On this day in pop culture history: Bruce Springsteen’s impromptu Arizona bar performance
The barkeeps and patrons of Matt’s Saloon in Prescott, Ariz. probably thought it was just another normal Friday night, but Sept. 29, 1989 — 26 years ago today — was not another normal night.
What made it a rather unusual evening for the sleepy town was the presence of a rock star in Matt’s Saloon: Bruce Springsteen was playing an unannounced performance at the bar. He rolled into town on a motorcycle with some buddies and wound up in a jam session with the house band.
Springsteen, wearing a leather vest and a bandana around his neck, played “I’m On Fire” from his 1984 album “Born In The U.S.A.,” but when the band asked him to play “Pink Cadillac,” the rock star said he couldn’t remember the words to his hit song, recalled Denny Orr, the rhythm guitarist for the house band.
Orr also said that things “went nuts” in the bar once word spread of the Boss’s visit. Attendance leaped “from seven or eight people to 80 or 90 in 10 minutes,” the guitarist told the Deseret News at the time.
Legend goes that while at the bar, Springsteen overheard the sad story of a barmaid that went by the name “Bubbles” — she was having difficulty paying some sizable medical bills. And reportedly, it was Bubbles who helped the rocker escape the bar when the growing mob there got too chaotic. A week later, Matt’s Saloon received an envelope from Springsteen addressed to “Bubbles.” Inside was a check for $100,000.
Other notable Sept. 29 happenings in pop culture history:
• 1954: “A Star Is Born,” with Judy Garland and James Mason in the lead roles, had its Hollywood premiere at the Pantages Theater.
• 1962: The curtain closed on the final Broadway performance of “My Fair Lady,” after 2,717 shows, a record at the time.
• 1963: The Rolling Stones’ first concert tour kicked off in London at the New Victoria Theatre.
• 1963: “My Favorite Martian” premiered on CBS.
• 1973: Grand Funk Railroad’s first No. 1 single, “We’re an American Band,” topped the Billboard Hot 100. The song spent 17 weeks on the chart.
• 1984: Prince’s second No. 1 single, “Let’s Go Crazy,” topped the Billboard Hot 100 chart. He also had a No 1. at the box office that year with “Purple Rain,” and the album of the same name also charted at No. 1.
• 1985: “MacGyver” premiered on ABC. It went on to air for seven seasons.
• 1996: The Nintendo 64 video game console debuted in North America, six months after it was released in Japan.
• 2013: The series finale of “Breaking Bad” aired on AMC. 10.3 million viewers tuned in to watch the episode live — a record high for the series.
Birthdays: “Chuck” actor Zachary Levi (turns 35 today), “Pirates of the Caribbean” actor Mackenzie Crook (44), singer and “RuPaul’s Drag Race” contestant Adore Delano (26), musician Jerry Lee Lewis (80), “Lovejoy” actor Ian McShane (73), comedian Russell Peters (45), “Drive” director Nicholas Winding Refn (45)