A WINTER'S TALE Thom Zimny captures the making of Springsteen's 20th studio album in Letter to You
Review by Caroline Madden
The past few years of Bruce Springsteen's career have been very reflective, the now-71-year-old artist looking back at his past to deconstruct his own mythology. Written with introspective candor, his memoir Born to Run delved into his personal demons, childhood memories, and the personal and social events that inspired his songwriting. For the stellar Springsteen on Broadway, Bruce used sharp humor and poetic monologues to dissect the American iconography of his music, such as blue-collar work, cars, and the open road. In Western Stars, he slipped into his cowboy boots to scrutinize the enduring themes of his canon: the tension between rugged individualism and the need to be a part of a community, the lonely, wayward traveler journeying across the expanse of America in search of inner peace and freedom.
Letter to You, a companion film to the album released the same day, is part of this retrospective wave, weighed more heavily by Bruce's awareness of his waning mortality. The "light from the oncoming train," as he has phrased it, illuminates his past, present, and future, and he wields the artistic mediums of song and screen to make sense of his life and ours.
Helmed once again by director Thom Zimny, the 90-minute Letter to You is part behind-the-scenes documentary and part visual album. It follows a similar structure to Western Stars, with Bruce's weathered voice introducing each song performance in the form of a poignant voiceover monologue. This time, the film doesn't present the songs in album order, and two of the 12 songs are omitted, to weave a particular story that honors the "45 year conversation" he has had with his bandmates and fans, one that will continue "'til we're all in the box."
Instead of the pale, arid desert landscapes of Western Stars, we angelically glide over the frozen New Jersey woodlands. This evocative drone photography, shot in austere black and white, is reminiscent of the old pictures of The Castiles ("1965 to 1968, three years," he says, "an eternity in the '60s,") that haunt Springsteen. These hushed snowscapes have a reverent quality that plays both with and against the tone of the Letter to You album. Accompanied by his elegiac compositional score (credited to Springsteen with producer Ron Aniello, and deserving of its own album release), Bruce's image is often superimposed over these wintry vistas, lending him an aura of divine wisdom.
As a third component, joining the wintry scenes outside and the interior warmth of the studio, Zimny once again selects unseen archival footage to place you in the era of Springsteen's formative years. Small clips of everyday lives from the past, as well as performance and other footage of young Bruce and the E Streeters, have a spectral and wistful beauty that fits the album's recurring theme of "ghosts."
As Bruce explains before "Last Man Standing," the songs on Letter to You were inspired by the death of his former Castiles bandmate George Theiss. As "the last living member of the mighty Castiles," Springsteen ruminated on his musical roots and was struck by "the debt that I still owed my Freehold brothers in arms." Letter to You, he says in voiceover, was his way of thanking the friends, bandmates, and fellow students in his "first and greatest school of rock," such as Diana and George Theiss, Bart Haynes, Frank Marziotti, Curt Fluhr, Vinnie Manniello, Paul Popkin, Bob Alfano. With his modern-day E Street Band, Bruce also travels back to the past to re-record and flesh out a few early songs that got away, including what had been acoustic John Hammond demos. Amusingly, they are the only songs that he needs glasses to read, due to their florid, Bob Dylan-esque lyrics.
In between Springsteen's eloquent introductions, we have the electrifying heart of the matter: Springsteen and the E Street Band creating a new album in a matter of days, right before the camera's eye. Zimny gives us a multi-angle view of the studio, capturing the band in all of their creative glory as they trade ideas, laugh, and play with a precision and passion that sizzle like dynamite. There are even a few humorous moments where we get to see why Bruce is dubbed the Boss.
Although we have seen documentaries of their recording process before, the studio footage in Letter to You feels different as it shows the band's return to recording full takes together for the first time since 1984. It is gratifying to witness this near-flawless, "finely tuned instrument of flexibility and power" in their element, with decades of collaboration and friendship behind them. Zimny nimbly captures the buzzing energy in the room that can only come from such a long-lasting partnership.
The rousing "Ghosts" celebrates the "beauty and joy of being in a band and the pain of losing one another," Bruce says. Without the E Street Band, Bruce could never have brought his music to life in the same way, and we get to witness them doing just that: as Springsteen has recently discussed in interviews, this time he eschewed recorded demos to play the band his new compositions on acoustic guitar, allowing them to create their own parts in the moment.
"All of us together are greater than the sum of our individual parts… While in our band, the songs and individual vision are mine, the physical creation of that vision into a real world present belongs to all of us," Springsteen declares.
During their impassioned performances, Zimny gracefully pairs vintage footage of Bruce and the band against their current-day selves. When their young faces blend into the old, the film inspires a nostalgia for what once was and a deep gratitude for what continues to be. How lucky we are to have seen this band endure for so many years. How lucky we are that they have given us a lifetime of music, memories, and happiness.
Music fills the pulpit of Springsteen's life. It is his own form of prayer, as he reveals in his introduction to "The Power of Prayer": "I restricted my prayers to three minutes and a 45 RPM record. The power of pure pop, the beautiful simplicity of melody, a complete character study in a matter of minutes. Life in 180 seconds or less. If you get it right, it has the power of prayer."
We witness the transformative power of music during a moving scene in which the band listens to a playback of album-closer "I'll See You in My Dreams," a mournful elegy to Bruce's dearly departed friends, inspired by his own nightly visions of Clarence, Danny, and others. Zimny concentrates on Jon Landau holding back tears, rapt in the tenderness of Bruce's lyrics.
Death has always preoccupied Bruce, it seems, and beneath the haunting image of rolling clouds, he recalls the terror and wonder of the funerals he attended as a child and his nightly recitation of "Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep." His Catholic upbringing "impressed upon my young mind that someday we will close our eyes and the grey evening sky will unfold above us. Bringing that long and endless sleep."
Winter may symbolize death, but Letter to You, despite its frosty landscapes and monochromatic visuals, is not a gloomy experience, ending on a galvanizing note with the smoldering "Burnin' Train."
Springsteen burns, too, with an artistic flame that, like Moses' burning bush, never wanes. "After all this time, I still feel that burning need to communicate. It's there when I wake every morning. It walks alongside of me throughout the day. And it's there when I go to sleep each night. Over the past 50 years, it's never once ceased…. As reliable as the rhythmic beating of my own heart is my need to talk to you," he affirms. It is this intense need, along with the comradery and collaborative artistry on display, that makes the film feel so warm, despite its at-times melancholy subject matter and stark style.
At the end of the film, Springsteen leaves us with a benediction to appreciate the time we have here on earth; he encourages us to treat our loved ones with grace and bask in the beauty of the world around us. Letter to You is a touching time capsule of a band with a deep, unique kinship that can only be forged over time, and a meditative portrait of an artist from humble beginnings, blessed with an observant and empathetic eye, who became not just a rock star but a great philosopher of our times. This heartfelt documentary proves once again that Zimny and Springsteen make excellent collaborators. Bruce has sent us a letter, and its message is clear: when we shake off our mortal cage, our spirits will live on, swirling around in the ether alongside the musical notes that have filled our ears and our souls.
The Letter to You film premieres October 23 via AppleTV, the same day as Bruce Springsteen's latest studio album of the same name. You can sign up for a 7-day free trial by visiting: https://tv.apple.com/.
AN APPLE A DAY: LETTER TO YOU RADIO, ALL WEEK Springsteen, Apple Music, and SiriusXM team up for five-part series Bruce Springsteen may not replace Howard Stern on SiriusXM anytime soon, but listeners will have their daily fill of both this week, as Springsteen hosts five days of programming to air on SiriusXM's E Street Radio as well as Apple Music Hits.
Each episode of Letter to You Radio covers a specific era, starting with today's hour-long Episode 1 on the roots of Springsteen's career. Joining for the kick-off is longtime music industry executive Clive Davis — who headed Columbia Records when Springsteen signed to the label in 1972 — and Springsteen's manager Jon Landau.
The other four lead up to Friday's release of Springsteen's new Columbia Records LP, Letter to You. And the topics vary by day:
Tuesday finds Springsteen talking with Eddie Vedder and Dave Grohl about success
Wednesday features a discussion with The Killers' Brandon Flowers about the influence of Bruce's music on younger bands
Thursday, Jon Stewart will talk with Springsteen about the intersection of music and politics
Friday, the coolest DJ in the land Little Steven Van Zandt will join to celebrate the release of the new LP.
The episodes will air at 4pm ET on both SiriusXM and Apple Music Hits; additionally, episodes will become available on Apple Music on demand; we're not yet aware of similar availability for later playback on SiriusXM; it's worth noting that the service hosts all 13 episodes of From My Home to Yours, so there's a good chance that this week's programming will remain online that way, too.
SiriusXM will play each episode a second time at 7pm ET and reprise the programming in its entirety next week.
More Apple Bobbing If it's old-school programming you seek, "Springsteen Week" has Apple users covered there, too: Apple Music TV launched today, and it's a lot like MTV was in 1981 — before it had even aired the live clip of "Rosalita" from Phoenix in 1978! In other words, it's going to focus on music video as we once knew it.
That'll come in handy on Thursday, when the channel features a day-long event, with special programming that will include Springsteen videos and interviews. Read this Ars Technica story for more details.
As for Thursday night's NMD Presents special, Apple Music TV chief Rachel Newman confirms that it will air on the new channel, and she spoke with Variety today about what to expect:
…a fan-only event… broadcast on Apple Music as well as the music video channel — at [11 p.m. ET], just ahead of the album being launched, there's a live event for a thousand superfans who are part of a closed-off virtual environment where they can communicate with Bruce and ask questions; Zane Lowe presents this and they talk about the album and play back it back. We're with the artist as the album is released, so that's quite special.
We can't recall a time when Springsteen participated to such a degree ahead of any record, without a morning show visiting Asbury Park; at least this time, he can sleep in. - By the Editors - October 19, 2020
WATCH NOW: ZANE LOWE INTERVIEWS SPRINGSTEEN
This afternoon, Apple Music has released Bruce Springsteen: The Letter to You Interview, a video Q&A with Zane Lowe (who will also be co-hosting the NMD special with Bruce on Thursday night).
Filmed in his home studio, Springsteen connects with Lowe via Zoom for this hour-long interview, speaking about the album from its recording process down to the individual songs, as well as ruminating on the E Street Band, current events, and more.
If you have iTunes, you can fire it up via Apple Music, or
watch the full hour via YouTube, below.
- October 19, 2020
BURNING DOWN THE HOUSE: NEW NYTIMES Q&A
As we enter Letter to You week, the New York Times kicked things off with a new Springsteen interview on Sunday, courtesy of music critic and former Ringer writer Lindsay Zoladz.
Bruce directly sums up what, to him, the new album is about: "The record is the first record that I've made where the subject is the music itself.… It's about popular music. It's about being in a rock band, over the course of time. And it's also a direct conversation between me and my fans, at a level that I think they've come to expect over the years."
Zoladz notes that Springsteen has "made a record and a film that are in some ways both about the primacy of playing live music at a time when we can’t really experience that"; Bruce looks ahead to a day when we can:
I think there's going to be a process before people are comfortable rubbing up against one another again. But if somebody told me, "That’s never going to happen again" — that would be a big life change for me. That act of playing has been one of the only consistent things in my life since I was 16 years old. I've depended a lot on it not just for my livelihood, but for my emotional well-being. So if somebody said, "Five years from now, maybe" — that's a long time. Particularly at my age. I'm 71, and I'm thinking, "Well I know one thing. I'm in the mood right now to burn the house down for as long as I can."
TRAMPS LIKE US CELEBRATES BTR45 WITH DRIVE-IN CONCERT & MOVIE Next weekend on Long Island, the day after the Letter to You release, Springsteen tribute band Tramps Like Us will celebrate the 45th anniversary of another first-class E Street delivery: 1975's Born to Run. This outdoor concert will feature the classic album played in order, live on stage in its entirety, along with an additional hour of Springsteen favorites and hits. For the full drive-in experience in this Adventureland Drive-In Concerts & Movies series, the Blinded By the Light film will follow.
5-7pm: Live DJ & Trivia 5:00-7:00pm
7pm: StreetFighter (Rolling Stones Tribute)
8:15pm: Tramps Like Us (Born to Run in full + Springsteen Classic)
10pm:Blinded By the Light
The event takes place Saturday, October 24 at Adventureland (2245 Broadhollow Road Farmingdale, NY 11735 ). Lot opens at 5pm, and admission is $99 per car (up to 6 passengers) — watch from inside your vehicle or outside on a lawn chair. Click here for
tickets and further information.
- October 18, 2020
AMERICAN BABYLON AT 25
Produced by Bruce Springsteen, Joe Grushecky & the Houserockers' American Babylon was released on October 17, 1995. A quarter-century after the "October Assault," Ken Rosen looks back with the head Houserocker
at this first Bruce & Joe collaboration
I was gearing up to ask Joe Grushecky about the missing credits for "Comin' Down Maria" and "Talk Show" on his American Babylon album, easing into it by asking about the one credited contributor:
How did Patti [Scialfa]'s contribution come about for "Comin' Down Maria"?
I just had that song. It was just Bruce and I recording it. And one of us (probably me) said, "Hey Patti, want to sit in on this?" So she came over.
Oh well, I thought, that was disappointingly straightforward. But then Joe continued, and he beat me to the punch:
"Comin' Down Maria" and "Talk Show" are both just me and Bruce. We're the only guys playing instruments on those. If there's drum sets, it's probably electronic drums somehow that we did, plus Patti singing on "Comin' Down Maria." The rest of the stuff is just he and I.
Wait. I did not know that. I'm not sure anybody knows that, actually.
Well… I don't think at that point… [laughs sheepishly] We didn't actually want to say how much he had done on the record, because he's pretty much all over it. He's on every track except "No Strings Attached" and "American Babylon." On every other song he is playing or singing or something.
Huh. So, he's on "Talk Show"?
Yeah, that's all him.
Wow. I did not know that.
Well, nobody does. I'm spilling the beans. You're the first guy to know.
That was a genuine surprise, although in retrospect it shouldn't have been. Bruce is all over American Babylon, so why wouldn't we all have at least suspected that he was on these two tracks also — especially since his wife sings on one of them?
The revelation that two officially released tracks with prominent Springsteen contributions have been hiding in plain sight for a quarter-century may have been the biggest reveal of our 75-minute long conversation, but it was far from the only one.
When Joe and I spoke a few months ago as part of his virtual publicity tour for the 40th anniversary of Have a Good Time But Get Out Alive, I mentioned to him that American Babylon has a milestone anniversary this year, too.
That album is one of my favorites — by anybody — of the 1990s. I had just moved from Philadelphia to Portland, I was completely turned off by the grunge movement, and I felt like rock was evolving into something I couldn't find an affinity for. Then came American Babylon, recommended to me by a record store advisor who I never had the chance to properly thank, and I felt my faith restored: someone was still making great East Coast rock 'n' roll, and I played the heck out of that album over the years. (I'm on my third copy, and trust me: American Babylon is not an easy album to find.)
I told Joe I'd love to do a deep-dive with him on American Babylon, and he immediately agreed. Although the anniversary was still a few months away, we took advantage of the steamy dog days of this quarantine summer to take a look back at the making and meaning of Joe's Bruce-produced milestone album.
In a wide-ranging conversation, Joe shared the origins of American Babylon and his working relationship with Bruce; the backstories for several of the album's strongest tracks (including "Homestead" and "Dark and Bloody Ground," co-written with Springsteen); how Joe almost got fired from his day job for having the audacity to record with Bruce; what's next for Joe; and enough record-correcting session detail to require some serious Brucebase revisions.
Our conversation was so rich with color, detail, and stories that I couldn't bring myself to edit it down.
So please join us over on my blog, E Street Shuffle, to read our entire conversation, and my thanks to Backstreets for allowing me to share it with you. - October 17, 2020 - Ken Rosen reporting
NEW MUSIC DAILY PRESENTS: SPRINGSTEEN LIVE ON LTY EVE
Apple Music has announced a live Letter to You event for
Release Eve: on Thursday night, October 22, Bruce Springsteen and Zane Lowe will cohost the NMD Presents Bruce Springsteen event, with the Boss appearing live from New Jersey to answer fan questions and play clips from the Letter to You film.
Ticket registration is open to Apple Music subscribers. As we understand it, U.S. fans will be able to secure tickets to join the virtual room with Bruce, and international fans will be able to watch the event live.
AND ON THE FIFTH DAY, THEY LISTENED U.K.'s Uncut Magazine gets inside for expansive Letter to You feature
A week ahead of its release, the promotion for Bruce Springsteen's new LP has jumped the pond with a lavishly illustrated spread in Uncut, the monthly British music magazine. Titled "The Ties That Bind," the 13-page page cover story features highlights from interviews with most of the E Street Band and Springsteen's manager Jon Landau.
It's a turn from the initial instances of Letter to You press coverage. Current profiles in Rolling Stone and AARP centered on question-and-answer sessions with Springsteen himself, and lengthy biographical recaps; if he spoke to Uncut writer Peter Watts for this story, it was on background.
Letting E Street Band members recount the live experience for Letter to You brings the focus to the music. That perspective forms a major part of the story Watts tells: Max Weinberg, for example, sketched the band's physical placement inside Springsteen's Stone Hill Studio: "We are very close together," Weinberg said of the recording set-up, "which is unlike a concert where we are all spread out." With Springsteen and Van Zandt on either side of him and his drum kit, Weinberg likens their trading ideas mid-song to "watching the tennis match."
While technical details fill in the picture, Steve Van Zandt talked about the writing process for Letter to You, nearly all of which the E Street Band laid down at Springsteen's New Jersey's home studio over a four-day stretch last November. "With this one, before he even started writing," Van Zandt said, Springsteen "was after a real band record. It's a different way of writing, a different subject matter and a different size of song. Those factors all need to be in place before he starts writing."
Nils Lofgren— the self-described "new guy" in the E Street Band, coming up on 37 years — underscored how song structures allowed the band to improvise. "You aren't just trying to place your part on a great track, you are all there together," Lofgren told Watts. "It's interactive and you have to focus and adapt to what the others are doing. That's the standard freedom we get."
Recording live in the studio with the E Street Band was both a first for Lofgren and a return to the ways in which it'd backed Springsteen for The River and Born in the U.S.A.: mostly live, with few overdubs. And in this case, no demos to emulate.
Relying solely on placeholder versions captured on his iPhone, Springsteen taught the band each song in turn by playing it on acoustic guitar. Beginning with the Castiles-inspired elegy "Last Man Standing," they made notes on chord changes and arrangements, then hit record, "making further alterations," Watts writes, "until they got it right" — resulting in no more than a half-dozen takes for any given song. Credit for this back-to-basics approach belongs with Roy Bittan, who suggested it to Springsteen over lunch soon after the new songs materialized ("because when you demo," Bittan told Watts, "it's carved in stone").
The second part of the Uncut package features a breezy review of Letter to You (written by Richard Williams), which, like the first part, offers insight and detail about songs' lyrical and musical components: "One Minute You're Here" starts with a "downbeat Springsteen alone with acoustic guitar," Watts writes; Williams describes the trio of older compositions Springsteen revived for the projects as "homages to the sound of Bob Dylan circa 1965. The triumphant wild mercury swirl of Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper is lovingly re-created, while the particular virtue of each song is brought to the fore… dialled down to suit today's sensibility."
"The Ties That Bind" is the cover story of the December 2020 issue of Uncut Magazine, on U.K. newsstands now and available digitally or in print via uncut.co.uk. - By the Editors, October 15, 2020
"Dermot O'Leary, at home in London, links up with his hero Bruce Springsteen, on his farm in New Jersey, to chat about his new album Letter to You - plus some classic tracks picked by Dermot." Premieres Saturday, October 24 at 00:00. - October 13, 2020
Well I got houses 'cross the country honey end to end And everybody buddy wants to be my friend I got a custom emoji for every Tweet I send #springsteenhttps://t.co/qZLY7XBexx
BACKSTREETS PRE-ORDERING IS ON NOW FOR LETTER TO YOU
Each copy comes with an exclusive bonus FREE… and it's pretty Sharp!
Thanks to everyone patiently waiting for our pre-order offer to be ready... it took some time to devise, design, and create our special exclusive, but approval has come down from the top and we're taking pre-orders now!
Every copy of Letter to You we ship, on compact disc or vinyl 2LP, will be accompanied by a special promotional item you'll find nowhere else — an official Letter to You pen-and-notecard set, FREE! The goal was to come up with something as thematically appropriate as our bandanas were for Western Stars, and we have to thank designer Michelle Holme for making it come alive once again.
The handsome 7x5 notecard shows an expanded view of Danny Clinch's Letter to You cover photo; it's blank inside, for your own letter. And the pen, of course, is a Sharpie — Bruce's pen of choice.
Thanks to Michelle, all at the Springsteen organization and Sony/Columbia, who've been so supportive of an extra special something for the fans. This official, promotional-only set is only available to those who pre-order from Backstreet Records.
Letter to You will be released on October 23, and pre-orders will ship out from Backstreet Records with the pen & notecard set ASAP, in the order received.
Thanks as always for supporting what we do! - October 11, 2020
FIVE BY FIVE IN HOTLANTA
Nugs completes the official '78 broadcast set with 9/30/78 "Have you heard the news?" Bruce Springsteen entreats the audience in Atlanta's Fox Theater. "Have you heard the news?" Satisfied with the crowd's response, the E Street Band jumps into "Good Rockin' Tonight," by now a seasoned Darkness tour opener. It's September 30, 1978, and they'd been on the road behind Springsteen's much-awaited fourth album since the end of May. This date was a make-up for a July postponement (due to illness), a situation Bruce apologizes for repeatedly throughout the evening, and promises to make up for.
Neither he nor the audience should have been concerned about their ability to make good on that: while the July E Street Band was already on its A-game, another two months under its belt shows on every possible front — and in good time, because this concert was broadcast regionally around the Southeastern United States.
Today, September 30, 1978 joins Springsteen's Live Archive series to make the Darkness broadcast quintet complete: all five (along with the Roxy, Agora, Passaic, and Winterland) are now official releases in the Springsteen live catalog, with the sonic improvements to match.
None needed an upgrade more than Atlanta. As the story goes, storms in the region wreaked havoc with the airwaves, and a perfect tape has never surfaced. Plangent Processed and freshly mixed from the pre-FM 24-track multis, today's release should finally do the show justice.
In a tour brimming with exceptional shows, '78 tends to be dominated by the Roxy and the Agora, broadcasts heard in real time that you could get a copy of without finding and paying for a bootleg. But Atlanta is no consolation prize: it's a show that is dialed-in from a performance standpoint. Every song is executed near-perfectly, and still abundant with electricity and verve.
The intro to "Spirit in the Night" is one such moment, with not a note out of place, and it thrusts Bruce into a swirl of cosmic magic. "Spirit" is also the moment where the other star of this Atlanta show, the audience, takes its place. You can feel the collective reaction with the first notes; they know what song it is. They hit the "all night!" like they'd been singing it for decades, the women in the audience make their presence known when Bruce starts crawling into Greasy Lake, and everyone yells "goodbye" on cue. "You guys are nuts out there. It's incredible," Bruce says once the song finishes.
Springsteen recounts a 1975 Atlanta show at the Electric Ballroom, where someone in the audience mistook him for Steve: "I said, 'No, no, I'm Bruce! That's Steve!' That was funny." There would be no case of mistaken identity tonight; in fact, Atlanta is one of those shows where the audience yells song requests during every interlude. Bruce acknowledged them before "Independence Day," which followed an exquisite "Darkness on the Edge of Town": listen for the interplay between the verses and the choruses. "The Promised Land" features another audience response on cue, yelling blow away loud enough to make it onto the broadcast; listening at home, you'll probably be moved enough to be yelling it along with them.
After Bruce issues the invitation "Do you think you're ready to prove it all night?" he vocalizes off-mic for a bar or two before executing what can only be characterized as a HOT SHIT guitar intro: not flamboyant, but dynamic and full of tension and so intently true to the original emotional core of the song. The band comes in, and again, it is this perfect meshing of parts that carries the intro.
The '78 "Prove It"'s were also glorious for the verbalized exaltations on the bridge, exquisitely placed "ohhh"s and "uh-huhs," and that's the case here. A guitar solo sharp and sweet, and then the last verse, the last verse! Bruce is half-singing, half-growling "What it means to steal, to cheat, to lie / What it's like to live and die," and you can palpably feel the intensity. The call-and-response at the end, the audience and the band singing "Prove It All Night" back at each other, before The Phantom swings out in front the way that only Danny Federici could do, Roy holding the back line, and there is Bruce playing fast and furious, almost ecstatic, Max holding it all down with military precision. Bruce calls out both Max and Danny at the end for their contributions.
"Racing in the Street" once again highlights the ease with which Danny and Roy could weave and layer and never crowd each other. Bruce's emotions and vocal timbre are just achingly, precisely aligned; it's bright but sharp and a little sad, like the end of summer. He alludes to that, changing lyrics to mention summer being gone, as well as a nod to the audience when he switches "Northeast" to "Southern," and the audience reacts instantly: they are with him, this is truly a scenario where the audience is in concert with the performer. (This, of course, is based on a FM recording of the show, and it is yet to be seen how much of that color makes it onto the official release.)
Bruce prefaces "Thunder Road" with the story we know, how he wrote it in that little house in West End, and — as he referenced in Episode 13 of From My Home to Yours — how he saw a poster for Thunder Road but "never saw the movie. I remember I only saw the poster. But I took the title and I wrote this song, I never thought there was any place that was like this song," and then we're in the desert and there's the poster of Geronimo: "Over on top it said 'LANDLORD,' and he had a big white sign, and painted in red, it said: 'This is the land of peace, love, justice, and no mercy,' and it pointed down this little dirt road that said 'Thunder Road'."
There's an eager intensity to Bruce's lyric delivery, where you can viscerally feel the movement of the car and the wind and the road. The fans are with him here too, delightfully applauding themselves after answering the "Say it!" cue in the first verse.
They have absolutely earned this particular "Jungleland." As emotion builds in the intro, maybe you'll hold an imaginary guitar aloft in your living room just like I did. Bruce's vocal delivery edges into something almost operatic, as though he is overwhelmed by energy and emotion and is doing his best to hold it back. Danny swirls around him like watercolors, and then he is there, beseeching the crowd at the end: "SAY IT NOW," like a Baptist preacher.
We come back to earth with quick and businesslike band intros as the first set — just the first set! — comes to an end. Even at home, or wherever you might be with this in your headphones, you will be glad for a moment to catch your breath, because we still have the second half to come.
When the band returns, Bruce begins: "We're all on the radio tonight, so I wanna say hello to everybody in Atlanta and out there, everybody down in Florida who's listening in, folks out in Austin, Houston and Dallas…. Now, it might be a little early for this next song, but we might not see you around Christmas time, so I've got a story to tell." It's not surprising that "Santa Claus Is Comin' to Town" is showing up in September — it was played at the Capitol Theatre shows just a week and a half earlier, and "Santa" had been known to make its appearance in the late summer and early fall.
Apparently this number was accompanied by fake snow, so while some roadies grab brooms and clean up the "popcorn," as Bruce refers to it, he says: "I tell you what we need: we need a broom, and we need a little 'Night Train'!"
Yes, "Night Train" — James Brown's "Night Train," the only time that E Street has ever played "Night Train," in the spirit of Bruce's habit of playing location-specific one-off covers (like "Sea Cruise" at the Naval Academy in Annapolis earlier on the tour).
This isn't vamped, this isn't "stump the band," and while I'm sure that every member of the E Street Band could fake their way through "Night Train," this was clearly rehearsed and planned, Bruce delightfully announcing the various stops, even if they are out of order and include some locations (like Dallas) which aren't in the original — it does not matter, because the E Street Band are playing "Night Train" and it gets tighter as it goes along, Bruce verbally conducting over the bridge, and Clarence playing the hell out of the sax line.
Atlanta featured the '78 sequence of "Fire" / "Candy's Room" / "Because the Night" / "Point Blank" / "She's the One" (with bonus "Not Fade Away" and "Gloria"), certainly a memorable manifestation of that particular narrative arc. (Like, that is a story.) He'd played with the placement of "Candy's Room" and "Fire" (which was, of course, then unreleased) before, but this here is a statement. It takes a particular mindset to sell it and not have it be overbearing. But the E Street Band sound so agile and light on their feet and yet also so goddamn precise that it's intense as all get-out but not ever too much — it's one of those magic nights where they just follow Bruce wherever he goes. By "Not Fade Away" Bruce is definitely, as the kids say, feeling himself, and it is (at least on the original FM-sourced tapes) one of the many delightful moments where you hear E Street on backing vocals. "All must sing," indeed.
The Morricone-styled intro to "Rosalita" gives everyone a chance to simmer down, but not for long, because this is a "Rosie" on steroids. It is so insanely energetic that you can't believe what you are hearing. Slightly more expanded band intros here — "A warm round of applause for Miami Steve Van Zandt" — before ending with, "Wherever you are, you can't hide! Come out tonight!" bringing us to the end of the second set.
"I wanna thank everybody for coming down to the show tonight. I wanna say we're sorry about missing you the last time, I got sick for a few days there… I know there's a lot of people listening, and I'd like to thank all you folks here in Atlanta and all those people who supported the band over the past two or three years when we were having a hard time, I just wanna thank you very much."
"Born to Run" takes us into the repeated query, "Are you ready for the Tenth? Are you ready for the Tenth?" no less than four times; the Medley comes complete with "I've been asked by the management at the theater to advise anyone with a weak stomach or a weak heart to please step into the lobby during the next section of the show! For you folks out there in radioland, this next portion is strictly visual."
But the show is still not over. Coming back out yet one more time, Bruce declares, "You wanted us to do another one, all you had to do was…. raise your hand!" leading into an outstanding rendition of the E Street favorite and Eddie Floyd classic. It's prime "All must sing" time, the band members joining in with gusto.
In the last chorus, Bruce charges the listeners at home: "Now, everybody out there on the radio, I want you to get up… I want you to walk over to your dial, I want you to turn it up as loud as it'll go, I want you to open up all the windows in the house, and if the cops come knocking at your door, tell 'em 'Too bad,' and if they keep on knocking, tell 'em to send all the complaints to Columbia Records in New York City, New York!"
The glee tinged with relief in Bruce's voice in the final number betrays that he knows this one was a keeper. Forty-two years later, it still is.
- October 9, 2020 - Caryn Rose reporting - cover photograph by PJay Plutzer
WE HAVE SEEN INDUCTION CEREMONY FUTURE
Springsteen to induct Landau in Rock Hall event broadcast November 7
Just because the Rock Hall's live Induction Ceremony in May had to be COVID-cancelled, doesn't mean we won't get to see Bruce Springsteen honor his longtime manager, producer, and friend (and pioneering rock journaist) Jon Landau.
New plans have been announced for the induction event, which will now be presented as an HBO special next month — and Springsteen is on the official roster.
No one gives better speech.
The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame 2020 Induction debuts Saturday, November 7 at 8pm ET on HBO and will stream on HBO Max; it will also be simulcast on SiriusXM.
"While this year’s program will be different than those of years past," says Joel Peresman, President and CEO of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Foundation, "we look forward to recognizing [the Class of 2020's] impact on the industry, their fans and the next generation of artists."
Springsteen will welcome Landau in with the Class of 2020 by presenting him the Ahmet Ertegun award, which honors "songwriters, producers, disc jockeys, record executives, journalists and other industry professionals who have had a major influence on rock 'n' roll." Visit rockhall.com for more information.
- October 8, 2020
ALRIGHT, ALRIGHT: BRUCE RETURNS TO GN SHOW, 10/23
With just over two weeks to go until Letter to You, we're getting wind of some promotional appearances. The first to be officially announced: Bruce Springsteen will be a guest on The Graham Norton Show on release day itself, Friday, October 23. Likely via video call — we doubt he'll be sitting on the couch, as he was for his first visit in 2019 (pictured above) — Bruce will join Lily James, Matthew McConaughey, and musical guest Sam Smith. The show airs Fridays at 10:35pm on BBC1 and BBC iPlayer in the U.K., or later via BBC America in the U.S. - October 8, 2020
photograph by Danny Clinch
RECAP: VOLUME 13, "MY KINGDOM FOR A CAR" The road is life, and radio on! Okay, we've got 66 twice, plus 88, add 2-4-6-8… with an 85, carry the 6… ah, screw it — cars were made to get us away from stuff like math, right?
It was only a matter of time before Bruce Springsteen's theme-time radio show landed his all-time favorite metaphor, and in Volume 13 of From My Home to Yours he welcomes "car freaks, gearheads, fellow travelers, and listeners from coast to coast and around the world" to his "tribute to the automobile and the open road," titled "My Kingdom for a Car."
Even at a full 90 minutes, Volume 13 feels streamlined: no long stories over instrumental beds, just driving songs — driving in all senses of the word — from here to the horizon. The radio's on, and Springsteen is the DJ hearing your prayer. Bruce being King of the Car Song, it's fascinating to see what made his cut — to hear the ones that made him nod his head and think, "Yeah, that's on the list."
The episode title, "My Kingdom for a Car," comes from a 1970 Phil Ochs song. The lyrics scan like a template for Springsteen's career-full of auto imagery: "flyin' down a highway of gold," "I am master of all that's flying by me," "I'm racin' with the wind in my hair," and…
Come to me baby
We will leave this path it was not made for man
We'll find a new land
But the traffic is jammed
He cues up a cover version by one of his many favorite undersung bands, giving Nashville's Jason and the Scorchers their From My Home to Yours debut.
It's a, yes, scorching slab of U.S. Highway rock 'n' roll — and for more Americana, we later get Guy Clark ("one of our great Texas singer-songwriters") and Bruce's old pal Jackson Browne — but Volume 13 also reminds us that the car song is not a purely American phenomenon. A triple-shot of The Clash, the Tom Robinson Band, and the Screaming Blue Messiahs is proof positive that the Brits know their way around the motorway, even if they're driving on the opposite side.
The car song is not a white phenomenon, either: four songs in a row featuring black artists span seven decades. An incredible obscure cut from 2016, "American Muscle" by the duo 1 AMVRKA (pronounced "One America"), is balanced by the truly foundational "No Particular Place to Go" by "the master" Chuck Berry. From one song to the next, it's a reminder that while Springsteen will always be rooted in the classics, he never stops checking out next year's model, either.
In that same stretch, "Rocket 88" ("credited to Jackie Brenston and his Delta Cats, who were actually Ike Turner and his Kings of Rhythm") is followed by Sir Mix-a-Lot's "My Hooptie." Our DJ offers some background on the seminal "Rocket 88" — "considered by many to be the first rock 'n' roll record, and of course, its subject is the car" — but he holds the full detailing package for the "one of my favorite and funniest old-school rappers, out of Seattle, Washington":
A "hooptie" is any car that meets the following:
a. Driver must enter car through passenger side
b. Three different brands and size tires, three of them missing hubcaps
c. Exhaust pipe is held up by half a wire clothes hanger; the other half of said hanger replaces the antenna
d. Backfires every three blocks, the loudest backfire being when car is turned off
e. Must open door at drive-thru window, as the windows do not roll down
f. You only get one AM station, and the 1970s tape deck eats all tapes inserted
g. You must manually move the blinker lever up and down as it no longer blinks on its own
h. Has had the same temporary registration sticker in the window for past 18 months
i. Despite all the above, still has $200 professional tint job
Springsteen introduces the Clash's "Brand New Cadillac" (a Vince Taylor cover) with a portion of "In an Instant," a poem by Caren Krutsinger:
She was getting out of a beautiful navy blue Cadillac with red seats.
She was more exotic than the car; her date was a handsome creature too.
With dark skin and dark eyes that danced. He was delighted with her.
This was at least fifty years ago and I have never forgotten
A glimpse of her beautiful leg as she exited this fantastic car.
The Vulgar Boatmen's "Drive Somewhere" is a selection that we never would have predicted but gets a top J.D. Power rating in our book. "A real beauty," Bruce calls it, and the band "fabulously unknown." Like Depeche Mode's "great version of 'Route 66'," it's also a reminder that, while college radio in the 1980s practically existed to be an "alternative" to music like Springsteen's, the Boss was still paying attention. Screaming Blue Messiahs are in that niche as well: "They garnered wide critical acclaim, and unfortunately limited commercial success, particularly here in America," Bruce says. "They however, without a doubt, are one of the great bands of the '80s." And besides, how could he not play a song called "Jesus Chrysler Drives a Dodge"?
Bob Dylan's "From a Buick 6" is given a particular place of honor, propped up between two quotes from Jack Kerouac's On the Road.
The only people for me are the mad ones… who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn, like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars.…
Following the Dylan track, Bruce notes that it's "from the history-making Highway 61 Revisited album. I played that record til it fell to pieces on my little box stereo in my bedroom in Freehold, New Jersey. It remains a modern masterpiece." And then the Kerouac chaser:
…because he had no place he could stay in without getting tired of it and because there was nowhere to go but everywhere, our battered suitcases were piled on the sidewalk again. We had longer ways to go. Keep rolling under the stars. The road is life.
Volume 12: "Summer's End" demonstrated that Bruce could be perfectly happy going an episode without playing his own music. Not this time, not this subject. Springsteen songs haunt the playlist even when they're not there: you won't hear him sing "roll down the window and let the wind blow back your hair," but you will hear Robert Mitchum's "The Ballad of Thunder Road," from the 1958 film. It's a two-for-one, evoking his own wings-for-wheels masterpiece without playing it. "And yeah, folks," he says, "this is where I got the title."
It's not the only ghost of a Springsteen song here, either, as later he tells a story you're sure is going to lead in to a particular Nebraska track:
Your dad and his car: those were two things that could not be separated. All I remember was my old man coming home, bringing home a new used car. Park it out on the grass in the backyard. We'd all come hustling out of the house, stand around it — couldn't get in it yet, not til he said it was all right. But we'd run our hands over the fins, all over the hood, and finally Pop would say, "All right, everybody in!" And we'd hustle in that car. He'd start that thing up, slip it into gear, and pull us out on the main street, and we just went for a cruise. And for a short while we felt like the Springsteen family are the kings of this highway! It was just one of the deepest memories of my childhood.
But after that story, there's really no need for "Used Cars." In just one of many hard lefts and quick gear changes, he spins a cover of Marc Cohn's "Silver Thunderbird" instead, refreshingly sung by Jo Dee Messina in strong voice.
Of course, Bruce has enough of his own car songs to fill up a 90-minute mix and then some. I've made one; you've probably made one; The Live Series has made one, too. So for his own personal selections, Bruce goes way off-road, steering around such biggies as "Racing in the Street" and "Stolen Car."
"Open All Night," probably his purest car song (about the car itself and the experience of driving, rather than the characters inside), is here, but not in its original Nebraska form; instead, Bruce breaks out the Sessions Band jump-blues performance from Live in Dublin. And who would have predicted "Brothers Under the Bridges ('83)"? Springsteen says more about the outtake (released on Tracks) here than he ever has: "A very distinctive version from the one I cut later, about these young street racers out in the Midwest, building their cars in garages over the winter, bringing them out in the spring, and running them down on the dry lake beds."
After "Bridges," we get a third Kerouac passage…
I was surprised, as always, by how easy the act of leaving was, and how good it felt. The world was suddenly rich with possibility.
…as well as a true "all-time classic" about that very feeling: Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers' "Roadrunner." The song's late-night ride is a precursor to "Open All Night" and "State Trooper," transposed from Jersey to the burbs of Boston. In Richman's world, the radio isn't jammed up — it's on, and hey-ho, he's in love with modern rock 'n' roll. Of the zillion driving songs that could have been left by the wayside, this one feels crucial — and its position in the set suggests the DJ thinks so too.
There's only one thing left to do from there… and that's "Drive All Night." A perfect, perfectly obvious choice worth steering right into.
"Stay safe, stay healthy and strong behind the wheel. Keep your radio on, and God bless you."
Nelson Riddle & His Orchestra - "Theme From Route 66"
Jason and the Scorchers - "My Kingdom for a Car"
Depeche Mode - "Route 66"
Jackie Brenston and his Delta Cats - "Rocket 88"
Sir Mix-a-Lot - "My Hooptie"
1 AMVRKA - "American Muscle"
Chuck Berry - "No Particular Place to Go"
[Poetry reading] Caren Krutsinger's "In an Instant"
The Clash - "Brand New Cadillac"
Tom Robinson Band - "2-4-6-8 Motorway"
The Screaming Blue Messiahs - "Jesus Chrysler Drives a Dodge"
Fleshtones - "Ride Your Pony"
Nas (featuring Charlie WIlson) - "Car #85"
Robert Mitchum - "Ballad of Thunder Road"
Bruce Springsteen and the Sessions Band - "Open All Night" (Live in Dublin)
[Reading] Jack Kerouac's On the Road (excerpt 1)
Bob Dylan - "From a Buick 6"
[Reading] Jack Kerouac's On the Road (excerpt 2)
Jackson Browne - "Running on Empty" (live)
Jo Dee Messina - "Silver Thunderbird"
Guy Clark - "Out in the Parking Lot"
The Vulgar Boatmen - "Drive Somewhere"
Bruce Springsteen - "Brothers Under the Bridges ('83)"
[Reading] Jack Kerouac's On the Road (excerpt 3)
Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers - "Roadrunner"
Bruce Springsteen - "Drive All Night"
- October 7, 2020 - Christopher Phillips reporting
October 23 to bring Letter to You album and documentary film When a motion picture expanded on the music and message of 2019's Western Stars, it did so four months after the album's release date. Later this month, Bruce Springsteen's new album and its accompanying film will hit on the same day.
On October 23, AppleTV+ will premiere Bruce Springsteen's Letter to You, a "feature-length verité documentary" from Apple Original Films offering "a behind-the-scenes look at the iconic artist's creative process" that is also "a tribute to the E Street Band, to rock music itself and to the role it has played in Springsteen's life."
"Throughout the documentary, Springsteen shares his thoughts and feelings behind Letter to You and puts the new music into the context of his entire body of work," states this afternoon's Apple press release. "In that way, it's the next piece in the autobiographical series that began with the memoir Born to Run, continued with Springsteen on Broadway and advanced through his film Western Stars."
Springsteen gets writing credit on the new film, with sole directing credit going to Thom Zimny, Bruce's frequent film collaborator and Western Stars co-director. According to the press release, the new doc:
features full performances from the E Street Band, in-studio footage, never-before-seen archival material and a deeper look into Letter to You from Springsteen himself.
captures Springsteen recording Letter to You live with the full E Street Band, and includes final take performances of ten originals from the new record.
While the music videos for "Letter to You" and "Ghosts" have provided glimpses of the Letter to You studio sessions, a new trailer offers a better sense of what to expect in the feature-length doc:
Bruce Springsteen's Letter to You is produced by Jon Landau and Zimny and co-produced by Barbara Carr, with Springsteen serving as executive producer. - October 5, 2020
This Just In: The next installment in the Live Archive series will be released one week from today on Friday, October 9. Grab your ticket and your suitcase, but leave your sunglasses at home.
FRANKENSTEEN REBORN… TO BE WORN Just in time for Halloween 2020, Frank Caruso's visionof 10/31/84 transforms intolimited "Gory Days Tour merch"
It's no secret that the real-life horror of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic will be spoiling a lot of Halloween fun this year. Enjoying Halloween 2020 may be trickier than usual, but there still are some treats to be found. Thanks to our friend Frank Caruso, the artist who collaborated with Bruce Springsteen on the Outlaw Pete picture book, we're thrilled to offer something special for our readers this Rocktober.
Last Halloween, in celebration of the 35th anniversary of Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band's October 31, 1984 concert at the legendary L.A. Sports Arena, Frank provided us with his own unique artistic vision of the opening of that night's show — an imaginative (and extremely funny) set of visuals to accompany and enhance Bruce's storytelling. In the process, Caruso "Halloweenified" Bruce Springsteen (aka Dr. Frankensteen's Monster) as well as the entire 1984 version of the E Street Band, their audience, and even the L.A. Sports Arena itself. Click here to read all about it in detail.
One year later, as we prepare for a very different kind of Halloween, Frank has transformed his artwork into an awesome nod to vintage tour merch — a new tee designed as something that fans could've purchased during Dr. Frankensteen and the Sonic Booo's legendary mid-1980s Gory Days Tour. Missed that tour? Well, at least now you can buy a shirt and tell everybody you were there.
Caruso even transformed our Backstreets logo on the sleeve into something more thematically appropriate, including an ingenious alteration of those iconic sneakers.
Click here to pre-order now!
We'll base our limited print run for this T-shirt on the number of pre-orders we receive, shirt to print and ship by late October 2020. Pre-order now to guarantee availability of your size.
- October 2, 2020 - Shawn Poole reporting - all artwork and design by Frank Caruso – Check out more from Frank Caruso on his Instagram page.
SCHOLARDARITY Check out the wicked-cool TeachRock shirt from Frank Caruso,and catch up on TeachRock's important work in the midst of the pandemic.
As the COVID-19 pandemic rages on, one of the most pressing concerns is how to continue offering public education in the safest and most engaging ways possible. Not surprisingly, TeachRock, the organization founded by Steven Van Zandt with a Founders' Board that included Bruce Springsteen, is at the forefront of this important issue.
The Los Angeles Unified School District — the second largest school district in the U.S. — recently approved the first-ever complete course built entirely around TeachRock's extensive online library of lesson plans and unit plans, made available to all teachers with no costs or fees whatsoever. Brian Fritch and Michael Sinclair from Francisco Bravo Medical Magnet High School, where the course was designed and launched, appeared on the latest episode of Little Steven's Roadshow to discuss the course and how TeachRock inspired it. Click here to view an excerpt of their conversation, or click here to watch the entire L.A.-themed episode of the Roadshow, with Fritch's and Sinclair's complete appearance beginning at the 4:27 mark. You also can click here to read the course outline.
Meanwhile, Frank Caruso, the artist who collaborated with Bruce Springsteen on the book Outlaw Pete, has come up with a wicked-cool way to support TeachRock's important work financially. Caruso designed a special TeachRock shirt inspired by Little Steven & the Disciples of Soul's classic "Solidarity," with proceeds from all shirt sales benefiting TeachRock through its funding organization, the Rock and Roll Forever Foundation.
Below is video of an online conversation between Rock and Roll Forever Foundation/TeachRock Executive Director Bill Carbone and Frank Caruso, in which Caruso relates how he created the latest TeachRock shirt:
999½ WON'T DO Ken Rosen's E Street Shuffle blog hits the thousand-day mark From Backstreets HQ, we're sending out congratulations to a friend and fellow traveler in the Springsteen universe, Ken Rosen. His blog estreetshuffle.com just hit a major milestone: 1,000 consecutive days of unique Bruce content. That's right, today's meditation on "Moonlight Motel" makes a thousand original daily posts, stretching all the way back to January 5, 2018.
What started out as Ken's attempt to blog his way through every (!) song Bruce has written, recorded, or covered, has turned into the blogosphere equivalent of a four-and-a-half-hour marathon concert — with no intermission.
Through his "Roll of the Dice" series, Ken takes a deep dive into Bruce's entire catalog. Each day's song is chosen at random — he calls that "the core of the blog." Google's randomizer feeds him each day's assignment.
Ken has also painstakingly compiled archive materials, interviews, and clips that commemorate each day in Springsteen history in his "Kingdom of Days" posts — which began "just as a way for me to organize all my facts and recordings, but it quickly became one of the most popular features of the site." Now, tweets also serve as daily reminders of fans' shared history.
Educated as a historian, Ken tells us his vision for the blog was "pretty much set from its inception: a comprehensive, encyclopedic, yet highly subjective analysis of Bruce's entire catalog."
What he didn't know is that it would turn into a daily commitment. "That was an accident," he says. "I'd pre-loaded the blog with a week or two of content when I launched…. Around one month in, I realized I hadn't skipped a day, and then I decided to make that a hallmark of the blog as well."
Ken's typical desktop setup [open image in new window to enarge]: "It has my calendar mapped out (which will give interested parties a sneak peak at what lies ahead), my newspaper archives (with a cool classified ad from ’72 for anyone who zooms in for it), and my master tracking spreadsheet telling me which songs I have left to write about."
When asked about favorite moments from the past thousand days, Ken highlights the work he has done digging into and exploring Bruce's pre-label material — "I really love the Bruce Springsteen Band period in particular and spend a lot of time on it," he says.
One example: his breakdown of a little-known 30-minute Steel Mill jam "Garden State Parkway Blues," in which he not only introduces it to the uninitiated (with a link to quality audio of the track), but also traces its roots to The Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band and Napoleon XIV's "They're Coming to Take Me Away, Ha-Haaa!" while connecting certain elements to future tracks like "Kitty's Back" and "Cadillac Ranch." A worthwhile read (and listen).
Ken Rosen with his wife, Beth, outside the Walter Kerr Theatre on 48th Street
So where does one go after post #1,000? Ken says there are roughly 650 songs left to cover, which will keep him running well into 2022. And despite the occasional "stress dream" about a multi-disc archival release pushing the finish line into 2023, he has no regrets about tacking on an additional daily commitment to an already busy family and work life — it's a labor of love, and like any marathon runner, he's still enjoying the high.
From all of us here at Backstreets, congrats Ken — and here's to a thousand more! - September 30, 2020 - Dante Cutrona and Christopher Phillips reporting
TAKING A SPIN WITH TOBY SCOTT
As the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame recently announced, "one of the most iconic car lyrics in music history" is now on display in Cleveland,
a '69 Chevelle that once belonged to Bruce Springsteen. And you'd better believe it's got "a 396, Fuelie heads and a Hurst on the floor." Bruce gifted the Chevy
to Toby Scott in 1988, who has loaned it to the Rock Hall — it's waiting tonight on the museum's lower level.
Scott, for 38 years Bruce's engineer and jack-of-all-audio trades, says it's "a car [Bruce and I] had driven around New Jersey on many an occasion. Although not the inspiration for the song 'Racing in the Street,' [that song's] opening lines describe it exactly."
On his way to deliver the loaner, Scott stopped off at Sweetwater Sound in Ft. Wayne, IN, where he talked shop with Sweetwater's Mitch Gallagher for the musical gear company's YouTube channel. With Toby Scott being an integral part of Bruce's record-making from The River and Nebraska into the 21st Century, their conversation is well worth a watch:
The discussion may be particularly interesting in light of Letter to You. Announcing the forthcoming record, Springsteen zeroed in on the full-band recording experience: "I love the sound of the E Street Band playing completely live in the studio."
To find another time the E Street Band approached recording this way, you have to go back to Scott's earliest days tracking Bruce and the band, during sessions for The River and Born in the U.S.A. Toby recalls how the Power Station sessions began for the latter (after he fine-tuned the snare drum reverb), and we're reminded that in the right hands, it's a method that can produce magic.
"Born in the U.S.A." was the first song. And after they had sort of figured out the song and the arrangement and everything, the whole band started. As I remember, it was all seven players playing, which is: drums, bass, two keyboards, two guitars, and Clarence playing percussion — Clarence was out in the lounge, looking through a hole in the door into the studio. They did this take of "Born in the U.S.A.," and I just leaned back and I went, "Wow, that sounds like something else." Chuck Plotkin and Jon Landau were there, and we were like, "Wow." Bruce came in and heard it, went "This is great! I think they did a couple more takes, and we moved on.
Since that time, earlier this year, I was given permission and a copy of the archived Pro Tools version (pulled off of the master 24-track). And, on occasion when I get the opportunity, I can play that back — where people who are at the venue or the playback can hear the individual instruments, to hear what they sound like. And it's very cool — even for me, to think, "Wow! That snare drum sounds really good! I did a good job!" [laughs]
You solo the lead vocal, and you hear it [isolated], and you can hear the drums in the background. That's a live take lead vocal. He's that good.
As a studio engineer, Toby says he was "spoiled for years" by Springsteen: "In many, many of Bruce's songs, the guitar and vocal that you hear on the radio is the first take, the first pass. I know I never tuned any of his vocals. Bob Clearmountain, who mixed a lot of them, only [tuned] slightly here and there. The man sings on-pitch and in-key, and any variation of that is generally what we can call 'artist's license.'"
Toby also discusses the "studio in a box" he developed to record live shows, how his rough mixes help guide Clearmountain's final mixes, outfitting Springsteen's home studio, and more. - September 28, 2020 - Christopher Phillips reporting - photographs courtesy of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
"IT'S TO YOU! IT'S A LETTER TO YOU!"
Bruce leaves no room for misinterpretation in new AARP interview
A second Letter to You interview with Bruce Springsteen has appeared — following Brian Hiatt's for Rolling Stone, AARP Magazine Editor in Chief Robert Love spoke to the Boss for another exclusive cover story, "Bruce Springsteen's Powerful Return to Rock."
Previously, Love wrote an extensive interview feature with Bob Dylan for the magazine. Turns out, with so many of our rock 'n' roll heroes now past 70 and the non-profit aimed at those 50 and older, AARP reaches those long thought of as "the kids." They're still alright. We won't dwell on it.
Calling Bruce's 20th "a high-octane ride through love, loss and the richness of a long life," Love steers clear of politics and gets Bruce talking about the album, beginning with its very title.
"Is it a letter to your younger self?" I ask. "Is it to your children? Your wife? Your fans? To me?"
Springsteen chuckles at the question: "It's to you! It's a letter to you! Whoever is listening. And, yeah, it is a summing up of what I've tried to do over the course of my 45, 50 years now, working."
They discuss Bruce's return to the rock vein and the inspiration behind his songwriting, particularly how the death of Castiles singer George Theiss sparked much of the new writing;
we get more background on several of the new songs, Bruce even recalling one that went unfinished, called "Death Is Not the End."
A Q&A section further expands the range of topics (including an update on his mother living with Alzheimer's). Supplementary features from the AARP archives include:
- September 25, 2020 - photographs by Danny Clinch
TOGETHER, LIKE SPIRITS IN THE NIGHT Second Letter to You single, video — "Ghosts" is streaming now A new Letter to You single arrived this morning: following the title track from two weeks ago, "Ghosts" is the second song from Bruce Springsteen’s October 23 album, and it’s a pulse-quickener. Try listening without imagining what it would will sound like in concert, surrounded by 20,000 of your closest friends.
The song serves twin moments: remembrances of things past and the promise of life… right now. Springsteen takes it a step further. In a press release, he characterizes the song as being "about the beauty and joy of being in a band, and the pain of losing one another to illness and time."
"'Ghosts' tries to speak to the spirit of the music itself, something none of us owns but can only discover and share together," he says. "In the E Street Band, it resides in our collective soul, powered by the heart."
You can listen now to "Ghosts" on many digital music services, and watch a slightly shorter lyric video for the song here:
Thom Zimny directed the clip, which as the press release notes, "includes clips of the E Street Band tracking Letter to You in-studio, interspersed with archival snapshots of Springsteen's earliest years as a musician in local bands like The Castiles" plus "career-spanning concert footage." It’s also our first glimpse of Jake Clemons in the Letter to You sessions, his saxophone the cherry on top of the return of this classic E Street sound. - September 25, 2020
GOOD COMPANIONS FOR SPRINGSTEEN'S BIRTHDAY
E Streeters and many more to wish Bruce a happy 71
If you caught the Spring-Nuts' "Land of Hope and Dreams" video above — a rousing collaboration with musicians and fans (and Telegraph Hill Records) perfoming a quarantine group rendition of Springsteen's inspiring modern classic — you might have thought that was plenty to celebrate Bruce's 71st.
But no... to really get NUTS, you've gotta put together a video birthday card to the man that lasts well over half an hour.
If you've got the time tonight, grab a bottle of tequila (Patrón preferred), kick back, and fire it up to celebrate:
We're honored to join so many Springsteen fans, fellow artists, compadres, and compatriots for these big Boss birthday greetings, sending wishes his way today to try and close that "distance" everybody's talking about. In order of appearance:
Howie and Julie Chaz (founders of Spring-Nuts)
Jack Roig (founder of The Stone Pony)
Eileen Chapman (director, Bruce Springsteen Archives)
Billy Hector (Fairlanes)
Sarfraz Manzoor (author of Greetings From Bury Park)
Gurinder Chadha (director / producer, Blinded By the Light)
Chris Philips (Backstreets)
Brian Fallon (The Gaslight Anthem)
Matt and Eryn O'Ree
Lee Mrowicki (DJ, The Stone Pony)
Tom Cunningham (radio DJ, Springsteen on Sunday / 107.1 The Boss)
Rich Russo (Little Steven's Underground Garage)
Jeff Kazee (performs "Hearts of Stone")
Bobby Mahoney (performing "Born to Run")
Joe D'Urso (performing "Used Cars")
Eddie Testa (performing "Having a Party")
Debbie Delisa and Friends (The Wonder Bar)
La Bamba (performing "Happy Birthday")
Gary U.S. Bonds (performing "This Little Girl")
Jesse Malin (performing "Hungry Heart")
Willie Nile (performing "Wild One")
Vini "Maddog" Lopez / Dawn Bearce
Nils Lofgren (singing "Happy Birthday")
Southside Johnny Lyon
Little Steven, Maureen, and Edie Van Zandt
Danny Clinch / Rachel Dobken (performing "Atlantic City")
LAID DOWN YOUR MONEY? NOW, PLAY YOUR PART Listening to 1980's "First Time" with "Hungry Heart" Most recording artists remember hearing themselves on the radio for the first time. Bruce Springsteen reprised a different tale about "Hungry Heart," the first single from The River in 1980: the first time an audience sang it for him.
That role reversal was a lead element in the Rolling Stone serial The First Time, where pop culture figures recount significant events. Springsteen initially recalled the River-era first to Jimmy Fallon in a 2012 Tonight Show appearance; with RS he also talks about first hearing the Beatles, Elvis, and Dylan; and later, buying punk and Hank Williams records.
"Hungry Heart" wasn't even out when Springsteen hit the road in 1980, and neither was The River. Though the single became something of a signature moment in his performances, it wasn't by design, at least when the tour began: Springsteen played it for the first time in St. Louis, eleven dates in, then not again for another four before it came back for good.
Though a “Hungry Heart” single was in the works, it didn’t show up on stage until the tour’s eleventh concert on October 18, 1980, in St. Louis, MO. Above, a clip of that debut live performance.
Hearing embryonic versions now, one gets the sense that something was up: after each cheerful, familiar start, the band would come way down, then Springsteen would try different introductions, from a meditation on inner conflict ("this is… 'Sometimes I think I do, but then again, I think I don't'"), to a sketch ofa barroom scene, where the song becomes a patron's tale of woe.
With "Hungry Heart" making its way toward Number Five, it would become an every-nighter on world tours behind The River and Born in the U.S.A. In this clip, recorded at the Los Angeles Sports Arena on November 1, 1980, he imagines a barroom conversation as the song begins.
Whether prompted by something akin to a cue — one can easily imagine Springsteen gesturing in time with Max Weinberg's snare shot — the moment had arrived in late November, when an audience would fill that space and lay claim to what was theirs anyway. That's what happens when a song makes it into the top ten — or is on its way (see "Born in the U.S.A.," 1984).
In this clip, Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band perform "Hungry Heart" at the Rosemont Horizon on November 20, 1980. Springsteen recounts this moment as a "First Time" — hearing his audience take over the song's opening verse.
"The entire audience sang it back, and it ended up being an incredible show," says Springsteen now. "And from that point on — this is way pre-internet — people sang it every single night. That was exciting. It was very exciting."
If he had been cautious in 1980 about the prospect of a hit single — he was surely aware of the push to Top 40 radio — he gladly stood aside that night in Rosemont, a Chicago suburb. Which musician worth their salt wouldn't want to hear fans packed in an arena sing their song? (also see "Born in the U.S.A.," 1984).
By design or accident (or simply the natural course "Hungry Heart" would take), the venue that night, the Rosemont Horizon, played its part: it had notoriously lousy acoustics. Now Allstate Arena, it was, Springsteen says, "one of the most awful-sounding places I've ever been in."
Somehow, it had the missing ingredient, and with it, "Hungry Heart" had reached the tipping point. Those echoey acoustics could have created just the right feedback loop, in which Springsteen encouraged a crowd that could really hear themselves — or maybe they did sing at a higher volume in Chicago. A 1984 recordingfrom the same venue captured what sounded like a roar as fans sang their part on "Thunder Road," which had long hinted at the role "Hungry Heart" took on.
Though audiences had sung a couplet's worth of "Thunder Road" for years, this recording from July 17, 1984, reveals both the limits of the Rosemont Horizon's acoustics and the power of fans' voices.
Why didn't this "First Time" moment happen earlier? We'll never know. A recording from the week before in Baton Rouge reveals its audience was so close, as was Houston's on the first night. The second night, Springsteen played it straight, coming in on the first verse exactly as he does on the record. Then it was on to Chicago, where the arithmetic would change for good on November 20. By the next show, in Largo, Maryland, the new first verse of "Hungry Heart" sounded like what it was and would be forever more: a part of the show. - September 22, 2020 - Jonathan Pont reporting
FIRST TIME HE CROSSED HIS HEART... THAT'S ELSEWHERE
Watch Springsteen share some musical memories with RS
In Jon Blistein's latest installment of their The First Time series, Rolling Stone has Bruce Springsteen recalling numerous firsts: when a song first changed his life; when his audience first sang "Hungry Heart" back to him; when he first heard punk rock,
Hank Williams, and Bob Dylan; his first time playing in a band — and it's not the Castiles. Watch below to hear more about The Merchants, and more.
- September 21, 2020
A POSTCARD ON SUNDAY As we await his full Letter, Springsteen in lockdown still feels "as vital as I've ever felt in my life" in RS cover feature Like many of us, Bruce Springsteen is stuck at home because of the pandemic. But with Letter to You arriving on October 23 — and a raft of projects perhaps not far behind — he's making the most of his time: probably the least surprising thing about today's Brian Hiatt feature in Rolling Stone, a cover story, is that Springsteen has a third album "in the can." A putative follow-up to last year's Western Stars and Letter to You is just one mystery the article touches on. (Springsteen "declined to elaborate" on that unnamed project.)
Other topics of Hiatt's feature — for which the Shore native drove to Springsteen's New Jersey farm for a day of conversation, music, and film — are equally familiar, be it the Castiles, or Clarence Clemons, or when he foresees a return to normalcy.
For Springsteen, that means playing live with the E Street Band. A tour, he told Hiatt, was due to start in the spring of 2021. Now, Springsteen says, it's looking more like 2022. "I'm going to consider myself lucky if I lose just a year of touring life," he says.
Particularly because I feel the band is capable of playing at the very, very, very top, or better than, of its game right now. And I feel as vital as I've ever felt in my life.… It's not being able to do something that is a fundamental life force, something I've lived for since I was 16 years old.
Nothing can stand in for the live experience, not even jamming remotely with Dropkick Murphys. "It's always fun," Springsteen says. "But it was very strange to put yourself in a room with a band and then stop. So it's not something I'd want to make a career out of."
He's engaging his creativity in other ways: Hiatt's piece echoed Patti Scialfa, who recently described the home studio she shares with Springsteen as a hive of activity (Hiatt doesn't share the unfamiliar title spied atop the top sheet on a music stand). New projects jockey alongside older ones: there's the long-rumored follow-up to Tracks, a supposed collection of both various "lost albums" and individual songs.
Springsteen elaborates on the speed with which Letter to You took shape. One catalyst: skipping the demo-making process. That suggestion came from Roy Bittan and hearkened back to the days when Springsteen would teach the band new compositions by simply playing them on guitar. This time, to remind himself of what he'd written, Springsteen recorded on his iPhone as he went along, going room-to-room in his house to do so.
After the title track dropped in mid-September, a few more of the LP's details have emerged, whether the lyrics for "Rainmaker" — which Springsteen reveals he wrote some years ago, bringing instant recalibration to arguments that it was "about" Donald Trump — or "House of a Thousand Guitars," which imagines a rock 'n' roll "heaven on Earth."
That stage seems to grow more crowded, which Letter to You doesn't avoid. Springsteen, the last surviving member of his first band, The Castiles, channels that awareness in "Last Man Standing," telling how "You count the names of the missing as you count off time"; he reckons further with mortality in "Ghosts," which Hiatt quotes:
I turn up the volume and let the spirits be my guide
Meet you, brother and sister, on the other side
A key takeaway from Hiatt's cover story is the resuscitation of the E Street Band sound on Letter to You. Springsteen speaks of self-consciously steering away from the classic sonic chemistry of Born to Run: "from that record onward, I didn't have anybody play that fundamental 'E Street' style. I didn't want to repeat myself."
But with Letter to You, Springsteen has allowed himself and the band to steer back. "At one point in the sessions," Hiatt writes, "Springsteen actually told Bittan to play more 'E Street.' 'It makes me chuckle,' says Bittan, "because there were times when he said, 'Don't play it like E Street!'"
Springsteen thinks of it like this: "It's just like, 'Hey, what would be creative? What would be fun for the fans? What would we enjoy doing?' It's sort of your own set of rules be damned."
He answered that in part by recording contemporary versions of three songs from his earliest years on Columbia Records: "Janey Needs a Shooter," "If I Was the Priest," and "Song to Orphans." (In "The New Timer" we detail the history of each.)
Springsteen allays any fears that this kind of retrospection brings with it an air of finality: "I plan to have a long road in front of me.… Some of my recent projects have been kind of summational, but really, for me, it's summational for this stage of my work life. I've got a lot left to do, and I plan to carry on."
Much more — on the new material, the state of the Nation, what he's learned from the Black Lives Matter movement, a Zimny-shot Letter to You film, and more — in Hiatt's "Ghosts, Guitars, and the E Street Shuffle: How Bruce Springsteen confronted death, saw Clarence in his dreams, and knocked out a raw and rocking new album with the world's greatest bar band," with photography by Danny Clinch, from the October 2020 Rolling Stone issue no. 1344. - By the Editors, September 20, 2020
I KNOW SOMEDAY I'LL FIND THE KEY Archive Series Returns to NJ for third summer '84 Meadowlands release Over 15 days in August 1984, while Born in the U.S.A. was riding a seven-week spot at #1, Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band played ten shows in New Jersey — an unheard-of arena run at the time — that felt like a victory lap even though the tour was only 19 dates in.
Tickets for the Brendan Byrne Arena shows went on sale June 19 and sold out in a day — and this was back when you had to be physically present to buy your tickets. It was only the beginning. The world tour for Born in the U.S.A. would continue for another year.
Even so, the Meadowlands run was so important it's fitting that this is its third release in the Archive Series. The first night, August 5, was released back in 2015; the final one, August 20, a legendary show featuring the return of Little Steven and the Miami Horns and an emotional "Drift Away," was released in 2018. This stand coincides with the moment when Bruce broke out from his core audience to a much bigger place in popular culture. Just after the Jersey run, he appeared on the cover of People magazine, clean-shaven and flashing his new pearly whites. He'd caught the biggest wave of his career.
We've known that the August 6 show was professionally recorded because of three previous official releases: the searing version of "Trapped" (included on the 1985 We Are the World album); and both "Nebraska" and "No Surrender" (on Springsteen's own Live/1975-85, in 1986).
Brendan Byrne Arena August 6, 1984 captures a great example of a summer 1984 show. After a few weeks of set list experimentation, "Born in the U.S.A." became the standard opener. I'm struck by the ambition of the show and how well the band incorporated such diverse new material, including four songs from Nebraska, which was clearly a challenge for an audience ready to rock on a hot August night.
Springsteen was still weeks away from having to distance himself from President Reagan (Bruce responded by aligning himself both on stage and off with food banks for the remainder of the tour). But the show conveys a clear message: that all is not right with America, that to be "Born in the U.S.A." is not a call to thoughtless flag-waving.
The first set digs deep into the dark side, especially when Bruce introduces songs. The set-up for "Nebraska" — remarks which were not included on Live/1975-85 — sounds prescient about our current machine-driven divisions: "They say that all the new technology and everything are supposed to be bringing the world a whole lot closer to you," Springsteen says, "but it seems like there's more people today that feel isolated from their jobs and isolated from their family and community and government, more and more all the time until… you feel a certain sense of powerlessness sometimes… you just explode." The performance is riveting and bleak; the classic version of Jimmy Cliff's "Trapped" follows like an eruption, having lain waiting under the quiet violence of "Nebraska."
The spoken introductions to "My Hometown" are different on the three Brendan Byrne '84 releases, but each involves coming to terms with a home once left behind.
On this night, Bruce recalls learning years later that "the monument" in Freehold, where the Castiles posed for their first promo photos [right], honored the Revolutionary War Battle of Monmouth. His story is as relevant as ever, in our time of national reckoning over public statues.
Bruce speaks of similar memorials he visited on a pre-tour trip: "I went down to Washington, and I saw the Lincoln Memorial, which is really something to see. Not far from that is the Vietnam Veterans' Memorial…. It got important to me as I got older to know a little more about where I was coming from, and where we all are coming from, before I could understand and see where we're going right now…. Because everything that happens here happens in your name, and in my name, and we all kind of share the responsibility and the shame and the glory."
In the second set, the E Street Band just flat-out rocks, and the audience goes crazy. The opening run crackles with definitive versions of "Cadillac Ranch," "Hungry Heart," and "Dancing in the Dark." The band is tight and fast, and Clarence Clemons and Danny Federici weave in and out with just the right flourishes. "Fire" and "Pink Cadillac" sustain the energy and the crowd's interest, even though Bruce hadn't released "Fire" himself (the Pointer Sisters had a big hit with it in 1979, taking it to number two) and "Pink Cadillac" was a B-side. "Bobby Jean" and "Racing in the Street" added a loving, emotional coda to the mostly hijinks-filled second set, with an especially poignant vocal on "Racing."
Springsteen has always chosen covers from deep in rock 'n' roll history that thrilled crowds and fit with his own music — and often emphasized a set of ideas. This is on display in excelsis in this show's finale, which features the Rolling Stones' "Street Fighting Man" (its first appearance in the Archives Series) and the medley of the Isley Brothers' "Twist and Shout" tagged with the Contours' "Do You Love Me." You can hear a guy who schooled himself on AM radio, soaking in early-'60s soul and the British invasion to create a rock 'n' roll version of himself, posing in front of the mirror (in his Castiles days, one wonders if Bruce first heard "Do You Love Me" in garage rock versions by the Dave Clark Five or The Kingsmen).
"Street Fighting Man," a set regular on the '84 tour, goes a little darker, calling up the memory of the uprisings of 1968 in the U.S. and Europe. The big driving chords are a great fit for the E Street Band (Patti Scialfa really shines here, too). But in an interview for Musician in 1984 conducted just before these Jersey shows, Chet Flippo asked Springsteen if covering the song was a political statement, and Bruce was cautious.
"I don't know," Bruce told Flippo, "I like that one line in the song, 'What can a poor boy do but play for a rock and roll band?' It's one of the greatest rock and roll lines of all time. It just seemed right for me to do it. It's just fun. In that spot of the night it just fits in there. It's just so driving, man. After 'Born to Run,' we got to go up. That's the trick. 'Cause it's hard to find songs for our encore. You gotta go up and then you gotta go up again. It has tremendous chord changes, that song."
In a presidential election year, right on the verge of taking a more active political stance himself, you can hear Springsteen grapple with the question posed by the song. He ends the show with a cry of "Let freedom ring," which too often got heard as an uncomplicated celebration.
Fast forward 36 years to another presidential election year, another summer of "marching, charging feet" and "palace revolution." And wouldn't you know it: the poor boy's still singing in a rock 'n' roll band.
RECAP: VOLUME 12, "SUMMER'S END" Come lay down in the cool grass with me, let’s watch that summer fade With an episode called "Summer's End" — not only a general evocation of loss but a shared title with John Prine’s de facto farewell — it felt fair to brace for a wrist-slitter in Volume 12 of From My Home to Yours. In the same way that In the Wee Small Hours and Sings for Only the Lonely ought to come with a warning sticker. And as Bruce cued up the Beach Boys' "Caroline No" to start, that mood felt right on track:
Break my heart I want to go and cry It's so sad to watch a sweet thing die
But the silver lining around a melancholy cloud comes from the fact that Springsteen loves this time of year. A goodbye to summer aches a little less when it's a hello to "locals' summer":
E Street Nation, fans, friends, back-to-schoolers, and listeners from coast to coast: welcome to our end-of-summer spectacular!
It is always a bittersweet time of year, but it is my favorite season: September and October, locals' summer. Our Shore summer guests have headed home, and the beaches, boardwalks, and sea are ours. A blissful six weeks of summer weather. Dry air, west winds, good waves, and warm fires await.
In Sinatra terms, Volume 12 was more "Summer Wind" (today's closing track) than "Angel Eyes" — wistful, no doubt, but also shot through with warm nostalgia, as Bruce maintains his belief that this season holds "perfect days." And the whole thing flew by like painted kites — the shortest episode so far, at just over an hour. Fleeting, like the summer, but laced with "wild, feral magic" from down the Shore.
This was a tight, strictly thematic set, with no room for FMHTY mainstays like Bob Dylan or even his own music (sorry, "Girls in Their Summer Clothes"; sorry, anyone who hoped for another Letter to You sneak peek). Springsteen dealt squarely with this time of the season, and he put a finer point on the feeling with an excerpt from Stanley Kunitz's "End of Summer":
The end of summer stirs so many conflicting feelings. It's the season whose end is most pronounced. It is truly the end of something wonderful and the beginning of something new. Fall, with its fair days, dry winds, and unknown-ness.
Blue poured into summer blue, A hawk broke from his cloudless tower, The roof of the silo blazed, and I knew That part of my life was over.
Springsteen spun "one of my favorite Doors songs," some "raw, sexy, late-summer doo-wop" from the Chantels, and "The Green Fields of Summer" by favorite Beantown guest Peter Wolf, sung with Neko Case: "I don't know if you've gotten any of Pete's post-J.Geils records, but they are uniformly brilliant, and I'd hustle to add them to my record collection."
"Summer's Kiss" may be a deep cut for many, but for those of us who revere Greg Dulli and the Afghan Whigs, the appearance here of the Black Love climax on Bruce's playlist was a gratifying, fist-pumping coup de grace. It's such a perfect choice for a "Summer's End" playlist… but who knew the Boss would think so, too? Dulli's a Springsteen fan; is it reciprocal? Here it was: "I love the Afghan Whigs," Bruce said. And the selection was even cooler with this introduction connecting three works across centuries:
Shakespeare. Othello's last words to Desdemona:
I kissed thee ere I killed thee. No way but this, Killing myself, to die upon a kiss.
I think I stole that for "Born to Run."
As Dulli sings "Come lay down in the cool grass with me, baby let's watch that summer fade," Vol. 12 is not only a seasonal, chronological follow-up to Vol 8: "Summertime Summertime," but a perfect sequel (the three episodes between notwithstanding) in songs and stories. Springsteen connects songs across the two episodes, answering Vol. 8's answer record with yet another one, to describe what it's like after a day at Manasquan:
Man, all I remember was coming home from the beach to my folks' with sand everywhere. Sand in my pants, sand all over the car, sand in all your toys, sand in your ears, sand in your hair! This is the Drifters with "I've Got Sand in My Shoes," which was an answer record by the way, to "Under the Boardwalk," which was an answer record to "Up on the Roof" — a perfect summer triplicate.
Dwelling on this time of year — his birthday season, it's worth remembering — Springsteen revisits the "lasting love affair with the desert" he described in Born to Run and Springsteen on Broadway:
In 1990, just after my 40th birthday, at the end of summer, my friends and I would motorcycle across the Mojave. I always found something endlessly reassuring and comforting in all the nothingness of the desert. My mind at ease, we'd ride for days on state roads, with nothing but Four Corner desert towns at 100-mile intervals to break our hejira — our travels.
With eternity laid out before you, you ride under a sun so blistering you had to cover every inch of exposed skin. With long-sleeve blue-jean shirts, full jeans, gloves, wet bandanas covering our faces, we'd ride til dark and then bunk in roadside motels. Sitting outside of our rooms, nursing beers, rehashing the day's ride, listening to some music. Just there, in the company of smoldering heat and a few other travelers, with their own reasons for being on these deserted back roads.
The next morning, you'd watch Air Force jets heading for desert test ranges, leaving six-string vapor trails across the September Mojave sky. We'd bungee our backpacks to our bikes, soak our bandanas in the sink, tie one around your neck, the other around your nose and mouth, fire up some thunder, and ready to go ride straight into the featureless sky.
Iain Archer's "Summer Jets" is a stirring, propulsive soundtrack for the moment, the singer-songwriter (Snow Patrol, Tired Pony) "gazing skyward" at those jet trails. Beck, too, in Sea Change mode, provides more aural ache in the form of an instrumental and a track from Morning Phase as Bruce keeps building a mosaic of memories from the same time, other years.
The end of summer always felt like a small death. Back to school, locked behind a desk, as the streets were still warm and basking in the freedom of the September summer sun. But come Labor Day, it was as if folks just flipped a switch and seemed determined to deny the late-summer paradise of empty beaches and perfect days, thriving at their most beautifully seductive outside the windows of their offices, factories, and schools. That was something I was never able to do.
And these were the days when that loss ached at me: unfinished summer business, lost love affairs, unrequited summer crushes, girls still waiting on quiet corners for summer boyfriends. All this hovered over me like the pungent scent of suntan oil on the tanned, unfamiliar skin of all of those out-of-state girls — who've now returned to school, and Mom and Pop, and chilly days and nights, and who have put you away with all the other townies, in a box labeled, SUMMER.
Death becomes literal as Springsteen does indeed fire up the John Prine song that gives this episode its title, in honor of the towering singer-songwriter "who we tragically lost to COVID.… his beautiful 'Summer's End.'" In one of Prine's last recordings, from 2018's The Tree of Forgiveness, he sings:
Summer's end's around the bend just flying The swimming suits are on the line just drying…
Just like that ol' house we thought was haunted Summer's end came faster than we wanted
Bruce calls Prine a "national treasure"; he calls Van Morrison "The Maestro." But it's Brian Wilson who's really the patron saint of this episode. From the Pet Sounds opener to a doubleshot of "Think About the Days" into "Summer's Gone" (with "Summer Turns to High," R.E.M.'s "beautiful tribute" to Wilson, in between), Bruce asks, "What would summer be without Brian Wilson?"
Beach Boys or no, summer wouldn't be endless. Even Bruce's childhood memories preserve that sense of "part of my life is over" transition, from summer to fall, from outgrown bathing suits to glimpses ("don't look!") of the adult world.
By four on the beach, the weekend after Labor Day, there is a thin, drifting coolness in the air. The sun will soon be marking its late-summer season descent over the peaked beach cottages at Manasquan. My sister Ginny and I are wrapped, fully burka-like, in beach towels, changing from our bathing suits into our pajamas for one last feature at the drive-in before the beginning of school and the end of all that is good. My mother is nearby, standing guard as we reach out and hand her sand-filled swimsuits that, as we are growing now, we may never see again.
We grab hot dogs and ice cream for dinner at Carlson's Corner. We watch burly men pull in striped bass and fluke off the Manasquan jetty. And we chase each other around the pavilion where today the ghost of my beautiful grandmother sits, enjoying the late-summer ocean breeze. And then, we're all packed in the car heading off to the Shore drive-in.
By dusk, Ginny and I are 'neath the arc of the huge screen and the playground below with a dozen or more other kids, holding on to the roundabout until we come uncorked, spinning off in a dizzy trance.
Then dusk, and here come the cartoons — classic Daffy Duck and Bugs Bunny — and it's a run back to the car as we hear my dad leaning on the car horn, egging on the main feature. The screen clock starts ticking down, ten minutes for snacks and bathrooms before the show starts, and it's on.
Tonight, we'll see just one film — something my parents wanted to see called Blonde in a White Convertible — that has my mother telling us, "Don't look! Don't look!" for certain adult scenes. And then it's an early ride home.
About halfway back, on a pitch-black Route 33 — slightly past the recently defunct Cowboy City theme park, where at one time you could see a cheeseball shoot-out on Main Street, any weekend afternoon — a young buck comes bolting out of the wooded Earle Naval Ammunition depot on the right side of the highway and leaps over the hood of the car, its body filling the entire windshield, its left eye shining with blood, animal spirits, and fear. And we are only measurable inches away from eternity. Before he miraculously disappears into the woods, a late-summer spirit on the far side of the highway.
The car is in an uproar. We have crossed paths with wild, feral magic.
Summer is over.
Springsteen returned to the present to wrap with a sayonara to this particular summer of discontent, 2020: "And what a summer it's been. I hope you took your summer pleasures where you could find them, and we'll look forward to a better 2021.… treat yourself to one more late-summer swim, another grilled hamburger and french fries, and if the ice cream man is still running through your neighborhood, pick one up for me: soft vanilla dipped in chocolate, please. As for me, I'm going for an ocean swim right now.
"So until we meet again, stay strong, stay smart, stay healthy, stay safe, stay summer… and I'll see you on the beach."
The Beach Boys - "Caroline No"
The Doors - "Summer's Almost Gone"
The Chantels - "Summer's Love"
[Poetry reading] Stanley Kunitz's "End of Summer" (excerpt)
Peter Wolf with Neko Case - "The Green Fields of Summer"
Afghan Whigs - "Summer's Kiss"
The Motels - "Suddenly Last Summer"
The Drifters - "I've Got Sand in My Shoes"
Instrumental interlude: Beck - "Phase"
Iain Archer - "Summer Jets"
R.E.M. - "Summer Turns to High"
Instrumental interlude: Beck - "Cycle"
Beck - "Morning"
John Prine - "Summer's End"
Instrumental interlude: Michael Andrews - "A Long Summer Since Passed"
Van Morrison - "These Are the Days"
The Beach Boys - "Think About the Days"
The Beach Boys - "Summer's Gone"
Instrumental interlude: San Holo - "One Thing"
Instrumental interlude: Lupe Fiasco - "Summer"
Frank Sinatra - "Summer Wind"
- September 16, 2020 - Christopher Phillips reporting
NEED NOT BE PRESENT TO WIN
Whether you'll be in the crowd or not, we're taking questions and requests for Max. Get 'em out by Friday!
If you missed the opportunity to put a question to Max Weinberg for Season 1 of Mighty Max's Monday Memories, here's a second chance.
With two socially distanced shows coming up for Max Weinberg's Jukebox, he's taking requests and questions in advance via askmax(at)backstreets.com — and you don't have to be
attending the shows in Oceanport, NJ, to play along at home.
The Mighty One tells us he'll be taking a good amount of questions and requests from people who aren't attending the concerts, with streaming plans just a little bit down the road.
So if you've got any song requests for Max Weinberg's Jukebox, from the scroll below...
...or questions for the Mighty One himself,
please send them along with your name and hometown to askmax(at)backstreets.com. Emailing by this Friday will assure we're able to pass along all questions and requests.
Also, congralautions to Max's daughter Ali Rogin on the publication of her book, Beat Breast Cancer Like a Boss; she and Max appeared together this afternoon in a virtual launch party and book discussion on Facebook Live, which is now archived so you can watch it here. - September 15, 2020 - still of Max Weinberg captured from the "Letter to You" video, directed by Thom Zimny with photography by Rob DeMartin
EVERYBODY RISE UP
By request! In addition to our "Rise Up" crew-neck tee, we'll also be printing a "Rise Up" Women's V-neck tee, on the same soft, lightweight tri-blend fabric. Each of these shirts will be printed in a limited run, based on the number of pre-orders we receive — we'll finalize things this week, in order to print and ship by early October.... so pre-order now to guarantee availability of your size:
We'll be donating a portion of the proceeds of the sale of each shirt to HeadCount, a non-partisan organization that uses the power of music to register voters and promote participation in democracy. Learn more about the 501(c)(3) at headcount.org.
WELCOME TO BOSSTON COLLEGE BC parent/alum Chris Eidt watches Bruce address the "coronial generation"
Our first-born was nearly four months old the first time my wife and I both together left him for more than two hours. His grandmother came down from New Hampshire, and we took a ten-hour escape to Albany — where we saw our first live show from the Rising tour. That four-month-old is now a freshman at Boston College. After years of indoctrination to Bruce Springsteen's music and a few concerts of his own, it feels fitting that his first extended time away from his parents, his time of growin' up, is in part connected to Bruce.
Last night, two weeks after campus move-in, the university held their First Year Academic Convocation, the official welcome to the newest students. This day for the Boston College community included a noontime Mass of the Holy Spirit, a 470-year tradition among Jesuit academic institutions in which the community gathers to thank God for the gifts of creation and salvation and to seek the guidance and wisdom of the Holy Spirit in the coming year. President Fr. William Leahy S.J., is his homily, talked about the call we are given to "bear lasting fruit to the world" and how being "committed to growing in community meant to not only welcome and value those in our midst but to hold obligation to object to those around us that harm and wound." Engaging in our community and world in this way would come up again on this day.
In the evening, with torches aglow, these young students would normally take their "First Flight" procession through campus that both previews the walk they will take on graduation day and sets the mind to the journey they are beginning, charged to set the world on fire. The destination is the arena — where Eagles play the games — for a keynote address from an author with messages on engaging with the world, developing a habit of discernment, and forming an identity. For otherwise it is as true today as it was in 1985 that "blind faith in your leaders, or anything, will get you killed." And indeed, Bruce Springsteen would be delivering this year's Convocation Address.
This being 2020 and still in the middle of a pandemic, the social engagement side of this event was virtual. First Flight was grounded, and the much-anticipated meeting with the Boss was moved to residence halls to be watched on iPads, computer screens, and TVs. Even the gift of live streaming this event globally seemed to take a little shine off of something uniquely for the BC class of '24. Maybe this is the first lesson in sharing and engagement.
Bruce's gift of communication is not in music alone. While Springsteen on Broadway brought a different level of attention to his storytelling, his skill for delivering a message via spoken word may still be underrated. The lectern is nothing but a different kind of stage, and his ability to paint with words is moving. I am drawn in by the eulogies written to Danny and Clarence, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction of U2, or the 2012 SXSW keynote. And last night, his address to my son and his peers.
Framed by his studio, the tease of guitars and a mixing board in the background, Bruce first noted their common ground, stating, "like you, I am a high school graduate." He shared a regret about not going to college and having to make up his education on his own, imploring the students to make the most of this time in their lives.
"The life of the mind is paramount. The life of the mind is a beautiful thing — along with spiritual life it is the apotheosis of human experience. Take pleasure in your body and your physical life in your youth. Don't waste it, because the aches and pains are coming. But in this place you will not neglect the life of your mind."
He turned part-parent, part-coach, and did the Jesuits proud in teeing up taking advantage of the privilege at hand. "What you are about to embark upon is the greatest adventure of your young life," Springsteen continued. "You can waste it, half-ass your way through it, or you can absorb every minute of what you are experiencing and come out on the other end an individual of expanded vision, of intellectual vigor, of spiritual character and grace fully prepared to meet he world on its own terms."
The second half of the prepared remarks aligned to the Born to Run study guide prepared for the incoming freshman class. Noting that we will soon be looking to them, the "coronial generation," for answers to a better, safer world, Bruce shared his ideas on where to start. He took a walk though finding satisfying work, to immerse yourself into relationships ("to love and let yourself be loved"), to learn to be an informed and engaged citizen, and to heal thyself by "loving your neighbor, your friends, your family, your partner, and yourself."
The conversation on citizenship was more off-study-guide, but it brought the Jesuit ideal of being a man or woman for others to into focus. "Your country needs you: your vision, your energy, your love. Yes, love your country, but never fail to be critical when it comes to your country living up to your and its ideals."
The surprisingly short address clocked in about a minute less than it takes to listen to "Jungleland." More Boss Time followed, though, with a 20-minute, prepared Q&A session of ten questions posed by BC students.
The questions covered topics from the book including passages on the loss of innocence, the legacy of "American Skin (41 Shots)," and finding and holding onto the magic of "1 +1 = 3." Bruce was asked about facing pressure to conform, maintaining confidence ("even today I am a mess of insecurities"), taking risks in music ("I had no other skills and nothing to lose") and the role of faith in musical inspiration ("I consider myself a spiritual songwriter — I write for the soul"), and what he was most proud of ("my relationship with my wife"). The obviously overlooked — or moderated out — question was, will you pick a guitar and play us a song?
There was no-cross promotion this night. It was about and for the students. Yet on the day a Letter to You was announced, it was clear that this time with them was his letter to these students. I think about how many parents in the recent graduation-and-leaving-home cycle wrote their version of this letter (mine was fittingly in the form of a "To Do List") to their son or daughter where we summoned up all our hearts found true in our desire to see them achieve their hopes and dreams.
Last night wasn't just a presentation, it was an intimate exhortation from Bruce to engage and commit that echoes the love we have for our children. Our children, not being treated as children, need to hear that from people other than their parents. Bruce delivered, giving a message of work, commitment, and love to the many but it was received directly and personally. To my son and fellow, much younger, Eagles: Go set the world on fire.
In the archived video below, Springsteen's portion of the 2020 First Year Academic Convocation begins at the 25:50 mark
- September 11, 2020 - Chris Eidt reporting
THE NEW TIMER
Three old songs are new again on Letter to You Letter to You, Bruce Springsteen's twentieth studio album, arrives as some of its predecessors have: revisiting songs he'd previously recorded, performed, or given away to fellow musicians. Though all spring from new E Street Band sessions, at least three of the album's 12 tracks have a backstory, dating to Bruce's earliest years as a young artist just signing to Columbia Records in the early 1970s.
From "Sherry Darling" and "Independence Day" to "Because the Night," "This Hard Land," and "Long Time Comin'," many Springsteen songs had lives before finding space on a studio recording and emerging in a traditional sense. "Land of Hope and Dreams" and "American Skin (41 Shots)" served as hallmarks of the 1999/2000 Reunion Tour before getting cut in the studio for Wrecking Ball (2012) and High Hopes (2014).
In 1995, when Springsteen reassembled the E Street Band in the studio for Greatest Hits, he came not only with material written for the occasion, but also with several tunes he'd had in his back pocket: "This Hard Land" had been kicking around for more than a decade. The final sequence of Letter to You suggests a similar framework.
In both thought and expression, Letter to You happened very quickly. Springsteen told Martin Scorsese at a May 2019 Netflix event in Los Angeles that he'd been inspired over the course of a couple weeks, by the end of which he'd written "almost an album's worth of material for the [E Street] Band." As he did in the 1995 sessions, Springsteen also revisited older songs when the band convened late last year, this time from further back than ever.
We don't yet know how closely any of the three — "Janey Needs a Shooter," "If I Was the Priest," and "Song For Orphans" — might resemble previously known arrangements. To prepare for their modern E Street renditions, it's worth (re)acquainting ourselves with what has come before.
JANEY NEEDS A SHOOTER It was a contender, alright: Springsteen considered "Janey Needs a Shooter" to some degree for each record from Greetings From Asbury Park, N.J. through The River. That ubiquity, across eras and arrangements, makes it something of a wild card here. One early '70s take features Springsteen on piano (and was actually cut to acetate at the time, suggesting more serious interest).
A later one, probably from the spring of 1979, finds Springsteen working out the words over an acoustic guitar.
A rocking E Street Band rehearsal intrigues the most, likely recorded in Springsteen's own living room in May of that same year. Its crude sound, captured on a boom box (or something like it), probably isn't sufficient to simply drop on to a studio LP, but it's a clue nonetheless: it sounds nuanced, its parts both in place and practiced.
That rehearsal take intertwines with Warren Zevon, who recorded and released "Jeannie Needs a Shooter" in 1980. Intrigued by Bruce's title, Zevon borrowed it and went on to write what he called a "cowboy song," using neither the storyline nor the melody contained in Springsteen's original. In fact, Zevon's tale on Bad Luck Streak in Dancing School is closer in spirit to classic Americana, like John Phillips' "Me and My Uncle," which became one of the Grateful Dead's most oft-performed numbers.
From different angles, both songwriters aim squarely at the patriarchy. Zevon's is a classic boy-meets-girl tale, which becomes boy-meets-her-father, who happens to be a law man. Springsteen's composition — initially spelled "Janie" — features a different spin, with heroics predicated not on Janie's Old Man, but instead on a series of interlopers — a doctor, a proctor, a mechanic, and a cop (Janey's job Springsteen leaves to the imagination).
Both in melody and verse, the 1973 piano version sounds like the prequel to "Incident on 57th Street," with Spanish Johnny in an aspirational space, telling stories of the men Janie would "turn down like dope" — seeing himself as a protector ("I'm staying here tonight baby, and I won't let you slide"). Turning over the Wild and Innocent, it's a different story when easy money lures him away. Six years later, the 1979 full-band version combines that 57th Street spirit with that of the future River cut "The Price You Pay."
IF I WAS THE PRIEST
Also known as (the more grammatically correct) "If I Were the Priest"
"If I Was the Priest" was one of 12 songs Bruce Springsteen played for John Hammond during his May 3, 1972 audition in New York City, which landed him on Columbia Records shortly thereafter. Five would appear on Greetings, and a quarter-century later, four of the solo acoustic recordings from this very audition reel ("Mary Queen of Arkansas," "It's Hard to be a Saint in the City, "Growin' Up," and "Does This Bus Stop at 82nd Street") would appear on Tracks. While Bruce performed most of these for Hammond on acoustic guitar, he played "Priest" on piano.
Like other compositions Springsteen played that day, such as "Arabian Nights" and "Cowboys of the Sea," "If I Was the Priest" might have gone by the wayside had it not been included in a batch of demos Mike Appel used to shop Springsteen originals to other artists.
These recordings made their way to Intersong Music, a publishing agency in the U.K.; thanks to these "London Publishing Demos," which Bruce recorded in mid-1972, "If I Was the Priest" found a home with Allan Clarke in England. The Hollies singer covered Springsteen's unreleased "If I Was the Priest" for his 1974 self-titled solo album.
Though the swagger at the outset of Springsteen's piano-based demo sounds promising (and prescient of The Rolling Stones' "Loving Cup"), it wasn't a contender for the first LP. There's no mistaking it for more upbeat numbers like "Blinded by the Light" and "Spirit in the Night," which Springsteen wrote at the prompting of label chief Clive Davis, who rejected an initial sequence of Greetings for having "no hits."
A studio version of "If I Was the Priest" was part of a batch of early recordings slated for a gray-market release in the mid-'90s called Prodigal Son; pirate versions of that proposed title emerged, with "Priest" released on Before the Fame. Springsteen appeared in court in the U.K. — in coat and tie, no less — to quash the "official" release and eventually prevailed in retaining his rights.
SONG FOR ORPHANS
Also known over the years as "Song to the Orphans," "Song of the Orphans," et al.
Like "Janey" and "Priest," "Song for Orphans" has a rich history that its obscurity may not suggest. Springsteen performed this one live in 1972 and '73. Tagged back then as a so-called "New Dylan," a 1973 radio performance seems instead to portend something like Neil Young's "Campaigner."
It only took on a Dylanesque feel when Springsteen brought it back in 2005, at the end of the Devils & Dust tour in Trenton, New Jersey (an Archive Series release in 2019). Apparently, Springsteen had heard a bygone version of "Orphans" on Sirius' newly-launched E Street Radio channel, which prompted one of two breakout performances ("I think this is an outtake from Greetings From Asbury Park that's never been released," Springsteen said. "You're not going to know this bastard — then again, some of you just might!")
Widely bootlegged, the song's origins date to 1972, when it was included in the same publishing demos as "If I Was the Priest." Springsteen apparently kept the song in consideration after his first two albums; it appeared on an early song list for Born to Run [pictured above, 1974]. Like "If I Was the Priest," a studio recording of "Song for Orphans" was part of the Prodigal Son material, appearing on The Early Years and other gray-market titles.
How it fits in with contemporary material has us wondering, though the "Song For Orphans" narrative would not feel out of place on Western Stars. Its position in the Letter to You sequence — a denouement, perhaps, before the dream finale — is enticing. Springsteen tends to obsess over the narrative thread an LP weaves from start to finish; penultimate tracks have ranged from "Spirit in the Night" and "Meeting Across the River" to "Dancing in the Dark" to "Hello Sunshine." Stay tuned.
Of course, all this is just history. It remains to be seen how Springsteen has reworked with these slices of juvenilia as he returned to them as a man of 70, rather than an artist in his 20s just starting out — what the modern-day E Street Band brings to them, and how he positions them to tell a new story on Letter to You. - September 9, 2020 - Jonathan Pont, Christopher Phillips, and Erik Flannigan reporting
SPRINGSTEEN DELIVERS: NEW ALBUM IS OFFICIAL!
Recorded with the E Street Band, Letter to You arrives October 23
It's a red-letter day. A Shore Fire Media announcement has confirmed that a new Bruce Springsteen studio album, his 20th, is just around the corner: Letter to You is scheduled for October 23 from Columbia Records, on vinyl and CD.
The announcement comes accompanied by a first listen, via a video for the title track:
Along with the sound of the single, this morning's press release differentiates the forthcoming album immediately from Western Stars, headlining Letter to You as a "rock album featuring the E Street Band" and later describing it as a "rock album fueled by the band's heart-stopping, house-rocking signature sound."
Springsteen co-produced the 12-track Letter to You with Ron Aniello, recording at Springsteen's home studio in New Jersey in late 2019 — meaning pre-quarantine, and the band did indeed record together as a unit, harkening back to sessions for The River and Born in the U.S.A. In fact,
as Bruce tells it, this is the "livest" they've ever been in the studio:
"I love the sound of the E Street Band playing completely live in the studio, in a way we've never done before, and with no overdubs," Springsteen says. "We made the album in only five days, and it turned out to be one of the greatest recording experiences I’ve ever had."
For the five-day session, Springsteen reconvened Roy Bittan, Nils Lofgren, Patti Scialfa, Garry Tallent, Stevie Van Zandt, Max Weinberg, Charlie Giordano and Jake Clemons.
"I love the emotional nature of Letter to You,” says Springsteen. And while we don't know precisely the story it will tell, song titles suggest that the artist is taking stock and looking back over his 50-year career — especially given that three of the songs date back to its beginning. As the press release states, "Letter to You includes nine recently written Springsteen songs, as well as new recordings of three of his legendary, but previously unreleased, compositions from the 1970s, 'Janey Needs a Shooter,' 'If I Was the Priest,' and 'Song for Orphans.'"
1. One Minute You're Here
2. Letter to You
3. Burnin' Train
4. Janey Needs a Shooter
5. Last Man Standing
6. The Power of Prayer
7. House of a Thousand Guitars
9. If I Was the Priest
11. Song for Orphans
12. I’ll See You in My Dreams
Letter to You was mixed by Bob Clearmountain and mastered by Bob Ludwig. The album's cover photo was taken in 2018 by Danny Clinch, at Central Park West and 72nd Street in NYC, near where Springsteen was staying during his Springsteen on Broadway run.
We'll have pre-ordering information available soon for the album; for those who dug such recent Backstreet Records exclusives as the Springsteen on Broadway pin and Western Stars bandana, we're working to nail down another exclusive item for our readers.
Also watch this space for more information on those three songs that date back to the 1970s — though as for precisely how they fit in with the newer tracks on Letter to You, we'll all be waiting until October for that. - September 10, 2020 - photograph by Danny Clinch
One of the hallmarks of any Max Weinberg show — especially Max Weinberg's Jukebox — is his interaction with the crowd, from taking questions to playing song requests. But with new distancing rules in place to keep concertgoers and performers safe, what's a bandleader to do?
"I'm calling it 'Distant Socializing,' as all safety protocols are in place," says Max.
"Widely spaced tables, masks, sanitizing stations, the works. But I will still be taking song requests and questions — the same way we did it for Mighty Max’s Monday Memories."
Below we're posting the song scroll that Max plays at his Jukebox shows for fans in the crowd to pick what they want to hear. This time, fans will help create the setlist in advance.
If you'll be attending the Blu Grotto concerts, take a look at this repertoire of more than 200 classics, and send your request to askmax(at)backstreets.com — we'll pass on all requests to the Mighty One before the shows.
We originally set up that email address for Mighty Max's Monday Memories, the virtual Q&A series Max started in the spring to help keep us all entertained during lockdown, answering questions from Backstreets readers around the globe. If you missed any of its five episodes, we highly recommend you spend some time with MMMM on his YouTube or Instagram accounts.
Though Max wrapped up Season 1 in June, his intention has been to return to the format somehow — and the upcoming concerts will give him another chance to answer more questions. So you can send song requests and/or questionsfor Max to askmax(at)backstreets.com — please include your name and hometown, too, and we'll make sure he receives them! - September 9, 2020
A LUST SO FINE: HAPPY 5th TO JESSE JACKSON'S PODCAST Ask a tramp like us what they miss the most about the lack of concerts this year, and one of the answers you'll most certainly hear is: connection.
The excitement of seeing our favorite band make music on the spot is certainly a main draw, but there's something about being in the presence of thousands of fellow fans united by a common interest that heightens the experience.
Our social networks (the real kind) are filled with people we've met at shows, and every concert is both a family reunion and expansion. In these COVID days, we miss that connection. We have online networks like BTX and Facebook, of course, but text-based messages can't match the fidelity of those in-person relationships.
But there's at least one place where deep fan connections still happen, forged and fostered by podcaster Jesse Jackson. Jesse's podcast Set Lusting Bruce (a play on the obsessive fan's never-ending chase for the elusive rarities) celebrates its fifth anniversary today, continuing a long string of conversations with Springsteen fans sharing their stories, experiences, and why Bruce Springsteen matters to them.
Set Lusting Bruce host Jesse Jackson
Music podcasts are a pretty well-trod genre, and even a search for Springsteen podcasts will turn up more than a handful. Several are worthwhile; SLB has a claim to being the first, and it is unique in Jesse's insistence on keeping the focus on the fan rather than the artist.
The inspiration for SLB came after Jesse, already a veteran pop culture podcaster with series on Doctor Who and Game of Thrones, did a guest-host stint on an a podcast called Eighties Retro Overdrive published by Southgate Media Group, focusing on Bruce Springsteen's albums of the 1980s. After the episode, Jesse mused to SMG co-founder Rob Southgate that he was considering starting a Springsteen-focused podcast inspired by the film Springsteen & I.
The idea of an ongoing podcast series focusing exclusively on fan stories might have sounded dubious to some, but Rob had a firm belief that if you're passionate about something, you should podcast about it. So was born Set Lusting Bruce, and in an era where most podcasts don't last more than ten episodes and a few months, five years and almost 600 episodes later, it's still going strong.
SLB's reach has grown considerably in those five years, but as Jesse notes, listeners aren't the focus of his quest. "I just want to talk to interesting people."
And he certainly does: Jesse's guests span a wide spectrum from well-known superfans like Stan Goldstein and Dan French to fans more notable for their day jobs, like famed comic book writer Ron Marz and The Simpsons showrunner Mike Scully. His latest episode features actress Maureen Van Zandt, who of course has a uniquely up-close-and-personal perspective to share.
But Jesse's favorite guests are often the ones with deeply personal stories of how Bruce's music helped them or their loved ones face life's challenges, like Tom French, whose prematurely born daughter survived with the help of Bruce's music, or J'aimee Brooker, who used Bruce's music to help her disabled son learn to communicate.
Jesse believes every fan has a story, and he's learned over the course of the series how to elicit them, almost always starting conversations by asking about what kind of music filled guests' household while they were growing up, and usually ending by asking "Is there anything I didn't ask you that I should have?" Jesse learned the importance of that last one after he wrapped an episode, thanked his guest, and the guest replied (after the recording had stopped), "sometime I should tell you about how I got drunk with the E Street Band!"
And then there's the "Mary question," sure to elicit thought-provoking responses from Springsteen fans (you'll have to listen to an episode to see why).
In recent months, Set Lusting Bruce has gone further afield with its guests and topics, slowly morphing from a podcast about Springsteen fans to a podcast about music fans, where the host just so happen to be especially into Bruce.
"My bread and butter are talking to Springsteen fans, but I like meeting people who are passionate about a topic," Jesse explains, and since his focus is on the fan, the conversation often follows the guest's passion from Bruce to wherever it may lead. "When you blog or podcast, you publish for an audience of one. I'm having good conversations, and I hope my listeners are enjoying them."
When asked how long he envisions the series running, Jesse replied, "I've thought about that… how much is this is about I want people to hear, and how much is me just enjoying doing it?" Sometimes the effort and energy required gets to him, "but then there's that great conversation where an hour and a half flies by, and it feels like we're just getting started. It's worth it for that. As long as my wife will put up with me, and as long as I'm enjoying it, I don't plan on ending anytime soon."
Jesse admits to finding it more challenging these days to find new people to talk to, however. "I'm petrified that I'm going to reach the point where I don't have anyone scheduled and don't have any episodes in the can, and oh my god, what am I going to put out next week?"
As a former guest myself, I can vouch for the ease, comfort, and natural flow that Jesse ensures each and every guest experiences. He even once accommodated a guest who was self-conscious about her English secondary-language skills by sending her his questions in advance, allowing her to record her answers, and then weaving her responses with his own to produce a remarkably natural sounding conversation.
So if you've got a story to tell and you're missing those rich conversations between passionate Springsteen fans, Jesse's got a slot on his schedule reserved just for you. Reach out to him at setlustingbruce(at)gmail.com. To subscribe, simply go to your favorite podcast player and choose the Subscribe option.
Happy fifth anniversary, SLB, and here's to the next five years!
BOSTON COLLEGE GOES BACK TO SCHOOL WITH THE BOSS
Bruce Springsteen to address First Year BC students this week
Boston College announced in April that the common reading for incoming freshmen of the Class of 2024 is Bruce Springsteen's autobiography, Born to Run. In July the students received a copy of the book, and a detailed reading guideframes how to approach the text both as the story of Springsteen's life as well as inspiration for students "to reflect on their own story."
This is far from the first time that Bruce has made it to a college curriculum. I have been teaching "Springsteen's American Vision" for 15 years, and there are dozens of other courses that focus on various elements of Bruce's work, whether religion, social class, gender, region, or the history of rock 'n' roll.
This is not a college course, however, but a welcoming — an invitation to cultivate, with their new community, habits of intellect and discernment. Students are not required to listen to the music, watch the live performances, read the interviews, or engage the scholarly literature. And truth be told, they likely do not know much of Bruce's work. (At Rutgers, where I teach, students take my course because their parents raised them as fans, and it's New Jersey.)
Boston College, a Jesuit institution, did not choose the book because Springsteen is a world-renowned, iconic musician and public figure (nor because his son Evan graduated from there in 2012). They selected it because his autobiography has already taken its place as a master work of literature that invites reflection on our own journey and how our understanding of it shapes who we are today and how we engage the world.
That last piece is critical to Jesuit education, and it is essential to Bruce's story as the autobiography probes the realms of "work, faith, family" and how Springsteen's adult understanding of his past shapes his present and future.
Born to Run is nothing if not the story of Bruce's growth. It is a work that offers remarkable access to his inner life. Students at Boston College may find the material on religion especially pertinent as Bruce discusses both his estrangement from Catholicism and its lasting hold over him.
He also discusses his bouts with depression and anxiety and admits to seeing a psychiatrist. I hope these passages give struggling students comfort. If Bruce Springsteen still suffers, perhaps they will see their own problems as unexceptional and manageable.
The irony of a community college drop-out composing a lyrical work that is now required reading at college is likely not lost on anyone (including Bruce, one imagines). This is perhaps the greatest gift that reading Born to Run offers: testimony to the power of education.
Bruce hated school and grew up in a house devoid of books, yet he chose to devour literature and film and remade himself into an intellectual. That noun has lost favor, yet it is something of which to be proud, a person who engages ideas and thinks critically.
Bruce name drops Willy Loman and Starbuck in Born to Run, and I hope students at Boston College are encouraged to read Death of a Salesman and Moby-Dick, the works where these characters come to life, and hundreds of other books as well. That is the reason to go to college: not to find a vocation, but to get an education.
The reading guide opens with the question, "Why Read a Book?" In the age of Snapchat and Instagram, an age of dwindling attention spans, reading a book may seem like a staggering task. A book, however, is the best way to get outside oneself, to think about others and in doing so reflect on ourselves.
I only wish, in addition to the reading guide, Boston College provided a listening guide. I hope students take the time to play Springsteen's music. At a minimum, they should blast the track that gives the autobiography its title.
When they do, they will doubtless relate to a protagonist who is trying to cope with the "runaway American dream," just as these students begin their journey and try to figure out their path.
They will also learn that both autobiography and song are about the search for love. That is the eternal message of Springsteen's life and work: "love is wild, love is real."
Having read the book, students at Boston College will receive an additional treat: this Thursday, September 10, Bruce will virtually address the class of 2024 at its First Year Academic Convocation. He no doubt will continue to tell his story and offer words of inspiration for these dark and difficult days. Hopefully, he will also bring his guitar.
Boston College is making a public stream available of Springsteen's address,via bc.edu on September 10 at 7pm.
Backstreets contributor Shawn Poole recently recorded an hour-plus conversation (via Zoom) with New Jersey-based film critic Caroline Madden, centered around her book Springsteen as Soundtrack: The Sound of the Boss in Film and Television. Poole and Madden cover all 13 of the films and television series that each got a chapter's worth of attention in her book — nearly all of which are available for streaming over this long weekend or in the days to come.
Madden discusses each production's effective usage of Springsteen's music, as well as what she learned from her interviews for the book with the great independent filmmaker John Sayles (among the first to receive permission from Springsteen to use his music in a film) and longtime Springsteen manager Jon Landau (who once served as Rolling Stone's Record and Film Editor back in his days as one of pop-culture's most perceptive published critics.)
You've probably seen at least some of these movies and shows before, but it's also likely that you haven't seen them all, and Madden provides some fresh insight for a rewatch. We highly recommend her book — published by McFarland, it's aimed at a textbook market and priced accordingly, but it's certainly not too academic for any fans interested in reading more about the use of Springsteen's music on screen. Click here to score a signed copy from Backstreet Records. - September 6, 2020
LAND OF HOPE AND STREAMS: NEW YORK IS ROCKIN'
Catch Willie Nile's virtual album release show over the long weekend
The pandemic isn't stopping our favorite artists from getting new music out there, and Willie Nile recently put out his 13th studio album, New York at Night. Check out clips for "New York is Rockin'" and "Under This Roof"
for a taste — it's inspiring, invigorating stuff, as we've come to expect.
Promoting new material is trickier these days, with no real chances to gig; but Willie managed to put his full band together last week at NYC's Bowery Electric for a socially distanced concert to celebrate the new album, and you can still watch it online in its entirety for a few more days. This "Run Free" clip is taken from the full streaming concert:
SHOULDER TO SHOULDER AND HEART TO HEART Point Blank at 40 On September 3, 1980 — 40 years ago today — Dan French mailed out the first issue of his fanzine, Point Blank. I have one in front of me as I type. It has been appreciated and cared for: the A4 paper has yellowed ever so slightly over the years; the corners have rounded as readers repeatedly turned the pages; the two staples equally spaced along the left edge leave slight rust stains. Number 1 opens with an ink outline of Springsteen in one of his signature poses, the neck of his guitar coming out of a barely visible left hand, his body skinned with acknowledgements, credits, and production and printing information typed on a typewriter.
I have no idea how Dan pulled this off; the spacing is absolutely perfect. Dan describes Point Blank as "an unofficial and casual fanzine for Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band. It is non-profit-making, aiming only to promote the improvement of conditions for Springsteen fans, particularly the deprived British variety." Handwritten on the neck of the guitar: "No. 1 in a possible series. . ."
Point Blank would eventually have a run of 12 issues, ending in 1992 with a special double issue dedicated to Springsteen's 1992 tour of the United Kingdom.
Improving conditions for Springsteen fans was something Dan felt a need to do because, as he wrote for a British Museum/BBC post about Point Blank in 1980, Bruce fans "were isolated, with little means of making contact, sharing news, and communicating our shared interest." Music fans didn't have forums or Facebook or Twitter; they had to wait until news trickled out in magazines like Rolling Stone, Melody Maker, or Crawdaddy.
At some point Dan came across Ken Viola and Lou Cohan's bi-coastal U.S. fanzine first published in 1978, Thunder Road, and, later, Gary Desmond's Liverpool-based fanzine, Candy's Room, which also celebrated its 40th anniversary this year. He thought he'd give it a try, as he wrote in a 30th anniversary essay, "as a way to meet other Bruce Springsteen fans, in a world before the internet and email, when the only way to connect with people was to place a small ad in a paper and wait to see what would happen."
It was, as Jeff Matthews, founder of the fanzine Rendezvous, wrote me in an email about the importance of Point Blank,
the age of pen pals, stamp addressed envelopes and 50p fanzines. Cassette tape trading, Bruce quizzes, concert meet ups, next album speculation and rumors — this was great fun and it united fans around the world with one common cause. Forty years ago, as a young Bruce fan, and thanks mainly to the fanzines like Backstreets, Point Blank, and Candy's Room, we clung onto every little bit of Bruce trivia like gold dust. And the friendship and community extended, for me, outside of his music and led me to Dan French in 1981. So thanks to Dan French and Point Blank magazine for many, many years of community and true brotherly friendship.
The desire to build community is one of the motivating factors among the more than a dozen Springsteen fanzine founders and contributors I've spoken to over the years. And Point Blank, just as so much of what Dan has done as a Springsteen fan and for other fans, breathes community. In Number 1 alone, Dan immediately thanks "Thunder Road and Candy's Room for the idea," and the issue contains a page of letters, an article dedicated to Thunder Road, and detailed information on how fans can buy each of them. Reading this in 1980, when you felt like an isolated Springsteen fan, would show you that you're not alone, that there are other tramps out there yearning to connect and celebrate the man whose music has brought meaning to their lives.
Number 1 was composed almost exclusively by Dan. He advertised it in various music magazines with such success that only a few months later 80% of Number 2 was composed by outside contributors. People were hungry and wanted to be involved. Dan quickly sold the initial print run of 200 and had to reprint Number 1 many times. Same with Numbers 2 and 3, and by 1982 Dan had to consider them out of print so he could concentrate on putting together future issues.
Each issue feels more confident, with more diverse voices, exclusive content, coverage of more musicians, sophisticated layouts, and funny cartoons, but each still holds that kitchen-table cut-and-paste DIY Xerox aesthetic that is so endearing of 1980s fanzines. When you hold it in your hands, you are holding fandom in its purest form. It led Dan from the hours composing, crafting, and organizing pages to the concerts themselves. For Dan, writing in The Fever fanzine in 1983, "It was most encouraging to stand outside the concert halls during Bruce's tour holding the magazine and to be approached by readers and correspondents I'd never met before, and even stay with them for the provincial shows."
Point Blank, like so many fanzines before and after, was a "social media" that led not to clicks and likes, but to human connection. And eventually to meeting Bruce and handing him a copy of Point Blank.
In 2010, Dan created a free online archive of Wild and Innocent Productions materials: scanned PDFs of all 12 Point Blank issues; a five-issue publication, Songs to Orphans, which provided lyrics to many of Springsteen's unreleased songs; links to collaborations with other fanzine creators; and many work-product documents. We encourage you to look at each of the issues and artifacts, as there are some real gems, such as:
A photo gallery with behind-the-scenes photos of Bruce and many of the band members, including this photo of Bruce holding a copy of Point Blank at the Newcastle airport, in May 1981.
And my favorite issue of Point Blank, Number 5 (1982), which contains a revealing early interview of Bruce after his April 26, 1981, show at Forest National in Brussels by Marc Didden and translated by Ria Aeschlimann. For me, this is fanzines at their best: there's no way I would have ever found this interview, and if I did it probably would have been in the original language.
In the interview Bruce gives glimpses of his love of music that comes through so well in his current From My Home to Yours series. When asked about covering Woody Guthrie's "This Land is Your Land," Bruce's response shows his emerging confidence in being overtly political from the stage, his indignation about the state of the country, and how he sees his lineage as a political artist: "I sing that song to let people know that America belongs to everybody who lives there: the Blacks, Chicanos, Indians, Chinese and the whites, no matter what the Ku Klux Klan may think about that. You know what gave me such a thrill tonight? That the whole audience went 'booo. . .' when I said the words, 'Ku Klux Klan.' I never got that reaction before. That strengthens my conviction to strike out against those kinds of people. . . . It's time someone took on the reality of the '80s. I'll do my best."
Point Blank emerged with The River, when Bruce was just beginning to gain world-wide fame and confidence in his political voice, published through the behemoth that was Born in the U.S.A and the shock of Bruce breaking up the E Street Band, and came to a close when Bruce was grappling how that fame affected his life and, as we would later learn, his mental health. In other words, Point Blank was there for some of Springsteen's most complex and challenging years, with Dan documenting, recording, and sharing.
Through it all, Dan ensured that Point Blank stayed true to its original goals: build community, celebrate music, and have fun while doing it. And, yet, perhaps even more significant is the legacy of generosity, humility, and caring for all fans that Dan fostered through his fanzine and his activities since. He's been a brother-in-arms and true friend to Backstreets, which shares the same birth year. All Springsteen fans, whether they realize it or not, should be indebted to what Dan French has created for and gifted to our community over the last 40 years.
- September 3, 2020 - Bill Wolff reporting - Associate Professor of Communication and Media Studies at Saint Joseph's University, Wolff is the editor of Bruce Springsteen and Popular Music and is working on Springsteen Zines: An Oral History of Springsteen Fanzines.
RECAP: VOLUME 11, A "LABOR DAY EXTRAVAGANZA" From My Home to Yours hears America singing The eleventh episode of From My Home to Yours is a Labor Day special, and it brings to mind a weird little armchair criticism Bruce Springsteen receives from time to time: how can he still speak to or even understand the concerns of the working class? Now that he's, y'know, a rich rock 'n' roll star?
"It always comes up," Bruce told Backstreets in 2004. "I've settled into the fact that I'll be answering that question for the rest of my working life." It's a misguided question for all sorts of reasons, but as he noted then, it especially denotes "a tremendously muddled idea of how writers write."
Volume 11 is very much about the writers writing. As workers work, the writers write, and it's all reflected not only in the songs on Bruce's new Labor Day playlist but in the poems he recites throughout. Poetry abounds — from his own literal poetry readings to the spoken word of Patti Smith's breathless "Piss Factory" from 1974 — blurring lines between 20th century poets and songrwiters, their mutual inclination to capture a nation at work.
Greetings E Street Nation, friends, fans and listeners from coast to coast! Welcome to our Labor Day extravaganza. Today we are celebrating the American working man and woman — all the folks that keep our world spinning 'round and 'round.
Pop hits, sincere paeans to American industry, warnings about "working for the man,"
ironic and even grieving takes on labor, it's all here. Because our DJ knows a thing or two about work. He'll work hard for your love, as the hardest-working man in show business, and yeah, he knows about the working class, too. The working, the working, the working life (if you're surprised his own "Factory" didn't show up, maybe it's because the aforementioned "Piss Factory" is, he says, "one of the best songs about factory work I've ever heard").
From the cold open of Aaron Copland's stirring "Fanfare for the Common Man," Bruce moves on to Roy Orbison. "The Great One" (as Bruce calls Roy O.) did write "Working for the Man," speaking of writers, and it's only one of five tracks on the list with "work" in the title.
Six, if you count Philip Levine's moving "What Work Is," a poem Bruce recites in full. His own "Working on the Highway" is represented in a cover by Joe Ely ("a great friend of mine… fabulous singer/songwriter/rocker out of Texas").
Organized labor receives plenty of focus, starting with a timely stand-up bit by Jimmy Tingle from his 2008 comedy album Jimmy Tingle for President:
We have all these great holidays, they all have meaning — nobody even knows what they mean anymore! Like, Labor Day: people don't even realize what Labor Day's about. People protested, they demonstrated, they had to sacrifice for things like… the 40-hour work week, benefits, to abolish child labor in this country, safe standards in factories! Some people lost their jobs; some people lost their lives. People don't even realize it — it's completly off the radar. People go, "Labor Day, Labor Day, Labor Day, let me think... are the liqour stores open? Or do we have to drive to New Hampshire?"
Oh, you can't scare Bruce, he's sticking to the union… and the union is also repped here by Woody Guthrie's "Union Maid" (a portion of it, anyway) and Joe Hill's "Rebel Girl," as sung by Hazel Dickens on the 1990 Smithsonian Folkways collection of Hill's songs, Don't Mourn - Organize! Songs of Labor.
This portion of the show shines a light on Hill, a labor activist and songwriter who paid the death penalty just over 100 years ago. Bruce takes us back to his own one-off performance of an old union anthem about the man: "Joe Hill" (AKA "I Dreamed I Saw Joe Hill Last Night"), from the High Hopes tour stop in Tampa. The 1936 Earl Robinson composition was popularized by Pete Seeger and FMHTY favorite Paul Robeson (and later, Joan Baez); in some ways it's a precursor to "The Ghost of Tom Joad" and "We Are Alive." Bruce spins his own recording here, performed on May 1, 2014 — International Workers Day — as "a salute for the union folks here tonight."
Digging that one out of his live archives, the DJ expanded on the song with some biographical details (which he may well remember from reading his Howard Zinn) and even a poem — Hill's last piece of writing, from the night before his death:
Born in 1879, Joe Hill was a Swedish-American labor activist and a member of the Industrial Workers of the World — better known as the Wobblies. He was dubiously convicted of a murder and executed by firing squad on November 19, 1915 at Utah's Sugar House Prison. This was his last will and testament:
My Will is easy to decide,
For there is nothing to divide
My kin don't need to fuss and moan—
"Moss does not cling to a rolling stone"
My body?—Oh!—If I could choose
I would want to ashes it reduce,
And let the merry breezes blow
My dust to where some flowers grow
Perhaps some fading flower then
Would come to life and bloom again
This is my Last and Final Will —
Good luck to all of you,
Public Enemy's "Fight the Power," an "all-time classic" in the mix, bursts right out of Bruce's live "Joe Hill," conjoining these two songs written a half-century apart. "To make everybody see, in order to fight the powers that be?" It's there you'll find Joe Hill.
There's plenty of workplace diversity in the viewpoints here, and the spirit of Adele Springsteen's work shoes is in the mix as much as Douglas's factory whistle."Let's send one to the working women out there!" Bruce says at one point, reaching for Mick Flavin's "Working Woman" rather than a mainstay like Merle Haggard's "Workin' Man Blues." He later underscores the point by adding Valerie June's "Workin' Woman Blues" to the playlist. And then there's "the Queen of Disco, Donna Summer":
She works hard for the money! I had the pleasure of writing a song and doing a session with Donna and Quincy Jones in the mid-'80s. She was absolutely lovely. I originally wrote "Cover Me" for her, and then Mr. Landau heard it and, doing his duty as my manager, advised me to keep it. So I wrote a song "Protection" for her and recorded it with her. Good… but no "Cover Me."
You can listen to the Donna Summer recording here — that's Bruce on the guitar lead (and subtly, his vocal in the fade-out). He recorded "Protection" with the E Street Band in 1982, but his own version has yet to be officially released.
It's better than he seems to think.
Even further back in Bruce's back pages, today's a good day to remember that this is a guy who had a freakin' band called Steel Mill. Which made his recitation of Langston Hughes's "Steel Mills" all the more resonant —
That grind and grind,
That grind out new steel
And grind away the lives
Of men, —
In the sunset
Are great black silhouettes
Against the sky.
In the dawn
They belch red fire.
The mills —
Grinding new steel,
*In his recitation, Bruce's delivers the last two lines as "Grinding out new steel / Grinding out new steel"
— though the real masterstroke was following this with his own "Youngstown."
"Steel Mills" is typically considered Langston Hughes's first poem. When he was in high school in Cleveland, his stepfather worked in Ohio steel mills; the poet wrote this at the age of fourteen. Which seems astonishingly young — but then, Springsteen knows all about what a 14-year-old kid can take in.
Once again, the idea that a successful artist can no longer have much to say on this subject ignores the power of his own formative years in a working class family — fully formative years, as evidenced by the Born to Run bio, the Broadway show, and this very radio show. In the stories he's been telling, Bruce's childhood never seems that far away. Again and again (especially in Volume 8, "Summertime Summertime") we're reminded that he is regularly in touch with the boy who grew up commanding the night brigade. His younger self — who watched as work brought joy and indentity to his mother, struggle and darkness to his father — seems always in reach of his psyche, and his childhood has always informed his writing on the recurring subject of work.
And if "you grow up and you calm down" about such things… well, as the Clash would have it, you're "working for the clampdown."
That classic London Calling track appears here "in these days of evil Presidentes" as a Springsteen cover, again from the High Hopes tour — with heavy labor from Tom Morello (who makes several appearances today, as part of Bruce's 2014 live band as well as in Rage Against the Machine's "Ghost of Tom Joad" cover).
A Clash song would likely have made the new DJ set no matter the subject, considering the recent birthday celebration for Joe Strummer (in which Bruce calls the Clash leader "my great, great departed friend and brother that I never had… my inspiration for the past 40 years"). But "Clampdown" in particular is an important facet in this 90-minute playlist about the value and dangers of "working hard" and "working for the man."
"Clampdown" goes right into another live E Street Band performance, learning all those facts real good in "Badlands" from Tempe 1980 — "Live at Arizona State University, November 1980, the night after Ronald Reagan was elected President" — and we'll return to the Reagan era in full force toward the end of this set.
Of course, the backdrop for this episode is not only Monday's Labor Day holiday, but also a COVID-parallel epidemic of joblessness in this country. As reported by the Washington Post,based on Department of Labor figures as of August 27, there are 27 million Americans receiving some type of unemployment assistance.
That's a frightening figure, especially for anyone who understands, as Springsteen has expressed it, that "the lack of work creates a loss of self." Bruce spoke on the subject after the Great Recession at a 2012 press conference for Wrecking Ball, emphasizing that the human cost of unemployment is "devastating. People have to work. The country should strive for full employment. It's the single thing that brings a sense of self and self-esteem, and a sense of place, a sense of belonging." Eight years later, he offers encouragement for those out of work.
On this Labor Day we have to pause and think of the millions of Americans who have been displaced and left jobless by the coronavirus. There is little as painful as to be without productive work. So for this Labor Day, we send our prayers up for a healthy working nation in the coming days, months, and years ahead.
Peter Gabriel's "Don't Give Up" was the accompanying long-distance dedication, and it came in the midst of a summational pack of songs from the mid-'80s that recall the height of the Reagan era.
It's interesting that when Bruce Springsteen thinks of "working songs," even he still thinks of "heartland rock." After all the commercialization and co-optation and parodies and gauzy effects of the decade, still standing tall in Volume 11 is the music of the genre's holy trinity: Bruce Springsteen, Bob Seger, and ("my friend… terrific American songwriter") John Mellencamp. "Pink Houses" is the pick for JCM, his perfect slice of Americana and early-'84 Top 10 hit, which he and Bruce finally sang together last year.
For Seger, it's 1986's "Like a Rock" charging from the gate. Liberated from its heavy rotation in Chevy truck commercials (much as they may have actually benefitted auto workers in his home state), we're reminded that the song was never about chassis and tailgates at all, but about a lot of other things: the passage of time, aging and idealism, pride and sense of self, and yeah, the dignity and purpose hard work brings to a body. Stretched out here for its full length, rather than in 15- and 30-second spots, "Like a Rock" reintroduces itself as a lean and potent piece of craft — the sound, in the end, not of autoworkers welding, but of writers writing.
The song's sense of dignity is where you knew all this would wind up, this journey through all these aspects of labor, workin' neath the wheel, from the fields to unions to the Charlotte County road gang. And when the foreman calls time, Bruce lands on New Jersey's own Walt Whitman — all hail the Service Area in Cherry Hill — with a recitation of "I Hear America Singing."
"That's our show for today, folks. Until we meet again, stay strong, stay healthy, stay safe… and have a wonderful Labor Day."
Aaron Copland - "Fanfare for the Common Man"
Roy Orbison - "Workin' for the Man"
Joe Ely - "Working on the Highway"
Mick Flavin - "Working Woman"
Jimmy Tingle - "Labor Day"
[Poetry reading] Langston Hughes's "Steel Mills"
Bruce Springsteen - "Youngstown"
Woody Guthrie - "Union Maid"
Hazel Dickens - "Rebel Girl"
[Poetry reading] Joe Hill's "My Last Will"
Bruce Springsteen - "Joe Hill" (live in Tampa, FL, 5/1/14)
Public Enemy - "Fight the Power"
Bruce Springsteen - "Clampdown" (live in Sunrise, FL, 4/29/14)
Bruce Springsteen - "Badlands" (live in Tempe, AZ, 11/5/80)
[Poetry reading] Philip Levine's "What Work Is"
Rage Against the Machine - "The Ghost of Tom Joad"
Donna Summer - "She Works Hard for the Money"
Valerie June - "Workin' Woman Blues"
Patti Smith - "Piss Factory"
John Mellencamp - "Pink Houses"
Peter Gabriel - "Don't Give Up"
Bob Seger - "Like a Rock"
Instrumental interlude: Ola Gjello - "Crystal Sky"
[Poetry reading] Walt Whitman's "I Hear America Singing"
- September 2, 2020 - Christopher Phillips reporting
THE WORKING, THE WORKING, JUST THE WORKING EPISODE From My Home to Yours rolls back out this week with Volume 11
One thing that's really helping us get through this year is Bruce Springsteen's E Street Radio show, FromMy Home to Yours. Though it's generally on a bi-weekly schedule, you never quite know when to expect the DJ to return with a new episode, so it's always good to have a definitive heads-up. And this week... he's bringing it in again.
Volume 11 of From My Home to Yours will be a Labor Day special, airing for the first time tomorrow morning (Wednesday, September 2 at 10am Eastern) and rebroadcasting throughout the holiday weekend. According to the SiriusXM blog, Volume 11 will be dedicated "to workers around the country":
From "Factory" to "Working on the Highway," Bruce Springsteen has written and performed so many songs about the American working men and women. And in honor of Labor Day, the legendary musician will dedicate a special episode of his exclusive SiriusXM series, From My Home to Yours, to workers around the country.… featuring songs from Woody Guthrie, Joe Hill, Patti Smith, Public Enemy, Rage Against The Machine, Donna Summer, Bob Seger, Roy Orbison, and more.
If you miss the initial airing, Volume 11 will also be available On Demand on the SiriusXM app, as well as repeating on E Street Radio:
Wednesday, September 2 at 10am and 6pm
Thursday, September 3 at 6am and 3pm
Friday, September 4 at 10am and 4pm
Saturday, September 5 at 12am, 8am, and 5pm
Sunday, September 6 at 9am and 6pm
Monday, September 7 at 7am and 4pm
Tuesday, September 8 at 12am and 8am
- September 1, 2020
LOOK INSIDE THIS FALL'S BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN: ALL THE SONGS
Coming this fall from Octopus/Hachette is the next installment in their All the Songs series, focused squarely on our man with Bruce Springsteen: All the Songs - The Story Behind Every Track. It's a weighty addition to the Boss bookshelf, at 672 pages and more than six pounds, a chronological song-by-song resource co-written by Philippe Margotin and Jean-Michel Guesdon.
For a sneak peek, the publisher has provided us with a blad as a PDF — a 16-page sampler, previewing the content and layout — and we can share it with you here to give you a better sense what to expect.
The new book invites comparison with Brian Hiatt's similarly titled Bruce Springsteen: The Stories Behind the Songs, released last year — Hiatt's is a must-have, particularly for its wealth of new historical information based on numerous new interviews.
As you'll see in the blad, All the Songs is amalgamating secondary sources instead, offering a different perspective with more of a focus
on musical structure (co-author Guesdon is himself a musician, composer, and sound engineer); it also works in material that was beyond the scope of Hiatt's book, including cover songs (the entirety of the We Shall Overcome album, for instance).
We're compelled to put asterisks by the All and the Every in the new title, since any Springsteen diehard will be able to identify songs that got away from Margotin and Guesdon. But if you can handle such omissions, there looks to be plenty to enjoy in their song-by-song analysis of the vast majority of Bruce Springsteen's output from Greetings through Western Stars.
Pre-order Bruce Springsteen: All the Songs in our online shop now,
to guarantee bonus Backstreets exclusives: a custom bookplate signed by both authors, as well as a promotional bookmark.
We'll ship upon the book's publication in October, in plenty of time for holiday gift-giving. - August 31, 2020
TOMRROW (8/30), BAR A WELCOMES BACK SPRINGSTEEN ON SUNDAY Springsteen on Sunday will be broadcasting on location this weekend, the weekly radio program on 107.1 The Boss (WWZY-FM) returning to Lake Como's Bar Anticipation with listeners once again invited. Join DJ Tom Cunningham outside for two hours of socially distanced, socially responsible fun.
Guests this week will be the Jersey Shore's country music renegades Williams Honor (Gordon Brown & Reagan Richards, above with TC), and they're bringing a brand new song from their forthcoming album to debut. Plus after the broadcast is over, they're going to stick around and play a couple of songs.
The station has joined forces with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 400 to help our friends at Fulfill. (formerly the FoodBank of Monmouth & Ocean Counties). We encourage you to raid your cabinets for some non-perishable food items to help feed neighbors, as Sunday's event will include a "Stuff-A-Truck" for Fulfill. Food insecurity is at an unprecedented level, and you can help make sure hunger won't win here.
No cover charge. Doors open at 8am, brodcast starts at 9am, bar opens at 10am. Grab a bite to eat from the brunch menu or full menu. With every breakfast platter you receive a complimentary Bloody Mary or Mimosa!
For the safety of all present the following will be implemented:
Patrons must wear masks while entering the venue or leaving their table to use the restroom.
Tables will be positioned 6' apart, with the front row of tables 12' from the broadcast.
Seating "Table For Two," "Table For Four" and "Table For Six" configurations only.
Admittance includes a dining and drinks service, with service and seating beginning at 9am.
Fans must remain seated at their table.
Dancing will not be permitted.
Lawn chairs, blankets, pets, food or beverages are strictly prohibited.
Bar Anticipation reserves the right to change any policy without notice.
Venue security will enforce ground rules, which will follow current CDC and State of New Jersey guidelines for outdoor events and dining.
In the event of inclement weather, an alternate plan will be announced.
If you can't make it in person, tune in at 9am ET on 107.1 FM at the Jersey Shore (and in Southern Ocean County at 99.7), and go here for all ways and shapes and forms of listening options: 1071theboss.com/apps-streaming/ - August 29, 2020
Co-authors Philippe Margotin and Jean-Michel Guesdon — who collaborated on earlier books in this series for The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd, and Led Zeppelin — take on the Springsteen catalog from Greetings through Western Stars.
They've also kindly done some autographing for us, so that the first 500 pre-orders will ship from Backstreet Records with a signed bookplate. A free, exclusive bookmark, too!
Now, we wouldn't be the trainspotters we are without noting: All the songs? No, not all the songs. Studio album and EP tracks, yes, along with B-sides — and Tracks and 18 Tracks, even The Promise and Chapter and Verse are covered. But you'll discover omissions, too. "The Man Who Got Away" isn't the only one that got away.
But any more songs and it might get too heavy to lift — this is a hefty one for your coffee table (don't drop it on your foot), 670 pages packed with song-by-song notes on genesis, lyrics, production, crew, and more, well-illustrated with color and B&W photos throughout.
AUTHOR BRIAN HIATT GUESTS FOR NBTB SEASON 1 FINALE Today, the None But the Brave podcast wraps up its inaugural season with an extensive and informative interview with Brian Hiatt, Senior Writer at Rolling Stone magazine and author of the authoritative book Bruce Springsteen: The Stories Behind the Songs.
Podcast co-hosts Backstreets contributor Flynn McLean and film producer Hal Schwartz talk to Brian about the origins of the book and how he got access to the many key Springsteen associates quoted, including all of the producers Bruce has worked with over the past three decades. The interview also includes such juicy details as the story behind the still-unreleased 1995 Western swing album that Bruce simultaneously recorded with The Ghost of Tom Joad, as well as the tale about how Hiatt discussed Bruce's performance of "Achy Breaky Heart" from the legendary Basie '93 show with Billy Ray Cyrus himself.
"We were very excited to talk to Brian about his book," McLean says. "He's a long-time fan who knew what to ask the involved personnel to get a deeper read on Bruce's catalog."
Schwartz adds,"We really had a blast talking with Brian. His book is absolutely essential reading for every Springsteen fan."
Congratulations to Flynn and Hal on an entertaining, enlightening, and educational first season, 22 episodes in all. Previous guests on the None But the Brave podcast include Backstreets Associate Editor Jonathan Pont, photographer Debra Rothenberg, and Stan Goldstein, co-author of the book Rock and Roll Tour of the Jersey Shore.
We'll look forward to welcoming None But the Brave back for Season 2! - August 25, 2020
DREAMS AND VISIONS OF BORN TO RUN AT 45
As we mark the anniversary of Bruce Springsteen's 1975 masterpiece Born to Run, don't miss
this giveaway from Sony Music: enter for a chance to win a BTR prize package including a nifty set of headphones and Eric Meola's stunning book documenting the cover sessions, the long-out-of-print Born to Run: The Unseen Photos.
Celebrate the 45th anniversary of the iconic album and enter to win a Born to Run vinyl, the Born To Run: Unseen Photos hardcover book by Eric Meola, and a pair of Sony WH-1000XM4 noise canceling headphones!https://t.co/LFoSbmPtelpic.twitter.com/gTxji7n6j6
PETE SEEGER, MUSICAL GREAT-GRANDFATHER
An exclusive clip from director Nick Mead
With Bruce Springsteen's live Archive Series putting the Seeger Sessions Band back in the spotlight, we have some previously unseen footage with its late namesake.
Pete Seeger, who died in 2014, wasn't entirely comfortable with having his name on Springsteen's high-profile 2006 project (hence a respectful change along the way to simply the "Sessions Band"), but his life's work of collecting, performing, amplifying, and preserving traditional folk songs remains a prime inspiration no matter the name.
His ambivalence is clear in this never-before-seen footage shot by director Nick Mead (Clarence Clemons: Who Do I Think I Am?). Seeger ruminates on "too much publicity," but he also grants, "I'm a lucky old musician, to know that I've got musical grandchildren and great-grandchildren all over the country."
In under four minutes, we get a closer look at his banjo's legend ("THIS MACHINE SURROUNDS HATE AND FORCES IT TO SURRENDER"), some choice words for uncertain times, and even a magical, impromptu take on Irving Berlin's "Blue Skies."
"In the long run," Pete says in the interview with Mead, "I think guitars and banjos will be more important than guns… Some music just helps you to forget your troubles; some music helps you understand your troubles. And, occasionally, music comes along which helps you do something about your troubles."
Nick also gives us the backstory behind the interview:
Many, many years ago I was having dinner with Jeff Lynne, and I asked him, "So how'd you get into this guitar business, then?"
Without missing a beat he said, "I was in bed at 11 one morning, and my mum came upstairs with a cup of tea and said, 'Only musicians stay in bed until 11,' so I went out and got a guitar."
This inspired me to embark on a very personal journey around the world talking to — and filming — the greatest guitar players and songwriters.
I really wanted to talk to Pete Seeger but couldn't find a manager or a record company who'd respond. So I went to Beacon, New York, and asked a mailman for his address. I was all ready to bung the postie $20 but he said, "Pete? Oh, he lives up that trail" — so off I went. Pete wasn't in, but his dog was wandering around, so — and this as close to being a stalker as I've ever been — I got his phone number off his dog's collar.
He was ever so nice when he called the next day: he never asked how I got his number, just apologized for not being in. Said that the price of an interview was some help laying a new concrete floor for his sloop club…. he took children out on the Hudson on a sloop called The Woody Guthrie.
Anyway, after a day slinging concrete, he was as good as his word. This is part of the interview I shot with him.
It's for an ongoing bigger project about guitars and the inspiration, aspiration, motivation, and dedication it takes to pick one up and do something with it. To "make it talk," so to speak.
I hope this is a little inspirational in these troubled times.
- August 24, 2020 - Christopher Phillips reporting - thanks to Nick Mead
SAINTS, DEVILS, AND RANK STRANGERS IN LONDON New Archive release, the second from 2006, shows how the Sessions tour grew up After a short delay, the August entry in Bruce Springsteen's Archive Series has cleared the bar: one of the last Seeger Sessions dates, November 11, 2006 at Wembley Arena in London.
This is the second Sessions show to emerge in the Archive Series — the tour's powerful opening gig, recorded at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival less than a year after Hurricane Katrina, was released in 2018 (a subsequent YouTube video presentation became a companion piece).
The entire 2006 endeavor remains a unique chapter in Bruce's musical history; today's set, from the tour's final month, captures this versatile, creative, and audacious band at the top of their game, after more than 50 shows under their belts across Europe and the U.S.
Although the Live in Dublin album was recorded just a few nights later at the Point in Dublin, it is a very different listening experience than the Wembley show. While that 2007 live release captures some great performances over three shows, it doesn't provide the energy and flow of a complete concert.
The Wembley set includes four songs that don't appear in either the Dublin or New Orleans shows: "Devils & Dust," "Jesus Was an Only Son," "Froggie Went a Courtin'" (which goes over very big with an English audience), and the debut of "Long Walk Home," which would be released the following year on Magic. The events that inspired "Long Walk Home" (and that continued in its wake) likely inspired the release of the show now, the week that Springsteen tacitly endorsed Joe Biden for President, appearing in a campaign video set to "The Rising" for the opening of the Democratic convention.
Wembley is a typically boisterous Sessions tour set that you can't help but dance to, but its political messages make it especially powerful.
The 2006 U.S. midterm elections were held on November 7, four days before this performance at Wembley. Democrats won control of both houses of Congress for the first time since 1994, handing President George W. Bush a major defeat and revealing the public's dissatisfaction over the Iraq War.
The election news appeared very much on Springsteen's mind at Wembley. Introducing "Devils & Dust" he said, "Some semblance of sanity has returned to the United States. But damn, it was close, it was more than close…. That great Abraham Lincoln quote — 'You can fool some of the people all the time, fool all the people some of the time, but you can't fool all the people all the time' — the problem is, you fool enough of the people enough of the time, you make a big, tragic, fucking mess."
The Sessions Band arrangement of "Devils & Dust" is one of the highlights of the set; the instruments slowly build behind Bruce's vocal, the singers join for the chorus, and the song reaches heights it had never quite hit live, culminating in a majestic trumpet solo from Curt Ramm, an elegy for those lost in war. They follow it with a fierce version of the anti-war "Mrs. McGrath" and a blistering, swinging "How Can a Poor Man Stand Such Times and Live," the 1929 Blind Alfred Reed composition that Bruce reworked as a response to the government's devastating handling of Hurricane Katrina.
"Gonna Be a Long Walk Home," as Bruce introduces the new song later in the set, raises another question: how we start fixing the mess that happens when you fool enough of the people enough of the time.
A centerpiece of the Magic album and the 2007-08 tour, the new song is fully formed here, with the vocal chorus adding a sense of wistful sadness around the words "long walk home" that's missing from the E Street Band version. On E Street, it feels like "everybody has a neighbor, everybody has a friend, everybody has a reason to begin again." But here, the Sessions music, which carries in it so many stories of racial injustice and the abuse of power, conjures up a town of rank strangers.
As I write this, we are gearing up for what will be the most bizarre and divisive election season I've ever seen. We can't agree on facts. We've lost more than 160,000 people to the coronavirus. People have lost their jobs and businesses. The president is encouraging division. We're physically separated from those we love. The last verse of this version of "Long Walk Home," which didn't make the final cut on Magic, presciently captures the feeling of danger we're experiencing:
Now the water's rising 'round the corner, there's a fire burning out of control
There's a hurricane on Main Street and I've got murder in my soul
When the party's over, when the cheering is all gone
Will you know me? Will I know you? Will I know you?
"Long Walk Home" asks whether we're too divided, too fractured to rebuild principles of democracy. This set answers it with the gospel/civil rights anthems of "When the Saints Go Marching In" and "This Little Light," featuring Cindy Mizelle's house-wrecking performance, and the hard-won patriotism of "American Land." This show is a reminder that the Sessions tour offered an inspiring vision of America where truths can be told, where history matters.
At a time when it's dangerous to even sing together, let alone gather in arenas to see Bruce in concert, the full-throated singing on these songs is exhilarating. Turn it up loud and let your voice loose.
- August 21, 2020 - Lauren Onkey reporting - photographs by Geoffrey Robinson, 11/11/06
TAKE THE WEATHERED WITH YOU
Soundstage spotlights Nils Lofgren and his new live album
This Friday, August 21, brings a new live album from the Nils Lofgren Band, the 2CD Weathered. A day prior to the release, a preview will come via Soundstage, the monthly online series presented by the Springsteen Archives and hosted by music historian Bob Santelli.
Soundstage, a sister series to What's Up on E Street?, showcases "new music, ideas, and trends in American popular music, starting with projects from members of the E Street Band," Santelli says. "In this period of COVID, it's re-assuring that exciting new music is still being made by artists like Nils Lofgren and David Sancious."
The 16-track Weathered was recorded on the road in 2019, as Lofgren toured with a full band for the first time in more than 15 years in support of his latest studio LP, Blue with Lou. Produced by Nils and his wife Amy, the
live album comes via his own label Cattle Track Road Records (and Nils has kindly autographed copies for Backstreet Records customers).
Improvisation has always been a key element in live performances for Lofgren, a veteran member of some of the greatest rock bands in history, as well as an accomplished and successful solo artist.
"All the band members are old friends used to being encouraged to stretch out and improvise with me,” Lofgren explains. That freedom shows throughout Weathered. "Our crew did a fabulous job getting everything right for us to do our best every night." He continues, "Regularly hearing inspired, improvisational surprises from your fellow bandmates elevated our interaction and made for one of a kind, unique shows every night. We all thrive in a live setting and at every show, the audience kicked the music up to a special level we only reach with their contagious, inspired energy."
Join us Friday, August 21st at 12 noon PDT / 3pm EDT / 8pm GMT for 'A Song for Joe' - a celebration of the life, legacy and birthday of Joe Strummer. Go to https://t.co/Oftwg7W65N for more information on this very special live event. pic.twitter.com/vZgPJdPF0o
#THERISING RISES AGAIN
With the Democratic National Convention getting underway last night, August 17, Bruce Springsteen's endorsement of the Biden/Harris ticket came in the form of a campaign video. Shown early in convention coverage — and messaged out by both the Biden and Springsteen Twitter accounts — "The Rising" becomes Springsteen's first foray into the 2020 presidential race.
The stirring clip demonstrates once again the flexibility and durability of a Springsteen song, particularly ones dealing with healing or redemption; much the way "My City of Ruins" served after 9/11, now this 9/11 song speaks to our times two decades later, in the midst of another national crisis (or a confluence of them). In the new clip, emergency responders saluted in the song are most likely to work in a hospital, and "the rising" is a call to a diverse citizenry to unify behind what Springsteen has called "the country we carry in our hearts."
Springsteen and Patti Scialfa appear briefly in the video themselves, at the 2:30 mark. More keen viewers heard "My City of Ruins" on night one of the virtual DNC, and it's unlikely that the Bossness will end there. The convention runs nightly this week, leading up to the presidential nominee's speech Thursday night at 10pm.
Earlier this summer Springsteen said in an Atlantic interview, "I believe that our current president is a threat to our democracy. He simply makes any kind of reform that much harder. I don't know if our democracy could stand another four years of his custodianship. These are all existential threats to our democracy and our American way of life."
Nothing virtual about that.
- August 18, 2020
RECAP: HISTORY IS MADE AT NIGHT So is good radio: From My Home to Yoursbeckons the darkness with Vol. 10: In Dreams While a scheduling change for the bi-weekly From My Home to Yours radio program on SiriusXM triggered speculation, the explanation was straightforward: the tenth installment would air at midnight. No news, no unreleased music, no special announcement. Rather, Bruce Springsteen was taking the night shift.
The surprise, after previous volumes aired at 10 a.m., is that it took ten episodes to flip the script.
"For most of my life, I had no great fondness for the day," Springsteen said, pronouncing himself "a born night crawler, up till 3 a.m. as a young child." The sunrise yielded only impediments: "waking too early, schoolwork, and somebody else running my life."
"But at night," he continued, "I found my mind came to life. I felt a stimulation, and a creative excitement, a freedom, that eluded me in the day. At night, I felt most like myself."
At times, the 81-minute segment titled "In Dreams" played out like a dream segment might, its twists and turns replete with moments you'll not remember. And ones perhaps you won't forget. Mostly, it was a chance for Springsteen to do what he's done over the course of the program these past five months — tell stories, play music, and make some noise — but with an "after dark" twist.
Elegant in places and occasionally choppy, Volume 10 featured instrumental interludes (like "Ágætis byrjun" by Sigur Rós, and others by Moby, Brian Eno, and Norwegian composer Ola Gjeilo). Leonard Cohen evoked side two of Tunnel of Love, and Mark Isham guaranteed himself a future recording date for "With Every Wish" on an amazing duet with Marianne Faithfull on "The Hawk (El Gavilan)." Springsteen got namechecked in "American," by Lana Del Rey (a favorite of his, and with good reason).
At the top, he paid tribute to Ennio Morricone, whose "Man With a Harmonica" helped dim the lights and strike a cinematic vibe. As Lee Hazelwood and Nancy Sinatra traded vocals and time signatures on the "fabulously creepy" "Some Velvet Morning," Volume 10 began to take shape. Only the song's title implies the dawn: the sun set hours ago, and the sequence begins.
"We are meeting at midnight tonight," Springsteen said, "for a special evening of music for which the night time is the right time." Darkness is more than a simple motif for Springsteen, who perhaps has logged more waking hours after sundown than before — and has the output to show for it. It's where he came up with his music: away from people, their rhythms, their norms. He recalled his work life in the late 1970s this way:
All that night was just something that came naturally to me. There was just something I loved about being awake as the straight world slept. It excited me. It sparked my creativity. And it gave me the uninterrupted peace and quiet I needed to work.
Occasionally, I'd break curfew, just to get out of the house. I'd take a 2 or 3 a.m. night drive in my '60 'Vette, over the local roads of Monmouth County; the darkness and shadows of the highway at night was where I lived. I was a wandering spirit, barely there, looking briefly into the dimly lit homes where I could be living any one of a thousand other lives, filled with family and friends. But I wasn't. For now, the life I chose was here: the life of words, the life of song, the life of these roads, of these evenings. This life — and all it gave, and all it withheld — was my life.
That was how he set up "Stolen Car," and the chaser was equally compelling: The War on Drugs' "Strangest Thing." Both songs' characters exist in a sort of self-imposed exile: one waiting to get caught and another trying to "find another way" than living in "the space between beauty and pain." (Springsteen praised Adam Granduciel as leader of "one of the last of the great rock bands"; Granduciel is just as familiar with Springsteen's work.)
Whatever the intersection between personal and creative forces (here, we refer you to Springsteen's "magic trick," explored in his autobiography, Broadway show, and most if not all his LPs), the night time will exact its punishment. In this episode, Springsteen was explicit about that. At least the isolation of his late 20s yielded some of his best music; the defeats he suffered in earlier years seemed to harbor no such reward.
That was a plausible conclusion from a 1965 flashback, in which Springsteen recounts a rebellious but nevertheless "solidly middle class" girlfriend — do you see where this is going? — whose mother threatened to take out a restraining order to keep Bruce away.
I was persona non grata at my first real girlfriend's house. It was 1965. Maybe it was the hair, my cultivated look of dishevelment, but whatever it was, I was marked as an undesirable by my perfect girlfriend's mother.
Now, I was 15, and my gal was a year younger than me, 14. But though a year younger, she had a surprising, burgeoning sexuality that showed me up for being as inexperienced as I was at that age. But, I had one thing going for me: I was forbidden. I was not to be had. I was not to be touched. And she had a bit of a closeted rebellious streak of her own. So when mom was away, we ventured to mom's bedroom, where she introduced me, for the first time, to what I think was full-on sex — though due to the fog of war, 55 years later, I can't be completely sure. All I remember was she was beautiful, with a softness and a kindness cut by a streak of cruelty I should have took more notice of.
Now, in the shadows always lurked a major problem to our paradise. You see, she was solidly middle class: perfect plaid skirt, blouse with the Peter Pan collar, white socks, long blond tresses. I was a denizen from the far side of nowhere, where blacks intermingled with whites, where a man never left his house in a suit unless he was going to church or in trouble. Where the firemen, and the truck drivers, and the auto workers gathered around each other's porches on summer nights and passed beers and stories of the week around.
Well, her mother could not help but be disappointed in and disapprove of who she thought I was. So the word came down, and she theatrically threatened to get a restraining order that would forbid me from seeing her perfect daughter.
Now, her perfect daughter had plenty of "Fuck you, Mom" in her, so we began to meet at night, at the Broad Street schoolyard. And there, amongst the empty monkey bars and sliding boards and swings and seesaws, stood an oak tree that became our rendezvous and redemption point. We worked and leaned hard against that oak's trunk on many a summer and fall night, trying to find whatever pleasure and satisfaction we could there. She stole time from Mama, girlfriends, and homework to meet me there. It was always too short, and a little painful. But at least she'd come, and we were there together.
Then one night she didn't come. Or the next night, either. So I sat on the swings with the rest of the ghosts, dragging my feet through stones and dirt, until 2 a.m. Then I went home. The revolution was over. Whatever use I had been, I was needed no longer. I had engaged the enemy on the field of the battle of love, and I had been defeated. Or maybe she just got tired of it all — became too much of a hassle.
Well, I finally caught her at her locker in school, one morning, and she tried to be kind, but I wouldn't let her. I wanted to hear her say it was all over. So she said it. I went home, and I decided to rid myself of her, to relieve my heart of her, to release my mind of the burden of thinking of her. It didn't work. I'd see her in my dreams.
More than a half-century on, the letdown comes across as palpable; about the only thing that could last longer is the soaring voice of Roy Orbison — "simply the darkest and most emotionally exquisite voice in all of pop music" — whose "In Dreams" both captivates and helps Springsteen compartmentalize in this instance.
Springsteen experiments in other ways throughout the episode: he recites "The Land of Nod," a favorite childhood poem by Robert Louis Stevenson, to set up his wandering, nocturnal ways; later, over the course of several songs, he recites what we presume is fiction, sketching barroom scenes not unlike the one that plays out over "Tougher Than The Rest." And there's simple after-dark noir, too: his own works "Breakaway" and "Meeting Across the River" combine for a "gangland doubleheader."
By the end, there's redemption, and maybe daylight. Even a happy ending, as "the inimitable and gorgeous voice of Marianne Faithfull" soundtracks "many a midnight ride" with Patti Scialfa — a fine coda to Volume 9 as well. But questions remain: "How do we live beneath the beauty of God's hand? How do we become worthy of the love that he's made possible for us on Earth? And how do we light and carry our own lamp through the darkness? How do we be brave in His name and in our love?"
That's a whole other episode for sure.
Instrumental intro: Ennio Morricone - "Man With a Harmonica"
Lee Hazelwood and Nancy Sinatra - "Some Velvet Morning"
Instrumental interlude: Ludovico Einaudi - "Night"
Lana Del Rey - "American"
Instrumental interlude: Moby - "Fireworks"
Bruce Springsteen - "Stolen Car"
The War on Drugs: "Strangest Thing"
Instrumental interlude: Brian Eno - "Always Returning"
Leonard Cohen - "In My Secret Life"
Bruce Springsteen - "Breakaway"
Bruce Springsteen - "Meeting Across the River"
Instrumental interlude: Ry Cooder - "Cancion Mixteca"
Bruce Springsteen - "Sad Eyes"
Instrumental interlude: Ola Gjeilo - "Before Dawn"
"HIGH ATOP" 7TH AND MARSHALL, 50 YEARS GONE BY NOW
Yep, hold on to your hats, we're marking 50th anniversaries now. A half-century ago tonight, in Steel Mill's home away from home of Richmond, VA, Bruce Springsteen's pre-E Street band headlined a show that has gone down in history — partly for its handsome silkscreened poster, partly as documented by a circulating recording, largely for its location: on the top floor of a seven-story parking garage.
For Richmond.com, Bill Lohmann tells the story of August 14, 1970, interviewing promoter Russell Clem, who also managed the Robbin Thompson-fronted Mercy Flight. Mercy Flight supported the headliners on this rooftop triple bill, and Thompson would go on to join Springsteen, Steven Van Zandt (on bass), Danny Federici, Vini Lopez in Steel Mill within days of this show.
Springsteen would later write in Born to Run:
Steel Mill with Steve and me continued to be great fun. Besides the enjoyment of having my pal by my side, Steve had an aggressive, bold style as a bassist, and he added some nice vocal harmonies. I'd always doubted myself as a singer. I felt I didn't have enough tone and range.... I thought we couple improve our band in the area of our lead vocals and I was willing to step back as full-time singer to do so. There was a fellow named Robbin Thompson in a great group out of Richmond called Mercy Flight. I thought he had one of the best undiscovered rock voices I'd ever heard. He was a cross between John Fogerty and Rod Stewart and fronted his band with a lot of power and style. Raiding another group for their best guy, particularly a group you know, is not a very neighborly thing to do. I didn't lose too much sleep over it. I wanted the best group I could imagine. I told the rest of the band my idea; they didn't think it was necessary, but they deferred.
Robbin Thompson came north, and for a while we were the Sam and Dave of hard rock.
Production work continues on the August release in the Live Archive series, which will not drop tomorrow as hoped. While some may speculate as to why, delays, especially in COVID times, are caused by real world, practical circumstances and events. Patience is appreciated.
COME AND GET THIS MEMORY Little Steven's Roadshow premieres pro-shot archival 2003video of "Heat Wave," featuring Martha Reeves with Springsteen and the E Street Band
Summer's here and the time is right for a professionally recorded and filmed performance from the archives of Thrill Hill Productions, especially as we continue to wait patiently for tomorrow's slightly delayed August release from live.brucespringsteen.net's ongoing archival series. So here's one for ya, courtesy of Jon Landau Management and Little Steven's Roadshow.
The Roadshow, a recently launched TeachRock project, is an online talk show like no other. Each edition of Little Steven's Roadshow, co-hosted by Steve Van Zandt and Drew Carey, focuses on the musical history of a different U.S. city. Guests include famous musicians and music-industry figures with connections to the city, along with locally based historians and TeachRock educators. It's an entertaining and informative look at a local music scene's cultural importance, while also publicizing and garnering support for TeachRock's ongoing educational efforts.
The episode closed with some previously unreleased pro-shot Detroit muscle from the Thrill Hill archives: a ragged-but-definitely-righteous version of "Heat Wave," Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band's first-ever performance of the Motown classic. It was filmed during their September 21, 2003 concert at the Motor City's Comerica Park (home of the Detroit Tigers) with Martha Reeves herself joining the band on lead vocals (accompanied by Martha Reeves Motown Revue backup singer Kim Farinacci singing alongside Patti Scialfa.) You can catch it here or below, beginning at the 2:28:37 mark.
And then check out the rest of the Detroit-themed Roadshow episode, which is well worth your time, as is the preceding Cleveland stop that launched the series.
WAIT 'TIL THE MIDNIGHT HOUR
Because the night is when you should experience Volume 10
Normally, we'd be tuning in to a new episode of From My Home to Yours this morning, based on its typical biweekly schedule... but from what we gather, Bruce's latest show just isn't meant for the sunshine.
According to Sirius XM, Springsteen "has special plans this week on his radio show.… you’ll have to tune in Friday night at midnight eastern for a special evening of music fit for night time," with "songs by Roy Orbison, Leonard Cohen, Nancy Sinatra, Moby, Lana Del Rey, Ennio Morricone, Brian Eno, The War on Drugs, and more."
So hurry up sundown, bring on the night, and tune in Friday, August 14 at midnight ET/9pm PT, for Volume 10: In Dreams (1hr, 21m) on E Street Radio, Sirius XM Channel 20.
If you just can't handle the midnight hour, Volume 10 will also be available on demand as well as at these rebroadcast times over the following week:
SATURDAY August 15 - 8am & 5pmET
SUNDAY August 16 - 9am & 6pm ET
MONDAY August 17 - 7am & 4pm
TUESDAY August 18 - 12am & 8am
WEDNESDAY August 19 - 10am & 6pm
THURSDAY August 20 - 6am & 3pm ET
FRIDAY August 21 - 10am & 4pm ET
- August 12, 2020
Podcast host Mitch Slater on his recent gets, John Scher & Ed Manion In recent weeks, lining up guests for my Financially Speaking with Mitch Slater podcast (don’t let the name fool you!), I've been thrilled to pull off a double shot of music legends — in my book, at least — having conversations with one of the great rock promoters of our generation, John Scher (no Capitol Theatre Springsteen shows without him, folks), and the greatest utility infield of saxophone players in our world, Eddie Manion.
These two episodes were such a treat for me; during this "summer of our discontent" I've been trying to book guests that would lift all of us up, and these guys were the embodiment of what I was looking for. I appreciate Backstreets — which I cherish every day and continue to have as my home page — allowing me to share these two special shows with their audience.
John Scher — who for a reason I will never understand was not selected for this year's New Jersey Hall of Fame induction — is one of the inventors of the modern rock concert business. Besides being one hell of a nice guy, he combines great passion and love of music with a terrific business sense — starting at age 16, when he booked the Chiffons for his junior prom (that story is something else).
Speaking with John was like sitting down with the history of rock 'n' roll. Generations of music fans like me (and I am sure many Backstreets readers) have attended his shows at the Capitol Theatre in Passaic, or Springsteen's amazing opening run the newly finished Brendan Byrne Arena on the original River Tour, or his early shows at Giants Stadium.
John will also always be known for the amazing Clash concerts at Convention Hall and other Asbury Park shows, as well as having the largest crowd ever for a concert in Englishtown, to this day, for the Grateful Dead, whom he represented for decades. We talked about all of these shows, the Stones and The Who at the Capitol, as well as the Bruce stuff — and an amazing Springsteen/John Sebastian story that I had never heard before.
We concluded the conversation with a frank talk about the music industry issues of the last two decades, including all the ticket scalping and Ticketmaster debacles, as well as the current halt to the industry brought by COVID-19. John had very strong opinions about the advent of drive-in concerts and how he hopes to bounce back from a disastrous 2020, like all of us. I hope everyone enjoys listening as much as I enjoyed doing the interview.
The second game of the doubleheader, my “Night Cap with Mr. Night Life” Eddie Manion, was just pure joy. Not only does Eddie play live on the show, but he teases some new music coming on an album he is recording as I write this, at a studio in Pittsburgh with some very special guests.
Eddie tells the story of his own rise to fame in Jersey. His mom got him his first instrument, too. And when many musicians went to music schools, he truly learned more from "three-minute records" as well as three wise men: the holy trinity of the Jersey bar scene realized his talent early, as Bruce, Steven and Southside all grabbed him by the horns (pun intended) and the magic began.
From his early days as an original Asbury Juke (Southside called him "Kingfish") to performing the songs written mostly by Steven (who called him "Clams" — Eddie explains why) to playing on numerous Springsteen tours (where Bruce dubbed him "The Thin Man"), the stories are magical.
I won't give much else away, but Eddie's description of what went on before the E Street Band's Super Bowl performance and the Sessions Band's Jazz Fest show are amazing. We talked about his relationship with the Big Man and how well they worked together. We also talked about the music business in general, his ups and downs, and his love of photography — as quite the world traveler on tour with Bruce and more recently the Disciple of Soul, Eddie used his camera to make us all feel like we were with him every step of the way.
Towards the end of the podcast, Eddie played a beautiful rendition of "Amazing Grace" to close out the show with hope for a better future, adding some inspiring words himself. His first album Nightlife was wonderful, and his new album has the working title of Have Sax, Will Travel — you can support that effort now by getting the T-shirt. Eddie hopes to be able to get back on the road with the E Street Band again soon; he also reflects on the brilliance of Steven Van Zandt and describes what it was like playing with the Disciples of Soul at the Cavern Club and the amazing finale at the Beacon, which is coming out on DVD later this year.
THE BARBER OF THRILL HILL
Patti Scialfa discusses new work, life in lockdown, with Rolling Stone
When Patti Scialfa appeared on the most recent episode of Bruce Springsteen's From His Home to Yours [Volume 9: Rumble Doll], she talked about her upcoming fourth solo album, which she's been working on with producer Ron Aniello. Rolling Stone follows up, with a new Q&A conducted by Andy Greene.
In addition to the new album (which she says is at the "halfway" mark), Scialfa has contributed music to Bobby Roth's new film Pearl (including two new songs, "Motherless Child" and "Plastic Horses.")
I’m always really honored to hear my music in some other form than me putting it out. I love making albums. I write all the time. But I have a pretty big other life with the [E Street] Band and having children, so I don't really push my own work. I just release it. So when I hear someone else [cover it] or hear it in a TV show, it's a validation in a way: "Oh, somebody has heard this. I’m not making it in a vacuum." It’s very pleasing, really nice. It does not grow old for me.
Patti talks about the producer she's been sharing with her husband for some years now, after Aniello first produced 2007's Play It As It Lays: "Ron is basically living here. You just walk in the studio and everyone is there. You can make music every day, which we do."
We get some more background on that home studio, too, which Bruce gave Patti "full rein" to create and which has since been further "rigged" for safer operation during the pandemic. Even if they have to sometimes fight over it:
We’ve been sharing a studio, and Bruce has just been so prolific lately that it’s hard for me to get in there. He’s always like, "I have to go do this thing and that thing." Getting some traction is the hardest thing for me.
Much of the interview focuses on life in quarantine: at home and with family, the haircuts she gives her husband every six weeks, and the future of live music — including hopes for another solo tour of her own.
Oh, God, I so want to do that. I was all ready. Danny Clinch holds this festival in the summer, Sea. Hear. Now. It’s in Asbury Park. He asked me to play, and it was going to be big, something like 10 or 20,000 people on the beach. I was going to come out and play a 45-minute set. I went, "What a great way to get going!" It was booked, and I was on the list. Then it was just done. But I’d love to go out with my music. I really would.
Back in June, Jay Weinberg presented his dad — and the rest of us — with a unique Father's Day present: a metal cover of "Candy's Room." Recorded during social distancing lockdown, with Jay on the skins, of course, and the blowtorch vocals of Royal Thunder's Mlny Parsonz, it's a beast and a blast — in fact, let's pause here a sec so you can soak that one in.
So what's a proud dad to do? "I returned the favor," the elder Weinberg tells Backstreets.
If there were any lingering doubts as to whether Max can play anything, he reteamed with Two Minutes to Late Night and its host Gwarsenio Hall to pummel a Misfits song for their series of bedroom covers. Check out "Earth A.D.," also featuring Jamey Jasta (Hatebreed), Ben Weinman (Dillinger Escape Plan), and Frank Iero (My Chemical Romance).
As Two Minutes to Late Night puts it: "This is Max Weinberg, as in Bruce Springsteen and The E Street Band/Late Night with Conan O'Brien-fame Max Weinberg playing a goddamn Misfits cover. What an absolute dream."
"I remember Jay saying, years and years ago, when he happened to hear 'Held Up Without a Gun' that E Street at that time sounded like 'a punk band,'" Max tells us. "So, I guess with these great players on this Misfits song, I’ve returned to my roots!"
Max does know whereof he drums, and not just because the Misfits are a Jersey band: "When Jay was younger, we went to so many different shows together of bands he loved — those were great dad/son bonding times. So I heard and saw bands I wouldn’t have normally seen, being of my generation, including the Misfits, Social D, Neurosis, and many more. And of course Slipknot."
Slipknot's drummer since 2014, Jay also produced and filmed his dad's part on "Earth AD."
"Two days out the video got 75,000 views and incredibly surprising comments on YouTube, like, 'Wait — Jay Weinberg’s dad is a drummer?'" Max laughs. "Spreading my wings…" - August 10, 2020 - Christopher Phillips reporting
LAST CHANCE: BIG BOSS BOOK SALE ENDS TONIGHT! Backstreet Records has remained open throughout the pandemic, since our mail-order-only shop is in a safe and isolated location, and we're following all CDC guidelines.
Our 20% OFF sale on all Books runs through tonight, Friday, August 7 — to have that discount applied at checkout, use the coupon code SUNSHINE. We appreciate your support!
- August 7, 2020
SEVEN NIGHTS TO WAIT TO ROCK
August's First Friday shifted to Second Friday
Due to a minor production issue, the Archive Series release for this month is delayed by one week, now scheduled for Friday, August 14. Let us all find solace in our collective, speculative grousing. - August 6, 2020
FROM A PLACE OUT ON THE HIGHWAY…
New limited-run Backstreets shirt celebrates the spirit of live music
Ah, summer nights at Sleepy Joe's... remember they had this shirt thumbtacked to the wall, back behind the bar next to all the tequila? And if the place hadn't filled up yet, Joe or May might go in the back and see if they still had your size?
(Or maybe we just made it up, with design help from our friends at OYEME! in Spain?)
In any case, you can snag one for yourself by pre-ordering now — we'll be doing a limited run of these T-shirts, based on the number of pre-orders we receive. On a tri-blend shirt, in a wide range of sizes from XS to 3XL.
WHAT'S UP WITH LITTLE STEVEN? IT TAKES TWO
A Stevie doubleshot, on Springsteen on Sunday and What's Up on E Street?
"Checking in at home with X" is the order of the day, given ongoing life in self-quarantine.… and when it comes to Little Steven Van Zandt, two check-ins are better than one.
Over the weekend, Stevie was Tom Cunningham's very special guest on Springsteen on Sunday, discussing many facets of his just-released Rock 'n' Roll Rebel: The Early Work CD box set, plus numerous projects including a forthcoming Summer of Sorcery live album, another album he's producing for his musical director Marc Ribler, Renegade Theatre, his radio channels, TeachRock distance learning... despite the pandemic, Stevie says, "Most things didn't miss a beat."
He also tells TC more about Volume 7 of From My Home to Yours, in which he and Southside joined Bruce Springsteen for a Jersey Summit — in person, it turns out. "We actually did it in real time," Stevie says of the recording, "[Bruce] told me he didn't even edit it at all."
The wide-ranging conversation goes on to touch on Dion, his new "Tucson Train" video (above), Western Stars, and more, and we're happy to have the 35-minute segment archived here. Listen below to Stevie's August 2 guest appearance; thanks to TC and Marc de Bruin, who recorded and edited the clip.
SVZ takes us through what he's listening to, producing, executive producing, and more, including his new Little Steven's Roadshow. — which returns this Thursday night with a virtual stop in Detroit (click here to RSVP).
Though he keeps busy as ever, What's Up also reveals how much of his day-to-day is colored by the state of the nation. "I'm always trying to find some usefulness in the world, to justify my existence," Stevie says. "My usefulness these past three years was to try to bring people together. We couldn't be more divided.... it's becoming increasing harder and harder to do."
In particular, the pandemic response in the U.S. has him rightfully distressed: "We have dumbed down to the point where I don't think any of our leaders can grasp this thing… Everybody's been predicting this, and prediciting it, and it's happening... and yet people still don't believe it!"
"We all want to be optimistic about this," he says, referring to the future of the music and concert industry, predicting it might well be 2022 before things are in full swing again. "Is it possible that it will never be the same? It is — that's a real possibility. I mean, I'm never shaking anybody's hand again. Never. That's out!"
Despite the "horror" of the pandemic, as he described it to Cunningham on Springsteen on Sunday, there has been a silver lining: "I must admit, it's the first time I've been home — since I came back into the business in the late '90s, I've been kinda running for 20 years — and it's been kind of nice to be home, and spend time with my wife and dog!" - August 4, 2020 - Christopher Phillips reporting
'CONCERTS IN THE GARDEN' BY MIGHTY MAX, WILLIE NILE & MORE
Following the success of Drive-In Live, which brought Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes live to the masses last month, the Count Basie Center for the Arts has a new live series planned at Monmouth Park that's giving a live venue to more Shore favorites, including Mighty Max Weinberg for two nights in September.
Max Weinberg's Jukebox will play the Basie's "Concerts in the Garden" at the Blue Grotto, Monmouth Park, Oceanport, NJ, on September 24 and 25.
General onsale is this Wednesday
at 10am ET (a presale is Tuesday at 10am) via Ticketmaster with more info here.
With temperatures taken at the door, tables six feet apart, and masks required when leaving your table, the dinner/concert series is set up in accordance with all local and state executive orders and gives us continued hope for the future of live music.
STAY SMART… AND STAY IN LOVE… WITH DARLENE LOVE Backstreets contributor Shawn Poole writes: As reported below, in the latest volume of his E Street Radio series From My Home to Yours, Bruce Springsteen gave his wife Patti Scialfa's solo work a spotlight it so richly deserves. With Scialfa right by his side as his special in-home-studio guest, on her birthday no less, they also contextualized her music's influences.
While playing and discussing Ike & Tina Turner's version of "River Deep – Mountain High," Springsteen pronounced it "one of the greatest rock records probably ever made" and called Turner "the greatest woman rock singer of all time." Scialfa added, "Oh, yeah… I feel that no one else can do right by that song."
With all due respect to Mr. and Ms. S. — as well as to Ms. Turner, of course — I strongly disagree. Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, please allow me to present Exhibit A: Ms. Darlene Love's 2015 version of "River Deep, Mountain High," arranged and produced by one Steven Van Zandt. As great as Phil Spector and Tina Turner may be (and they both are great artists,) I believe that this version blows the 1966 Spector/Turner collaboration completely out of the water:
At the time, comparing his production style to Phil Spector's, Stevie said: "I liked [Spector's] style, but he owns it. My recording style is different. I have a wall, but it's a Wall of Clarity. I want everyone to hear everything in a record." Serving as Exhibit B, a portion of my 2015 Backstreets review of the album that gave us this recording, the Van Zandt-arranged/produced Introducing Darlene Love.
Darlene Love has long suspected that 'River Deep, Mountain High' was written originally for her to record, but Phil Spector eventually decided to record it with Tina Turner singing the lead vocals. Love sang backing vocals on that version, and wrote in her autobiography [My Name Is Love: The Darlene Love Story] that she found the sessions to be nightmarish and thought the final product was one of Spector's worst records. (Incidentally, Love remains among the few who stood up to the worst aspects of Phil Spector's bullying behavior and even cleaned his clock in court over royalties, all while maintaining her own dignity and respect for Spector as an artist.) In 1985, as a member of the original Broadway cast of the musical Leader of the Pack, Love got to revisit 'River Deep,' but that recording, too, was less than stellar. On Introducing Darlene Love, she finally gets to tackle it as lead singer with a producer who loves the work of both Spector and Love. The result is arguably the best-ever version of 'River Deep, Mountain High' (though Love's own 2007 version from The Late Show with David Letterman certainly gives it a run for its money).
And unlike Tina Turner, Darlene Love has yet to retire. She turned 79 on July 26, just a few days before Patti Scialfa's birthday, and still performs when she can while also staying connected to her fans via her Facebook page during the COVID-19 pandemic. Defense rests. - August 3, 2020
RECAP: BRUCE & PATTI, FROM OUR HOME TO YOURS Volume 9: Rumble Doll On the occasion of the 67th birthday of the First Lady of Love, the theme of this continuation of Bruce's pandemic-prompted radio shows on E Street Radio revolved around the influences and career of special guest Ms. Patti Scialfa. Over the course of the show's hour and 53 minutes, Bruce played the role of disc jockey, affectionate interrogator, and cozy co-conspirator, cueing up songs to prompt thoughtful discussion and delightful recollections.
With "Tell Her" by the Exciters as the intro music — a song particularly meaningful to the two of them, as he mentioned during Springsteen on Broadway — Bruce opens the show with the usual fanfare, noting that this particular episode was titled Rumble Doll. "Today we will be featuring the music of my red-headed Jersey girl, and her great albums — Rumble Doll, 23rd Street Lullaby, Play It As It Lays, and whaddya say we get started?"
As the final notes of "Rumble Doll" fade out, Bruce begins the investigation: "Let's start by you telling me where this song came from, where were you when you wrote it, and where did that title come from? One of my favorite titles on that record; it's just a great image."
Patti relays her recollections of recording her debut album at Mike Campbell's studio: "We recorded on analog in his garage, and I felt we had a really organic approach to the record — which I think was really fitting for the material," Patti says. "It is the only record of your three that I would call a pure rock record," Bruce adds.
This goes into a Mike Campbell Admiration Society Meeting:
"Mike... was very sensitive to how I wrote the songs — I would always play him the song on the instrument I wrote it on, and he basically copied that muted triplet on the guitar."
"The guitar sound is his ace in the hole, it's always incredible."
Following "Lucky Girl," on which Campbell has a co-writing credit, Patti explains that he basically brought her the song's music completely finished, and then she wrote the lyrics. "That's what he did with Don Henley," Bruce enthuses, "with—" "Boys of Summer," they both say in unison. "And that worked out pretty well!"
The fan club meeting ends with Patti commenting that Campbell had a very "emotionally direct" playing style, and Bruce agreeing, "He's one of the few guys who has a distinctive identity and manages to get a spiritual and emotional richness out of his guitar sound."
Just in case you thought things were getting serious, our DJ breaks away to note:
"I'm pouring myself some champagne!"
"Pour away, my friend," Patti giggles.
"Because I'm interviewing mi amore"[a laugh better suited to a 16 year old boy]
Patti tells another story about the Rumble Doll recording sessions: Campbell inquired one day if she was happy with the work he was doing, because she'd been very quiet, and it was then she shared with him that she was pregnant with her first child. Bruce continues: "So Patti made this album while pregnant, while rushing home to cook some asshole musician dinner — [Patti: "I will never do that again!"] while he sat his fat ass on the couch and watched television all night."
"And you don't eat leftovers, you are pretty particular," Patti notes.
"Don't even go there, Bruce, it's not a good thing."
"No, it is not — but you ended up with a great record."
The truly beautiful element of this particular DJ session is not just the pair's clear affection for each other, or even Bruce's deep acquaintance with his wife's entire catalog, but rather the shared understanding they hold of music history, and how it influenced them.
Bruce cues up two Laura Nyro songs, chosen specifically for not just her overall influence on Patti's songwriting, but for particular elements that she shaped into her own. "I can hear her voice in your beautiful song, 'Young in the City'.... That is just some incredible lyric-writing and a beautiful classic New York City urban arrangement," Bruce affirms at the track's conclusion. "Those city songs of yours remind me of who you were when we first met.... You were a stone cold city girl, nineteen years living in the city!"
"I loved New York City, I had a massive love affair with the city."
"I used to steal up there and sit on a park bench, waiting for my gal to meet me with a six-pack of beer."
"This is true. We got engaged on that park bench."
"Yes we did."
Still steering the conversation, Bruce continues: "I got a quiz for you. Coming up next. Here's a hint: Old Asbury Lanes. Here's another hint: rockabilly. Here's your third hint: the female Elvis. I know you got this."
Patti did: "'Fujiyama Mama', Wanda Jackson!"
This leads to an insightful discussion about Jackson's work and influence, Patti noting that, "At the time, white women weren't singing like that." "There are a few, but not many, and not as good as she is," Bruce agreed. "She allowed herself to be sexual," Patti continued, "She allowed herself to be tough, she allowed herself to growl — that really wasn't happening that much." And in case you thought they were going to get too cerebral about it all, Bruce finished the thought with the righteous declaration, "Wanda Jackson was balls-to-the-wall. She is immortal because of that fact."
"City Boys" and "As Long as I Can Be With You" follow, with Bruce coming in at the end of the latter to say, "I picked that one particularly because…"
"Because it's written about you?"
"Well, besides that… because I heard that the oh-oh's —" and with that, he cues up the thunder and the lightning that can only be the introduction to the Ronettes' "Walking in the Rain."
Bruce asks Patti about her girl group influences — if she was influenced by Ronnie Spector — which led to a story about Patti going to audition for Mike Appel in his office in 1974, where he asked her to sing "Da Doo Ron Ron" with no accompaniment. She thought Appel was rude, but she still got sent on to audition with the band.
Bruce picks up the story: "In 1974, on Route 35 in Neptune, NJ. You wandered in…"
"Well, I didn't wander in, Bruce. I drove my Firebird; I had the address; they had sent me there!" (As a friend noted on Twitter while this was all going down, "She's a Leo, she won't let him get away with jack shit!")
Bruce continues: "We rehearsed a little bit of maybe 'Thunder Road,' and maybe something else. And then you sat down at the piano and you played me your own songs that you were working on already back then, and, I remember they were good."
She remembered what he was wearing. (He still has those clothes. "I'm a pack rat!") Members of the band remembered what she was wearing. ("White hippie-ish top. Coral beads.")
At the conclusion of "Talk to Me Like the Rain," Bruce declares:
"Absolutely one of my top three favorite Patti Scialfa songs!"
"I think that's because you play every instrument on it."
"I think I do, but I still think it is a great song — sexy as hell, lonely as hell, and yes, I had a small part in it."
The two of them proceed to use the word "sensually" to describe various songs six times in about two minutes, before talking about the great New Orleans legend Irma Thomas (who just reissued her great album After the Rain) and her song "Ruler of My Heart."
"From my house to yours —" Bruce announces at the conclusion of the Irma Thomas track.
"Our house!" the Missus reminds him.
"You're a Big Girl Now" by Ms. Patti Scialfa, debut of her soon-to-be-coming next album. I hear those Irma Thomas oooh's in there, and they sound great!" Patti went on to describe working on the record with producer Ron Aniello, and how they called Jack Antonoff to sweeten the track a bit.
"We've been concentrating mostly on Rumble Doll; for your next two records you took a bit of a turn. You embraced more southern soul and R&B influences, even some blues. You had a new producer…"
"23rd St Lullaby was Steve Jordan."
The two share how much they love Steve Jordan (and deservedly so). "He will create one of the most musical sounding rhythm sections you have ever heard in your life," Bruce correctly insists. "He makes music come out of a drum," agrees Patti, before also noting that Bruce was on the record too.
"Yeah, I was the utility player: if they needed something, I'd sit down or stand up and play it," Bruce remembers.
"You actually wrote the bass line on the demo, and then when Willie Weeks came in…"
"I got cut! I was still proud that Willie Weeks had to play my exact part, so I was flattered there."
As "Like Any Woman Would" fades out, Bruce comments, "Love that breakdown! Love it!" "I was listening to a lot of Al Green," Patti says. "Let's go to Al and see where that groove came from. Hold on, here it comes!" he announces, cueing up the Reverend's "So Tired of Being Alone." You can just imagine the two of them slow dancing in the studio.
"Let's go to the greatest woman rock singer of all time," the DJ says, cueing up Ike & Tina Turner's "River Deep, Mountain High." "One of the greatest rock records probably ever made," Bruce affirms at the end, "And she's simply one of the greatest rock singers." "I feel that no one else can do right with that song, so direct and powerful. She just ate that song up," says Patti. "Let's hear 'Town Called Heartbreak,'" Bruce continues, commenting on the spooky intro and the song's overall groove.
The next segment of the broadcast turned, perhaps (or perhaps not!) surprisingly intimate and personal, both retelling tales with added color and detail not previously revealed.
"Let's move to 'Valerie,'" Bruce begins.
"This is a very heavy song in our history, because my recollection was, I was visiting you in your apartment in New York, probably when I shouldn't have been visiting you in your apartment in New York."
"We were actually rehearsing…"
"Under the guise of rehearsing for Tunnel of Love, and teaching you the guitar parts. But anyway, somehow you got around to playing me this next song, and I remember thinking, this woman can write, and it totally made me twice as scared as I was anyway."
"That's so sweet!"
"It was like, whoa. I think I saw your talent for the first time outside of your voice."
"I remember that very… explicitly."
"Let's go to Play It As It Lays," Bruce continues, asking Patti to explain her third album title's Joan Didion origins, and her memories of the recording sessions. He cues up "Looking For Elvis": a "great spooky track with an incredible harmonica!" Mr. S notes, suppressing a laugh. "Yeah, who played that?" Patti asks, as the two giggle like teenagers.
"It was actually one of my angriest songs," Patti shared at the conclusion. "Yeah, I can hear that in it. That whole record was — I used to compare it to a Dusty in Memphis, because the grooves were all so low-down and funky," Bruce says, offering a colossal compliment. "It just had a southern soul to it that was just fabulous, I just loved it. 23rd St. Lullaby reminds me of New York City; Rumble Doll will always remind me of California —"
"It was a love letter to you, a complete love letter to you, you know that, that's not new information!"
"Aww, thank you, baby. And this one, reminds me of the South for some reason."
"Now I'm going to play something that was a major song for the two of us when we first got together, so I'm going to send this one out to Patti Scialfa on her birthday." A muted, haunting trumpet line plays.
"Oh! I know what this is!"
"This" turns out to be "Trouble In Mind (The Return)" by Marianne Faithfull, from the 1986 film of the same name; the song combines the blues standard "Trouble In Mind" with new lyrics and music.
Bruce takes a deep breath as the song ends:
"I used to drive you back to New York City after you visited me, and we would play that all the way back,"
"That makes me think of your blue Camaro — and also, you had an old Corvette, which was also blue. We just used to play that, and never talk —"
"Just, like, in a daze of love…"
"Just play that song all the way back to New York City, and I'd drop you off… Marianne Faithfull was our guardian angel in those days"
If you thought we'd reached the end of the confessional, you would be wrong.
"Now we're coming up on, I think this is your masterpiece, and —I don't know what to say about it, except…"
"Is this the last song on Rumble Doll?"
"It's a very… struggling love song."
"And these were all written for you at the time when love feels very dangerous."
"Yes it did. Yes, it did. So — let's play it. When I pass away, just take these ['Spanish Dancer'] lyrics and slap 'em up on my headstone! That's all they need to know about me."
"That's it for this week," Bruce says, wrapping up, thanking his wife for joining him and offering a version of his usual closing benediction: "Stay smart, stay safe, stay healthy, stay strong — and stay in love!" "Rose," from 23rd Street Lullaby, ushers us out.
The Exciters - "Tell Him"
Patti Scialfa - "Rumble Doll"
Patti Scialfa - "Lucky Girl
Laura Nyro - "I Met Him on a Sunday"
Laura Nyro - "The Bells
Patti Scialfa - "Young In The City"
Wanda Jackson - "Fujiyama Mama"
Patti Scialfa - "City Boys"
Patti Scialfa - "As Long as I Can Be With You"
The Ronettes - "Walking in the Rain"
Patti Scialfa - "Talk to Me Like the Rain"
Irma Thomas - "Ruler of My Heart"
Patti Scialfa - "You're a Big Girl Now" (previously unreleased)
Patti Scialfa - "Like Any Woman Would"
Al Green - "So Tired of Being Alone"
Ike & Tina Turner - "River Deep Mountain High"
Patti Scialfa - "Town Called Heartbreak"
Patti Scialfa - "Valerie"
Patti Scialfa - "Looking for Elvis"
Marianne Faithfull - "Trouble in Mind (The Return)"
Patti Scialfa - "Spanish Dancer"
Patti Scialfa - "Rose"
- July 30, 2020 - Caryn Rose reporting
A RADIO SURPRISE PARTY FOR PATTI SCIALFA
Happy birthday to the E Street Band's First Lady of Love!
From My Home to Yours has been, among other things, a series of snapshots from Bruce Springsteen's life in COVID quarantine... so it makes perfect sense that today, on Patti Scialfa's birthday, the new episode would celebrate his partner in lockdown.
Bruce Springsteen is joined by his beautiful and talented wife, Patti Scialfa, on her birthday, for a new episode of his radio show, From My Home to Yours, Volume 9 titled: Rumble Doll. Featuring songs, stories and inspiration for Patti’s music on E Street Radio, Sirius XM Channel 20.
If you missed the surprise broadcast this morning, the 1h 53m Volume 9 will be available on demand as usual with the Sirius XM app and at the following rebroadcast times on E Street Radio:
SPRINGSTEEN ON SUNDAY LIVE ON LOCATION
Vini Lopez and Danny Clinch to guest on 7/26 — you're invited too
This weekend, Springsteen on Sunday host DJ Tom Cunningham is finally taking his show back on the road — not an easy feat these days, but then once you've taken part in a drive-in rock 'n' roll concert, you realize what's possible.
Sunday's live broadcast, which is weekly appointment listening for many fans, will bring Springsteen on Sunday back to Lake Como, NJ's Bar A — outdoors — for the 9am to 11am broadcast on 107.1 The Boss (WWZY), and listeners are invited.
Cunningham tells Backstreets: "A couple of weeks ago at the Southside Johnny Drive-In show at Monmouth Park we realized that people are really ready to have some socially responsible fun. When we did the show from Bar A in January and February, we looked at their great outside set-up and couldn't wait for the warmer weather. Needless to say, we waited longer than we’d imagined… but we can't wait to get rolling again."
So mask up and come if you can, for two hours of Springsteen tunes and socially distanced fun! Guests will be Rock & Roll Hall of Famer and original E Street band drummer Vini Lopez (with TC above) and photographer Danny Clinch (with TC below).
Clinch is generously giving away one of his famous Bruce Springsteen prints (which you can also find at the Danny Clinch Transparent Gallery in Asbury Park), and there will be chances to win 107.1 The Boss swag as well, including the limited edition Springsteen on Sunday T-shirt. You can also grab a bite to eat from the brunch menu or full menu — a complimentary Bloody Mary or Mimosa with every breakfast platter! No cover, doors open at 8am.
For everyone's safety the following will be implemented:
Patrons must wear masks while entering the venue or leaving their table to use the restroom.
Tables will be positioned 6 feet apart, with the front row of tables 12 feet from the broadcast.
Seating configurations: "Table For Two," "Table For Four" and "Table For Six" only.
Admittance includes a dining and drinks service.
Attendees must remain seated at their table; dancing will not be permitted.
Lawn chairs, blankets, pets, food or beverages are strictly prohibited.
Bar Anticipation reserves the right to change any policy without notice
Venue security will enforce ground rules, which will follow current CDC and State of New Jersey guidelines for outdoor events and dining.
In the event of inclement weather, an alternate plan will be announced.
Please refer to Bar Anticipation for any other questions. And if you can't be there in person, you can listen online worldwide, streaming live at 1071theboss.com. - July 24, 2020
SUNDAY NIGHT: 2016 SPRINGSTEEN INTERVIEW REVISITED
Tune into PBS this Sunday night for Beyond the Canvas, as the premiere episode of the new series includes an encore of PBS NewsHour's 2016 interview with Bruce Springsteen.
Beyond the Canvas is a four-part arts and culture series, collecting the "best of" previously aired NewsHour interviews with a range of inspirational artists and creators. The program's subjects are described as "Oscar winners and nominees, musicians, performers, storytellers and those who are breaking boundaries"… and of course, Springsteen is all of these.
Jeffrey Brown conducted the original interview in 2016 (it originally aired in two parts that December), following the release of Springsteen's autobiography Born to Run.
"It was a different type of writing from songwriting," Springsteen told Brown of the memoir form. "A pop song is a condensed version of a life in three minutes. Whereas when you go to write your prose, you have to find the rhythm in your words, and you have to find your rhythm in the voice that you've found."
Executive Producer Sara Just tells Backstreets, "Even though I have heard that interview many times, at the time we shot and edited it, upon listening to it again in this context I was struck by what a thoughtful and compelling interview it was."
Tune in to the premiere episode of Beyond the Canvas for the Springsteen interview this Sunday night, July 26, at 10:30pm Eastern, and streaming online. The additional episodes of the four-part series will air on the following consecutive Sunday nights, August 2, 9, and 16. - July 24, 2020
WEATHERED CAPTURES NILS LOFGREN BAND LIVE IN 2019
Pre-order autographed copy of new 2CD set, coming in August
In 2019, in support of his new album Blue With Lou, Nils Lofgren took a full band on the road for the first time in 15 years. This summer, while we're all sorely missing live music, a document of that tour arrives: Weathered, a 2CD live set from the Nils Lofgren Band, is coming on August 21.
We've also just restocked autographed copies of Blue With Lou on both vinyl and compact disc — big thanks to Nils as ever, for making sure his fans can continue to get his albums signed even when touring is on pause.
Though he does consider himself "one of the lucky ones… compared to what so many people who have been experiencing," during the pandemic, the Professor shared his concern for his children and their generation
during these troubled times, and he finds himself "expressing darker feelings" on the piano.
Always, always, external factors affect one's creative inner life. Certainly when I sit home and play — because that's really what I'm doing these days — I feel it.... I wouldn't say I've been creating a body of work like Bruce did when he recorded The Rising, but the last piece or music or two that I've recorded, they've been a little bit on the dark side, on the restless side. As musicians we can't help but be affected by things that are happening in the world.
Watch the full Episode 2, with Roy Bittan, here:
What's Up on E Street? highlights the individual members of the E Street Band and how they are impacted by the global COVID-19 pandemic.
In the first episode of the series, Nils Lofgren looked forward to resuming his original plan to tour "with the fabulous E Street Band" behind "what I consider to be the greatest record in the works that I have ever heard Bruce Sspringsteen
make — and that's saying a lot."
The next installment in the series, Episode 3, will be online tomorrow and feature Max Weinerg.
"Despite the manner by which COVID has attacked our lives, I get great satisfaction from hearing how Max uses the time he now has at home," says Santelli, who created the series. "You'll be surprised by my conversation with Max. Among other things, it was like taking a crash course American history."
ALL STRIPPED, ALL STRIPPED
Acoustic performances from Springsteen have made for some unforgettable, intimate moments on stage — whether full solo tours like the 1995-'97s outing for Tom Joad and 2005's for Devils & Dust, or special nights like the Bridge School and Christic benefits, or even a quieter turn on the E Street stage, like the acoustic "Born to Run" from the Tunnel tour. Today, the Live Series gathers a healthy chunk of these for a new playlist, "Stripped Down."
"Stripped Down" brings 15 acoustic live rarities — "Seeds" and "Dancing in the Dark" from Bridge '86 (also featuring Nils Lofgren and Danny Federici), "Soul Driver" from Christic '90, and more from Bruce's solo tours — to streaming services for the first time, including Apple, Spotify, YouTube, Amazon, Tidal, and more. Click here for all links. - July 17, 2020
THROWBACK THURSDAY: PHILLY 9/25/99,BACKSTAGE AND BEHIND THE SCENES As we continue to enjoy the official release of First Union Center, Philadelphia September 25, 1999 — the new Nugs release at live.springsteen.net, which we reported on below — let's dive into some behind-the-scenes stories surrounding the concert, as well as the run of 1999 Philly shows leading up to it.
The September 25 show closed the band's first series of performances in what was then Philadelphia's newest indoor sports/entertainment arena, which had opened for business just three years earlier. (The venue, known today as Wells Fargo Center, still hosts major concert tours and serves as the home of Philadelphia's 76ers basketball and Flyers hockey teams.)
For old time's sake, however, a special one-night-only return to Philly's older, smaller (and since demolished) Spectrum Arena (site of many previous legendary Philly nights with Springsteen and the E Street Band) also was planned as part of the six-show 1999 stand. Hurricane Floyd forced the rescheduling of the Spectrum show from September 16 to September 24, making it the penultimate show of the run and the first concert that Springsteen would perform after having turned 50 on September 23 (a status originally intended to be bestowed upon the September 25 show).
Ike Richman, former Vice President of Public Relations for both arenas' owning company Comcast Spectacor, recently recalled for us arranging for a birthday cake to be presented to Bruce in his Spectrum dressing room on September 24.
When Richman and one of his interns, George Scott, arrived at Bruce's dressing room door with the cake on a wheeled cart, Springsteen's personal assistant — the late, great Terry Magovern — asked them to wait briefly while Magovern rounded up all of the E Street Band members to join them in presenting the cake. Richman and Scott ended up singing "Happy Birthday" to Bruce, along with the entire E Street Band.
"I can actually say that I am one of the few people on the planet who's gotten to sing with the E Street Band," Richman told us. "Afterwards, George and I were walking back from the dressing room with the empty cart, a bit overwhelmed — in a good way — by the experience. It took about 30 seconds or so before we turned to each other like, did that just happen? And then we just smiled, laughed, and high-fived each other."
Detail of the duffel bags given to each musician in September 1999 - courtesy of Ike Richman
Richman also believes that moving the tour's stage and equipment from the First Union Center to the nearby Spectrum for the September 24 show, and then back to the First Union Center for the September 25 show, must have set a record for the shortest distance any major tour has ever traveled from one venue to the next: exactly 758 feet and 9.5 inches between each venue, as measured by agents of Philadelphia's Department of Licenses and Inspections at Richman's request.
Richman submitted the measurement data to Guinness World Records for official recognition, but the record has never been established or recognized officially by Guinness for Springsteen or any other act. The short-distance move did, however, garner some attention in Rolling Stone's "Random Notes" section. (See clipping from the November 25, 1999 issue of RS below, courtesy of Eileen Chapman at The Bruce Springsteen Archives & Center for American Music.)
Demme and his cinematographer, Kyle Rudolph, filmed it on 16mm film as a single, unedited take focused tightly on band members as they took turns singing their individual parts.
"I lit it as a pool of light anchored by the microphone that the vocalists would be drawn to for their turn," Rudolph told us recently. "There was a large white card just below the frame which lifted the shadows to see the subtlety of expression — and boy, was there expression! JD told me to feel it, so I vamped on Clarence's sax solo, and crept out on the zoom as all members joined the finish. I think it worked out quite well."
Indeed it did, becoming one of Springsteen's best, most moving music videos, despite the fact that, as Rudolph explained, "Bruce was somewhat conflicted that the non-singing members of the band were not represented." (No worries, Boss. We still can hear Garry's bass and Max's percussion even if we can't see them, and we know that everyone on camera also represents in spirit all members of the legendary E Street Band, both seen and unseen.)
September 25, 1999 - two-page spread from now-defunct DoubleTake Magazine's Spring 2000 issue
And finally, when the September 25 show actually began with its jaw-dropping opening of "Incident on 57th Street," performed for the first time in almost two decades, there was one very special audience-member who was especially moved by that moment: legendary Philly DJ and longtime Springsteen supporter Ed Sciaky.
"It was no secret that 'Incident' was Ed's favorite and that he had been bugging Bruce to perform it," his widow Judy Sciaky recently informed us. "I couldn't swear that that was the reason, but I think it's a very good bet that Bruce played 'Incident' for Ed. I do remember Ed crying when he heard the first notes of 'Incident' that night." At Judy Sciaky's request, "Incident on 57th Street" also was played at Ed Sciaky's 2004 funeral. - July 16, 2020 - Shawn Poole reporting – special thanks to Scott Bluebond, Eileen Chapman at The Bruce Springsteen Archives & Center for American Music, Ike Richman, Kyle Rudolph, and Judy Sciaky
RECAP: FROM MY HOME TO YOURS, VOLUME 8 "Summertime, Summertime" It's been tempting to liken Bruce Springsteen's From My Home to Yours to Bob Dylan's Theme Time Radio Hour, but only eight episodes in, with "Summertime, Summertime," is the comparison really apt.
Over 100 episodes broadcast from 2006-2009, Dylan delved into a different subject each week, collecting and presenting music arranged and inspired by a particular topic, from Weather to Fruit.
Despite some parallels, each of the first six episodes of Bruce's radio show were doing something else — responding directly to facets of the moment, to the times we're living through; Episode 7, with a special gathering of friends, explored a hyperspecific genre of music they made together. Only with Episode 8 do we get a wall-to-wall Theme Time hour (and three-quarters) of radio from Springsteen, with a deep dive into the subject of Summertime. It's a look back at hot nights and cool water, boardwalks and summer romances and catching rides to the outskirts — and a very personal one.
Our host doesn't pretend shit isn't what it is right now —
And how is your summer going, this summer unlike any other? The beaches are open here at the Shore, may God save us all, so let's carry on into the breach.…
— and later cues up H.E.R.'s "I Can't Breathe"
because this is the summer of 2020, the summer of Black Lives Matter, the summer of bringing down that bastard in the White House…
— but rather than exploring Corona Summer, Episode 8 is mainly inspired by a lifetime of summers, as Springsteen takes us back to his childhood with descriptive memories and aching nostalgia. Along the way you'll find seeds of songs like "Working on the Highway" and "No Surrender" and more.
I loved and love summer. As a child I became summer. I melted into the hot tarmac, I rolled myself into a sand ball at the beach. I slid beneath the murky water, ducking summer dragonflies at the Freehold pond. I sat in the tops of trees, feeling the summer breeze prickle over my freshly cut Saturday-afternoon flat-top.
I'd stand with my bike 'neath the August sun by the roadside, watching the locals on the road crew lay down the steaming blacktop, that beneath their rakes and shovels and heavy equipment curled and flattened like hot licorice. And when the big men and the machinery moved away, I waited, and I wanted my wheels to be the first to touch that steaming, virgin roadway.
In the evening twilight, I sat glued to the curb with a Pinky rubber ball in my hand, waiting for my best friend Bobby Duncan to finish his dinner so we could engage in epic gutterball tournaments into the night. And then later with scissors we'd poke holes into the lids of glass mason jars and invade the vacant lot across from my grandmother's front porch to capture our nightly quota of the evening's fireflies, just to leave them twinkling til dawn on our night tables. May they rest in peace.
We'd play Home Free, running from pool of light to pool of light from our neighborhood street lamps, until we were called in, as the neighborhood's porch lights went dark, by my grandmother's voice. And there, my sister and I would sleep on opposite sides of the bed, wrapped between hot, sticky sheets, on pre-air-conditioning, humid, Jersey summer nights.
There were evenings that, if it got hot enough, my Dad showed mercy on us, and he'd pack us into the Olds and set off in the darkness on Route 33 for the 20-mile ride to Manasquan, where on those nights the heat and the humidity of inland Freehold became too much to bear. We'd sleep in our pajamas, our bed blankets stretched out on the cool sand, enjoying the ocean air of the Manasquan Inlet.
Then at early light, like magic, we'd be carried back into the house, into our bedrooms, sandy-haired from our beach sleep, and I'd watch the sun splash its morning gold over the western wall of my room. And soon I'd smell my mother's coffee drifting up through the floor grate that opened to my room. I'd lie awake and listen to my parents leave for work.
Then I'd dress, skip breakfast, walk out onto our side porch where the bare bones of the sun's rays cut through the green latticework and warmed the wooden steps of our porch. There I'd sit, barely human, a creature of the earth, and the rain, and the sun, and summer.
Already, it's some of his loveliest writing.
A couple of novelty songs up top evoke the era, a reflection of the pop sounds his ears were soaking in as a kid, and the sounds of particular summers for young Bruce. The Jamies record that gives this episode its name, "Summertime Summertime," as Springsteen recalls, "was a hit twice: in 1958, when I was eight years old, and again in 1962 when I was 12. It was a basic novelty song, but it always signaled the beginning of summer for me in its baroque joy. And I always loved hearing it for the first time each summer — it meant summer was on."
As Episode 8 goes along, we gather that the theme is less Summertime in general than Bruce's own Summer memories and associations, a highly personal recollection of the season. Following the War on Drugs song "Up All Night," he riffed on its title:
As a teenager, I would stay up all night — as a crucible to pass for three or four nights of the summer, as the house sank into a midsummer-evening silence. I'd be camping out in my room. I'd have my flashlight, I'd have my Japanese transistor AM radio that I was listening to. I would take 2:00 or 3:00 a.m. walks around the town of Freehold, when the streets were mine!
At night and only at night was I king of the streets of Freehold, New Jersey, unhassled by the day's rednecks. Any time they'd see some longhair pass the barbershop they'd come running out, shaving cream half on their face: "Hey! Are you a girl?"
That was bullshit I didn't need in those days.
So in the middle of the evening, I'd return home — 3:30 a.m., I'd arrive into the kitchen, I would build myself an almighty peanut butter-and-jelly sandwich, pouring it on. I would then retire to my room to wait for my favorite song to be broadcast by the WMCA Good Guys. One summer, my favorite song was Lonnie Donegan's "Does Your Chewing Gum Lose Its Flavour (on the Bedpost Overnight?)"!
The writing continues to be so evocative, you can easily imagine these passages as outtakes from his Born to Run memoir — is there an extended Director's Cut we might read someday? — the whole episode a summertime supplement to the autobiography and the Springsteen on Broadway show.
After injecting his own summer song into the mix, the "hot sun beating on the blacktop" in "Sherry Darling," Bruce gets back to his youth.
In my bed, in the summer I'd be reading all my old copies of Surfer magazine. Did I surf? No. But the magazine held two very essential elements, surf or not. I was deeply interested in the perfectly tanned surfer girls in bikinis, and in the advertisements for Fender guitars.
There they were, in the fresh ads, the true objects of my desire: three white Fenders — a bass, a Stratocaster, and a Jaguar, each as white as the Hawaiian sand, lined up next to one another, each more desirable than the next… but taken as a group? My god. The perfect trifecta.
Now, I spent relatively short quality time with the pictures of the surfer girls. But I spent hours in my bunk, in my room, salivating over those guitars. I'd drift off to sleep with the magazine open on my chest, and then riding the summer breeze from the west came slipping through my open bedroom window, a sound I swear that was coming from some perfect beach thousands of miles away…
Those sounds, of course, the strains of the Beach Boys' "California Girls."
Calling it "a song is so beautiful it kills me," Springsteen places Ren Harvieu's "Summer Romance" in a lineage of "heartbreak summer songs: 'Sealed With a Kiss,' "See You in September'… ouch!"
It lets you know just how long a summer can feel if you've ever spent one in Heartbreak City.… It was the longing, the longing… from the spring, late-school-year breakup. I'd cheated on a fabulous girlfriend I'd had, with one of my exes. One of the dumbest things I'd ever done, and I immediately had buyer's remorse.
That summer — the summer of '67, the summer of Sgt. Pepper — I chased my girl from beach town to beach town to beach town. Thank god I was aided by a big ol' '60s ragtop black Cadillac, and a car of good friends. My running pack, Jay, Sunrise, Bird — you guys saved my life that summer. I don't know where you are now, but I've never forgotten you and the solid that you did me in the summer of '67.
"I am a Lana Del Rey fan," Bruce says as he cues up "Video Games," her 2011 summer single, and his striking introduction is pure poetry in a very real sense:
This is a singer and a song
That reminds me of the hot, humid, sultry summer nights
And the girls that went with them.
Nights so hot and still
Fields of fireflies
Leaves so still on neighborhood trees
That they did not whisper
No rumor of a breeze
You'd sit on your porch
You were dressed
Waiting either for her
Or the end of the world.
An R&B section brings into the mix James Brown with the apropos "The Boss" — "regardless of my sobriquet, nobody knows better than he does about paying the cost to be the boss" — and Sly Stone, with 1969's "Hot Fun in the Summertime": "I remember this song from a dead midsummer day coming out of a car radio as we were on our way to the beach, and all I remember thinking is, I'm gonna find out where those guys are... and I'm going there."
Soon enough Bruce was taking us there too, putting together a killer suite of his own tales of hot summertime fun, the musical heart of Episode 8: "4th of July, Asbury Park (Sandy)," "County Fair," and "Backstreets."
He sets it up with Kenny Young and Arthur Resnick's "Under the Boardwalk." Calling the song "just about perfect," Springsteen introduces the 1964 classic by pointing out that it's an answer song, as he sings the first line:
"When the sun beats down and melts the tar up on the roof..." referred to The Drifters' great "Up on the Roof," which made this kind of an answer record, and it presented itself as the perfect alternative paradise to "Up on the Roof" once the weather turns to steam — you go under the boardwalk.
Now, I can testify to this firsthand, because I spent a summer tarring — in 95 degree heat — Mrs. Ladd's, my neighbor's, roof for 50 cents an hour! As a young teenager. And it was hell on Earth. It sent me running to the beach, and under the boardwalk to wash the sticky tar off me and take a break, underneath Convention Hall and the Casino.
This song was a real perfectly drawn beauty. Every line is beautifully crafted, and the change to minor in the chorus was something musically unique. Now this was made a hit in the definitive version by The Drifters, but today I chose the Stones' somewhat punkier version.
Of Springsteen's brilliant pairings and juxtapositions in his From His Home to Yours series, few have been so perfect as segueing from "Under the Boardwalk" right into "Sandy," his own tale of boardwalk life. But rather than the start of a one-two punch, "Under the Boardwalk" would really prove to be a prologue for this majestic trio of Bruce's own summertime songs that followed.
With those oh-so-sweet accordion strains from Danny Federici, the tilt-a-whirl and carnival life of "Sandy" gives way to the roller coaster and merry-go-round of "County Fair." Springsteen recalls the time in his life that inspired the long-lost fan favorite (eventually released on 2003's Essential), and also drops a tantalizing suggestion of more in this vein to come:
A studio outtake from 1983 — of which there are many more, and one of these days all of this work I did between Nebraska and The River [sic] will show up magically.
I lived up on Telegraph Hill, on an old 165-acre farm that I rented for $700 a month. I had my '60 Vette, from the cover of Born to Run, and I would take my girl to the Monmouth County Fair — which was a lot of fun, but a funkier proposition in those days. A lot of 4H farm animals… and there was a car you could bust up with a sledgehammer, for two bucks… oh, the simple joys… a dunk tank.
After the fair, we'd ride back to the farm, the roof down, we'd sit out in front of the big ol' white farmhouse, lean back, listen to the music down below, just talk and look up at the stars.
And then it's "Backstreets" for the trifecta, illuminated by more visions of his youth as he vividly describes a summer day in worn-out Converses, towel in tow, hitchhiking to Manasaquan and dodging beach cops. Backgrounding Western Stars' "Hitch Hikin'" too, this magnificent "Backstreets" prelude paints a picture of what a "soft infested summer" might have looked like:
As a teenager, my bedroom window faced south when we lived on 68 South Street. So I got light but not much sun in the morning. I'd wake, I'd put on my uniform for a '60s midsummer's day — it was a white T-shirt, a pair of washed-out cut-off blue jeans slightly stiff with the salt of daily ocean swimming, bare legs shredded at the thighs with grains and grains of sand in each pocket, and a pair of faded Converse sneakers.
I had just finished — and barely survived — summer school. Had Mr. De Tomaso, along with my Italian cousin Alfonse, Mr. De Tomaso's assistant. And he was a Spanish whiz. Together, we had all striven to understand the nuances of español— a musical language as it is; and as musical as I am, unfortunately we remained a hopeless match. With Alfonse's sly assistance, I passed.
Well now all I know is, the rest of this summer is mine: my mornings, my afternoons, my evenings belong to me. So I make my way down to the silent morning kitchen, last night's dinner plates shiny in their drying holders compliments of no one, of course, but my mom. There's a five-dollar bill on the table, next to a box of Corn Chex and a bowl. It's her daily summer greeting to me. But the five is gonna have to last me all week. And the house is mine for a moment: my pop at work (or, having bailed, still in bed sleeping), my sister's still in bed, the house is mine. And I love the quiet. I love the quiet of the house in the morning.
So I have a quick bowl of cereal, and I scoop up the five, and I'm out the door, striding down South Street towards Route 33. I carry nothing but a folded beach towel under my arm. I make sure not to stick my thumb out until I reach 33, as that would bad-voodoo and jinx my chance of a quick ride east. At the stoplight, I settle into formation at the intersection. Highway 33 and Shore Points. Where they meet, I take my hitchhiker's stance: one hip slung low, the knees slightly bent, thumb out, an air of nonchalance, like I could give a shit if you gave me a ride or not. I take the occasional few steps backward toward my destination — the beaches and bikinis of Manasquan, New Jersey — and I wait for the magic to begin.
Now, I'm confident that shortly a bored trucker, nascent hot-rodder, traveling businessman, or a concerned mom will pick me up. I'll hear car wheels squeal on gravel, and the passenger side door will open and soon make that beautiful slamming sound of victory in the morning.
Small talk will ensue, which you must be good at, and then an hour and three or four rides later, I will be deposited at Manasquan main beach. I will dodge the badge-counters, though it is un-American — in New Jersey we must pay to go to the beach! I do not, however, plan to have my arcade or lunch money eaten up by stinkin' beach badges. So I head for a plot of sand, I scan thoroughly for the beach cops and the nearest crowd of pretty girls, and I settle in.
After a few moments in the sun, I head for my morning baptismal in the wonderful, God-given Atlantic Ocean. Summer's on.
And it's hard to think of a better prelude to Roy Bittan's opening notes of "Backstreets."
Though Bruce himself has notoriously steered clear of recreational drugs, he cues up Victoria Williams' "Summer of Drugs" to recall how they led to the end of his first band:
In 1965 Freehold, there were no visible drugs to be seen. The high school principal was still concerned with you hiding out behind the gym swigging beer. But that started in to change around 1967, and one evening there was the first drug bust that had ever occurred, in history, as far as we knew, in Freehold, NJ.
And: bass player for The Castiles? Goodbye. Organ player for The Castiles? Goodbye. Drummer for The Castiles? Goodbye. All ripped out of mamas' and daddies' arms at 3am.
I was standing on the corner of Throckmorton and Main, standing guard at my phone booth, waiting for a late-night call from my girlfriend — this was one of my permanent positions throughout the years of my high school because we had no phone at home, and I was there at all hours of the evening and morning — standing with a friend of mine, Bruce Nelson.
Bruce Nelson says, "I just saw Mrs. Bots go by in the cop car with baby Bots!"
"Mrs. Bots" was [Castiles drummer] Vinnie "Skeebots" Manniello's better half.
I said, "Get outta here!"
He said, "She was in the cop car with the baby Bots, on the way to the police station!"
I said, "Nobody gets arrested with their baby!"
But sure enough, the Bots family went down to the police station, victim of the new Freehold Borough war on drugs. So that spelled the final chapter in my first band, the fabulous Castiles.
As the episode nears its close, Springsteen looks back at the summertime pleasures of drive-in movies and skinny dipping, offering a recollection and endorsement of "nightswimming" that's just as lovely as the R.E.M. song he's introducing — a very high bar.
There is nothing like the sea at night. When the water is slightly warmer than the air, even though the air is humid after a 95-degree day. God, I love swimming at night. It is all darkness and mystery. It is the void.
And it must be done naked. Clothes at the waterline, please. Do this, and my pilgrim, you will become cleansed. Never will the evening air, or a kiss on the beach, or a dry towel ever feel so good again. The walk to the car will be filled with starlit grace, and you will never forget it.
And once you hit the water, you will be covered in the blossoming beauty of your youth, no matter how old you are. And whoever you're with, you will always remember them.
Springsteen wraps with a modern masterstroke from an old friend, the title track from Little Steven's latest Summer of Sorcery evoking Van Morrison's "And the Healing Has Begun" and capturing up the romance, transformative power, and "unlimited possibility" of summer as well as you could ask of a record.
And from there it's "Until we meet again, stay strong, stay smart, stay safe, stay healthy, mask up… and go in peace" as the DJ drifts away beyond the sea until next time.
Visit the SiriusXM blog for the schedule of repeat broadcasts for the coming week on E Street Radio, beginning today at 5pm Eastern.
LITTLE STEVEN RELEASES REMASTERED "EARLY WORK" WITH DELUXE CD/DVD REISSUES; LAUNCHES TEACHROCK ROADSHOW SERIES Last December, Little Steven released Rock 'N' Roll Rebel - The Early Work (Wicked Cool/UMe), a 1000-copy, limited-edition vinyl box set containing remastered LPs of his first five solo albums: Men Without Women (1982), Voice of America (1984), Freedom No Compromise (1987), Revolution (1989) and Born Again Savage (1999). Also included was Steven's awareness-raising 1985 Sun City protest album (by Artists United Against Apartheid) on vinyl, and four bonus CDs (51 tracks in all) of rare or previously unreleased material, including demos, outtakes and rehearsals.
The six albums were also made available at the time as digital downloads, with the rarities divided up as bonus tracks with each album and on several stand-alone EPs. In February and March this year, the six vinyl albums were released individually on 180-gram standard black or limited-edition color swirl vinyl, matching those in the box.
Now, a CD version of Rock 'N' Roll Rebel - The Early Work is due for release on July 31. The CD box set will contain all of the material from last year's vinyl version, plus some additional exclusive DVD content. As with the vinyl box, the CD version is available exclusively through udiscovermusic.com.
Each Little Steven album is also being broken out of the box to be available individually on compact disc. Digitally remastered by Bob Ludwig, the six albums (three on CD only and three as CD/DVD sets) are being reissued separately throughout July, in advance of the boxed set at the end of the month.
Men Without Women adds the Live at Rockpalast 1982 DVD and 16-panel fold-out poster; Voice of America adds the Live at Rockpalast 1984 DVD and poster.
In the '70s and '80s, German music TV show Rockpalast ("Rock Palace") held annual or biannual Rock Nights, which were broadcast to an audience of millions via the Eurovision network. Little Steven's appearances took place at the Grugahalle in Essen on October 16, 1982 — only his second gig with the original Disciples of Soul — and at the open-air Loreley Festival on August 25, 1984.
"We were much bigger in Europe due to the political nature of our music," says Little Steven. "I credit performing on the Rockpalast TV show in '82 and again in '84, that went live to 17 countries, with helping to get our music to a massive audience. It was a blast revisiting these shows, and I'm thrilled they are now being released for all to enjoy."
The soul- and R&B-flavored 1982 performance (with a temporary horn section) focuses on the Men Without Women material, but it also includes four songs that Steven gave to Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes ("Take It Inside," "I Played the Fool," "This Time It's for Real," "I Don't Want to Go Home") and a cover of Marvin Gaye's "Can I Get a Witness."
The 1984 concert features the subsequent stripped-down band blending those early songs with the more direct political rock material from Voice of America ("Los Desaparecidos," "Solidarity," "I Am a Patriot").
The concert at the Ritz in New York City dates from October 8, 1987 and features a completely different Disciples line-up playing the musically adventurous Freedom No Compromise material ("Bitter Fruit," "Freedom," "Sanctuary"). There's also a guest appearance from Bruce Springsteen on "Native American" and "Sun City."
"This was the only show that was filmed of that tour because it was live on Japanese TV," says Steven. "We're lucky somebody caught it and now all these years later we can share this high-quality version. We happened to have a particularly good show that night. That show with that band was my rock peak."
The three live DVDs provide a fascinating document of Little Steven and the Disciples of Soul's many changes, both of line-up and musical direction, in the '80s.
Little Steven will be making selected performances from the three DVDs available on his own YouTube channel. The first to be released was "Trail of Broken Treaties" from the Ritz concert, a song that "refers specifically to the 'Trail of Tears' forced relocation of thousands of Native Americans, and symbolically to the hundreds of broken treaties with Native America." The latest was posted today: "Los Desaparecidos" from the '84 Rockpalast.
Currently there are no plans for standalone releases of the DVDs, or of the four rarities CDs from the box set.
Other releases expected at some point in the future include a companion book to the Early Work box set; a live DVD of Little Steven's final Summer of Sorcery tour performance at New York's Beacon Theatre last November; a possible release of his '90s album by The Lost Boys; and solo records by Disciples of Soul musical director Marc Ribler, horn section leader Eddie Manion, and vocalist Jesse Wagner.
This week, Little Steven also launches his TeachRock Roadshow, a "living room style" talk show and virtual tour that "explores issues in education and the world through music." Roadshow will benefit his Rock 'N' Roll Forever Foundation's TeachRock initiative ("we don't teach music, we use music to teach") via proceeds and donations and explore many of its concerns along the way.
Each episode will virtually visit a different city, featuring "special musical and celebrity guests and education heroes" from each location. The first "stop" of the series is Cleveland, Ohio.
The series premiere will stream live from 8-9pm ET this Thursday, July 16. Steven's Cleveland-associated guests will include songwriter Neil Giraldo, legendary DJ Kid Leo, musicians Michael Stanley and Conya Doss, and literacy advocate Rhonda Crowder, founder of Hough Reads. Further Roadshow stops will be announced soon.
For information on how to register and support the cause (donations are appreciated but not required for viewing) visit: /teachrock.org/roadshow. - July 14, 2020 - Mike Saunders reporting
BETTER DAYS ARE COMIN'
"We're gonna wake up and break this curse…" Photographer A.M. Saddler reports from 7/11 Drive-In Live
Summer's here, but up until Saturday the traditional Jersey Shore summertime party with Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes had been missing in action. Normally the band visits their ancestral home, The Stone Pony in Asbury Park, but in these days of social distancing they had to trade sand between the toes for the staggered parking spaces of nearby Monmouth Park in Oceanport.
Springsteen on Sunday host Tom Cunningham with the 107.1 The Boss contingent, making introductions and broadcasting live
When the band took the stage to "Better Days," those above lyrics rang loud and true. Always a band to be reckoned with, Southside and the Jukes showed that they still had something to prove at this drive-in "concert experience," billed as the "first of its kind" in New Jersey. They quickly shook off any cobwebs that may have gathered in their pandemic-forced performance hiatus, and the crowd showed their appreciation right back — fans dancing in cars and on cars.
This the first time that the Jukes had a 1,003 piece horn section: three on stage, and the rest in vehicles packed in for the show. Those horns honked for sure — not always in key or on the beat, but with an exuberance that we've all come to expect from a Southside show. Johnny assumed his usual conductor stance with this expanded horn section, and the results were… um, mixed… proving that liking good music does't necessarily guarantee you have rhythm.
But the band delivered the goods: there were Jukes classics like "I Played the Fool," "Love on the Wrong Side of Town," and "Talk to Me," and favorite covers like Sam and Dave's "Broke Down Piece of Man" and Stevie Van Zandt's "Forever." The Left Banke's "Walk Away Renee" included a surprise interlude of recently departed John Prine's "Lake Marie" ("we gotta go now…"), and a stellar version of Blind Faith's "Can’t Find My Way Home" had Juke keyboardist Jeff Kazee taking the lead vocals, showing that he can hold his own in a sing-off with Steve Winwood any day.
Already behind the wheel or not, I still don't think anyone in attendance would disagree with the sentiment of "I Don't Want to Go Home" as the end of the show came around. Live concerts are such a vital part of life to so many, and we all have had a hole where that live show vibe used to be. My hat's off to Basie Presents, Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes, all the production and security staff, and the audience for following the social distancing rules, so shows like this can still happen until things get back to normal… whenever that is.
At the end of the evening it was a Jukes party at the Jersey Shore with most of the usual happenings that go with it — including that couple in the back doing the Dirty Jersey in their car. Yep, it was an official Jersey Shore Jukes party!
- July 13, 2020 - report and photographs by A.M. Saddler
DRIVE IN OR TUNE IN, JUKES ARE LIVE ON SATURDAY NIGHT
There's no more room for cars at the Drive-In, but you can still get your Jukes fix on Saturday night: Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes' sold-out show on July 11 will be heard live around the world, thanks to 107.1 The Boss (WWZY-FM) at the Jersey Shore.
In addition to broadcasting the concert live, the station will also be hosting an on-air "pregame" show from the concert site beginning at 4 pm. Morning show hosts Bill Fox and Dianne De Oliveira will be joined by Springsteen on Sunday host Tom Cunningham, and they'll be spinning some Jersey Shore classics prepping for the historic concert.
107.1 The Boss VP/Programming & Program Director Jeff Rafter says, "The arts have been especially hard hit by the lockdown. This show benefits the Count Basie Theatre and the New Jersey Pandemic Relief Fund. Also, it's not summer at the Shore until Southside and the Jukes play! In a summer of few concerts and limited access, we're bringing the show to our listeners."
ASBURY PARK DOC STREAMING FREEFOR LIMITED TIME
"Troubled times had come… to my hometown," as the song goes, and it was 50 years ago this month that tensions came to a head in Asbury Park.
The civil unrest of July 1970 — before, during, and after — is at the heart of the 2019 documentary feature, Asbury Park: Riot, Redemption, Rock n' Roll, which also explores music's ongoing importance to the community and its recovery.
In recognition of this 50th anniversary, the film is now streaming for FREE on YouTube through August 31:
Directed by Tom Jones, with participation from Bruce Springsteen, Little Steven, and many other musicians from the Jersey Shore scene, Riot, Redemption, Rock n' Roll tells the story of the long troubled town of Asbury Park, and how the power of music can unite a divided community:
A once storied seaside resort, Asbury Park erupted in flames during a summer of civil unrest, crippling the town and reducing it to a state of urban blight. A town literally divided by a set of railroad tracks, the riot destroyed the fabled Westside jazz and blues scene, but from the flames of the burning city emerged the iconic Jersey sound.
The film returns Asbury sons Steven Van Zandt, Southside Johnny Lyon, and Bruce Springsteen to the legendary Upstage, the psychedelic after hours club where they got their start, featuring never before seen interviews and performances. Shuttered for four and a half decades, the Upstage remains a perfect time capsule of the Club, which united both sides of the tracks in Asbury and acted as a crucible for young talent. Now, as Asbury Park enjoys its long awaited renaissance, it is music, which has helped its return.
As Stevie tweeted today, "It’s a great film. It provides a fascinating context for both the history that happened before us, and what was going on in real time as we worked around the clock learning our craft and finding our identities."
The documentary premiered in its final form at the 2019 Asbury Park Music + Film Festival at the historic Paramount Theatre. Also new to YouTube is the post-screening Q&A from that APMFF event, with director Jones and Backstreets' Chris Phillips.
As Jones and Phillips discussed, a primary goal of the director has been to raise funds for music education programs, in Asbury Park and farther afield. If you enjoy the free stream, we encourage you to check out and support such organizations as the Asbury Park Music Foundation and
the Lakehouse Music Academy.
Lakehouse Music Academy student Oliver Van Nostrand — one of three new scholarship recipients, thanks to the documentary and the POP Music Foundation — with Bruce Springsteen at the 2017 Asbury Park Music + Film Festival - photograph by Mark Krajnak
"We have always thought that the idea of music as the best connector of people is more of a movement than a movie," says Jones. "As it turns out, even though the inciting incident of our film happened 50 years ago, we find that it is still, tragically, completely relevant. Asbury Park has something to say about social justice and we hope this film serves as a unique educational piece in helping to push our way forward." - July 9, 2020
GREETINGS FROM ASBURY PARK, N.J.
The Turf Club... someday comes back? The Asbury Park African-American Music Project is doing a cool thing. It's working to restore the Turf Club, the last standing music venue on Springwood Avenue.
The idea is to bring it back as a "community music and cultural venue." But it's more than that. The cinderblock Turf Club, empty since 2000, is a symbol of the "other" Asbury Park. People tend to talk about the city's Methodist heritage and its "shore" music: Springsteen, Southside, Little Steven. But in a recent SiriusXM radio broadcast (From My Home to Yours, Volume 7), those musicians were eagerly proclaiming their debts to R&B, soul, funk. To restore the Turf Club is to honor a history that's too often neglected, to expand and correct the very definition of Asbury Park.
That history's complicated. Springwood Avenue's "Little Harlem" included tough characters, black and white, as well as fine music. Here's a brief, nowhere-near-complete look at the Turf Club.
On June 15, 1940, Robert Brown of Sylvan Avenue and Carroll Brown of Springwood Avenue applied for a liquor license as partners in "Turf Club Bar," 1125 Springwood Avenue. That September, they transferred the license to John W. Moore, who effectively took over. While there may have been live music at the bar during this early period, there doesn't appear to be any record of it.
Seven years later, in early 1947, Moore tried to transfer his license to an entity called Turf Club Bar, Inc. That corporation was owned by Sol and Fannie Konvitz of Belmar and Leo Karp of Asbury. City council twice denied the transfer, and their ruling was upheld by the State Commissioner of Alcoholic Beverage Control.
The grounds for the denial were that the proposed new owners "had some connection with operators of other taverns in the city and that these places were operated in an objectionable manner." Representatives of the West Side Women's Club and a Methodist pastor testified that the Turf Club was a "focal point for undesirables who 'loiter thereabouts and indulge in loud, vulgar and boisterous language.'" They complained that Springwood Avenue was home to 13 saloons and five package stores, leading to "misery, depression, and [an] increasing crime rate…."
In response, Moore argued that in the eight years he'd owned the bar, there had been no complaints or violations against him.
A 1948 article in Beverage Retail Weekly criticized the denial, claiming that the council "consistently approves transfers" and in blocking this one was "playing politics." Sol Konvitz managed the Hampton Inn several blocks west of the Turf Club in Neptune. It was owned by his brother, Phillip Konvitz, who also had an interest in the Palace bar on Springwood. Phil Konvitz has been described as a man who "influenced most of the things that took place in Asbury Park…." Famous for his no-interest loans, "Uncle Phil" ended up owning — and not developing — some 75 lots on Asbury's West Side. After an FBI probe in 2002, the influencer was indicted on federal bribery and extortion charges.
The Konvitzs and partner Leo Karp eventually prevailed, and the Turf Club ran at 1125 Springwood till the mid-1950s. Then Karp proposed moving the operation down the street to 1200 Springwood. He'd tear down the old Victory Hotel that stood there and create a new venue.
A petition signed by about a hundred Springwood residents objected. They claimed the move would result in three bars and three package stores within about 200 feet of one and other, which school children would have to pass by on their way to school. Karp countered that the proposed move was only a block away, and school children already passed by the current Turf Club. In 1956, the city council approved the transfer, contingent on the new building being completed.
With the new structure came a new emphasis on music. Karp, described as "an irascible man… a tough businessman and competitor," booked rhythm & blues, soul, and harmony acts.
In the spring of 1961, Leo's Turf Club featured the smooth B3 Hammond organist Stan "The Man" Hunter, who had performed with John Coltrane and Sarah Vaughan. Eddie and his Four Cousins, an R&B band, played the room, and in the summer of 1963, so did the organ great Jimmy McGriff. McGriff was nationally known, as was the saxophonist Jean-Baptiste "Illinois" Jacquet, who played Leo's Turf Club in the summer of 1965. Jacquet was famous for his work with the Lionel Hampton band, including his sax solo on "Flying Home." In Asbury, he contrasted the wildness of that, his trademark tune, with a smooth cover of Cole Porter's "So in Love."
The Turf Club was becoming a stop for major jazz artists, competing with the former Hampton Inn, now Big Bill's. Who made up the audience? Big Bill's, anyway, "had about 85 percent white clientele."
Leo's Turf Club drew listeners from as far away as Philadelphia and Newark. It also drew its share of trouble. There was the stabbing of a police officer in the fall of 1965, a throat slashing in 1967. One patron, refused entrance, punctured the tires on Leo Karp's car. Still, through the late 60's, the club continued to book musical acts like Brenda & the Tabulations, whose smooth vocals created soul hits like "Dry Your Eyes" and "Who's Loving You." When Lloyd Sims' Fabulous Untouchables appeared, they included a young saxophonist called Clarence Clemons.
Through 1968, Karp booked acts like organist Wild Bill Davis and the Soul Brothers Six, but the Turf Club's run was coming to an end. In January, 1970, Karp and the Konvitzs sold their liquor license to Wayland Goldstone, an African-American, who re-named the bar Wakie's Show Place.
Wakie's continued to bring in music — singer Irene Reid, who'd been a vocalist with Count Basie, and a local band called King Solomon and the What Five — but six months after Wakie's opened, Asbury's West Side burned in an act of frustration and rebellion. The "misery [and] depression" had become too much.
In the July 7, 1970 edition of the Asbury Park Press, there's a photo of a man directing firefighters from the roof of Wakie's Show Place. It was one of the few structures that didn't burn to the ground. By the end of the month, it was open again, featuring music by Bobbie Tucker and the Me Three Souls. Goldstone was appointed chairman of the business development committee of Asbury's West Side Coalition, but business didn't come back. "Springwood Avenue is dying," said one community leader. "People are afraid to come there."
"Wakie" Goldstone submitted a letter to the City Council in December 1970. It complained that Asbury's police had stopped patrolling the West Side altogether. All around the former Turf Club, Springwood Avenue was in ruins — and would mostly remain so for the next 50 years.
As the condominiums on Asbury's beachfront capitalize on the city's musical heritage, the Turf Club sits vacant. You can help change that. For more info, go to www.asburyamp.org. You'll find a place to donate there, too. - July 9, 2020 - Daniel Wolff reporting - Wolff is the author of, among other books, 4th of July, Asbury Park: A History of the Promised Land
The Boss and the Maestro in Rome, April 10, 1996 - photograph by Ermanno Labianca
WE ALL LOVE ENNIO MORRICONE, 1928-2020
When Bruce Springsteen and the great film composer Ennio Morricone, who has died at 91, finally got around to meeting in person, more than 15 years had passed since Springsteen and the E Street Band first began preceding certain live performances of "Badlands" with a nod to one of Morricone's greatest compositions.
As initially performed in Portland, Oregon on October 25, 1980 and continuing through many shows on the 1980-81 River Tour, Roy Bittan would play a brief solo-piano portion of Morricone's beautiful, haunting main-title theme, aka "Jill's Theme," from Sergio Leone's classic film Once Upon a Time in the West.
Whenever and wherever it would happen, it always served as the perfect lead-in for what would follow: a heart-quickening, full-band performance of one of Springsteen's own greatest compositions. Just in terms of how they sounded, "Jill's Theme" and "Badlands" couldn't be more different from one another, but emotionally — where it really mattered — you could feel in your very soul just how perfectly these two compositions connected.
There were many great "Jill's Theme"/"Badlands" performances on the 1980-81 River Tour. So far two of them (both from the Nassau Coliseum stand in late 1980) have been released officially through Springsteen's ongoing live Archive Series at live.brucespringsteen.net.
Probably the most storied performance of "Jill's Theme"/"Badlands" occurred on April 24, 1981 in Lyon, France, involving the audience as much as the band. As described by Dave Marsh in his book Glory Days: Bruce Springsteen in the 1980s, "The crowd sang along to [Morricone's] spectral melody, making a beautiful, haunting sound that no one could have predicted, upsetting and enriching the spectacle of the show. (It turned out that the Once Upon a Time in the West theme had been a jukebox hit in northern Italy, where about a third of the crowd came from.)"
Unfortunately when the 1980-81 River Tour ended, so did Bittan's "Jill's Theme" preludes. (In the ensuing quarter-century or so, Springsteen's only other interpolation of Morricone's music occurred on Halloween night 1984, oddly enough.)
Meanwhile, Morricone and Springsteen first met on April 10, 1996, at Springsteen's solo-acoustic gig in Rome on the Tom Joad tour. Morricone was in the audience that night, as reported by Massimo Benvegnu in Backstreets issue # 53: "He was visibly having a good time, clapping along to 'This Hard Land,' which was introduced as a song about, among other things, 'every Western movie I ever saw.'"
Another longtime Backstreets contributor, Ermanno Labianca, was backstage with Morricone and his wife Maria when they met with Springsteen after the show, and he reported on it in Backstreets issue # 56: "Bruce said how delighted he was by that visit. He stopped and opened a little door so the music from the hall could come in. 'That's my personal tape, that's the music I want to be played after these shows,' Bruce told Morricone. 'It's your music playing right now, Maestro,' he said, smiling. While the notes of 'Finale' (a reprise of 'Jill's Theme' from Once Upon a Time in the West) vanished under the roaring of the audience asking for more 'Broooce,' Bruce and Morricone posed for a couple of pictures."
Beginning with their June 28, 2003 show in Milan, Italy, Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band began a new and moving tradition, using a recorded version of "Jill's Theme" as their walk-on music for many of their Italian concerts. Eventually this included some shows that featured "Badlands" as the set-opener, effectively reuniting "Jill's Theme" with "Badlands." This even occurred once in a country other than Italy, at the June 17, 2012 Madrid, Spain show [above].
Before taking the stage, Springsteen and the E Street Band take in the San Siro spectacle as Morricone plays, June 3, 2013 - photograph by Mauro Regis
And of course, "Jill's Theme" served as the perfect aural backdrop for that powerful "Our love is real" moment on June 3, 2013 at Stadio San Siro in Milan, Italy [below].
Another special night in Italy: Bruce walked on to "Jill's Theme" at his June 6, 2005 Rome concert on his Devils & Dust solo-acoustic tour, and then proceeded to perform his Morricone-fied version of "I'm on Fire," incorporating various elements from Morricone's many Spaghetti Western scores, with Il Maestro himself sitting in the front row [below].
In the summer of 2006, Springsteen recorded an electric-guitar-driven version of "Jill's Theme" for the tribute album We All Love Ennio Morricone, with orchestral backing from Unione Musicisti di Roma, Morricone's longtime collaborators. Released on We All Love Ennio Morricone in 2007 as "Once Upon a Time in the West," the track provided Springsteen with a Best Rock Instrumental Performance win at the 50th Annual Grammy Awards in early 2008.
One year later, Springsteen would again be paying tribute to Morricone, but this time by recording and releasing an original composition, "Outlaw Pete" on Springsteen's album Working on a Dream. In many ways, this was Bruce's fullest personal salute to the essential element that made Morricone's film music such a breakthrough: his successful fusion of rock-band dynamics and instrumentation with epic orchestral and choral landscapes. In Springsteen's own epic composition, "Outlaw Pete" achieved a similarly successful fusion that included along the way a specific nod to Morricone's "Man With a Harmonica" from Once Upon a Time in the West. Live performances of the song often featured Bruce adding a bit of Morricone's "The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (Main Title)" on electric guitar, too, as he did in his June 27, 2009 Glastonbury Festival performance [below].
Finally, Ennio Morricone also had a keen understanding and appreciation of Bruce Springsteen. In 2007, Italian author/scholar Leonardo Colombati invited Morricone to write the original foreword for Colombati's book Bruce Springsteen – Come un killer sotto il sole: Il grande romanzo americano (1972-2007) (republished internationally a decade later as Bruce Springsteen – Like a Killer in the Sun: Selected Lyrics, 1972-2017.)
Morricone jumped at the chance, writing:
In his songs, Springsteen creates a strong sense of pietas — of the pain and humanity inherent in the characters he recounts. He does this not only through his music, where he uses different timbres and sounds to endow characters with a unique personality, but also through his lyrics, which are where his real power lies…
Although they are very different, a certain part of my work and his shares a common basis in the simple chords we use to create structured and original melodies. The composer of instrumental music must redeem this simplicity with elaborate orchestration; the author-singer/storyteller can do so by using both voice and words, as long as the voice communicates an emotion and the words are true. I like Springsteen precisely because he places this need for Truth in the forefront. This is how he manages to elude passing fads and why his music runs no risk of being lost over the course of time.
Those last two sentences, of course, also could form the basis of an explanation as to why so many of us on E Street love Ennio Morricone. Rest in peace, Maestro Morricone, after such a long and fruitful life. Your music lives on. - July 8, 2020 - Shawn Poole reporting - special thanks to Joe Amodei and Leo Colombati
GOODBYE, IL MAESTRO Some personal thoughts on the passing of Ennio Morriconefrom Joe Amodei
I love movies. They have been a part of my very fabric for as long as I can remember. They have been my constant companion through life and have been there for the good, the bad, the sadness, and the gladness of life. They are my first memories as a child. And they never go away.
As a young teenager my world was opened to a vast array of films and filmmakers from all over the world. I cherished each film and new discovery. And then one day I found myself in a darkened movie theater while the Sergio Leone masterpiece Once Upon a Time in the West came across the screen in all of its majestic Spaghetti Western glory. There was Henry Fonda, Charles Bronson, Jason Robards, and the exhilarating beauty Claudia Cardinale creating characters that would forever be etched in my movie subconscious: Fonda's evil Frank, Bronson's Harmonica, Robards' Cheyenne, and Cardinale's enchanting Jill. Legendary roles in a legendary film. And all acting to the backdrop of the Maestro's amazingly beautiful score. We all know that the Maestro himself is Ennio Morricone.
We just lost Morricone at the good old young age of 91. He leaves behind the love of his life Maria, his children including composer Andrea Morricone, and a host of grandchildren with whom he had a close and loving relationship. He also left behind many fans, famous and not-so-famous, who have been tweeting and testifying to his greatness. And they should, because Morricone was, well, great. I am in tune with all of them.
But for me, Morricone also was personal. His music filtered in and out of my life on so many occasions. Many years ago on a memorable trip out west with my wife and two daughters, we were about to enter the full majesty of Monument Valley when I pulled over to the side of the road and inserted into the car's CD player the soundtrack to Once Upon a Time in the West. While the landscape in front of us turned into something right out of heaven, the music became a part of that trip, a memory that for reasons unsaid here will never, ever go away. That memory is seared into my mind, and Morricone's music played a major part in it.
I am so thankful to Maestro for so many more movie-music memories. Seeing — and hearing — The Mission, A Fistful of Dollars, For a Few Dollars More, The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, Malena, The Legend of 1900, and of course the elegant, romantic, and haunting Cinema Paradiso gave me even more memories, the kind that can be relived over and over again.
When I heard that Bruce Springsteen was going to record the theme to Once Upon a Time in the West on a tribute album to Morricone, my excitement was through the roof. I was not disappointed, and neither were Grammy voters who gave Bruce the award for Best Rock Instrumental Performance that year.
I've been lucky. Very lucky. I met Morricone once in Cannes, before a screening of Once Upon a Time In America. He was sitting mid-row, and I stood in the aisle when our eyes met. Not knowing what to do, my instinct just took over and I moved my hands to my lips, blew him a kiss, and mouthed the words "Thank you." He blew a kiss back to me and nodded his head, saying "Thank you" back to me. He smiled, and so did I.
I also am lucky to have seen Maestro in concert not once, but twice. The first was during his 2007 visit to the U.S. to receive his honorary Oscar. (Morricone also received six Best Original Music Score Oscar nominations during his career, and won the 2016 Best Original Music Score Oscar for The Hateful Eight.) He stopped in New York on his way and performed a night of music at Radio City Music Hall. Then on August 31, 2017, my wife and I were honored to be in the audience when, at the age of 88, Morricone took to the stage of the Arena in Verona, Italy. In the heart of the ancient Italian city where Juliet professed her love for Romeo, with a full moon looking over the Coliseum-like, age-old structure, Maestro led what seemed like a 100-member choir of angels and orchestra as they performed a set of the greatest, most memorable Morricone moments. I literally sat in the audience on that hot summer night and wept. That is how much his music has meant to me. I am weeping as I write this right now.
Thank you, Il Maestro. Thank you so much. Make some music up in Heaven. The angels have been waiting. The chorus is about to begin. - July 8, 2020 - Joe Amodei is the Founder and President of Virgil Films & Entertainment. One of Virgil's recent releases is Elliott Murphy's and Emilio J. Ruiz's film Broken Poet, currently available as a Backstreets exclusive and featuring special appearances by Bruce Springsteen and Patti Scialfa
SPOTLIGHT ON NILS, IN SERIES PREMIERE FROM BRUCE ARCHIVES
During what Bruce Springsteen calls "these troubled times," it's not so crazy that many of us are concerned for not only our own familes and loved ones, but also our friends in the E Street Band. It's part of why we've enjoyed Springsteen's From My Home to Yours radio show so much, and Max Weinberg's Mighty Max's Monday Memories — keeping up with these artists that mean so much to us, hearing that they're okay. A new online series from the Bruce Springsteen Archives and Center for American Music is a similar balm: What's Up on E Street? debuts today, and it will "highlight the individual members of the band and how they are dealing with the global COVID-19 pandemic."
In the premiere episode, series creator Bob Santelli catches up with Nils Lofgren — you can watch it here:
Santelli explains, "What’s Up on E Street? is an attempt to capture a bit of contemporary history, namely how E Street Band members have been coping with the COVID pandemic. All of our lives have been affected by this terrible disease. To document its impact on Springsteen and the E Street Band is just one of the Archives' many responsibilities."
Next in the series: Professor Roy Bittan. Visit the Springsteen Archives website and Facebook page to keep up with what they're doing at Monmouth U. - July 7, 2020
PREMIERE: "THE RISING," STRAIGHT FROM THE HEART
With new side project The Lab, Nancy Wilson salutes "true heroes among us"
Nancy Wilson of Heart has always been a Bruce Springsteen fan, but holed up in quarantine, one of his songs kept coming up again and again for her. When she began working on new music, writing new material remotely with some of the members of Heart, and other players in a side project, there was a Springsteen song that just wouldn't let go of her.
That song was "The Rising." The tune had always moved Nancy, but in the past few months it kept resonating even more. "It's a response to all the souls departing, and the bravery of the first responders and medical crews," she said this week. "There are true heroes among us."
When I was working on Nancy and Ann's bestselling memoir (Kicking & Dreaming) a few years back, Nancy and I would talk about Springsteen a lot. When she first met him in the '90s, backstage at a show, she said she felt like "he was the coolest person on the planet."
Springsteen immediately stuck Nancy as someone special: "The kind of hope he brought to casual banter, even, was something. He was inclusive, disarming, and in the world of entertainment it also felt like he understood surviving 'the shadow.'"
To Nancy, "The Rising" had much of that same appeal — a song of hope, and about surviving the shadow — which is why it was one of the first things she decided to record during quarantine. Her current side venture is called "The Lab," and they are working on an EP. The line-up includes three players from Heart — Ben Smith, Andy Stoller, and Ryan Waters — along with two other acclaimed musicians: Austin's Eric Tessmer and Seattle's Jeff Fielder (who usually plays with Mark Lanegan).
Here's a world exclusive premiere, of Nancy Wilson and The Lab performing "The Rising."
- July 6, 2020 - Charles R. Cross reporting
INCIDENT ON SOUTH BROAD STREET Newly 50, Springsteen serenades Philly in new Archive Series release, 9/25/99 At 22 tracks, the final date in Philadelphia on Bruce Springsteen's 1999 Reunion Tour with the E Street Band might appear short; previous Archive Series selections from that year (Chicago and Los Angeles) featured 25 songs. But this show is stocked with lengthy ones, rarities, and a good deal of complexity. "Incident on 57th Street" and "New York City Serenade," after all, take some time to unspool.
Performed in a city known for its long-standing support — in 1974, Springsteen first played "Born to Run" in Swarthmore, a Philadelphia suburb, then debuted the studio recording a few months later on the city's FM rock station, WMMR — September 25 ranks among the tour's more celebrated concerts, and with good reason.
Philadelphia, September 24, 1999 - photograph by Ken Lesnik
After celebrating his 50th birthday on September 23, Springsteen played back-to-back Philly dates: the 24th, at the Spectrum (after a weather-related postponement), and this one:First Union Center, Philadelphia September 25, 1999. Both saw an infusion of infrequently-played numbers from his first two records; here, "Incident on 57th Street" gets a breakout turn to open the show.
Unplayed since its lone nod on the River tour in 1980, its top billing revealed Springsteen reinhabiting the song, from its narrative to the guitar work to an impressive lead vocal. By comparison, the 1980 airing at Nassau Coliseum sounds like Springsteen, whose new music sprang from different vantage points and typically played out in three minutes rather than eight, was sending it gently into the good night, simply because it was time.
That makes its 1999 rediscovery an exciting prospect today. From the opening notes on the piano (which hadn't been turned up full in the house, leading to a few seconds before it really sank in) to the sustained F chord that rang at the end, this is one deliberate performance. It took years before "Frankie" found its way back to the right place; one might argue that "The Fever," another song tried once that year, never has. But after this, the first of four Reunion tour plays, Springsteen would revisit "Incident" more frequently in later years, in both solo piano and full-band arrangements.
9/25/99 audibles: "Atlantic City" replaced the originally setlisted "Trapped"/"Darlington County"; "Sherry Darling" and "Streets of Philadelphia" replaced the setlisted "Working on the Highway" and "Ghost of Tom Joad"
Philadelphia September 25 brings plenty more new material from 1999: "Point Blank," "Sherry Darling," "Streets of Philadelphia," "Jungleland," and "Raise Your Hand" ("Light of Day" tags a good bit of "You Can't Sit Down," and "My Girl" gets a few bars during the band introductions segment of "Tenth Avenue Freeze-out"). "New York City Serenade" made the set, too (its first '99 entry is an honor bestowed by Chicago, released in 2018).
While the reworking of older songs is the kind of experimentation an attentive fan would gladly hear anytime, in the Reunion era the E Street Band came to play anew. Driven by Max Weinberg's six years of chopping wood on late-night television, they coalesced around a hard-rock trio of "Youngstown," "Murder Incorporated," and "Badlands" — a song from the solo LP The Ghost of Tom Joad, then a Born in the U.S.A. outtake, and finally a classic — then again in the encore, around "If I Should Fall Behind" and "Land of Hope and Dreams." Those songs feature here, each in a way that captivated listeners night in and night out.
Those agreed-upon places and arrangements — each more or less new to the band and audience alike, save for "Badlands" — served as the foundations that year, which saw Springsteen and the E Street Band restore the relationships — and some of the mythology, perhaps — left hanging by their dissolution a decade before.
"We were somewhat estranged, we were just taking the first small steps of performing," Springsteen said in 2014, when inducting the E Street Band into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. "We didn't know what the future would bring, and perhaps the shadow of some of the old grudges still held some sway."
Watching as Scooter and The Big Man tried to shimmy to some new, yet-to-be-determined place, one got the sense that they would get there, and that it might take some time. But never did the music sound tentative, even at the rehearsal shows in Asbury Park. Whatever disappointment lingered, be it over money or not being inducted with Springsteen in that year's Hall of Fame class, it never threw the E Street Band off their sound. Not that I could hear, anyway, and certainly not at this point in the tour, after nearly 80 performances.
Philadelphia, September 24, 1999 - photograph by Ken Lesnik
Sometimes, focusing on a single player brings out another dimension in the recording. In this case, it's Clarence Clemons. Fifteen of these 22 tracks feature a sax solo: The Big Man makes a strong impression throughout, accenting the introduction to "Point Blank" and making the "last taste of summer" on "Sherry Darling" sound especially delightful. "Jungleland" simply elevated the place. Maybe it was a belated 50th birthday gift; more likely, it was all in a night's work. Godspeed, Clarence.
The Reunion tour's biggest payoff was its authenticity. The wariness that Springsteen alluded to at the outset gave way to a sense of refinement and possibility, making room for meaningful celebrations like this, where a song like "Incident on 57th Street" could get reimagined all over again. Later, it brought the modern era's highest in-the-moment number, "American Skin (41 Shots)," and finally, "Blood Brothers," proving Springsteen right once again: you can't get there by yourself.
RECAP: FROM MY HOME TO YOURS, VOLUME 7 "Fourth of July, Asbury Park, featuring Southside Johnny and Little Steven Van Zandt" The E Street Band isn't the only weapon in Bruce Springsteen's arsenal that can turn on a dime. Part of the power of Bruce's art has been its flexibility, to give us what we need at different times — across the years, or in a single show.
From My Home to Yours, too, has proved sturdy enough to do the same, shifiting tones, repsonding to the times, and giving us very different fixes from one episode to the next.
After the scorched earth of Vol. 5 ("American Skin") and the rock 'n' roll requiem of Vol. 6 ("Down to the River to Pray"), Volume 7 of Bruce's radio show is a summer special, a gathering of old friends, and the story of the Asbury Park sound, in a two-hour blowout.
Hello, hello, fellow Americans and summer revellers! I'm glad to be here with you on this Fourth of July weekend to help you celebrate our Independence Day. We have a three-DJ spectacular for you today — I will be spinning the discs with Southside Johnny and Little Steven Van Zandt! And we will be concentrating on the soul stylings of Asbury Park, circa 1977 to '88, when Southside and Steve and I had all gotten together down at the Stone Pony. Steve and South had their fantastic house band there, and I spent many nights there high as a fuckin' kite.
This set might make you feel that high, too. Focusing exclusively on this "horn-centric" Asbury Park sound, it's the narrowest band of music Springsteen has yet cued up — but where he doesn't go broad, he gets to go deep. Discussing this music with his fellow architects and curators of the sound, it's also the first time Springsteen has played host on From His Home to Yours, and he does it with the ease and warmth you'd expect — at times it's the roundtable of old pals chatting like they're all at a bar, but our host also makes a point of asking questions and showing his appreciation for the accomplishments of his friends.
Bruce on "It's Been a Long Time": "In my opinion, Steve, a perfect song."
Yes, it's quite a set of accomplishments, as this history lesson of a playlist attests. For this sound, this particular strain of songwriting by Van Zandt and Springsteen, it's a perfect primer. There are exceptions, like Box Tops cover "Soul Deep," but this is largely a sampler of the horn-soaked soul sounds conceived and penned by Bruce and Stevie, which they brought to life with friends and compatriots Southside Johnny (vocally, its premier interpreter), the Asbury Jukes, Gary U.S. Bonds ("one of the greatest soul singers of all time," says Stevie), E Streeters, and more.
It's interesting to note, this is a sound that was often left off of Springsteen's own albums — most of his own recordings here are from outtake collections: "Gotta Get That Feeling" ("lost in the sauce of the Darkness on the Edge of Town sessions"), "So Young and in Love" ( "The E Street Band back in its wild and wooly days, trying to write something that was gonna tear the roof off the place"), "Lion's Den."
So there's a thread running through Volume 7 that offers a Secret History of Bruce Springtsteen — running parallel to his carefully crafted LPs, there was this string of collaborations, songwriting, production, uncredited performances. In some cases it had to be secret, since his label wouldn't grant him permission! The trio delves into some of those moments, recalling recording with "Bondsy" so fondly you wish they'd do it all over again tomorrow.
Bruce does stretch his self-imposed boundaries a bit on either side of the 1977-'88 timeframe, playing more recent material from Little Steven ("from his Summer of Sorcery record, the man's return to soul!" and even his live take on "Tucson Train") and going back to "Tenth Avenue Freeze-out," with a recounting of Stevie's crucial on-the-fly horn arrangements ("second song we ever put horns on with the E Street Band," after "Kitty's Back"). In between, so many classic cuts highlighting collaborations — with Bonds, the outstanding "Club Soul City," with Clarence and the Red Bank Rockers, "Savin' Up" — and Jukes treasures from the first record up through the Better Days "comeback" and two of its finest moments.
So with Springsteen having created and cued up such a stellar a playlist, it becomes a privilege for the rest of us to hear this "Jersey Summit" react to it along the way. Sometimes it's just "mmmm!" But the history shared by Springsteen, Steven Van Zandt, and Southside Johnny Lyon goes back 50 years — "just one coat between us, and we never felt cold," as the song goes — and it's a blast to hear them reflecting on that shared history, relistening and responding to the music they've made together.
"This Little Girl"? "We had a hit!" "I Don't Want to Go Home"? "Steve almost drove into Sunset Lake," Southside says, when they heard the song come on WNEW. And don't forget the cut-throat games of Monopoly.
Other memories along the way are of the great influences on the music that we're hearing, like seeing Sam Moore at the Satellite Lounge ("We got to watch... from six feet away... One of the greatest musical nights of my life," says Bruce), and their habit of drawing on and paying tribute to their own heroes from the "oldies circuit," like Bonds, Lee Dorsey, Chuck Jackson, and Ben E. King, and reuniting the Coasters, the Five Satins, and the Drifters to play with the Jukes.
Stevie: "We always had one foot in tradition."
Southside: "Twist and doo-wop… we were really trying to be with the modern cats!"
Sometimes Volume 7 is a fascinating listen as much for what they don't remember as what they do. "Stevie, you're gonna have to remind me if I had anything to do with this one," Bruce says as "Love on the Wrong Side of Town" begins. Stevie responds, "You did, that's your riff!" We get some insight into how their co-writing worked, and glimpses of studio sessions and production, too — "those tympanies were just lying around!"
You'll have your own favorite stories here. Bruce recounts "The Fever" leaking on WMMR; they all bemoan the sterile studio sound of the '70s, as "the engineers had taken over": "We're trying to go for the wall of sound, but the wall was covered with a fuckin' carpet!" You'll have your own favorite one-liners, too. "Steve Van Zandt — all in, or not in at all!"
Some "Soul Power Twist" from Stevie?
Southside: "Let it never be said that Little Steven is not au courant!"
Bruce: "I'm twistin! I'm twistin' right the fuck now!"
So maybe it's less au courant, but Volume 7 is, more than any previous episode, a timeless set of music and commentary begging for repeat listening. And also perhaps a chance for this music to reach new ears — it's entirely possible to be a big Springsteen fan without being well-versed in this particular rock 'n' soul sound of Asbury Park. While many of Bruce's performances revel in these stylings — certainly on club stages or when he brought a horn section on the road — on record it's a different story. As the playlist illustrates, many of the songs Springsteen himself wrote in this vein are ones that he gave away — "all the records that we should have made in between the records," as he says — which makes this two-hour sepcial all the more of a treat, spotlighting and tying together his own work in this soul-deep vein with his Asbury Park comrades in arms.
Happy 4th of July, Bondsy! Happy 4th of July, everybody! Play it loud!
Visit the SiriusXM blog for the schedule of repeat broadcasts for Independence Day Weekend and beyond on E Street Radio.
Instrumental intro - "4th of July, Asbury Park (Sandy)"
Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes - "Some Things Just Don't Change"
Bruce Springsteen - "Gotta Get That Feeling" (live 12/7/10)
Little Steven & the Disciples of Soul - "Love Again"
Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes - "Love on the Wrong Side of Town"
Bruce Springsteen - "So Young and in Love"
Gary U.S. Bonds - "Soul Deep"
Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes - "Coming Back"
Little Steven & the Disciples of Soul - "Until the Good is Gone"
Gary U.S. Bonds - "Club Soul City"
Bruce Springsteen - "Lion's Den"
Little Steven & the Disciples of Soul - "Soul Power Twistin'"
Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes - "The Fever"
Clarence Clemons and the Red Bank Rockers - "Savin' Up"
Gary U.S. Bonds - "This Little Girl"
Little Steven & the Disciples of Soul - "Tucson Train" (live)
Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes - "First Night"
Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes - "I Don't Want to Go Home"
Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band - "Tenth Avenue Freeze-out" (live)
Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes (with Bruce Springsteen and Steven Van Zandt) - "It's Been a Long Time"
Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band - "Jersey Girl" (live)
- July 2, 2020 - Christopher Phillips reporting
REBIRTH AND REDEDICATION: HE REALLY MEANT IT
An ending and a beginning, 20 years ago tonight in NYC
It's a good night for a ride Cross that river to the other side My blood brothers
Today marks the 20th anniversary of the first time Bruce Springsteen sang those lyrics as part of an entirely new verse of "Blood Brothers," a unique performance that brought the curtain down on the 1999-2000 "Reunion" tour with the E Street Band. "Blood Brothers" was originally recorded as part of an earlier, briefer reassembly in 1995. Though we know with hindsight how it all turned out, both reunions were tinged by uncertainty at best regarding the future of the legendary E Street Band.
July 1, 2000 was the final night of a ten-night stand at New York City's Madison Square Garden as well as the final night of the Reunion tour that lasted nearly 16 months. As Bruce later revealed in his autobiography Born to Run, he began the pre-tour rehearsals with a sense of "ambivalence" and "anxiety." To his relief, both feelings faded as soon as they played in front of actual fans.
On many nights of the Reunion tour, Bruce introduced the newly written "Land of Hope and Dreams" by saying the tour represented "a rebirth and rededication of the band." But while he seemed sincere and earnest, there was always a bit of doubt regarding whether that rebirth was meant to last beyond the closing notes of July 1, 2000, or if he would continue to follow muses that led him away from E Street.
Introducing "Land of Hope and Dreams" on the final night, Bruce thanked the crew and management, and, after thanking the E Street Band, he called them "the best band in the land." Within seconds, the entire crowd erupted into an "E Street Band! E Street Band!" chant, an outpouring that visibly moved everyone on stage. And since the spotlight was still only on Springsteen for the introduction, he prompted further cheers as he urged the lighting crew to: "Get some damn lights on 'em, will ya?!"
A powerful "Land of Hope and Dreams" followed, and its images of tickets, suitcases, unknown destinations, and traveling companions inspired thoughts of the previous 15 months and the amazing tour that was coming to a close.
There were times when such a reunion seemed improbable, or fears that such a reunion wouldn't have the same power as the original iteration. But faith was indeed rewarded as Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band had come roaring back to reclaim their title as one of the greatest live rock acts on the planet.
As "Land of Hope and Dreams" ended and Bruce implored the audience to "Let me see your hands," his howls had a bit more emotion than most nights — not unexpected. What was unexpected was that no one left their spots on the stage when the song ended (all previous nine shows at the Garden ended with the band exiting after "Land of Hope and Dreams"). The emotion in the building wasn't trending in the direction of a "Raise Your Hand" or "Blinded by the Light" performance. Bruce approached the mic and gave a short shout-out to Food for Survival, a community-based organization that helps New York City hungry and homeless, a PSA he normally gave prior to "Land of Hope and Dreams."
"We've talked a lot about faith on this tour. Faith don't mean nothing unless you put it into action," he said. "We got one more for you, but we're going to need a little bit of quiet. C'mon, my friends."
A single keyboard chord began, joined shortly by Max's high hat keeping a slow but steady beat. The crowd started clapping along but was quickly quieted with a hand gesture from Bruce. The keyboard chord changed, and the progression made the song obvious: "Blood Brothers." As the music settled after the "houses of the dead" verse, Springsteen paused and motioned for everyone not behind a drum kit or keyboard to come to the front of the stage, where they joined hands to form a line, facing the crowd. With a slight twinge of uncertainty and more than a hint of emotion, he sang an entirely new closing verse:
Now I'm out here on this road Alone on this road tonight I close my eyes and feel so many friends around me In the early evening light And the miles we have come And the battles won and lost Are just so many roads traveled So many rivers crossed And I ask God for the strength And faith in one another 'Cause it's a good night for a ride 'Cross this river to the other side My blood brothers
The music built back up and the band soared, led by Bruce's harmonica and Clarence's saxophone, before gently ending.
As the E Street Band left the stage, Bruce stayed at the top of the stairs, seemingly thanking each band member individually. After Clarence — the last one to descend the stairs — Springsteen took an extra moment to look at the audience. We don't know what was going through his mind, but fans were certainly hoping it wasn't the last we'd see of them.
Time has told: Bruce was intent on keeping that pledge of rebirth and rededication. Over the course of the next two decades, Springsteen would go on to record and release seven albums, five of which were followed by a tour with the E Street Band, plus two box sets based on earlier E Street projects. There were off-ramps — Devils & Dust, Seeger Sessions, Broadway — but Bruce lived up to the most optimistic interpretation a fan might have for the band's "rededication."
The ongoing vitality of the E Street Band since that night — its ability to address hard times, its flexibility through nearly unthinkable losses and lineup changes — has been undeniable. Thank you, Bruce — and the heart-stopping E Street Band — for the miles we have come together in the last 20 years. - July 1, 2020 - Flynn McLean reporting - McLean is co-host of the podcast None But the Brave
SPRINGSTEEN: ALL THE SONGS Massive 672-page hardcover coming in October
Pre-order now for a free bookmark and bookplate SIGNED by both authors
Backstreet Records is the mailorder division of Backstreets, delivering Springsteen merchandise to fans for more than 25 years. We carry numerous collectibles, tour shirts, books, magazines, and imported CDs and records.
The world's best selection of Springsteen collectibles, all available by mail.
Nils & Stevie talk about the "masterpiece" Letter to You album with Forbes
"Read: Bruce Springsteen’s message to the Boston College class of 2024" FULL TRANSCRIPT [America Magazine]
"The Israeli roots of Bruce Springsteen's Born to Run' [Jpost.com]
"Tom Hanks, Jimmy Fallon, and more reflect on Bruce Springsteen's Born to Run on its 45th anniversary" [EW.com]
"Steve Van Zandt’s Plan to Save Music Education During the Pandemic" [Rolling Stone]
"Live Music Returns to the Shore: 'It's Like Getting Your Life Back'" [NYTimes.com]
"Jesse Malin on New York’s Club Crisis: 'Very Few Venues Are Going to Be Able to Survive'" [Rolling Stone]
We also post all known concert dates for some of our favorite Jersey Shore (and Shore-adopted) musicians:
Joe D'Urso... and more.
For more information on upcoming shows such as these, check out our Concert Calendar.
Many from the Springsteen community banded together to preserve this Asbury Park landmark.... and Tillie has now been saved!
Check our Save Tillie page for the latest developments.
THE SPRINGSTEEN SPECIAL COLLECTION
Organized by Backstreets in 2001, this storehouse of Boss books and magazines is the largest such collection outside of Bruce's mother's basement. Thanks to the generosity of fans around the world, total holdings are now well over 15,000. But the collection is by no means complete.