Most everyone familiar with the early career of Bruce Springsteen knows about Southside Johnny & the Asbury Jukes. Both Johnny and Bruce started out on the Jersey shore music scene around the same time. E-Streeter Steve Van Zandt was an original Juke in addition to a songwriter and producer for most of their early recorded work. The Jukes first three albums on Epic Records are records that I refuse to live without: I Don’t Want to Go Home, This Time It’s for Real, and Hearts of Stone.
From 1976-1978, the Jukes blossomed out of the Jersey bar scene (Asbury Park’s Stone Pony was their home venue of choice) to some regional prominence. Their exciting live shows were boosted by Springsteen’s songwriting gifts and frequent guest appearances with the band. Local free-form FM radio station WNEW-FM had the band in heavy rotation, and their New York City shows, especially at small venues like The Bottom Line, were consistent sell-outs.
Late on getting an advance ticket to this one, I managed to get in this night courtesy of The Bottom Line’s never fail standing room line. If you really wanted to get into any show, you just had to line up early on the corner of Third and Mercer. Oddly enough, once I got into the club, I managed to secure one of the best seats in the house– front and center at one of the long tables that ran perpendicular to the stage.
In addition to being a great Jukes’ show, the set featured an often-recurring guest segment from Miss Ronnie Specter. Looking sleek and younger than her years, Ronnie did her usual three-song set with the band. She sang her big hits she had with The Ronettes produced by her ex-husband Phil (“Be My Baby,” “Baby I Love You” and “Walking in the Rain”). She later returned during the encore to reprise her duet with Johnny on “You Mean So Much to Me Baby,” a Springsteen song off the Juke’s debut LP. (Ronnie later released a cover of Billy Joel’s “Say Goodbye to Hollywood,” as a single recorded with Bruce and the E Street Band.)
A live Epic Records promotional record was recorded and released by the Jukes from this two-night, four-show stand at the club.
Another interesting fact about this show was that the opening act was comedian Richard Belzer who later went on to acting fame in film and television (Law and Order). I remember his shtick at the time included a great comical spoof on Mick Jagger and on something we just might get to see—how an 86-year-old Bob Dylan might sound.
The Bottom Line was a room where I had many great memories, and this night was certainly one of them.