Live 05 Feb 1975 version
[Spoken intro:] Oh, yeah!
I had skin like leather and the diamond-hard look of a cobra
I was born blue and weathered but I burst just like a supernova
I could walk like Brando right into the sun
And dance like a Casanova
With my blackjack and jacket and hair slicked sweet
Silver star studs on my duds like a Harley in heat
When I strut down the street I could feel the heartbeat
Sisters fell back, said, "Don't that man look pretty"
Cripple on the corner cried out, "Nickels for your pity"
Them downtown boys sure talk gritty
It's so hard to be a saint in the city
I was the king of the alley, mama, I could talk some trash
I was the prince of the paupers crowned downtown at the beggar's bash
I was the pimp's main prophet, I kept everything cool
A backstreet gambler with the luck to lose
When the heat came down, it was left on the ground
The devil appeared like Jesus through the steam in the street
Showin' me a hand I knew the cops couldn't beat
I felt his hot breath on my neck as I dove into the heat
It's so hard to be a saint when you're just a...
And the sages of the subway sit just like the living dead
The tracks clack out the rhythm, their eyes fixed straight ahead
They ride the line of balance, hold on by just a thread
It's too hot in these tunnels, you can get hit up by the heat
You get up to get out at your next stop, they push you back down in your seat
Your heart starts beatin' faster as you're struggling to your feet
You're out of that hole and back up on the street
Them south side sisters sure look pretty
Cripple on the corner cries out, "Nickels for your pity"
Them downtown boys sure talk gritty
It's so hard to be a saint in the city
So hard, sir
The above lyrics are for the live 05 Feb 1975 performance of IT'S HARD TO BE A SAINT IN THE CITY at The Main Point in Bryn Mawr, PA, during what is considered The Wild, The Innocent, & The E Street Shuffle Tour. The song was played in its traditional full-band arrangement, with a guitar finale at the end.
The Main Point was a small coffeehouse venue on Lancaster Avenue in Bryn Mawr, PA. It was formed in 1964 by Jeanette and William Campbell and four other couples as a small folk-based coffeehouse venue inspired by the Philadelphia Folk Festival. The venue was famous for its small intimate atmosphere, homemade food and home baked goods, and inexpensive ticket prices. Over the years, various styles of music were presented; the venue hosted many famous performers in its heydays, including Bruce Springsteen who performed there on no less than 25 dates between 1973 and 1975. He started as an opening act during a 4-night residency in January 1973, and returned in April as a headliner.
Soon after The Main Point's opening, Bill Scarborough became co-owner and booking director from 1964-1975. When Philadelphia's Sunday Bulletin asked him in September 1973 how he made booking decisions, Scarborough cited several factors but admitted that occasionally his own musical tastes influenced him. "I think that the booking of a singer named Bruce Springsteen is the best example I can give you of personal taste and hunch entering into my final choice. Here was a new act out of nowhere, who happened to sign with a major label, and put out an album that reminded me of the best of Dylan. I decided to book him as a headliner, even though he was barely known. We did alright with him, but not as well as we'd hoped. I still feel, though, that he's going to be a big star."
The venue was popular among both musicians and listeners. Clarence Clemons commented in a special Main Point 10th anniversary publication, "The whole band had the flu. Bruce had 103 degree temperature. If it was any other place but the Main Point, any concert or club in the country, we would have cancelled."
The Main Point constantly ran into financial problems related to its intimate size. Ironically, it was its size that made it so popular. Musicians gave benefit concerts for the coffeehouse to help it out of its financial straits. Some of these concerts were broadcast over the local progressive rock radio station WMMR-FM, and many well known bootleg recordings have been made from these performances. Bruce Springsteen's 05 Feb 1975 benefit concert stands out as a particularly legendary event. The Main Point finally closed its doors in 1981.
At the request of Philadelphia's WMMR-FM disc jockey Ed Sciaky, Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band performed a 05 Feb 1975 concert at The Main Point in Bryn Mawr, PA. This was a benefit show held for the financially struggling club, with Bruce and the band being the sole act on the bill. The show was MC'd by Sciaky and was broadcast by WMMR-FM on the same night. The station solicited for donations to be made by phone during the broadcast.
Shortly before he passed away in January 2004, Sciaky told Backstreets magazine (issue #82, Spring 2005) that the now-famous broadcast almost never happened. After a promise from Bruce Springsteen and Mike Appel to do a broadcast of the 02 Feb 1975 Main Point benefit, Springsteen decided the day of the show that he didn't want it to air. He was playing some new songs, which would soon appear on his upcoming Born To Run album, and many of them were still unfinished. Sciaky had to call Springsteen, despite Appel's objections, trying to convince him to at least do a shortened broadcast. In the end, Springsteen decided to do the whole show on the radio.
The show was not broadcast live-as-it-happened. "We didn't have a phone line from The Main Point, so they had to tape the show in hour-long segments and then drive them to the station and put them on the air," Sciaky explained to Backstreets. "And after the final reel had played, Bruce's lighting guy, Marc Brickman took all of the tapes. So we never got a good copy of the show. But it was a classic show, and it's collected to this day, and I'm glad."
This famous Main point concert was taped off the airwaves and immediately started circulating among a number of fans. In the late seventies, an edited from of the broadcast became available on vinyl bootlegs. This changed in the digital era, when pioneering Italian label and Springsteen specialists Great Dane Records released the show in 1990 on the 2-disc CD bootleg The Saint, The Incident & The Main Point Shuffle.
The Saint, The Incident & The Main Point Shuffle utilized the commonly circulated recording of the broadcast, but a couple of years after its release, a 10-inch reel-to-reel tape containing the first 90 minutes of the pre-FM recording of The Main Point show made its way into collectors' hands. On this recording, the sound quality is far superior to the much more compressed off-air recording. The last 70-plus minutes of the performance, or what's presumably on a second reel, were never found from the pre-FM source. The discovery of the pre-FM reel-to-reel tape spurred a host of new bootleg releases, including the first "Masters Plus" reissue by Great Dane Records itself, which paired the new 90-minute pre-FM recording with the original FM-sourced remainder of the show.
The 05 Feb 1975 broadcast from The Main Point was commercially released in the UK. Since 2005 some enterprising record labels in the UK have been releasing Bruce Springsteen radio and TV broadcasts (and some soundboard recordings) from the seventies, eighties, and nineties. Though these releases are not authorized by Bruce Springsteen or his record company, they are lawful due to a legal loophole in the UK.
Thanks Jake (ol'catfishinthelake at BTX and Greasy Lake) for the lyrics help.
List of available versions of IT'S HARD TO BE A SAINT IN THE CITY on this website:IT'S HARD TO BE A SAINT IN THE CITY [Album version]