IT'S HARD TO BE A SAINT IN THE CITY

03 May 1972 demo version

Well, I had skin like leather and the diamond-hard look of a cobra
I was born blue and weathered but I burst just like a supernova
Well, I walked like Brando right into the sun
And danced just like a Casanova
Well, with my blackjack and jacket and hair slicked sweet
Silver star studs on my duds like a Harley in heat
When I bop down the street I could hear its heartbeat
And, oh, the women fell back and said, "Don't that man look pretty?"
The cripple on the corner cries, "Nickels for your pity"
And the gasoline boys downtown, they sure talk gritty
It's so hard to be a saint in the city

Well, I was the king of the alley, I could talk trash
I was the prince of the paupers, crowned downtown at the beggar's bash
And I was the pimp's main prophet, I kept everything cool
Just a backstreet gambler with the luck to lose
And when the heat came down it was left on the ground
The devil appeared like Jesus through the steam in the street
Showin' me a hand I knew even the cops couldn't beat
I felt his hot breath on my neck as I dove into the heat
It's so hard to be a saint when you're just a boy out on the street

Ooh, and the sages of the subway sit just like the living dead
As the tracks clack out the rhythm, their eyes fixed straight ahead
They ride the line of balance and hold on by just a thread
It's too hot in these tunnels, you can get hit up by the heat
I get up to get out at the next stop but they push me down in the seat
My heart starts beatin' faster as I struggle to my feet
And I get out of that hole and I'm back up on the street

And them south side sisters sure look pretty
Oh, and the cripple on the corner knows I don't pay for no pity
And them gasoline boys, yeah, they sure talk gritty
It's so hard to be a saint in the city
Ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh
Ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh


Page last updated: 12 Jun 2011

Info

The above lyrics are for the demo of IT'S HARD TO BE A SAINT IN THE CITY that was recorded during Springsteen's first studio audition session for CBS Records. The recording took place on 03 May 1972 at CBS Studios in New York City, NY, and was published on the Tracks box set in 1998. It features Springsteen solo on vocals and acoustic guitar. See the album version for more details about the song and the events surrounding this audition.

The 03 May 1972 Audition

Bruce Springsteen's first "formal" studio audition for CBS took place on 03 May 1972 at CBS Studios in New York City. Produced by John Hammond and engineered by Phil Giambalvo, the session consisted of 12 songs (two of them played twice, making a total of 14 tracks); session log information survives and it has been verified that the below-listed recordings encompass the complete session. This so-called "John Hammond Demo Session" was assigned the job number 79682; Hammond's voice is heard on the recording of the audition reading off the session number, "Bruce Springsteen, Columbia Pop audition, job number 79682, Mary Queen Of Arkansas, take 1".

The master Scotch magnetic tape reels from the audition were on display as part of the From Asbury Park To The Promised Land exhibition at the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame And Museum in Cleveland, OH, along with boxes labeled with running orders:

On the first reel:  
Mary Queen of Arkansas (see MARY QUEEN OF ARKANSAS [take #1] and MARY QUEEN OF ARKANSAS [take #2])
Saint in the City (see IT'S HARD TO BE A SAINT IN THE CITY)
Jazz Musician (see JAZZ MUSICIAN [take #1] and JAZZ MUSICIAN [take #2])
If I Was a Priest (see IF I WAS THE PRIEST)
Arabian Nights (see ARABIAN NIGHTS)
   
On the second reel:  
Growin' Up (see GROWIN' UP)
Does This Bus Stop at 82nd Street? (see DOES THIS BUS STOP AT 82ND STREET)
Two Hearts in True Waltz Time (see TWO HEARTS IN TRUE WALTZ TIME)
Street Queen (see STREET QUEEN)
Angels (see THE ANGEL)
Southern Sun (see SOUTHERN SUN)
Cowboys of the Seas (see COWBOYS OF THE SEA)

Four tracks from the "John Hammond Demo Session" that were previously officially released in other versions were included on the Tracks box set in 1998. These are: MARY QUEEN OF ARKANSAS [take #2], IT'S HARD TO BE A SAINT IN THE CITY, GROWIN' UP, and DOES THIS BUS STOP AT 82ND STREET.

In his 2012 book E Street Shuffle: The Glory Days of Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band, Clinton Heylin wrote that over the years Hammond would come to insist that their demo was "better than any tape Bruce has made since, because Bruce is [now] so uptight about perhaps overshadowing somebody else in the band." In 1981, he would send Springsteen a copy of the tape as a reminder of what might have been. Springsteen's response was Nebraska.

The Tracks Box Set

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 consists of material from 1972 to 1980, including Springsteen's very first Columbia Records audition for legendary A & R executive John Hammond. This disc also features additional songs most of which recorded for (but never released on) Springsteen's first four albums.
     
  • Disc 2 consists of material from 1979 to 1983, taken primarily from the recording sessions of The River, Nebraska, and Born In The USA. Springsteen describes this disc as "almost the completely other album from 'The River'."
     
  • Disc 3 consists of material from 1982 to 1987, taken primarily from the recording sessions of Born In The USA and Tunnel Of Love.
     
  • Disc 4 consists of material from 1989 to 1998, taken primarily from the recording sessions of Human Touch.
[Click thumbnail to enlarge/reduce artwork]

Tracks disc 1 track list (CD format):

1.MARY QUEEN OF ARKANSASRecorded on 03 May 1972 at CBS Studios, New York City, NY
2.IT'S HARD TO BE A SAINT IN THE CITYRecorded on 03 May 1972 at CBS Studios, New York City, NY
3.GROWIN' UPRecorded on 03 May 1972 at CBS Studios, New York City, NY
4.DOES THIS BUS STOP AT 82ND STREETRecorded on 03 May 1972 at CBS Studios, New York City, NY
5.BISHOP DANCEDRecorded live on 31 Jan 1973 at Max's Kansas City, New York City, NY
6.SANTA ANARecorded on 28 Jun 1973 at 914 Sound Studios, Blauvelt, NY
7.SEASIDE BAR SONGRecorded on 28 Jun 1973 at 914 Sound Studios, Blauvelt, NY
8.ZERO AND BLIND TERRYRecorded on 28 Jun 1973 at 914 Sound Studios, Blauvelt, NY
9.LINDA LET ME BE THE ONERecorded on 28 Jun 1975 at The Record Plant, New York City, NY
10.THUNDERCRACKRecorded on 28 Jun 1973 at 914 Sound Studios, Blauvelt, NY
11.RENDEZVOUSRecorded live on 31 Dec 1980 at Nassau Coliseum, Uniondale, NY
12.GIVE THE GIRL A KISSRecorded on 10 Nov 1977 at The Record Plant, New York City, NY
13.ICEMANRecorded on 27 Oct 1977 at The Record Plant, New York City, NY
14.BRING ON THE NIGHTRecorded on 13 Jun 1979 at The Power Station, New York City, NY
15.SO YOUNG AND IN LOVERecorded on 06 Jan 1978 at The Record Plant, New York City, NY
16.HEARTS OF STONERecorded on 14 Oct 1977 at The Record Plant, New York City, NY
17.DON'T LOOK BACKRecorded on 02 Jul 1977 at The Record Plant, New York City, NY

Tracks disc 2 track list (CD format):

1.RESTLESS NIGHTSRecorded 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.ROULETTERecorded on 03 Apr 1978 at The Power Station, New York City, NY
4.DOLLHOUSERecorded on 21 Aug 1979 at The Power Station, New York City, NY
5.WHERE THE BANDS ARERecorded on 09 Oct 1979 at The Power Station, New York City, NY
6.LOOSE ENDSRecorded on 18 Jul 1979 at The Power Station, New York City, NY
7.LIVING ON THE EDGE OF THE WORLDRecorded on 07 Dec 1979 at The Power Station, New York City, NY
8.WAGES OF SINRecorded on 10 May 1982 at The Power Station, New York City, NY
9.TAKE 'EM AS THEY COMERecorded on 10 Apr 1980 at The Power Station, New York City, NY
10.BE TRUERecorded on 21 Jul 1979 at The Power Station, New York City, NY
11.RICKY WANTS A MAN OF HER OWNRecorded on 16 Jul 1979 at The Record Plant, New York City, NY
12.I WANNA BE WITH YOURecorded on 31 May 1979 at The Power Station, New York City, NY
13.MARY LOURecorded on 30 May 1979 at The Power Station, New York City, NY
14.STOLEN CARRecorded on 26 Jul 1979 at The Power Station, New York City, NY
15.BORN IN THE USARecorded in January 1983 at Thrill Hill Recording, Colts Neck, NJ
16.JOHNNY BYE-BYERecorded in January 1983 at Thrill Hill Recording, Beverly Hills, CA
17.SHUT OUT THE LIGHTRecorded in January 1983 at Thrill Hill Recording

Tracks disc 3 track list (CD format):

1.CYNTHIARecorded on 20 Apr 1983 at The Hit Factory, New York City, NY
2.MY LOVE WILL NOT LET YOU DOWNRecorded on 05 May 1982 at The Hit Factory, New York City, NY
3.THIS HARD LANDRecorded on 11 May 1982 at The Power Station, New York City, NY
4.FRANKIERecorded on 14 May 1982 at The Power Station, New York City, NY
5.TV MOVIERecorded on 13 Jun 1983 at The Hit Factory, New York City, NY
6.STAND ON ITRecorded on 16 Jun 1983 at The Hit Factory, New York City, NY
7.LION'S DENRecorded on 25 Jan 1982 at The Power Station, New York City, NY
8.CAR WASHRecorded on 31 May 1983 at The Hit Factory, New York City, NY
9.ROCKAWAY THE DAYSRecorded 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 TOPRecorded on 12 Jan 1984 at The Hit Factory, New York City, NY
12.PINK CADILLACRecorded on 31 May 1983 at The Hit Factory, New York City, NY
13.TWO FOR THE ROADRecorded in February 1987 at Thrill Hill Recording, Colts Neck, NJ
14.JANEY DON'T YOU LOSE HEARTRecorded on 16 Jun 1983 at The Hit Factory, New York City, NY
15.WHEN YOU NEED MERecorded on 10 Jan 1987 at The Hit Factory, New York City, NY
16.THE WISHRecorded on 22 Feb 1987 at The Hit Factory, New York City, NY
17.THE HONEYMOONERSRecorded on 22 Feb 1987 at The Hit Factory, New York City, NY
18.LUCKY MANRecorded on 04 Apr 1987 at The Hit Factory, New York City, NY

Tracks disc 4 track list (CD format):

1.LEAVIN' TRAINRecorded on 27 Feb 1990 at Oceanway Studios, Los Angeles, CA
2.SEVEN ANGELSRecorded on 29 Jun 1990 at Oceanway Studios, Los Angeles, CA
3.GAVE IT A NAMERecorded on 24 Aug 1998 at Thrill Hill Recording, Colts Neck, NJ
4.SAD EYESRecorded on 25 Jan 1990 at Soundworks West, Los Angeles, CA
5.MY LOVER MANRecorded on 04 Dec 1990 at Soundworks West, Los Angeles, CA
6.OVER THE RISERecorded on 07 Dec 1990 at Soundworks West, Los Angeles, CA
7.WHEN THE LIGHTS GO OUTRecorded on 06 Dec 1990 at The Record Plant, Los Angeles, CA
8.LOOSE CHANGERecorded on 31 Jan 1991 at Record Plant, Los Angeles, CA
9.TROUBLE IN PARADISERecorded on 01 Dec 1989 at Soundworks West, Los Angeles, CA
10.HAPPYRecorded on 18 Jan 1992 at A & M Studios, Los Angeles, CA
11.PART MAN, PART MONKEYRecorded in January 1990 at Soundworks West, Los Angeles, CA
12.GOIN' CALIRecorded on 29 Jan 1991 at A & M Studios, Los Angeles, CA
13.BACK IN YOUR ARMSRecorded on 12 Jan 1995 at The Hit Factory, New York City, NY
14.BROTHERS UNDER THE BRIDGERecorded on 22 May 1995 at Thrill Hill Recording, Beverly Hills, CA

Bootleg Releases

Before its official release on the Tracks box set in 1998, this 03 May 1972 demo version of IT'S HARD TO BE A SAINT IN THE CITY has been circulating on several bootleg releases, including The Early Years Volume Two (Bagel Boys Records) and The Unsurpassed Springsteen Vol. 3 (Yellow Dog Records).

Bruce Springsteen -- The Early Years Volume Two (Bagel Boys Records) [bootleg cover art] Bruce Springsteen -- The Unsurpassed Springsteen Volume 3 (Yellow Dog Records) [bootleg cover art]

Available Versions

List of available versions of IT'S HARD TO BE A SAINT IN THE CITY on this website:

Credits

Thanks Jake (ol'catfishinthelake at BTX and Greasy Lake).