Local music fans who heard Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band perform “Santa Claus Is Comin’ To Town” on Dec. 5, 1975, in a concert at Georgetown University’s McDonough Arena were part of history, but probably didn’t realize it at the time.
When Springsteen and his band mates performed what’s become a winter classic at Georgetown, it was only the third time they had ever played it live. It debuted in Boston on Dec. 2, and the D.C. performance was weeks before the recording of the live version at C.W. Post College that most people are familiar with.
Yet, that song was only a footnote to most Springsteen fans.
“‘Born to Run’ had only been out three and a half months,” said former WHFS DJ Cerphe Colwell, who emceed the show and interviewed Springsteen earlier in the day.
Springsteen made his D.C. debut more than two years earlier on May 24, 1973, at Childe Harold — a restaurant and bar in Dupont Circle.
“A whole lot of good stuff had happened to Bruce,” in the interim, said Colwell. “He was on the cover of Time and Newsweek in the same week.”
Cowell said Springsteen was generous with the people who had given him a chance two years earlier.
“Bruce remembered his Childe Harold friends by sending over a dozen tickets for staff and fans for his Georgetown University show,” Colwell said.
Before the evening performance, Springsteen visited Cerphe’s show at WHFS in Bethesda, Maryland.
“He was a great guest, although he hadn’t done a lot of radio at that point,” Colwell said. “I had to keep telling him to get closer to the microphone; he was sitting way back, not talking into the mic.”
According to fan pages online, Springsteen’s Georgetown show opened with two new songs from “Born to Run” — “Thunder Road” and “10th Avenue Freezeout.” He eventually played most of the album’s songs, as well as popular songs from his first two albums.
Colwell, who has chronicled his stories about Springsteen and other musicians in his book “Cerphe’s Up,” hosts a daily online music show at musicplanetradio.com.
“Yeah, 44 years ago today, and I remember it like it was yesterday.”
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