The Coolest Thing: Springsteen’s Wild Sit-In with Southside Johnny in ’78

by Steve Spohn
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BruceSpringsteen3Featured“The Coolest Thing You’ll See All Week” features Bruce Springsteen’s legendary 1978 sit-in with Southside Johnny at Cleveland’s intimate Agora Ballroom. Watch the two biggest forces behind the “Jersey Shore sound” go wild, leaving it all on the stage.

The backstory is worth hearing: How two Jersey musicians turned a three-hour delay into a night of pure rock-n-roll bliss for those lucky enough to be there.

Thursday night, August 31, 1978, found both Bruce and Southside Johnny playing separate gigs in Cleveland – Bruce at the Coliseum and Southside at the Agora Ballroom. The story turns on the fact that Bruce and Southside shared a guitarist by the name of Steve Van Zandt (aka Miami Steve and Little Steven).


Bruce and Little Steven

So one show couldn’t start until the other one ended because not even Little Steven could be in two different places at once.

So what happened? Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes had to start their show almost three hours late because they had to wait for Steven to wrap up with Bruce across town at the Coliseum. But Van Zandt wasn’t the only one to hike over to the Agora Ballroom after the curtain closed at the Coliseum – keyboardist Roy Bitten, saxophonist Clarence Clemons and Bruce himself went along. To say the crowd at the Agora was blown away, would be a huge understatement (even after waiting three hours for the show to start).

It doesn’t get any more Jersey than this!

The expanded band sets a simmering fire to the stage as they open with “The Fever,” a song Bruce wrote and gave to Southside Johnny for his first album. Next comes a ripping rendition of “I Don’t Want to Go Home” (9:05), a Little Steven original. Then they pour gas on the fire with Sam Cooke’s “Having a Party” (12:48) – and the house comes down.

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