Jan 182012

Play continues in our tournament to determine—once and for all—rock’s greatest backing band ever.

The first two rounds have been completed. The attached grid shows where we stand as the Regionals round is played out: backingband-tournament-64

Feel free to think ahead to coming Regional battles as you begin work on the present conference match up. Meanwhile, tournament play for the Classic Conference has begun. Four backing bands remain: The E-Street Band vs Crazy Horse and The Spiders From Mars vs The Silver Bullet Band.

Regionals: Classic Conference

Because the selections from this point forward are so crucial to future generations’ understanding of rock history, play will follow a different course of action in this round. Before any voting can take place, Townspeople are encouraged to post comments and YouTube clips of the backing bands you support in this round. You may begin launching your campaigns now. After a day or two of lobbying and counter-lobbying the polls for this conference’s regional round will open. We don’t want any rash votes on Day 1 that you may regret on Day 3 of discussion. Dig?


Regionals, Classic Conference: The Silver Bullet Band vs The Spiders From Mars

  • The Spiders From Mars (74%, 28 Votes)
  • The Silver Bullet Band (26%, 10 Votes)

Total Voters: 38

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Regionals, Classic Conference: The E-Street Band vs Crazy Horse

  • Crazy Horse (62%, 32 Votes)
  • The E-Street Band (38%, 20 Votes)

Total Voters: 52

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  59 Responses to “Regionals, Classic Conference: Rock’s Greatest Backing Band Tournament Continues!”

  1. Happiness Stan

    Okay, I’m familiar with the Spiders, obvously, but Bob Seger has only ever had about one hit single over here and I’m in the mood to be swayed. Anybody fancy rising to the challenge of initiating me to the work of the Silver Bullet Band?

  2. See what you think of Bob’s answer to your general question:


    I know this doesn’t necessarily speak for the Silver Bullet Band, but it says something for America.

    I’ll keep looking for a good live clip featuring the Silver Bullet Band.

  3. alexmagic

    Building on Stan’s question, I’d like to hear from anyone thinking about voting for the Silver Bullet Band to know how serious a defense the Spiders need in this round, because this feels like it should be complete dominance for the Spiders, but I’m well aware that we have seen Martians fall to single cell organisms in the past.

    My vote in the Crazy Horse/E-Street showdown is up for grabs. I’d like to see some evidence of Crazy Horse in action behind/alongside Neil, since that is where E-Street excels.

  4. Here you go: how many bands can get the guy wearing some kind of bird mascot suit out of his seat?


    Not a whole lot of footage is given to the Silver Bullet Band, but you’ve got to admire the Rockist Stance of the bassist and guitarist at the 2:05 mark, the brief shot of the tambourine player, and the Sege’s egging on his axemen before resuming his vocal duties.

    A minute later one of the axemen follows his leader’s foot-on-monitor stance. That’s a sign of support that not all backing bands are trained to provide. Then, watch how the axemen step back with Bob in perfect coordination while the tambourine man steps forward to provide backing vocals.

    How many of rock’s unfulfilled fashion ideas, by the way, can one musician pull off at once? Tambourine man’s got shades, a scarf, some sort of kimono worn open to allow himself to be bare chested…shoot, he’s even got his jeans tucked into his boots, one of THE WORST fashion ideas ever (and clearly a future post in our Rock’s Unfulfilled Fashion Ideas series).

    Along with all that, in Classic Conference play, the Silver Bullet Band is accompanied by classy women backing singers and probably the most enthusiastic crowd ever recorded on film. It’s hard to hear the band over their applause.

  5. 2000 Man

    The Spiders have my vote for Width of a Circle from Santa Monica 72 alone.

    Crazy Horse did the Rust Never Sleeps album live, and Neil released it as a studio album. That’s impressive. It could easily be considered Neil’s best album (I don’t think I’d argue the point, even if I disagreed that day), so I think Crazy Horse is pretty impressive on that one.

    The E Street band has stamina, I’ll give them that.

  6. misterioso

    I have to assume that link is to the killer version of Hollywood Nights. I cannot fathom the dearth of classic-era live Seger footage. How is that someone with his enduring classic rock popularity has never put out a live video collection or concert from his “golden age”? It seems like free money waiting to be collected.

  7. bostonhistorian

    I’m agnostic on the Spiders/Silver Bullet Band question, but Crazy Horse kills the E Street band, simply for being able to keep up with whatever warped thing comes out of Neil Young’s head. The E Street Band can muster up a good head of steam, but Bruce is never going to throw them a curveball–it’s all straight down the middle. Neil Young is one of the ultimate “junkball” guitarists and any band that can adapt to that wins in my book.

  8. hrrundivbakshi

    Bob Seger jams econo! Seriously, how can you not have a soft spot in your heart for the Seeg after watching that interview clip. We’ll have to watch and listen to see how well the SBB back up his philosophical priorities.

  9. Interesting analogy. So Crazy Horse is like the backup catcher whose sole purpose is to get behind the plate whenever the ancient knuckleballer takes the mound. I like that.

    I have not yet come close to making up my mind on this match up. I much prefer the music of Neil Young and Crazy Horse, but individually I am usually astounded by how boring the band members’ contributions sound. (Maybe I need to overlook the stats, the way I would the .196 batting average of that knuckleball catcher.) On the other hand, it’s hard for me not to fact in the Rock Superpowers of the E-Street Band, despite the fact that I’m no great fan of their individual playing styles.

    Also, both lead artists suffer greatly in their ability to rock when not backed by their steady backing bands, but Young at least has another style available to him when he goes with those country Gators. I’m not sure if that in any way reflects on Crazy Horse, who do well with whatever Young gives them.

  10. bostonhistorian

    I don’t know if this clip helps or hinders the claim for Crazy Horse, but it amuses me: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bfgN3XQQB_Q&feature=related

  11. machinery

    I Believe that I threw in the Spiders name into the hat. But now I wonder if it’s legit. The real question is this: is it fair to include the name of a “made up” backing band?

    Can we get a ruling on this?

  12. I’d also like to hear from those thinking of supporting the SBB. The Silver Bullet Band is a decent, nondescript, hard working band. They seem like Regular Joes. It would be perfectly enjoyable to sit down with them and enjoy a few beers (or lines of blow in the case of that tambourine player) and talk about the time one of them had a few too many after the show in Phoenix and got locked out of his room in his underwear or something. The SBB has had their fun in this tournament, but frankly, it the Messengers were better known, the SBB wouldn’t have made it out of the first round.

    The Spiders from Mars not only support Bowie perfectly, but they do so with much more personality than the SBB, and with about a third of the people on stage.

    Crazy Horse vs the E Street Band is a much tougher call. Bostonhistorian has made compelling case for Crazy Horse (although to be fair, I don’t think they’ve had to contend with the most warped musical things comes out of Neil Young’s head). Part of Crazy Horse’s appeal is their rank amateurishness. They seem ready to fall apart at any moment but they somehow keep it together. And for all of their simplicity and relative lack of chops, they definitely sound unique.

    The E Street Band perfectly supports their leaders vision. And I think Bruce drills them with a James Brown-like fervor. They are very self sacrificing and are well aware that they are there in service of the machine. And as someone else mentioned, they have amazing stamina. Bruce is a master at that most important yet often overlooked facet of rock stardom: myth making. He presents his band as a gang and expects them to play the part, and to step up when he directs the spotlight their way. Think of the gang vocals around a single mic. Name another band that can amass a Rock and Roll Iwo Jima that big, with that little effort.

    I’ve got to keep mulling this one over.

  13. bostonhistorian

    The last Bob Seger interview I read in Rolling Stone showed a guy really reluctant to cash in like that. He only just released a two disc greatest hits collection, his rationale being that his fans had already purchased greatest hits volume 1 and 2, so why get them to buy it again? Most of his early albums remain out of print, there’s no Seger box set. I’m not sure if that’s good or bad, but he doesn’t seem to want to let his record company exploit his fan base. More power to him.

  14. bostonhistorian

    Yeah, the warped thing didn’t sound right after I posted it. Crazy Horse didn’t have to deal with Trans, et al. I was thinking more of the live Neil who switches things up on a whim and whose soloing is, well, warped.

  15. The E-Street Band’s ability to execute the Rock ‘n Roll Iwo Jima may have been a deciding factor in Nils Lofgren’s decision to defect from Crazy Horse (if he was ever a full member – I don’t know how that worked) and join Miami Steve and company. Crazy Horse fans at the tournament are ALL OVER Nils. Some of the banners being displayed cannot be repeated on a family blog.

  16. 2000 Man

    Right, and that’s why Rust Never Sleeps is so amazing. It’s recorded live but presented as a regular release. Parts of it sound like only Neil really knew where he wanted to go, but Crazy Horse never lost any footing.

    Maybe that’s a really apt name for his backing band. Only a crazy horse could take a rider like Neil where he’s trying to go.

  17. Made up or not — the Spiders have a distinct identity and . . .it’s too late now, anyway.

    Personally, I am employing a quasi-quantitative approach in voting.

    Estimate all the hours in the past 10 years you’ve voluntarily listened to Ziggy or Aladdin Sane . . . and then add up all the hours you’ve actually put a Seger album on by choice in the past decade.

    For me it’s probably 50 hours for the Spiders to zero for SBB. I might have Night Moves and that live album on CD, but they sure are dusty.

  18. misterioso

    Well, no. Releasing and re-releasing the same material ad infinitum is one thing (can you hear me, Elvis Costello?), releasing entirely new old material is another. I should think the fan base would not feel exploited buying Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band Live 1978 dvd (say). It’s not like buying a remastered version of Night Moves with a “Night Moves 2012” as a “bonus” track. As for the early Seger records, they should be available. I assume there are legal issues.

  19. I’ve always found the E Street Band to be plodders; the excitement is in the drama of solos and what gets laid on top of the songs at any given moment, but not in the rhythmic interplay. Am I alone in this? Easy competition for them so far, given their advantageous seeding, but I just don’t feel that they bring the rock and roll.

  20. Yes, I too find their rhythm section plodding. You’re right, the key for them is when that steam-powered train finally hits a wall and The Boss or The Big Man top it off with a hair-raising solo.

    The same could be said of Crazy Horse’s rhythm section, but their sludge is somehow integral to Young’s sound. There’s never a point when I seriously think Neil Young would sound any better with a “pro” rhythm section, as witnessed by that Steve Jordan-produced album that I believe only BigSteve likes, Landing on Water, or something like that.

  21. “The same could be said of Crazy Horse’s rhythm section, but their sludge is somehow integral to Young’s sound.”

    Well put. They would probably win hands down if this was a contest for the “most plodding back up band”, but somehow, they have managed to turn what should be a deficit into their biggest asset.

  22. I think I’ve posted this before, but in case anyone’s on the fence about the Silver Bullet Band check out this clip:


  23. Happiness Stan

    According to Wikipedia all of Crazy Horse played on Trans (and Ralph Molina toured with the Trans Band – the first time I saw NY, and excellent they were despite the “challenging” material), although it’s not clear which bits they played on or who played on what.

  24. And if anyone thinks the percussion guy is no match for The Big Man, think of the possibilities of the E-Street Band facing off against the Silver Bullet Band in the next round:


    Lots of sweet Mandancing, too, from the SBB. Let’s see Crazy Horse pull off anything but that Thick-Legged Rock Squat (aka The Snuffleupagus) they’re known for while Neil launches into a solo.

  25. alexmagic

    I figure Seger would be OK with a DVD release of Silver Bullet Band videos and performances, but he’d demand that it be released in full screen format, not wide screen, “because the fans deserve to see the whole screen, not some bars on the side, if they’re paying full price.”

  26. tonyola

    It is surprising how little good-quality “classic” live Seger video there is out there. The only vintage performance of “Katmandu” (one of Bob’s best rockers) that I could find is this lousy and terrible-sounding clip. I’ve never seen Seger live, but even with this crappy evidence, it looks like he knew how to put on one hell of a show.

  27. [Eliciting another hearty chuckle on my end of the computer screen.]

  28. Right, I was expecting to find a few “amazing” Midnight Special clips. Maybe there was bad blood between Seeg and Wolfman Jack?

  29. tonyola

    But Bob Seger for the most part is a decent, nondescript, hard-working guy who seems like a Regular Joe himself. That’s why he and the SBB mesh so well. Unlike Bruce Springsteen, Bob is unpretentious and tends to avoid big epics and message songs. I’ve always said that had Bruce done more bong hits and taken more acid rather than drink beer in his youth, he would have ended up being a prog rocker – think Jon Anderson driving a forklift and carrying a union card.

  30. machinery

    I understand your reasoning here Funoka. But I might take another approach. The Silver Bullet band is so rock with a capital R, so widely known, so iconic. I don’t know a single dude in that back-up band but they are most decidely “dudes.” They might get my humor vote.

    And if you add up all the times you’ve heard “Like a Rock” in a commercial … or asked for a Silver Bullet … I bet Seger’s back-up band wins out.

  31. BigSteve

    Pince nez: Steve Jordan plays on LoW, but it was produced by Young and Danny Kortchmar.

    I don’t think it’s better than a Crazy Horse album. These songs work better in this setting, and Young wouldn’t ask the Horse to do anything but what they do. They only do that one thing, but it’s a great thing and no one else can do it. Compared to them, the E Street Band is a jack of all trades.

  32. machinery

    I think it comes down to this. Crazy Horse is a great name. The E. Street Band — with the word BAND in it in case someone got confused, is lame.

    Plus Tonight’s the Night — while not officially having Crazy Horse on the cover — has that band in seriously fine form, following an incredibly coked-up and stoned Neil Young. I doubt the E. Street Band had to ever record under such sad circumstances. Now that’s a band that has its front man’s back.

  33. machinery

    A Coor’s Silver Bullet, that is.

  34. hrrundivbakshi

    Come on, man! Any band with a dude in it who can simultaneously shake EIGHT FREAKING MARACAS — and full-size ones at that — has my vote.

    Side note: there is so much bootleg footage from DC’s old “Cap Center” out there. I wonder who, if anybody, actually “owns” it? They used to train multiple cameras on the band and put up a full-on live broadcast for the folks in the cheap seats — I mean, for every show — before jumbotrons made that de rigeur. It was quite special. Point is: who’s got all the footage?

  35. Wonder if Bob gets royalites from Coors?

    I forgot that the Spiders put out this album without Bowie, which I used to own along with Mick Ronson solo record.


    This kind of stuff never failed to disappoint me when I would buy it.

  36. bostonhistorian

    It is my understanding that Neil recorded a bunch of songs for Trans with Crazy Horse, then went back and redid everything, leaving very little of the original tracks. I could be wrong.

  37. bostonhistorian

    He seems like a decent guy. I enjoyed that clip.

  38. Seger and the Silver Bullet band I never cared much about. I like the Spiders on the studio albums and I think they hung in with Bowie’s Glam look.

    I’ll have to find some prime E Street clips (see, Machinery, how it looks without the word “Band”) and I love the whole Crazy Horse thing, so I’ll have to look at the clips and then decide.

  39. bostonhistorian

    “E Street” sounds like like an early 90s English rave inspired band with rap leanings.

  40. BigSteve

    If I’m not mistaken, on the Tonight’s the Night album, Crazy Horse only plays on “Come on Baby Let’s Go Downtown.” The rest is that ragged group with Ben Keith, Jack Nitzsche, Tim Drummond, and future E-Streeter Nils Lofgren.

  41. Expanding on the “E Street Band presented as a gang” idea, here the clip of Springsteen doing Rosalita in ’78: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3qFdcHo7Z7w

    Everyone is locked in and kicking ass, everyone is exchanging knowing (but not smug) smiles at how much ass they are kicking, everyone has a nickname. This is the perfect realization of Springsteen’s vision of a big old school rock and roll revue updated for the then current times. I’m sure that there is not one single spontaneous action taking place on that stage but the fact that they can all execute the Boss’ orders so exactly, and make it seem natural while doing so, makes them tough to beat. I’m not saying that Crazy Horse can pull off an upset here, but they’re going to have to work awfully hard to do so.

    The band aside, my favorite part of this video is the woman at 2:30 who gets on stage but then has no idea what to do. Rather than kiss the Boss’ cheek like the two previous women who made it onto the stage, or sing a bit of the song (Bruce considerately moves over a bit to make room at the mic), she elects to yell “hey!” into the mic before being leaping back into the crowd.

    My second favorite part is the woman at 2:45 who makes her way to the stage in what has to be the most passive stage crash of all time, only to touch the hem of the Boss’ garment before melting back into the crowd.

  42. Great supporting points. I will open the polls a bit later today. This will be an especially tough battle.

  43. I don’t think YouTube is the right vehicle for me to make Crazy Horse’s case. They are not really about the mach schau, notwithstanding the foot-stomping and Neil’s goofy guitar faces. They do have their schtick, and Neil of course is a crazy taskmaster is his own weird way, but they have way less of the drill-seargent-plus-charges vibe of the E Street Band and other bands in this tournament. I get a little hippie-idealistic when talking about Neil, but I do believe there’s a freedom, man, in the sound of the Horse that you can’t get anywhere else. Plus, they’re not playing behind the beat, they’re inside the beat. Far out.

  44. Actually, most of Tonight’s the Night is Billy, Ralph, Ben Keith and Nils. Crazy Horse plus guests, minus Danny (dead) or Poncho (not in the picture yet). “Lookout Joe” is from the Time Fades Away tour, with Nitzsche, Drummond, Keith and others. And I was able to write this without Wikipedia today!

  45. Happiness Stan

    Well said, Oats, not only that, but I think that not only are they inside the beat, they actually are the beat. Neil is the man, but he’s more reliable with the sludge behind him in my book.

    Also, I’ve heard enough Bruce to last me a very long time (about half a dozen songs, probably), so listening to more of him isn’t going to sway me.

  46. Impressive! And there goes my belief that that album is my favorite among the ones Neil did with Crazy Horse. Goes to show you how much attention I paid to anything but that album’s gatefold capabilities.

  47. But Stan, this isn’t a referendum on Bruce or his songs. This is about a cocktail of talent, support of an artist’s vision, and mach shau which demonstrate that the band backing said artist is Rock’s Greatest Backing Band ™.

  48. Thank you, and the same is true for Neil Young and his songs.

  49. BigSteve

    Glad I put the ‘if I’m not mistaken part in.’ I thought I looked this up yesterday, but I was confused by the fact that only that one song is credited to Crazy Horse. Discogs has the full credits:


  50. Happiness Stan

    Hi CDM, I understand that, I didn’t put it very well, though. The clip I posted a couple of rounds ago of the Orse sludging behind Ian McNabb, sounding exactly as if they were backing NY, demonstrates for me their total reliability, and I would listen to them no matter who they were backing quite happily. NY’s records with the Orse are so much better than those without (probably with honourable exceptions, although I can’t think of any I prefer) that they clearly bring a good deal to the party besides sludge, and support the vision while never, ever getting in the way. The E Street Band sound to me as though they are all waiting for their turn to play an interminable solo, the egos are clearly there on display, and in my opinion get in the way.

  51. Since I’m not gonna outdo “Rosalita” from ’78, I’ll try a different route and put up a recording studio from 2009.
    A laid back, chummy vibe for one of Bruce’s mature NPR (AARP?) songs. The base player stays on 1 note for half the song and a role for Little Steven not far removed from his Sopranos character. One odd note; not a bottle to be seen in any part of the studio, not even water.

  52. meanstom

    I’ve got nothing against Crazy Horse but the E Street Band is getting hosed! There as much a part of the show as their leader. Where are our friends from Backstreets when we need them?

  53. BigSteve

    I voted for the E Streeters, but I would be very surprised if they made it competitive with this demographic.

  54. Me too, BigSteve. It was a tough choice for me, because a few people made a stronger case for Crazy Horse than I thought could be made.

  55. BigSteve

    I like both artists, but Neil’s made lots of great music without the Horse. Bruce’s records without the E Street Band are pretty blah. News today is that we’ll soon get to hear what they sound like without Clarence.

  56. I ended up going with the E Street Band as well but that was a very tough choice. (the toughest since the Blue Caps vs the Rock and Roll Trio in round 1).

  57. Looks like the Backstreets crowd needs a map to find us. We’re over here, guys! You can even reach us from Asbury Park.

  58. The E Street Band, made lazy perhaps by their advantageous early seeding, is on their way home it seems, having been dispatched by a band that can bring the rock.

  59. It’s looking that way. The Crazy Horse vs Spiders From Mars match is going to be possibly the weirdest mix of style in the tournament.

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