum present in the original broadcast (which)…were not related to reception.”
He is right on both counts. The Bottom Line broadcast used on every release is basically mono and filled with a host of frustrating noises and clicks. If only there were a better source to work from.
Well, finally there is. For the first-time, a pre-broadcast recording of the concert was uncovered. While not THE master tapes from the night, the reels are a safety copy kept by the station for future playback. These reels were transferred to DAT many years ago and eventually the DAT was ripped to .wav and provided to JEMS.
The pre-FM reels are an immediate upgrade to circulating copies of the show. But before you get too excited, they have some of the same inherent problems that have always plagued the underlying recording. The pops, noises and clicks were still on the pre-FM reels, albeit not as bad as previous sources.
The show starts in stereo, but does eventually drift to basically mono and contains a lot of crazy channel dropouts and instrument level shifts. Why? Well it turns out that Mike Appel himself was manning the mixer that fed the broadcast that night, and his work, to be polite, is inconsistent. Parts of the show are mixed beautifully (e.g. “Then She Kissed Me”) Other parts seem to utilize only ambient room microphones and sound much more distant (e.g. “Kitty’s Back”). The latter song is a mess, with levels and mix changing wildly throughout the song and never really settling in a good place. But that’s how it is on the broadcast, too.
Frequent channel fluctuations are another reason why the show is usually presented in mono, because it masks some of the level drops on each side. We have kept as much of the stereo spread intact as possible (it isn’t super wide to begin with but it is there), though much of the end of the show winds up in near-mono anyway.
In better news, the combination of a pre-FM source and new advances in audio restoration software has allowed us to drastically reduce the pops, clicks and other noise artifacts without substantial degradation of the music. There are occasional sibilance issues on the vocals, and we did our best to tame those, too.
It’s always a fine line when you attempt to clean a recording with this many challenges, but we think the final result lands on the right side of musicality, and losing that layer of noise vastly improves many songs. The first hour of the show really benefits from the shampoo and rinse.
Suffice it to say we could have kept working on this for several more weeks, fine tuning and trying to improve it, but the bottom line is Bottom Line will never be perfect. We can’t fix Appel’s original mix (that could only be done with multi-tracks and we don’t know if those exist) and there’s only so much mastering can do.
That’s a lot of caveats. But make no mistake, this is a material upgrade of the Bottom Line broadcast, much of it in stereo for the first time, free of many audio defects and with a much broader spectrum of sound than any previous release. The first hour is especially good. Samples provided.
Massive thanks go to magikrat for providing this new source and to AK for bringing it to JEMS and letting us have a chance to work on such a significant show. This new Bottom Line recording was brought to you in the spirit of giving, and with a request that anyone else sitting on important, uncirculated tapes follow our lead and liberate something else of historical value. It’s only right. And if not now, when?
Lastly, we appreciate the consulting support of our pal hoserama, who helped figure out how to deal with the noisy bits, and hats off to mjk5510, who did a lot of final finishing work to make this available as our Christmas gift to you.
BK for JEMS
Post production update:
When BK's final mastered version landed on my hard drive a few days ago there were some quickly identifiable final post mastering repairs needed before releasing the final version.
The "DJ Intro" drops in volume to be almost silent, any attempt to correct this was overloaded with hiss creating a less than desirable opening that did not flow well into the opening shot of "Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out". The decision was made to offer the "DJ Intro" as a bonus track since it does contain some short Bruce chatter. The choice on how to listen is then up to the listener. There are two versions of the back cover artwork with and without the "DJ Intro".
In addition, dozens of volume adjustments were made throughout the recording to smooth out the major fluctuations. Though nothing could be done regarding the mix, "Kitty's Back" is no longer the volume roller coaster mess of its original form.
One other note in regards to "Kitty's Back", we have included the radio station run sheets for the reels. The eagle-eyed collector may notice the sheet for reel 2 mentions the instruction, 'REEL 2: SEGMENT 1 (Reel starts in the middle of some song--DO NOT AIR)'. The 'some song' is actually the middle of "Kitty's Back" intro which was complete on reel one, another indicator this is more than likely a safety copy. The quality of the back half intro on Reel 2 is better quality than the full intro on Reel 1. Combining the two and using iZotope's eq match, the complete "Kitty's Back" intro is now the highest quality possible. Do not confuse the note on the radio station run sheet as another song played but not broadcast.
Happy Holidays from JEMS and the extended JEMS family.