“Cut at the power station in NY in '79. I busted out my Gretsch "country gentleman" guitar and the band drove the hell out of it in a take or two.” Those were Bruce’s liner notes for From Small Things (Big Things One Day Come) in the booklet for The Essential Bruce Springsteen, on which his version of the song was at last released in 2003. Originally an outtake from The River, Bruce instead gave this song to Dave Edmunds at a London gig on 1981’s River Tour: "I was backstage in the hospitality area after the gig and one of his crew of road managers tapped me on the shoulder and said, 'Bruce wants to meet you.' I went back and had this great talk with him, and he played me this song and said, 'I'd like you to do this, if you like it,’” describes Edmunds. “He said he'd send me the tape, which he did." Edmunds quickly released the song, From Small Things, on his album D.E. 7th in 1982 and as a single, which reached #28 on the US Mainstream Rock singles chart and pushed the album to #56 on the Billboard Top 200. Meanwhile, like past giveaways Fire, The Fever, and Because The Night, Bruce began to play this song live almost immediately after giving it away.
The song was performed off tour 14 times in 1982 and 1983, eight of those times with Cats on a Smooth Surface (led by Bobby Bandiera), then the house band at the Stone Pony, with whom Bruce would for a time jam regularly. Two other performances were duets guesting with Edmunds himself. The song subsequently continued to get occasional off-tour play, being performed at club gigs twice in 1989 and once each in 1991 and 1993 (it was also setlisted for the 2002 Rumson School Benefit, but was not played), but, despite being rehearsed for the Tunnel Of Love Express Tour, it did not receive an E Street airing until August 11, 2003, when it was the opener of the Rising Tour’s final Philadelphia show, quite a surprise, as the song was not released until November of that year. The song reappeared a couple weeks later at Giants Stadium, where it was performed with Bobby Bandiera, with whom Bruce so often played the track in the 80s.
Having been let back out of the bag, the song continued to get semi-regular off-tour play, twice in 2003 (at the Light Of Day Benefit with Joe Grushecky and with Bandiera at one of Bruce’s Christmas Shows that year), five times in 2004 (at the Rumson School Benefit, with Grushecky at the Light Of Day Benefit, with Grushecky at the Flood Aid concert in Pittsburgh, and at both Harry’s Roadhouse holiday shows with Bandiera), twice in 2006 (at the Rumson and Ranney School benefits, each with Bandiera), and twice more in 2007 (at the Ranney School Benefit with Bandiera and with Max Weinberg at an SPCA fundraiser).
Earlier this week, the song received its Magic Tour debut and only its third E Street airing in Bruce’s first ever concert in Wales (Cardiff, specifically)—the home of Dave Edmunds. The song had been covered by numerous other artists (notably the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band), but it was Edmunds version that kept From Small Things from being lost in the flood like so many other outtakes of its time, so it is him fans of the rocker must thank for the song’s persistence in performance (and, eventually, release). It took a while, but this song was simply too good not to make a fortune in the promised land.
By Jake Romanow (ol'catfishinthelake)