AMERICAN SKIN (41 SHOTS)

Live 25 Sep 2009 version


[Elvis Costello (spoken):] The flip side of that, of course, is that the very... the craft of rock... you know, the craft that you have as a writer gives you choices and certain moments you can use those things to make explicit statements, and ambiguous statements. You know, I'm thinking in terms of songs like "41 Shots", you know, the impact of something like that. Did you have a sense... have you ever had a sense of uh... that any risk in using your abilities to say such things when moved to write like that?

[Bruce Springsteen (spoken):] No. Uh... "41 Shots", I wrote, uh... didn't think a lot about it, just thought it was part of my body of work like "Promised Land" or anything else. Played it in Atlanta. You could tell it went over well, you know, people listened to it, but then Steve came running into rehearsal, said, "Man, man, did you see the front page of the newspaper?" I said, "No". "Dude, you're on the front page, you're on the front page". I said, "Really?" You know, and... uh... there's a thing... I think I was referred to as both a dirt bag and a floating fag at the time. And "dirt bag", I knew what it meant, I had to go to the dictionary for the "floating fag", and it wasn't in there, you know. So... but those were things like... that was really... I think "drummed up" is the correct... I mean I was getting letters, you know, people asking me not to play it. We played it at Madison Square Garden and uh... Well, Amadou Diallo's parents came, and uh... there was some bullying, you know, there was some bullying. Uh... there was some flaunting of the New Jersey state bird, you know. (chuckles) But uh... I was uh... to everyone I say this is, you know, this is what, this is what our band, this is what we're build for, this is what we do, you know. But it was... the only thing that was unusual at the time that I didn't understand was this reporter on the news, it's written in the newspapers ??? write a song about it. But it may show that people take music very personally. They take it, you know, they... there's something about music that it put its... ??? fingerprints on your imagination. Uh... I think ??? can we put, do we have that around here? If anything it was uh... you know, was really... initial verse is written from the policeman's point of view. And uh... well, let me just sing it.

41 shots
41 shots
41 shots
41 shots
41 shots, and we'll take that ride
'Cross this bloody river to the other side
41 shots, cut through the night
You're kneeling over his body in the vestibule
Praying for his life

Well, is it a gun, is it a knife
Is it a wallet, this is your life
It ain't no secret, it ain't no secret
No secret my friend
You can get killed just for living in your American skin

41 shots
41 shots

41 shots, Lena gets her son ready for school
She says, "On these streets, Charles
You've got to understand the rules
If an officer stops you, promise me you'll always be polite
And that you'll never ever run away
Promise Mama you'll keep your hands in sight"

Is it a gun, is it a knife
Is it a wallet, this is your life
It ain't no secret, it ain't no secret
No secret my friend
You can get killed just for living in your American skin

Is it a gun, is it a knife
Is it in your heart, is it in your eyes
It ain't no secret, it ain't no secret
It ain't no secret

41 shots, and we'll take that ride
'Cross this bloody river to the other side
41 shots, got my boots caked in this mud
We're baptized in these waters
And in each other's blood

Is it a gun, is it a knife
Is it a wallet, this is your life
It ain't no secret, it ain't no secret
No secret my friend
You can get killed just for living in
You can get killed just for living in
You can get killed just for living in your American skin

41 shots
41 shots
41 shots


Info

The above lyrics are for the live 25 Sep 2009 performance of AMERICAN SKIN (41 SHOTS) at Apollo Theater in New York City, NY, during the taping of "Spectacle: Elvis Costello With Bruce Springsteen". The song was played solo on acoustic guitar. The 25 Sep 2009 show was released on the Spectacle: Elvis Costello With... season 2 DVD and Blu-ray in 2011 (read below).

Bruce Springsteen performing AMERICAN SKIN (41 SHOTS) on 25 Sep 2009 at Apollo Theater, New York City, NY
Bruce Springsteen performing AMERICAN SKIN (41 SHOTS) on 25 Sep 2009 at Apollo Theater, New York City, NY

The 25 Sep 2009 Show

Spectacle: Elvis Costello With... was a television series shown on Sundance Channel in the United States, CTV in Canada, and Channel 4 (season 1) and Sky Arts (season 2) in the UK. The show features intimate interviews between the host, Elvis Costello, and various musical guests intertwined with performances by Costello, the guests, and duets between the two. Its first season consisted of 13 one-hour parts and was screened in 2008-2009. The second season consisted of 7 one-hour parts and was screened in 2009-2010.

Springsteen's episode was broadcast in two segments: the fifth and sixth in the seven-parts-long season 2. The taping took place on 25 Sep 2009 at Apollo Theater in New York City, NY, over the course of a nearly four hours. The first part of Springsteen's episode was aired on 20 Jan 2010 in the United States, 24 Apr 2010 in Canada, and 05 Sep 2011 in the UK. The second aired on 27 Jan 2010 in the United States, 01 May 2010 in Canada, and 06 Sep 2011 in the UK.

Marquee for the 25 Sep 2009 show at Apollo Theater, New York City, NY
Marquee for the 25 Sep 2009 show at Apollo Theater, New York City, NY

Springsteen and Costello were backed by The Imposters, and were joined onstage by Nils Lofgren on acoustic guitar and Roy Bittan on accordion.

  1. POINT BLANK [Elvis Costello and The Imposters]
  2. LIKE RAIN [Nils Lofgren, Elvis Costello, and The Imposters]
  3. SHE'S THE ONE [Elvis Costello, Nils Lofgren, and The Imposters]
  4. WILD BILLY'S CIRCUS STORY [Bruce Springsteen, Nils Lofgren, and Roy Bittan]
  5. THE RIVER [Bruce Springsteen solo -- partial performance]
  6. AMERICAN SKIN (41 SHOTS) [Bruce Springsteen solo]
  7. GALVESTON BAY [Bruce Springsteen and Roy Bittan]
  8. OH PRETTY WOMAN [Bruce Springsteen and Elvis Costello -- partial performance]
  9. I CAN'T STAND UP FOR FALLING DOWN [all -- followed by an intermission]
  10. BLACK LADDER [Elvis Costello, Bruce Springsteen, and Nils Lofgren]
  11. BRILLIANT DISGUISE [Elvis Costello and Bruce Springsteen]
  12. THE RISING [all]
  13. SEEDS [all]
  14. RADIO SILENCE / RADIO NOWHERE / RADIO RADIO [all]
  1. SHE'S THE ONE [Elvis Costello, Nils Lofgren, and The Imposters]
  2. WILD BILLY'S CIRCUS STORY [Bruce Springsteen, Nils Lofgren, and Roy Bittan]
  3. THE RIVER [Bruce Springsteen solo -- partial performance]
  4. AMERICAN SKIN (41 SHOTS) [Bruce Springsteen solo]
  5. I CAN'T STAND UP FOR FALLING DOWN [all -- followed by an intermission]
  1. RADIO SILENCE / RADIO NOWHERE / RADIO RADIO [all]
  2. OH PRETTY WOMAN [Bruce Springsteen and Elvis Costello -- partial performance]
  3. SEEDS [all]
  4. BLACK LADDER [Elvis Costello, Bruce Springsteen, and Nils Lofgren]
  5. GALVESTON BAY [Bruce Springsteen and Roy Bittan]
  6. THE RISING [all]

Spectacle: Elvis Costello With... (Season 2) was released from Video Services Corp on DVD and Blu-ray on 07 Jun 2011 in the USA and Canada and on 25 Jul 2011 in the UK.

Spectacle: Elvis Costello With... (Season 2) (DVD cover art)
Spectacle: Elvis Costello With... (Season 2) (DVD cover art)
Spectacle: Elvis Costello With... (Season 2) (Blu-ray cover art)
Spectacle: Elvis Costello With... (Season 2) (Blu-ray cover art)

Elvis Costello has been a fan of Springsteen since very early in his career. When asked about some demos of his early seventies band Flip City sounding like early Bruce Springsteen, the English singer-songwriter told Rolling Stone in 2004: "That's who we were copying. When Bruce came to London for 'the future of rock and roll' gigs in 1975, we were like, 'Who are these johnny-come- latelies?' We'd been digging him for years." When in 2000 Vanity Fair asked Costello to name 500 essential albums, he listed four Springsteen albums: The Wild, The Innocent & The E Street Shuffle, The River, Tunnel Of Love, and The Ghost Of Tom Joad. He also covered Springsteen's BRILLIANT DISGUISE in 1996 and released it as a B-side.

Costello and Springsteen have shared the stage on several occasions. The two first played together in 1987 when they took part in the filming of the TV special Roy Orbison And Friends - A Black And White Night. Springsteen invited Costello to be part of the last of his five 2001 Asbury Park holiday shows. Then the two played The Clash's LONDON CALLING together in 2003 at the 45th Grammy Awards ceremony and Costello made a guest appearance at Springsteen's 07 Nov 2009 concert at Madison Square Garden. Springsteen was Costello's guest on a two-part episode of Spectacle: Elvis Costello With... in 2009.

Available Versions

List of available versions of AMERICAN SKIN (41 SHOTS) on this website:

AMERICAN SKIN (41 SHOTS) [Album version]
AMERICAN SKIN (41 SHOTS) [2001 studio version]
AMERICAN SKIN (41 SHOTS) [Live 17 Jun 2000 version]
AMERICAN SKIN (41 SHOTS) [Live 01 Jul 2000 version]
AMERICAN SKIN (41 SHOTS) [Live 30 Jul 2002 version]
AMERICAN SKIN (41 SHOTS) [Live 25 Sep 2009 version]
AMERICAN SKIN (41 SHOTS) [Live 23 Mar 2012 version]
AMERICAN SKIN (41 SHOTS) [Live 15 Apr 2014 version]
AMERICAN SKIN (41 SHOTS) [Live 18 Nov 2015 version]

Page last updated: 29 Sep 2013