THE BIG PLAYBACK
Springsteen joins Zimny & Phillips for Archives event at APMFF
One of the most memorable events at the 2019 Asbury Park Music and Film Festival was on April 27 at the Paramount Theatre, hosted by The Bruce Springsteen Archives & Center for American Music at Monmouth University. Audience members had to put their phones in sealed pouches to keep secret never-before-seen concert footage found and assembled by Springsteen's archivist Thom Zimny from the ever-elusive vault. Even Bruce himself had never seen them, as he informed the crowd during the panel discussion with Zimny led by Backstreets editor Chris Phillips.
After surprising the audience and being greeted with a rapturous standing ovation, Springsteen explained that he used to be superstitious about being filmed because he "felt that a magician should not look too closely at his magic trick." This is why early footage of the E Street Band is so rare and the film festival event was such an extraordinary opportunity. It was thanks to band associate Barry Rebo, whom he pointed out in the audience, that young Bruce was even filmed in the first place. Since then, Springsteen has found a close-knit collaborator in Zimny, who he considers to be "another member of the band." The panel also discussed Zimny's direction of Springsteen on Broadway for Netflix, particularly his use of "invisible" style camerawork and editing so that they would not "fuck this thing up." Springsteen praised Zimny's sensitive and intelligent approach to the production.
Running an hour and twelve minutes, the ten clips Zimny selected and arranged spanned from the earliest incarnation of the E Street Band to a fiery performance at The Apollo Theatre in 2012. It was incredible to witness the band's metamorphosis and Bruce's evolution as a performer throughout the screening. The Springsteen Archives event affirmed Bruce yet again as a masterful live performer whose versatility, rollicking energy, and zeal is unparalleled.
The first clip was a wide, one-camera color shot of Bruce and the E Street Band performing "When You Walk in the Room" during the fabled Bottom Line concerts in August 1975. It was after these riotous shows, Springsteen explained, that they were "finally contenders… we were no longer expected to be good, we were expected to be great." Despite the graininess of the film, nearly 45 years old, the sharp, crystal-clear sound quality and Bruce's energetic movements easily conveyed the band's ascension into greatness.
Bruce began his rollicking "The Way You Do the Things You Do"/"634-5789" medley at The Apollo Theater on March 9, 2012 by paying homage to soul legends and influences Smokey Robinson, Sam Cooke, Marvin Gaye, and Aretha Franklin, who once performed on the same stage. The velvety, soulful voices of Bruce, Patti Scialfa, Curtis King, Cindy Mizelle, Everett Bradley, Soozie Tyrell, and Jake Clemons perfectly melded together. The infectiously joyous performance ended with Bruce running through the audience and scaling the legendary theater's balcony like Spider-Man. With impressive camera coverage of the spectacle, thanks to what Thom Zimny called "the genius of [director] Chris Hilson," the archivist/filmmaker was able to incorporate humorous cuts to Patti's disbelieving grin at the sight of her wall-crawling husband.
Bruce remarked on his delightfully spontaneous decision to head for the balcony: "I don't know what I was thinking when I did that. It wasn't planned, no one was following me." Zimny pointed out, "If you look at the footage, it's after he makes a mistake." Bruce agreed: "I just said fuck it! [After I] fucked up the whole arrangement with the band. I was just glad to find some pipes to hold on to." Before moving discussion on to the next selection, Phillips recalled, "I don't know if you could tell at the time, but everyone at the Apollo that night was so scared for you — that you might fall!" Springsteen replied, "That's why it's called live. We perform death-defying acts!"
David Sancious' sweeping piano introduction to "New York City Serenade" opened the third clip. The high-contrast footage presented the first incarnation of the E Street Band with drummer Vini Lopez in the humble surroundings of Nassau Community College on December 15, 1973. Springsteen languidly performed the song with half-lidded eyes as if under the rapturous spell of Sancious' swirling ivories. Bruce called Sancious "one of the most musical people I have met — one of the most musical people on the planet, I think. He had such a large background in jazz and gospel, his ability to cover everything… Davey was just a master. He was lovely to have in the band."
As moderator, Phillips took the opportunity to segue into Sancious' contribution to the upcoming album Western Stars: "Speaking of Sancious, the elephant in the room is that you've got some new music coming out. And you brought Davey back for this record." The crowd cheered the news, but Bruce quickly established boundaries: "Yeah, he plays a little bit on it. But we don't have to talk about that." The audience laughed, and Phillips replied, "Let's move on!"
Returning to The Bottom Line in 1975, the next clip featured a young, lithe Bruce at his manic best bouncing all over stage like a pinball machine from a table in the front of the stage to Danny's organ then Roy's piano. During this wild "Quarter to Three" frenzy, he dropped his guitar pick, and the camera captured a kind fan handing it back to him. On the opposite end of the performance spectrum was the haunting footage from Bruce's November 8, 1996 concert at his former school St. Rose of Lima. Shot in a hazy close-up, the ethereal, slowed-down acoustic version of "The Promised Land" felt like a precursor to the Broadway performance of "Born to Run," with its sonorous guitar thumping. The falsetto cries he interspersed into the chorus coupled with his searching and anguished expression was goosebumps-inducing.
Pro-shot, multiple camera footage of Bruce performing "My City of Ruins" with the Seeger Sessions band at the New Orleans Jazz Fest on April 30, 2006 followed. Bruce's resounding calls of "Rise up" imbued his audience affected by the devastation of Hurricane Katrina with a sense of hope and the promise of renewal. It was a powerful performance that Bruce considers one of his Top Five shows. Chris Phillips discussed the song's versatility and its roots as a prayer for the revival of Asbury Park; Bruce replied, "It's lovely to come through Asbury, and see it so alive. Now I get to walk down the boardwalk like the Ghost of Christmas Past. But I like it — I'm very happy for the city." Bruce also expressed interest in getting the Sessions Band back together in the future: "That was a great band. I'd like to do that again sometime."
Perhaps the highlight of the afternoon was a clip of "Who Do You Love?"/"She's the One" from the Tunnel of Love tour in Rotterdam, Netherlands. "The sight of the Big Man and the maracas," Bruce chuckled to himself during the panel discussion, was enticing, along with Bruce grinding into his guitar. After walking from opposite ends of the stage, Clarence and a dark suit-clad Bruce took their infamous soul kiss to the next level by gyrating on top of one another, their chemistry scintillating off the screen. This footage encapsulated their incomparable willingness to be physically and erotically intimate with one another, boldly transcending the barriers of race and defying society's conventions of manhood and sexuality.
A hushed and brooding version of "Fourth of July, Asbury Park (Sandy)" from the same performance at Nassau Community College was next. "I thought I was going to fall asleep at any moment. I went to the bathroom and came back, and I was still playing!" Bruce joked. Shot in a grainy black and white, the performance is at times frustratingly slow, but it beautifully showcases Danny Federici's enchanting accordion that perfectly captures a summer night on the waning boardwalk.
"'Sandy' was when things were just starting to happen for the band," Springsteen recalled during the panel discussion. "It was a goodbye to Asbury Park. The last night Danny Federici played with us (Indianapolis, March 20, 2008) I asked him what he wanted to play, and he said, 'Sandy.' The song was appropriate because I wrote it as the ending of something wonderful and the beginning of something new. We were leaving Asbury Park just as things were changing."
Zimny managed to track down footage of Patti Scialfa singing "Tell Him" by The Exciters with Cats on a Smooth Surface at the Stone Pony's tenth anniversary celebration concert in 1984, the very evening Bruce met his wife for the first time and fell in love with her voice. The distinct footage of her strong, silky vocals brought the story he recalls in the Broadway show to life and put the audience in Bruce's shoes on that fateful night.
The final presentation was of the "Growin' Up" performance on November 22, 2009 in Buffalo, New York — Clarence's final show. In his well-known monologue on screen, Bruce recounted the nor'easter that brought him to his blood brother with the towering saxophone sound. The close pair ended their recollections with the legendary Born to Run cover pose before Bruce whispered, "I love you" in the ear of his dear friend. During the panel discussion, Bruce remarked that he had never seen the clip before, and that it was "lovely" to see his companion again on the big screen. "The story is completely true, all those things. It actually happened. Looking at that, I really miss the Big Man." The eternal preservation of this heartrending moment cements the significance of the Springsteen Archives as a whole and its commitment to safeguarding the ineffable magic of the heart-stopping, pants-dropping, love-making, earth-quaking E Street Band.
Zimny and Springsteen were fairly mum about any plans to release most of what was shown, but they did confirm that the complete 2006 Jazz Fest performance would be out soon, and Bruce also expressed interest in releasing a full Tunnel of Love Express Tour show. What Zimny curated and presented Saturday afternoon will remain with the audience at The Paramount for now, but hopefully more and more Bruce Springsteen fans will be able to witness the incredible work that has been put into cinematically documenting one of the greatest live acts of all time. - April 30, 2019 - Caroline Madden reporting - photographs by Chris Spiegel/Asbury Park Music & Film Festival
STEVIE FELL IN LOVE (AGAIN)
Little Steven & the Disciples of Soul continue to roll out advance tracks from their Soulfire follow-up Summer of Sorcery, Stevie's first album of new material in 20 years. Coming this Friday, May 3! - April 29, 2019
HELLO, "HELLO SUNSHINE"
Above, the official U.S. premiere of "Hello Sunshine," our first taste of Bruce Springsteen's forthcoming Western Stars. Lyrically, Springsteen captures in a few neat strokes not only the wax and wane of depression, but the lure of darkness and solitude: "had a little sweet spot for the rain… you can get a little too fond of the blues." To revisit a metaphor of his from 2005, imagining a hammer in one hand and a lantern in the other, the song is a wish to build, not burn. "You fall in love with lonely," Springsteen warns, "you end up that way."
Musically, Western Stars takes "inspiration in part from the Southern California pop records of the late '60s and early '70s." In this lead single alone, one hears elements of the "sunshine pop" of that era — the Fifth Dimension, the post-Pet Sounds Beach Boys sans the harmonies — but you'll also find the overwhelming influence of the records that marked the place where country music and pop began to mix.
"Hello Sunshine" contains many elements that eventually became trademarks of "the Nashville Sound," or "Countrypolitan" music: sparse pedal steel, sweeping strings, brushes on a snare drum. Bruce himself namechecked Glen Campbell and Jimmy Webb (whose "Up, Up and Away" was a top 10 smash for the Dimension in 1967) when discussing this new material in 2017.
The technique of mixing traditional country music instruments (like pedal steel guitar) with more pop-oriented arrangements (utilizing strings) had been popularized by the production work of Chet Atkins. By the late '60s, the style was being used in earnest to produce crossover hits like the Billy Sherrill-produced Tammy Wynette smash "Stand By Your Man."
Rather than going for a full-blown Nashville Sound, "Hello Sunshine" evokes the gentler and, yes, darker songs of the era. In fact, the song is a bit of a flip of one penned by country singer/songwriter Mickey Newbury, as recorded in 1973 by Springsteen fave Scott Walker, called... "Sunshine."
While some are hearing "Everybody's Talkin'" in its rhythms and "Good Time Charlie's Got the Blues" in its melody, "Hello Sunshine" overall strikes us as an answer song in response to Newbury's. Embracing darkness like an old friend, Walker tells sunshine, "Don't bother me.... move on down the street." Springsteen asks, "Won't you stay?" - April 26, 2019 - John Howie Jr. and Christopher Phillips reporting
Springsteen's next studio album, Western Stars, ready to ride on
Come, my friends,
'Tis not too late to seek a newer world.
Push off, and sitting well in order smite
The sounding furrows; for my purpose holds
To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths
Of all the western stars, until I die.
—Lord Alfred Tennyson, "Ulysses"
Western Stars is the title of Bruce Springsteen's 19th studio album, coming June 14 from Columbia Records. The 13-song set of all new originals arrives mere months after the Springsteen on Broadway soundtrack, but five years since his last studio release, 2014's High Hopes. Produced by Springsteen and Ron Aniello, the new album is "a return to my solo recordings featuring character-driven songs and sweeping, cinematic orchestral arrangements," Bruce says. "It's a jewel box of a record."
A solo project that Springsteen, Aniello, and manager Jon Landau have all discussed in the press for some years, Western Stars' origins pre-date Wrecking Ball, with most of its material written prior to that 2012 release. As Springsteen told Jem Aswad for Variety in 2017, "I stopped making that record to make Wrecking Ball, and then I went back to it."
As Springsteen on Broadway was newly underway, Bruce assured Aswad that the solo album would still have its day: "I've just been caught up in other projects. It's kind of waiting for its moment. Good music doesn't go away!"
That moment is here, as officially confirmed this morning, with first single "Hello Sunshine" coming our way before the next sunrise. Further details and track listing from this morning's press release:
Bruce Springsteen's first new studio album in five years takes his music to a new place, drawing inspiration in part from the Southern California pop records of the late '60s and early '70s. The album was recorded primarily at Springsteen's home studio in New Jersey, with additional recording in California and New York...
The 13 tracks of Western Stars encompass a sweeping range of American themes, of highways and desert spaces, of isolation and community and the permanence of home and hope.
The song "Hello Sunshine" and a video will be released just after midnight ET tonight.
Ron Aniello produced the album with Springsteen and plays bass, keyboard, and other instruments. Patti Scialfa provides vocals and contributes vocal arrangements on four tracks. The musical arrangements include strings, horns, pedal steel and contributions from more than 20 other players including Jon Brion (who plays celeste, Moog, and farfisa), as well as guest appearances by David Sancious, Charlie Giordano, and Soozie Tyrell. The album was mixed by Tom Elmhirst.
Western Stars Song Titles
1. Hitch Hikin'
2. The Wayfarer
3. Tucson Train
4. Western Stars
5. Sleepy Joe's Café
6. Drive Fast (The Stuntman)
7. Chasin' Wild Horses
9. Somewhere North of Nashville
11. There Goes My Miracle
12. Hello Sunshine
13. Moonlight Motel
All songs written by Bruce Springsteen.
The material that became Western Stars was first on producer Ron Aniello's plate when he began working with Springsteen, before the inspiration struck for Wrecking Ball. In 2013, he described this batch of songs to Rolling Stone as "very unique for him, unlike anything I'd ever heard... lovely songs... I hope Bruce doesn't slaughter me here, but I would compare them to Aaron Copland. It has a very open-landscape feel... You wouldn't call it country. It's just very hard to describe. You'll just have to wait."
Western Stars' moment almost came in 2016. Following the late-2015 release of The Ties That Bind, Springsteen talked to Backstreets about his sudden impulse to play shows behind that newly released River box, which changed his course: "It was a surprise to us, too, you know? We were kind of heading on a slightly different path — I had some new music, which was a little more of a solo record. I thought that I'd be out on that next. But then the box set came out, and we started to fool around with the idea of playing maybe a show...."
The 2016 River Tour took up much of the year. Within weeks of its close, a little memoir called Born to Run took center stage. That lit the footlights for Springsteen on Broadway in 2017 and 2018. Even so, Western Stars was waiting in the wings.
A trio of western images shared on Springsteen'ssocialmedia in anticipation of today's album announcement, photographed by Danny Clinch on a 2019 trip with Bruce to Joshua Tree National Park
Whetting appetites early, Bruce described the album to Variety as "influenced by Southern California pop music of the ’70s... Glen Campbell, Jimmy Webb, Burt Bacharach, those kinds of records. I don't know if people will hear those influences, but that was what I had in my mind. It gave me something to hook an album around; it gave me some inspiration to write. And also, it’s a singer-songwriter record. It's connected to my solo records writing-wise, more Tunnel of Love and Devils & Dust, but it's not like them at all. Just different characters living their lives."
As the man said, good music doesn't go away. Stay tuned for "Hello Sunshine," coming tonight/tomorrow, depending on your time zone. Pre-order information for the June 14 release will follow. - April 25, 2019 - Christopher Phillips reporting
GOING LOCAL WITH BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN: ROCK AND ROLL FUTURE The creation of Barry Schneier's Bruce Springsteen: Rock and Roll Future was a grassroots enterprise, start to finish. From fan questions that inspired Barry to begin writing about his photographs, to the early days of calling on friends for feedback, through the team that helped us create and sustain a Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign, to our family members pitching in to pack and ship the books to 1,001 backers, the publication of Rock and Roll Future has been an effort fueled by our community. As we begin to bring the book to a wider audience, the author is looking to continue that approach.
This weekend Barry Schneier will begin his "tour" right in his hometown of Holliston, MA, speaking at a new local bookseller, Aesop's Fable. If you live in the MetroWest area of Boston, this will be a great opportunity to hear Barry speak about the book and the events that led to that legendary night at the Harvard Square Theatre, in a small, intimate environment — all while supporting an independent book store. Click here for event details.
Barry also spoke recently with the MetroWest Daily News about the book and this event; read the Q&A at metrowestdailynews.com.
Bruce Springsteen: Rock and Roll Future will be available for purchase and signing at the Aesop's Fable event, April 26, 7-9pm. But if you're not in the area, you can purchase your copy of the book right here from Backstreet Records (a mom & pop shop, of course). - April 24, 2019
ASBURY PARK DOC: ON THE BOARDWALK AND AROUND THE WORLD
With big-screen events upcoming, director Tom Jones talks Riot, Redemption, Rock 'n' Roll with Backstreets This weekend, in the Jersey Shore town that is the film's focus, the feature-length Asbury Park: Riot, Redemption, Rock 'n' Roll documentary will have its big screen premiere at the Paramount Theater. Check out the trailer above.
For anyone who can't be on the Asbury boardwalk this Sunday: on May 22, the film will also play on silver screens worldwide, for a one-night-only international showing in well over a thousand theaters (U.S. fans wil get a second chance on May 29). Visit the film's website for locations, tickets, and more information.
An earlier cut of Jones' film screened at the 2017 APMFF under a different name, Just Before the Dawn. In its new form, the documentary incorporates footage from that star-studded premiere event two years ago — remember the Upstage Jam? [below] — as well as new interviews with Bruce Springsteen and Max Weinberg.
Stevie, Bruce, and Southside at the Upstage Jam, Paramount Theatre, Asbury Park, NJ, April 28, 2017.
"There was a certain moment in time," Springsteen says in the film, in an interview Jones conducted inside the Upstage, "when something happened here that wasn't happening anyplace else — that mattered."Asbury Park illustrates it well, deftly connecting the rich local music scene with the history of the town, from the Civil Rights era to its modern resurgence, using rare footage and interviews with key players to tell the tale of how the power of music can unite a divided community.
Compared to what screened in 2017, "I'd say it's about 50 percent a different film, maybe more," Tom Jones tells Backstreets. "The one we showed two years ago — I really liked it, but it had a glaring omission... and that was Bruce. We talked about him in the film, but he hadn't sat for an interview, and we just ran out of time. We had committed to the festival, so we finished it, and I was happy with it, but I felt that it was not quite complete. So Bruce surprised us and came to watch the screening, and then he played the concert afterwards, which was such a great treat. And then he very graciously called and said, 'I'd like to be in it. Would you want to have me in it?'"
So Springsteen sat for an interview with Jones inside the Upstage — at the very last possible minute, considering its imminent demolition. "When Bruce called and wanted to do the interview there," the director recalls, "I had to run down to Asbury Park and get them to stop destroying the building so we could do it. He literally was the last man out. And when he walked out of the building, they started swinging the hammers. There's certainly some poetic value to that."
Steven Van Zandt inside the Upstage, before the hammers swung, for the Asbury Park documentary
In addition to the story of Asbury Park — and Asbury as a "microcosm of the country" — Jones says his documentary is a testament to "the power of music. Music is a place people turn to again and again in good times and bad, and it's a unifying force. It brings people together. That's what interests me most about this story: in high times and low, Asbury Park always had music. Music was the real social binder, the thing that brought people across the tracks from the west side to the east side and vice versa. It's what has brought Asbury Park back from the ashes.
"And I think music can serve a similar purpose for us all," he adds, "especially kids. Kids love music, and it's a great vehicle to reach them."
Jones think a lot about the future musicians of the world, like those Lakehouse Junior Pros who'll be peforming on Sunday. "The film is going to be a good fundraiser for the educational stuff that's going on here in Asbury Park and beyond," he says. Lest we forget, it wasn't just grizzled Upstage vets but youngsters on stage for that Upstage jam, too — those Lakehouse kids, students from the Lakehouse Music Academy who also feature in the film, performed alongside creators of the sound of Asbury Park.
"To me, that's a rich part of the film," Jones says. "Watching that 11-year-old trade guitar licks with Bruce, that was worth its weight in gold to me.
Proceeds from the film's May screenings will go to Lakehouse and other educational programs "in Asbury Park and beyond," with Jones also citing Beat Bus ("a kind of rolling recording studio built into a bus that we take around to schools") and Stevie Van Zandt's TeachRock foundation. "If we can sell those out, we're going to be able to do something significant for both Asbury Park and kids in general. That's the part I'm excited about. The only thing that'll be covered on the film are the hard costs, and everything else goes right to those programs."
After working for years on the documentary, the idea of these music eductaion programs reaping its rewards has Jones most excited. "That's what's kept me in it! I'm looking forward to that part of it more than anything."
For more information and ticketing for this weekend's APMFF event, visit apmff.org.
To purchase tickets for the May 22 theatrical events around the world — and again on May 29 in the U.S. — visit asburyparkmovietickets.com.
- April 23, 2019 - Christopher Phillips reporting
LOOKING FOR JAKE
Thanks to director Nick Mead, whose Clarence Clemons documentary screens this weekend at APMFF, for hipping us to this trailer for Broken Poet. Starring singer/songwriter Elliott Murphy as Jake Lion,
Emilio J. Ruiz's film also features guest spots from Bruce Springsteen and Patti Scialfa.
Mead tells us, "A couple of years ago I met with Elliott Murphy in Paris. I love this gentleman — a real poet, a real wordsmith, a real thinker, an inspiration. Over the years we've been talking about doing something together and we may be slowly getting there... meanwhile, I was happily surprised when this little gem turned up on my timeline. I don't know much about it, but it's chock full of surprises. Seems to be set in New York and Paris, with a cast of wonder!" - April 22, 2019
BLUE WITH LOU DROPPING FRIDAY
Til then, last chance to save 10% off Nils Lofgren's back catalog This Friday, April 26, is the official release date forBlue With Lou, Nils Lofgren's first studio album in eight years. As you can see above, Nils has autographed compact discs for us, pre-order now to get yours!
THE FUTURE. READY TO SHIP.
Backstreets is pleased to announce, having completed fulfillment of our successful Kickstarter campaign, Bruce Springsteen: Rock and Roll Future, the book, is now available to the general public. We want to thank our 1,001 backers who made this book possible, and all who followed and supported, it making Rock and Roll Future the number-two most popular photobook in the U.S. and the number-five most popular photobook globally on Kickstarter in 2018!
Bruce Springsteen: Rock and Roll Future is a coffee table collection of Barry Schneier's photography and memories from a historical night and turning point in the career of Springsteen and the E Street Band. Featuring contributions from Ernest "Boom" Carter, Eileen Chapman, Christopher Phillips, David Sancious, and Garry Tallent. Shipping now!
In early 1974, a young Bruce Springsteen had released two albums with minimal sales success and was actually in danger of being dropped by his record label. May 9, 1974 proved to be a watershed moment in his career, as Springsteen and the E Street Band opened for Bonnie Raitt at the Harvard Square Theatre in Cambridge, MA.
Famously in the audience that night, 45 years ago next month, was Jon Landau, music critic for Rolling Stone magazine and columnist for Cambridge-based The Real Paper. What Landau witnessed that night, and would write about afterwards, would alter the trajectory of Bruce's career forever — as well as his own (as Springsteen's producer/manager-to-be). One line in Landau's Real Paper column, perhaps the most famous concert review of all time, would reignite support for the artist. Emblazoned in ads and repeated in the press, it became known as "the quote heard 'round the world":
"I saw rock and roll future and its name is Bruce Springsteen."
Photographer Barry Schneier was also in attendance that night, on duty with his camera. His photographs, which remained entirely unseen for decades, are the only visual record of this storied performance. After numerous requests to tell the stories behind the photos, Barry teamed up with Chris Phillips and Backstreets, collaborating to produce a hardcover book as the defining record of this legendary evening.
This 150-page, richly designed, narrative and photographic journey through the night features Barry's personal recollections along with both color and black-and-white images of the Harvard Square Theatre performance.
Also included are reminiscences from all three living members of that era's E Street Band depicted in the book: Ernest Carter, David Sancious, and Garry Tallent. Phillips, editor of Backstreets, wrote the book's Introduction, and Eileen Chapman, director of The Bruce Springsteen Archives and Center for American Music, contributed a Foreword. Designed by Jay Inman, the presentation includes a gatefold incorporated into the casebound hardcover, which folds out to display a triptych of Barry's "For You" piano series [above].
Bruce Springsteen: Rock and Roll Future is also now available via Amazon.com. If you have a copy and you dig it, we encourage you to rate and review it on Amazon and/or Goodreads! - April 19, 2019
LITTLE STEVEN LOOKS BACK, AND MOVESFORWARD, WITH "A WORLD OF OUR OWN" Another track from the forthcoming Summer of Sorcery
The world can now listen to another preview track from Little Steven & the Disciples of Soul's forthcoming album Summer of Sorcery. First previewed exclusively at Billboard.com and now available on Little Steven's YouTube/Vevo channel, "A World of Our Own" clearly recalls the glories of Steven Van Zandt's musical past, as someone who grew up loving '60s rock, pop and soul and then later got to make his own contributions to the music as a songwriter, performer and bandleader. Longtime listeners will recognize the sound and sensibility of the girl groups and Southside Johnny & The Asbury Jukes (including a lyrical nod to a "heart of stone"). There's even what sounds like an honest-to-God harpsichord thrown into the mix. At the same time, the song concludes with the very modern, mature recognition that none us really gets to live in a world of our own, and we desperately need to stop trying to do so. "A World of Our Own" is one of Little Steven's most beautiful, heartbreaking ballads; it's also just as socially and politically astute as anything he's ever done. - April 18, 2019 - Shawn Poole reporting
ARE YOU TALKING TO ME?
Springsteen, Scorsese slated to appear at May Netflix event It's always awards season somewhere, and this spring Netflix wants people to know. That's why it's reprising FYSee (short for "For Your Consideration"), a month-long series of events designed to promote its offerings ahead of nominations for the 2019 Emmy Awards. And it has help from Bruce Springsteen, who will appear at a May 5 kickoff event in Los Angeles.
We're biased: we obviously lovedSpringsteen on Broadway, Thom Zimny's long-form document of the hit Broadway performance. (We're fans of The Crown, Black Mirror, and Ozark, too.) Like the choices consumers face for their bundling or app dollars, now Emmy nominations and voting are matters of serious competition. With the success of Springsteen on Broadway — not to mention an EGOT hanging in the balance — it's easy to see why he'd be eager to promote the platform.
To that end, the partnership with Netflix worked well enough that Springsteen agreed to join fellow creators like Oprah Winfrey, David Letterman, and Martin Scorsese. While a press report in Variety didn't make clear whether Springsteen and Scorsese will sit down for some type of joint question-and-answer session — an event that should be a Netflix special on its own — we can only hope. We've reached out to Netflix to learn more, including whether there will be any public ticket availabiity (most FYSee events appear to be open to Television Academy National Active members).
Emmy nominations take place for two weeks in June and are slated for announcement on July 16; the awards telecast takes place on September 22. - April 17, 2019
IN CAHOOTS IN ASBURY PARK
From author Davidson, a look at foundations of the local scene
Josh Davidson's In Cahoots in Asbury Park is an entertaining insider look at the Jersey Shore music scene of the 1970s, focusing upon local bands that laid the foundation for breakouts like the Jukes and the E Street Band later in the decade. The book traces the rise of a handful of local musicians from the closing of the Upstage, the late night club where many of the artists integral to the Asbury Park sound initially met, to the emergence of the Stone Pony as a hangout, giving voice to the likes of Ernest "Boom" Carter and the local and visiting jazz artists of the West Side who inspired him to pursue his own music career.
The other focus of Davidson's book is the formation of Cahoots, the hardworking bar band comprised of area musicians who were the backbone of the scene: George Theiss, Tony Amato, John Luraschi [below], John Oeser, Steve Schraeger, Tommy LaBella and Mike Scialfa. Where other accounts of the Asbury Park scene typically center upon Bruce Springsteen and Southside Johnny, Davidson takes a closer look at the foundational role of early Shore bands like Cahoots, The Shakes, and The Shots that regularly graced the stage in the early days of the Stone Pony.
The familiar rock 'n' roll themes are all here: band formations and breakups, brotherhood, bawdy antics, record company blues, and the shot at the elusive brass ring. The camaraderie between these local bands and Bruce's E Streeters is heartwarming and inspiring, and keyboardist Tomy Amato [below] credits Steve Van Zandt (who booked Cahoots) and Bruce for championing the emerging scene even as their own fortunes rose.
"You can't talk about the Asbury music scene or the Jersey Shore at that time, in that era, without mentioning Bruce Springsteen and Steve Van Zandt," says Amato. "They had a lot of input in to our bands. Steve helped the Shakes, Bruce helped Cahoots. Steve Van Zandt is 80 percent responsible for the sound of Asbury Park and 80 percent responsible for that whole music. He created it."
Inside Palace Amusements, Asbury Park, NJ, 1981 - photograph by Lewis Bloom
In Cahoots is chock full of gossipy tales of the band's constant battles with original Stone Pony owners Butch Pielka and Jack Roig; Davidson also gives voice to longtime fans like journalist/historian Robert Santelli, guitar-slinger Billy Hector, and Lewis Bloom, whose photography perfectly captures the excitement and passion of the Asbury scene. Like Anders Martensson's Local Heroes, In Cahoots illuminates the essential but often overlooked role of local musicians who paved the way and helped write the history of the city that became internationally famous.
Independently published, In Cahoots in Asbury Park is available now from Amazon (Paperback/Kindle), Barnes & Boble (Paperback/Nook), and Google. - April 17, 2019 - review by Lisa Iannucci and Craig Scupp - book cover by Michelle Slevin - photographs by Lewis Bloom
A NIGHT TO REMEMBER 2019
Springsteen straps on a guitar for Danny Clinch's big night
Saturday night in New York, Bruce Springsteen returned to the stage for the first time since Springsteen on Broadway, rocking out on two songs with the Tangiers Blues
Featuring Danny Clinch on harp, the band was entertaining at the Kristen Ann Carr Fund's annual A Night to Remember benefit. After opening with bluesy takes on Prince's "Kiss" and the Velvet Underground's "I'm Waiting for the Man" as Springsteen watched from offstage, the band was joined by Asbury Park's Rachel Ana Dobken for a vocal duet with Danny. Dobken, whose When It Happens to You LP came out in October, is also Musical Director at Clinch's Asbury-based Transparent Gallery. So Danny had an easy segue for the night's next special guest: "Do we have any other New Jersey musicians who want to join us?"
From stage left, a lean-and-mean Springsteen grabbed a Fender Telecaster and stepped right up. At center mic, Bruce led the band into "Rockin' Pneumonia and the Boogie Woogie Flu." The room — the upstairs loft at Tribeca Grill — was even smaller than the Walter Kerr Theatre, where Springsteen had been in residence all of last year, but the noise was bigger, and it was a thrill to see Bruce crank it up for a couple of shouters.
Joined by the Preservation Hall Jazz Band's Ben Jaffe on tuba, Springsteen took lead vocal again on "Downthe Road a Piece." After shredding on guitar and facing off with Clinch at center stage, Bruce called out a few times to keep the song going before finally calling it good. It was a short but inspiring burst of rock 'n' roll from Springsteen, his first public performance of 2019 — and considering this is the year the man turns 70, a potent confirmation that he ain't too old to rock and roll. As if you had any doubt.
Springsteen has jammed with the Tangiers Blues Band before, celebrating the reopening of Absury Lanes last June by jumping on stage with Clinch and his band for these two songs plus two more.
This time, Bruce was in the house specifically to raise a glass to Danny Clinch, this year's Honorary Chair for A Night to Remember. At the evening's outset, Clinch was brought on stage along with wife Maria to be thanked for his work on behalf of the Kristen Ann Carr Fund. The Fund's Michael Solomon called the rock 'n' roll photographer "always the coolest guy in the room, which is saying something," before remarks from Kristen's parents, Dave Marsh and Barbara Carr.
"Danny Clinch is a wonderful friend, a colleague, a member of the E Street family," said Carr. "We called him the renaissance man from Asbury Park, because he does so many different things — he's such a generous guy that I can't really list all the things he's helped or all the different people he's brought together, all the great people he's photographed. We're very proud, Danny, to have you here tonight, and your lovely wife Maria, and your son and daughter."
"I'm the guy who wrote, 'I have seen the future… of... photography!"
said Jon Landau, throwing his arm around Danny's shoulder. "And it's this man, right here!"
L-R: Barbara Carr, Danny and Maria Clinch, Michael Solomon, Bruce Springsteen, Jon Landau
Introducing the next one to speak, Landau continued, "He's known as The Boss wherever he goes, whatever street he walks down there's always somebody: 'Hey, Boss, how you doing'…. Actually, there are not many people for whom he's the boss. But along with Mrs. Landau, he's my boss…" and as the crowd laughed, Bruce took the mic.
"Danny's been such a big part of my life," Springsteen said. "He's contributed so much to my work. We've had a lot of great adventures together. I want to say he's a fabulous photograher, but he's also been tremendously important to us down in Asbury Park. He's part of our community, and he's a great friend of mine."
Clinch and his subject as envisioned by "Superstar" Springsteen himself, from the night's program
Clinch himself said a few words, before his band took the stage and the night's entertainment began: "I'm really honored and grateful to be here, in honor of Kristen and the great work that her family has done — Sasha [Carr], Dave, and Barbara. As I was growing up, I gravitated toward a lot of great music and great bands that got me excited about wanting to document them. One being Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band. Pearl Jam, bands like Dave Matthews, Patti Smith, and the Beastie Boys.... funny enough, those are all people who give back to their community. It's been a big inspiration to me and part of the reason why I do that sort of thing."
A couple of Springsteen-signed Danny Clinch prints the photographer donated to Saturday night's auction
The Kristen Ann Carr Fund provides grants for sarcoma research and seeks to improve the lives of cancer patients. A silent auction — featuring prints by Clinch and fellow photographers Eric Meola, Frank Stefanko, Pete Souza and more, as well as an Eddie Vedder-signed ukulele — raised funds for KACF on Saturday night. Additional items are on the block now at charitybuzz.com, including a Little Steven & the Disciples of Soul ticket-meet-and-greet package, with more to be added in the coming weeks. You can also donate to the KACF online at sarcoma.com. - April 15, 2019 - report and photographs by Christopher Phillips
HAPPY BIRTHDAY, MIGHTY MAX!
Max Weinberg turns 68 today, born April 13, 1951. He returns to the road later this month with Max Weinberg's Jukebox, playing Hopewell NJ's Hopewell Theater on April 25, with many more shows to follow throughout the summer and into the fall. See the full schedule at maxweinberg.com. - April 13, 2019 - photograph by Leland Sandberg
1974 IN FOCUS: MIKE APPEL WITH BACKSTREETS' JONATHAN PONT
May 19 event in NYC looks back on the lead-up to Born to Run Forty-five years gone by now, 1974 was a year of change for Bruce Springsteen, bringing shifts on a host of fronts. On May 19, Springsteen's first manager and producer Mike Appel (above) will join Backstreets Associate Editor Jonathan Pont to look at the events and music that shaped the year.
"There are years that history tends to obscure, and 1974 is one," Pont says. "So much went into setting up the success that Born to Run became."
Appel, of course, served Springsteen from 1972 to 1976, and they formally parted ways in the spring of 1977. "Mike tells the story as only he can," Pont says. "He was there for everything, from the business and the creative side."
"In Conversation: Mike Appel" takes place on Sunday, May 19, at 3pm as part of the Hamilton Park House Concerts series on Staten Island. See the Facebook event page for further details and advance tickets. - April 11, 2019 - photograph courtesy of Mike Appel
GREENSBORO POSTERS: OUT OF THE VAULT AND ONTO YOUR WALL
Previously unseen, original 4/10/16 concert posters to benefit Equality NC
Three years ago today: the Greensboro show that wasn't. After North Carolina state legislators passed the discriminatory HB2 (The Public Facilities Privacy & Security Act), Bruce Springsteen made the decision to bypass the state on his 2016 River Tour. Taking a stand in "this fight against prejudice and bigotry," he cancelled the E Street Band's April 10 concert — the tour's only scheduled stop in North Carolina — "with deepest apologies to our dedicated fans in Greensboro." [See Springsteen's full statement here]
From the Backstreets office in Chapel Hill, NC, we wrote three years ago tonight:
At this very moment, in a parallel universe, we're just down the highway in Greensboro, NC, reveling in the power and the glory of the E Street Band in concert, with friends and family from our homestate and from much farther afield. Over there, they're at "Born to Run" right about now. Of course, that alternate timeline is one in which Bruce Springsteen doesn't hold the conviction that nobody wins unless everybody wins.
Can't say there's much pleasure in not seeing a Springsteen show tonight, but the sense that this was an important stand to take rules the day.
While the show itself did not go on, show posters had already been designed and printed for the Greensboro Coliseum concert. The eleventh-hour cancellation was too late to stop the presses — but it's clear from the rainbow-themed design that the Springsteen camp had already been paying attention to the human rights issues taking center stage in North Carolina.
Last month, additional concert posters from other stops on The River Tour 2016 were sold to benefit WhyHunger (a few remain — see the offering here). The Greensboro poster is exclusive to Backstreets, with proceeds benefitting Equality NC.
As Equality NC executive director Kendra R. Johnson tells Backstreets, the non-profit "is engaged in the ongoing fight to secure equal rights and protections for all LGBTQ North Carolinians. Much of our efforts are currently focused on anti-violence work for the most vulnerable members of our communities and ensuring that LGBTQ people are protected to the fullest extent of the law."
Johnson tells us that they were "impressed by the attention that Bruce Springsteen and others brought to the discriminatory nature of HB2," describing the boycott as "a useful tactic at the time... [it] sent a message to legislators that discrimination against our transgender brothers, sisters and siblings won't be tolerated."
In 2017, following boycotts by Springsteen, Pearl Jam, Ringo Starr, and other entertainment acts — as well as the NBA, PayPal, Deutsche Bank, and numerous other corporations and state governments — NC state legislators repealed HB2.
They replaced it, however, with a compromise bill, HB142, which "remedies some of the problems encompassed by its predecessor while still failing to adequately remedy the damage done," according to Johnson. "Notably, HB142 still imposes discriminatory restrictions on public accommodations for trans people and prevents local municipalities from passing non-discrimination ordinances until 2020."
Proceeds from our sale of these original Greensboro posters will aid Equality NC's efforts as they work with lawmakers to repeal HB142 and thereby fully and finally repeal HB2.
GOOD GOD, Y'ALL! IT'S LOS ANGELES, 1985 As the tour's last stand begins, it's "War" as Springsteen stays on point The end of the Born in the U.S.A. tour was Bruce Springsteen's biggest public moment, a four-night stand at the Los Angeles Coliseum that showed everything he and the E Street Band had worked more than a decade to achieve. After a year of touring, having grown into a mainstream entertainment figure and a fixture in American culture, Springsteen could have taken the stage in Los Angeles simply to celebrate.
Granted, there's plenty of that in this month's archive release, Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, September 27, 1985, the stand's opening night. The 30-track set features most of Springsteen's blockbuster seventh LP, a half-dozen covers (including Jimmy Cliff's "Trapped," making its first archive series appearance, and a stark take on Woody Guthrie's "This Land Is Your Land"), and two songs played for the first time: "War" and "Janey, Don't You Lose Heart."
Not content to merely acknowledge the end of his most successful era on the road, Springsteen took the opportunity to clarify what it all meant, using Edwin Starr's 1970 Motown hit "War" (written by Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong) to drive the message home. Debuting that night, the song went on to take a significant role, both in messaging and in creating yet another hit record.
Lean and uptempo, 9/27 embraces music of the day, namely six top-ten singles from Born in the U.S.A. (Columbia would release a seventh, "My Hometown," in time for the holidays). Many older numbers, like "Rosalita" and "Jungleland," were put aside; compared to the 1984 run at the nearby Sports Arena, more than a quarter of the set was new. Turnover like that was healthy, just one way Springsteen kept pace with the Born in the U.S.A. hit parade. As the 15-month tour went on, his storyboard approach to setlists let the show evolve: a creative peak followed the 1984 campaign rally in which President Reagan implied a connection with Springsteen, who countered with a longer, more nuanced section from Nebraska. By the middle of 1985, only "Johnny 99" and "Atlantic City" stayed in most nights (as they do here), making room for "Seeds," which debuted in the U.K. in July, and an expanded version of "The River."
Springsteen's success and unprecedented exposure that year led audiences to pack enormous open-air sports stadiums in Australia, Europe, and North America (he visited Japan, too, but played smaller indoor venues). Though the scale made Springsteen and the E Street Band look smaller, they sounded mightier than ever, with "Born in the U.S.A." their sonic proving ground each night. Here, why Springsteen shouts "incoming!" during the song's breakdown remains open to interpretation; whether a heat-of-the-moment exhortation or something else, it doesn't sound out of place as the band reenacts the spontaneity heard on the original studio recording. That roar led the E Street sound for most of 1985, thrilling newly-minted fans and old timers alike.
Near the end, non-LP B-sides appeared back-to-back — manna for serious fans, and an opportunity for others to get a jump on traffic. A gold-medal sprint through the "Glory Days" B-side "Stand On It" gave way to the first-ever "Janey, Don't You Lose Heart," a Born in the U.S.A. outtake just released as the B-side on "I'm Goin' Down," the LP's sixth single. (In a twist, they omit the Clarence Clemons solo that graces the studio version, opting instead for Roy Bittan playing the solo on piano and keyboard.)
The encore began, however, on a more serious note: standing by himself in front of 83,000 people, Springsteen sang "This Land Is Your Land," calling it perhaps "the greatest song… that has ever been written about America." Its spare arrangement and Springsteen's sincerity made for a study in performance, and he sang a timely verse that he hadn't on The River tour.
And then there's "War." This final phase of the Born in the U.S.A. tour found Springsteen seemingly in search not for an exclamation point, but an underscore. Many people heard "Born in the U.S.A." for something it was not, putting Springsteen in the uncomfortable position of having to explain his music and his views. Springsteen may not have been able to control public perception of his work or image, but he came to Los Angeles ready to have the last word.
For a year, he'd worked to frame the discussion on more basic levels, both metaphorically and practically. For its B-side, the "Born in the U.S.A." 45 featured another coming-home-from-war narrative, "Shut Out the Light" — maybe Springsteen's best-ever single. In concert, he talked about the danger of blind faith and the disappearing safety net. He pushed back against the president and talked explicitly about hunger, working with food banks to highlight a nagging American problem. All this worked — to a point.
He couldn't exactly stop the concert to deliver a lesson on "Born in the U.S.A." — its work was done early, when the enormous American flag backdrop collapsed at song's end. Whatever that dramatic moment meant — for some patrons, perhaps commentary on the American experiment; for others, simply the start of "Badlands" — remained ambiguous. "War," however, was not only cathartic, it was explicit and hard to misinterpret. He dedicated it to young people, warning that "blind faith in anything, your leaders, in 1985, will get you killed."
Passing on the lessons from his generation, Springsteen created something of a public reckoning of his own experience around the time of the war in Vietnam. As the stand went on, he refined his remarks before "The River," introducing the number not as one about economic woes, but instead as one of acceptance and reconciliation.
"War" got better as the band got its hooks in: their version landed in the top 10 in 1986 (using the take from September 30, which became a significant source for the box set Live/1975-85). For the Tunnel of Love tour in 1988, Springsteen paired it with "Born in the U.S.A.," reprising both in a way that was difficult to miss.
The enormity of 1985 obscured it for some — by the end, even Springsteen himself felt "Bruced-out." All along, however, he remained focused on the music, any era's rightful yardstick. And, 35 years since its release, historians are still discussing what "Born in the U.S.A." means. This recording, from start to finish, contains a few more hints; they're just louder.
Also read: Erik Flannigan's latest nugs.net blog entry, "Tell Your Mama" - April 5, 2019 - Jonathan Pont reporting
BLINDED BY THE LIGHT LOS ANGELES PREMIERE, APRIL 3
"I'll Stand By You Always" a post-Sundance addition to the film Sarfraz Manzoor is a British journalist, documentary filmmaker and broadcaster. He's also a bit of a Bruce Springsteen fan. Manzoor has attended more than 150 Springsteen concerts. His memoir, Greetings from Bury Park, is about his life growing up in the 80s in Luton (Bedfordshire), England, as an immigrant from Pakistan, with Springsteen a driving force in helping the writer pursue his passion and leave the rest behind. After an acclaimed Sundance premiere in January, the memoir's big-screen adaptation will arrive in theaters on August 14. Blinded by the Light (Warner Brothers) tells the story of Manzoor's late teens in Luton, at the precise moment he discover's Springsteen's music, and the tidal wave of inspiration that will shape his life.
Manzoor, also lead screenwriter for the film, was on hand with director Gurinder Chadha (right) to introduce the film at Wednesday night's Los Angeles premiere, including a triumphant tale of getting a "yes" from Springsteen, who allowed his music to be used in the film. Springsteen is well known for guarding his music from commercial use, often one of the most reluctant of artists to clear music rights. Chadha and Manzoor got an informal go-ahead to use it after waiting patiently for Springsteen at the 2010 London premiere of The Promise: The Making of Darkness on the Edge of Town. As Chadha tells it, surrounded by fans, reporters, and cameras, Bruce recognized Manzoor, having read and loved his memoir. In that moment Chadha screamed, "We want to make his book into a movie and we need your music!" To which Bruce replied, "Sounds good."
In the film, set in Luton in 1987, a meek fifteen-year-old Javed (played skillfully by Viveik Kalra, his first leading role in a feature film) wants to be a writer. His only creative outlet is writing songs for his friend's band. Javed is kind-hearted and locked into the traditions of his parents and Pakistani culture; he and his family face racism daily from members of the far-right British National Front. Fate puts Javed in the path of fellow student Roops (Aaron Phagura), who is all-Bruce, all the time. The cassettes Roops lends him — Darkness on the Edge of Town and Born in the U.S.A. — immediately transform Javed.
Viveik Kalra and Nell Williams, Los Angeles, April 3, 2019
There will be delightful surprises and moments of recognition throughout the film for any Springsteen fan. While Blinded keeps music of-the-era, focusing primarily on Springsteen's work leading up to and including Born in the U.S.A., the film does use the Springsteen on Broadway version of "The Promised Land" to carry the weight of the moment musically. One of the biggest Easter eggs is a new addition, added since its Sundance screenings: over the credits, Springsteen's "I'll Stand by You Always" finally makes its way to the silver screen. Bruce originally wrote the song for Chris Columbus' Harry Potter film two decades ago; it remained on the cutting room floor. In Blinded, "I'll Stand by You Always" serves its purpose well as a button to a film about another British boy finding his own magic.
Are some moments slightly campy? Sure. The film does challenge the audience to stand in it, to strip away cynicism and give in to fully heartwarming, completely earnest moments. In one scene in particular, as Javed begins singing "Thunder Road" to Eliza (Nell Williams), the entire market joins in, singing and dancing. It becomes an explosion of emotion, as though everyone in a casual Saturday farmers market is suddenly in the pit at an E Street Band show.
In another scene "Born to Run" is there to be felt the way we have all imagined it as we blast it on headphones, the whole world around you going from black-and-white into color. Heart stoppin,' pants droppin' joy. These are moments of bliss worth holding on to as Blinded reminds the audience that there is always a force that will fight against your elation. The film blurs the heightened world of possibility and freedom with the harsh realities of a bad economy, family despair, violence, and bigotry.
L-R: Gurinder Chadha, Viveik Kalra, Nell Williams, Aaron Phagura, and Sarfraz Manzoor, Los Angeles, April 3, 2019
Blinded by the Light is a film that will move most fans of rock 'n' roll ; to have it focus on a Springsteen fan is a pure treat. It's a perfect reminder of the moment in every fan's life when youth and vulnerability met Springsteen's work. And as with any successful musical — which, in a way, this film is — the music and the lyrics are the vehicle that move Javed's story forward to find his own piece of salvation. - April 3, 2019 - report and photographs by Emily Dorezas
TURN IT UP!
Bruce's Esquire, Clarence's sax, and more sacred totems of rock 'n' roll now on display at the Met
There are more than 130 instruments showcased at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in their exhibition opening today, titled Play It Loud: Instruments of Rock & Roll. As you wind your way through the rooms past the guitar Chuck Berry played on "Johnny B. Goode," Jerry Lee Lewis' piano, Keith Richards' legendary Micawber, Wanda Jackson's leather-tooled Martin D-18, Stevie Ray Vaughan's composite Strat — and many, many, many more instruments of similar provenance and import — there are two items of particular interest to Backstreets readers.
First of all, the Esquire is in residence, suspended as if by magic in its own deep display case. (As the exhibition notes, Springsteen's beloved, trademark guitar is actually a modified composite, with an Esquire neck on a Telecaster body.) If you didn't get to see it when it was in repose at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, now is your chance to walk up as close to it as most of us are likely to get, and just, well, stare at it.
You will know it from across the room, even without a familiar Eric Meola-composed silhouette on the wall adjacent; you would likely know that particular shape, the wear at the top of the body on the curve, just parallel with the pickup, that well-worn path etched from decades of chords. The fretboard and the headstock seem so... unremarkable, when you stop to consider the music that has emanated from that particular piece of wood. The Esquire is towards the end of the exhibit, so when you hit the video room, turn around and come back for another look, because you will always want one more chance to look at that guitar.
But the item that held the most interest for me was past the big wow instruments in the first few rooms, in a vitrine against the wall as you walk past the Roots' setup to your right and a vast selection of keyboards to your left (say hello to Ian McLagen's Wurlitzer that he played on "Miss You"). In a corner, sharing space with Patti Smith's clarinet, is a beaten and battle-worn Selmer Mark VI tenor saxophone (serial no. 146268) that belonged to Clarence "Big Man" Clemons and was used to play the solos on "Jungleland" and "Thunder Road."
In the room just past the saxophone, you can watch a wonderful interview with Keith Richards where he waxes rhapsodical about the connection between the electricity and the life force in our bodies and brains, and how that enables musicians to channel some kind of divine force. It is wonderful because I agree wholeheartedly with him, wandering this maze of absolutely familiar and absolutely sacred totems that are representative of the place music plays in our lives as well as the vehicles directly through which the generated magic is transmuted.
So maybe it is fantastic or dramatic to assert, standing adjacent to this saxophone played by that human on those songs, that the Big Man's saxophone holds some kind of mystical vibration that, if you want to, you can feel or connect to or will into existence... but that would exactly be the power, the glory, the mystery, and the ministry… of rock 'n' roll, now wouldn't it?
Honorable E Street alumni mention goes to several of Tom Morello's instruments featured in the exhibition as well.
Play It Loud: Instruments of Rock & Roll is at the Metropolitan Museum of Art from April 3 to October 1, 2019. More information is here. The exhibition will travel to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland in November 2019. - April 3, 2019 - report and photographs by Caryn Rose
LONG TIME COMIN', NOW HE’S HERE E Street Radio finally gets a Danny DeVito Guest DJ E Street Radio has tried for years to have legendary actor and filmmaker Danny DeVito as one of their Guest DJs. It actually started to seem like it’d never happen, but recently the stars finally aligned (particularly with DeVito out and about promoting Tim Burton’s new live-action Dumbo remake, in which he plays the circus ringleader), and E Street Radio finally got their man.
DeVito, born in Neptune, NJ and raised in Asbury Park, is a longtime fan of his fellow Oscar winner and New Jersey Hall of Famer Bruce Springsteen. He’s also a frequent Springsteen concert attendee. "I try not to miss any of his performances wherever I go, if I'm out of the country, even," says DeVito during his Guest DJ session. "I've seen him in Spain. I've seen him in London. I’ve seen him all over, and I’m very fortunate that I could do that."
DeVito's Guest DJ session debuted over the weekend — catch him talkin’ Bruce and playing his top ten favorite Springsteen tracks, replaying tomorrow and for the next week:
Wednesday, April 3 at 5pm
Friday, April 5 at 4pm and 11:59pm
Saturday, April 6 at 8am
Sunday, April 7 at 5pm
Monday, April 8 at 4pm and 11:59pm
Tuesday, April 9 at 8am
Wednesday, April 10 at 6pm
All times are ET, exclusively on Sirius/XM Channel 20. - April 2, 2019 - Shawn Poole reporting
LONGREAD: THE BACKSTREETS INTERVIEW WITH BRIAN HIATT How to find something fresh to say about Bruce Springsteen's body of work? You could start with a whopping 60 hours of new interviews with key players — musicians, producers, and engineers — which is just one element in the mix for Brian Hiatt's new Bruce Springsteen: The Stories Behind the Songs.
Just published by Abrams Books in the U.S. and Carlton Books in the U.K., the book is a soup-to-nuts, Greetings-to-High Hopes survey of Springsteen's entire recorded catalog of original songs. More than 300 of them, taken on chronologically and one-by-one.
From early associates to latter-day collaborators, with many that span the years, Hiatt's Who's Who list of interviewees is worth once again typing out: Larry Alexander, Ron Aniello, Mike Appel, Roy Bittan, Bob Clearmountain, Danny Clinch, Cameron Crowe, Neil Dorfsman, Jimmy Iovine, Randy Jackson — and the names keep coming, dawg — Rob Jaczko, Louis Lahav, Nils Lofgren, Gary Mallaber, Tom Morello, Brendan O'Brien, Thom Panunzio, Chuck Plotkin, Bary Rebo, Marty Rifkin, Sebastian Rotella, David Sancious, Toby Scott, Soozie Tyrell, Max Weinberg, and Thom Zimny.
That's on top of interviews the author had already done with Springsteen (five times), Steven Van Zandt, Jon Landau, and more in his 15 years at Rolling Stone, plus transcripts shared by his colleagues. Combined with his own extensive research and insights as a longtime fan, Hiatt has created a rich survey of the Springsteen songbook that is, even for major fans, as enlightening as it is entertaining.
With his book hot off the presses, Brian will be heading to his publisher's office in New York for us shortly, to sign The Stories Behind the Songs especially for Backstreet Records customers. Order now to guarantee a signed copy.
In the meantime, a longread.
In late March, Backstreets editor Chris Phillips spoke at length with Brian Hiatt, delving into the thought process, detective work, close listens, and conversations that informed The Stories Behind the Songs. After a Greetings listening session with David Sancious and a chat with Chuck Plotkin that left him limping, Brian kindly sat for an epic conversation with Backstreets — nowhere near 60 hours, but long enough to dig into Springsteen's 1977 "Star Wars tape" and how Barry White inspired Max Weinberg.
We had a much briefer Q&A with Hiatt in December, but after receiving an advance copy and devouring it cover-to-cover… just like the book, we wanted to go deep.
- March 31, 2019 - Getty Images / from Bruce Springsteen: The Stories Behind the Songs
BELIEVE IN THE HOPE Songs of Hope joins live archival playlists on streaming services
After last year's Songs of the Road, and January's Songs of Friendship, Springsteen's The Live Series continues today with Songs of Hope. The streaming series of playlists brings together live performances from the ongoing live.brucespringsteen.net archive releases, curated by theme. With Songs of Hope, another 15 live tracks have just been added to streaming services:
Land of Hope and Dreams
Apollo Theater, New York, NY - 03/09/12
Agora, Cleveland, OH - 08/09/78
MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford, NJ - 08/30/16
Does This Bus Stop at 82nd Street?
HSBC Arena, Buffalo, NY - 11/22/09
Tower Theater, Upper Darby, PA - 12/31/75
The Promised Land
King's Hall, Belfast, UK - 03/19/96
My Lucky Day
Ullevi Stadium, Goteberg, Sweden - 06/25/16
Tougher Than the Rest
Stockholms Stadion, Stockholm, SE - 07/03/88
This Is Your Sword
Times Union Center, Albany, NY - 05/13/14
My City of Ruins
Olympiastadion, Helsinki, Finland - 07/31/12
From Small Things (Big Things One Day Come)
Time Warner Cable Arena, Charlotte, NC - 04/19/14
Palace Theatre, Albany, NY - 02/07/77
MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford, NJ - 08/30/16
Ippodromo delle Capannelle, Rome, Italy - 07/11/13
This Hard Land
Estadio de Anoeta, San Sebastian, Spain - 05/17/16
Spanning more than 40 years of living proof from the U.S. and Europe, from 1975 to 2016, the dope is that this playlist will provide some surefire uplift (other than, maybe, cashing in those dreams on "The Promise")... may its hope give you hope. Listen now via Apple Music or Spotify. - March 29, 2019
"BORN IN THE U.S.A.": ANOTHER SHOT TO GET IT RIGHT Kicking off last July and running through this July, American Anthem is a yearlong NPR series focusing on "songs that rouse, unite, celebrate and call to action." Rich territory for This Thing of Ours, and indeed, the latest episode focuses squarely on Bruce Springsteen: "What does 'Born in the U.S.A.' really mean?"
Airing this week on Morning Edition — with host Steve Inskeep asking of Springsteen's hit, "How was it so widely misunderstood?" — the piece covers a lot of ground in seven minutes. NPR Music director (and Friend of Backstreets) Lauren Onkey offers solid history, discussing the song's origins in Bruce's early-'80s involvement with the veterans movement, his demo of "Vietnam," and the evolution of the song before things move on to George Will, Ronald Reagan, Chris Christie (who, say what you will, does understand the song) and the rest. After decades of misinterpretations, rearrangements, and recontextualizations, Inskeep concludes, "Maybe the meaning of 'Born in the U.S.A.' is the distance between the grim verses and the joyous chorus."
"Born in the U.S.A.," says Onkey, "describes the ambiguities and challenges of the country that I have grown up in. And for me, it's a rock 'n' roll anthem: This singer, and the scream, and the sound of the guitar, and the scale of the song suggest that rock 'n' roll is big enough and important enough to tell that story."
Visit the episode page to stream or download the audio, and find more installments in the American Anthem series here. - March 28, 2019
JOHNNY BYE-BYE: RENOWNED PRINCETON ECONOMIST, ROCKONOMICS AUTHOR, AND SPRINGSTEEN FAN ALAN B. KRUEGER
Following the death earlier this week of economist Alan B. Krueger [above right], we heard from Volker Grossmann, Professor of Economics at University of Fribourg in Switzerland, calling the New Jerseyan "one of the greatest economists of the world… and, like myself, a great fan of Bruce Springsteen." We asked Dr. Grossmann to tell us more, and he provided this obituary for Backstreets.
It was shocking news: one of the world's greatest and most widely cited economists, Alan B. Krueger, Professor of Political Economy at Princeton University and dedicated Bruce Springsteen fan, died by suicide on March 16, 2019, at age 58. Alan grew up in Livingston, NJ. Like Bruce, he was deeply motivated in giving a voice to the economic situation of the poor and disadvantaged.
By his mid-30s, Krueger had already become a star in academia. In a widely cited and co-authored article published in 1994, he took advantage of a minimum wage reform in New Jersey to provide clean evidence for the possibility of raising minimum wages without endangering employment. His results were contrary to conventional wisdom at that time and supported by later evidence. They continue to influence minimum wage policies around the globe. Most economics professors (including myself) were convinced that, sooner rather than later, he would receive the Nobel Prize in Economics for making it a hard, empirical science.
Serving as an economic advisor for both the Clinton administration and the Obama administration, Alan was heavily involved in U.S. politics (helping to overcome the deep financial crisis starting in 2008), and he became publicly well known. He delivered a widely acclaimed speech at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2013, when he served as Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisors, borrowing the title of his speech from Springsteen's masterpiece "Land of Hope and Dreams." [See: "Land of Hope and Dreams: Rock and Roll, Economics, and Rebuilding the Middle Class"]. His main theme was that the U.S. income distribution has evolved as a winner-take-all economy, resembling the highly unequal distribution of concert tour revenues in the music industry.
Alan also popularized what he called "The Great Gatsby Curve," showing that higher income inequality in a country means greater dependence of personal income on the economic status of parents. Again, his conclusion challenged conventional wisdom; surging income inequality has made the U.S. the land with the least equality of opportunity in the Western world, rather than the land of hope and dreams.
His forthcoming and, sadly, final book is about the economics of the music industry, entitled Rockonomics (from Penguin/Random House, to be published in June). You can be sure he included references to Bruce Springsteen. - March 22, 2019 - Dr. Volker Grossmann reporting - photograph by Pete Souza
SPRINGSTEEN ARCHIVES ON THE BIG SCREEN FOR APMFF Just added to the 2019 Asbury Park Music and Film Festival lineup in April: a special screening of rare Springsteen footage from the vaults. Thom Zimny will be on hand at the Paramount Theatre to present this archival material on the big screen, and Backstreets' Chris Phillips will moderate a panel and Q&A discussion afterward. From today's press release:
The Asbury Park Music & Film Festival (APMFF) and the Bruce Springsteen Archives and Center for American Music at Monmouth University are proud to announce The Bruce Springsteen Archives taking place at the Paramount Theatre on Saturday, April 27 at 4pm ET....
Thom Zimny, long time film director and archivist for Bruce Springsteen, will present an exclusive screening of rare and never before seen footage of Springsteen from the Thrill Hill Vault spanning from his early years to recent tour highlights. Following the screening, a panel discussion and Q&A will take place moderated by Backstreets editor, Chris Phillips....
"We are thrilled to have Thom Zimny present rare concert footage spanning Bruce Springsteen's live career on stage at this year's Asbury Park Music & Film Festival," said Eileen Chapman, Bruce Springsteen Archives and Center for American Music at Monmouth University. "The historic Paramount Theatre will serve as the perfect venue to witness this very special afternoon of unique Springsteen archival film and video."
The Bruce Springsteen Archives joins previously reported Springsteen/E Street-related content at this year's APMFF, including the screening of a new cut of the Clarence Clemons: Who Do I Think I Am? documentary. Phillips will also be moderating the panel following Asbury Park: Riot, Redemption, Rock 'n' Roll.
The 2019 Asbury Park Music and Film Festival runs from April 25 to April 28, benefitting the underserved children in Asbury Park by providing music education, instruments, and social connection opportunities. Funds raised through the APMFF will support three programs including Hope Academy, The Hip Hop Institute, and the Asbury Park Summer Recreation Music Camp. - March 20, 2019
THE REST ON SALE
Save 10% off Nils Lofgren's back catalog in advance of Blue With Lou
Blue With Lou, Nils Lofgren's first studio album in eight years, is coming next month — it features a dozen new recordings, half of them written with the late, great Lou Reed.
In case you missed our original offer, Nils has very kindly offered to autograph copies for Backstreets customers. Blue With Lou is coming on vinyl and compact disc on April 26, and he'll be signing both for us — pre-order yours now to have his new album signed by Nils!
With that new album on its way, we've also stocked up on Lofgren's back catalog — some we're carrying for the first time — and we're putting all of these titles on sale to celebrate. While a good deal of Nils's output remains out of print, there's plenty of great stuff available, including live albums, 1983's Wonderland and his 2009 tribute to another boss, The Loner: Nils Sings Neil.
Use the coupon code LEFTY to get 10% off any and all of the following:
FOR UKE, FOR UKE, I CAME FOR UKE Born to Uke and more four-string phenoms
"Today I'm going to try to convince you that what the world needs now is ukulele. You know it's the underdog of all instruments. I've always believed it's the instrument of peace. I believe that if everybody played the ukulele the world would be a happier place." — Jake Shimabukuro from a TED Talk in 2010
"There I was.... I woke up in the Disneyland Hotel with two hookers, five Mouseketeers, and this ukulele in the bed." — Bruce Springsteen introducing "I Wanna Marry You" in E. Rutherford, NJ, November 17, 2005
One of the most popular YouTube videos of the past dozen years is a grainy, almost primitive clip shot in Central Park of Jake Shimabukuro, performing a beautiful rendition of George Harrison's "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" — on ukulele. At more than 16 million views to date, the viral video is almost rivaled by Shimabukuro's ukulele take on Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody," at more than 9 million views. What's going on in the music world, particularly our little corner of it, when there's so much activity around what seems the unlikeliest of rock 'n' roll instruments?
Take a deeper dive and you'll find, when in the right hands and used properly, the ukulele can be a potent shading instrument in the toolbox of the folk and rock elite. Beyond George Harrison, a modern ukulele pioneer, you'll find R.E.M., Amanda Shires, Brian May of Queen, Eddie Vedder, Magnetic Fields, Taylor Swift, Jack Johnson, Roger Daltrey and many others who have brought the ukulele front-and-center (or at least into the conversation) in recent years.
Then there was the off-Broadway tribute by musician Jim Boggia: as a companion to Springsteen on Broadway, Boggia performed Bruce Off Broadway entirely on the 19th century instrument popularized by King Kalakaua of Hawaii. The show received raves, and Boggia still performs it occasionally in both New York and Boston.
Iceland's Svavar Knutur, who takes "Night"on a midnight run for Born to Uke
Born to Uke
Now, we're presented with Born to Uke: a new compilation featuring the songs of Born to Run performed by some notable and new Americana artists, all on ukelele — yes, the entire Born to Run album, reimagined with only ukulele, bass, and vocals. Hearing about Born to Uke, one's first thought could reasonably be "Why?" Does the world need another Springsteen tribute, much less one centered around Tiny Tim's weapon of choice?
In fact, yes, Born to Uke is a warm, worthy addition to the canon of Springsteen tributes. Born to Uke takes what is essentially a tour de force of a day in the life of characters Bruce sings about, and distills it into a perfect Sunday morning record. Songs that have seared themselves not only into our consciousness but the collective American consciousness are stripped down to their essence. While some of the more complex orchestrations and melodic movements from the originals don't carry over to these interpretations, their directness and emotional resonance remain intact.
Born to Uke producer and contributor ("She's the One") Keith Metzger [right] explains, "What I think is unique about the ukulele is the intimacy of the instrument. The feeling, and the sound — for me, playing the ukulele is just more of an intimate experience than when I play guitar. That feeling can easily carry over to a performance or a recording. Maybe that's why songs that were conceived with a loud rock 'n' roll band in mind still work on something as relatively sparse as Born to Uke — because of how deeply intimate the lyrics are."
While this is the case throughout the record, nowhere does it ring as true as on the one-two punch of Svavar Knutur's reading of "Night" and The Weepies' gorgeous take on "Backstreets." Iceland's Knutur takes Springsteen's screaming rocker and transforms it into a Sufjan Stevens-esque meditation. Despite the change in tempo and vocal, Knutur's contribution shows what can be done by taking a great song apart and putting it back, piece by emotive piece.
The Weepies — husband-and-wife team Steve Tannen and Deb Talan — place "Backstreets" very much into the here and now, turning a song about a dying relationship of one's youth into a more mature, middle-aged lament about a relationship that could just as easily have fit on Tunnel of Love. Deb Talan's lightly layered harmony lifts the track to a place of elegance against Tannen's silvery lead vocal.
Born to Uke is full of intimate moments like this. Opening with former Nickel Creek vocalist Sara Watkins, the sublime performance of "Thunder Road" sounds like Watkins is in a wooden rocking chair, singing on the porch where Mary's dress waves.
The album's last song, "Jungleland," might have been particularly daunting, given the length, complexity, and, frankly, unsurpassable performances of the original. For one thing, how do you pull off this classic without Clarence Clemons' signature saxophone? The modern retro approach of Kai Welch [right], which approximates moments of Manfred Mann's "Blinded by the Light" and lush vocals a la 10cc, moves the song forward and keeps it from being held hostage by its glorious past.
Kai Welch explained his approach to Backstreets recently: "I recorded this a while ago, back in 2013 or 2014, in my bedroom. You have to stand back and look at that song like you're taking in the Taj Mahal or something. I thought, 'It's going to hurt my brain to try to figure out how to do this whole thing.' You have to take it in pieces. So I just started from the top. I sat there with the ukulele, trying to think of a way to express [each piece]. I just played it over and over, and I did it in sections. So when it came to Clarence's sax solo portion, and the whole transition into the outro of the song, I used my voice as an instrument to come up with a harmonic chord structure, and I recorded my voice a bunch of times to keep the process moving."
Indigo Girls singer Emily Saliers [right] told Backstreets that she recorded her version of the song "Born to Run" for the project and then became enamored of Springsteen.
"You know it's interesting… It's not that I didn't get him, but I just came to the party late. I remember being really, really struck by "Born in the U.S.A.," because it was a hit on the radio. It was talking about very powerful social issues regarding the war, and I thought it was interesting that people could hear that and take it as a patriotic anthem. Amy (Ray) was a die-hard Bruce fan, and so honestly I didn't start digging into him until this project. [Born to Uke] happened, and then I fell in love with him. I watched all the videos, and I ended up seeing him on Broadway. It was just… I don't know how to describe it. The stories, his humility, his charisma and command of the stage, going back through his catalogue… it means so much to me. In fact, I'm so glad that I met his music when I did in life, because I think earlier, when I was waaay into Joni Mitchell and Heart and Jackson Browne, I might not have had room for him then. And now there was this opening for him to just come in and blow me away."
Born to Uke, also featuring Will Kimbrough's take on "Tenth Avenue Freeze-out" and Albatross's "Meeting Across the River," is available to download or stream on all major music services. Proceeds benefit Little Kids Rock, a group that works to serve children through inclusive music education programs in public schools throughout the country.
The Beatles, Boggia and Beyond
Jim Boggia knows a thing or two about the ukulele, performing his one-man Bruce Off Broadway show throughout New York City, Los Angeles and recently in Boston. A longtime Philadelphia resident and well-known musician to the WXPN crowd, Boggia took up the ukulele about 10 years ago right as the current swell of interest in the instrument took off. He thinks the resurgence in popularity been driven by a couple specific things:
"If you want to pick up an instrument and play a few things fairly quickly, it's pretty forgiving in that way," Boggia tells Backstreets. "It makes so much more sense to give one to a kid whose hands are small. You're still learning all your right-hand and left-hand techniques, and this all transfers over to guitar very easily."
The most ardent proponent of the ukulele in the rock era was George Harrison. Such was Harrison's love for the ukulele, stories have circulated about how he'd buy scores of them and give them to friends. (There were also salacious rumors of Harrison engaging in intimate acts, playing his ukulele throughout.) Though good-intentioned, the low point of Paul McCartney's previous tours has been a ukulele version of George Harrison's "Something," which takes one of the best love songs of all time and makes it sound like a throwaway 1930s rag. Yes, Harrison loved the ukulele and played and gifted it often, but McCartney's tribute unfortunately missed the mark.
And yet it's The Beatles and their appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show back in February 1964 that connects to all of this ukulele craze. It's very easy to watch those Beatles performances on YouTube without any context. But at the time, the evening The Beatles made their television debut on Ed Sullivan, another of the program's guests was Welsh singer/ukuleleist Tessie O'Shea.
O'Shea was given seven minutes to perform. That might have seemed like an eternity to a teenager waiting to get a glimpse of their impending heroes — in Born to Run, Springsteen describes his young self that night as "filled with ten thousand watts of high-voltage anticipation… waiting for the first real look at my new saviors" — but looking back on O'Shea's performance is astounding.
She comes out singing like the Broadway singer she was, in that old-time stage style. About two minutes in, she puts down her mink stole and picks up her ukulele banjo (Gibson Model UB-5), still vocally vamping on "Tender Trap." During an instrumental break in the song she starts strumming her uke and letting loose. It's during her final song, "Two Ton Tessie," that she goes nuts. Maybe she knew The Beatles were the reason everyone was tuning in, but she wasn't going down without a fight. And maybe a 14-year-old Springsteen caught a glimpse of it that night.
Boggia has seen the Tessie O'Shea video as well. "Yeah, she was a monster! She had a monster right hand. And it's like the fifth thing she's paying attention to. Because she's that old-time show business, where she has set looks and moves to set song lines. But her right hand is just killing it. Four years ago, when it was the 50th anniversary of The Beatles on Ed Sullivan, I went back to watch who else he had on that night — it was the first time I saw her. and I was like, 'Oh my God! Holy crap!' [Laughs] I can approximate the sound of what she does with her right hand, but I'm going to find someone who can really show me some of the moves she had." - March 17, 2019 - Bob Zimmerman reporting - special thanks to Keith and Jeff Metzger
"INTENSELY SOFT": MIGHTY MAX ON HAL BLAINE Hal Blaine, the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer and session drummer who played on 40 number-one singles — more hit records than any other rock-era drummer — died Monday at 90. Blaine's drumming, especially his work with producer Phil Spector on classics like The Ronettes' "Be My Baby" and The Crystals' "Da Doo Ron Ron," was an enormous influence on the E Street sound.
Upon learning of Blaine's passing, Max Weinberg, who interviewed Blaine for the book The Big Beat: Conversations with Rock's Great Drummers and became a close friend, expressed his feelings on Facebook, paraphrasing a comment on Blaine once made by Bruce Gary, the late drummer for The Knack. "Fifty of my favorite drummers died today," wrote Max, "They were all named Hal Blaine."
Max also called in to E Street Radio's Live From E Street Nation on Wednesday to discuss Blaine's enduring influence and legacy with co-hosts Dave Marsh and Jim Rotolo. The conversation lasted almost an hour and could have gone on much longer. Quoth Max: "I think it was Art Blakey, the great legendary jazz drummer, who said the hardest thing in the world is to play intensely soft. Hal Blaine could do that."
Here via YouTube is the complete audio of Max's Live From E Street Nation appearance, courtesy of our friends at E Street Radio. Even after hearing this, however, it's still worth tuning in to Sunday night's replay beginning at 6pm Eastern on SiriusXM channel 20, so you also can catch the great all-Blaine playlist with which E Street Radio's program director Vinny Usuriello closed the show, inspired by this conversation with Max:
The Ronettes - "Be My Baby"
The Beach Boys - "Don't Worry, Baby"
Jan & Dean - "Dead Man's Curve"
The Crystals (lead vocal by Darlene Love) - "He's a Rebel"
Sam Cooke - "Another Saturday Night"
Nancy Sinatra - "Drummer Man"
- March 15, 2019 - Shawn Poole reporting - special thanks to Jim Rotolo and Vinny Usuriello at E Street Radio
RIVER TOUR POSTERS COME OUT OF THE VAULT FOR WHYHUNGER
On Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band's 2016 River Tour — as you'll surely remember, if you have any collector impulse in you at all — a different, unique concert poster was created for every stop on the itinerary. Many featured imagery from the original River era, some featured local iconography — it was a cool, creative efort that harkened back to all the unique, city-specific backstage passes from 1980-'81. Most of these limited poster runs sold out at the venues... but some leftovers have now surfaced and are on sale to benefit WhyHunger.
Click here to purchase select 2016 River Tour posters from the archives, with portions of the proceeds to be donated to WhyHunger. Cities include Baltimore, Cleveland, Brooklyn, Buffalo, Cleveland, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Seattle, Virginia Beach, and Washington DC. Posters are $40 each, or $90 gets you a "Mystery Bundle" of three. - March 14, 2019
NEWLY RECUT DOCUMENTARIES ADDED TO APMFF SLATE
April in Asbury brings a packed weekend of film and music — and films about music
With the annual Asbury Park Music and Film Festival coming back to town next month, April 25-28, a pair of previous festival favorites are returning in new, expanded cuts to the Paramount Theatre. With Chris Phillips of Backstreets moderating a panel or two, we'll hope to see you there!
Asbury Park: Riot, Redemption, Rock 'n' Roll previously screened at the festival two years ago, as Just Before the Dawn. Since then the documentary has been re-edited to included new interviews with participants including Bruce Springsteen and Max Weinberg. With a story springing out of the legendary Upstage club scene that brought area musicians together in the '60s, the film tells "the story of the long troubled town of Asbury Park and how the power of music can unite a people divided." Also part of the new cut is footage from the now-legendary Upstage Jam that accompanied the 2017 APMFF premiere, featuring Springsteen, Little Steven, Southside Johnny, and more.
Directed by Tom Jones, Asbury Park: Riot, Redemption, Rock 'N Roll will premiere on Sunday, April 28 (and look for a screening event in theaters worldwide on May 22). Special to the APMFF premiere will be a panel discussion and Q&A afterward, moderated by Backstreets editor Chris Phillips.
Clarence Clemons with Who Do I Think I Am? director Nick Mead - photograph by Jo Lopez
Clarence Clemons: Who Do I Think I Am?has gone through a metamorphosis since its Garden State Film Festival premiere in 2011. Originally a passion project for Clarence himself, along with his friend director Nick Mead, Who Do I Think Am? began with a very specific focus on the Big Man's travels in China. Clarence attended that original standing-room-only premiere, two months before his death; Mead told Backstreets, "On the way there, we got a text saying that the fire marshal was turning people away. He loved that." In the years since, the film has expanded to take in much more of C's life and legacy.
Featuring new interviews with fans and friends including President Bill Clinton and Joe Walsh, along with former bandmates and close family members, Mead's new cut of the film will debut on Saturday, April 27. A panel discussion and Q&A will follow.
Both screenings go on sale to the general public tomorrow morning, 10am Eastern, at www.apmff.org/tickets.
The two documentaries join an already enticing APMFF line-up — at venues including the Paramount, the Stone Pony, The House of Independents, and the Wonder Bar — which includes:
The New Jersey premiere of Echo in the Canyon on opening night, a documentary about the birth of the Laurel Canyon music scene with appearances by Tom Petty, Brian Wilson, Stephen Stills, David Crosby, Graham Nash, Michelle Phillips, Jackson Browne, Roger McGuinn, Cat Power, and many more
Echo in the Canyon executive producer Jakob Dylan, in concert with Cat Power and other guests as part of the oepning night festivities, playing the music of The Byrds, The Beach Boys, and The Mamas and Papas
The New Jersey premiere of David Crosby: Remember My Name, followed by a Q&A with Crosby and director Cameron Crowe
A collection of rare Bob Dylan footage from the vault, Dylan Archives IV, presented by the Bob Dylan Center
An Evening with the Farrelly Brothers: a career retrospective, with both Peter and Bobby Farrelly in discussion with Deadline Hollywood's Mike Fleming
Gary U.S. Bonds performing with Joe Grushecky & The Houserockers and more special guests for The Gary U.S. Bonds Unusually Big Birthday Bash
The Music of Bruce Springsteen for Kids presented by The Rock and Roll Playhouse. An early and often first introduction to a child's lifelong journey with live music, The Rock and Roll Playhouse is geared for babies and kids, offering games, movement, and stories — and here, an opportunity to rock out at the Stone Pony
More APMFF concerts include Danny Clinch's Tangiers Blues Band headlining The Po Boy Jam at the Stone Pony; Bobby Bandiera at the Wonder Bar; Hot Water Music celebrating 25 years.
For additional information on the 2019 Asbury Park Music and Film Festival, visit apmff.org. - March 11, 2019
A NEW GIFT FROM THOM ZIMNY
Last night brought the world premiere of The Gift: The Journey of Johnny Cash at SXSW 2019, with an appearance from director Thom Zimny along with John Carter Cash, below.
Bruce Springsteen is among those featured in the documentary film via voice-over commentary, just as he was last year in Zimny’s Elvis Presley: The Searcher. Stay tuned for more from Backstreets on The Gift, coming soon. - March 10, 2019 - Shawn Poole reporting - photograph courtesy of Thom Zimny
SUMMER LOOKS GOOD ON STEVIE
New Disciples of Soul
album Summer of Sorcery due in May
Stevie van Zandt lit the Soulfire in 2017, and he'll keep it burning with a follow-up this spring: Summer of Sorcery, his new studio album with the Disciples of Soul, is coming May 3. While Soulfire was largely a showcase for songs Van Zandt had written for other artists over the years, peppered with some choice covers, Summerof Sorcery is his first album of new material since Born Again Savage 20 years ago.
Written, arranged, and produced by Little Steven (with co-producers Marc Ribler and Geoff Sanoff), Summer of Sorcery came together while Stevie and the Disciples were on the road for Soulfire: "What I'd hoped would happen was, you put the whole tour, all of those songs, into a funnel and out of that funnel comes a new album. And that's exactly what happened."
"The concept was capturing and communicating that first rush of summer," Van Zandt says in today's press release. "The electricity of that feeling of unlimited possibilities. Of falling in love with the world for the first time. Obviously, there are occasional personal references, and a bit of what's going on socially scattered throughout, but I achieved what I set out to do. I created a collection of fictional movies scenes that feel like summer. I'm quite proud of it."
"I always work thematically," Stevie continues. "I can't just throw together a collection of songs; there has to be some kind of overriding idea that drives it. This time I wanted to capture the excitement of that first summer of consciousness. That one special summer where you first fall in love with life, that thrill of just being alive."
Lead single "Superfly Terraplane," above, premiered today at rollingstone.com, where you'll also find Steven talking more about the album with David Browne.
The full tracklist:
2. Party Mambo!
3. Love Again
5. A World of Our Own
7. Soul Power Twist
8. Superfly Terraplane
10. Suddenly You
11. I Visit the Blues
12. Summer of Sorcery
Following the Disciples of Soul's final Soulfire Tour stops, next month in Australia and New Zealand, the Summer of Sorcery Tour begins in May with record release shows in Los Angeles (The Saban, May 4) and Asbury Park (Paramount Theatre, May 8) before heading to Europe through June. Browne writes that the Summer of Sorcery Tour will take Stevie "through October. He hasn’t heard anything about future E Street Band roadwork, but he knows he needs to take advantage of his break — and the chance to play his own songs — as much as possible. 'If Bruce goes back out,' he says, 'we could be gone two years.'"
The album, on Stevie's own Wicked Cool label, will be released on CD, digitally and on vinyl as double LP on 180-gram black vinyl. All digital pre-orders will be joined by an instant grat download of "Superfly Terraplane," and pre-ordering is open now. We'll have pre-ordering for physical media through Backstreet Records as well, though a limited colored vinyl version — psychedelic swirl, of course — will be exclusively available via uDiscover. - March 8, 2019
"BORN IN THE U.S.A.": THE ACHE BEHIND THE FURY
In its new 2019 Music Issue, The New York Times Magazine assembles "The 25 Songs That Matter Right Now." You might be surprised to see a 35-year-old song top that list... but given its recent reworking on Springsteen on Broadway, and how that 2018 solo performance resonates with our times, "Born in the U.S.A." is, as ever, evergreen.
In an essay titled "How Aging — and the Age — Can Change a Song's Meaning" poet Hanif Abdurraqib writes:
To hear "Born in the U.S.A." presented without an instrument is to hear the strain that pushes toward the edge of anger, that hovering sentiment that was lost in the original’s bombastic wall of sound and perhaps camouflaged by its imagery...
...with the drums and bursts of keyboards gone, the relentlessly hollow hope of the song is gone, too. On the isolated stage of a theater, all that's left is knowing that the singer has loved and dreamed and lost in a country sometimes not worth loving and dreaming and losing in.
The song matters now in a different way than it did in 1984, largely because of the artist behind it: Springsteen, trying to wrestle not only with the song’s current legacy but also with how it might be co-opted decades from now, when he won’t be around to make sure people understand the ache behind the song’s fury.
"Songs That Matter Right Now" has Springsteen sharing space with Ariana Grande, Mariah Carey, Meek Mill, Travis Scott, and 20 more. Read Abdurraqib's full "Born in the U.S.A." essay, and see the full list, at nytimes.com. - March 7, 2019
NILS LOFGREN GETS BLUE WITH LOU, APRIL 26 Pre-order CD or vinyl from Backstreets for a signed copy
Forty years ago, connected by producer Bob Ezrin, Nils Lofgren and Lou Reed teamed up to write, penning 13 songs together. About half of those collaborations came out on solo albums — three made it to Reed's The Bells, and more featured on Lofgren's records over the years (Nils, Damaged Goods, and Breakaway Angel). The rest have remained unheard.... until this spring, with the release of Blue with Lou.
Nils's first studio album in eight years, since 2011's Old School [CD/vinyl], the 12-track Blue with Lou is an even mix of those collaborations and new Nils compositions: "City Lights" is a new recording of a song originally released on The Bells, with five more previously unheard co-writes: "Attitude City," "Give," "Talk Thru the Tears," "Don't Let Your Guard Down," and "Cut Him Up."
Nils says of these tracks, "They got left by the wayside. Years went by, and it kept nagging at me. I thought, look, Lou's not here to deliver these lyrics. He was inspired when he did this. It would be a shame not to share it."
Produced by Nils and Amy Lofgren, Blue with Lou will be out April 26 on both CD and vinyl (a two-record set), on Lofgren's own Cattle Track Road Records. The album's title track is Nils's new tribute to his erstwhile songwriting partner, while another new song, "Dear Heartbreaker," raises a glass to the late Tom Petty.
We're thrilled to announce that Nils will be autographing Blue with Lou for Backstreet Records customers. For a signed CD or a signed 2LP set, place your pre-order now to reserve a copy. The number of pre-orders we receive will determine how much signing Nils does for us, so order yours now to guarantee fulfillment! View both formats and read more about the album in our online shop.
You can also read more about Blue with Lou on rollingstone.com, along with a premiere of "Attitude City." - March 5, 2019
BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN CROSSED WITH TRENTON 2005 Devils & Dust finale takes a bow for March's First Friday Bruce Springsteen's 2005 solo trek remains one of his shorter ones. Confined to a single calendar year, Devils & Dust was a mote compared with the solo acoustic tour a decade earlier for The Ghost of Tom Joad, which sprawled from 1995 to 1997. But it was dense. From two April rehearsals in Asbury Park, NJ, to November's closing pair in Trenton, NJ, Springsteen rang the changes from show to show in theaters and arenas, with a constantly shifting mix of instruments and deep cuts from the catalog.
So while the live archive series has already embraced 2005 with two entries from that celebrated summer (Columbus and Grand Rapids), there are depths that remain to be plumbed in Springsteen's most ambitious — in material, if not in miles — solo outing.
Today's First Friday release continues the devilry with the final D&D concert, the second of two at the Sovereign Bank Arena, Trenton, NJ, November 22, 2005. It's a showcase of styles and sounds that plays back like few releases in the archive series — or for that matter, any other official Springsteen release — and a concert Backstreets described at the time as bringing "the seven-month tour to a triumphant close, momentarily doubling as a tour finale and holiday show."
The two nights in Trenton held six tour premieres — alone, evidence enough that throughout 2005 Springsteen never stopped sifting songs through his fingers, re-examining, re-imagining, and revealing new facets. Devils & Dust is an eclectic record; perhaps its nature inspired a similar branching-out when he took it on the road. Even here at the end, Bruce was still working out new arrangements and digging out blasts from the past, like the long-lost "Song for Orphans," performed on November 21 for the first time since 1973.
Closing night's excitement was palpable well before the lights went down — and when they did, Donna Summer's "Last Dance" blasting from the P.A. only amped things further. Springsteen met the buzz head-on with a foot-stomping "Rumble," debuted the night before as a tribute to Link Wray (who'd passed away earlier that month). As the set progressed, Springsteen switched between instruments and styles with efficiency and poise. He'd done it that way all year long, playing everything from the electric guitar to the electric piano, the autoharp to the ukulele. Hitting one of his trusty Takamines for a muscular "Empty Sky," the acoustic guitar sounded grand, too — this stark treatment fits perfectly.
Springsteen had played the Garden State's capital city before, but not in decades — those who were there for concerts at Trenton War Memorial have a serious 1974 feather in their cap. Upon his return, Bruce clearly had those old days in mind — breaking out early favorites such as "It's Hard to Be a Saint in the City" (in a brand new bullet mic arrangement), "Growin' Up" (on ukulele!), and "Thundercrack" — but it wasn't just because of locale.
Rather, it was because Springsteen, already in career-retrospective mode, had been listening to E Street Radio. After giving carte blanche to the new all-Bruce channel on what was then Sirius Satellite Radio — "If you can find it, you can play it" was the general idea — he tuned in himself (other reports suggest that Bruce had been exploring his history via YouTube, too).
That feedback loop brought startling rediscoveries to Trenton. "Song for Orphans," played both nights (with crew man Alan Fitzgerald, "the man behind the curtain," on keys), surely would never have surfaced again otherwise. Another jewel for closing night: the never-in-my-wildest-dreams "Zero and Blind Terry."
Introducing this slice of classic juvenilia, Springsteen said it was among "fables that were these sort of fantastic… almost like children's stories that I wrote around the time of my first and second record." Here's how Backstreets reported this premiere and three others that night:
The first came as Bruce sat down at the piano for the first time: "I'm gonna play something tonight I've never played before. Can't let the night pass without one of those!" And while Bruce has actually played "Zero and Blind Terry" before, back in '73 and '74 with the E Street Band, this Tracks tune was near the top of the snowball's-chance-in-hell list until tonight. (Even better, it went right into a magnificent "Backstreets," also at the grand, the only audible of the night.)
#2 was "Fire," a stripped-down, playful performance on the harp and bullet mic that was also a nod to the late, great Wray (he and Robert Gordon covered the Springsteen tune on 1978's Fresh Fish Special).
For #3, Bruce brought out his "way better half," Patti Scialfa, for a duet on "Mansion on the Hill." (With that performance, just squeaking in under the wire, Bruce has played every song from Nebraska on the Devils & Dust tour.)
And for #4, it was the real "attack of the relatives," as Patti came back onstage along with about 15 more friends and family members for "Santa Claus is Comin' to Town." Their kids were part of the throng, Sam sitting on the piano bench next to his dad, as everyone shook tambourines, jingled bells, and sang along for this official start of the holiday season. Bruce had noted the kids' presence in the crowd earlier in the show, as he introduced "Long Time Comin'": "I got my babies in the house tonight, so I'll send this out to Evan, Jessie, and Sam... Daddy's coming home!"
Any tour debut is conspicuous, but this set also delivers key 2005 songs that had yet to appear in the archive series: the bullet mic "Born in the U.S.A.," "My Beautiful Reward" on pump organ, "All That Heaven Will Allow" on electric piano, and a thrilling "Drive All Night" on the grand. From Devils & Dust, "All the Way Home" and "Leah" are here for the first time, too. Come for the rarities… stay for all the sounds of Springsteen's last show of the tour, last show of the year, and last full-scale one-man production until Springsteen on Broadway.
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THE SPRINGSTEEN SPECIAL COLLECTION
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