Jul 162012

Your headline, please.

Last night Bruce Springsteen invited Paul McCartney to join him on stage for his show’s fantastic finale in Hyde Park in London. Despite the enormity of this musical event, representatives from City Council pulled the plug while Bruce, Paul, and the band were still playing because it was getting too late! It’s like a soundman giving Jesus the  “2 more minutes” sign while he’s delivering the Sermon on the Mount.

What’s the appropriate use of a lyric, album title, etc. to create the Daily Mail’s morning  headline for the story? I’m going with ‘Because the Night’ ends at 10:30. Others?

Apr 202012

Gov. Christie plays "The Big Man" to (NOT) Bruce Springsteen.

This (and the stories to which this piece links) may be among the Top 5 newspaper stories I’ve ever read. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie responded—in depth—to reports that he fell asleep during a recent Bruce Springsteen show at Madison Square Garden. Love or leave the man’s politics, I think there’s something refreshingly pathetic and true in Christie’s retort. He’d be a lot of fun to have posting here in the Halls of Rock.

“When I was fist-pumping during ‘Badlands’ I’m glad nobody took pictures of that. When I was singing to ‘Out In The Street,’ no one took pictures of that. When I was contorting myself to ‘Because The Night’ no one took pictures of that,” he said.

So try this: ask a friend or loved one to read this story to you. As the governor did while listening to that “spiritual” new Boss song, lean back your head and close your eyes. Then try to imagine the all the photos Christie is thankful no one shot that night.

Mar 072012

The opening synth squeaks and electronic handclaps of “We Take Care of Our Own,” the kick-off single from Bruce Springsteen‘s Wrecking Ball album, makes me wonder if Bruce and His E Street Band have been hi-jacked by Modern English. The mix further ups the play for a “contemporary” sound with tepid use of early ’90s-style vocal echo gently nudging along The Boss’ opening lines. Springsteen and His occasional repetitive synth riff songs (eg, “Born in the USA”) are strange birds in the catalog, but the repetition allows the “visionary” furor of His lyrics a chance to develop into something admirable—if you can get through the bombast of the songs’ opening minutes. I feel that’s the case with the new single.

So much about the song’s arrangement screams OUT OF TOUCH, but you know what? Ever since I saw the song performed at the start of the GRAMMYS, minus some of the cheesy studio trimmings and plus all the spirit provided by a brigade of trim, exuberant, middle-aged musicians I forgave the song’s sins; I forgave Springsteen’s never-ending efforts at encompassing humanity’s slim, profound hope in the face of epic struggle. In fact, as I find myself doing once a decade or so with Springsteen and as I did that night watching the opening of the GRAMMYS, I embraced his never-ending quest of painting humanity in an admirable light. Someone’s gotta do the job he does. It’s worthy work in a world full of shallow, hateful ploys for notoriety—and you can tap your foot to it.

Modern-day Springsteen records and TV appearances make me want to get in shape: exercise, eat healthy, buy some new jeans. They make me feel like sending the kids off to my parents’ house so I can get in some quality time with the wife. They make me want to do something useful for society, like hammer some nails into studs or whatever at a Habitat for Humanity site. When the E Street Band backs up Bruce’s “whoas” on “Wrecking Ball” with their own exhortations I want to go on Facebook and look up that girl from North Jersey I had a crush on freshman year. But what are the odds I’d find her? She had a common Anglo name, and beside, she’s probably married now.

After a run of disposable John Mellencamp hoedown-style songs involving, I believe, musicians from The Seger Sessions and more recently outdated ’90s touches like samples of “authentic” African American field hollers and whatnot, a song called “Land of Hope and Dreams” caught my ear. It features, I presume, one of Clarence Clemons‘ last recorded sax solos, which I found surprisingly moving. The album’s Rock ‘n Roll Iwo Jima moment coalesces on this song, with the band’s stately, manly majesty; the folksy stringed instruments of add-on E Streeters; and an implied robed choir leaning in toward their gritty leader. At times like this Bruce should run for President.

Then, just as I’m ready to pull the lever and vote Boss the album closes with “We Are Alive.” The cornball optimism, unanimity, and sense of purpose go overboard as a twangy Hollywood Western movie  guitar-and-whistling intro kicks in. Springsteen’s sense of “we” has expanded well beyond the romantic, personal or tribal notion of the word in his earlier works. I rarely felt part of his original “we,” but I knew who they were. When he sang in the first person plural—”baby we were born to run”—”we” referred to the song’s narrator and his girl, or the narrator and his social scene or community, any extension of his hometown. Over the years Springsteen’s community, or perhaps perceived constituency, has grown to encompass the entire United States. The fact that Bruce tries to bring all of us, all of our concerns and hopes and dreams under one big tent is often admirable, sometimes inspiring, but ultimately suffocating. It’s one thing to find myself standing next to a Candy or a Spanish Johnny now and then, but quite another to be standing shoulder-to-shoulder with the hard-bitten, anonymous masses waiting for deliverance from the Ballad of Tom Joad set with an encore of “Rosalita.”

Feb 092012

The Little Man!

You’ve probably heard this already but Bruce Springsteen is bringing Clarence Clemons‘ nephew, Jake “Little Man” Clemons, on the road to cover some of The Big Man’s sax parts. I had no idea this guy existed until today, but just last week, during the Super Bowl, chickenfrank, sethro, and I were saying it would be good if Clarence had a son or small-in-stature kid he rescued from the streets who could replace him in the E Street Band. The Legacy is served.

Oct 212011

Listen, Max Weinberg wouldn’t crack my Top 100 drummers list, but what so bad about his work with The Boss? I know he’s a bit stiff, maybe to say the least, but doesn’t he offset some of his stiffness with powerful kick and snare work and some fierce martial rolls at all the big points The Boss needs ’em? Was it when he dropped his stick at that big concert? Do any Springsteen fans prefer him to the orginal E-Street drummer, David Sancious Vinnie Mad Dog Lopez? Are his limitations magnified because of the large stage he plays?

Is there a drummer in the house (our a would-be drummer)? What’s so bad about Max Weinberg?


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