Los Angeles, California July 6, 1978
Darkness on the Edge of Town tour-- 1978. Finally, Bruce
had one scheduled L.A. show at the 18,000 seat Forum-- but we went, we saw, we
That week, The Buddy Holly Story had just been released in theatres. From stage, Bruce talked about how he had just seen it, and for the first time Buddy Holly came alive for him-- he was no longer just the geek with glasses. He was a rocker!
The next morning they announced that in two days, Bruce would play the Roxy-- a small nightclub-- and tickets would go on sale tomorrow. My buddy and I had to work-- no getting out of it-- so we sent my girlfriend.
It was a mob scene. 10,000 people showed up for about 20 tickets that made it to the public. The rest went to "industry". In L.A.? Go figure. My girlfriend got on the radio, but she didn't get tickets. We were so bummed.
Meanwhile, my buddy was working at "Oui" magazine, and he spent the day driving his co-workers nuts raving about the show we saw. At closing, he gets button-holed by the Art Director, who spilled this story: Turns out the Art Director was pals with Gary Busey. Turns out they went to the Forum, too. (The guy hadn't said a word to my bud about it all day). They hadn't planned on going backstage-- but when Bruce talked about The Buddy Holly Story, they decided to try. They got back-- they met Bruce-- and Bruce and Gary hit it off.
Then the guy says to my buddy: "I really shouldn't tell you this. I was sworn to secrecy. But you guys are true believers...and, besides, it isn't going to happen..." Gary was talkin' to Bruce. He (Busey) might play with his little brother's band tonight. Play some Holly tunes at a tiny cantina in Calabasas, about an hour north of L.A. Bruce said he'd see if he could make it. "But I can tell you, because really, it ain't gonna happen."
Of course, we were on our way.
Just off the 101, down a dark dirt road, there were some old wooden buildings--tiny neighborhood bars, but nothing is going on. At the most promising place, a local band covered Dead tunes. We hung out. We watched the door. We drank beer. But the Art Director was right. Even he didn't show up. It was getting late. There was nothing. We're going to take off. So we sent my buddy to check the place across the street. It was tiny, converted from a one-time Pony Express station into a bar. A chalkboard over the door said "Tonight: The Old Dog Band." Inside was a pool table, a five-foot beer bar and three "tables" made from big wooden cable spools turned on their sides. And a $5 cover charge. So I waited while my buddy was inside looking for his friend. He's taking his time. Then an older woman who seemed to run the place walks out onto the porch next to me, smirking about some guy inside who says Bruce Springsteen might show up tonight.
"Damn, what's he doing in there?", I think. As I turn toward the door to find out, I come face-to-face with Bruce coming up the steps. He nods, smiles, then goes by me to the door. He paid the cover. I go get the girls.
Inside, no one knew who he was. And nobody recognized the big, strapping blonde guy who plugged-in and started playing Holly tunes. Somebody complained that the usual band wasn't playing tonight. There were so few people, we actually got a table. Bruce hung in the shadows by the pool table, watching the band as people shot pool around him oblivious.
Busey and the Old Dog Band rocked. It was so incongruous-- this big surfer playing Buddy Holly music-- no wonder people didn't recognize him. People weren't getting that this was a movie star playing music from a film-- but they were getting the music. As Bruce walked by, my girlfriend got the nerve to stand up and ask if we could buy him a beer. He sat and talked with us for a few songs. We told him how much we loved his show. He was worried about the size of the Forum, and worried if he was coming across out there. We assured him he was. We told him about the Roxy fiasco, and he was unhappy fans weren't getting the tickets. He said he'd try to make it up to us. Then he stood up.
Bruce jammed with Gary Busey. Then Busey sat with us and watched Bruce. By the time it was over, I remember looking around wondering where all these people came from and how they all fit in here? You couldn't see the night outside because every inch of every window was filled by a face pressing against it. The place was going nuts. I remember having to hold our spool table steady while Bruce jumped on it to blaze a guitar solo. The space was so small, when we both stood up, we were sharing a microphone. I remember doing a duet with Bruce on "Oh, Carol" because I knew the words. It was one of the most amazing nights of our lives. I remember thinking we weren't quite "down San Diego way", but this sure was "a little cafe, where they play guitars all night and all day..."
We didn't even get an autograph-- didn't think it would be cool. There was film for one picture in the bar's Polaroid. It was Bruce standing on our table while we steadied it, everybody going nuts around us. They tacked it to the wall, but it was gone when we came back a week later to see Busey again.
The next night, we gathered at my buddy's to tape the broadcast from the Roxy. Bruce opened with Buddy Holly's "Rave On". We all laughed about how we didn't want to see Bruce in a place as big as the Roxy. It would lose too much...