My name is Simon and I have a download problem.
More specifically, I have a Bruce Springsteen download problem.
One of the joys of being a Springsteen fan is that no two shows of his are ever the same – he really does change the setlist every night, and even then rarely keeps exactly to what he wrote down before the show. When he does multi-night stands in one place, it changes even more.
So there’s always something different to hear – and that’s why his fans have always tried to get hold of copies of shows – from cassettes (sounding worse and worse with every generation of copy) to CD-Rs (where we had organised “trees” to distribute copies among fans – get a copy, send copies on to a few other people) and then to usenet and bit torrents.
I spent several years accumulating Bruce Springsteen bootlegs – in fact part of my first ever salary, back in 1990, went on two bootleg CD releases.
I bought CDs quite regularly (I’ve just checked and I eventually had 45 of them, most of them multi-disc sets, many from the Crystal Cat label which were surprisingly good quality), picked up the odd cassette, and even a few LPs.
(As an aside, I’ll do a post at some point about selling my CDs back in 2016 and 2017, which was quite surprisingly successful!)
Then broadband internet came along and made masses of material available – audience recordings from an ongoing tour, older shows, rips of bootleg CDs, plus out-take collections and other compilations.
At times I probably became a bit too enthusiastic about downloading shows (I’m not going to use the word obsessive), accumulating multiple shows from each tour – many of which I have still never listened to.
Looking at my music drive now, I appear to have almost 450 shows and compilations, coming in at just under 110gb of disk space – and that’s on top of all of the officially released music.
By way of illustration, I have 26 shows from the 1978 tour, 37 from 1999, 33 from 2005 – I even have 34 and 26 from the 2007-08 and 2009 tours for some reason, and I don’t even particularly like the Magic or Working on a Dream albums! As you can see, a lot.
One thing I do have is a copy of almost every Springteen show I’ve been to – the only one of the 14 I don’t have in full is a 1992 show at Wembley Arena – I only have a couple of tracks as extras on a CD release from another night there.
2014 brought about a huge change, when Springsteen started to release downloads of each show a few days after the concert, at quite reasonable prices – $9.99 per show. So of course I started buying some – Backstreets magazine posts reviews of every concert, so it was quite easy to find out which were the particularly interesting ones.
But then in 2016, Bruce did a bastard of a thing – he started to release live shows from his archive – and of course they started by releasing the classic shows, so I started buying them even though I usually had a bootleg copy, because of course these were always going to be good quality. They now release a new show on the first Friday of every month – I haven’t bought all of them, but I have bought quite a high percentage – 42 shows so far it would seem (1400 songs, 16gb of disk space).
So on top of the masses of bootlegs, I’ve now also got a load of officially released shows – the holy grail of Springsteen fans in years gone by – most of which I haven’t listened to.
At least the bootleg downloads were free – I’m paying to not listen to the official releases!
My biggest problem is that SWMBO really doesn’t like Springsteen’s music – well – she likes Streets of Philadelphia and that’s about it – so I hardly ever get to listen to him. I can listen to music at work, but I only do so rarely, and then there’s the other problem with Springsteen – the shows are generally over 3 hours long* so they take a bit of commitment, and there doesn’t seem much point in just listening to a few songs.
* The myth was always that he plays 4 hours shows – he never did, 3 to 3 1/2 in the main with a few longer ones. But in 2012 he played for 4:05 in Finland, and 4:03 in Philadelphia in 2016 – and yes, I have copies of those shows…
So what do I do? I think I’m going to go through my drive this afternoon and have a damn good prune. And then I need to make a concerted effort to listen to a more varied selection rather than always going back to my favourite shows – December 1978 in San Francisco and Stockholm from July 1988.
Why those two?
The SF 1978 show was one of those CDs I bought with my first salary, the 1978 shows are *amazing*, and the familiarity means it’s always the one I turn to.
I had the first half of the Stockholm show on cassette from a Radio 1 broadcast, and listened to it all the time – so again, it’s the familiarity. I eventually converted it to mp3 and continued to listen to it regularly, and then they released the full show in 2017.
EDIT: I’ve had a bit of a prune and am down to 330 shows & compilations, now only taking up 70gb of disk space.
On the other hand, I did stumble across a copy of my missing 1992 show on usenet, plugging that gap!