IT'S HARD TO BE A SAINT IN THE CITY

Live 18 Nov 1975 version

[Spoken intro:] This for Pete!

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 its heartbeat
The sisters fell back, said, "Don't that man look pretty"
The cripple on the corner cried out, "Nickels for your pity"
Them downtown boys sure talk gritty
It's so hard to be a saint

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
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...

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 and hold on by just a thread
It's too hot in these tunnels, you 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
The cripple on the corner cried out, "Nickels for your pity"
Them downtown boys sure talk gritty
And it's so hard to be a saint in the city
So hard, sir
So, so hard, so hard
Walking down the street all by yourself

Whoa, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh
(Whoa, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh)
(Whoa, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh)
(Whoa, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh)
(Whoa, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh)
(Whoa, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh)
(Whoa, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh)
(Whoa, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh)
(Whoa, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh)
(Whoa, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh)
(Whoa, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh)
(Whoa, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh)
(Whoa, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh)
(Whoa, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh)


Page last updated: 12 Jun 2011

Info

The above lyrics are for the live 18 Nov 1975 performance of IT'S HARD TO BE A SAINT IN THE CITY at Hammersmith Odeon in London, England, during the Born To Run Tour. The song was played in its traditional full-band arrangement. The complete 18 Nov 1975 show was released on Hammersmith Odeon, London '75 CD and DVD in 2005.


[Click thumbnail to enlarge/reduce snapshot]

The Pete to whom the performance was dedicated is rumoured to be English musician and The Who member Pete Townshend, who allegedly was in the audience that night.

The Hammersmith Odeon, London '75 DVD and CD

Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band's 18 Nov 1975 show at Hammersmith Odeon in London, England, was one of their most mysterious, most hyped, and most disparaged performances ever. "For me, the set went by like a freight train," Springsteen wrote. "Later, all I remembered is an awkward record company party, that 'what just happened?' feeling, and thinking we hadn't played that well. I was wrong."


Promotional poster for the 18 and 24 Nov 1975 shows at Hammersmith Odeon, London, England
[Taken from Rock Explosion]

Ticket stub for the 18 Nov 1975 show at Hammersmith Odeon, London, England
[Taken from Brucebase]

The complete concert was captured on 16 mm film and recorded on 24-track. It is also known that this show was initially going to be broadcast on radio (either live or delayed) but Mike Appel, Springsteen's manager at the time, backed out at the last minute as he felt that Bruce's mood at the time would not lead to a particularly good show.

The film remained largely untouched for nearly 30 years. "Lost in my private Idaho, I'd paid no attention to it. I never looked at it... for thirty years," Springsteen wrote. "At the end of the Rising tour, I became interested in checking out film of the early part of my work." Read complete liner notes below.

Emmy Award Winner Thom Zimny received the 16 mm negatives along with the 24-track recording. His production team painstakingly cleaned the original negatives and digitally restored the footage, ultimately presenting this indispensable concert in vibrant color and detail. Producer Bob Clearmountain remastered and remixed the DVD in both stereo and 5.1 surround sound. Zimny has worked with Springsteen on several projects, including editing the Live In New York City, Live In Barcelona, and VH1 Storytellers films. Clearmountain is the legendary mixer who has often collaborated with Springsteen over the last 25 years, most famously on the Born In The USA album.

The complete 18 Nov 1975 show was released in November 2005 on the Hammersmith Odeon, London '75 DVD, as part of the "30th Anniversary Edition" of the Born To Run album. Audio for the concert was released on a 2-CD set under the same title in February 2006.

[Click thumbnail to enlarge/reduce artwork]

Hammersmith Odeon, London '75 disc 1 track listing:

  1. THUNDER ROAD
  2. TENTH AVENUE FREEZE-OUT
  3. SPIRIT IN THE NIGHT
  4. LOST IN THE FLOOD
  5. SHE'S THE ONE
  6. BORN TO RUN
  7. THE E STREET SHUFFLE
  8. IT'S HARD TO BE A SAINT IN THE CITY
  9. BACKSTREETS

Hammersmith Odeon, London '75 disc 2 track listing:

  1. KITTY'S BACK
  2. JUNGLELAND
  3. ROSALITA (COME OUT TONIGHT)
  4. 4TH OF JULY, ASBURY PARK (SANDY)
  5. DETROIT MEDLEY
  6. FOR YOU
  7. QUARTER TO THREE

Hammersmith Odeon, London '75 DVD track list:

    All 16 tracks on a single disc

Liner notes from the Hammersmith Odeon, London '75 DVD and CD:

In 1975, we stepped of the plane into the land of our mythic heroes. A London, that was yet to see it's first McDonalds's, that was still wrasslin' with making good cheeseburger and that seemed very foreign and exotic to a bunch of provincial Jersey Shore beach bums and musicians.

From the "very" anxious heavens of our first trans-Atlantic flight we descended into... well... hell, as I would soon come to know it.

There was a lot of publicity.

Without going into excessive and ancient detail, yeah, there were promo posters, yeah; there was the "London is finally ready for..." marquee; the raves, the pans, the fans, the existential angst... the... the... HYPE!

The whole city, or at least the part that was interested in pop music, seemed primed for... a party? a funeral? a coronation? All of the above? With the shadow of the crown and the noose upon my neck, I stood in the middle of it, this week's Next... Big... Thing. All I remember thinking was, Whoa! This is a little more than I bargained for. Not quite savvy enough to realize that this was exactly what I had bargained for, I arrived at the theater and created pre-show chaos, stomping through the aisles, pulling promo flyers of the seats in a "The Man can't steal my music" frenzy. The record company, of course, was just doing its job, and I was just learning mine... real fast.

Later that evening an E Street Band, with a good deal of the carnival still left in it and armed with a set list I still dare any young band to match, strode onto the stage of the Hammersmith Odeon. The tempos were fast. A Jersey stew of almost punk soul, fueled by the visionary songwriters, 60's records, garage bands, and Rhythm and Blues we loved. For me, the set went by like a freight train. Later, all I remembered is an awkward record company party, that "what just happened?" feeling, and thinking we hadn't played that well. I was wrong. With the keys to the kingdom dangling in front of us and the knife at our neck, we'd gone for broke. Whatever happened, it became one of our "legendary" performances, marked only in memory, bits of bootleg tape, and "I was there when" stories. It was the show that put us on the map in England and began a long and beautiful relationship with our fans overseas.

The evening had been recorded and filmed. Lost in my private Idaho, I'd paid no attention to it. I never looked at it... for thirty years. At the time I was anxious to move away from the commotion and on down the road, as the band and I were "busy bein' born."

At the end of the Rising tour, I became interested in checking out film of the early part of my work. It had remained a blank spot with virtually nothing released. I started with bits and pieces of this show figuring we could cut together a song or two. To our surprise the entire concert emerged from the vault along with the 24-track recording. Restore by Thom Zimny and mixed by Bob Clearmountain, removed from the bluster and noise of the moment, all that's left if the music. So Ladies and Gentelmen... "London is finally ready for Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band." Live! At the Hammersmith Odeon.

- BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN, 9/22/05

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).