THOM ZIMNY: HONOREE, LEADER, SECRET WEAPON, PAL
More from the 2015 KACF "A Night to Remember"
Over the weekend, the big news was that Bruce Springsteen joined a recombination of Sessions Band players to play four staples of their 2006 tour. The occasion was the Kristen Ann Carr Fund's annual 'A Night to Remember' benefit at Tribeca Grill, which this year honored Thom Zimny (Springsteen's long-time film collaborator and archivist), and it's worth filling in some more color from Saturday night. As Honorary Chair, the Grammy and Emmy-award winning director was commended in speeches from Dave Marsh, Jon Landau, and Bruce Springsteen — as well as one of Bruce's patented stick-figure drawings in the program.
"Thank you Thom," said Marsh on behalf of the KACF, "for being one of the leaders. His leadership has been an amazing thing; to see what he can do not only as an artist and as a a friend, but as a leader, has been one of the exciting joys of this year's event." Landau talked about having "ensared Thom quite a while ago" to be part of the Thrill Hill team, praising him for having "the soul of an artist.... The overwhelming percentage of our visual work has been a collaboration between Thom and Bruce, and I think of him as our secret weapon." Springsteen expanded on that:
"As Jon was saying, people come into our orbit, and we're lucky enough to have them stay. What happens is, you establish a sort of a private language with them. I've been lucky that I have that kind of language with Jon; I have it with the E Street Band; and Thom and I have our private language about film and the video that we've made. Film is always frightening, it's collaborative, and Thom is someone who I have complete trust in. And also, he gives me access to the filmmaking apparatus so I feel like I have an enormous amount of control over it. And he does this with such great generosity... with such great confidence, he's made these projects a great pleasure for me, and I treasure what we've been able to do together. So Thom, thank you for how long you've been with me, for being such a great pal and working partner."
A silent auction was part of the event as usual, with all proceeds going to benefit the Fund's work fighting cancer. Most prominently, a large print of a Barry Schneier photograph from May 9, 1974, was signed by Springsteen [above] and wound up selling for $12,250. "On behalf of myself and Gallery591974, we were pleased to contribute to this great cause and thrilled the print brought in what it did," Barry tells Backstreets. "It was certainly a night to remember as we honored Thom for the great work he has done."
Also raising thousands was the one-of-a-kind "Outlaw Pete in Paint," an original painting by Frank Caruso on canvas depicting Pete's 40-day-and-40-night ride, signed by both Frank and Bruce.
The fundraising now continues, with an online auction which has just begun and runs through June 10 at charitybuzz.com/kacf. More exclusive experiences and memorabilia now on the auction block to benefit the KACF include:
"SESSIONS BAND, SESSIONS BAND... THEY'RE BACK!"
Saturday night in Tribeca it was a nine-year flashback, as Bruce Springsteen joined a mini-reunion of the Sessions Band the 22nd annual 'A Night to Remember' benefit for the Kristen Ann Carr Fund. The entertainment, known as the Gotham Playboys when they started playing private parties at Springsteen's farm in the late '90s, was billed for the evening as the Tribeca Playboys: Charlie Giordano on accordion, Jeremy Chatzky on stand-up bass, Larry Eagle on drums, Sam Bardfeld on fiddle & vocals, Soozie Tyrell on fiddle & vocals, Lisa Lowell on vocals & guitar (and washboard!), Ed Manion on sax, and Curt Ramm on trumpet — all players from the 2006 tour. After a full set that had Redheaded Women Lisa and Soozie fronting the Playboys for uptempo party tracks like "Fujiyama Mama," "Hound Dog," and "Man Smart (Woman Smarter)," Springsteen strapped on an acoustic to lead them through four Sessions Band classics:
This truly was an impromptu performance, as Chatzky told Backstreets afterward: "We honestly weren't sure that was going to happen at all. I mean, everyone hopes, but you never know. There was talk he might join us for two songs, but then he just kept it going." Asked if there had been any chance to rehearse with Bruce, Tyrell laughed: "We hardly had a chance to rehearse as a band — just a couple days last week." In keeping with the spirit of the Sessions Band, it truly was music being made on the spot, Bruce calling out players to take solos as they went along — "Come on, Sam!... Come on, Charlie!" — relying on muscle memory from 2006 and pure chops.
After the gig, L-R: Giordano, Eagle, King, Bardfeld, and Chatzky
Also joining in: Nils Lofgren on guitar, the Sessions Band's Curtis King on vocals, and restaurateur (and venue host) Drew Nieporent on washboard. "Twenty years ago," Drew told us outside his Tribeca Grill later that night, "I had these guys [then the Pinballs] play my 40th birthday party, and I strapped on the washboard for that... now I'm 60, I had to do it again!"
"Sessions Band, Sessions Band," Bruce repeated at the end of "My Oklahoma Home," "They're back! They're back!" While surely he meant just for that rollicking half-hour, it was hard for many in the place not to wish for more.
And as Lisa Lowell told us, "I hope in some dimension Kristen Ann was feeling the love." Visit sarcoma.com to learn more about the KACF and to support the cause. - May 18, 2015
HE PAID THE COST TO BE THE BOSS
B.B. King, "The King of the Blues," 1925 - 2015
The paths of Bruce Springsteen and blues-legend/Rock and Roll Hall of Famer B.B. King, who died at 89 two days ago, rarely crossed publicly. Nevertheless, in addition to B.B. King's importance to virtually everyone who's picked up an electric guitar from the 1960s onward, you can count King as a major Springsteen influence due to his huge impact on The Allman Brothers Band, who in turn greatly influenced Springsteen's Steel Mill period.
Just as importantly, B.B. King also served as a role model for the kind of lifelong musician that Bruce has set out to be. "The Ambassador of the Blues" enthusiastically continued recording, touring and mentoring younger musicians through 2014, shortly after his 89th birthday. Around the time that King stopped, we learned of Nils and Amy Lofgren's hilarious tour bus encounter with "The King of the Blues" at 86, still very much alive and kickin'. "I saw him in Phoenix," Nils told us, "we got on his bus, and of course he was flirting with my wife, who loved it, and after a while, he looked at me and said, 'You know, Nils, you can leave now.'"
To celebrate a legendary life lived long and well, and that will continue to have an impact for as long as music lovers exist, here's audio/video of the only two onstage encounters between B.B. King and Bruce Springsteen:
- May 16, 2015 - Shawn Poole reporting, with special thanks to Flynn McLean
BTR40: THE CELEBRATION BEGINS
Official Born to Run 40th Anniversary poster benefits WhyHunger
This year marks a major milestone — 40 years since the release of Springsteen's career-altering masterpiece, Born to Run. Today's USA Today, in fact, features an article noting the anniversary on page 4A, focusing on 914 Sound Studios in Blauvelt, NY, where Springsteen recorded "Born to Run" four decades back (as well as his first two albums). The piece features talk with then-manager Mike Appel, studio founder Brooks Arthur, and assistant engineer Larry Alexander, who recalls, "During the early albums, the guys in the band and Bruce didn't like the long drive back to Jersey so they actually pitched a tent in the backyard of the studio and slept there."
Here at Backstreets this surely won't be the last you hear from us regarding the anniversary... in fact, let's keep it going right now. After looking at this for months with photographer Eric Meola and the Sony art department, with the blessing of Jon Landau Management, we can finally unveil a stunning piece of art, celebrating 40 years of not only one of the greatest albums, but greatest album covers of the rock era.
Available exclusively through Backstreet Records, this 24" x 40" poster features 1975's iconic album cover with Springsteen and Clarence Clemons, bigger, clearer and sharper than you've ever seen it, in all its glory and then some: the full gatefold cover is reproduced here at 150% its usual size, at 18" x 36". Printed on heavyweight, semi-matte paper stock, with plenty of room for framing. And since the artwork is sourced directly from the same files used for the new remastered LP, overseen by Meola (who provided a fresh scan of his original photo) and Sony art director Dave Bett, you can imagine just how impressive it looks at this size. [Click here to see a larger image]
There are 1,975 copies for sale through Backstreets, to commemorate the year 1975. Not only does this 40th anniversary poster give many fans the chance to own an affordable print of this quintessential image, it will also raise considerable funds for WhyHunger, a favorite charitable organization long supported by Springsteen. This year marks the 40th anniversary of not only Born to Run, but also WhyHunger, which began in 1975 as World Hunger Year, founded by the late Harry Chapin and Bill Ayres, who now serves as the organization's Co-Founder & Ambassador.
All net proceeds from the sale of this poster will benefit this non-profit 501(c)(3) organization and its work to combat the root causes of hunger, poverty and injustice, supporting grassroots solutions and promoting self-reliance.
HOT FUN IN THE SUMMERTIME
Live archive takes us to the swamps of Jersey, August 5, 1984
The fifth release of the Bruce Springsteen archive series lands in a sweet spot: it's the summer of 1984, and the E Street Band, with two new records, two new members, and 20 shows under its belt, has come home to New Jersey's Brendan Byrne Arena for ten sold-out performances. Over the years, fans have heard bits from the stand ("Trapped," from the We Are the World LP, and "Tenth Avenue Freeze-out" from Live 1975-85), but now we have a complete document: opening night, August 5, 1984, appeared today as archive release number five. And whether you're just playing it in the background or taking a good, hard listen, it's a keeper. Its 29 songs feature four from Nebraska, six from Born in the U.S.A., a B-side, and the usual array of covers, including Tom Waits' "Jersey Girl" to lead a six-song encore.
Before the count-in to "Born in the U.S.A.," a lengthy segment of ambient audience sound builds anticipation. When the music starts, as it did in 1984, a new sound emerges: recorded to 24-track analog tape and fully mixed, it's an excellent capture of the E Street Band as it began a year of unparalleled popularity.
Whereas the four previous archival releases had long circulated as complete soundboard tapes (or, in the case of the Apollo, a satellite radio broadcast), 8/5/84 only existed as a marginal, ten-song board tape and an average audience recording. In fact, it is the first complete line recording of a Born in the U.S.A. arena show, period, and, incredibly, offers the first official recordings from the tour of key performances, like the electrifying, full-band take on "Atlantic City," "Dancing in the Dark" and "Pink Cadillac" — all of which, in hindsight, seem like head-scratching omissions from Live 1975-85.
After a rocky start in St. Paul, Springsteen led the way through the midwest to New Jersey. The band had yet to become the well-oiled machine that plowed through the autumn, but that's precisely the appeal here. Now 20 shows in, this recording not only finds the band in fine form but also reveals much of the new E Street sound: despite the addition of Nils Lofgren, keyboards came way up front. Whether taking on material like "Used Cars" or "Dancing in the Dark," that was the sound in 1984. Guitars still crunch and sparkle nicely in spots where they should, namely in a noteworthy "Prove it All Night" and "Thunder Road," respectively. (It's worth noting that Max Weinberg's drums had yet to take on the mammoth trigger sound; on this recording, as for much of the summer, they retain their natural, mic'd-up acoustics.)
Fan speculation about this archival release had centered around the summer of 1984, and the Meadowlands stand in particular. But Toby Scott selected opening night, not the final night as many had expected. In an email, Scott explained his selection process:
"I'm not choosing shows from [the] best on down, or we would end up with less-than-spectacular shows a few years from now," Scott wrote. "I'm trying to evaluate something special in each show and, more importantly, shows recorded [on] multi-track, so we can give the fans a better mix of the performance instead of soundboard tapes."
He also clarified that only four concerts in the Brendan Byrne run had been recorded to multi-track (not all ten, as fans had long presumed).
Scott's criteria shed light on where the series might go in the coming months. The emphasis on multi-track recordings over straight board tapes likely moves some tours toward the front of the line and others toward the back.
This is the first archival release to appear in the ultra-high-quality DSD format, described as offering 64x the resolution of CD audio. The superior quality of the recording prompted the decision to offer the show in DSD. - May 13, 2015 - Erik Flannigan and Jonathan Pont reporting - working pass courtesy of Doug Herzog
WE'RE GETTIN' THE BAND BACK TOGETHER!
Sessions Band members to reunite for Saturday's 'A Night to Remember'
This weekend, the Kristen Ann Carr Fund will hold its annual benefit gala, A Night to Remember. This is a cause very close to the extended Springsteen family, of course, established 22 years ago in honor of — and by the request of — manager Barbara Carr and Dave Marsh's daughter Kristen, who died in 1993 after battling Sarcoma. Springsteen's sold-out benefit concert at Madison Square Garden later that year got KACF off the ground, and since then the organization has been working steadily to provide grants for cancer research as well as seeking to improve all aspects of cancer patient life with an emphasis on adolescents and young adults.
In recent years, A Night to Remember has honored such supporters of the cause as Marilyn Laverty, Tracy Nurse, Jon Kilik, Michael Solomon, Greg & Lisa Linn, and Maureen & Stevie Van Zandt — who reunited the Rascals to perform for the occasion in 2010. This year's man of the hour is Thom Zimny, Springsteen’s longtime film director and archivist (congrats, TZ), and the night's entertainment is another special reunion: eight of the Sessions Band players, performing together for the first time in nearly ten years, as the Tribeca Playboys.
This Saturday night, May 16, the Tribeca Playboys will perform at the Tribeca Grill Loft for A Night to Remember: Charlie Giordano on accordion, Jeremy Chatzky on stand-up bass, Larry Eagle on drums, Sam Bardfeld on fiddle & vocals, Soozie Tyrell on fiddle & vocals, Lisa Lowell on vocals & guitar, Ed Manion on sax, and Curt Ramm on trumpet — all members of Springsteen's 2006 touring band — along with a special guest appearance by Nils Lofgren on guitar.
Event tickets, benefiting The Kristen Ann Carr Fund, start at $500. Reservations can be made at www.sarcoma.com or call 212-625-1025 for more information. A silent auction at the event will include signed photographs and memorabilia, as well as some rare experiences:
an hour-long sit-down with Tom Morello at LA's legendary Chateau Marmont
an exclusive screening of rare and never-before-seen clips from the Thrill Hill Vault with Thom Zimny
an opportunity to join Live From E Street Nation’s Dave Marsh as a guest host
Additionally, an online auction will run from May 20 - June 10 to support the KACF with more exclusive experiences and memorabilia; more on that next week. - May 12, 2015
HEADS UP: NEW LIVE DOWNLOAD COMING TOMORROW
Wednesday, May 13, will bring the next installment of Springsteen's Live Archive series, and the first full concert recording from the Born in the U.S.A. Tour: August 5, 1984. This was the opening night of Bruce and the E Street Band's ten-night New Jersey stand at the Meadowlands from early in the 1984-'85 world tour. Brad Serling from nugs.net tells us, "The big news with this one is its our first DSD release — an audiophile format that's 64x the resolution of a CD."
We'll have more details tomorrow, when you can also hear Brad talking about the new release on SiriusXM's E Street Radio, guesting with Dave Marsh on Live From E Street Nation. The program airs from 10am-12pm Eastern and will be followed by a full play of the 8/5/84 Brendan Byrne Arena concert beginning at noon Eastern/9am Pacific. - May 12, 2015 - ticket stub via Brucebase
HEAVEN'S WALL Here at Backstreet Records our poster selection is expanding again... and we've just put our hands on a couple small rolls of original tour posters.
Sold at E Street Band shows 12 years ago and 7 years ago, these have been safely stored, well preserved, and waiting to bring a little piece of heaven to your wall. Each is 2' x 3'. Not sure how long they'll last... get your hands on these vintage Rising tour posters and Magic tour posters while we've got 'em!
"THAT'S MY MOM!"
When Adele Springsteen turned 90 less than a week ago, we linked to videos of her dancing with her boy onstage in 2012 and 2013. Bruce being the good son that he is, there's no shortage of these... here's a heartwarming one from 2009, for all the moms out there. Happy Mother's Day! - May 10, 2015
THREE STRIKES... BUT NOT OUT
Another sell-out, as the last Born in the U.S.A. LP has just gone out the door... but we've still got stock of four remastered LPs remaining. We specifically loaded up on Greetings (the album with arguably the most noticeable sonic upgrade) and The River (the remaster most fans have been crying out for), and Darkness, too (because, well, it's Darkness). But they'll all go soon enough. Get yours while they last.
And in the meantime, we've get to look at this record rack at our shop, brimming with factory-sealed classics — it's rare that we see such a beautiful sight.
IN MEMORIAM: LENORE TRAVIS
All of us at Backstreets were deeply saddened to learn about the tragic accident and untimely death of Lenore Travis. Lenore Gessner Travis died April 26 in an accident on the family farm she shared with her husband, George. George Travis is the Tour Director for Bruce Springsteen and has worked within the organization since 1978; Lenore also worked in the industry for decades, producing rock 'n' roll shows nationally for Tom Field and Associates and Mike Brown Grandstands in California. At last week's service, Springsteen performed "I Wanna Marry You" and "If I Should Fall Behind" accompanied by Patti Scialfa and Nils Lofgren, in her memory.
Lenore and George raised three children at their home outside of Boston, MA. She was actively involved as a volunteer for many charitable organizations, environmental projects and political causes. Donations to honor her memory may be made to The Food Project (www.the foodproject.org), Revels (www.revels.org), Farm School (www.farmschool.org), or to a community based organization of your choice. We at Backstreets and on behalf of fans worldwide wish to extend our condolences to George and the family. Our thoughts and prayers are with them all during this difficult time. - May 7, 2015
CELEBRATE SINATRA 100 WITH SANTELLI, SOUTHSIDE, MAX AND MORE
This Saturday, May 9, Monmouth University will be hosting "Sinatra: An American Icon," a daylong symposium on the life and legacy of that other New Jersey legend, whose centennial is being celebrated this year. Bob Santelli, director of the Grammy Museum and author of Greetings From E Street (as well as longtime associate editor for Backstreets), will moderate a panel discussion, which will include Max Weinberg (who recently spoke on the subject at the New York’s Lincoln Center) and Southside Johnny. The presentation will include rare video clips and memorabilia. In addition to the symposium, Monmouth will host a special photography exhibit spanning Sinatra's boyhood days in Hoboken to the twilight of his career in the late '90s.
Tickets for the symposium in West Long Branch, NJ, are $10 and are available via the Monmouth University ticket office. Visit Monmouth University events calendar for further details.
And in a happy coincidence, Nils Lofgren will perform at Monmouth's Pollack Theater that very night. If you're there for the afternoon symposium, it'll be easy to stick around for An Evening with Nils Lofgren Acoustic Duo. - May 5, 2015 - photograph courtesy of Monmouth University
HAPPY 90th BIRTHDAY TO ADELE SPRINGSTEEN!
A few years back, at a Philadelphia stop on the Wrecking Ball tour, Bruce Springsteen brought his 87-year-old mother up for a dance and introduced her to the crowd: "She's almost ninety!"
Well, today is the day. Above, a banner in the heavens even proclaims it.
That's right, Adele Springsteen is officially a nonegenarian, entering her tenth decade today, and we send out heartfelt birthday wishes to the woman who bought Bruce Springsteen his first guitar... who had the car radio on the first time her son heard "Like a Rolling Stone"... whose lasagna has raised thousands of dollars... the sound of her makeup case on the sink still echoing down through 40-something years of Bruce's music.
Adele's impact on not only her son's life but his work life probably can't be overstated. As Springsteen said from the stage last year, while performing "The Wish" in Australia: "One of my favorite things about this point in my work life is that I get to look out into the audience, and I see fathers with their sons, and I see moms and grandmoms, and little girls, little sisters... We get people of all ages. And that was something I think my mom taught me when she was very young: she loved rock music, she loved rock 'n' roll, and her enthusiasm and passion for it rolled over on me."
And: an E Street Daily Double today, as we also want to wish Sister Soozie Tyrell a wonderful birthday — whether it's written across the sky or not. - May 4, 2015
MOVIN' ON DOWN THE LINE
Ben E. King, 1938-2015
Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Ben E. King died last Thursday at 76. For his work with The Drifters, King was inducted early as a member of the Hall's third (1988) class of inductees. The Drifters entered the Hall with The Beach Boys, The Beatles and The Supremes as the first important 1960s groups to be inducted. King's post-Drifters work as a solo artist, however, also had a major impact on rock and soul music, and his presence looms large over the Asbury Park music scene. Indeed, it is difficult to overstate the magnitude of his influence on the life and work of its central figures — Southside Johnny Lyon, Bruce Springsteen and Steve Van Zandt.
King's debut single as a lead vocalist with The Drifters, "There Goes My Baby," was the record in which, as Dave Marsh noted in his book The Heart of Rock & Soul: The 1001 Greatest Singles Ever Made, "rhythm and blues took an irrevocable step toward soul music." King's lead vocal wasn't his only contribution to this history-making track, either; he also was one of the song's co-writers.
Steve Van Zandt first met Ben E. King on the oldies circuit in the early 1970s when Steve was touring with The Dovells, and Van Zandt has often cited his meeting King as a turning point in his life. "As I was trying to find my own identity, I decided to write a song for Ben E. King, and I wrote the first song that I ever really liked," he recently told USA Today. The song, "I Don't Want To Go Home," went on to be the title track of the Jukes' debut album and a cornerstone of their nightly repertoire.
The pair was reunited in 1981 when Van Zandt recruited King to work on Gary "U.S." Bonds' comeback album Dedication. He and Chuck Jackson backed Bonds on Bruce Springsteen's oft-overlooked soul ballad "Your Love." And in 1997, King performed "4th of July, Asbury Park (Sandy)" on the compilation One Step Up/Two Steps Back: The Songs of Bruce Springsteen. [Check out Jay Lustig's detailed report on King's version of "Sandy" here.] It was especially fitting that King recorded one of Springsteen's earliest, most romantic songs, for so much of Bruce's music from that period of his career was heavily influenced by the soulful romanticism of King's singing and writing. For his part, Springsteen directly acknowledged that influence onstage with his 1974 performances of King's first solo hit "Spanish Harlem."
But King meant so much more to the Jersey Shore music community than even all of his great, influential recordings. A longtime resident of the Garden State, Ben E. King had strong ties to many Jersey-connected musicians. (The Asbury Park Press' Chris Jordan details some of those connections here.) He maintained an especially longstanding friendship with Bonds, whom he had known for over fifty years. "With an extremely heavy heart," wrote Bonds on his Facebook page, "I must say goodbye to one of the sweetest, gentlest and gifted souls that I have had the privilege of knowing and calling my friend...." The two often seemed joined at the hip, with King joining Bonds for his 50th Anniversary party several years back, and more recently performing with Gary and Southside Johnny at Bobby Bandiera's 2012 Hope Concert in Red Bank, NJ. (Click here to watch a wonderful clip of Bonds and King clowning together onstage in London back in 2011.)
Another major influence on the Asbury Park sound, the legendary Sam Moore, also was a longtime friend and echoed Bonds' comments on Facebook regarding how much King was not only respected as a musician but loved as a human being. And his unforgettable songs — "Spanish Harlem," "There Goes My Baby," "Stand By Me" — popped up in Jukes and E Street Band sets over the years, blending seamlessly with Springsteen and Van Zandt originals like "I Wanna Marry You," "Love on the Wrong Side of Town" and "Princess of Little Italy," songs that had drawn so much from King's enduring work with The Drifters and on his own. Just last year, as Springsteen's Wrecking Ball/High Hopes tour drew to its conclusion, one of its final shows fittingly featured a great version of "Save The Last Dance For Me," the Doc Pomus/Mort Shuman song originally recorded as Ben E. King's final, classic track with The Drifters.
"Stand By Me," especially, became a sort of de facto anthem of the Jersey Shore music scene; to this day, one can count on hearing it at just about every benefit or special occasion, as its denizens can attest. (Click here to experience one of the most moving versions, recorded in 2001 just over a month after 9/11 to close the Alliance for Neighbors concerts at Red Bank's Count Basie Theatre, featuring Bruce Springsteen accompanied by many friends both famous and not-so-famous, several of whom have since passed, as well.) Ben E. King's immortal version of "Stand By Me," which achieved the rare feat of being a U.S. Top-Ten hit twice in 1961 and 1986, was recorded at the same session that produced his first solo single "Spanish Harlem." (Click here to read a 2013 account of the creation of "Stand By Me," as told by Mike Stoller and King, who co-wrote it with producers Jerry Leiber and Stoller.) King's voice gave "Stand By Me," to quote Dave Marsh once more, "its unique unity of terror and reassurance." And it is this song that will live on in people's hearts not just as a rallying cry, but also as a bittersweet reminder of careless youth, of halcyon days and, yes, endless summer nights at the shore. - May 4, 2015 - Lisa Iannucci & Shawn Poole reporting - 2014 photo of (L-R) Ronnie Spector, Steve Van Zandt, Ben E. King & Mike Stoller from @VanZandtFans
A SORT OF HOMECOMING: NILS COMES BACK TO JERSEY AND BEYOND
Tomorrow night brings the return of Nils Lofgren to the Northeast for a much-anticipated series of eight shows, which bring him back to New Jersey, New York, Massachussetts, Connecticut, and Pennsylvania in May. These are his first gigs in the area since Wrecking Ball — his first in "three and a half years, I think," Nils says. "I don't remember the exact date, but you know, we had a 26-month run with E Street, and prior to that we had our longest rehearsal ever, two-and-a-half months. Just because we had so many rough issues to deal with, with Clarence's loss in particular, so yeah, it's been a long time since I've played in Jersey, done my own shows. Could be four years, I don't know. So it'll be a bit of a homecoming for an honorary New Jerseyan." Nils will be joined once again by multi-talented compatriot Greg Varlotta: "Greg and I kind of dusted off our duo show and added some new songs from the Face the Music box set." The homecoming begins Friday night, May 1, at the Carl Pfeifer Performing Arts Stage in Wyckoff, New Jersey; the great Nils Lofgren spoke to us by phone from Arizona.
So piror to this Northeast jaunt, you did quite a few shows in the UK earlier this year. How did that go? It was great. We spent most of January there and did 16 cities in 19 days on the bus — just like old times. Amy made the whole trip and designed and sold the merch with bus driver Dave. It was like old times and so wonderful to be out there with Amy again, who's not able to get away from our home that often. They really were great audiences, and it was kind of a crash course in getting my sea legs again for being the lead singer and the band leader. And after every show, too, I'd head out and meet everyone after each show and say hello, which I'll also do at these upcoming gigs in May. I'll put a dry shirt on and go out and sign t-shirts and CDs, say hi to everybody... and then we get in our couple vans and head down the road. But yeah, England went great, and I'm really looking forward to more, we're excited about it.
Greg was there with you for those shows too, right? Yeah, all these shows are with Greg Varlotta, who, in addition to keyboards and guitar, brings his trumpet and his tap dance board. We use him as a great percussionist, and I'll go back and forth from keyboards to guitar. I also bring my electric Strat, which once in a while I plug in and, you know, turn it to eleven and hit it hard with a track or two.
How much has the release of Face the Music impacted your set?
The box set, yeah — it really jogged my memory of many songs from the last 45 years that I hadn't really been playing in the live show. And there were 40 bonus tracks, too, so there's a lot of unreleased music that I never played that I can draw from, too, and try to change the show a little bit each night. There are some great old songs that I just had never done before or hadn't done in a long time — or even forgotten about. A lot of guitar playing, a lot of jamming and stretching out and trying to put together the best of 45 years in a couple hours.
You know, I've never gotten to see one of your duo shows. You mentioned Greg bringing a tap board. Does he tap dance too? I know you do. Yeah — he's the expert. He's my teacher, actually. After I had my hips replaced — I had them both replaced a few years back, and to my horror, the surgeon said.... well, I wanted to pay extra for some flubber in my hips so I could jump ten feet and dunk. And he said, "I don't know if you're gonna do that, and you can't buy flubber, and you also can't play basketball like you do." Because he knew I was very aggressive, you know, a street ball player. I went to the courts in the streets and played pickup games. It was kind of my hobby, what I loved.
He said, "No, the new hips like motion, but not impact. And that's violent impact, so that's out. And the trampoline flip on stage is out. You're going to have to put that in the closet." He said even the dive rolls — I showed him video of all my bits just to make sure I wasn't irresponsible, and sadly, he ruled most of them out.
But I always loved tap dancing: Bill Robinson, the Nicholas Brothers, all the old Shirley Temple movies. And Greg had been tapping very seriously as a percussionist — more from the Gregory Hines school of tap, and Savion Glover, not the show-and-tell, ticky-tack Vegas or Broadway stuff, there's also some great musical tapping.
So I got Greg to give me quite a few lessons. It's very therapeutic, actually. It's funny, my wife Amy laughs at me — it's beautiful out here right now, it's very sunny because it's Arizona, and if you throw the board down in the sun and you tap for 20 or 30 minutes in the hot sun to your favorite tracks, it's quite medicinal and aerobic. A little more entertaining than, you know, going to the gym and jumping on a Precor. And you know, look, I'm 63 now and 46 years on the road, and the doctors keep saying, "You should be happy you're not more beat up or dead for that matter, so don't get so greedy... take what you've got and enjoy it." So that's what I'm trying to do: look for the light.
Anyway, as a percussion instrument, we use it in a few songs. And Greg would give me lessons as we worked together five years ago or so when my metal hips got strong enough. And so yeah, I'll do it in the show once in a while. At worst it's a laugh, and at best it's semi-musical, but I've got Greg there as the ringer to make it all work.
So you've got your tap shoes, acoustic guitar, your electric... what else? Actually, I start off with a lever harp piece. Amy gave me this lever harp for Christmas years ago. Not a harmonica — a lever harp is like the classical harp, but it's three-quarter size without all the foot pedals. It's basically the Celtic type harp. Amy gave it to me, and and it's like an exercise machine: you either hang shirts on it, or you actually use it. So after a while, I just picked out some simple parts and started learning.
I usually open on that, which is an unusual instrument, and then right off the bat I'll kick into a pretty heavy blues, on my Stratocaster, and then predominantly, I move into the acoustic with Greg on keyboards. So it's acoustic-based, but it's a very powerful show.
Once in a while, I'll go over and sit at the piano, play some of my favorite songs with the keyboards, and I tell a lot of stories. At that point, Greg will be on the guitar — he's a multi-instrumentalist in the extreme — and we'll break out some old songs. He'll move to trumpet with me on the guitar, we'll do "Shine Silently" almost every night; "Because the Night" is a great track, I play my version that I did at the [Springsteen's] Christmas benefit shows. It's intense and powerful, but there are light moments. Telling stories — I just realized over the years, I've had these extraordinary stories, thanks to all my liaisons and journeys going back to '68, and even earlier, running around the northeast in '65 and '66, trying to see all the great bands — Jimi Hendrix, the original Who, the Beatles, the Stones, Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin, on and on.
I do a lot of jamming in the songs, and of course being the band leader... some nights I'll be playing a good solo and it feels like it's time to wrap it up and get back to the next verse. Other nights, I feel like I'm on to something special, and I'll just go, and it may turn into a four- or five-minute jam. So that's what it is: a pretty aggressive, acoustic-based show, but it's not your acoustic folky act. It's quite powerful, and there are a lot of other colors and sounds.
You mentioned a two-and-a half-month rehearsal for the E Street Band last time out — I don't think I was aware that it stretched out that long. It was a long journey and, you know, very painful even to discuss how if you carried on, how we would do that without Clarence. It was a conversation for a long time before there was any commitment, before Bruce made the commitment to see if we could create another chapter without Clarence. If he had chosen not to, I would have respected that. I mean, I stood next to Clarence for 27 years, and he was a dear friend thanks to Bruce inviting me into the band. So that was big; I mean, everyone in the band is valuable and critical, but Clarence was the mythical big man, so I think for the first time, thankfully, Bruce allowed for a lot of rehearsals. Of course, there was the matter of Jake taking his uncle's place, but besides just that, there was a new album. There was an enormous amount of, you know, how are we going to handle the [sonic] experimentation? Do we want percussion, do we not? How many singers?
Patti has been so fabulous; she joined the band when I did, but you know, she's kind of running a whole ship, so she would come and go. Because, you know, as a mother and kind of the "keeper of the empire," if you will, she had a lot on her plate. For me, because Bruce writes so authentically in so many different genres, I wound up with over 50 instruments on the road. And so it was just a lot of issues to figure out: how to best present not only a new album, but a new band and a new chapter without Bruce's right-hand man in Clarence.
We've had some tours where I looked at the rehearsal schedule and I actually laughed. I would call and ask the tour manager, "Is this really accurate? We've got 13 days to put a new tour together with a new album — is that right what I'm seeing, or is it a misprint?" But look, we're all pros, we always make it work.
So there are no E Street Band plans at the moment. We hear the band has been informed that they can make their own plans for their rest of the year, can you speak to that? I've not really been informed, but what I do, and I've always done, is, you know, plan a run of clubs in May, and then when it gets serious, I'll just reach out to management and say, "Hey, I'm planning this run in May. Are there any conflicts?" And they'll say, "No conflicts." Then I'll do the run. So I take it run by run.
I couldn't speak to a future past that because, you know, things change all the time. So I can't officially say anything except I know these shows in May I'm cleared for, and if and when another E Street chapter happens, I'll be there with bells on as always. Like all the fans, of course I hope there's another chapter down the road; but while there are no plans, it's the perfect time for me to get out and sing my songs, get back another aspect of what I do that I love dearly.
Looking ahead on your calendar, you've got a couple of stands coming up in June as well. The Annapolis Rams Head is sold out, but the Birchmere, June 8 and 9 in Virgina, there are still tickets left. And then in July I'm going up to Hard Rock in Northfield, Ohio, right outside of Cleveland, and then up to Niagara Falls.
And those are all cleared? Yeah, they're all cleared [laughs]. And of course, one of the inspirations out of the shows coming up, I'm hoping, is I'll get back home this summer and start writing again — see what comes out next for another solo album project for me to release. I'm really looking forward to all of these, and to getting back to doing my own thing.
Catch Nils live in the U.S. this spring and summer:
May 1 - Carl Pfeifer Performing Arts Stage - Wyckoff, NJ
May 3 - Newton Theatre - Newton, NJ
May 4 - BB King's Blues Club & Grill - New York, NY
May 6 - Arts at the Armory - Somerville, MA
May 7 - Infinity Hall - -Norfolk, CT
May 8 - Levoy Theatre - Milville, NJ
May 9 - Pollak Theatre at Monmouth - Long Branch, NJ
May 10 - Sellersville Theater - Sellersville, PA
June 5 - Rams Head On Stage - Annapolis, MD
June 6 - Rams Head On Stage - Annapolis, MD
June 8 - The Birchmere - Alexandria, VA
June 9 - The Birchmere - Alexandria, VA
July 10 - Hard Rock Live - Northfield, OH
July 11 - Seneca Niagara Casino - Niagara Falls, NY
For further tour details and venue information, visit nilslofgren.com. - April 30, 2015 - interview by Christopher Phillips - photographs by Michael Zorn
DJ RICH RUSSO BRINGS IT IN TO STEVIE'S SIRIUSXM GARAGE
Our pal Rich Russo, freeform radio DJ extraordinaire
and host of "Anything, Anything," has got a brand new bag: starting this Saturday, Russo will be hosting a second program, handpicked by Little Steven Van Zandt for a new show on his Underground Garage SiriusXM channel. The two-hour show will air every Saturday from 4pm to 6pm Eastern, with Russo spinning Garden State tracks from every era.
As the website describes The Jersey Guy Does Jersey: "From Sinatra to Springsteen to the Smithereens. From backstage at the Stone Pony to onstage at the PNC Bank Center. You're in store for a spectacular musical tour of New Jersey hosted by a guy who knows the 'neighborhood.' Your 'sherpa' wil be 'The Jersey Guy'...Rich Russo. Join him on quite the expidition."
Russo's friendship with Stevie goes back a couple decades, and Steve was there as a listener when Anything, Anything got off the ground in 2008, as Rich tells us: "When I started my NYC radio show, Steven was listening; he was texting me throughout, giving me pointers and advice and was still shocked that I had total freedom on the airwaves in the current radio environment. He would marvel at some of the songs I was playing on a mainstream rock station, 90 percent of which went completely against the format — he was happy and I guess proud of me.
"And then a familiar intro of a song came on," Russo continues, "a song that's been overplayed to death, a song that's almost always number one on the classic rock countdowns. I got a text from him during the intro, basically saying, "It's obvious that you don’t have full control, and the station must be picking music for you, too, because there’s no way you'd ever play 'Stairway to Heaven.'" Well... a few seconds later as the song moved from the familiar intro into the lyrics, he texted back and said, 'This is incredible! "Stairway to Heaven" with the lyrics of Gilligan's Island? Disregard that last text and do me a favor send me this song ASAP, I must have this.'"
Steven's clear admiration and respect for Russo as DJ and curator pays off with the new Jersey show. "He's letting me do my thing on his channel — he gave me the 'fence' of Jersey, but he's allowing me to define it as i see fit, and that definition will always be evolving. The depth of this show every week will prove that. [Spoiler alert: in addition to cuts from Springsteen, Southside Johnny & the Jukes and Little Steven himself, Russo's first playlist also embraces Cranford's Bruce Tunkel, Tenafly's Lesley Gore, and Cherry Hill's Low Cut Connie.] It not only shows his open-mindedness and vision for his groundbreaking radio channel and brand, it also shows his dedication and respect for New Jersey, what it means musically and culturally to the world."
Its not every state that gets its own show on satellite radio. "Steven only has two shows on his air that cover a geographical region," Rich points out, "one being the British Invasion with Chris Carter, which is the beginning of the Garage Rock movement (or 'the big bang,' as he puts it), and the Jersey show that I’m doing. Here’s a weird fact, Chris Carter is the original bassist of Dramarama, the Jersey band whose song 'Anything Anything' is the title and theme of my terrestrial show. Small world, right?"
Tune in Saturdays at 4pm beginning this weekend, on SiriusXM channel 21. - April 29, 2015
BROOKS KRAFT'S BRUCE PHOTOS ON DISPLAY NOW IN DC
You've seen Brooks Kraft's photography before, including on the covers of Backstreets #12, Backstreets #14, and Backstreets #41 (all now sold out). If you're in the Washington DC area this spring, you can see our pal's pictures hanging on the wall: Hill & Dale Records in Georgetown is hosting an exhibition of Kraft's Springsteen images, which span the Born in the U.S.A. and Obama eras.
Over the last 25 years, Brooks Kraft has become one of the world's most well-known and accomplished photojournalists. As a White House photographer with TIME Magazine and a veteran of seven presidential campaigns, Kraft has traveled with the President throughout the United States and to more than 50 countries; more to our point, he was there to shoot Springsteen's legendary six-night stand at the Philadelphia Spectrum in September 1984.
Visit Hill & Dale Records in Canal Square at 1054 31st Street NW, where Kraft's photographs will be viewable through June 15. - April 28, 2015
OUR SOULS WILL RISE TO CARRY THE FIRE Sabeen Mahmud, Pakistani activist andself-described Springsteen "devotee," assassinated
On Friday night Sabeen Mahmud, the popular Pakistani free speech and human rights activist, and founder of The Second Floor (T2F) community space in Karachi, was shot dead by as-yet-unidentified assassins after leaving a T2F event. Mahmud was only forty years old. Her mother, who left the event with Mahmud, also was shot and hospitalized but released in time to attend her daughter's funeral at T2F yesterday afternoon.
Mahmud, known as much for her wit as for her wisdom, described herself as follows on her Twitter page: "Post Modern Flower Child. Unabashed Mac Snob. Pink Floyd & Bruce Springsteen Devotee. Tetris Addict. West Wing & House MD Fanatic. Will Die for Hugh Laurie." Last year, Mahmud attended Springsteen's Virginia Beach concert and wrote about the experience on her Facebook page.
"Apologies for all the hyperbole that shall follow," she began, "but there is no way to describe a live Bruce Springsteen experience without excessive verbal indulgence. Bruce is a powerhouse of raw, unbridled energy. At 64, he has the tightest, sexiest ass I've ever seen and a lean, hungry body that brings to life the notion of strapping your hands 'cross his engines. He burst onto the stage at 7:15 pm and did not stop leaping, bounding, running, and being all kinds of awesome, until 10:30 pm. 3 hours and 15 minutes. Non-stop. Who does that anymore? In a world of synthesised, over-produced, stage-managed shit, a Bruce Springsteen concert is pure, unadulterated, old-fashioned (but not cheesy) rock and roll at its wondrous, glorious best. The way he enunciated that he is 'a prisoner of the everlasting eternal ass-kicking power of rock and roll'... oh god, my heart stopped for a nanosecond. He makes every single moment count. Every single moment is special... I was reminded starkly, of what really matters and what's important. My politics were reinforced. I made leaps of faith in my head all over again. Bruce Springsteen's music has defined my life — my hopes, dreams, aspirations and struggles. To be in the same space as him was nothing short of magical."
Shortly after Nils Lofgren learned via his Twitter page of Mahmud's assassination he tweeted "So sorry to hear of her murder. What a courageous woman." Later Nils re-tweeted Sabeen Mahmud's October 20, 2014 quote of the closing lines from "Darkness on the Edge of Town."
More on the life and assassination of Sabeen Mahmud can be found at these links:
- April 26, 2015 - Shawn Poole reporting - photography via White Star Photo, Karachi
WE KNOW WHO YOU ARE
Bruce Springsteen to honor Who patriarch Pete Townshend A May 28 benefit concert in New York City will recognize Pete Townshend's years of service helping people with addiction problems. The concert will bring together members of The Who's touring band, including drummer Zak Starkey and musical director Frank Simes. Also appearing are Joan Jett, Foreigner's Mick Jones, and Billy Idol.
Delivering the honor: Bruce Springsteen, himself honored as the MusiCares Person of the Year in 2013. It's hard to know exactly how the evening might unfold, whether Springsteen will perform or simply speak about Townshend and his work. MusiCares, a music industry charity that helps musicians with a range of social services, has yet to update its materials to show that Springsteen will appear. While VIP ticket reservations are spoken for and no other tickets are currently available, the event is not officially sold out as of 3pm EST April 24, so it's worth continuing to check axs.com.
Townshend's charity work goes back many decades, and picked up after the Who left the road for an extended break in 1982. That coincided with a peak in Townshend's admiration for Springsteen's work. "I had such an extraordinary engagement with Springsteen, mainly through his concerts," Townshend said in a 1996 interview. "I like the early, anthemic stuff, but when I saw him in concert in 1981, what I really liked was the poetry, the demand that he made of his audience to 'listen to this.' He put you in another place, which, when he started to drift into stadium rock, he let go." Springsteen, of course, is no stranger to Townshend's work, having attended many Who shows throughout their career (and his first U2 concert, as Townshend's guest, in London in 1981).
This MusiCares MAP Fund Concert will also recognize Who manager Bill Curbishley for his work in the same field. - April 24, 2015 - Jonathan Pont reporting
AND THEN THERE WERE FIVE
Here at Backstreet Records we were able to score a good amount of each of Springsteen's Record Store Day vinyl LPs. But even so, titles are starting to sell out — as of this afternoon, all our copies of Wild & Innocent and Born to Run are now spoken for. The other five remain available, get 'em while they last! - April 22, 2015
GET THE BOYS AND MEET ME DOWN AT PUBLIC HALL Landau, Morello, Van Zandt, Weinberg & Zimny takepart in the 2015 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Inductions
One year after being inducted themselves, Steve Van Zandt and Max Weinberg were significantly involved in last weekend's 30th Annual Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony at Cleveland Public Auditorium, aka Public Hall. Three other key E Street-connected collaborators also played major roles.
Van Zandt, who serves on the Hall's Nominating Committee, and Jon Landau, a member of the Hall's Board of Directors as well as its Nominating Committee, attended Saturday night's ceremony. Both were thanked from the stage by Joan Jett and her longtime manager/collaborator Kenny Laguna for their strong support in finally getting Jett and The Blackhearts inducted.
Weinberg was featured extensively in the video produced by Thom Zimny for Ringo Starr's induction as a solo artist. (Zimny also produced the video montage celebrating the 30th anniversary of the Induction Ceremonies.) Mighty Max was among the famous drummers discussing (and demonstrating) in detail why Ringo remains such a great and influential drummer. Once Ringo himself took the stage, he pointed to "Stevie Van Zandt"'s table and gave Steve a personal shout-out between songs.
Also sitting at Van Zandt's table was his E Street Band fill-in and key Springsteen collaborator Tom Morello. Morello joined Zac Brown on "Born In Chicago" during the segment celebrating 2015 inductees The Paul Butterfield Blues Band; he also contributed one of the scorching all-star jam (make that all-Starr jam) solos in "I Wanna Be Your Man" during the closing segment celebrating Ringo's induction.
The 2015 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony will be broadcast by HBO, premiering Saturday, May 30 at 8 pm ET. Click here for details. - April 22, 2015 - Shawn Poole reporting - photograph by Michael Zorn/For the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
RECORD STORE DAY RECORDS ARE HERE
Happy Record Store Day! Here at Backstreet Records — independent music shop for Springsteen fans for more than a quarter-century — we have all seven of today's special RSD Bruce Springsteen releases: his first seven albums, remastered on 180-gram vinyl, a la carte. Quantities are limited, we'll fulfill orders first-come, first-served.
Today only: FREE sticker pack with all orders over $20
Just for Record Store Day, we'll be slipping in a five-pack of Backstreets stickers, free with all orders of $20 or more, whether you're ordering Vinyl or not. (No need to use a coupon code or add anything to your cart, this will be automatic for all orders placed today.) Thanks for supporting small, independent shops like ours, today and throughout the year! - April 18, 2015
RECORD STORE DAY 2015 SNEAK PEAK
On Saturday, for Record Store Day, the remasters of Springsteen's first seven albums will be available on 180-gram LPs individually for the first time. Remastered vinyl for all those who'd like to pick and choose, rather than buying the full Album Collection box set. In addition to the new records, we'll have some freebies to give away, too... be sure to check back in the morning, on one of our favorite holidays of the year. - April 17, 2015
KEEPING YOU IN STITCHES
These official cloth patches were made as promotional items in 2006 for the We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions album. Adhesive on the back, so you can stick it or sew it — a short stack just in at Backstreet Records. - April 16, 2015
IT TEARS US UP Percy Sledge, 1940-2015 Backstreets mourns the passing of soul legend and Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Percy Sledge, who died Tuesday at 74.
Get this: Sledge was there in person to sing when Steve and Maureen Van Zandt were married in 1982. @StevieVanZandt himself tweeted a photo of the magic moment [right] after hearing the news: "Here's Percy at our wedding. He sang 'When a Man Loves a Woman' as we walked down the aisle. Nice memory."
Percy's minor 1967 hit "Cover Me" also contained lyrical themes similar to Born in the U.S.A.'s second top-ten hit single. 'Round these parts, however, there's no better way to remember his enduring glories than with this beautiful version of one of his other classics, "Warm and Tender Love"[top], soundchecked by Bruce Springsteen and his 1992-93 band but never played in concert (with lyrics noticeably different from Sledge's version.) - Updated April 16, 2015 - Shawn Poole reporting - photograph via Twitter/@SteveVanZandt
SHORT SLEEVES RESTOCKED! It's feeling like spring is finally here, so we're revisiting our T-shirt shelves to restock for warmer weather. Just back in today is this official shirt from Thrill Hill Productions, a recent design that says it loud and clear: BRUCE.
We're now fully resupplied, with all available sizes back in stock: Small, Medium, Large, XL, and XXL.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY, NORM!
You may know him better as Max Weinberg. The Mighty One turns 64 today, born April 13, 1951 (so we send birthday greetings, bottle of wine). Max recently reprised his role on Hawaii Five-O as gunshop owner Norm, following up his appearance in Season 3 ("Hookman") with this season's "Kuka'awale" (AKA "Stakeout," S05E17). If you missed the broadcast a month and a half ago, you can watch the full episode now at CBS.com. - April 13, 2015
WHERE THE BANDS ARE
A few shows by Friends of Bruce and other related Jersey Shore artists to bring to your attention as we look to the weekend and beyond...
This Saturday, catch Detroit singer-songwriter Stewart Francke at St. Dunstan's Theater in Bloomfield Hills, MI. Show is at 8pm, and Stewart tells us they're "expecting a sell out, so get there a little early if you can make it. We'll finish about 9:30. Guaranteed to help you forget your troubles for 90 minutes!" Springsteen joined Francke for the studio track "Summer Soldier," which is now available on the new Midwestern: The Very Best of Stewart Francke, 1995-2015.
Coming up in just a few weeks, Nils Lofgren plays his first shows in the northeast in three years, with concerts in NY, NJ, CT, MA, and PA. With Nils performing at eight venues over ten nights, the run begins May 1 in Wyckoff NJ and includes a stop at BB King's Blues Club in NYC on May 4. See the full list of dates at nilslofgren.com. Nils's latest, the limited deluxe box set Face the Music, is still available from Backstreet Records. Also watch this space before his May tour begins for a new Backstreets chat with Nils.
Singer-songwriter Joe D'Urso, who also serves on the board of directors for both Light of Day and WhyHunger, is hosting the Rockland-Bergen Music Festival in June, in Tappan, NY. He's put together quite a line-up, featuring Light of Day mainstays such as Willie Nile, Joe Grushecky & Eddie Manion, and Garland Jeffreys, along with fellow WhyHunger director Tom Chapin and other artists including Shawn Colvn, David Johansen and John Eddie. Of course, D'Urso will play as well, with his band Stone Caravan. Tickets are on sale now for the two-day festival, June 27 and 28. - April 10, 2015
MUSIC IN FILM FESTIVAL BRINGS CLINCH AND MORE TO ASBURY This weekend, music fans once again have good reason to gather in Asbury Park: the first of what wlll be an annual music-focused film festival kicks off tomorrow, bringing numerous documentary and perfomance films to town along with some renowned musicians. The inagural Asbury Park Music in Film Festival (#APMFF) runs April 10-12, 2015 on the boardwalk as well as in downtown Asbury.
Of course, there's something for the Springsteen fan: Sunday afternoon at the Paramount Theatre is "Talking Story with Danny Clinch," where the photographer will have his director hat on, onstage (with our pal Tim Donnelly) to discuss films he's directed for Bruce, Pearl Jam, and Phish, and the stories behind them.
Headlining the festival will be Metallica bassist Robert Trujillo's film JACO, a documentary about legendary bass player Jaco Pastorius, which screens Saturday night at the Paramount. An all-star jam of an after-party at the Stone Pony, "Funk That Bass" will feature Trujillo, Bernie Worrell, Dean Ween, Corey Glover, Bernard Fowler, Nicole Atkins and more, doing songs by Jaco as well as funk anthems.
APMFF will also show over fifty submissions from local, national, and international filmmakers, as well as celebrated music films Salad Days: A Decade of Punk in Washington, DC; A Band Called Death; Take Me to the River; Riot on the Dance Floor; and Rye Coalition: The Story of the Hard Luck Five. To view the schedule of events and purchase tickets, visit www.apmff.com/schedule-tickets. - April 9, 2015
JAKE CLEMONS, JOE WALSH & MORE IN THE CAN FOR CLARENCE DOC Who Do I Think I Am? film on track for a late-2015 release
Judging by emails we receive, interest among fans remains high in the as yet-unreleased Clarence Clemons documentary, Who Do I Think I Am? Good thing, then, that interest remains high on the part of the filmmakers as well, whose efforts continue to expand the film and get it out for all to see.
Producer Joe Amodei checked in with Backstreets today to let us know that he recently "sat down with Jake Clemons, who graciously gave us an incredible amount of amazing stories that were enticing, entertaining, emotional and spiritual all at the same time. Jake even spoke about the first time he played 'Jungleland' on stage. It brought tears to our eyes.
"We were also privileged to meet and film Clarence's Aunt Chick, who spoke about the Big Man when he was a little guy. We visited Clarence's star on the Walk of Fame in hometown Norfolk VA. And then we scored a giant coup with Joe Walsh."
Director Nick Mead says, "It was a nice surprise when Joe Walshstepped up to be in the film. Both Clarence and Nils had worked with him as part of Ringo's All Starr Band — we filmed Joe at the Gibson showroom in Beverly Hills, and he had some great stories about that time, the musical excellence that everyone had achieved, as well as 'tales from the road.'
"When Clarence and I started this film," Mead continues, "it was meant to be a brief 'summer vacation in China thing,' a three- or four-month exercise at best. But for all sorts of reasons, it's turned into a ten-year voyage of discovery. It's a side of Clarence that certainly hasn't been seen before, with reflections on Clarence that thus far have been personal memories which those who knew him the best now feel ready to share."
These new interviews — along with some already in the can with Nils Lofgren, Vini Lopez, Willie Nile, Norman Seldin, Michael Narada Walden and more — are "beginning to round out the film and really pay tribute to the man," says Amodei. "We are still waiting on a few more to come on board before we begin the final editing stage. The goal is to celebrate the release of this film by the end of this year. Keep all fingers crossed."
For more on the documentary, along with exclusive stills, see Nick Mead's piece in our Clarence tribute issue, Backstreets #91. - April 8, 2015 - images courtesy of Joe Amodei - Joe Walsh photograph by Nick Mead
A SIT-DOWN WITH SOUZA
If you've been a Backstreets reader for any length of time, you've probably gathered that we're also fans of photography. One of our favorites currently at work is photojournalist Pete Souza. The Chief Official White House Photographer for Barack Obama (who was on staff during Ronald Reagan's presidency as well) is also an enthusiastic fan of Bruce Springsteen, and thanks to his position and his eye we've seen some truy unique images and perspectives — as in the Kennedy Center Honors photograph above and, at right, a rare shot from the 2014 Shoah Foundation benefit.
As the guest on a new episode of The Photo Brigade Podcast, Pete talks at length about his work. Asked about what might be next in his career, and further, about his passions, photography is top of the list. Next, though, he names music, with a nice tip of the hat: "If Bruce Springsteen has an opening, I'll be his tour photographer, if he asks... but you know, he has Jo Lopez, who I've communicated with a little bit, who's doing a great job documenting Springsteen on the road. So he's in good hands."
Go to the 32:22 mark to hear that part of the discussion. But the entire conversation is fascinating, as Souza brings "Badlands"-level dedication and determination to his work, whch also includes being director of the White House Photography Office: "This is a unique opportunity, and I just decided going in that I was going to give it everything I had. I'm perpetually tired, I've taken one vacation in six years... but I just feel committed to documenting this presidency the best way I know how. I've got 22 months left to do it, and I'm just gonna go full-bore for the last 22 months." - April 7, 2015 - photographs by Pete Souza / The White House
NEW JESSE MALIN ALBUM OUT THIS WEEK
Backstreets photographer Joe Quever bears witness to the making of New York Before the War
There I was... and it actually was a "dark and stormy night"... sitting in Asbury Park's Convention Hall in early December 2003. A few songs into the show, Bruce began an introduction: "I want to bring out a fellow I'm a big fan of. He's got a record out called The Fine Art of Self Destruction, a great new singer/songwriter/rocker out of New York City, Mr. Jesse Malin."
I'll admit, I did not know who Jesse Malin was. I was also a bit surprised they weren't playing Springsteen songs or holiday classics together — they were playing Jesse's songs. I also knew, however, that Bruce is very committed to whatever he does; so Jesse was obviously a "special" guest to him. And as anyone who has ever seen Bruce at Convention Hall knows, these are very special nights. This Holiday show was certainly no exception — though it ended up being an even more profoundly important night for me, personally, in the years to come. This was my introduction to Jesse Malin, the songwriter and musician, and it planted a seed that would grow into a great working relationship, one I never saw coming that cold, cold night in Asbury Park.
With this week's release of Jesse's fifth solo studio album, New York Before The War, I find myself thinking about all that has transpired over the past couple years as I was allowed into his inner circle during the making of this wonderful, varied, ground-breaking new record for him. I was trusted to film and document the entire process, including songwriting (this over several years), rehearsing, creating demos, and recording the album proper. This record was created over a length of time, and in a few different studios, to find the just right fit and feel to make the record Jesse wanted to make.
Watching this process transpire in front of me and my cameras for a few years now, I've seen an artist never wavering in his art, never trying to make this kind of record or that kind of record, just trying to make the best record, for him, right now. As he says, "this is maybe 'just' a record, but for me, it's a part of my life."
I began working with Jesse almost five years ago, a couple years after I first shot Bruce for Backstreets. It started with Jesse simply at a photo shoot in San Francisco — but after one conversation, I found myself on an airplane from the Bay to New York City to begin working on two videos for him, and some more photography as well. The trust grew to the point that I was basically given unrestricted access to film and record everything, including the very beginnings — and ultimately the entire process — of making New York Before The War. The extreme was probably being in vocal booths filming Jesse while he was singing final takes — some very tight spots, which was very cool of him, though looking back I think, "Man, I was kind of in his space, wasn't I?" But he's consistently allowed me to be part of the team, filming whatever I wanted for the past five years.
Jesse joked from almost day one about making "our movie." Everything I filmed that was not for a video was for "our movie" — and I filmed a lot. But no joke anymore: it's looking more and more like there may be a larger-scope documentary film on the horizon.
With New York Before The War, Jesse told me he wanted "to make a record that encompassed everything I've done, since I started with my hardcore band, Heart Attack, when I was 12 or 13, through bands like D Generation and then my solo career, but I also wanted to challenge the listeners who have been with me — and challenge myself."
For me, this record absolutely succeeds in accomplishing that. With such great songwriting, it represents so much of who Jesse is as a musician right now. "Addicted" was the first single released, driven by bass and drums, telling a story steeped in not only the continual changing of New York City but also in all our own communities, and the conflicts inherent in these changes. Little Steven's Underground Garage "cool pick" of the week was the second single, "Turn Up The Mains." An excellent rocker, with a tip of the cap to the '70s Stones, and a ripping guitar solo and "nasty" sax solo at the end, where it really takes off (it's the first song in the album trailer up top).
There are a few great guests on some of the album, including MC5's guitarist Wayne Kramer, who burns it up on the rocking "Freeway"; Alejandro Escovedo does backing vocals on "Turn Up the Mains"; and Peter Buck contributes R.E.M.-style guitar to the story-driven "I Would Do It For You."
I have to say, with just a little prejudice, that this is a very, very good record. To me, it's an album in the classic sense, a collection of songs that go together. As he says, "this is not just a shuffle of songs. There is a cinematic thread, a story." I truly believe Jesse's an artist who is just hitting his stride.
New York Before the War was released on Tuesday. See more information and tour dates at jessemalin.com. - April 2, 2015 - Joseph Quever reporting - all photographs and video clips by Joseph Quever
THE DOG ON COOKMAN AVENUE HOWLS
It was a bittersweet weekend for Vini Lopez. On the one hand, a first-of-its-kind exhibit devoted solely to his professional life and legacy opened on Friday night at the Where Music Lives gallery in Asbury Park, and on the other — right next door, in fact — his past was disappearing before his eyes, as the former Upstage club saw what may well be its last hurrah (which included a brief "last jam" featuring Vini and his friend and current bandmate Paul Whistler) that same night.
- Vini getting a last look inside the Upstage on Friday night - photograph by Mark Krajnak/JerseyStyle Photography
But life has always been somewhat of a mixed bag for the free-spirited Lopez, whose interests have led him from a musical career to professional caddying on the PGA tour, from surfing to carpentry and boatbuilding. For better or worse, he's always done things his way. Would he change anything if he could?
"Well, I'd like to have more money. I'd like to pay my mortgage," he tells Backstreets. But on display in the "Life and Times of Vini Lopez" exhibit is evidence of a life well-lived despite the occasional hardship: PGA badges and a caddy's vest. A commemorative gold record for the Wild, the Innocent and the E Street Shuffle. His infamous, handmade Spock surfboard. VIP credentials and a commemorative trophy from his Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction. A Dr. Zoom & the Sonic Boom family tree. Photographs of his grandmother's wedding, family gatherings, his high school graduation. A vintage travel bag covered with stickers documenting life on the road. Countless images of Lopez posing with friends and bandmates or at the drum kit in classic "Mad Dog" mode.
Most of what's in the gallery is from his personal collection — and there is a story behind just about every item — but there is also the story of what's no longer his. He had traveled to San Francisco with Bruce and Steel Mill and had taken many of his personal possessions with him in the car. They were there to play a few shows and do some recording for legendary impresario Bill Graham. "Eric Clapton was playing at [Graham's] Carousel Ballroom, and we all decided we'd go," Vini recalls. They all piled into their Volkswagen van, parked on the street, and went in to catch the show. When they came out, "the stuff was gone."
So, many items from that early period — posters, musical equipment, memorabilia, even Steel Mill tapes playing over the museum P.A. — are either facsimile or borrowed from other sources, notably longtime collector Billy Smith. But one would be hard pressed to find fault with the contents of this comprehensive exhibit.
Indeed, it's a diverse and satisfying collection, the history of a life in which Lopez has, over the years, established himself as a true cornerstone of the Asbury Park music scene and keeper of the flame, of a much-beloved local fixture and generous friend who has weathered the vicissitudes of the musician's life and come out the other side. It is the story of his journey from Tinker West's surfboard factory to the Barclays Center.
Taking in the dilapidated but still eerily evocative remnants of the old Upstage building just after overseeing the official opening of the exhibit, Lopez was wistful. "There are a lot of ghoulies and ghosts in here for me," he told the Asbury ParkPress. Indeed, many of the musicians who made the place what it was — Bobby Williams, John Luraschi, Danny Federici, Kevin Kavanaugh — are gone. But as one of the last true originals on the Asbury Park scene, Vini Lopez still stands tall.
The fate of the Upstage building at 702 Cookman is still in question; the building remains for sale, with current owner Richard Yorkowitz having long since abandoned plans to convert the building to a music venue/restaurant after garnering minimal support from Asbury Park City Hall. Carrie Potter Devening, granddaughter of Upstage owner/founders Tom and Margaret Potter, considers it her duty to uphold their legacy, and continues to work hard from her home in Texas to come up with financial backing to restore the building to its former glory. Indeed, Friday evening's "last hurrah" tour organized by DJ Rich Russo has revived interest in her salvation efforts. But it's an uphill battle at best.
True artists can and do carve out the time and space to do their work in the unlikeliest of places — in this case, on top of a shoe store. Out of a sense of community, of needing to belong somewhere, to create something together that is theirs alone, they can fashion something larger than themselves, something vibrant, unique, lasting and true. The Upstage was once such a place. That's the part that continues to live on in people's memories even as the building itself crumbles.
For more information on Vini Lopez and his new band Dawg Whistle, visit dawgwhistlemusic.com. Information on Carrie Potter Devening's fundraising efforts can be found on the Upstage Club and Green Mermaid Café Facebook page; her book on the Upstage is available here. "The Life and Times of Vini Lopez" exhibit continues through June 14 at the Where Music Lives, 708 Cookman Ave in Asbury Park. - March 30, 2015 - Lisa Iannucci reporting
LIKE THE MISSING WORDS (AND MUSIC) TO SOME PRAYER The Title Trackers find the "lost" title track to Greetings The Title Trackers are men on a mission of musical mirth. As simply stated on their website, "We take classic albums with no title track, and write and record parody songs answering the question: What might it have sounded like if the artists HAD written a title track?" The results are simultaneously funny and intriguing. Their debut album includes the band's takes on the missing title tracks from The Rolling Stones' Exile on Main Street, U2's The Joshua Tree, The Who's Who's Next and Bruce Springsteen's Greetings From Asbury Park, NJ. These very clever musical parodies work so well because band members Russell Wiener, David Tokaji and Andy Hill (pictured L-R) are seriously talented musicians/satirists and serious music fans who've hit upon a great way of not taking themselves or some of their favorite artists too seriously.
You can check out "Greetings From Asbury Park, NJ" and four more "lost" title tracks right now at thetitletrackers.com.
Tokaji gave Backstreets some additional insights into his band's vision of Springsteen's debut album's non-existent title track: "The elements we most wanted to conjure and satirize were the scrappy and quirky instrumentation, whirlwind rhymes, eccentric Jersey characters prowling the shore, and phlegm-rattling vocals. As with all our songs, we think of 'Greetings' as part homage and part satire — we're both showing our love of the artist and poking some affectionate fun at their idiosyncrasies. The one part of the song that is pure homage is the sax solo. We debated at length whether to have sax at all because Clarence is just such a force of nature and, in our minds, beyond the reach of parody. In the end, we decided we had to include a big moment from the Big Man simply to honor him and the magic between him and Bruce that sprang forth on that first album."
The Trackers' debut album features contributions on several tracks from Marty Rifkin, a member of the Sessions Band who played on the original Seeger Sessions as well as several other Springsteen recordings. Rifkin told Backstreets, "What makes great parody is having a total understanding of the artist and their work that's being parodied. The Title Trackers know Bruce's lyrics so well, having studied them so carefully for years. So it's easy to tell that the lines in 'Greetings' were derived from Bruce's early-'70s songs — and then were amped up and turned on their side to become a caricature. It's fun trying to figure out what original lyric the parody lyric is teasing. And musically, they just nailed it."
Click here to buy Lost Title Tracks, featuring "Greetings From Asbury Park, NJ," on vinyl with CD included. Los Angeles-area fans also can check out The Title Trackers in concert, with Marty Rifkin joining in on guitar for the entire show, debuting their album live at The Satellite tonight, Sunday March 29, at 8 pm. Click here for details and tickets.
- March 29, 2015 - Shawn Poole reporting
ARE YOU READY TO SEND OUT 1980?
Fourth archive release goes down to The River
Maintaining an impressive release schedule, the Springsteen Live Download series returns with a show that has surely been at or near the top of many fans' wish lists: the New Year's Eve concert from Long Island's Nassau Coliseum, December 31, 1980.
The 38-song set ranks as one of Springsteen's longest, and that fact alone kept fans' regard for it high since the show ended in the wee hours of January 1, 1981. It's one of the best because it has it all: 12 core songs from The River, key unreleased "hits" of the era ("Because the Night," "Rendezvous," "Fire"), vital transition songs that signaled what was to come in Europe and beyond ("This Land Is Your Land," "Who'll Stop the Rain"), seasonal specials ("Merry Christmas Baby," "Santa Claus is Coming to Town," "Auld Lang Syne"), true rarities ("In the Midnight Hour," the one-off "Held Up Without a Gun," ), and three night songs to kick things off strong ("Night," "Prove It All Night," "Spirit in the Night").
Like the Tower Theater (recorded exactly five years earlier), Nassau was newly mixed from multi-track tapes by Toby Scott earlier this month (and mastered again by Adam Ayan at Gateway), working from tapes made by the Record Plant Remote recording unit, which was on site to capture all three nights of the stand. Songs from Nassau '80 have previously appeared on Live 1975-85, Tracks and Essential.
The legendary performance has a long history on bootlegs, first on vinyl with titles like The Night They Drove Old ’80 Down and Happy New Year, and later on CD (In The Midnight Hour and Nassau Night). But even the best of these was never quite as good as the best ’78 broadcasts or earlier soundboards, and some drew on performances from other nights in the run to fill in gaps.
Like its predecessors, 12/31/80 is available in four formats: MP3, CD (shipping in late April), lossless standard 16 bit /44.1 kHz, and high definition 24 bit / 192 kHz. - March 25, 2015 - Erik Flannigan reporting - photograph by John T. Comerford III / Frank White Photo Agency
LET 'EM KNOW! DANNY SCHECHTER, "THE NEWS DISSECTOR," 1942-2015
We at Backstreets.com mourn the loss of Danny Schechter, who died last Thursday of pancreatic cancer at the age of 72. Schechter, long known as "The News Dissector" beginning with his 1970s stint as news director at Boston’s legendary free-from radio station WBCN, was a pioneering journalist, filmmaker, and activist.
Schechter [front row, far left] working on the "Sun City" video with director Jonathan Demme and producer Hart Perry, along with [back row, L-R] Big Youth, Lou Reed, Reuben Blades, John Oates, and Little Steven. Photograph by David Seelig for The Solidarity Foundation
Schechter also was Steve Van Zandt's original collaborator on what became Artists United Against Apartheid and "Sun City." As Van Zandt told Dave Marsh in a 2013 E Street Radio interview archived here by Backstreets.com, "Danny... was my first partner. We brought in Arthur Baker. He offered his studio, which was great, and ended up co-producing and connecting us to this new thing which me and Danny were very, very adamant about, which was including these new things called 'rappers' on the record.... [Before Sun City,] I think I'd done an interview or two with [Danny,] but we weren't really that friendly. I called him or he called me when he heard about what I was doing, and he turned out to be a wonderful partner because he was so politically connected and also had such great media savvy... which we needed for this project desperately, because I was not that big a star to sort of be doing stuff like this, frankly. I was not that big a celebrity at the time. I was doing it all from pretty much willpower."
For the Sun City album, Schechter also fully utilized his "News Dissector" skills, working with Keith LeBlanc to select, edit and mix (to a hip-hop beat) dozens of news clips, speech and interview segments, during a pre-digital/internet period when performing such a task wasn’t so easy. Their valiant efforts produced the track "Revolutionary Situation," a still-riveting audio-montage that gave many listeners, in just over six minutes, their much-needed basic overview of the struggle against apartheid.
Seven years after Sun City, Schechter teamed up again with Little Steven and Bruce Springsteen, contributing "Revolutionary Situation"-style audio work to Van Zandt's remixes of Springsteen's "57 Channels (And Nothin' On.)” (Check out "Little Steven's Mix Version 1" here.) This time around, the aural terrain wasn’t apartheid-era South Africa but the United States, in the wake of the Rodney King beating.
Old friends Van Zandt and Schechter together again, a quarter-century after "Sun City." Photograph by Jon Kalish
Before, during and after his intersections with E Street, Danny Schechter remained a widely recognized and respected figure in independent journalism and alternative media. Here are just a few of the many online resources recognizing his passing and the enduring achievements of his life and career:
"LOOKING FOR THAT MOMENT WHEN IT GETS INTERESTING"
Airborne Toxic Event's Mikel Jollet on what he's learned from Bruce Backstreets readers may already be familiar with Airborne Toxic Event; the band has covered Springsteen tracks including "I'm on Fire," appeared on Dave Marsh's Live From E Street Nation [right], and frontman Mikel Jollet spoke with Rolling Stone a couple years back about the man's influence on their third album: "I asked myself, 'What would Bruce Springsteen do?' If you want to do something that's important, you can't fake it.... I watched the documentaries about making Born to Run and making Darkness on the Edge of Town and there was a moment where Bruce says something along those lines."
Airborne Toxic Event has just released two new albums simultaneously, Dope Machines and Songs of God and Whiskey — another trick borrowed from the Boss — and are currently on a mini-tour in the U.S. before heading to Europe next month. Our friend and Williams College professor Steven Fein spoke with Jollet, discovering further wisdom he's taken from Zimny's documentaries and from Springsteen's work as a whole, and finding some compelling insights into how Bruce's work continues to affect another generation of songwriters. Jollet has thought about it enough that, when Fein asks if there are specific inspirations he can name, the singer replies, "Well, there's three."
1. Score your thoughts One is the idea I remember from one of the documentaries, where he talks about scoring, and viewing [an album's music] as a cinematic score, like you can watch an album. I did that a lot on the first record... then I just didn't do it with the second record: I was just writing songs I'd bring to the band, and then we'd work it out, and cool, that's the arrangement. But it's bullshit, because you've gotta score your thoughts, you've gotta put people in your world with you, you've gotta let them join your world. And the only way to do that is to sit in a room and tinker with lots of different sounds until it feels like a mood is happening, and then you can sing about it — and if you could sing them in gibberish, you would know what the songs were about. That's a direct lift from Bruce. And it's something that I was not conscious of doing, and I remember I was like "Oh, I totally used to do that, why'd I stop?"... So that's a direct thank you to Bruce, for taking something I didn't even realize I was doing and making it very explicit.
2. Show your struggle The second idea — I don't know where I saw it, but it was the idea of struggle, that you don’t present your solutions, you present your struggles. Give people the struggle, don't give them your answer. You don't want to be like, "I'm the songwriter, I figured out so much truth, and here it is! Love is the best thing!" You're wrestling with an idea, and the idea isn't to wrestle with it to come to a conclusion and to write about your conclusion. The idea is to put people in the room with you while you're struggling. 'Cause they're struggling, too.
There's mood and there's emotion and communication in melody and in rhythm. And of course it's part of storytelling, of course it's part of communing... that's why music is such a vital thing for human beings, because it's a way that we communicate more complexity in our thoughts and our emotions. So if you present people your struggles in this way, they feel less alone. There's a shock of recognition, of like, "Oh my god, somebody else." And I've had that with many, many artists where I'm like, "Somebody else has felt this."
3. Find the moment There's a moment in "Thunder Road" that is always, like, my standard. And the moment is: "There were ghosts in the eyes of all the boys you sent away." When he just belts out that line, and the music swells, and suddenly everything just goes. It's like a car, and its going down a bumpy road... and then suddenly, it kind of ramps up... and then you're off and you’re on this highway and you turn right! And you’re like, "Oh shit, the whole song turned right now, now we’re on this highway — what, there are ghosts!" And you can see the prom dress flying in the air, you can feel the rhythm of the thing and the engine roaring, and you're like, "Yeah!"
And that sort of poetry — highly evocative poetry, mixed with the orchestration and the scoring of that moment — can let people go on that journey with you.... I think he just nailed it on that song, so it's sort of like a standard for me. I'm always thinking about that and looking for that moment where it gets interesting.
"I don't want to be Bruce Springsteen, at all," Jollet clairifies. "You know, I think there are decisions I wouldn't make, too. It's not as if I feel like he nailed the thing that I wanted to do and I just want to copy him, because I don't. I have other things that I want to do. It's more that I so respect and admire what he did. And mostly, more than anything, the sense of being in it, body and soul."
For Fein's full Springsteen discussion with Jollet, visit Airborne Toxic Event fansite thisisnowhere.com. - March 24, 2015 - SiriusXM studios photograph by Carin Perilloux
EVERY MAD DOG HAS HIS DAY
Beginning this Friday, March 27, the Where Music Lives Gallery in Asbury Park will host "The Life & Times of Vini Lopez," a multimedia exhibit dedicated to the E Street Band's founding drummer. Featuring photos, video and memorabilia, the show celebrates the 40-plus year career of the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer, who has been a cornerstone of the Asbury Park music scene since the late 1960s. Lopez, still a fixture at the Shore, also shares personal stories of the highs and lows of being a working musician.
LAST CHANCE TO SEE INSIDE THE UPSTAGE
The Upstage Club, located at 700 Cookman in Asbury Park, was the launching pad for the Jersey Shore sound of Bruce Springsteen, Little Steven Van Zandt, Southside Johnny and numerous others who honed their skills via late night jams at the club. Anything Anything with Rich Russo gives you the final opportunity to see and go inside before this legendary Asbury club truly is no more.
Although the building has been in bad shape for years, and efforts to resurrect it have fallen short, numerous elements of the Upstage are still there: some of the wall murals and other paintings are still visible, as is the original stage. But the building is for sale, and any new owner will most likely gut it.
"If you are a fan of the great music that Asbury Park has given us, stepping inside the Upstage is our version of visiting the Cavern Club in Liverpool," says Russo, whose freeform Anything Anything program will be giving away passes this Sunday night. "But this is even rarer, since it's not a museum and hasn't been readily available since it shut down in the '70s. It's truly something that money can't buy, and it will be free to about 20 contest winners.
"Winners will get to take pictures, stand on the stage, visit the Green Mermaid area on the second floor — it will truly be a special thing. You will get goosebumps," Russo continues, "especially after you realize that once you leave, no one will ever see it in that form again."
The bulk of the passes will be given away on Anything Anything this Sunday night, March 22, via 95.9 WRAT-FM from 10pm-12m, and 105.5 WDHA-FM from 11pm-1am. These stations can be also streamed throughout New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania.
Well aware that there are fans of the Jersey Shore sound around the world, and considering the streams of his Jersey stations are limited to the tri-state area, Russo will also be giving away one pair of passes via his show on White Plains' 107.1 The Peak (which airs at 9pm Sundays and streams worldwide) as well as giving a pair to good friend and host of the longest running Bruce Springsteen radio show ever, Tom Cunningham's Bruce Brunch on 105.9 The Hawk (which airs 9am-11am on Sunday mornings and also streams worldwide).
This is an exclusive Anything Anything event. The winners will be notified within a few days of the contest, and the Upstage visit will happen no later than April 5. There is no purchase necessary. This prize has no monetary value. There will be no special guests, no music, no souvenirs available, no food, no drink —this will be about a 30-minute walk-through, and no one other than those on the list will get the opportunity. Tune in on Sunday for your chance to get on it. - March 19, 2014 - images courtesy of Carrie Potter Devening, from her book For Music's Sake: Asbury Park's Upstage Club and Green Mermaid Cafe - The Untold Stories
JAKE TAKES AUSTRALIA
Jake Clemons / Heritage Hotel Bulli / Saturday, March 14, 2015 Bulli is a former mining town, now suburb of the City of Wollongong, an hour and half drive south of Sydney. It's quiet, just a handful of stores and a single pub. It's at this pub that Jake Clemons spent a Saturday night giving what I'm guessing is one of his most intimate gigs ever.
The intimacy came from two sources. The first was the pub itself, a small establishment which could fit 150 or so people maximum (there were around 40 on this night). The second source of intimacy was the performance itself. This was my first Jake Clemons gig, so I had no idea how he'd be as front man. What I saw was near on a revelation: Jake is one of the most passionate performers I've ever seen, one willing to not only wear his heart on his sleeve but to hold it up and open it for everyone to see.
The first set was Jake on his own, performing a range of numbers from his first two EPs. The final song of the first set saw the use of a looper pedal to huge effect, with a howling sax solo on top that brought down the house. Set two saw band mates Matt Musty (percussion) and Brett Mayer (keys) join the fray. There were plenty of songs from the upcoming album played, as well as some well-known Clemons songs. There was a great cover of "With a Little Help From My Friends," but the real highlights for me were "Love'll Never Change" [video], and a brilliantly poignant mash-up of "You're a Friend of Mine" and "The Wrestler."
This could have been a night where 40 people didn't fill the room with enough energy. Between Jake's passion and the appreciation shown by those present, it ended up a special night. Not that he needed to prove he was a class act, but after finishing the second set, a fully unplugged singalong standing amongst us punters. A fitting end to a night of music about hope, community and carrying others forward. Anyone varicating about going to a Jake Clemons gig needs to stop doing so: it's an uplifting experience throughout.
Jake continues to tour Down Under for the rest of March; see jakeclemons.com for dates and ticket links. - March 19, 2014 - report and photograph by David Holloway
Lads and lasses, the luck of the Irish is again upon you: for today only, a Backstreet Records store-wide sale: 17% off throughout our entire online shop! Use the coupon code below to get that discount on all in-stock merchandise, including:
Simply use the coupon code SLANECASTLE30 during Step Two of Checkout, and the 17% discount will be applied to your entire order — including items already on sale. So if you've been eyeing something Boss, now's a great time to pick it up. Offer good Tuesday, March 17 only. Happy St. Patrick's Day! - March 17, 2014
CAN WE GIVE THE DRUMMER SOME, Y'ALL?
Wishing the good Reverend Everett Bradley a bangin' birthday. - March 16, 2015 - photograph by Bill Donohoe
MAN AT THE TOP
Christgau: the man, the memoir, the music
Whatever the field, few people can call themselves the dean of anything and get away with it. But music critic Robert Christgau continues to earn that title. He reviews everything, from Muddy Waters (on I'm Ready, the follow-up to his 1977 comeback Hard Again: "Not as ready as you were last time, Mud, but don't let it worry you — it's always harder to get hard again again") to Son Volt ("As sentimental as Darius Rucker himself, [Jay] Farrar is only a set of pipes and a big fat heart away from convincing millions of sensitive guys that he evokes for them"). And lately, it's Christgau's championing of Wussy that gets us cheering.
Christgau's writing has appeared in the form of the Consumer Guide, published for decades in the Village Voice. Short, punchy reviews accompanied by a letter grade distinguished his work from others. No one could match Christgau's efficiency, accessibility, or authority. Backstreets readers will appreciate his consistent engagement of Bruce Springsteen's music (on Born to Run: "Just how much American myth can be crammed into one song, or a dozen, about asking your girl to come take a ride?" And this: "'Promised Land,' 'Badlands,' and 'Adam Raised a Cain' are models of how an unsophisticated genre can illuminate a mature, full-bodied philosophical insight") — all of his reviews are online at the eminently economical and searchable www.robertchristgau.com.
This week, a great Q+A with Christgau in Salon piqued our interest. In it, he praises Springsteen's recent work ("I respect him enormously," he says of Bruce) and uses it to buttress an argument about current poplular music. The interview serves as a fine primer to Christgau's just-released memoir, Going Into the City: Portrait of a Critic as a Young Man (a title that conjures the Jam, James Joyce, and Mose Allison might be enough, but did we mention how much we like Wussy, too?).
Christgau will celebrate the book with several New York City appearances in the coming weeks, including a 7pm reading on March 19 at The Center for Fiction in midtown. - March 13, 2015 - Jonathan Pont reporting
WORKING ON A DREAM?
Just in at Backstreet Records: a new installment in the Rockabye Baby! series, "Lullaby Renditions of Bruce Springsteen." So you're driving down the highway, windows rolled down, and you put slip this CD in the player... No, you don't. You really don't. But for a Springsteen-loving household with a baby who needs the expresslane to dreamland (or to go the f*** to sleep), this is just the thing.
BREAKING THE BOX
Cherry-pick remastered Springsteen LPs on Record Store Day
Last November, the box set The Album Collection Vol. 1, 1973-1984 collected Bruce Springsteen's first seven albums, Greetings through Born in the U.S.A., newly remastered on vinyl. Five months later, those LPs will be issued individually, for those who prefer to pick and choose.
Today's press release from Legacy Recordings announces these titles — "transferred from the original analogue masters and remastered for release by Bob Ludwig, working with Springsteen and longtime engineer Toby Scott" — as part of the Sony division's Record Store Day 2015 line-up.
While The Album Collection Vol. 1 LP set (including the slip-top box and 60-page book) had a suggested list price of $269.98, the individual LPs will retail for $24.98 per each single album, and $39.98 for The River. Record Store Day is Saturday, April 18. - March 10, 2015
COME ON UP TUBA THE HOUSE
On this recent episode of Sideman, hosts Dave Durocher and George Marinelli pay a visit to Garry W. Tallent's home in Nashville. They had us from the moment the Tennessee Terror breaks out the tuba for the theme song... but Garry also talks about record and autograph collecting, backing Chuck Berry with the proto-E Street Band, and what makes a great sideman: "I guess the main thing is to be willing to sacrifice a bit of your ego for the star, and the music, and the song." - March 9, 2015
DARKROOM ON THE EDGE OF TOWN
40 years ago: freaky friars and the last live hurrah before Born to Run
At this time in 1975, Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band were still trying out songs from the unfinished Born to Run on live audiences (including "Jungleland," "She's the One," and the title track), but wrapping things up on the road. Following three shows in early March — March 7 in Owings Mills, MD; March 8 and 9 in Washington DC — they'd leave the stage behind to dedicate themselves to studio work until the completion of the third LP in July. These were also Suki Lahav's final performances with the band.
Forty years ago tonight, March 7, 1975, was the Maryland show, with the band playing for a crowd of 1,800 at the Painters Mill Music Fair. John Schulian covered the show for the Baltimore Sun, speaking with a sweaty Springsteen after the show and noting a particularly bizarre stage visitor:
Paul Johnson, who took these photographs that night, recalls the Freaky Friar. And the Freaky Friar was not alone. "There were three or four guys dressed in Friar outfits," Paul recalls, "one in white and the others in brown. At least one had a Friar Tuck haircut. During one of the songs toward the end of the show, one of the friars jumped on stage and gave Bruce his girth rope. The other guy Bruce mentions was a 'civilian' that, in a fit of euphoria, jumped up on stage and shook Bruce's hand."
That wasn't the last sighting of the friars, who Paul also spotted at the final show of the spring two nights later. "As we stood on the [D.A.R. Constitution] Hall steps waiting for the soundcheck to be completed, I turned and saw the friars again. Kind of creepy... but no reoccurrence of the Painters Mill episode."
- March 7, 2015 - photographs [3/7/75] by Paul Johnson
Here, an excerpt about her stop at the Cadillac Ranch roadside attraction off I-40 in Texas:
I paint ROCKY GROUND and BIG MAN and then, the slogan I had thought the most carefully about, WE'RE ALL RIDERS ON THIS TRAIN. Now, these phrases will probably only make sense and have meaning to you if you are a particular type of crazy Bruce Springsteen fan, so you will have to trust me when I tell you that they are important and meaningful and things I mean to leave there for others of my ilk to see in the future. They would see it and they would smile because they would know that someone like them had been there, too, that they weren't the only crazy ones to shlep all the effing way to the outskirts of Amarillo.
Except that the nature of the installation is that within 15 minutes someone has covered up part of one of my messages, and all you can do is shrug, and go back and paint something else, or paint your slogan somewhere else, but even if you do that, by tomorrow or the day after someone else will show up, pick a spray paint can off the ground (because they are everywhere), and add their own message. I did not expect this to be a major family attraction; I thought that only freaks and weirdos would be hanging out alongside the 10 Cadillacs buried in the ground nose-first, but the installation's proximity to the highway and to civilization (there's a shopping center only five minutes away; the sprawl continues to encroach) makes it a target for anyone driving by, just because it's there, not because they know what it is.
Despite playing no less than five different versions of "Cadillac Ranch" while we were there, painting — and it was limited to five only because we had forgotten to find others to put on the phones — no one there at the time noticed or expressed any type of solidarity whatsoever. To most people, the Cadillac Ranch is just a place to stop, something you can see from the highway, and everyone else is stopping, so Hey, kids, let's check this out. I didn't think it would be a Springsteen Fan Convention, but I thought surely I'd run into one or two of my particular persuasion and we'd have, you know, a moment.
For his new goalie mask, Winnipeg Jet Ondrej Pavelec turned again to David Gunnarson: professional airbrush artist, custom mask painter, and fellow Bruce Springsteen fan. "When Ondrej Pavelec told me he wanted a tribute design to the Boss himself, Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, I was totally excited and could not wait to get started," Gunnarson writes on his blog at DaveArt.com. "I remember when I was a kid and I sat in my big brother's room and looked at his posters of the Boss... The Boss is a part of my pop culture life."
As Pavelec tells it, the rest of the team doesn't exactly share his love — "I try to play it every day [in the locker room], but the guys hate it." But as befits a guy whose favorite song is "Badlands," Ondrej will be livin' it every game anyway.
Gunnarson continues: "Ondrej and I brainstormed how to create the design and a plan crystallized in our brains, and I started to paint with my airbrushes. A clean cut old school design with Bruce painted in different eras. Everything created in light colors and a design that breathes Winnipeg Jets." - March 3, 2015
YOU MEAN SO MUCH TO ME
Johnny and the Jukes "Prove It All Night" at the Pony, 2/28/15
Saturday in Asbury Park, a packed house was on hand to greet Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes on the second of a two-night stand that returned the onetime Stone Pony house band to its original stomping grounds. Titled "Prove it All Night: the Music of Bruce Springsteen," the event drew fans from all over the country to hear Johnny Lyon and company render their soul-drenched interpretations of Bruce's material.
The Jukes have a long-standing tradition of Fourth of July shows at the Stone Pony, but this was only the second year that they have taken the indoor stage for special theme shows on the other side of summer. Talking with Backstreets before Saturday night's performance, Southside described his initial stab at the idea a couple years back: "It was the depths of February, it was a bad winter, and they offered us a couple of dates... I thought that this was something where people could really have a break and enjoy something out of the ordinary."
Not only was it hard for Southside to turn down a gig mere minutes from his home in neighboring Ocean Grove, it was also an opportunity for everyone involved to make some money without having to travel during the often hazardous winter months. Those 2013 shows — an all-request night, and the Jukes' debut album track-by-track — went well, so after another difficult winter, Southside decided to do a second round of theme shows this year. In fact, all indications are that this will now be an ongoing enterprise for the band. But why a Springsteen night, especially after years of working to establish a musical identity separate from that of Bruce and the E Street Band?
"I threw ideas at the band, and they went 'no,' 'no,' 'no,'" Southside told Backstreets. "And finally I said, 'Well, why don't we just do Bruce songs?' I mean, after forty-some years, I oughta be able to do a night of Bruce songs."
Indeed, the Jukes rehearsed long and hard to learn not only more a dozen Springsteen songs that were not already in their repertoire, but almost a full set's worth of covers and rarities for night one of the stand (Friday's "Rare Jukes: All the Non-Hits, All the Time"). This being the case, the first thing its fearless leader did after bounding onstage was to recognize the hard work that the band had done to create this special weekend for the fans.
"I wanna thank everybody for coming out to these shows, and thanks to the band for learning these songs," Southside declared. And the night went pretty much according to plan, as the Jukes performed a 20-song set that drew from just about every phase of Springsteen's long career. Over the years, Jukes shows have always leaned heavily on Springsteen material, and those songs — "The Fever," "Trapped Again," "Talk to Me," "All the Way Home," "Hearts of Stone" — were in the set, too, joined by the freshly learned material.
A handful of striking slow numbers included "Jack of All Trades"; a stripped-down "Fade Away,” performed as a lovely duet with keyboardist Jeff Kazee; the starkly powerful "Stolen Car" (with Chris Anderson's trumpet echoing Randy Brecker’s turn on "Meeting Across the River"); and an intense "Something in the Night," bolstered by the Jukes horns.
There were some obvious choices: "You Mean So Much to Me" (the little-played duet with Ronnie Spector that appeared on the Jukes' 1976 debut album), "Tenth Avenue Freeze-out," the jazz-inflected "Kitty’s Back." Then there were songs that didn't seem to translate well to Lyon's vocal style, like "Prove it All Night," but others that at first glance may have seemed far out of the Jukes’ wheelhouse nonetheless proved just about perfect: the guitar-driven "Murder Incorporated" with longtime Juke Bobby Bandiera (above, who sat in for the last third of the set) on lead, or an almost jaunty "Nebraska" performed as a country two-step.
As it turns out, the Nebraska record has long been one of Southside Johnny’s favorites. "I was a big, huge, knocked-out fan of Nebraska, and I still play that occasionally," Lyon told us just prior to the show. (Indeed, Lyon's affection for stripped-down roots music has really come to the fore in his work with the Poor Fools, a "side project" that spawned the recent Songs From the Barn CD.)
One longtime Jukes aficionado remarked, "Theme nights are fun for us, but the band must hate them." But on a Saturday night at the Jersey Shore, you'd have been hard-pressed to tell, especially as they rounded out the Springsteen surprises with the devastating frat-rock one-two of "Sherry Darling" (featuring a mariachi horn arrangement) and the criminally overlooked "Where the Bands Are," which, after a false start, capped the main set in grand style.
And so, after many long hours of practice (and much memorization of Springsteen lyrics) Southside Johnny's vision of a gift to long-suffering fans resulted in a pair of thoroughly satisfying evenings of music at the Stone Pony.
Does This Bus Stop at 82nd Street?/Rosalita
All the Way Home
Something in the Night
Tenth Avenue Freeze-out
Prove It All Night
Waitin' on a Sunny Day
You Mean So Much to Me
Jack of All Trades
Talk to Me
Where the Bands Are
* * *
When You Dance
This Time It's For Real
Hearts of Stone
- March 2, 2015 - Lisa Iannucci reporting - photographs by Michael Zorn
Backstreet Records is the mailorder division of Backstreets, delivering Springsteen merchandise to fans for more than 25 years. We carry numerous collectibles, tour shirts, books, magazines, and imported CDs and records.
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"Springsteen's face is so badass it is UNDETECTABLE AS HUMAN" #HowOldRobot [GQ.com] Demme's Choice: Meryl Streep sings "My Love Will Not Let You Down" for upcoming film
The best concerts SSJ has ever seen, including Bruce at the Main Point [No Depression]
We also post all known concert dates for some of our favorite Jersey Shore (and Shore-adopted) musicians:
Joe D'Urso... and more.
For more information on upcoming shows such as these, check out our Concert Calendar.
Many from the Springsteen community banded together to preserve this Asbury Park landmark.... and Tillie has now been saved!
Check our Save Tillie page for the latest developments.
THE SPRINGSTEEN SPECIAL COLLECTION
Organized by Backstreets in 2001, this storehouse of Boss books and magazines is the largest such collection outside of Bruce's mother's basement. Thanks to the generosity of fans around the world, total holdings are now well over 15,000. But the collection is by no means complete.