Live 21 Sep 1984 version

[Spoken intro:] The President was uh... mentioning my name in his speech the other day. And uh... I kind of got to wondering what he... you know, what his favorite album of mine must've been, you know. I don't think it was the Nebraska album, I don't think he's been listening to this one.

Well they closed down the auto plant in Mahwah late that month
Ralph went out looking for a job but he couldn't find none
He came home too drunk from mixing Tanqueray and wine
He got a gun, shot a night clerk, now they call him Johnny 99

Down in the part of town where when you hit a red light you don't stop
Johnny's waving his gun around, threatening to blow his top
When an off-duty cop snuck up on him from behind
Out in front of the Club Tip Top they slapped the cuffs on Johnny 99

The city supplied a public defender but the judge was Mean John Brown
He came into the courtroom and stared poor Johnny down
He said the evidence is clear, gonna let the sentence son fit the crime
Prison for 98 and a year and we'll call it even, Johnny 99

Well a fistfight broke out in the courtroom, they had to drag Johnny's girl away
His mama stood up and shouted, "Judge, don't take my boy this way"
Well son you got any statement that you'd like to make
Before the bailiff comes and forever take you away

Well judge, judge, I had debts no honest man could pay
The bank was holding my mortgage, they were taking my house away
Now I ain't saying that makes me an innocent man
It was more and all this, Judge, that put that gun in my hand

Now your honor I do believe I'd be better off dead
And if you can take a man's life for the thoughts that's in his head
Then sit back in that chair and think it over, Judge, one more time
Let 'em shave off my hair and put me on that killing line


The above lyrics are for the live 21 Sep 1984 performance of JOHNNY 99 at Civic Arena in Pittsburgh, PA, during the Born In The U.S.A. Tour.

Ticket stub for the 21 Sep 1984 show at Civic Arena, Pittsburgh, PA
Ticket stub for the 21 Sep 1984 show at Civic Arena, Pittsburgh, PA
(Taken from Brucebase)

Introducing the song, Springsteen responded to President Ronald Reagan who referenced him during a speech two days earlier. President Reagan was on the campaign trail bidding for reelection in a race against Democrat and former vice president, Walter Mondale. He came to Hammonton, New Jersey, on 19 Sep 1984 for a Reagan-Bush campaign rally to give a campaign speech. In his speech, he made reference to the New Jersey rock and roll icon: "America's future rests in a thousand dreams inside your hearts. It rests in the message of hope in songs so many young Americans admire: New Jersey's own Bruce Springsteen. And helping you make those dreams come true is what this job of mine is all about."

Available Versions

List of available versions of JOHNNY 99 on this website:

JOHNNY 99 [Album version]
JOHNNY 99 [Home demo version 1]
JOHNNY 99 [Home demo version 2]
JOHNNY 99 [Live 21 Sep 1984 version]
JOHNNY 99 [Live 19 Aug 1985 version]
JOHNNY 99 [Live 18 Nov 2006 version]
JOHNNY 99 [Live 28 Jun 2009 version]
JOHNNY 99 [Live 21 Sep 2009 version]
JOHNNY 99 [Johnny Cash's cover version]

Page last updated: 25 May 2014