In November of '85, Springsteen wrote in the liner notes, "Jon Landau sent a four-song cassette of 'Born in the U.S.A.', 'Seeds', 'The River' and 'War' down to my house with a note attached saying he 'thought we might have something here'. Over the following months we listened to 10 years of tapes, the music did the talkin', and this album and its story began to emerge. We hope you have as much fun with it as we did. I'd like to thank Jon for his friendship and perseverance and the E Street Band for 1,001 nights of comradeship and good rockin'. They're all about the best bunch of people you can have at your side when you're goin' on a long drive."
Springsteen's long-awaited and highly anticipated live album generated advance orders of more than 1.5 million copies, making it the largest dollar-volume pre-order in the history of the record business at the time. Record stores around the country found fans waiting in line on Monday morning before opening and one New York store reportedly sold the album right off the back of the delivery truck. The album debuted at #1 on the Billboardalbum chart, a then-rare occurrence that hadn't happened in ten years since Stevie Wonder's Songs in the Key of Life in 1976. It also became the first five-record set to reach the top 10 and the first to sell over a million copies.
Not surprising, given Springsteen's reputation as a live performer and the sheer scope of the 40-song set, most reviews were overwhelmingly positive. There were, however, a few critics that felt the album could have been better, citing the omission of several concert highlights such as Springsteen's live rendition of "Prove It All Night" and his rousing cover of John Fogerty's "Who'll Stop the Rain", among others. Another complaint was that some of his many unreleased songs such as "The Fever" were ignored in favor of recent album tracks like "Darlington County".
Live/1975–85 is the second-best-selling live album in U.S. history based on RIAA certification. It has been certified by the RIAA for 13x platinum, trailing only Garth Brooks' Double Live. This figure reflects the RIAA practice of counting each disc in a multi-disc set as a separate unit sold; the actual number of copies sold is instead over 4 million. Based on sets sold, Live/1975–85 also trails several others including Eric Clapton's Unplugged (10 million) and Peter Frampton's Frampton Comes Alive! (8 million). The box set's sales performance attracted considerable media attention at the time, first for setting records during the 1986 holiday shopping period, then later for fizzling out in sales in early 1987, leaving many retailers overstocked.
Two singles were released from the box set: "War" (a cover of the 1970 Edwin Starr hit), which was a #8 success on the U.S. pop singles chart, and "Fire" (a Springsteen song that was a top 10 hit for The Pointer Sisters in 1979), which only reached #46 on the Billboard charts, breaking Springsteen's string of eight consecutive Top 10 singles. Two non-album tracks—"Incident on 57th Street", recorded at Nassau Coliseum in December 1980, and "For You", taken from the July 1978 Roxy show—materialized on B-sides from the album's singles and on a Japanese release titled Live Collection. The music video for "War" was taken from the concert where it was recorded, while the video for "Fire" was from a completely unrelated 1986 acoustic performance at a Bridge School Benefit concert. A third video, for "Born to Run", was also released, which showed a melange of clips from the band's 1984–85 Born in the U.S.A. Tour.