I doubt that there is anything deep and profound that I can say, that haven’t already been said about the song Jungleland . It is a masterpiece and a favourite song for many Bruce fans. It was released in 1975 on the album Born To Run. It is often described as an epic 10-minute anthem. It portrays young people and their everyday life the streets of the city in search of excitement and meaning. One of the most notable features of this song is the magnificent sax solo, played by Clarence Clemons. When Clemons died on June 18, 2011 the song wasn’t played for over a year.
My story is set in Gothenburg 2012. It is the last week of July and Gothenburg is getting ready for another visit of their lost son, Bruce Springsteen. He is scheduled to play two shows in Ullevi (on July 27 and 28).
The people of Gothenburg are under the impression that Bruce Springsteen’s favourite place from home is Gothenburg. We know in our hearts it’s not entirely true but we cling to the idea that the Boss and the E Street Band feel a certain connection with Sweden in general and Gothenburg in particular. Everybody knows about Clarence Clemons’ Swedish ex-wife and that Nils Lofgren’s ancestors came from Sweden.
Gothenburg is a relatively small city (with a population of about 600 000). Not many big artists/shows find their way to our corner of the world. Whenever Bruce Springsteen comes for a visit we go all in. The local paper runs special editions featuring Springsteen only, from every possible angle. They report every move he and the band make. Pubs and restaurants play his music and the most dedicated fans start queueing for a spot up front, at least a week before the show.
The Wrecking Ball tour was the first tour after Clarence Clemons had died and the talk amongst fans in various forums online and in pit queues, was that the song Jungleland, featuring Clarence’s signature sax solo, was never going to be played again. It was going to be retired. The longer the tour went on, the more unlikely it seemed that they would ever play it again. Then rumours started spreading that they might play Jungleland in Gothenburg due to Clarence’s connection to Sweden (as I mentioned before).
The show on July 27th was a great one, kicking off with The Promised Land and closing it with Twist and shout (the ‘Stadium Breaker’). The highlight of the show was an epic version of Drive all night (with fireflies and all), which later was released as official video – but still no Jungleland.
From the churches to the jails, tonight all is silence in the world
Right before the opening of the gates of the show on July 28, a heavy rain (of biblical measures) hit the city, causing flooding all over town. Springsteen fans in the pit queue had nowhere to seek shelter and their rain ponchos were drained. The show started at 20.50 and by then the rain miraculously had stopped. To open the show with Who’ll stop the rain (a Creedence Clearwater Revival cover) was very appropriate and so was the sign request: Lost in the flood. I was standing first row on the barrier right behind the pit. It was a fantastic night with an amazing setlist, including personal premieres, Frankie and Where the bands are.
Six (!) songs into the encores, just as everyone thought the show was over Bruce started to introduce Jungleland, saying that Clarence had felt that Sweden was a very special place to him and then he said: “this is for the Big Man and for you for giving him a home”. I thought my heart would stop and I couldn’t believe it was true, but then Roy Bittan started playing the unmistakable and familiar piano intro. Bruce’s singing was crisp and heartfelt and it was a hugely emotional moment when Clemons’ nephew, Jake Clemons nailed the sax solo, occupying Clarence’s usual spot on stage. After the song Springsteen hugged Jake and I (and the rest of Ullevi) was in tears. This was, without a doubt, the most memorable and emotional musical events I have ever experienced in my life.
Later Jake Clemons told the local paper that Ullevi is a place he’ll never forget and that the experience he had there was probably the strongest in his life.
This is part of a series of blogpost on first experiences of various Bruce Springsteen related issues on my blog. The first one: “No Surrender” (the first Bruce Springsteen song I heard) , the second one: “Better Days” (the first song I heard live). This one is number three, the first time Jungleland was played after the passing of Clarence Clemons.