In the late 1990s, Bruce Springsteen read the first Harry Potter book to his son Sam. Moved by the story, he wrote a song and offered it to Chris Columbus for Sorcerer’s Stone in 2001. WB turned it down.
Since then, the song has sat in Bruce’s vaults with hundreds, perhaps thousands, of other rejects. That’s Bruce! He writes a ton of stuff and then puts it into storage if he’s not using it for his next project. Some of it eventually surfaces in an official capacity or will leak through various passageways, but for the most part everything in the vault stays under lock and key.
Such has been the case for Bruce’s Harry Potter song, “I’ll Stand By You Always” — Until Thursday night, when an “Uber collector” (in The Boss fandom, these people are the super fans who somehow manage to get all the good stuff and for inexplicable reasons keep it for themselves) decided to release a pack of 13 tracks that’ve never seen the light of day.
The compilation titled “Odds and Sods,” released on the Bruce Springsteen torrent site Jungleland (This is a site where fans upload recordings of concerts — I’m quickly getting you up to speed on the Springsteen fandom, aren’t I?), consists mostly of songs from concert soundchecks that are very rare. For example, “Odds and Sods” contains the earliest known version of the showstopper “Kitty’s Back,” and an early version of “Devils & Dust” soundchecked in 2003, two years before the song appeared on Bruce’s studio album of the same name. None of these thirteen particular recordings have circulated amongst fans prior to this week’s leak.
As a diehard Springsteen fan, I can attest to just how rare this collection is. Not only have these particular performances been sought after by the fans for some time, but the sound quality on all of them is sublime. What’s more, the thirteenth and final track has a bonus song tacked on to the end of the file. “Odds and Sods” is a delight.
Listen to Bruce’s Harry Potter song
Here’s the demo recording that Bruce recorded and handed over to Sorcerer’s Stone director Chris Columbus in 2001:
Recorded during The Rising sessions, it’s track 12 on this compilation — A number that’ll make Harry Potter fans’ ears perk up, though I seriously doubt the creator of this collection did that on purpose. To me this song sounds like a message from James and Lily, or Dumbledore, to Harry about the dangers that lie ahead.
A sample of the Harry Potter song’s lyrics: “You meet me in the night with tears falling down, come let me dry them for you,” Bruce begins. “I wish I could tell a story, chase away all the ghosts you’ve got inside of you. A story of heroes that fight all night at any cost, of a kingdom of love to be won or lost. We’ll fight here together ’til victory is won. Come take my hand ’til morning comes. Just close your eyes, I’ll stand by you always.”
The narrator says they “wish” they could tell a story, but why is it only a wish? Is this Lily and James speaking to Harry at the Mirror of Erised? Unable to truly speak to their boy? Or is it that they don’t have uplifting answers about the future?
Later, Bruce offers the listener a reassuring message. “I know that here in the dark tomorrow can seem so very far away. The ghosts and the goblins can rise from your dreams to steal your heart away. Together we’ll chase those thieves that won’t leave you alone, out from under the bed, out from our home. When the light comes we’ll laugh, my love, at the things the night had us so frightened of. Until then, I’ll stand by you always.”
Bruce’s heavy use of the word “Always” is particularly prophetic — As Harry Potter fans know, the word plays a key role at the end of J.K. Rowling’s series, when Snape tells Dumbledore he has “always” cared for Harry and Lily.
The break in the middle of the songs uses an eerie falsetto, and while the chorus is nothing to write home about, I find the verses to be powerful and inspirational. Imagining this song as a message from a parent to their son or daughter makes me wanna tear up. Instrumentally the song uses what sounds like a drum loop, an organ, and a piano. It’s a demo, so this song didn’t get very far production wise. Still, it’s a relatively complete recording.
How did the Uber collector get the song? He writes in a message attached to the torrent, “I befriend people near the band, close to the label and yes other collectors, too, all over the world. When those sources come to visit my country, I ask them to bring some rare tapes and I gave them something special in return, not always music!”
The Uber collectors tend to keep their libraries close to the vest — For some reason, they don’t love to share. But to that, the “Odds and Sods” creator says, “Don’t be mad! But why have the music if no one gets to hear it?”
For his part, Bruce doesn’t mind when songs sneak out of the vault. In fact, many bootlegs, outtakes, alternate versions, etc. appear on his Sirius XM channel E Street Radio even though they haven’t been officially released.