SONG FOR ORPHANS

Studio version


The multitude assembled and tried to make the noise
Them black blind poet generals and restless loud white boys
But time's grew thin and the axis was left somehow incomplete
Where instead of child lions was left agein' junkie sheep

And how many wasted have I seen signed "Hollywood or bust"
Woah left to ride those ever ghostly Arizona gusts
Oh cheerleader tramps and kids with big amps soundin' helpless in the void
High society vamps and ex-heavyweight champs mistakin' soot for soil

So break me now big Mama as Old Faithful breaks the day
Believe me my good Linda, let the aurora shine the way
Woah the confederacy, she's in my name now, and the hounds are held at bay
Oh the axis needs a stronger arm, do you feel your muscle play

The doorstep blanket weaver, oh Madonna pushes bells
From house to house I see her givin' last kisses and wishin' well
To every gypsy mystic and hero that all the babies might find a place
Who've been lost to true fathers and mothers on their time travels deep in space

Now the sons return for fathers, but the fathers are all gone
Oh and the lost souls search for saviours, but saviours don't last long
Those aimless questless renegade brats who live their lives in songs
Run the length of a candle, and in a goodnight whisper and a puff they're gone

So break me now big Mama as Old Faithful breaks the day
Believe me my good Linda, help is on the way
'Cause the confederacy, she's in my name now, and the hounds are held at bay
The axis needs a stronger arm, I can feel my muscles play

The missions are filled with hermits lookin' for a friend
The terraces are filled with cat-men lookin' for a way in
And orphans abandoned on silver mountains are jumped in celestial alleyways
Wait for that old tramp Dog Man Moses 'cause he takes in all the strays

He told me, "don't grow on empty legends boy, or lonely cradle songs
'Cause Billy the Kid was just a bowery boy who made a living twirlin' his guns
And this night she'll be long and lanky, and she'll speak in a mother tongue"
And then he lullabied the refugees with an amplifier's hum

So break me now big Mama as Old Faithful breaks the day
And believe me my good Linda, woah help is on the way
And the confederacy, she's in our name now, and the hounds are held at bay
The axis needs a stronger arm, do you feel your muscles play
Do you feel your muscles play

Hmmm


Info

SONG FOR ORPHANS is a song written by Bruce Springsteen in 1972 and recorded in Spring that year (see the "London Publishing Demos" section below). The song, which Springsteen performed live a handful of times in his career, has not been officially released. The above lyrics are transcribed from a studio take of the song recorded in May or June 1972.

Composition and Recording

According to Brucebase, Bruce Springsteen wrote SONG FOR ORPHANS soon after his 02 May 1972 private audition for John Hammond at the CBS building in New York City, NY.

One studio version of the song is in circulation among collectors. It's a studio take likely recorded around May-Jun 1972 at Pocketful Of Tunes Studios in New York City, NY. It features Springsteen solo on vocals and acoustic guitar. The May-Jun 1972 sessions at Pocketful Of Tunes Studios were produced by Mike Appel and Jim Cretecos, and Cretecos took the role of recording engineer. The above lyrics transcribed from that circulating studio version of SONG FOR ORPHANS.

According to Sony's database of Springsteen recording sessions, SONG FOR ORPHANS was also cut on 19-20 Feb 1973 at 914 Sound Studios in Blauvelt, NY. These sessions came after Greetings From Asbury Park, N.J. was released, so they're more appropriately classified as The Wild, The Innocent, & The E Street Shuffle recording sessions.

Consideration for Release

SONG FOR ORPHANS (written as "Song To Orphans") appears on a Springsteen handwritten song list that was put up for auction in December 2013 on GottaHaveRockAndRoll.com. This is most probably a list of songs that Springsteen was considering taking into the studio at the very early stages of the Greetings From Asbury Park, N.J. recording sessions (July 1972).

1972 handwritten song list
1972 handwritten song list

SONG FOR ORPHANS was a candidate track for Born To Run, as evidenced in four handwritten lists of candidate tracks for Springsteen's third studio album.

The first list is untitled and contains 10 tracks. It dates from 1974 and was written on a lined notebook page using blue ballpoint pen (see below scan). Springsteen wrote "Song For Orphans" on this list.

Proposed handwritten song list for Springsteen's third album
Proposed handwritten song list for Springsteen's third album

The second list is untitled and contains 7 tracks. It dates from 1974 and was written on a lined notebook page using blue ballpoint pen (see below scan). To save space, it seems that Springsteen just wrote the list on the same page that he previously used for a 3-line "to do" list. Springsteen just wrote "Orphans" on this list, with "(?)" next to it.

Proposed handwritten song list for Springsteen's third album
Proposed handwritten song list for Springsteen's third album

Two lists titled "New Album #3 (Songs)", one containing 10 tracks and one containing 13, were on display at the From Asbury Park To The Promised Land 2009-2010 exhibition at the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame And Museum in Cleveland, OH. They date from 1974 and were written on the same notebook page, but it's unknown whether the two were composed at the same time or if Springsteen returned to the same page some time later to add the second. The below scan is taken from issue #89 (Summer 2010) of Backstreets magazine in which a typed version of the lists is reproduced. Springsteen wrote "Wild Billy's Song to Orphans" on the first of these two lists and "A Song For Orphans" on the second. It seems strange that he wrote two different titles for the same song on the same page. It's possible that the second list was written at a later time and Springsteen had reworked the song by that time. It's also possible that "Wild Billy's Song to Orphans" and "A Song For Orphans" are different. If that's the case, then the former may be related to WILD BILLY'S LULLABY.

Proposed handwritten song lists for Springsteen's third album, reproduced in Backstreets magazine
Proposed handwritten song lists for Springsteen's third album, reproduced in Backstreets magazine

Additionally, in a handwritten list from the same period titled "Album #3 Titles", Springsteen wrote "Poems for Orphans". So there's a possibility that SONG FOR ORPHANS has also been considered as the title track for Springsteen's third album.

Title

Bruce Springsteen copyrighted the song in 1983 under the title "Song to orphans" (registration no. PAu000513150) and in 1999 by under the titles "Song to the orphans" (registration no. PAu002367579), "Song to orphans" (registration no. SRu000334321), and "Song for orphans" (registration no. SRu000334321).

Over the years, the song was also known under the titles "Song To Orphans", "Song To The Orphans", and "Song Of The Orphans". Springsteen wrote "Song To Orphans" on a 1972 list of songs and "Song For Orphans" on a 1974 list of songs (see the two lists above). He wrote "Song To Orphans" on the setlist for the 21 Nov 2005 show and "Song .. Orphans" on the setlist for the 21 Nov 2005 show (see scans below). However, he introduced the song on both shows as "Song For Orphans".

Handwritten setlist for the 21 Nov 2005 show at Sovereign Bank Arena, Trenton, NJ
Handwritten setlist for the 21 Nov 2005 show at Sovereign Bank Arena, Trenton, NJ
(Taken from Brucebase)
Handwritten setlist for the 22 Nov 2005 show at Sovereign Bank Arena, Trenton, NJ
Handwritten setlist for the 22 Nov 2005 show at Sovereign Bank Arena, Trenton, NJ
(Taken from Brucebase)

This website uses the title "Song For Orphans" since it seems to be the most correct based on the above.

London Publishing Demos

1972 was a massive songwriting period for Bruce Springsteen. He wrote many songs in 1972, prior to the January 1973 release of his debut album. According to Brucebase, the vast majority of the known recordings of these songs were made during a 3-4 month period, between May and August 1972, though a few were recorded shortly beforehand and several weren't recorded until early 1973. Virtually all of these feature Springsteen completely solo, on either acoustic guitar or keyboards. Springsteen's manager Mike Appel and his partner Jim Cretecos selected some of this large pool of recordings in 1973 and 1974 and distributed them in Europe most notably to the UK-based music publishing agency Intersong Music Ltd. Some recordings were distributed on tape, others on acetates. Most of these acetates were manufactured at Media Sound in New York City, NY, and Angel Sound in Bedford, MA. Springsteen did not record at either of these locations. Intersong also pressed its own acetates for distribution within the industry. This audio gradually filtered into collector circles in the late seventies, often under the misnomer the "London Publishing Demos". According to Clinton Heylin 2012 book E Street Shuffle: The Glory Days of Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band, the track-listing of the so-called "London demo-tape" is as follows: STREET QUEEN, SOUTHERN SUN, HENRY BOY, IF I WAS THE PRIEST, VIBES MAN, SONG FOR ORPHANS, SHE'S LEAVING, THE SONG, ARABIAN NIGHTS, and COWBOYS OF THE SEA. Heylin adds that four other songs were also lodged with Intersong, including NO NEED. The remaining three are probably TOKYO, MARIE, and VISITATION AT FORT HORN.

Unofficial Releases

The studio version of SONG FOR ORPHANS was released on the briefly-legal albums The Early Years (Early Records) and Unearthed (Masquerade Music, both issues). See PRODIGAL SON for more details.

Bruce Springsteen -- The Early Years (Early Records)
Bruce Springsteen -- The Early Years (Early Records)
Bruce Springsteen -- Unearthed (Masquerade Music, first issue)
Bruce Springsteen -- Unearthed (Masquerade Music, first issue)
Bruce Springsteen -- Unearthed (Masquerade Music, second issue)
Bruce Springsteen -- Unearthed (Masquerade Music, second issue)

Bootleg Releases

Before its release on the above albums, the studio version of SONG FOR ORPHANS has has been circulating on several bootlegs, including The Demo Tapes (Traveling Productions), The Early Years Volume One (Bagel Boys Records), and The Unsurpassed Springsteen Volume 4 (Yellow Dog Records).

Bruce Springsteen -- The Demo Tapes (Traveling Productions)
Bruce Springsteen -- The Demo Tapes (Traveling Productions)
Bruce Springsteen -- The Early Years Volume One (Bagel Boys Records)
Bruce Springsteen -- The Early Years Volume One (Bagel Boys Records)
Bruce Springsteen -- The Unsurpassed Springsteen Volume 4 (Yellow Dog Records)
Bruce Springsteen -- The Unsurpassed Springsteen Volume 4 (Yellow Dog Records)

Live History: on-tour

SONG FOR ORPHANS is known to have been performed at least twice during what is considered the Greetings From Asbury Park, N.J. Tour (October 1972 to September 1973). Many of that period's setlists are incomplete or unknown, and therefore, the song must have been played on some more dates during the Greetings From Asbury Park, N.J. Tour. It is also known that Springsteen performed it during his short-lived solo period in summer 1972 and occasionally included it in his opening solo acoustic segment during the first three months of the tour.

SONG FOR ORPHANS was performed twice during the Devils & Dust Solo Acoustic Tour (72 dates, April to November 2005), on the very last two dates. The song featured Alan Fitzgerald on piano. See the live 21 Nov 2005 version and the live 22 Nov 2005 version for more info.

Live History: off-tour

In 1973, Bruce Springsteen performed SONG FOR ORPHANS on one radio performance. See the live 09 Jan 1973 version for more details.

Covers

As far as it's known, no artist has recorded and released Bruce Springsteen's SONG FOR ORPHANS.

References

Some of the above info about the studio recording and the live performances is taken from Brucebase.

Request

If you have scans or photos of the lists that were on display at the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame And Museum in Cleveland, OH, or any other Springsteen sheet that mentions this title, or just any additional information about this song, please contact me via the below form or by email: . You will be credited. Thanks in advance.

Available Versions

List of available versions of SONG FOR ORPHANS on this website:

SONG FOR ORPHANS [Studio version]
SONG FOR ORPHANS [Live 09 Jan 1973 version]
SONG FOR ORPHANS [Live 31 Jan 1973 (late show) version]
SONG FOR ORPHANS [Live 21 Nov 2005 version]
SONG FOR ORPHANS [Live 22 Nov 2005 version]

Page last updated: 24 Nov 2013