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
ROCK AND ROLL FUTURE IS HERE Barry Schneier's new coffee table book from Backstreets Publishing is a deep dive into a legendary Springsteen show in 1974.
Backstreet Records is the mailorder division of Backstreets, delivering Springsteen merchandise to fans for more than 25 years. We carry numerous collectibles, tour shirts, books, magazines, and imported CDs and records.
The world's best selection of Springsteen collectibles, all available by mail.
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 11,000. But the collection is by no means complete.