It was before I moved to New York, so it had to have been either '80 or '81. (If it was '80, then it was December '80, a week after John Lennon was shot, and everybody onstage would have been wearing black armbands.) My friend Tom had an extra ticket to see Springsteen and we were on the Garden floor about two thirds of the way back, and Danny Federici starts playing the introduction to "Thunder Road" and it sounds like. . . is that really? . . . no . . . yes, yes, son of a bitch, he's playing Ennio Morricone, he's playing "Jill's Theme" from Once Upon A Time In The West! What a great fucking intro to "Thunder Road!" I'm picturing the carriage rolling onscreen that's taking Claudia Cardinale to Sweetwater, and the camera pulling back to reveal Monument Valley in all its glory, and it's the most perfect Sam Shepard moment ever because suddenly there's a vista to "Thunder Road" that I'd never seen before, and now I'm never going to be able to hear that song without picturing it taking place on a dirt road shack with John Ford buttes and mesas in the background, and I'm jumping up and down inside and I look around to see if anybody else is looking around and grinning like me, looking around the way you do when you recognize something and you want to share it with somebody else. And nobody was. Not even Tom, who was staring at the stage, enraptured. Nobody else seemed to recognize it at all. Or at least have my reaction to it. So 28 years on now, part of me thinks I imagined it. But real or imagined, of all the vivid concert memories I have, that one is the clearest.
Rest in peace, Danny.