PRODIGAL SON

Studio version

In a place where outlaws are banned from the range
On a day high mountains have fallen to foes
In a land where boys are forbidden to grow
And metal is the only master

Where the highway ends and the desert breaks
And buildings are bent from great earthquakes
And statesmen crawl on their bellies like snakes
And feed off the public hunger

In a land where skyscrapers scratch the sky
And delinquent daughters to their mothers still lie
Papa stands on the corner, he wants to beat the drum
"Welcome home, my prodigal son"

When rivers run raging through city streets
And great eagles have fallen from their lofty peaks
And policemen moonlight as sideshow freaks
For the final crime is committed

When presidents ride in Ford Mustangs
And the black man releases his Cadillac fangs
And your check died in bed as the landlord bangs
The young girl next door for the rent

Where telegraph wires are attached to your mind
Delinquent daughters to their mothers still lie
Papa stands on the corner waiting to beat the drum
"Welcome home, my prodigal son"

When the telephone rings and falls off the hook
And your legs have been stolen by some defense department crook
And you starting to think about writing a book
But now you won't pledge allegiance to anything

And the maid comes in with coffee and cake
In a low-cut dress she wore just for your sake
You explain you're not dead and she takes it as a compliment
She sticks out her tongue and asks for requests

In a land where skyscrapers scratch the sky
And delinquent daughters to their mothers still lie
Papa stands on the corner waiting to beat the drum
"Welcome home, my prodigal son"

And the Mercury men with hydraulic joints
They bribe with a smile and hold you up in the alley at pinpoint
And ask you to bend over that they may anoint
You with the holy water of your profession

When the line between love and hate gets so thin
And your body takes over when your mind gives in
And your lady lover demands that you pin her to the floor
But it's too late, your reflexes are shot

And the man on the corner with the nervous twitch
Whispers, "Hey, how'd you like to buy a nice bitch
She's a .38, and I got her loaded in all six"
He keeps talking and you just keep walking

And you reach for the sky and get stuck on a steeple
You reach out for love but you get lost in the people
You run through the canyon screaming like an eagle
Then you fall face first in the mud

In a land where skyscrapers scratch the sky
And delinquent daughters have their own children who lie
Papa stands on the corner watching the parade, he wants to beat the drum
"Welcome home, welcome home, my prodigal son
Welcome home, my prodigal son"


Page last updated: 09 Oct 2013

Intro

PRODIGAL SON is a song written by Bruce Springsteen who recorded it in mid-1972. The song has not yet been officially released. The above lyrics are transcribed from the only known studio version of PRODIGAL SON.

Composition and Recording

There is no indication to when PRODIGAL SON was written. One studio version of the song is in circulation among collectors. It's a studio take likely recorded around May-Jun 1972 at Jim Cretecos' apartment in New York City, NY. It features Springsteen solo on vocals and acoustic guitar. The May-Jun 1972 sessions at Jim Cretecos' apartment were produced by Cretecos who also took the role of recording engineer. The above lyrics transcribed from that circulating studio version of PRODIGAL SON.

The line "Where the highway ends and the desert breaks" would later reappear in THE PRICE YOU PAY.

Unofficial Releases

The studio version of PRODIGAL SON was released on the briefly-legal albums The Early Years (Early Records), Unearthed (Masquerade Music, both issues), and Before The Fame (Pony Express Records, all three issues). See the below section for more details.

Bruce Springsteen -- The Early Years [album cover art] Bruce Springsteen -- Unearthed [album cover art] Bruce Springsteen -- Before The Fame [first and second USA issues, cover art] Bruce Springsteen -- Before The Fame [third USA issue, cover art]

Prodigal Son

In early November 1993 word leaked out of England that a new Bruce Springsteen release was planned, not from Columbia Records or Sony, but from an obscure label called Dare International. The upstart label was based in Waltham Cross in the UK and owned by Gavin Dare. Soon the news became official and the album was planned to be released before Christmas. According to the label, the release was not a bootleg and would be sold openly in stores in Great Britain. Titled after what Dare says is the best song on the album, Prodigal Son was a two-CD set containing 23 previously unreleased Springsteen recordings from 1971-1973 all of which were, as the label stated, mastered from "original studio master tapes". To achieve their aim of selling at least one million copies of the album worldwide, Dare International brought onboard BMG Records as distributors and HMV on the marketing side.

Prodigal Son (Dare International)
[Click thumbnail to enlarge/reduce artwork]

Dare International issued an advance promotional tape of Prodigal Son to some press. Among the 23 songs on the album, seven had been previously released on Springsteen's first two albums. Though Dare International claimed that these are different versions, most of them, if not all, use the exact same track for the music, albeit with some minor differences in the mixing. Some experts even speculate that some of the tracks are exactly the same ones released on Springsteen's albums. Seven of the album's song were previously unreleased and the remaining nine previously appeared on bootlegs, but in inferior quality, in the same or in different version. Click on each of the tracks below for more details.

Prodigal Son track listing, disc 1

  1. LADY AND THE DOCTOR
  2. 4TH OF JULY, ASBURY PARK (SANDY)
  3. PRODIGAL SON
  4. VISITATION AT FORT HORN
  5. GROWIN' UP
  6. THE ANGEL
  7. SONG FOR ORPHANS
  8. FOR YOU
  9. SANTA ANA
  10. JAZZ MUSICIAN
  11. CAMILLA HORN

Prodigal Son track listing, disc 2

  1. SEASIDE BAR SONG
  2. ARABIAN NIGHTS
  3. FAMILY SONG
  4. NEW YORK CITY SERENADE
  5. EVACUATION OF THE WEST
  6. JESSE
  7. KITTY'S BACK
  8. WAR NURSE
  9. ELOISE
  10. DOES THIS BUS STOP AT 82ND STREET
  11. MARIE
  12. RANDOLPH STREET

Dare International, who had acquired a total of 41 tracks, 23 of which were to be released on Prodigal Son, promised another Springsteen title to be released in Summer 1994. According to issue #45 (Winter 1994) of Backstreets magazine, Gavin Dare said that "this release now is a double CD and the other release is about 15 or 16 cuts. Although it's 15 or 16 cuts, a couple of them are six to seven minutes so it warrants about 90 minutes of music, which is a double CD."

In December 1993, CBS UK sent "cease and desist" type letters to Dare with regards to the recordings. They pointed out to Dare that they (CBS/Sony) had an exclusive worldwide contract with regard to selling Springsteen recordings and that they would take legal action against Dare International if it didn't stop what it was doing. As it turned out, CBS backed off and let Springsteen Inc. take the lead.

The original release date for Prodigal Son was 06 Dec 1993, but in order to maximize their promotion campaign, as Gavin Dare explained in an interview published in issue #16 (Summer 1994) of For True Rockers Only magazine, Dare International pushed back the release date to 17 Jan 1994, and then again to 24 Jan 1994. However, Bruce Springsteen filed a lawsuit against Dare International to halt the release claiming it violated copyright. His attorneys in London requested that the UK court undertake an urgent review of the matter and issue an immediate injunction against the record label from selling or distributing the Springsteen recordings in question. High Court Justice Jacob, believing that Springsteen's prima facie case was compelling, granted an immediate injunction on 14 Jan 1994 restraining Dare International from selling or distributing any such recordings. Later in 1994 this initial restraining order was extended by the UK court until such time that the matter was resolved.

While Springsteen's lawyers said that it was not possible for the set to come out because their client had an "unanswerable case" and that he owns the rights to his songs, Dare International argued that they owned the material and that they had unrestricted rights to it. "We own it without a doubt," Gavin Dare told Backstreets magazine in mid-January 1994. "We have bought the material and we have a contract that proves we own it." Dare International asserted that Springsteen naively signed away the rights to this material in 1972, but was under the impression that he reacquired the rights in 1983 from Mike Appel. According to later comments by Gavin Dare, the source of the material was Jimmy Cretecos, Mike Appel's early partner. Dare said that Cretecos retained the rights to these early songs, even after selling out to Appel in 1974 and that Dare has obtained those rights, presumably from either Cretecos or someone he transferred them to. However, the chain of ownership, as established in the court judgment, turned out to be very complicated.

Jim Cretecos legally owned the audio, but he had no copyright to that audio or the songs on the audio. In 1992 he sold it, with no claim of copyright, to Cedar International, a USA-based company which was a partnership entity owned by Jim Cretecos himself and his wife Linda. In 1993, Cedar International sold the audio to a mysterious Cayman Islands-based company called Pastor Inc. When selling the audio Cedar International made no claim to Pastor Inc that it had copyright of the audio it was selling. It was being sold as collector memorabilia and this seems to exonerate Jim Cretecos of any culpability or illegality – he was not involved in this lawsuit, or any future ones.

Pastor Inc then sold the audio to another mysterious Cayman Islands-based company called Master Collections Inc. Note that Cayman Islands was used because it is both a tax haven and, more importantly, a legal firewall location. The owners of the two incorporated Cayman Islands companies were never established at trial. Springsteen lawyers sent private investigators down to the Caymans but they couldn't find out who they were. It would have required lengthy court proceedings in the Caymans to get the names of the directors and owners of the two companies.

The big move came in October 1993 when Master Collections granted Dare International in the UK a "term license to exploit" the recordings. At no point did Master Collections or any other company ever sell the sound recording copyrights or literary copyrights to any Springsteen audio or compositions to Gavin Dare or his Dare International company. Gavin Dare thought he was getting the Bruce Springsteen audio with copyright for a very low price that was too good to be true – his ignorance would be a poor excuse in court. When Springsteen sued Dare International in January 1994, Gavin Dare's lawyers quickly advised him that there was a very high probability that his company would lose the upcoming trial and be liable for millions in damages. Gavin Dare then contacted Springsteen's lawyers and offered to settle this pre-trial. In mid-June, he confirmed rumors that "Dare International, Zomba Music Publishing, and Sony UK were talking and in discussion." Effectively Dare begged for mercy. Springsteen showed absolute mercy – he let Dare off with only a signed agreement from that he would never engage in this kind of activity with Springsteen recordings again. On 19 Dec 1994, High Court Justice Jacob was told by Richard Spearman, Springsteen's counsel, that the dispute has been settled out of court.

While the fate of Prodigal Son was hanging in court, European bootleggers pressed their own pirate copies of the album. Within a month of the court action, the first bootleg edition came out of Italy, reportedly by the folks behind the bootleg label Great Dane Records. The release also titled "Prodigal Son" and contained the same 23 tracks. Gavin Dare was aware of the bootleg release and was working to stop it, but he ran into problems with the Italian copyright law which seems to put the material on Prodigal Son into the public domain. Another bootleg of the same material, titled "Prodigal Songs", was successfully stopped by Dare's lawyers. A third bootleg came out from the Crystal Cat Records bootleg label in Sweden. Also titled "Prodigal Son", it contained the same 23 tracks in addition a soundboard recording of Springsteen's 1973 show at Berkeley Community Theatre. The two Prodigal Son bootlegs are presumably mastered from Dare's advance tapes and suffered from inferior quality.

Bruce Springsteen -- Prodigal Son (unknown label) [bootleg cover art] Bruce Springsteen -- Prodigal Son (Crystal Cat Records) [bootleg cover art]
Left to right: unknown label version, Crystal Cat Records version

In August 1994, while court battle against Dare International was dragging in the UK, the Dutch label Early Records released The Early Years, a two-disc album with identical track listing to that of Prodigal Son. The Early Years was the first official release of the Prodigal Son material and the first Bruce Springsteen album not associated with Columbia Records. The Early Years turned up largely in legitimate and major record stores and chains in Europe and North America. For this release, it seems that Early Records had access to Dare International's master tapes. The Early Years was never mentioned in the lawsuit or the trials and Springsteen never took any legal action against whoever was behind that release. However, it was withdrawn after Springsteen's legal victories.

Bruce Springsteen -- The Early Years [album cover art]

But the real litigation drama was just getting going because the Cayman Islands company went with a "Plan B". In late 1994 Pastor Inc licensed the recordings to a USA-based company called JEC Music USA Inc. JEC Music then licensed the recordings, with a claim of copyright ownership, to UK-based company Flute International, UK-based company Masquerade Music, and USA-based company Pony Express Records which was set up and owned by the same people who owned JEC Music.

Around 1996, Masquerade Music released Unearthed, a one-disc album containing 16 tracks off Prodigal Son. The album was soon withdrawn and then reissued again, but this time three of the tracks have been replaced by three new ones that were not originally on Prodigal Son. Click on each of the tracks below for more details.

Bruce Springsteen -- Unearthed [album cover art]

Unearthed track listing (first issue)

  1. ELOISE
  2. JESSE
  3. LADY AND THE DOCTOR
  4. PRODIGAL SON
  5. VISITATION AT FORT HORN
  6. SANTA ANA
  7. SONG FOR ORPHANS
  8. JAZZ MUSICIAN
  9. CAMILLA HORN
  10. SEASIDE BAR SONG
  11. ARABIAN NIGHTS
  12. FAMILY SONG
  13. EVACUATION OF THE WEST
  14. WAR NURSE
  15. MARIE
  16. RANDOLPH STREET

Unearthed track listing (second issue)

  1. ELOISE
  2. JESSE
  3. LADY AND THE DOCTOR
  4. PRODIGAL SON
  5. BORDER GUARD
  6. SANTA ANA
  7. SONG FOR ORPHANS
  8. SOUTHERN SUN
  9. CAMILLA HORN
  10. SEASIDE BAR SONG
  11. HOLLYWOOD KIDS
  12. FAMILY SONG
  13. EVACUATION OF THE WEST
  14. WAR NURSE
  15. MARIE
  16. RANDOLPH STREET

In 1996, Pony Express Records released Before The Fame, a one-disc album containing 13 tracks off Prodigal Son. The album was then reissued in 1997, but this time three of the tracks have been replaced by three new ones that were not originally on Prodigal Son – these are the same tracks that were added to the second issue of Unearthed. Before The Fame was again reissued in September 1999, this time as a two-disc set containing the same tracks as on the 1997 issue, in addition to seven tracks that have not been released on any of the previous titles. The second issue of Before The Fame was also released in Japan in 1998 with a totally different artwork. Click on each of the tracks below for more details.

Bruce Springsteen -- Before The Fame [first and second USA issues, cover art] Bruce Springsteen -- Before The Fame [second Japanese issue, cover art] Bruce Springsteen -- Before The Fame [third USA issue, cover art]
Left to right: first and second U.S. issues, Japanese issue, third U.S. issue

Before The Fame track listing
(first issue)

  1. LADY AND THE DOCTOR
  2. VISITATION AT FORT HORN
  3. WAR NURSE
  4. PRODIGAL SON
  5. ELOISE
  6. EVACUATION OF THE WEST
  7. JESSE
  8. ARABIAN NIGHTS
  9. CAMILLA HORN
  10. FAMILY SONG
  11. MARIE
  12. RANDOLPH STREET
  13. JAZZ MUSICIAN

Before The Fame track listing
(second issue)

  1. LADY AND THE DOCTOR
  2. SOUTHERN SUN
  3. WAR NURSE
  4. PRODIGAL SON
  5. ELOISE
  6. EVACUATION OF THE WEST
  7. JESSE
  8. BORDER GUARD
  9. CAMILLA HORN
  10. FAMILY SONG
  11. MARIE
  12. RANDOLPH STREET
  13. HOLLYWOOD KIDS

Before The Fame track listing
(third issue, disc 1)

  1. LADY AND THE DOCTOR
  2. SOUTHERN SUN
  3. WAR NURSE
  4. PRODIGAL SON
  5. ELOISE
  6. EVACUATION OF THE WEST
  7. JESSE
  8. BORDER GUARD
  9. CAMILLA HORN
  10. FAMILY SONG

Before The Fame track listing
(third issue, disc 2)

  1. MARIE
  2. RANDOLPH STREET
  3. HOLLYWOOD KIDS
  4. IF I WAS THE PRIEST
  5. COWBOYS OF THE SEA
  6. BABY DOLL
  7. TWO HEARTS IN TRUE WALTZ TIME
  8. TOKYO
  9. ZERO AND BLIND TERRY
  10. BISHOP DANCED

Springsteen sued Flute International Ltd and its director Robert Tringham in July 1996 and Masquerade Music Ltd and its director Ron Winter in February 1997 in UK courts. Even though "Masquerade Music" is the only label name found on the back insert of both issues of Unearthed, the album was actually manufactured by Flute International, a company based in Bristol, England. Masquerade Music, a company based in Middlesex, England, had entered into a sub-license business arrangement with Flute International whereby Flute would do the manufacturing and Masquerade would handle the marketing. Masquerade Music and Ron Winter were also involved in the importation and distribution of Before The Fame from the United States around October 1997. In 1997 or 1998, they threatened to manufacture or authorize the manufacture of a version of Before The Fame in the UK. The now-defunct Flute International took no part in the proceedings because it was insolvent at the time, and therefore Robert Tringham was not liable for copyright infringement. Springsteen won the court cases in December 1998. Masquerade Music appealed in February 1999 and the High Court accepted to hear the appeal case but ultimately sided (unanimously) in Springsteen's favor in April 2001.

Springsteen also sued Pony Express Records in September 1998 in U.S. courts. JEC Music was not involved in the 1994 case against Dare International but was an indirect party in the cases against Flute International, Masquerade Music, and Pony Express Records. Springsteen won the court case against Pony Express Records in June 2001.

The Early Years album was never mentioned in any of the lawsuits or trials and Bruce Springsteen never took any legal action against whoever was behind that. One can only speculate that The Early Years was the outcome of JEC Music licensing out the material to some continental Europe-based entity. None of these releases were ever legal. It was just a matter of Springsteen having to use the courts to get the judgments that they were indeed illegal, and he did that.

It was a fascinating and complex case, with several twists and turns during the trials. Springsteen had some trouble proving ownership because some key documents could not be found, including the original session logs for the recordings; Springsteen was able to produce logs for The Wild, The Innocent, & The E Street Shuffle but could not produce the logs for Greetings From Asbury Park N.J. or the other demos. This made it difficult for Springsteen's lawyers to counter the claims of the other side that this material had been recorded at a different location and under a different contractual arrangement. It was most noteworthy that after these companies lost to Springsteen, none of them turned around and took legal action against Jim Cretecos for fraud. Cretecos appears to have just sold the tapes as a very high priced collectable. It was others in the downstream chain who decided to try and claim copyright ownership and go for the big bucks.

As it was established at the trials, none of the three UK companies in question (Dare International, Flute International, and Masquerade Music) were ever sold the Cretecos recordings or the associated copyrights in those recordings (sound recording and/or literary). The UK companies were merely granted a "term license to exploit" by other companies. It was these other companies (Master Collections Inc and JEC Music USA) that claimed to own all required copyrights and, as such, full ownership and the right to license (lease/rent) the material to interested parties like the three UK companies. What was also established at the trials and in the final verdicts was that none of the companies that claimed to own the relevant copyrights did actually own them. The trials separated fact from fiction on the key matters – Springsteen owned all the literary copyrights in question and Springsteen or Sony owned all the sound recording copyrights in question.

Leaving aside that they seemed to be rather slimy and slippery characters in their own right, the crux of the problem with Gavin Dare (Dare International), Ron Winter (Masquerade Music), and Robert Tringham (Flute International) was that they never bothered to undertake any professional, substantive, due diligence so as to ensure that the claims of copyright ownership of the Springsteen recordings and compositions made by the companies they were dealing with were actually true. There were some incredible, seemingly illogical and bizarre claims made. For example, claims of previously unknown/hidden "smoking gun" Springsteen contracts from 1972 that rendered the known and established contracts invalid. But it was firmly established at the trials that Mr. Dare, Mr. Winter, and Mr. Tringham never hired lawyers to examine these "alleged" contracts and to undertake any meaningful business/legal due diligence regarding these matters – these were matters that absolutely begged for serious due diligence. Instead, and with great bravado, the UK trio (particularly Dare and Winter) merely spouted off talking points to the press – info that they appeared to be receiving from the companies they were doing business with. They certainly "talked the talk", but in the end it was nearly all nonsense.

According to Gavin Dare, the recordings involved are 41 in total. 23 of these were to be released on Prodigal Son and eventually appeared on The Early Years, and an additional 10 were included on the various issues of the Unearthed and Before The Fame releases. Of the remaining eight, we know of seven that, among others that were already released, were copyrighted by JEC Music USA at the Library Of Congress on 10 Aug 1995. These are: ZERO AND BLIND TERRY (a second version, different from the one on Before The Fame), VIBES MAN, HENRY BOY, THUNDERCRACK (titled "Angel From The Innerlake" in the copyright claim), THE SONG (titled "The Word" in the copyright claim), NO NEED, and an untitled song. STREET QUEEN was also reportedly on one of the master tape recordings purchased by JEC Music, but it does not appear to have been registered by them at the Library Of Congress, unless it's the aforementioned untitled song. Superior sound quality recordings of STREET QUEEN and NO NEED are in circulation among collectors, reportedly courtesy of someone at JEC Music who leaked them.

Live History

As far as it's known, Bruce Springsteen has never performed PRODIGAL SON live.

Covers

As far as it's known, only one artist has recorded and released Bruce Springsteen's PRODIGAL SON:


Fred Gorhau -- Before The Fame

Cassette - Pony Express Records (C-0949) - USA, 1995

This is a Bruce Springsteen tribute album containing covers of 15 early songs.

References

Some of the above info about the studio recording is taken from Brucebase. Some of the above info about the Prodigal Son releases is taken from issue #45 (Winter 1994) and issue #46 (Spring 1994) of Backstreets magazine. Info and scan for the Fred Gorhau cover album is taken from the Nebraska website.

Request

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