Official studio version
One, two, three
Well she drew out all her money from the Southern Trust
And put her little boy on the Greyhound Bus
Leaving Memphis with a guitar in his hand
On a one-way ticket to the promised land
Well hey little girl with the red dress on
There's a party tonight down in Memphis town
I'll be going down there if you need a ride
The man on the radio says Elvis Presley's died
We drove down into Memphis, the sky was hard and black
Up over the ridge came a white Cadillac
They'd drawn out all his money and they laid him in the back
A woman cried from the roadside, "Ah he's gone, he's gone"
They found him slumped up against the drain
With a whole lot of trouble, yeah, running through his veins
Bye-bye Johnny, Johnny bye-bye
You didn't have to die, you didn't have to die
Hmm hmm hmm hmm, hmm hmm hmm hmm hmm
Hmm hmm hmm hmm, hmm hmm hmm hmm hmm
Hmm hmm hmm hmm, hmm hmm hmm hmm hmm
Hmm hmm hmm hmm, hmm hmm hmm hmm hmm
Hmm hmm hmm hmm, hmm hmm hmm hmm hmm
Hmm hmm hmm hmm, hmm hmm hmm hmm hmm
Hmm hmm hmm hmm, hmm hmm hmm hmm hmm
Hmm hmm hmm hmm, hmm hmm... [fades out]
JOHNNY BYE-BYE is a song written by Bruce Springsteen. Chuck Berry is also given co-writing credits since Springsteen borrowed some lines from Berry's BYE BYE JOHNNY as well as the play on the title. See the "Composition and Recording" section below for more details.
The above lyrics are for the official studio version of JOHNNY BYE-BYE that was released on the B-side of I'M ON FIRE in 1985. See the "B-side Release" section below for more details. This version was also included on the Tracks box set in 1998.
Passing through intermediate versions, JOHNNY BYE-BYE evolved from the 1977 outtake COME ON (LET'S GO TONIGHT). Three versions of the later are in circulation. These are in chronological order the unofficial studio version, the official studio version, and the home demo. The lyrics for the three versions are not very different, though the first one does not reference Elvis Presley.
The home demo of COME ON (LET'S GO TONIGHT) was recorded around late March or early April 1981. Soon after, Springsteen dramatically changed the song. He updated the lyrics and added two more verses, the first of which includes two lines from Chuck Berry's BYE BYE JOHNNY and the second of which includes the line "Bye-bye Johnny, Johnny bye-bye". The new song, JOHNNY BYE-BYE, premiered on 13 May 1981 during The River Tour (see the live 13 May 1981 version). During The River Tour (and later during Born In The U.S.A. Tour) Springsteen introduced the song as "Bye Bye Johnny", though the song would be listed under the title "Johnny Bye Bye" when released as a B-side in 1985 and under the title "Johnny Bye-Bye" when released on the Tracks box set in 1998.
According to Sony's database of Bruce Springsteen's recording sessions, JOHNNY BYE-BYE was recorded on 27 Apr 1982 at The Power Station in New York City, NY, and again on 04 Jan 1983 (date not confirmed) and 09 and 24 Mar 1983 at Thrill Hill West, Springsteen's home studio in Beverly Hills, CA. Four of the studio versions are in circulation. The official studio version emanates from the January 1983 sessions according the Tracks box set liner notes. Unofficial studio version 1, unofficial studio version 2, and unofficial studio version 3 emanate (more probably) from the January 1983 sessions or (less probably) the March 1983 sessions. The studio version(s) from the April 1982 sessions at The Power Station has not surfaced.
The lyrics for these 1983 versions were again updated; the second and third verses from the live 1981 versions were merged into one and the fourth verse (now the third verse) was completely altered. The 1983 versions would be used in 1984 and 1985 during the Born In The U.S.A. Tour. Unofficial studio version 3 however features an additional fifth verse not found in any other known studio or live version.
Musically, the official studio version is considerably shorter than the remaining studio versions and is played on multi instruments in a relatively faster rock arrangement. Unofficial studio version 1, unofficial studio version 2, and unofficial studio version 3 are played on guitar and synthesizer in a slow acoustic arrangement and feature a "crickets chirping" effect at the beginning and at the end of the song.
Though they are the same take, the version released as a B-side in 1985 and the version released on Tracks in 1998 are two different mixes. The former features a different and more prominent drum overdub, while the latter features more prominent percussion. Three additional mixes of this same take can be found on bootlegs (see the "Bootleg Releases" section below). These mixes are more similar to the one released on Tracks.
JOHNNY BYE-BYE was planned for release in 1983 had a band album seen the light that year. See the next section for more details.
Bruce Springsteen recorded a bulk of solo demoes at his Colts Neck, NJ home studio in early January 1982. His intention was to demonstrate them to The E Street Band when they enter the studio later that month so that the recording sessions for their next album would progress faster. These studio sessions came to a halt in May when Springsteen decided to release Nebraska, an album consisting of the original solo demoes without the band treatment.
For the next month or two the focus turned to overseeing final preparations of Nebraska. However, Springsteen had already made up his mind that a few of the January home demoes should be on an E Street Band album, in addition to some more songs he recorded with the band when they were in studio. Mixing of the band material continued through June, alongside the Nebraska tracks. In fact, Springsteen even considered putting both albums out as a double record. "I had these two extremely different recording experiences going," Springsteen told Mark Hagen in an interview for Mojo magazine published in January 1999. "I was going to put them out at the same time as a double record. I didn't know what to do."
In his 2012 book E Street Shuffle: The Glory Days of Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band, Clinton Heylin revealed that the track sequence for the band album was compiled (see list below). These tracks were all recorded with the E Street Band between January and May 1982 at The Power Station and The Hit Factory in New York City, NY.
In early October 1982, soon after the release of Nebraska, Springsteen moved to Los Angeles where he spent much of the following five months. He had recording engineer Mike Batlan install a home recording studio at his house in Los Angeles where he recorded more than an album's worth of songs over the early months of 1983, playing all the instruments himself except for a drum machine.
According to Brucebase, Springsteen has mentioned that sometime in early 1983 he also gave consideration to releasing the best of the Los Angeles home studio recordings as a thematic follow-up to Nebraska. This album concept is not known to have ever been given a working title because Springsteen quickly abandoned the concept.
A document from around March 1983 reveals that at the time Springsteen briefly considered releasing an album tentatively titled "Murder Incorporated" and consisting of eleven tracks. The document also lists six additional tracks that apparently were selected for B-sides. All these tracks were cut during two phases of recording sessions, the early 1982 sessions with the band and the early 1983 solo sessions.
Springsteen disregarded the album and opted for another round of recording session. These sessions took place between April and June 1983 at The Hit Factory in New York City, NY, and featured the E Street Band, apparently minus Steven Van Zandt who was busy at the time recording his second solo album and touring with his own group. Following this third phase of recording sessions major mixing sessions took place and some in CBS were talking of a possible of a pre-Christmas release. In his book, Clinton Heylin revealed a track sequence for a band album that was compiled on 26-27 Jul 1983 (see list below). This new track sequence comprised of three songs carried over from the 1982 sequence, four from the early 1983, sessions and five from the recent E Street Band sessions.
As had been the case in March, Springsteen disregarded the album again and opted for another round of recording session. This final round was scattered from autumn 1983 to the early months of 1984.
JOHNNY BYE-BYE was released on the I'm On Fire single and EP in 1985. The single was released internationally and the EP was released in Europe.
In the liner notes of his Tracks box set, Bruce Springsteen introduces the box set as follows:
During long intervals between my record releases, as I was spending more and more time in the studio, when I met a fan out on the street I was often asked, "What are you guys doing in there?" I regularly pondered that question myself.
What we were doing in there was making a lot of music, a lot more music than I could use at any one time. As a result, my albums became a series of choices – what to include, what to leave out? I based my decisions on my creative point of view at the moment – the subject I was trying to focus on, something musical or emotional I was trying to express. In certain instances, as on Darkness on the Edge of Town, Nebraska, and The Ghost of Tom Joad, these choices crystallized the album I was making. On some of my other records the reasons I had for choosing one song over another, in hindsight, feel a good deal less significant. One of the results of working like this was that a lot of music, including some of my favorite things, remained unreleased.
This collection contains everything from the first notes I sang in the Columbia recording studio, my early and later work with the E Street Band, through to my music in the 90s. It's the alternate route to some of the destinations I travelled to on my records, an invitation into the studio on the many nights we spent making music in search of the records we presented to you. I'm glad to finally be able to share this music; here are some of the ones that got away.
- Bruce Springsteen, September 1998
Bruce Springsteen's albums were thematically linked even if they were not strictly concept albums; so some tracks that didn't fit the theme of the album ended up orphaned, not necessarily because they didn't meet his high standards, but because, he says, they didn't fit in with the tone or themes he mined for each set. Many of these unreleased studio outtakes got under the hands of bootleggers. Discussing that issue in 1984, Springsteen told Rolling Stone's Kurt Loder, "We record a lot of material, but we just don't release it all. [...] I always tell myself that some day I'm gonna put an album out with all this stuff on it that didn't fit in. I think there's some good material there that should come out. Maybe at some point, I'll do that."
During a break in The Ghost Of Tom Joad Solo Acoustic Tour, Springsteen thought that "if it's gonna be a year or longer in between records, I have all this music that I know is very good that I never released and I should release some of it whether it was just a CD or something. In that period of time, I should put something out because people would like to have it and I'd like to see it get out." He told Toby Scott (his audio archivist and recording engineer), "send me all the archives, send everything that we recorded". Scott then went to work gathering the potential material from Springsteen's massive audio library (located, along with Sony's sound archives, in the high-tech Iron Mountain facility near Buffalo, NY). "For a week or so," he told Billboard in a Nov 1998 interview, "I just listened to everything that I'd done that we hadn't put out. I made some very brief notes in a notebook, and then I just put it away. It was something that I could do at some point when I get to that place in a new project where I'm not sure how long it's going to take and it would be nice to sort of fill the gap so the fans wouldn't be so long without hearing any music from me".
Springsteen told Mark Hagen in an interview for Mojo magazine published in January 1999, "So it began just with that idea and we listened to about 250 songs, maybe more, I made quick notes in a notebook and put it away. A year went by, more maybe, and I came off the Tom Joad tour and I began to write acoustically again and I wrote about half a record. Then I got stuck and said, 'Well, I'm going to put this aside for a while.' Then I wrote half of an electric record, and hit the same place. So I thought, instead of waiting for another year to put something out I'll put some of this music together. So once again I went back to the archives." According to interview comments made by engineer Toby Scott (Springsteen's audio archivist and recording engineer), it was in February 1998 during solo sessions being conducted at Thrill Hill Recording (Springsteen's home studio) in Colts Neck, NJ, that Springsteen told Scott that the time was right to proceed with the long-anticipated box set of archived, unreleased studio takes. Thrill Hill Recording served as the main operational center for all Tracks project activities. Note that the "Thrill Hill Recording" name is used for whatever home studio Springsteen is recording at, whether it's in Rumson, NJ, Colts, NJ, or Beverly Hills, CA.
Springsteen told Billboard that the songs were culled from between 200 and 300 tunes. According to Toby Scott, the number was down to about 128 songs by late June 1998. It was then narrowed down yet again in July to about 100 songs that were prepped for the Tracks release. Although the project was originally projected to be a 6-disc set, there was a commercial decision made later in the summer to reduce the size of the release to a 4-disc (66-track) set. The package was delivered to Sony in mid-September in order to facilitate the mid-November 1998 release schedule.
Unreleased songs from the Greetings From Asbury Park, NJ sessions were not included on the box set due to ongoing and still-unresolved court proceedings involving most of these unreleased 1972 recordings. The court battle wasn't resolved until in 2001 (April 2001 in the UK and June 2001 in the U.S.), and those recordings are now free for release at any time. The opening four tracks of the box set – which were culled from Springsteen's 03 May 1972 Columbia Records audition – were not part of the court proceedings.
The Tracks box set was released on Columbia Records on 10 Nov 1998, issued on both compact disc and audio cassette formats. It's a 4-disc (or 4-cassette) set consisting of a total of 66 tracks (almost 4.5 hours long), 10 of which were heretofore unavailable single B-sides, 6 were demos and alternate versions of already-released material, and 50 (48 studio and 2 live) were never-before-released songs recorded during the sessions for Springsteen's many albums. Some tracks were treated with a recent touch-up here or there to give the older recordings a fresh polish.
Disc 1 (CD format):
|1.||MARY QUEEN OF ARKANSAS||Recorded on 03 May 1972 at CBS Studios, New York City, NY|
|2.||IT'S HARD TO BE A SAINT IN THE CITY||Recorded on 03 May 1972 at CBS Studios, New York City, NY|
|3.||GROWIN' UP||Recorded on 03 May 1972 at CBS Studios, New York City, NY|
|4.||DOES THIS BUS STOP AT 82ND STREET?||Recorded on 03 May 1972 at CBS Studios, New York City, NY|
|5.||BISHOP DANCED||Recorded live on 31 Jan 1973 at Max's Kansas City, New York City, NY|
|6.||SANTA ANA||Recorded on 28 Jun 1973 at 914 Sound Studios, Blauvelt, NY|
|7.||SEASIDE BAR SONG||Recorded on 28 Jun 1973 at 914 Sound Studios, Blauvelt, NY|
|8.||ZERO AND BLIND TERRY||Recorded on 28 Jun 1973 at 914 Sound Studios, Blauvelt, NY|
|9.||LINDA LET ME BE THE ONE||Recorded on 28 Jun 1975 at The Record Plant, New York City, NY|
|10.||THUNDERCRACK||Recorded on 28 Jun 1973 at 914 Sound Studios, Blauvelt, NY|
|11.||RENDEZVOUS||Recorded live on 31 Dec 1980 at Nassau Coliseum, Uniondale, NY|
|12.||GIVE THE GIRL A KISS||Recorded on 10 Nov 1977 at The Record Plant, New York City, NY|
|13.||ICEMAN||Recorded on 27 Oct 1977 at The Record Plant, New York City, NY|
|14.||BRING ON THE NIGHT||Recorded on 13 Jun 1979 at The Power Station, New York City, NY|
|15.||SO YOUNG AND IN LOVE||Recorded on 06 Jan 1978 at The Record Plant, New York City, NY|
|16.||HEARTS OF STONE||Recorded on 14 Oct 1977 at The Record Plant, New York City, NY|
|17.||DON'T LOOK BACK||Recorded on 02 Jul 1977 at The Record Plant, New York City, NY|
Disc 2 (CD format):
|1.||RESTLESS NIGHTS||Recorded on 11 Apr 1980 at The Power Station, New York City, NY|
|2.||A GOOD MAN IS HARD TO FIND (PITTSBURGH)||Recorded on 05 May 1982 at The Power Station, New York City, NY|
|3.||ROULETTE||Recorded on 03 Apr 1978 at The Power Station, New York City, NY|
|4.||DOLLHOUSE||Recorded on 21 Aug 1979 at The Power Station, New York City, NY|
|5.||WHERE THE BANDS ARE||Recorded on 09 Oct 1979 at The Power Station, New York City, NY|
|6.||LOOSE ENDS||Recorded on 18 Jul 1979 at The Power Station, New York City, NY|
|7.||LIVING ON THE EDGE OF THE WORLD||Recorded on 07 Dec 1979 at The Power Station, New York City, NY|
|8.||WAGES OF SIN||Recorded on 10 May 1982 at The Power Station, New York City, NY|
|9.||TAKE 'EM AS THEY COME||Recorded on 10 Apr 1980 at The Power Station, New York City, NY|
|10.||BE TRUE||Recorded on 21 Jul 1979 at The Power Station, New York City, NY|
|11.||RICKY WANTS A MAN OF HER OWN||Recorded on 16 Jul 1979 at The Record Plant, New York City, NY|
|12.||I WANNA BE WITH YOU||Recorded on 31 May 1979 at The Power Station, New York City, NY|
|13.||MARY LOU||Recorded on 30 May 1979 at The Power Station, New York City, NY|
|14.||STOLEN CAR||Recorded on 26 Jul 1979 at The Power Station, New York City, NY|
|15.||BORN IN THE U.S.A.||Recorded in January 1983 at Thrill Hill Recording, Colts Neck, NJ|
|16.||JOHNNY BYE-BYE||Recorded in January 1983 at Thrill Hill Recording, Beverly Hills, CA|
|17.||SHUT OUT THE LIGHT||Recorded in January 1983 at Thrill Hill Recording|
Disc 3 (CD format):
|1.||CYNTHIA||Recorded on 20 Apr 1983 at The Hit Factory, New York City, NY|
|2.||MY LOVE WILL NOT LET YOU DOWN||Recorded on 05 May 1982 at The Hit Factory, New York City, NY|
|3.||THIS HARD LAND||Recorded on 11 May 1982 at The Power Station, New York City, NY|
|4.||FRANKIE||Recorded on 14 May 1982 at The Power Station, New York City, NY|
|5.||TV MOVIE||Recorded on 13 Jun 1983 at The Hit Factory, New York City, NY|
|6.||STAND ON IT||Recorded on 16 Jun 1983 at The Hit Factory, New York City, NY|
|7.||LION'S DEN||Recorded on 25 Jan 1982 at The Power Station, New York City, NY|
|8.||CAR WASH||Recorded on 31 May 1983 at The Hit Factory, New York City, NY|
|9.||ROCKAWAY THE DAYS||Recorded on 03 Feb 1984 at The Hit Factory, New York City, NY|
|10.||BROTHERS UNDER THE BRIDGES ('83)||Recorded on 04 Sep 1983 at The Hit Factory, New York City, NY|
|11.||MAN AT THE TOP||Recorded on 12 Jan 1984 at The Hit Factory, New York City, NY|
|12.||PINK CADILLAC||Recorded on 31 May 1983 at The Hit Factory, New York City, NY|
|13.||TWO FOR THE ROAD||Recorded in February 1987 at Thrill Hill Recording, Colts Neck, NJ|
|14.||JANEY, DON'T YOU LOSE HEART||Recorded on 16 Jun 1983 at The Hit Factory, New York City, NY|
|15.||WHEN YOU NEED ME||Recorded on 10 Jan 1987 at The Hit Factory, New York City, NY|
|16.||THE WISH||Recorded on 22 Feb 1987 at The Hit Factory, New York City, NY|
|17.||THE HONEYMOONERS||Recorded on 22 Feb 1987 at The Hit Factory, New York City, NY|
|18.||LUCKY MAN||Recorded on 04 Apr 1987 at The Hit Factory, New York City, NY|
Disc 4 (CD format):
|1.||LEAVIN' TRAIN||Recorded on 27 Feb 1990 at Oceanway Studios, Los Angeles, CA|
|2.||SEVEN ANGELS||Recorded on 29 Jun 1990 at Oceanway Studios, Los Angeles, CA|
|3.||GAVE IT A NAME||Recorded on 24 Aug 1998 at Thrill Hill Recording, Colts Neck, NJ|
|4.||SAD EYES||Recorded on 25 Jan 1990 at Soundworks West, Los Angeles, CA|
|5.||MY LOVER MAN||Recorded on 04 Dec 1990 at Soundworks West, Los Angeles, CA|
|6.||OVER THE RISE||Recorded on 07 Dec 1990 at Soundworks West, Los Angeles, CA|
|7.||WHEN THE LIGHTS GO OUT||Recorded on 06 Dec 1990 at The Record Plant, Los Angeles, CA|
|8.||LOOSE CHANGE||Recorded on 31 Jan 1991 at Record Plant, Los Angeles, CA|
|9.||TROUBLE IN PARADISE||Recorded on 01 Dec 1989 at Soundworks West, Los Angeles, CA|
|10.||HAPPY||Recorded on 18 Jan 1992 at A & M Studios, Los Angeles, CA|
|11.||PART MAN, PART MONKEY||Recorded in January 1990 at Soundworks West, Los Angeles, CA|
|12.||GOIN' CALI||Recorded on 29 Jan 1991 at A & M Studios, Los Angeles, CA|
|13.||BACK IN YOUR ARMS||Recorded on 12 Jan 1995 at The Hit Factory, New York City, NY|
|14.||BROTHERS UNDER THE BRIDGE||Recorded on 22 May 1995 at Thrill Hill Recording, Beverly Hills, CA|
In addition to its release as a B-side and its inclusion on Tracks, JOHNNY BYE-BYE also appears on one Bruce Springsteen promo-only sampler.
Before its official release on the Tracks box set in 1998, three different mixes (but same recording) of this official studio version of JOHNNY BYE-BYE appeared on The Lost Masters Vol. 16 (Labour Of Love) [track 10] and The Lost Masters Vol. 18 (Labour Of Love) [track 10 and track 13] bootlegs.
Note that The Lost Masters Vol. 16 (Labour Of Love), The Lost Masters Vol. 17 (Labour Of Love), and The Lost Masters Vol. 18 (Labour Of Love) bootlegs include a total of six versions of JOHNNY BYE-BYE. Three of these six (the first one on The Lost Masters Vol. 16 and the two on The Lost Masters Vol. 18), however, are the same take; the same vocals with the same backing track. They are practically identical, but the mix may be slightly different.
JOHNNY BYE-BYE is was performed 32 times during The River Tour (138 dates, October 1980 to September 1981). On this tour, the song was played in a stripped down band arrangement and featured lyrics different from the known studio versions.
JOHNNY BYE-BYE was performed 39 times during the Born In The U.S.A. Tour (156 dates, June 1984 to October 1985). On this tour, the song was played in a full-band rock arrangement very similar to the official studio version and ending with a line from Junior Parker's (and Elvis Presley's hit) MYSTERY TRAIN.
Very few artists have recorded and released Bruce Springsteen's JOHNNY BYE-BYE.
Please contact me if you have scans for or info about any official release containing JOHNNY BYE-BYE that's not mentioned on this page. Any additions, comments, or corrections to this page are welcome. You can contact me via the below form or by email: . You will be credited. Thanks in advance.
List of available versions of JOHNNY BYE-BYE on this website:JOHNNY BYE-BYE [Official studio version]