Monday, December 31, 2012

Lyrics Spotlight: "Jungleland"

"The midnight gang's assembled
And picked a rendezvous for the night."
--Jungleland, Born to Run

Who doesn't love "Jungleland"?  Seriously.  Point that person out to me, so I can mock him for his overwhelming lameness.

I feel that same way about New Year's Eve, one of my favorite nights of the year.  People will often complain about New Year's Eve, saying that they have too much pressure on them to find something fun to do.  This complaint is frequent among the "party" holidays, such as Halloween and St. Patrick's Day.  These folks need to gain some perspective - if going to a friend's place to hang out and drink is your biggest source of stress, you are leading a pretty darn good life.  New Year's Eve isn't much more complicated than assembling your favorite gang at midnight and picking a place to meet.  I'd suggest going to that giant Exxon sign that brings this fair city light.

(On a side note, this concludes year one of  On behalf of Steve and OB, we would like to thank you all for reading.  Have a great New Year!)

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Video Spotlight: Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)

Thanks to Your Friday Bruce Fix for alerting us to this version of Christmas (Baby Please Come Home) by Bruce Springsteen. Your Friday Bruce Fix posted a really fun collection of Bruce's holiday music last week and we strongly encourage you head over to the site to watch them all (and check back each Friday):

I wasn't familiar with this performance before but according to YouTube it was performed with the Max Weinberg 7 at the Asbury Park Convention Hall in 2003. It's a cover of a Darlene Love song and that gal sure knows how to celebrate the holidays!

Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 21, 2012

Drinking With Springsteen

I recently discovered a novelty website called Drinkify.  Basically, you enter a musician, and it gives you a recommendation of what to drink while listening to them.  As a world-renowned Springsteen blogger, it was my duty to see what they recommended to drink while listening to the Boss.  The results will surprise you:

6 oz. Cognac.  Served neat.

Needless to say, I was horrified.  While slowly sipping room-temperature brandy may work for some of Bruce's musical turns (I can see it aligning well with the saxophone solo in "Jungleland"), it is hardly a drink that encapsulates the Springsteen experience.   I feel most of his songs work well with just chugging some random American lager.

Anyway, my specialty has never been in creating drinks, but rather naming drinks (as previously discussed, a good name can take you a long way).  So, I'll do my part and propose a few possible Springsteen-themed drinks, and you'll have to let me know what would go into them:

Born To Rum
Bobby Gin
Brandy's Room
American Gin (41 Shots)
4th of Vodka, As-bourbon Park (Brandy)

And yes, I could go on with drinking portmanteaus all day, but I'll stop for now.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Video Spotlight: Merry Christmas, Baby (Conan O'Brien 2002)

Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town is Bruce's famous Christmas song but for my money, "Merry Christmas, Baby" is his best Holiday tune. This song has the groove and immediate passion that you expect from a Springsteen song, Holiday themed or not.

This video is extra fun with Conan O’Brien playing back-up guitar and The Max Weinberg 7 all in for the fun, too, some with Santa hats. Bruce is really having a great time too, grooving and slinking all around the stage. Could there be anything better than seeing Bruce walking up to you in the audience of the Conan O’Brien show during Christmas time? This is what the Holidays are all about.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Video Spotlight: All Alone on Christmas by Darlene Love

Technically this isn't a Springsteen video but it does feature the E Street Band, along with Darlene Love... and Macaulay Culkin?!

Released in 1992 as part of the Home Alone 2 soundtrack, this is my favorite Christmas pop song of all time. Even though I must have heard it in Home Alone 2, I wasn't aware of it until I heard it in Love Actually and even then, had no idea the E Street Band was involved until I found the music video last year.

When I first discovered the video, it felt like I'd drifted into some eggnog induced haze. The E Street Band intercut with clips from Home Alone 2? Macaulay Culkin sitting atop Clarence Clemons' shoulders? Max Weinberg in what may or may not be a Christmas-themed pajama shit? The fact that this video existed, let alone that it apparently used to be played on VH1, felt like a Christmas miracle in itself.

The most distinctly E Street element is Clarence's powerful saxophone work. But listening closer you can hear Max's fierce drumming around the 2:50 mark. On top of that, it's written by Steve Van Zandt. This incredibly catchy, emotional song is an example of Van Zandt's brilliant grasp of pop music. The following lyrics also feel very E Street to me:

The music plays all night in Little Italy,
The lights will be going up on old Rockefeller's tree

Also featured on the track are Patti Scialfa, Garry Tallent, Danny Federici and the Miami Horns.

Happy Holidays!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Video Spotlight: Santa Claus Is Coming To Town, Buffalo, NY - 11/22/09

"Santa Claus Is Coming To Town" has been a fan favorite at Springsteen's winter concerts for years.  This video is from the last concert of the Working on a Dream tour, which turned out, sadly, the last time Clarence Clemons would perform with Bruce and company before his death the following summer.  Even in his last show, however, Clarence is giving it his all.  He begins with his amazing laugh that even the jolliest of all fat men would have a tough time duplicating, and raps it up with a rip-roaring saxophone solo.  Clarence's performance brings out a more youthful side of Springsteen, spinning like a top on stage.  Clarence ignites the crowd, and Springsteen feeds off their energy; it is this dynamic, perfected over 30 years, that made them one of the strongest bromances in American rock-and-roll.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Springsteen Video of the Week - I'm Goin' Down

There isn't anything particularly unique about this fan-video but there's something about the variety of the photos and the simplicity of the transitions that I think fit so nicely with the song. "I'm Goin' Down" is one of my favorite songs and it has to be a contender for one of the happiest sounding sad songs of all time. The pictures in the video enhance the upbeat vibe so for once, I'd suggest you ignore Bruce's lyrics and just enjoy the music.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Lost Song- "County Fair"

Another song where I simply shake my head and say "How has song not been released!?!?"  At least it's not a totally hidden song, as Bruce has played this rarity live in concert, albeit very few and far between.  This song was an unreleased track from Born In The USA,  which just might be my favorite time for Bruce songwriting (depending on what kind of mood I'm in).

I came across this song on E Street Radio, and the imagery in this song is fantastic.  By the time the chorus kicked in, I immediately had images of going to local carnivals as a kid and going to the NY State Fair with my grandparents.  There's not much I can say about this other then "just listen".  I'm really hoping that next year will see the release of something special for Born In The USA's 30th anniversary.  Between this song and "Unsatisfied Heart", this period of Bruce's songwriting really does deserve the recognition.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Springsteen Lyrics of the Week - You'll Be Comin' Down

“You’ll be fine as your pretty face holds out,
Then it’s gonna get pretty cold out"
- You’ll Be Comin’ Down, Magic

As we’ve lamented before, it’s a shame that Bruce didn’t play much of the Magic album during the Wrecking Ball tour. Given the widely agreed upon thinking that Working on a Dream is one of his lesser albums, it’s not surprising those tracks were mostly absent from the concerts. But Magic contains a wealth of great tracks that are begging to be heard again.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Springsteen Video of the Week - Disorder in the House with Warren Zevon

Fellow Springsteen tribute site, Nebraska, contains a great database of Springsteen’s guest appearances on other artists’ albums.

If you’re looking to be a Bruce completest head on over to see their full list and hunt down everything from Bruce playing acoustic guitar with Ronnie Spector on “Say Goodbye to Hollywood” to providing narration on “Street Hassle” for Lou Reed.

Nebraska’s list introduced me to the above video featuring Bruce Springsteen and Warren Zevon collaborating on a raw rocker about domestic instability for Zevon’s final album, “The Wind.”

Friday, November 23, 2012

Great Moments in Springsteen Cinema History - Back To School

There's an old saying in the movie industry that goes: "Every ticket you buy for a movie is a vote for 10 more movies exactly like that."  The smash hit Animal House inspired a decade of madcap college comedies, while Caddyshack's success made stars of its diverse cast.  These two elements collided in the 1985 film Back To School, starring Rodney Dangerfield.

In an early scene in the movie, Mr. Dangerfield is battling long lines to sign up for classes.  As a rich entrepreneur, waiting in line among the juvenile masses just would not cut it.  So, he devises a scheme to thin the sea of humanity.  All of a sudden, we see the student body rush outside the building, converging on a limousine   The name on that limo?

This legendary Springsteen cinema moment is probably his most "topical" moment.  In 1985, his name would inspire the same type of frothing fandom that Justin Bieber or Lady Gaga would incite today.  

The film Back to School dares to explore the world of finances and academia, providing chuckles along the way and climaxing with a rousing diving competition.  The scenes of the blue-collar Dangerfield trying to pass a variety of tests got me thinking: how "smart" is Bruce Springsteen?  While we heap praise on him for his musical skills and storytelling ability, Bruce himself has never gone back to school.  He has chided his parents for saying it isn't too late to go back to college, and he claims he has learned more from a three-minute record than he ever learned in school.  And yet, I don't doubt that Bruce understands the importance of higher education, as all of his children have attended college.  While Bruce has been very successful without a college education, this blogger would be interested in seeing him take some classes.  I've been immensely satisfied knowing that there's a Dr. Shaquille O'Neal in the world, how great would it be if there was a Dr. Bruce Springsteen?

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Springsteen Turkey Song (SNL)

Thanks to friend of the blog, Nick B., for passing along this SNL sketch with Adam Sandler playing Springsteen. Happy Thanksgiving!

Springsteen Video of the Week (Thanksgiving Edition) – This Land is Your Land

Today is Thanksgiving and you may remember singing this song in Elementary School around this time of year. Bruce introduces his cover of Woody Guthrie’s tune by suggesting it is the greatest song ever written about America. He played this near the end of his Born in the U.S.A. tour and has been credited with raising awareness for the true meaning of the song. Whether he did or not, the passion (and sweat) of this performance is a good reminder to be thankful for everything we have and remember the less fortunate.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Springsteen Lyrics of the Week - Streets of Philadelphia

“Ain’t no angel gonna greet me,
It’s just you and I, my friend”
- Streets of Philadelphia, Philadelphia (Soundtrack)

Despite being a movie buff, I’ve still never seen the movie Philadelphia. I’ve always intended to but just haven’t gotten around to it. Without having seen the movie, I always feel the above lyrics give me a vivid picture of the movie. Extrapolating what I know about the movies, it feels like the above lyrics evocate the bond between Tom Hanks and Denzel Washington’s characters – two people where professional circumstance leads into a bond of friendship that neither expected. If I ever get around to watching the movie I’ll find out if that’s true but for now I enjoy having my version.

These lyrics speak to the randomness of circumstance; divine power is eschewed for the common man standing next to you. What I love about this is the sense that we don’t always know who the friend we need the most is going to be.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Book Review - Bruce by Peter Ames Carlin

Peter Ames Carlin’s “Bruce” is – in a word – perfect. Carlin has set out to make the definitive Springsteen biography and he’s accomplished just that. It’s hard to imagine a more complete, more thoughtful, more entertaining account of The Boss’ backstory. Combining comprehensive historical detail with sober objectivity and engaging musical analysis, “Bruce” is a must-own.

Starting out with Bruce’s grandparents and moving along right up to the first leg of this year’s Wrecking Ball tour, Carlin’s book benefits from unrestrained access to 60+ years of Springsteen history. For those who have read Dave Marsh’s iconic books (“Born to Run” and “Glory Days”) many sections in “Bruce” will ring familiar (including my favorite anecdote of Bruce befriending a Denver teenager during a screening of Woody Allen’s Stardust Memories). But Ames is such a naturally engaging and ethical historian that he adds an additional layer of analysis that makes you pleased to reread these sections.

The book’s defining quality – and what distinguishes it most from Marsh’s landmark works – is Carlin’s resistance to romanticize or deify his subject. Don’t get me wrong though, this is still a book about Springsteen so it’s laudatory overall and dutifully worshipful in the right places. But it isn’t afraid to present Bruce as human and vulnerable either. On several occasions, Carlin makes reference to Bruce’s narcissism and mood swings. He doesn’t shy away from Bruce’s darker moments either. That being said, there aren’t any real skeletons on display here: one of Bruce’s more egregious offenses involves angrily chucking a slab of chicken cordon bleu at his road manager when he didn’t get the fried chicken he requested.

Carlin isn’t afraid to contradict Bruce or identify hypocrisy and inconsistency either. At one point early on, he adds a footnote that uses history to question the accuracy of Bruce’s memory about watching The Beatles on TV. A seemingly inconsequential distinction but the footnote establishes from the onset that Carlin’s work is interested in the truth, not the fantasy behind the Springsteen legend.

Is “Bruce” too Bruce for a casual fan? Perhaps. But Carlin also traces the rock 'n' roll saga in striking detail in its own right. The early chapters convey the excitement, uncertainty and naivety of being in a band. The devil-may-care, anything-to-make-it sensibility in these early sections is infectious. But it also illustrates the relentless drive that Bruce possessed and in equal turns illustrates both the gift and curse associated with his passion to make it as a musician. From there we get the highs of initial success, the cold realities of the business, the challenge of sustaining a career and finally, the triumph of making it to the top and truly owning your musical identity. It’s a trajectory that will sound familiar to anyone who has read a “rags to riches” tale before (fictional or historical) but it’s infused with the unique, transcendent quality that Springsteen invokes to so many people.

At over 450 pages, “Bruce” manages to be expansive but not longwinded; concise but not streamlined. The work is punctuated by the beat-by-beat, lyric-by-lyric analysis of each of Bruce’s albums that diehards will read with vested interest and will be equally ready to agree or argue with Carlin’s thoughtful critiques. Released in time for the holidays, every Springsteen fan should be so lucky to find this wrapped up in a bow.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Book Review: "Tietam Brown" by Mick Foley

I suppose I should start off by disclosing that this is in no shape, way or form a Springsteen book.  But I chose to review this book because Bruce Springsteen, or more importantly his music, plays a critical role in this book.  Foley describes the emotional experience of connecting to Springsteen's music exceptionally well.  Quite frankly, in a few short sentences he does it better than I have on any of my entries on this blog.  Oh well, I guess that's why he's  New York Times best selling author, and I attended 3 different colleges in 3 years.

Although Foley is a best selling author, he is undoubtedly best known for his career as a professional wrestler.  As I've stated in a previous post, I grew up a HUGE fan of pro wrestling.  I was even more obsessed with the pseudo-sport than I am Springsteen today.  And one of my all-time favorites was Mick Foley.  Foley wrestled all over the world, for many different promotions, with different characters and enjoyed a very successful career.  In many ways he was the Bruce Springsteen of pro wrestling; not the most technically proficient or talented, but his undeniable ability to connect to a crowd and make them believe in him makes him beloved to millions, even still to this day.  Foley had the rare ability to tell a story during his matches that made him the most unlikely star of his era.  And he's been able to transcend wrestling to having a career in comedy, television, film, and even literature.

Foley has written 4 autobiographies, each of which I have read and enjoyed immensely.  He has made it explicitly clear that there were never any ghostwriters, and what you read is what Foley wrote.  Foley has the same gift in literature that he had when he wrestled.  He can enthrall you with his stories and make you believe in him.  But I have always been nervous about reading his fiction novels.  I've never been a huge fan of fiction, as when I read it tends to be biographies or autobiographies.

But recently I had a flight and was looking for something to read on my Kindle and decided to go with Foley's first foray into the world of fiction, Tietam Brown.  The story is a coming-of-age-tale, set in the mid 1980's of a young man named Andy Brown.  Andy has been through horrific abuse, neglect, and in a nutshell; has had an all around rough life.  His relationship with his father, his school, and his past has caused him much pain and confusion.  But his saving grace is when he meets a beautiful girl in school named Terri Johnson who sees beyond his physical and emotional scars to the decent person that Andy is.

So what does any of this have to do with Springsteen?   On the night of the big school dance where Andy is supposed to meet up with Terri, he's driving in the car looking for some good music to listen to.  He pops in Born To Run.    He talks about how even though in 1980's  Born In The USA was all over the radio, Born To Run, was and always will be the definitive Springsteen album.  He continues to describe his drive to the dance while listening to the album, imagining conversations with Terri, and driving by her house to get himself all pumped up before he sees her at the dance.  And then he comes to a stop when "Backstreets" plays.

"In an instant I heard Bruce Springsteen singing my life story.  'One soft infested summer me and Terry became friends, trying in vain to breath the fire we was born in.'  I didn't really know what that breathing-the-fire thing was all about but that part about me and Terri was perfect.  I knew as I barreled past Terri's house one last time that this was meant to be our song, even if we'd never actually done the things Bruce and his Terry had done, such as sleeping in an old abandoned beach house and getting wasted in the heat."

And that's what Bruce has been able to do to so many fans, including myself and Mick Foley.  How many of us have actually done the things Bruce sings about?  Hell, Bruce hasn't done most of them.  But something about the way Bruce tells a story can connect to a fan and make him believe in him.  Throughout the rest of the novel there are references to the Born To Run album as it plays a pivotal role in that night at the dance.  Tietam Brown really is a great read.  I'll admit it's not for everyone, with the depictions of Andy's child abuse being particularly disturbing.  There are times when you read this and just think that this kid's been through enough and can't take anymore.  But Tietam Brown is really hard to put down.  It's the story of a young man's troubled relationship with his father, reflections on his youth, being an outcast at school, finding and losing love, but most of all it's a story of hope and rising above challenges to move forward in life.  Sounds a lot like a Springsteen song.  Strongly recommended, but not for people who are squeamish or looking for a book about Bruce Springsteen.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Breaking News - Springsteen to Perform Benefit Concert at MSG

On December 12th, Springsteen, along with a random assortment of stars ranging from Paul McCartney to Kanye West, will be performing a benefit concert for victims of Hurricane Sandy at Madison Square Garden.  While the mainstream media has moved on from hurricane coverage, there is still many people who are suffering, who have lost their homes and possessions, who have missed work, and who desperately need help.  It will take a long time for the East Coast to recover, and kudos to all involved in this project for continuing to raise money and awareness for these people in need.  

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Springsteen Lyrics of the Week - The River

“I got a job working construction for the Johnstown Company
But lately there ain't been much work on account of the economy”
- The River, The River

Having recently had the good fortune to hear “The River” performed live for the first time I’ve been listening to the song a lot lately. A favorite of mine, it’s been on steady rotation over the years. The song contains a wealth of rich lyrics and certain ones have stood out to me at different points in my life. With the latest election, I've been reminded of the winter of 2008 when I’d recently graduated from college and was having great difficulty finding a job during the economic downturn. I clung to these lyrics and turned to them for support through the process. Even though the song was released in 1980, its timeless quality reminded me that I wasn't the only one facing economic hardship. Four years later, the state of the economy is still a tough point for Americans. Hopefully the song continues to provide support for those in need.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Springsteen Video of the Week - "Broken Radio" with Jesse Malin

You ever have a moment of "unexpected Springsteen" in your life?  When Springsteen enters your life at a seemingly random moment?  Well, this happened to me a couple years ago.  I went to a Gaslight Anthem concert at Terminal 5 in the fall of 2009 (OK, so with Gaslight Anthem, I should have expected something Springsteen-y).  One of their openers was the young man in the video above, Jesse Malin.  I was fairly impressed with his stuff, even though it sounds nothing much like Gaslight.  So, I go home and search for his songs, and lo and behold - this man had a duet with Springsteen!  Honestly, I have no idea how this happened - Malin's career seems solid but unspectacular, and I'm not sure how he and the Boss collaborated.  But, an endorsement from Springsteen is golden, so Jesse Malin is OK in my book.  Does anyone else know of any random Springsteen duets with lesser known artists?  Let me know in the comments!

Friday, November 9, 2012

Great Moments in Springsteen Television History - Born To Run References

In this screenshot from the Futurama episode "Decision 3012", we see that the Jersey Turnpike swamped with some Springsteen-esque traffic.  While we've mentioned many iconic lines in our weekly lyrics post, this one has gone overlooked.  However, it is a favorite of many TV writers, as it has also been referenced in The Sopranos episode "Long Term Parking"

It's a quick throwaway line, but the joke has a meta layer, as Steven Van Zandt is sitting with his onscreen boss as his offscreen boss is referenced.

Unfortunately, my exhaustive researched has only unearthed these two references.  If you know any other "Born To Run" references that have made it onto the air, let me know in the comments.

EDIT (1/21/14): Another "Born To Run" TV moment happened last week on Jimmy Fallon!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Springsteen Lyrics of the Week - Election Day Special!

"Woke up Election Day, skies gunpowder and shades of gray
Beneath a dirty sun, I whistled my time away"
-- "Livin' in the Future", Magic

"Livin' in the Future" is quickly becoming one of Springsteen's most underrated songs.  Played frequently during the Magic tour, it as all but disappeared from his current concert setlists.  Springsteen would always introduce the song with a rousing introduction - "This song's called 'Livin' in the Future', but it's about what's happening NOW!"  Even five years later, the song is still about what's happening now - people ignoring their current situations, insisting that they've moved past their problems and into a better state of life.  The song is an indictment of the lackadaisical state of our country - instead of choosing a leader, people are whistling their time away.

So, the morale of the story is - go out and vote.  Or, failing that, re-listen to Magic.  The lack of Magic songs on Bruce's current tour is a true tragedy.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Springsteen Video of the Week - Springsteen Stumping for Kerry, 2004

Politics - you can't avoid it now, even on your favorite Springsteen fanblog.  Last week, we looked at Springsteen's silly pro-Obama song.  There, in Ohio, Bruce seemed more candid and laid-back.  This week, we'll take you back eight years, where Springsteen is performing for John Kerry in Wisconsin.  In this fantastic performance, we are treated to an angry and passionate Bruce.  When Bruce has an axe to grind politically, we get Bruce's most creative content - just compare Working on a Dream to Wrecking Ball.  In fact, I'd say his albums written when Republicans are in office are on average better than his albums written when Democrats are in power.  In this video, his acoustic performance of "No Surrender" (written during the Reagan years) is absolutely breathtaking - the song makes for such a great political anthem that it is a shame it was wasted on the forgettable Kerry.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Concert Review – KFC Yum!, Louisville KY November 3

“I’m an old man but I don’t want to go home.”

This line, which Bruce uttered in the first half of the show, can be used to sum up the entire 2012 Wrecking Ball Tour. Having been on tour pretty much non-stop since March, Bruce has visited more than ten countries, made three trips to New Jersey and celebrated his 63rd birthday on tour. Last night’s performance in Louisville was the fourth straight night of performing for the E Street Band following stops in Rochester, Pennsylvania, and the NYC benefit. If nothing else, this seemingly never-ending tour has been a remarkable display of Bruce’s stamina.

While his line of dialogue – stated during the prelude to “Spirit in the Night” – underlines his phenomenal endurance and work ethic, it also acknowledges a hard truth. At 63 years old, Bruce can be considered an old man. I was fortunate enough to get amazing seats to the left of the stage for an up-close parallel view of the stage. Being in such close proximity to Bruce really makes you appreciate the level of showmanship that can’t be fully conveyed by a TV monitor. Being near the stage gives you a sense of the corporeality that can easily be overlooked by his superhuman theatrics. Last night was the first time that I really sensed the physical weight of his dancing on top of the piano, appreciated how close he came to being dropped while crowd surfing and questioned whether the stilted shuffle he does while introducing the band is one of his silly dance moves or a fleeting glimpse into his joint pains.

The effects of Hurricane Sandy weighed heavily (but briefly) on the opening of the show with a line about “a f-ing hurricane” injected into “Wrecking Ball” and Bruce’s poignant recount of the life cycle of the meaning of “My City of Ruins” as it’s gone from Asbury Park to 9/11 to Asbury Park again (for different reasons).

Bruce was in full request mode, grabbing signs and even a custom jacket to pull out a few unexpected tunes including the rarely played “Streets of Philadelphia” and “The River.” A sign request also led into a raucous rendition of “Open All Night” which was the first time I was acutely aware of Bruce using the teleprompter – but how else could he have made it through those rapid fire lyrics? Hearing “The River” was extremely powerful (and not just because OB was able to knock it off his top 5 songs he hasn’t heard live). “The River” flowed beautifully into “The Rising” which gave the perfect joyful release after the pain and precision of “The River”. This unexpected pairing signaled the start of one of the most thrilling conclusions I’ve ever seen – my personal highlight being “Rosalita” in the encore.

The immediacy of an E Street Band concert is a signature trait and their visit to Louisville contained the most audience interaction I’ve ever seen. When Bruce called for his requisite moment of silence to recognize “the ghosts” in the room, the crowd had some difficulty keeping quiet. I was initially concerned that this would sour Bruce’s connection with the audience but that fear was quickly erased. In addition to the expected “Waiting on a Sunny Day” and “Dancing in the Dark” audience interactions, he also invited up an enthusiastic kid celebrating his 20th birthday to sing “Growing Up” and a parade of pink cowboy hat-adorned girls to dance with the band during “Darlington County.” At the end of the show Bruce said to the audience, “Thank you, you’ve been remarkable.” And I really think he meant it.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Gave It A Name - The Best Band Names from Bruce's Past

Band names have always been an obsession of mine.  Thinking of the different names I would use for my fictional band helps me take a step forward into achieving my fantasy of being a rock star, without the heavy lifting involved in learning how to play an instrument.  In my down time, when I'm not wasting it thinking of band names, I do something more productive - analyze other band names.

A good band name is simple and memorable, and "Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band" fits the criteria effectively.  However, when Bruce began his career in the late 1960s and early 1970s, he bounced around between a variety of oddly named musical groups.  What follows is a ranking of my personal favorite pre-E Street Band names, with the sole criteria being my own arbitrary opinion.  

Missed the cut: Child, Sundance Blues Band.  Honestly, I have no idea what to make of those names.

5. The Bruce Springsteen Band

Formed in 1971, Bruce clearly didn't strain himself too hard when coming up with this name.  Not only is it boring, it is too pretentious.  While he is "The Boss", Bruce has always been a man of the people.  He saves accolades such as "pants-dropping" and "booty shaking" for his band, not himself.  Plus, it reminds me of The Dave Matthews Band, which is never a good thing.

4. Earth

From the late 1960s, it was in this band where he acquired the nickname "The Boss".  This name seems to be a product of its time, as other hippy-esque bands were forming using "Earth" as well, such as Manfred Mann's Earth Band and Earth, Wind, and Fire.  But, part of me would like to see Bruce open a show with a Will-Smith-in-Independence-Day greeting: "Welcome To Earth!"

3. The Castiles

Way back in 1967, when Bruce was just 17, he was part of The Castiles.  Look at those young boys up there!  Like the name would indicate, they were trying to replicate The Beatles clean-cut image (and pop sound, as heard in the video above).  Part of me wishes to see the alternate reality where The Castiles were a bigger hit.  Could you imagine Bruce writing more Beatles-stylized pop songs and wearing coordinated outfits?  (Side note: it's pronounced kah-steels right?  I usually mispronounce words that I only read - I pronounced "superfluous" as "SUPERfluous" for an embarrassingly long time) 

2. Steel Mill

This is Bruce's most significant pre-E Street Band group, as it featured Vini Lopez, Danny Federici, and Steve Van Zandt.  You can find tons of there lengthy jam sessions on Youtube, and they are definitely worth checking out.  But forget the noise, what about the name?  There's something very 70s rock about this name, mainly about a) it is two words that sound similar and you'd be unable to pronounce it drunk and b) it sounds vaguely homoerotic.  Deep Purple and the fictional Stillwater also fit this description.  

1. Dr. Zoom and the Sonic Boom

Really, was there any other choice?  Far be it for me to criticize Bruce's career decisions, but not sticking with Dr. Zoom and the Sonic Boom is a huge mistake.  It not only fits Bruce's personality to a tee, it is instantly memorable.  I'd argue that he'd be even more popular today had he been known to everyone as "Dr. Z" over "The Boss".  Now, indeed, being called "Dr. Zoom and the Sonic Boom" may undercut the emotions of songs like "Devils & Dust" or "Lost in the Flood", but it is a small price to pay for having one of the greatest names in rock and roll history.  

Sadly, we are where we are with the E Street Band.  But, the good news is that the title of Dr. Zoom is still vacant in the world.  I would highly encourage any young musician to keep this name in mind, and anyone with the last name "Zoom" to enroll in medical school.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Breaking News - Springsteen to Perform at Sandy Benefit Concert

This Friday  Springsteen, as well as Bon Jovi, Billy Joel, and others, will be performing a show in order to raise money for the victims of Hurricane Sandy.  It will air tomorrow at 8PM on NBC and its cable affiliates.  Be sure to tune in and donate to the American Red Cross.

Source.  Red Cross.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Springsteen Video Of The Week: "4th of July, Asbury Park (Sandy)"

"Oh Sandy" - "4th of July, Asbury Park (Sandy)"

I hope this post doesn't come off as too dismissive and insensitive.  I want to start off by saying I have absolutely no intent of making jokes or light of the situation.  But for those of us on the East Coast the only story this week has been Hurricane Sandy and the damage caused.   And even last night, Bruce had to postpone his show in Rochester, NY.  I hope everyone who is reading this is safe. I know it seems inappropriate to be thinking of Bruce in times of such tragedy. But right now, I can tell you that I'm doing fine and have been very lucky throughout the storm and its aftermath.  Other's haven't been, and New Jersey seems to have taken a particularly bad beating.  

I chose this as the lyrics of the week just because this song is so identified with Bruce and the Jersey shore, which has been absolutely demolished.  I can't imagine anyone from that area, hearing this song and not associating "Sandy" the song with Hurricane Sandy.  People lost their property, their businesses and homes.  And even some lost their lives.  It may seem trivial to consider Bruce in a time like this, but for those of who are lucky enough to come out of this unscathed, listening to Bruce has actually been a great distraction and comfort to the anarchy outside.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Springsteen Video of the Week - Forward

Well, it's another presidential election, and another round of Bruce trying to woo the voters of Ohio.  What is funny is that this song elicits numerous different reactions, primarily based on people's personal politics.  While the Democrats in the audience laugh and cheer throughout the video, the conservatives on Youtube have let their opinion been know with a variety of scathing comments (although I'm not sure what to make of the comment: "I can say with pride I have spent a dime to purchase one of his albums").  As of the time I'm writing this, the video has 60 likes and 36 dislikes - the opinion on this video is as split as the current polls.  Personally, I think Bruce isn't as fired up for the election as he was in 2008 (or even 2004 with Kerry), unimpressed with both candidates, and basically phoned in this little ditty - but that may be me projecting my own feelings as well.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Great Moments in Springsteen Television History - The Office, Crime Aid

In this classic episode of The Office, Michael Scott is holding an auction to try to raise money to replace the office equipment that had been stolen due to his negligence.  Many of the items in the auction are undesirable (save for a weekend in Martha's Vineyard and a hug from Phyllis), and Michael Scott has to come up with a gift that will be universally appealing to everyone in the office.  You need something that will appeal to a very diverse workplace - the staff runs the gamut from young and old, with different races, backgrounds, and even sexual orientations.  The choice of front row Springsteen tickets is perfect - it both fits the criteria and maintains the show's realistic setting.  Choosing a young "hot" musician or a musician who NBC is trying to promote (i.e. someone who would be performing on SNL that week) would distract from the reality created in the show and make the episode feel phony and dated.  But what really cements this as a great moment in Springsteen television history is Michael Scott's knowledge of Bruce's song catalog.  It was partially the inspiration behind the Bruce rip-off article I wrote, although rewatching that clip, I now regret not putting Tracy Chapman and Randy Newman on that list.  

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Springsteen Lyrics Of The Week: "I Wanna Be With You"

"I don't understand it,
you're not pretty at all.
But I'll come when you whisper,
I'll run when you call. " - "I Wanna Be With You", Tracks

Bruce has never been the shallow type.  He rarely mentions a girl's physical appearance and instead relies on describing the beauty of her soul and the connection he has with her.  You can tell by the way Bruce sings about her, that in his eyes it's the most beautiful girl in the world, it'd almost be insulting to talk about her physical attributes in such a way.  Occasionally he does, but it's not often.  But in this song, one that sings of devotion (bordering on obsession), he makes a specific point of saying that she isn't a good looking girl.  Ouch.  I mean even in "Thunder Road" she wasn't a beauty, but hey she's alright.

What's great about these lyrics is it's not if the singer was saying "hey ugly, you're not gonna do any better than me, so you might as well take it."  The singer is perplexed by this undying love too, but doesn't question it.  I've always loved this song, and can't believe it didn't get released until Tracks, and even since then is rarely played live.  It's a shame, but despite the catchy chorus and infectious guitar riff lies some great lyrics.  If Bruce stripped this down, and played it at just a piano at a slower tempo it'd be a beautiful ballad.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Springsteen Video Of The Week: Bruce On Letterman 1995

Sorry to our faithful readers for this not being up earlier today  But better late than never, right?  To make up for it here's a double video for this week.


This was a great performance for so many reasons.  First and foremost, it's Bruce Springsteen.  That can never be a bad thing as far as I'm concerned.  Secondly, after the whole "Tonight Show" debacle after Johnny Carson retired, and a war broke out between Jay Leno and David Letterman over who got to host, which Letterman lost and had to take his talent over to CBS to have a rival show, Letterman seemed kind of bitter towards show business.  But not that night, Letterman is having a blast, riffing with his band, Bruce and The E Street Band, and the audience.  He's off the cuff, and truly enjoying himself.  Dave has always been a Bruce fan, and treated him well.  Something Bruce has shown his appreciation by, by never doing "The Tonight Show" and staying loyal to Letterman.  Very admirable.  Thirdly, this was the reunion for the E Street Band after Bruce had broken away in the late 1980's.  This was Stevie Van Zandnt's first performance in I believe 10 years with the E Street Band.  And finally... It's just a damn good performance.  Bruce and the band were on that night, and the fans in the Ed Sullivan theater got a great performance out of it.  It would take another 4 years before the band would fully reunite and tour together, but this definitely laid the groundwork, and shown them that the world had not forgotten the legendary E Street Band.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Book Review: The Light in Darkness by Lawrence Kirsch

Part coffee table book and part rock ‘n’ roll history saga, “The Light in Darkness” contains a collection of personal essays and photos from the Darkness on the Edge of Town tour. Meticulously compiled by Lawrence Kirsch, the words and images paint a picture of the profound effect Darkness on the Edge of Town had – both on Springsteen’s career and the fans that connected with it.

In the wake of the lawsuit between Bruce and former manager Mike Appel that kept Bruce out of the recording studio for several years, Springsteen and The E Street Band released Darkness on the Edge of Town in 1978. The album’s reputation is quickly becoming cemented as Bruce’s most challenging but richest album. In addition to its own merit, Darkness’ status has been aided by compelling textual and visual supplements that have bolstered its reputation. If you weren’t sold on Darkness before, reading the first-hand accounts lovingly compiled in "The Light in Darkness" will certainly have you revisiting the album.

From entries by Oscar-nominated screenwriter Josh Olson (A History of Violence) to Springsteen blogger Pete Chianca (Blogness on the Edge of Town) to a factory worker in Nigeria, the book offers a wide variety of tales. The one similarity is that all roads lead to Springsteen.

The best entrants, like Springsteen, are good storytellers. One of the standouts is Brian Schmuck who recounts his odyssey to see Bruce perform at the feted Agora concert in Cleveland on August 9, 1978. Meanwhile, the pictures that line the pages are evocative and multi-faceted. They seem to change significance between your first glance and your second.

"The Light in Darkness" is a remarkable work of curating and an excellent complement to The Promise: The Darkness on the Edge of Town Story. A limited edition printing, there are only around 200 copies left of "The Light in Darkness," which can be ordered directly here. It’s a must for Darkness diehards.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Springsteen Lyrics of the Week - A Night with the Jersey Devil

"16 witches, cast 16 spells
Make me guitar outta skin and human skull
Sing you a song like the wind in the sandy loam
Bring you baby out'cha your happy home"
- A Night with the Jersey Devil, Working On A Dream

As mentioned in the inception of this blog, this is my least favorite Springsteen song.  In fact, the Working album has yet to worm its way into my heart in the slightest.  With Halloween around the corner, I decided to play this song for the first time since it earned the illustrious title of "Least Favorite Springsteen Song".  As it turns out, I remembered it better than I thought I would.  An unoriginal jazz riff, corny "spooky" sounds, and an awful vocal effect that makes the already difficult to understand Springsteen even more unintelligible all combine to make the song almost impossible to listen to.  I had to look up the lyrics, which, surprisingly, told a violent and grim story, up until the part spotlighted above.  At this point, the haunting Jersey Devil becomes a dangerous....rock star?  Springsteen's bread-and-butter has been writing about the tales of the blue collar heroes, but he should leave the Halloween tunes in the more capable hands of the great Bobby Pickett & the Crypt-Kickers.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Springsteen Video Of The Week: "Take 'Em As They Come"

NOTE:  Bruce drops a few "F-bombs" in the intro to this video.  So if'you're at work, or got kids around, you might want to hold off on this one

I found this video on YouTube last week when I did my lyrics of the week of the this same song.  This is video might show the most accurate depiction of Bruce and his fans.  It's almost as if Bruce knew he would be at multiple shows, and held off waiting till the time was right.  And this fan, never gave up hope, never thought that Bruce would disappoint him.  And Bruce rewards that faith with his "ask and you shall receive" mentality.  When Steve and I went to show at Wrigley Field this summer, Steve had mentioned that Bruce had started off by testing the fans a little bit.  Almost to see if we would abandon Bruce (of course we never did), and when he was sure of it, BAM!  That's when Bruce comes out swinging and ready to partyAnd this fan, and his family with him, are just about the happiest people I've ever seen at a Bruce concert.


Friday, October 12, 2012

Under the Influence of Springsteen: The Killers

With the release of Battle Born last month, The Killers further revealed the Bruce Springsteen influence that was accentuated with the release of Sam’s Town in 2006. For further credibility this time, they even enlisted producer Brendan O’Brien (Devils & Dust, Magic) for the album.

“Runaways” – the album’s first single – makes little effort to hide its Springsteen sensibility in its lyrics and music video imagery. A fast-paced toe-tapper, the single encompasses both the escape promised in Born to Run ("Let’s take a chance baby we can't lose") and the sinking feeling of failure in Darkness on the Edge of Town ("I recognize the girl but I can't settle in these walls").

In addition to similar themes and evocative lyrics, it’s the strong sense of location that creates the clearest connection to Springsteen. The Killers are resolutely a product of Las Vegas: the shallow characters they sing about, the flashy excess of their music and the lack of a real band identity. Like Vegas, they are nothing and everything at the same time.

Since the breakout success of “Somebody Told Me” in 2004, front man Brandon Flowers has been working really hard to distinguish The Killers as something more than the pop confection they were perceived to be when they first hit the scene. He's had some minor success in doing so. Over the years, his imagery has gotten much more distinct without letting go of the pop trappings that defined them. Critical response has been middling throughout their career though and reviews for Battle Born aren’t glowing.

In the face of critical shrugs, The Killers have slowly revealed an unexpected depth to their music. Their storytelling isn’t as vivid and the characters aren’t as nuanced as the ones you’ll find in Springsteen’s music but certain tracks like “Heart of a Girl” (Battle Born) or “Dustland Fairytale” (Day & Age), paint a strong picture with a clear sense of time and place.

If the above sounds overly critical of The Killers, it’s perhaps an effort to protect myself from worshiping them. I’ve loved The Killers ever since I bought Hot Fuss and I’ll never stop. I haven't been able to embrace them unashamedly though. I always feel the need to qualify or justify my appreciation. No matter how hard they try or how clear their ties to Springsteen, I don’t think that will ever change.

Here are my selections for The Killers’ most Springsteen-sounding songs:


Heart of a Girl

Dustland Fairytale

For Reasons Unknown

When You Were Young

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Springsteen Lyrics of the Week: "Take 'Em As They Come"

"Little girl, put on your best dress
cause we're going out on the town tonight.
Better bring along a switchblade,
Cause for sure some fool's gonna wanna fight."  - "Take "Em As They Come", Tracks

This is one of those cheesy Springsteen lines you just kinda have to chuckle at.  Here you have a guy who clearly likes a girl and wants to impress her with a night on the town.  But just in case things get a little out of hand, he tells her to bring a switchblade.  You know, in case they get into a little hand-to-hand combat with some of the other locals.  Maybe he's trying to impress the girl, by showing a little bit of an element of danger, or maybe he's being honest and really is telling her she needs protection.  Either way, I can't imagine it worked out well for them.  But hey what do I know?  I'm the single guy.  Perhaps I'll start making weapons a prerequisite for a date.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Springsteen Video Of The Week: "Stand On It"

Sorry to our fans: I'm going to phone it in this week. It's a 3 day weekend and I'm enjoying it by reuniting with my old college roomates. So I picked this video soley based on the fact that there's a line about Columbus discovering America and I found it fitting for Columbus Day. But hey it's a pretty cool performance of a good song. So enjoy!

Friday, October 5, 2012

First Draft: Child Bride

Earlier this week Rory mentioned how the lyrics from "Working On The Highway" "if read out of context of the music and other lyrics, it could easily be mistaken for a song from Nebraska."  Well he's right!  "Working On The Highway" was originally written for Nebraska. But Bruce decided to hold on to it, jazz it up, add a catchy chorus and bingo!  We have the beloved version of "Working On The Highway" that we all know and love today.

First off, let me start off by saying this was a fantastic decision.  "Child Bride" is just an awful name for a song, and would be really hard to defend as a fan.  Secondly, even though I love Nebraska and his other folk albums, this song just sounds so much better as the uptempo toe-tapper that we all know today.  That's not to say the song doesn't have it's merit.  "Child Bride" is much more akin to the somber lyrics.  "Working on the Highway" is paradoxical to it's lyrics.With rockabilly guitar licks, a snappy beat and an incredibly catchy chorus, "Working On The Highway" is always a favorite in concert.  I can't really imagine fans holding up signs for "Child Bride" in concert.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Springsteen Lyrics of the Week - Working on the Highway

I saved up my money and I put it all away
I went to see her daddy but we didn't have much to say
"Son can't you see that she's just a little girl
She don't know nothing about this cruel cruel world"
--"Working on the Highway", Born in the USA

Springsteen's sense of humor has been a subject of discussion recently on this blog.  "Working on the Highway" is another song I immediately associate with Springsteen's funny side.  However, this is due to the rockabilly style and over-the-top crotch thrusts that are staples of his live performances.  The tale actually told in this song is more sardonic.  The narrator works on the highway dreaming of a better life, gets in trouble while pursuing a girl, and ends up in prison, where he is back working on the highway.  In the end, his freedom and his imprisonment were the same.  The above passage is my favorite part of the song, and, if read out of context of the music and other lyrics, it could easily be mistaken for a song from Nebraska.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Springsteen Video of the Week: Bruce Being Funny

When I stumbled upon the above video on YouTube, I assumed that it would be either a parody or a mockery of Bruce Springsteen. For as strong as the bond is between Bruce and his fans, there's still a tendency to playfully make fun of him even as you idolize him. Ben Stiller has proclaimed his adoration for Bruce Springsteen but he still slyly mocks his persona in the Legends of Springsteen segments on The Ben Stiller Show. As such, I was pleasantly surprised to see that the above video was in sincere praise of Bruce's sense of humor and his ability to make us laugh.

Friday, September 28, 2012

OB's Top 5 Songs of the Wrecking Ball Tour

Unfortunately the Wrecking Ball Tour is winding down, and there won't be anymore concerts that I am going to in 2012.  At least I don't think so, but I am considering possibly going to the Rochester or State College shows next month. But I have nothing to complain about.  This was a fantastic tour, that I was lucky enough to be at 5 of the shows.  Each show was stellar, different from the others, and I walked away a happy customer each time.  So without any further ado, below were the top 5 songs I saw performed live this past year.  None of the videos were filmed by me or anyone to do with Legends of Springsteen.

5.  "Lion's Den" (Madison Square Garden, New York City, NY.  April 06, 2012)

I am always happy to hear a song live for first time.  This song is rarely played live, and I believe this is the only time this was played on this tour.  I've always enjoyed this song from Tracks and was definitely rocking in the aisles of MSG when Bruce was playing this.  It's far from Bruce's best song, but it's definitely a fun quick song and was a very welcome addition to the setlist.

4. "41 Shots" (Izod Center, East Rutherford, NJ.  April 03, 2012)

When the murder of Trayvon Martin was making headlines, Bruce brought this song out for a number of shows.  What I liked most about Bruce playing this song was the subtlety.  At no point did Bruce mention Trayvon Martin, gun laws, or anything else.  He just played the song to create awareness that a young, unarmed man was murdered.  And despite what many NYPD members and supporters may say, that's what this song is about.  It's not condemning, judging, or partisan.  It's about awareness of a tragic event.  I'm glad Bruce played it for those few shows, but retired it before it became a regular in the setlist.  It keeps the songs more relevant and important when it's played so sparingly.  

3.  "Out In The Streets" (Metlife Stadium, East Rutherford, NJ.  June 22, 2012)

After being delayed 2 hours due to severe weather, Bruce opened the show with this great track from The River.  The crowd was amped, Bruce and the band was amped, and the result was something magical.   When the chorus hit and the crowd sang along with the "woah oh oh oh oh" not a single person cared about weather delays, what time they'd get home, or anything else.  Bruce Springsteen was in town, and that was all that mattered.  We had waited all night to see him, and Bruce showed his appreciation for our patience by giving us his all, and we gave ours right back to him.  This is the symbiotic relationship Bruce has with his audience and I never felt it more than I did during that opening song, that night.

2.  "Atlantic City" featuring Eddie Veder (Wrigley Field, Chicago, IL.  September 07, 2012)

First of all, as huge baseball fan it was absolutely indescribable to be at the legendary Wrigley Field for the first time in my life.  Secondly, as a fan of Pearl Jam it was fantastic to be able to see Eddie Veder live for the first time in my life.  So factor those two items in with one of my all time favorite songs, and oh yeah, Mr. Bruce f'n Springsteen too, and you got one kick ass performance.  The Wrigley show was amazing, and as much as it kills me to say this as a native of New Jersey, Bruce showed the most energy I'd ever seen from him at this show.

1.  "The Weight"  (Prudential Center, Newark, NJ.  May 02, 2012)

Outside of the McCartney incident, I believe this performance got the most buzz.  And rightly so.  This amazing cover of the classic song by The Band was a very fitting tribute for the recently deceased Levon Helm.  I cannot put it into words, and fortunately I don't have to with this video.  However, as powerful as this video is, it's nothing compared to being there live.  And I believe I have 18,000 other people who were there that night who would agree.

So, there you have it.  Agree?  Disagree?  What were some of the highlights of the shows you attended?

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Springsteen Lyrics of the Week - Wrecking Ball

Hold tight to your anger,
And don't fall to your fears
- Wrecking Ball, Wrecking Ball

I've always had my reservations about "Wrecking Ball" but I've slowly come to appreciate it through the course of the tour, none more so than last Saturday night at MetLife.

I do consider myself privileged to have witnessed its debut in 2009 but hearing it again for its final NJ appearance this tour resonated with me the most. I still find the song muddled, but the power of the above lyrics really stuck out to me.

Personally, I don't advise holding onto your anger too frequently, but if the situation calls for it, these lyrics can serve as a reminder to stick to your beliefs.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Springsteen Video Of The Week: Jole Blon

Like Steve said, Saturday's show at MetLife Stadium was nothing short of stellar.  Truly a "something for everyone" type show.  Unfortunately at one point during the show I wasn't feeling too hot and went to the back to get a bottle of water and escape the madness of the floor.  Even more unfortunate was that I missed this great song.  I shouldn't say "missed", as I was able to hear the song perfectly, but couldn't see it.

Gary U.S. Bonds is someone that I am becoming a huge fan of the more I listen to him.  Especially his 80s material where he collaborates with Springsteen and you can really see how they mutually benefited from this relationship.  Bonds' hit "Quarter To Three" was a staple of the Born To Run Tour and is still a favorite when Bruce plays it now.  And Bonds was able to enjoy a resurgence in popularity when he started working with Bruce.

"Jole Blon" is an old traditional Cajun song that had been popular for decades when Bonds put it on his 1981 album Dedication.  Bruce also recorded his own version that was rumored to be put on The River but instead he decided not to release it and re-recorded it with Bonds for the aforementioned Dedication.  

Even though I didn't get to fully experience this song on the floor, I loved being able to hear it and this great video shows just how much the crowd was getting into it.  But perhaps the two people enjoying it the most are Bruce and Gary Bonds himself.  Two old friends, getting up on stage and singing a song they both love.  It doesn't matter if there are 55,000 or 5 people there.  They would've put the same amount of energy and soul into this.  Their fans know and love them for that very reason

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Concert Review – MetLife, NJ September 22

David Remnick’s profile in the New Yorker writes about the “ultra-sincere interchange between Springsteen and his fans.” I’ve never witnessed a clearer illustration of that bond than last night’s concert which began with 55,000 dejected fans waiting more than 2 hours in shelter due to lightning warnings and ended with the entire stadium singing Happy Birthday to Bruce at nearly 2:00 in the morning while his family came on stage for a birthday cake celebration.

Word of Bruce’s marathon Wednesday show and stunning set list on Friday set anticipation for Saturday evening at a fever pitch. But the evening was mired early on by the impending weather storm that caused security to evacuate the floor and general seating areas. As lines snaked around the undercover of MetLife stadium and the clock ticked later and later, all sorts of scuttlebutt made its way up and down the lines regarding whether Bruce would play at all. And if he did, what kind of show would it be? It was hard times all around but I took comfort knowing that the person who was most upset about the delay was Bruce himself. Such is the bond that Remnick writes about.

When we were finally ushered out to the field and Bruce took the stage at approximately 10:30 p.m. with his trademark grin, gestures about the rain and his welcoming – “I think I just invited 55,000 people to my birthday party!” – we knew everything was going to be all right. And it was.

Bruce moved at a fevered clip, making up for lost time and delivering 33 songs in a 3½ hour show that rocked into the wee hours of the morning. It was almost an hour before he slowed down to introduce the band during the resident “My City of Ruins” call-outs. On this tour, this is usually the fifth or sixth track of the evening, but last night it was the tenth, coming after crowd favorites (“Out in the Street,” “Badlands), obscurities (“Cynthia”) and Wrecking Ball cuts (“We Take Care of Our Own,” “Death to My Hometown”).

A spirited cover of Wilson Pickett’s “In the Midnight Hour” and the now familiar rendition of “Who Will Stop the Rain” gave playful comment on the situation. But I also noticed how many of the songs in his set list mentioned rain in the lyrics. It was hard to tell if this was coincidence or part of Bruce’s backstage selection process. Bruce also thanked the audience repeatedly for their patience throughout the course of the evening. Oh, Bruce. You know we’d drive all night to be with you.

I had general admission tickets to the floor and even though you have to put up with unruly fans, lack of readily available exits and the discomforts of standing in one place, I really feel that it’s the best way to see a Springsteen concert. Even with the big screens and video camera wizardry, you need to be up close to really appreciate the showmanship of the E Street Band. From Bruce’s cavalcade of expressions and theatrics to Nils Lofrgren’s exorcism-like guitar playing on “Because the Night” (much of which wasn’t on the big screen) to the entire band dancing in unison to “Shackled and Drawn” you have to be up close to get the full effect.

Additional highlights from the evening included Bruce calling on stage the 73-year-old Gary U.S. Bonds for two songs (“Jole Blon” and “This Little Girl”), more surprise appearances from Born in the U.S.A. (“Cover Me”, “Downbound Train”, “Working on the Highway”) and bizarre theatrics during the encore performances of “Glory Days” and “Seven Nights to Rock”. The latter of which included Bruce playing the piano with his forehead.

By the time the night concluded with Bruce bringing out his mother – Adele Springsteen – and additional family members to distribute birthday cake to lucky members of the audience and tear down the house with a beatific rendition of “Twist and Shout”, it was clear that we were witnessing something special. As Bruce readied his 87-year-old mother to sing back-up vocals, he noted almost as an afterthought, “It’s going to be loud as hell.” He then plugged his mother’s ears with a bit of torn off napkin and proceeded to rock. As fireworks went off above the stadium, it felt like the entire crowd was smiling in unison. Like so many other times in my life, when the world seemed to be ending (which it wasn’t), the music of Bruce Springteen turned things around. It wasn’t the best Springsteen concert I’ve ever been to, but it might be the one I never forget.

Happy Birthday Bruce!

Bruce Springsteen turned 63-years-young today, and your Legends of Springsteen editors were lucky enough to spend the first two hours of his birthday rocking with him.  While a detailed concert review from last night is coming up shortly, we took a brief moment to stroll the parking lot of Metlife Stadium to find the best birthday tributes to the Boss.

This simple-yet-effective birthday card drew the biggest attention.  Stationed close to the main entrance, numerous people stopped to take their picture with this poster (especially the ladies, who puckered up and kissed the sign).

Not too far away was this tribute to Bruce.  If you haven't been to a Springsteen concert, you can't throw a stone without hitting several American flags.  While Springsteen fans share many different political beliefs, they are all united by the underlying core value of working hard to make their country better.

While it didn't blow me away with style, I was impressed by the size of this banner.  When I went to the concert, I was still able to spot this enormous banner in the middle tier of the stadium.

Finally, while not a birthday greeting per se, a solid bumper sticker.  Although, getting into an accident with this car would put a new meaning on the phrasing "rear-ending".  

Friday, September 21, 2012

First Drafts - Stolen Car

Before getting into the differences between the original version and the final version of the song, I must say that the original version of "Stolen Car" is one of my all-time favorite Springsteen tracks.  I even included it on my "Bruce For Beginners" playlist.  I don't feel like I am alone here, as it was easier to find this version of "Stolen Car" on Youtube than to find the version from The River.

The original version of "Stolen Car" was written for a pre-River album called The Ties That Bind.  Numerous tracks from that were either reworked for The River or came out later in The Promise.  This version, while telling the same sad story, has a much pop-ier inflection, with a catchier piano riff and additional lyrics that recall happy memories and inspire hope.  

While previous versions of the First Drafts series has argued in favor of Bruce's reworkings of his early efforts, here I have to disagree.  The final version of "Stolen Car" is incredibly different, as the song is slower, quieter, and sadder.  It does fit into the theme of The River moreso than the original version, but I always found it a difficult song to listen to.  In the process of writing this article, I've listened to it several times, trying to appreciate it for what it is.  And while I did grow to appreciate the shift in the musical tone, I still feel lyrically Bruce made a mistake in cutting out the final verses.  The final version of the song ends abruptly, and does not tell as strong a story as the original version.  Thankfully, Bruce has done a good job saving his early cuts throughout his career - it would be a shame if the Tracks version never made it off the demo tapes.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Springsteen Lyrics of the Week - Out in the Street

When that whistle blows
Girl, I'm down the street
I'm home, I'm out of my work clothes
- Out in the Street, The River

The first thing I do when I get home from work is change out of my clothes and into a new outfit. It doesn’t matter if I’ve had a good day or a bad day at work, the second I get home, I need to change my clothes. I don’t have a rigid uniform or uncomfortable requirements but I have a psychological barrier that I can’t feel at ease until I’ve changed into a new outfit. As such, these lyrics from “Out in the Street” always resonate with me. A crowd favorite in Bruce’s recent tours, this song is an unabashed celebration of free time. Even if you love your job, it’s hard not to get caught up by the joy of clocking out when you listen to this song.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Springsteen Video of the Week - MLB 2012 Postseason Commercial a commercial?  Is this new ground?  Frankly, I'm uncomfortable with this move.  While it can introduce more people to Springsteen's music, he's already extremely well known, and young people hate baseball anyway.  As an avid viewer of TNT's basketball coverage, I know that the TNT/TBS networks have zero qualms about replaying the same commercials over and over again until you become physically repulsed at the opening notes.  This video is also dripping in America-sauce, once again trying to turn another one of Springsteen's songs into a patriotic anthem (and conveniently leaving out the greatest line of the song involving whores and gamblers).  But, with Bruce on tour and a presidential election around the corner, you had to figure he would not shy away from staying front-and-center and grabbing people's attention.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Springsteen Links - For You Raffle

Lawrence Kirsch, author of the limited edition Bruce Springsteen book "The Light in Darkness", is currently running a raffle to win a signed copy of his sold out book “For You, Original Stories and Photographs by Bruce Springsteen’s Legendary Fans”.

The raffle is in support of the annual Terry Fox Run to raise money for cancer research. We haven't had the opportunity to read "For You" but received information on the raffle and encourage our readers to make a donation for a chance to win. Here's an excerpt from the website along with a link for more information:

Each $10 ticket you purchase gives you one chance to win and a $15 ticket gives you three chances to win the book. The contest is open to everyone and tickets can be bought from September 7 to September 23, 2012. Tickets can be purchased at and, where the winner will be announced September 26, 2012.

Participants can enter the contest as many times as they wish and all proceeds go to the Terry Fox Foundation. The book, autographed by the publisher, will be shipped to the winner free of charge anywhere in the world, so everyone is encouraged to enter.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Book Review - Glory Days by Dave Marsh

Dave Marsh's two Bruce Springsteen biographies – Born to Run and Glory Days – are widely considered the definitive books about The Boss. With unparalleled access to Bruce and his camp, it would be hard for them not to be. If anything, Marsh has been criticized for hero worship. But you won't find any such criticisms on a blog called Legends of Springsteen. Hero worship or not, Marsh’s detailed, engaging and affectionate writing deserves credit on its own merit.

Glory Days picks up where Born to Run leaves off and covers Bruce's career from The River through the release of Live: 1975-1985. One of the highlights here is a finely detailed account of Springsteen creating the Nebraska album. The picture of Bruce alone in his New Jersey home writing and recording the solo album may seem like familiar territory in Bruce folklore. However, the level of insight to the album's production and the marketing approach offers an engrossing account of the album’s unorthodox production.

Another section I found particularly enlightening was the post-Born in the U.S.A. success. Marsh gives a grand account that represents the sheer enormity of the album's popularity. I was intrigued to learn about the radio / dance remixes of "Born in the U.S.A." and "Dancing in the Dark" by Arthur Baker. I didn't even know these versions existed before. It's interesting to listen to them now - although both are unremarkable apart from their novelty.

The book concludes with a great promotional effort for the Live: 1975-85 album. I had never given the album much thought before, figuring that I have so many live songs already but after reading about the considerable work that Bruce and record producer Jon Landau put into the track selection and order, I'm very eager to pick up a copy. Marsh includes a quote from Landau about the project that we should all envy: "It was an enormous amount of work and it was easy as hell."

Glory Days is full of beguiling anecdotes that will have Bruce fans enraptured for page upon page. My personal favorite involves Bruce going to see a movie by himself in Denver and ending up meeting a teenage fan who invites him back to his house for dinner with his parents. It's tempting to suspect such stories to be apocryphal but it's much more fun to believe that Bruce really is that down to earth.

Returning to the hero worship claim, there isn't much critical here beyond a harsh ribbing of "Downbound Train". Throughout the book, you kind of keep waiting for some sort of failure to creep in but it's really all about success. I would be fascinated to read Marsh's take on 1987 through 1996 in contrast. In 2003 Marsh released Two Hearts, the Story which combined abridged versions of Born to Run and Glory Days and included a new addendum on The Rising. I haven’t had the opportunity to read it myself but from what I understand it doesn’t delve into the less revered period of Bruce’s career.

I picked up my second hand copy of Glory Days for $2.00 at a Housing Works in New York City. What a steal! Every Springsteen fan should read this book. If you aren't lucky enough to find a copy in a secondhand store, it's still worth the money on Amazon Market Place. Just be sure that you have your iPod within reach while you're reading.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Springsteen Lyrics of the Week - Sherry Darling

"Well this morning I ain't fighting tell her I give up
Tell her she wins if she'll just shut up
But it's the last time that she's gonna be ridin' with me."
--"Sherry Darling", The River

Springsteen's sense of humor has been a topic of minor debate among the Legends of Springsteen editors.  On one hand, nearly every song of Springsteen's is full of lost souls who run away from dark places only to find more misery.  On the other hand, in concert, he'll take these songs and make them into joyous crowd sing-a-longs (see "Hungry Heart").  However, Bruce's more humorous side shines through in "Sherry Darling".  His silliest song to-date ironically appears on his third (or fourth) darkest album (I'd rank Nebraska and Darkness ahead of it; Wrecking Ball come close).  These lyrics highlight the exasperation we've all felt when arguing over nonsense - it always gets to a point where silence trumps any feeling of victory you'd get in winning an argument.