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"Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out" is the second song on Bruce Springsteen's breakthrough album Born to Run, released in 1975.
Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out Wikipedia
The song tells the story of the formation of the E Street Band. However, when asked, most Springsteen fans cannot answer the question, "What is a Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out?" The meaning of the phrase is still a mystery. Even Springsteen himself says, laughing, in the Born to Run documentary Wings for Wheels: The Making of Born to Run: "I still have no idea what it means. But it's important."
The song's protagonist, "Bad Scooter", is a pseudonym for Springsteen himself (as indicated by the initials they share). In the third verse, "Big Man joined the band" refers to the now deceased Clarence Clemons, the band's long-time saxophonist.
As stated by Springsteen in the Wings for Wheels documentary, the idea for the composition of the horn intro was Steven Van Zandt's. Despite all of this, the single was a chart dud, getting no higher than #83 on the Billboard Hot 100. However, it has always had a strong following on album-oriented rock radio and amongst Springsteen's fan base.Bruce Springsteen – electric guitar, vocals
Garry Tallent – bass
Max Weinberg – drums
Roy Bittan – piano
Clarence Clemons – tenor saxophone
Randy Brecker – trumpet, flugelhorn
Michael Brecker – tenor saxophone
Dave Sanborn – baritone saxophone
Wayne Andre – trombone
"Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out" has become a staple of Springsteen's E Street Band concert tours, with regular appearances from the 1975 and on the Born to Run tours through the 1984 legs of the Born in the U.S.A. Tour, with one of the latter documented on the later Live/1975–85, and the 1988 Tunnel of Love Express. It then returned with a featured regular spot on the 1999–2000 Reunion Tour, often used as an introduction of the band. An extended 20-minute version was captured on the subsequent Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band: Live in New York City release, and was frequently played during most of the legs of the 2007–2008 Magic Tour and during the 2009 Working on a Dream Tour. It opened the four-song set at Springsteen and the band's high-profile half-time appearance at Super Bowl XLIII, which included Springsteen pointing out that the verse about "the Big Man" joining the band was the important part of the song.
A slower version of this song was played during the Born to Run tours, on December 31, 1975 in Philadelphia.
After Clemons' death, Springsteen used the song as a memorial/tribute to both him and the late Danny Federici on the Wrecking Ball Tour, the first E Street Band tour without Clemons. During the song's third verse of "Big Man joined the band", Springsteen paused the song where Clemons' sax solo would traditionally be performed while a video of Clemons and Federici played on the stage screens. On the High Hopes and River 2016 tours, Springsteen removed the pause from performances of the song, but kept the video tribute.