57 CHANNELS (AND NOTHIN' ON)

Album version

I bought a bourgeois house in the Hollywood hills
With a truckload of hundred thousand dollar bills
Man came by to hook up my cable TV
We settled in for the night my baby and me
We switched 'round and 'round 'til half-past dawn
There was fifty-seven channels and nothin' on
Fifty-seven channels and nothin' on
Fifty-seven channels and nothin' on

Well now home entertainment was my baby's wish
So I hopped into town for a satellite dish
I tied it to the top of my Japanese car
I came home and I pointed it out into the stars
A message came back from the great beyond
There's fifty-seven channels and nothin' on
Fifty-seven channels and nothin' on
Fifty-seven channels and nothin' on

Well we might'a made some friends with some billionaires
We might'a got all nice and friendly if we'd made it upstairs
All I got was a note that said "Bye-bye John
Our love's fifty-seven channels and nothin' on"
(Fifty-seven channels and nothin' on)

So I bought a .44 magnum, it was solid steel cast
And in the blessed name of Elvis well I just let it blast
'Til my TV lay in pieces there at my feet
And they busted me for disturbin' the almighty peace
Judge said "What you got in your defense son?"
"Fifty-seven channels and nothin' on"
Fifty-seven channels and nothin' on
Fifty-seven channels and nothin' on

I can see by your eyes friend you're just about gone
Fifty-seven channels and nothin' on
Fifty-seven channels and nothin' on
Fifty-seven channels and nothin' on
Fifty-seven channels and nothin' on
Fifty-seven channels and...


Published on Human Touch in Mar 1992, the song was recorded during the year-long (spring 1990 to winter 1991) album's sessions that took place at both A&M Studios and One On One Studios, Los Angeles, CA.

Springsteen used the image of the cable channels to imply that material goods and luxury items do not buy happiness. It came out at a time when cable companies were offering a seemingly endless choice of channels. The song ends with the narrator, "in the blessed name of Elvis", shooting the TV set with a .44 Magnum. This was a reference to legends about Presley shooting up his own TVs when he wasn't happy with what was on. Adam Bernstein directed the music video for the song. The video was shot in spring 1992 in Los Angeles, CA, and is included on The Complete Video Anthology / 1978-2000 DVD.

In in late Apr 1992 in Los Angeles – where Bruce was living as well as rehearsing with the new band – a jury finds four L.A. police officers not guilty in the beating of black motorist Rodney King. The verdict was behind a year of racial tension in the city that erupted in violence; rioting in South Central Los Angeles results in 38 dead, more than 1,250 injuries, and $200 million of damage. The act was shown frequently on the news. Bruce tells James Henke, "It really felt like the wall was coming down... We were down in Hollywood rehearsing, and people were scared. People were really scared. And then you are just, like, sad or angry." The "No justice, no peace!" that was chanted by rioters will later be used in live and remixed versions of 57 CHANNELS (AND NOTHIN' ON), giving the song an even sharper political edge.

In the summer of '92, Human Touch and Lucky Town were falling down the charts even before the tour begins. The 57 Channels (And Nothin' On) single came out in Jun 1992 hoping that it would restore some commercial luster to the twin albums. Peaking at #68 only on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, the single only did a little to stop the descent.

The song was released on several singles that year, most notably 57 Channels (And Nothin' On): The Remixes that included three strange remixes by former E Street Band member Steve Van Zandt: Little Steven Mix Version 1, Little Steven Mix Version 2, and There's A Riot Goin' On. Van Zandt incorporated into his remixes the "No justice, no peace!" repeated chant that was used in the L.A. demonstrations. These remixes gave on additional weight to the already topical song.

"57 CHANNELS (AND NOTHIN' ON)"

  • Austrian promotional issue, CD format, catalogue # CBS PRO 691
  • US promotional issue, CD format, catalogue # COL CSK 4599. Red disc that comes in either paper sleeve with title sticker, or regular jewel case with the regular 57 Channels (And Nothin' On) artwork
  • European promotional issue, 7" vinyl format, catalogue # CBS/Sony M-16589


"57 CHANNELS (AND NOTHIN' ON) / PART MAN, PART MONKEY"

  • CD single, catalogue # 38K 74354
  • Japanese issue in "snap-back", 3" CD format, catalogue # SONY SRDS 8231
  • US issue, 7" vinyl format, catalogue # COL 38-74354. No picture sleeve. The same standard commercial pressing was also distributed as a jukebox single with title strip.


"57 CHANNELS (AND NOTHIN' ON) / STAND ON IT / JANEY DON'T YOU LOSE HEART"

  • Limited UK-only picture disc CD in special cardboard digipak, catalogue # COL 658138 5


"57 CHANNELS (AND NOTHIN' ON) / 57 CHANNELS (AND NOTHIN' ON) (Little Steven Mix Version 1)"

  • Hard-to-find Austrian export pressing for the French market, CD format, catalogue # COL 658138 1. Comes in cardboard picture sleeve featuring the regular 57 Channels (And Nothin' On) artwork


"57 CHANNELS (AND NOTHIN' ON) / 57 CHANNELS (AND NOTHIN' ON) (Little Steven Mix Version 1 - Edit)" 7" vinyl single

  • Released in Holland, catalogue # COL 658138 7. Two different Dutch sleeve variants in existence; the first one having the "Bruce Springsteen" logo imprinted on the bottom, and the second featuring the logo moved to the top. Another difference is that the first one has the disc center hole tiny and the second one has a large hole.
  • Released in the UK, catalogue # COL 658138 7, same as the Dutch issue. On this issue, the "Bruce Springsteen" logo is imprinted on the bottom.
  • Dutch promotional issue, catalogue # COL PRO 691. Two-sided with red labels; title sleeve.
  • Spanish promotional issue, catalogue # CBS/SONY ARIC 128. One-sided with yellow label; picture sleeve.


"57 Channels (And Nothin' On): The Remixes -- 57 CHANNELS (AND NOTHIN' ON) (Little Steven Mix Version 1 - Edit) / 57 CHANNELS (AND NOTHIN' ON) (Little Steven Mix Version 2)"

  • US promotional single, CD format, catalogue # COL CSK 4670. Blue disc in paper sleeve with title sticker.


"57 CHANNELS (AND NOTHIN' ON) (Little Steven Mix Version 1) / 57 CHANNELS (AND NOTHIN' ON) (Little Steven Mix Version 2) / 57 CHANNELS (AND NOTHIN' ON) (There's A Riot Goin' On)"

  • Mexican promotional 12" vinyl, catalogue # SONY PRLP-95736. Comes in a plain die-cut sleeve.


"57 CHANNELS (AND NOTHIN' ON) / 57 CHANNELS (AND NOTHIN' ON) (Little Steven Mix Version 1) / 57 CHANNELS (AND NOTHIN' ON) (Little Steven Mix Version 2) / 57 CHANNELS (AND NOTHIN' ON) (There's A Riot Goin' On)"

  • Released in Austria, CD format, catalogue # COL 658138 2. Two different sleeves seem to exist.
  • European release pressed in Holland, 12" vinyl format, catalogue # COL 658136 6



"57 Channels (And Nothin' On): The Remixes (version 2) -- 57 CHANNELS (AND NOTHIN' ON) (Little Steven Mix Version 1) / 57 CHANNELS (AND NOTHIN' ON) (Little Steven Mix Version 2) / 57 CHANNELS (AND NOTHIN' ON) (There's A Riot Goin' On) / PART MAN, PART MONKEY"

  • CD single, catalogue # 44K 74416
  • 12" vinyl, catalogue # 44 74416
  • Japanese issue, CD format, catalogue # Sony SRCS-5971


"57 CHANNELS (AND NOTHIN' ON) / ELIO E LE STORIE TESE (by Pippero)"

  • Italian promotional 7" vinyl released for jukebox use. Plain sleeve, catalogue # COL JC 15312.

The song made its first appearance, in an acoustic form, during the two-night benefit shows for the Christic Institute on 16 and 17 Nov 1990 at Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles, CA. see the live 16 Nov 1990 version and the live 17 Nov 1990 version. According to Gary Graff (from his book The Ties That Bind - Bruce Springsteen A to E to Z), this early acoustic version played then didn't quite prepare listeners for the eventual recorded version of the song that surfaced a year and a half later. At the Christic shows Springsteen played it with a spirited rockabilly abandon that hammed up the song's humorous rumination on the explosion of communication and home entertainment. On the Human Touch album, however, it takes on a more sinister and foreboding tone, with Springsteen accompanying himself on bass and plenty of reverberation to make his howls and yips sound like some sort of pained, spectral creature in the mix.

Performed on 06 May 1992 at The Bottom Line, New York City, NY, during a performance for Columbia Executives and staff as well as a warm-up for the radio broadcast the next month.

Performed for the Saturday Night Live TV show on 09 May 1992 at NBC TV Studios, New York City, NY. This was Bruce's first ever live TV performance [read below]. It was also played, twice, during the rehearsals for Saturday Night Live that took place that same day at the Bottom Line, New York City, NY.

Also performed during the rehearsal concert on 05 Jun 1992 at Hollywood Sound Stage, Los Angeles, CA, with Little Steven guesting. The song was among most of the songs from that show that were broadcasted on US Radio. Check out the live 05 Jun 1992 version.

Performed on each single night during the Human Touch tour. Check out the live 10 Jul 1992 version.

Performed on 22 Sep 1992 at Warner Hollywood Studios, Los Angeles, CA, during the MTV Unplugged taping. Though it was performed, the song was not included on the In Concert / MTV Plugged CD, but the video of the song was later included on the In Concert / MTV Plugged DVD. See the live 22 Sep 1992 version.

The last two know performances were on 24 Jun 1993 at Meadowlands Arena, East Rutherford, NJ, during the Concert To Fight Hunger, and on 26 Jun 1993 at Madison Square Garden, New York City, NY, during the Kristen Ann Carr Fund benefit concert.

The "No justice, no peace!" chant was used in all the 1992/1993 live versions, including the one on the MTV UnPlugged DVD.

A cover by Teddy "Zig Zag" from Guns N' Roses was included on the tribute albums:

  • Tribute To Bruce Springsteen: Made In The U.S.A.
    Released in 2001 by Purple Pyramid records (CLP 1049-2)
  • A Tribute To Bruce Springsteen
    Released in 2003 by Big Eye records (BIG 4268-2)
  • A Rock Tribute To Bruce Springsteen
    Released in 2004 by XYZ records (55362-2)
  • A Tribute To Bruce Springsteen
    Released in 2004 by Platinum Disc records (31932)
  • A Tribute To Pink Floyd & Bruce Springsteen
    Released in 2005 by Platinum Disc records (31912-31932)
  • Tribute To Bruce Springsteen
    Released in 2005 by ZYX records (?)
  • Tribute To Bruce Springsteen
    Released in 2005 by Silver Star records (SIS 55009-2)

Check out Teddy Zig Zag's version.

References

Some of the info and scans for the above Bruce Springsteen official releases are taken from the Lost In The Flood website. Most info and scans for the above Bruce Springsteen tribute albums are taken from the Nebraska website.

Available Versions

List of available versions of 57 CHANNELS (AND NOTHIN' ON) on this website: