After the Three Mile Island nuclear catastrophe in 1979, musicians from across the United States banded together to put on a series of concerts that aimed to raise awareness towards the dangers of nuclear energy. Spearheaded by the likes of Jackson Browne, Graham Nash, and Bonnie Raitt, the No Nukes concerts also benefited from featuring some of the biggest names in rock music at the height of their powers.
Of all the participants in the concerts, nobody knew how to set the stage on fire quite like Bruce Springsteen. Springsteen and the E Street Band were in the middle of recording their fifth LP, The River, at the time and included a number of those tracks in their sets. Although audiences didn’t have the album as a reference point for some of the newer songs, it was easy to instantly get caught up in the energy of a song like ‘Sherry Darling’ even if you had never heard it before.
The River alternates between solemn meditations of love, loss, and regret on tracks like ‘Independence Day’ and ‘Stolen Car’ and manic high-energy rave ups like ‘Cadillac Ranch’ and ‘You Can Look (But You Better Not Touch)’. ‘Sherry Darling’ fits within the latter group, and even though it contains references to family troubles and unemployment, the atmosphere is completely celebratory. That party-like sound was completely intentional, according to Springsteen himself.
While guest DJ-ing on the Sirius XM channel devoted to his music, Springsteen created a playlist of his favourite “frat rock” songs – old school party tracks like ‘Wooly Bully’ by Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs and ‘96 Tears’ by ? and the Mysterians. Although ‘60s garage rock was his genre of choice, Springsteen extended the umbrella of “frat rock” to songs including ‘What I Like About You’ by the Romantics and ‘You Can’t Sit Down’ by The Dovells. Springsteen also mentioned that ‘Sherry Darling’ was one of his own songs that fit well into this particular genre of music.
The goal of “frat rock” is to start a party, and Springsteen certainly does his best to conjure up a good time during the version of ‘Sherry Darling’ that appeared during the No Nukes concerts. Featuring a blaring saxophone line from Clarence Clemons and gang vocals from Little Steven, Springsteen works the entire crowd into a frenzy, including the fans who are stationed behind the band. Springsteen makes sure that everyone is having a good time.
The E Street Band’s performance at the No Nukes concerts became so legendary that there was an ever-increasing demand to get them their own release. Springsteen finally acquiesced and released The Legendary 1979 No Nukes Concerts as a live album in 2021 containing highlights of the two nights that Springsteen and the E Street Band played during those shows. Included on the album is ‘Sherry Darling’, one of the wild highlights on an album full of highlights.
Check out the performance of ‘Sherry Darling’ during the No Nukes concerts down below.