THE BIG PAYBACK

Official studio version


I bought a scooter and I rented a shack
Out in the sun by the railroad track
I got a job and I'm a-breaking my back
Working and working for the big payback

I keep a-putting and a-puttin' out
I keep a-sweating like all get out
I work so long that I'm a-losing track
Waiting waiting on the big payback

Well it's a wham bam, thank you ma'am, god damn, look out Sam
It's a gone dead train rumbling down this track
They got your neck in the noose, you're dragging long in back
Chasing and chasing the big payback

Oh what my foreman does well I don't know
He just throws me a shovel and yells "Go, Bobby, Go"
Oh well-a all day long he's just a diddy wack wack
While I'm sweating and sweating for the big payback

Yeah it's a wham bam, thank you ma'am, god damn, look out Sam
It's a gone dead train rumbling down the track
They got your neck in the noose, your hands are tied up in back
And you're a-working and working for the big payback

I quit that job and Mister I ain't going back
Got me a knife and she's a long and black
I'll tell you how I make my piece at night Mac
Down in the alley of the big payback

I go a wham bam, thank you ma'am, god damn, c'mon man
You're a gone dead train rumbling down this track
I got your neck in the noose and I don't give a damn Jack
I'm on that long lost highway of the big payback
I'm on that long lost highway of the big payback
I'm on that long lost highway of the big payback
[Fades out]


Info

THE BIG PAYBACK is a song written by Bruce Springsteen and first released as the non-album B-side of OPEN ALL NIGHT in 1982. The above lyrics are for the official studio version of ROULETTE as released in 1988.

The official studio version of THE BIG PAYBACK was included on The Essential Bruce Springsteen (2003 3-disc edition) compilation album.

Studio Recording

THE BIG PAYBACK does not appear in Sony's database of Springsteen recording sessions, which indicates that the song was not recorded in studio. However a home demo version (from which the above lyrics are transcribed) was cut around March or April 1982 at Springsteen's home in Colts Neck, NJ (see the below section for more details). Actually two takes were recorded but only one was has surfaced.

The Nebraska Demo Tape

Following The River Tour, Bruce Springsteen and The E Street Band were scheduled to start recording the next album in New York City in February 1982. Springsteen felt that the upcoming band studio sessions would progress faster than they had for his previous three albums if he first records finished demos and demonstrates them to the band. He decided to record multi-channel, professional sounding, finished demos of some songs he had written during the period.

To achieve his goal, Springsteen asked his guitar technician, Mike Batlan, in December 1981 to set up a recording facility in a spare room at his home in Colts Neck, NJ. Some modification work was done to the room making it more receptive to achieving a decent sound. Batlan purchased a Teac Tascom Series 144 4-track cassette recorder, two Shure SM57 microphones, and two microphone stands. The sound was mixed through an old Gibson Echoplex and an old Panasonic boom box acted as the mix-down deck.

The four-track cassette recorder that Bruce Springsteen used to record his famous Nebraska demo tape of January 1982
The four-track cassette recorder that Bruce Springsteen used to record his famous Nebraska demo tape of January 1982

Batlan told journalist David McGee, "Springsteen began organizing his work for Nebraska during the first week of December 1981 – that's when I was directed to buy the four-track... actual recording began on 17 or 18 December and ended around January 3." Some of the songs were recorded two or three times in slightly different arrangements. A cassette tape was compiled and edited at the end of the sessions, likely on 03 Jan 1982. It contained fourteen songs recorded during these late December 1981 / early January 1982 sessions plus what is almost certainly a live recording of a fifteenth song, JOHNNY BYE-BYE. It also included seven alternate takes and five alternate mixes. The first person to listen to the tape was Jon Landau. Two or three months later, Springsteen recorded two additional songs (MY FATHER'S HOUSE and THE BIG PAYBACK) at home on the same equipment – thus making a total of 17 different songs.

  1. NEBRASKA (released on Nebraska)
  2. ATLANTIC CITY (released on Nebraska)
  3. MANSION ON THE HILL (released on Nebraska)
  4. BORN IN THE U.S.A. (released on Tracks)
  5. JOHNNY 99 (released on Nebraska)
  6. DOWNBOUND TRAIN (unreleased)
  7. LOSIN' KIND (unreleased)
  8. STATE TROOPER (released on Nebraska)
  9. USED CARS (released on Nebraska)
  10. OPEN ALL NIGHT (released on Nebraska)
  11. PINK CADILLAC (unreleased)
  12. HIGHWAY PATROLMAN (released on Nebraska)
  13. REASON TO BELIEVE (released on Nebraska)
  14. CHILD BRIDE (unreleased)
  15. MY FATHER'S HOUSE (released on Nebraska)
  16. THE BIG PAYBACK (released as a B-side)
  17. JOHNNY BYE-BYE (unreleased live version)

Single Release

THE BIG PAY BACK was released as the B-side to OPEN ALL NIGHT in 1982. The single was released only in Europe, where it was pressed in Holland, Spain, and the UK. THE BIG PAY BACK was also included on the LEAP OF FAITH EP in the UK.

Bruce Springsteen -- Open All Night
Bruce Springsteen -- Open All Night

7" single - CBS ‎(A 2969) - Holland, 1982

Comes in a picture sleeve.

A1- OPEN ALL NIGHT
B1- THE BIG PAYBACK
Bruce Springsteen -- Open All Night
Bruce Springsteen -- Open All Night

7" single - CBS ‎(A 2969) - Spain, 1982

Comes in a picture sleeve. The Spanish pressing of this single was reissue several time in the eighties. The last of these reissues has red labels while earlier issues have orange/yellow labels.

A1- OPEN ALL NIGHT
B1- THE BIG PAYBACK
Bruce Springsteen -- Open All Night
Bruce Springsteen -- Open All Night

7" single - CBS ‎(A 2969) - UK, 1982

Comes in a picture sleeve. Two versions of the UK pressing exist, one with paper labels and one with plastic label.

A1- OPEN ALL NIGHT
B1- THE BIG PAYBACK
Bruce Springsteen -- Leap Of Faith
Bruce Springsteen -- Leap Of Faith

CD EP – Columbia ‎( COL 658369 5) - UK, 1982

This EP was pressed in Austria for the UK market.

01- LEAP OF FAITH
02- THE BIG PAYBACK
03- SHUT OUT THE LIGHT

The Essential Bruce Springsteen

The Essential Bruce Springsteen is a compilation album released as part of Sony BMG'S (previously Sony Music Entertainment) series of "Essential" sets. According to Springsteen's liner notes comments, the collection was intended as an introduction to his music for new fans who attended shows on The Rising Tour.

The collection is fundamentally a 2-disc set (clocking at 153:37) compiling songs from all of Springsteen's studio albums to date plus his Live In New York City release. A 3-disc limited edition (clocking at 201:04) was also released. It includes a bonus third disc comprising of a selection of rarities and previously unreleased recordings.

The Essential Bruce Springsteen was released on 11 Nov 2003 on Columbia Records. It debuted and peaked at #14 on the U.S. Billboard 200 album chart where it spent 13 weeks. It also reached #28 on the UK Albums Chart. The album was awarded certified gold and platinum records by the RIAA on 16 Dec 2003.

Bruce Springsteen -- The Essential Bruce Springsteen (2003 edition)
Bruce Springsteen -- The Essential Bruce Springsteen (2003 edition)

The Essential Bruce Springsteen was reissued on 16 Oct 2015, this time as a 2-disc set (clocking at 156:25) with an updated track list, compiling songs from all of Springsteen's studio albums to date plus his Greatest Hits (1995 edition) collection. This 2015 reissue features remastered tracks not found in that form on other Springsteen releases.

Bruce Springsteen -- The Essential Bruce Springsteen (2015 edition)
Bruce Springsteen -- The Essential Bruce Springsteen (2015 edition)

Bruce Springsteen's liner notes in The Essential Bruce Springsteen album booklet:

A little mean rockabilly cut at home shortly after the "Nebraska" album.

Live History

As far as it's known, Bruce Springsteen has never performed THE BIG PAYBACK live.

Covers

As far as it's known, only one artist has recorded and released Bruce Springsteen's THE BIG PAYBACK.

Mojo Nixon And Skid Roper -- Mojo Nixon And Skid Roper
Mojo Nixon And Skid Roper -- Mojo Nixon And Skid Roper

LP - Restless Records ‎/ RBI Records (72056-1) - USA, 1985
Cassette - Restless Records ‎/ RBI Records (72056-4) - USA, 1985
CD - Restless Records ‎/ RBI Records (72056-2) - USA, 1988

The song is title "Big Payback" on this release.

References

Some of the above recording info is taken from Brucebase.

Available Versions

List of available versions of THE BIG PAYBACK on this website:

THE BIG PAYBACK [Official studio version]

Page last updated: 19 Dec 2015