Bruce Springsteen was a true believer in old school rock and roll. Even though he was initially pegged as the next Bob Dylan, Springsteen actually more closely resembled the heartbreaking storytelling of Roy Orbison and the high-energy showmanship of Sam & Dave. Armed with what he calls “the world’s greatest garage band” in The E Street Band, Springsteen rarely shies away from an opportunity to prove his love for old-school rock music.
That usually comes in the form of impromptu covers that he and the band break out at their live shows. If you show up to a Springsteen concert, there will inevitably be an ocean of signs with different requests on them. Springsteen usually picks one of these to try on, whether the band actually knows the track or not. There have been plenty of times that Springsteen has called out for a song without the E Street Band ever having played or practised it before. It’s all part of the high-wire fun of the concert experience.
But Springsteen and the E Streeters are no strangers to these kinds of classic covers. In fact, all the way back when Springsteen was breaking in the mid-1970s, a medley of classic old school rock tunes held a key spot in the band’s concert repertoire. That would be the Detroit medley, and it originated from Springsteen’s love of one act in particular: Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels.
Ryder had a hit with a medley of two different songs back in 1966: Shorty Long’s ‘Devil With a Blue Dress On’ and Little Richards’ ‘Good Golly Miss Molly’. The track reached number four on the Billboard Hot 100 and wound up being a high watermark in the garage rock genre. Springsteen took notice, especially once the song began getting a rave reception at some of his early gigs.
Springsteen decided to fully integrate the song into his set when he played Detroit in 1975. From that point on, Springsteen continued to bust out the medley at his concerts for years on end. Songs like ‘C.C. Rider’ and ‘Jenny Take a Ride’ also got thrown into the mix, and even nearly 50 years later, Springsteen still busts out the ‘Detroit Medley’ at his concerts when it’s time for a classic rave up.
Check out Springsteen’s live performance at London’s Hammersmith Odeon back in 1975 down below.