The Edmonton Journal recently re-ran several news reports and reviews from David Bowie concerts in the city in 1983 and 1987. Allan Kellogg wrote the former, Helen Metella the latter. In passing, Metella noted at the time that opening act “Duran Duran, the erstwhile teen darlings making a last-ditch effort to revive their careers, were more than tolerable and quite convincingly polished, no matter how low on the evolutionary scale one files such nonsensical works as ‘Hungry Like the Wolf’, ‘Union of the Snake’ and the newest pop fluff, ‘Notorious.” Such a way with words. She also stated that it had to be the “strangest” billing since Bruce Springsteen opened for Anne Murray.
That pairing was news to us, so we looked it up. It was on an Aug 8, 1974 triple bill at Schaefer Music Festival in NYC’s Central Park with The Boss substituting for headliner Boz Scaggs and acoustic duo Brewer & Shipley opening.
According to Betty Palmer, reporter for the Albany Daily Star, Anne Murray’s managers vigorously objected to Springsteen taking precedence over Murray on the grounds that she was “more commercially successful” (which was not an untrue statement). Springsteen’s manager agreed to move to the middle spot, as long as Bruce could perform his full 80-minute set.
Palmer continues: “Halfway through Springsteen’s performance, Anne Murray’s managers (one being Shep Gordon) realized they’d made a serious tactical error, and attempted to coerce manager Mike Appel into ending Springsteen’s set early. This did not happen, and Robert Christgau’s Voice review of the evening (which began, ‘The evening was professional at both ends and inspired in the middle’) would also report, ‘But it was Springsteen’s night, probably the biggest of his life, a standing ovation from a full house of 5,000,’ and that at least a quarter of the audience had left by the time Anne Murray took the stage. This would be the last time Bruce Springsteen ever opened for another artist (with the exception of multi-artist benefit shows).”
Christgau went on to write, “You have to know Anne Murray. A Canadian singer who studied phys ed in college and shares a manager with Alice Cooper, she has been making hits, country and pop, since 1970. Her square-jawed appeal is probably less commercial in Manhattan than anywhere else in the country. By this time, most of her audience is militantly ordinary, but oddly-or maybe not, if you think about her deep, forthright voice and butch good looks-she has always attracted gay women.”
Ed’s note: Helen Metella continues to live in Edmonton, and is a Communications Associate at the U of Alberta and a freelance writer, editor, video director and voice actor. Allan Kellogg continues to write for the Edmonton Journal.
- Photo: John Lennon, Anne Murray, Harry Nilsson, Alice Cooper and Mickey Dolenz whoop it up at the Troubadour in 1973.