IT'S HARD TO BE A SAINT IN THE CITY
Live 05 Feb 1975 version
[Spoken intro:] Oh, yeah!
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
I could walk like Brando right into the sun
And dance like a Casanova
With my blackjack and jacket and hair slicked sweet
Silver star studs on my duds like a Harley in heat
When I strut down the street I could feel the heartbeat
Sisters fell back, said, "Don't that man look pretty"
Cripple on the corner cried out, "Nickels for your pity"
Them downtown boys sure talk gritty
It's so hard to be a saint in the city
I was the king of the alley, mama, I could talk some trash
I was the prince of the paupers crowned downtown at the beggar's bash
I was the pimp's main prophet, I kept everything cool
A backstreet gambler with the luck to lose
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 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...
And the sages of the subway sit just like the living dead
The tracks clack out the rhythm, their eyes fixed straight ahead
They ride the line of balance, hold on by just a thread
It's too hot in these tunnels, you can get hit up by the heat
You get up to get out at your next stop, they push you back down in your seat
Your heart starts beatin' faster as you're struggling to your feet
You're out of that hole and back up on the street
Them south side sisters sure look pretty
Cripple on the corner cries out, "Nickels for your pity"
Them downtown boys sure talk gritty
It's so hard to be a saint in the city
So hard, sir
Page last updated: 22 May 2011
The above lyrics are for the live 05 Feb 1975 performance of IT'S HARD TO BE A
SAINT IN THE CITY at The Main Point in Bryn Mawr, PA, during The Wild, The Innocent, & The
E Street Shuffle Tour. The song was played in its traditional full-band arrangement, with a
guitar finale at the end.
The 05 Feb 1975 Show
The Main Point was a small coffeehouse venue on Lancaster Avenue in Bryn Mawr,
PA. It was formed in 1964 by Jeanette and William Campbell and four other couples as a small
folk-based coffeehouse venue inspired by the Philadelphia Folk Festival. The venue was famous for
its small intimate atmosphere, homemade food and homebaked goods, and inexpensive ticket prices.
Over the years, various styles of music were presented; the venue hosted many famous performers in
its heydays, including Bruce Springsteen who performed there on no less than 25 dates between 1973
and 1975. He started as an opening act during a 4-night residency in January 1973, and returned in
April as a headliner.
The Main Point was only open for shows and seats were not reserved. The
audience would queue up long in advance before the opening of the doors.
(Click thumbnail to enlarge/reduce photo)
Soon after The Main Point's opening, Bill Scarborough became co-owner and
booking director from 1964-1975. When Philadelphia's Sunday Bulletin asked him in September 1973
how he made booking decisions, Scarborough cited several factors but admitted that occasionally
his own musical tastes influenced him. "I think that the booking of a singer named Bruce
Springsteen is the best example I can give you of personal taste and hunch entering into my final
choice. Here was a new act out of nowhere, who happened to sign with a major label, and put out an
album that reminded me of the best of Dylan. I decided to book him as a headliner, even though he
was barely known. We did alright with him, but not as well as we'd hoped. I still feel, though,
that he's going to be a big star."
The venue was popular among both musicians and listeners. Clarence Clemons
commented in a special Main Point 10th anniversary publication, "The whole band had the flu. Bruce
had 103 degree temperature. If it was any other place but the Main Point, any concert or club in
the country, we would have cancelled."
The Main Point constantly ran into financial problems related to its intimate
size. Ironically, it was its size that made it so popular. Musicians gave benefit concerts for the
coffeehouse to help it out of its financial straits. Some of these concerts were broadcast over
the local progressive rock radio station WMMR-FM, and many well known bootleg recordings have been
made from these performances. Bruce Springsteen's 05 Feb 1975 benefit concert stands out as a
particularly legendary event. The Main Point finally closed its doors in 1981.
At the request of Philadelphia's WMMR-FM disc jockey Ed Sciaky, Bruce
Springsteen and the E Street Band performed a 05 Feb 1975 concert at The Main Point in Bryn Mawr,
PA. This was a benefit show held for the financially struggling club, with Bruce and the band
being the sole act on the bill. The show was MC'd by Sciaky and was broadcast by WMMR-FM on the
same night. The station solicited for donations to be made by phone during the broadcast.
Shortly before he passed away in January 2004, Sciaky told
Backstreets magazine (issue
#82, Spring 2005) that the now-famous broadcast almost never happened. After a promise from Bruce
Springsteen and Mike Appel to do a broadcast of the 02 Feb 1975 Main Point benefit, Springsteen
decided the day of the show that he didn't want it to air. He was playing some new songs, which
would soon appear on his upcoming Born To Run album, and many of them were still
unfinished. Sciaky had to call Springsteen, despite Appel's objections, trying to convince him to
at least do a shortened broadcast. In the end, Springsteen decided to do the whole show on the
The show was not broadcast live-as-it-happened. "We didn't have a phone line
from The Main Point, so they had to tape the show in hour-long segments and then drive them to the
station and put them on the air," Sciaky explained to Backstreets. "And after the final
reel had played, Bruce's lighting guy, Marc Brickman took all of the tapes. So we never got a good
copy of the show. But it was a classic show, and it's collected to this day, and I'm glad."
This famous Main point concert was taped off the airwaves and immediately
started circulating among a number of fans. In the late seventies, an edited from of the broadcast
became available on vinyl bootlegs. This changed in the digital era, when pioneering Italian label
and Springsteen specialists Great Dane Records released the show in 1990 on the 2-disc CD bootleg
The Saint, The Incident & The Main Point Shuffle.
The Saint, The Incident & The Main Point Shuffle utilized the
commonly circulated recording of the broadcast, but a couple of years after its release, a 10-inch
reel-to-reel tape containing the first 90 minutes of the pre-FM recording of The Main Point show
made its way into collectors' hands. On this recording, the sound quality is far superior to the
much more compressed off-air recording. The last 70-plus minutes of the performance, or what's
presumably on a second reel, were never found from the pre-FM source. The discovery of the pre-FM
reel-to-reel tape spurred a host of new bootleg releases, including the first "Masters Plus"
reissue by Great Dane Records itself, which paired the new 90-minute pre-FM recording with the
original FM-sourced remainder of the show.
Part of The Main Point show was legally released in the UK in 2005 by American
Legends Limited as Live On Air, reissued in 2007 by Storming as Transmissions,
reissued again in 2010 by Southworld as Live On Air, and reissued again in 2011 by
Facerock as The Best "Live On Air" Of Bruce Springsteen. The complete show was released
in 2011 by Left Field Media as a 2-CD set titled Live At The Main Point, 1975 and by Let
Them East Vinyl (under exclusive agreement with Left Field Media) as a 4-LP box set titled
Live At The Main Point 1975. Though these releases are not authorized by Bruce
Springsteen or his record company, they are lawful due to a legal loophole in the UK.
Setlist for the 05 Feb 1975 concert:
- INCIDENT ON 57TH STREET
- MOUNTAIN OF LOVE
- BORN TO RUN
- THE E STREET SHUFFLE
- THUNDER ROAD
- I WANT YOU
- SPIRIT IN THE NIGHT
- SHE'S THE ONE
- GROWIN' UP
- IT'S HARD TO BE A SAINT IN THE CITY
- KITTY'S BACK
- NEW YORK CITY SERENADE
- ROSALITA (COME OUT TONIGHT)
- 4TH OF JULY, ASBURY PARK (SANDY)
- A LOVE SO FINE
- FOR YOU
- BACK IN THE USA
List of available versions of IT'S HARD TO BE A SAINT IN THE CITY on this
Thanks Jake (ol'catfishinthelake at BTX and Greasy Lake).