Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Happy New Year's from Legends of Springsteen!

The above video is from New Year's eve 1980 at the Nassau Colosseum in Uniondale, NY.  The concert went well over midnight, par for the course for 80's Springsteen, and Bruce was rocking on a cover of Wilson Picket's "In The Midnight Hour" in the minutes leading up to midnight followed promptly by the traditional classic "Auld Lang Syne".  I've seen Bruce play "In The Midnight Hour" at Metlife Stadium and he definitely brings the goods so I can definitely imagine that the Long Island crowd was getting into that New Year's eve.

A concert never really seems like a good way to spend New Year's Eve to me.  I have friends who go see Phish every year at MSG (which sounds like Hell to me, I hate Phish!), and one of my friends was trying to get me to go see Billy Joel in Brooklyn this year for New Year's.  But as fun as this concert looked, and even the old technology and shaky handling can't hide the fact that sharing champagne with Bruce at midnight would be amazing, I love New Year's Eve too much to spend it at a concert.  The booze, the countdown with friends, the fact that it's completely acceptable to kiss random women at midnight (don't even attempt this on any other night, and practice caution even on New Year's) all make for one of my favorite nights of the year.  However, if I was alive in 1980 and looking for New Year's plans, spending it with Bruce wouldn't be the worst way to do it.  So enjoy and a happy 2014 from your friends at Legends of Springsteen!

Friday, December 27, 2013

Great Moments in Springsteen TV History: WWF Wrestling Superstars

This isn't the first time I've written about "Born In The USA" as an entrance theme.  Nor is it the first time I've written about professional wrestling on this blog.  But back in the early to mid to eighties, when pro wrestling was gaining incredible popularity nationwide, as the World Wrestling Federation (WWF, now World Wrestling Entertainment) continued to expand nationwide, it wasn't uncommon for wrestlers to enter the ring songs by popular rock stars of the day.  But as cable TV became more and more prevalent, and musicians started to realize that they weren't getting any royalties, that was the ended of using copyrighted music without permission.

However before that time came, there was a popular tag team named the US Express, made up of Barry Windham and Mike Rotundo.  Two brothers-in-law, represented as "All-American" athletes, but not NCAA "All-American" athletes.  They represented hard work, dedication, and teamwork.  What better entrance theme for them then Bruce Springsteen's "Born In The USA"? As with a lot of people in the 1980's, including President Ronald Reagan, the actual lyrics and meaning of the song were overlooked due to it's catchy chorus and anthem-like introduction.  In the above match, watch how many fans are singing along with the music as they take to the ring.  Even moreso, after the match, when the US Express is celebrating winning the coveted WWF Tag Team titles, the music fits the atmosphere perfectly.  Unfortunately now, when WWE re-releases old US Express matches on DVD sets, "Born In The USA" is dubbed over with a generic knockoff to avoid paying for the rights to use it, as seen here.  It just doesn't seem the same without Bruce.

Interesting trivia fact:  When WWF stopped using copyrighted music they replaced "Born In The USA" with a song that was written by a songwriter they hired to create new entrance music for everyone.  The song he wrote for The US Express was "I Am A Real American", but Barry Windham quit WWF a few weeks later and "I Am A Real American" was given to wrestling phenomenon Hulk Hogan.  The song would become a major part in Hogan's identity and help propel him from beyond just pro wrestling fame and into a pop culture superstar.  However if you are not a fan of wrestling or Bruce Springsteen, this is not interesting trivia at all.  I apologize.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas From Legends Of Springsteen!

Here's just a quick note to thank all of our readers for a successful year two!  You may be wondering, "Hey, Goober, where were all the Christmas songs this month?"  Well, we covered them all last year.  So sit back, relax, and take a look through our archives:

Have a safe and happy holidays!

Monday, December 23, 2013

OB's Christmas List: Heavy Metal Songs I wish Bruce Would Cover

So with Christmas only being two days away I came up with my Christmas list of songs that I would love to see Bruce cover.  Keep in mind I grew up listening to heavy metal, and some of my friends are shocked when they know of all the other bands I love (Metallica, Iron Maiden, Black Sabbath etc) that Bruce trumps all of them.  However I did put some forethought and didn't just randomly want to hear Bruce sing "Master Of Puppets", "Run To The Hills" and "Iron Man" as they wouldn't fit with the E Street sound.  So below are songs that I really do think could work for Bruce, but even still I'm well aware there is practically no chance of Bruce ever playing them.  I say practically, because as we all know anything is possible with Bruce.  And without further ado...

5.  Iron Maiden - "Afraid To Shoot Strangers"

Just because I said "Run To The Hills" didn't make it, doesn't mean Iron Maiden isn't on the list entirely.  One of my all-time favorite metal bands, and one of my favorite live acts to see, Iron Maiden has been putting out stellar albums since 1978.  Their lead singer, Bruce Dickinson, has one of the most powerful voices in all of music and probably would give Springsteen a hard time with most other Maiden songs.  But in this song Dickinson's voice is consistently low, almost whisper like, to portray the gravity of the emotion behind this song.  Before "Devils and Dust" questioned the The Second Gulf War with Iraq, Iron Maiden penned this song questioning The First Gulf War.  Like "Devils and Dust", the song is written from a soldier's point of view, who is following orders.  And although he knows there is honor in following orders, his conscience troubles him, as he is "Afraid To Shoot Strangers".

4.  Black Label Society - "Road Back Home"

Fellow New Jersey native, Zakk Wylde's band Black Label Society is known for their brutally hard guitar riffs and Zakk's signature gravelly blues voice.  However on this album, Book of Shadows, their trademark sound is changed for a much more melodic sound with acoustic guitars and pianos.  Of all the songs on this list, this is the one that I think has the most E Street sound - from the opening organ intro, to the pre-chorus and chorus that I could easily see Bruce and Stevie getting into.

3.  Guns N' Roses - "I Used To Love Her"

If Bruce Springsteen didn't exist, Guns N' Roses would be my favorite band.  But he does, so they ain't. Still, I absolutely love them. They were the first band that absolutely captured my attention and imagination.  From their bad boy antics to their legendary live shows, GNR was rock and roll rebellion personified, and I loved them for it.  Although Bruce and Axl Rose have played together before, I still can't imagine Bruce ever singing GNR.  Even though I can easily see Stevie and Nils jamming on this guitar riff like Slash and Izzy, and I can even see Bruce doing his playful laughing while singing the lyrics "I knew I'd miss her, so I had to keep her.  She's buried right in my backyard."  Still, a man can dream.

2. KISS - "Hard Luck Woman"

Much like Springsteen fanatics, KISS fans are as hardcore as they come.  The costumes, the facepaint, but most importantly the music has endeared KISS to their fans for decades now.  For a long time I didn't count myself as one of them, simply because Gene Simmons is probably the biggest jerk in rock and roll.  Stories of his ego and attitude has caused nearly as many headlines as their hit songs have.  However, much like I have with Axl Rose, I simply separate the music from the person.  Just because I don't agree with them personally, doesn't mean I can't like their music.  I even feel that way about Bruce sometimes!  And ever since I've been able to do that, I have become as big a KISS fan as can be.  I love everything about them, their characters, the blood and fire, but above all else their songs.  Oh man, how awesome would it be if Bruce came out in full blow KISS make up and then went right into this opening guitar lick!?  Alright, I gotta calm down.

1.  Motorhead- "I Ain't No Nice Guy" (Featuring Ozzy Osbourne and Slash)

Cigarettes, whiskey, and a lifetime of playing hard music at a blistering fast pace: that's what gave Motorhead their signature sound that has made them icons that they are in heavy metal.  When one first hears that Motorhead is playing with Ozzy and Slash, you can't help but think it's got to be a heavy metal classic.  And it definitely is, but not in the way you might think.  This mostly-acoustic, ballad-like song features an aging Lemmy and Ozzy (and this was over 20 years ago!) contemplating about the mistakes they've made in their life.   I would absolutely love to see Bruce take the stage with this song, solo with only an acoustic guitar, but again, like every song on this list, it is just not going to happen.

So, there you have it.  What do you guys say?  Any metal fans agree or have different picks?  Are their any weird genres of music that you would to see Bruce cover?  Let us know!  Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 20, 2013

Johnny Cash's "Johnny 99" and "Highway Patrolman"

Last month, I spotlighted Johnny Cash's cover of "I'm On Fire", and emphasized how it encouraged me to check out more music from the Man In Black.  Little do I know that it was not Cash's first foray into Springsteen music.  In 1983, Cash released an album called Johnny 99, including covers of both the title track and "Highway Patrolman".  Johnny takes Bruce's stark, bleak tunes and gives them a country flair.

While the Nebraska album was divisive among Springsteen fans at the time, but its influence on other musicians is clear, as it has been cited as an influence for musicians ranging from Steve Earle to Kelly Clarkson.  There are various covers of nearly every song from Nebraska - too many to list in this post.  So, let us know in the comments: do you have a favorite Nebraska cover?

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Song Spotlight - "The Last Words Of Copernicus"

It is weird to think of Bruce Springsteen incorporating samples into his music (a la 2 Live Crew).  However, in "Death To My Hometown", Bruce took the chanting from Alan Lomax's recording of "The Last Words of Copernicus" to enhance the riotous sound of the record.  In fact, in many songs featured on Wrecking Ball, snippets from other songs are parsed through tracks such as "Shackled and Drawn" (Lyn Collin's "Me And My Baby Got Our Own Thing Going") and "Rocky Ground" (Peerless Four's "A Soldier In The Army Of the Lord").  It is interesting to see the Boss still experimenting with different ways of creating music in the fifth decade of his career.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Great Moments in Springsteen Cinema History: Grown-Ups 2

I recently had the great fortune of catching Grown-Ups 2 on an airplane. The fact that this half hazard collection of half heartedly written scenes makes up an actual movie – let alone one released by a major studio grossing over $100 million – is nothing short of astounding. Now, I’m an Adam Sandler faithful, so I’ll concede that I laughed a few times, but the only moment of real value is the invocation of Springsteen.

In the film’s climax, Sandler hosts an ‘80s themed party for the neighborhood, with attendees all dressed as pop culture icons. Happily, Sandler dresses like Springsteen on the cover of Born in the U.S.A. When his son doesn’t know who that is, Sandler responds, “My own son doesn’t know The Boss? I’ve failed as a father.”


Sadly, the film doesn’t feature any Springsteen tunes – even if it begs for a “Glory Days” riff. Alas, Sandler fans will just have to satiate themselves with “Growin’ Up” in Big Daddy or “Hungry Heart” in The Wedding Singer.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Video Spotlight - "You Can Look (But You Better Not Touch)"....A Cappella!

Usually, we spotlight a ton of acoustic performances on this blog, but here's something that I personally haven't seen before: a completely instrument-free Springsteen snarling out a song.  And, surprisingly, it works!  Bruce fully commits to the rambunctious style, swinging his hips in his best Elvis impersonation and making classic Bruce-faces throughout the quick performance, and the audience buys in completely.

We usually try to keep the video spotlights short, but if you've got an hour to kill, I highly recommend watching this whole concert from 1986.  It is a must watch for fans of acoustic Bruce, as he plays a stripped down set with Danny Federici and Nils Lofgren.  The setlist includes many Born In The USA-era hits, as well as a being joined on stage by Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Lyrics Spotlight - Bobby Jean

And I'm just calling one last time not to change your mind
But just to say I miss you baby, good luck goodbye

--"Bobby Jean", Born In The U.S.A.

As I've mentioned before, I am a big comic book fan.  And, as any comic book fan knows, you will be the subject of hundreds of embarrassing moments that are almost unavoidable given the lifestyle.  Perhaps its that time you thought buying that fedora was a good idea; or that time your mom yelled "I'll pick you up at 8!" in front of all the cool kids at the comic convention; or that time someone asked you who would win in a fight between Batman and the Hulk, and you went into an extremely detailed break-down that disturbed the person who asked the question.  All of these are ultimately harmless "character builders", and everyone has them.  On the comic book podcast In This Issue, they will occasionally share these amusing tales, calling them "Embarrassing Nerd Confessions".  Their openness has inspired me to share some of my embarrassing Springsteen confessions, so strap yourself in - it is pretty cringe-worthy.  Ready?  Let's not beat around the bush:

I thought the above lyrics would be good to text to a girl.

Ugh, I want to kick my own ass after typing that.  But, now that that is out in the open, let's go back a bit.  It was college, and I was in my golden age of drunken texting.  I would get a couple of shots in me and think my texts were worthy of Bartlett's.  Some texts would be humorous, but most of the time I was sending a message at 4:17 AM that elegantly stated, "what r u up to".  Most of these texts would go unanswered, but I was a young man; a little failure would not deter me.

Upon this occasion, there was a girl who I had seen maybe a handful of times.  However, my charm was starting to wear thin (shocking!), and the girl was doing what was probably the most polite and mature thing you could do in your college years: just ignore me.  Now, this wasn't the first time, nor the last time, things would end this way with a girl.  But, I'd just like to breakdown how my reaction to this has changed over the last few years:

Early 20s Rory: "She hasn't responded to my text in two days!  Oh no!  This is it.  I'm doomed.  She hates me.  What did I do wrong?  Will I ever find love?  I'm going to die alone.  But maybe she lost her phone?  Or should I wait another day?  Should I give her a call?  Or maybe just another text?  Will that seem too desperate?  But what do I have to lose?  Heaven's to Betsy, what a pickle!"

Late 20s Rory: "She hasn't responded in two days?  Ah well, guess she's not that interested.  I wish her the best in all her future ventures.  On to the next."

Unfortunately, I was still in my early 20s.  So, feeling a bit depressed, I went out drinking with some friends (including fellow blog editor Steve).  And a thought started brewing.  Who never fails with the ladies?  The Boss, that's who.  So, perhaps I could use his coolness to win the heart of this girl (and, for the record, I do not believe this girl had shown any positive or negative feelings about Bruce Springsteen in the brief time I knew her).

The message was typed.  My finger hovered over the send button.  And, then, I made an excellent decision: I talked to Steve about it.  Steve had (and still has) one of the best relationships I know, so I figured I would take his advice.  He told me, politely, that it probably would not be a good idea.  However, looking back, I could tell he was biting his tongue, fighting back the urge to call me an idiot and slap me upside the head.  And, with that, Steve saved the day, and the text was deleted.

The next day, as I sobered up, I realized how close I was to adding another embarrassing drunk moment to an ever-growing list.  An important lesson was learned, and I curtailed my drunken texting. (Side note to all single people struggling with this: delete the phone numbers of your exes.  They will just linger their in your phone book, and can cause nothing but misery.)

So, perhaps I misled you all, as the embarrassing action was not seen through to its completion.  I just figured I'd share it all with you - it was cathartic to get it off my chest.  We all make embarrassing Springsteen-related decisions, so no need to feel bad about them.  If you've got any such confessions, please feel free to share them in the comments!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Duet Spotlight: Bruce and Phish

At Bonnaroo in 2009, one of the more unlikely musical pairings happened: Bruce Springsteen (who performed as the headliner the previous night) teamed up with those lovable stoners known as Phish.  It was a short team-up, where Bruce sang the lead for three songs, and Phish gave them all their trademarked jam band sound.

The performance doesn't seem quite legendary, but it is tough to tell with these poorly filmed Youtube clips.  But Bruce does seem a bit looser than usual, especially during the extended jam finishes.  Perhaps he's riding a contact high from Trey Anastasio?

Friday, November 29, 2013

Video Spotlight - "Blinded By The Light" in Helsinki, 2012

We're a bit obsessed with Bruce going acoustic here on this blog, and astute readers may notice we are double-dipping a bit here.  I originally posted this in response to Steve's post last month, but figured it was worth going back to during this 4-day weekend.  So, if you missed it the first time around, make sure to take seven minutes away from your family and loved ones and check out this fun, loose, and excellently filmed performance.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Breaking News - "High Hopes" Video Released, New Album Announced

Well, once we were treated to a fantastic studio version of "Dream Baby Dream", the rumors started to swirl.  Today, everything became official: a video was released for "High Hopes", and an album by the same name was announced for January 14th.  Like Wrecking Ball, it's a not-quite-E-Street album, featuring a lot of Tom Morello (he's listed on eight of 12 tracks).  Upon first listen, "High Hopes" has that same "angry mob" sound that characterized Wrecking Ball stand-out tracks such as "Death To My Hometown" and "Shackled and Drawn".  While it isn't as catchy as "We Take Care Of Our Own", this song, as well as the aforementioned "Dream Baby Dream", have me very excited for the new album, and, more importantly, the (potentially) forthcoming tour.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Rumors: The Track List for the New Album?

Yesterday, Stan Goldstein culled information from a Springsteen fan forum to put together a possible listing of songs for the new Springsteen album.  I encourage you to click the link for more information; it is very informative with some great Springsteen live clips.  If this listing is true, it makes the album an amalgamation of covers (including a "cover" of "The Ghost of Tom Joad"), songs Springsteen had previously only performed live, and songs cut from other studio albums.  

Now, granted, this is just a rumor, but I've come to believe everything on the Internet is true, even if it contradicts itself.  So, assuming this is true, I'm excited, with a couple reservations, such as creating a studio version of "American Skin" (making it an "only live" song gives it a novel status, and, by setting it apart from the rest of Springsteen's catalog, helps underline the strong message of the song) and the lack of some of my personal favorite Springsteen covers from the past few years (such as "Coma Girl").  However, we are getting about a half dozen new Springsteen songs, so that's nothing to complain about.  In the end, I can't think of a way to end the article without making a terrible "I have....high hopes for this album" joke, so here we go: I have....high hopes for this album.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Song Spotlight: "Out of Work" by Gary U.S. Bonds

Hey, Mr. President, I know you got your plans
You're doing all you can now to aid the little man
We got to do our best to whip that inflation down
Maybe you got a job for me just driving you around

- “Out of Work” performed by Gary U.S. Bonds

In spite of the very Springsteen-esque nature of the above lyrics, I only recently learned that Springsteen actually wrote the song “Out of Work,” a catchy toe-tapper and hit single off of Gary U.S. Bonds’ 1982 album On the Line. In fact, Springsteen is credited with writing seven of the 11 tracks on the album.

The lyrics in “Out of Work” feel timeless, and can really be attributed to any era, but the sound is distinctly ‘80s. According to a WCBS article, “Out of Work” filled the dance floors well into the 1990s. I have no way of saying if this is true, but I hope so. When I hear it now, I keep picturing a montage from a weak ‘80s comedy with Dana Carvey applying for odd jobs and bumbling his way through interviews. Sadly, no such movie exists, but for a light comedy with Dana Carvey, I do recommend Opportunity Knocks.

I couldn’t find any versions of Bruce performing the song, and I’m curious to know if he’s ever played it with Bonds publicly. When Bonds does join Bruce on stage as a guest, their usual collaborations are “Quarter to Three,” “Jole Blon,” and “This Little Girl.”

Below is the studio recording followed by a live version of Bonds performing in Queens in 2008 (complete with a jab at President Bush).

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Bruce Performing At "Stand Up For Heroes", November 6th, 2013

Today, we're treating you to a longer video, so pull up a chair and relax for 20 minutes.  Earlier this month, Bruce performed with other musicians and comedians at Stand Up For Heroes, a charity event focused on raising money to support troops returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.  Here, Bruce performs a stripped down set, featuring an acoustic "Dancing In The Dark", Patti Scialfa assisting him on "If I Should Fall Behind", and "Dream Baby Dream", which seems to be getting heavy promotion recently.  However, rather than the touching, personal stories we are used to from Bruce, each song is introduced by a "dirty" joke.  And, boy, are they groaners - Bruce becomes the proverbial drunk uncle of the party, and you feel forced to laugh if only to not make the situation any more awkward.  At the end of the set, Bruce quips he should have been a stand up comedian.  After seeing this, it is safe to say he made the right choice.

However, in some sense, it is a wistful insight into Bruce's off-stage persona.  In Clarence Clemons' autobiography, he claims that he was the king of dirty jokes.  It is easy to imagine Clarence telling all these jokes to Bruce in a dilapidated bus going to their next gig, and Bruce cracking up like a madman.  So, if you factor in that unsubstantiated sentimental notion into the video, it could make it more enjoyable.  But, you should probably just stick to listening to the songs.

Monday, November 18, 2013

New Single Announced: High Hopes

Happy Thanksgiving everyone, we have a new Bruce single. Billboard (and various other outlets) reported today that Bruce's next single will release this Monday (11/25). The single is "High Hopes" and many are speculating that this gives truth to the rumors of an early 2014 album release. Nothing in today's announcement gives any indication of this track supporting a full album, so we advise against getting too excited about the prospect of an album. For now, just appreciate the new tune! Many have heard it before (I was nodding my head to it just this past weekend on E Street Radio) as it's been played live in concert and appeared in the documentary Blood Brothers. Interestingly, the track is a cover of a 1990 song by a band called The Havalinas. By my count, this makes it Bruce's third single that's a cover; following "War" and "Santa Claus is Coming to Town."

Here's the original song, I imagine we'll see its views skyrocket over the next week.

Edit, 11/19: The track has already leaked.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Song Spotlight: "Miss You C" by Nils Lofgren

E Street Radio on Sirius XM is a bottomless treasure chest of Bruce Springsteen-related music. This past weekend, I heard “Miss You C” by Nils Lofgren for the first time. Nils is known primarily for his work on guitar in the E Street Band and even though he has released several solo albums, many Springsteen fans are not familiar with his vocal work.

As such, this soulful ditty is a great entry point and a quiet tribute to Clarence Clemons. “Miss You C” is a variation of a song called “Miss You Ray” that Nils released on his solo album Old School. It’s a fairly simply tune, but far be it from us to slight a heartfelt tribute to his fellow band member. Oh wait, we just did. Well, pretend we didn’t and give it a listen. Nils very courteously put it up for free download on his official website.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Book Review: "Crash and Burn" by Artie Lange

Artie Lange is one of my all time favorite comedians.  From his year on Mad TV (the debut year, when the show was actually fresh and funny), to his movies Dirty Work and Beer League, to, of course, his stand up and 9 year stint on The Howard Stern Show, Artie Lange has been consistently hysterical and brutally honest in his comedy.  His first book, Too Fat to Fish, highlighted those traits excellently.  Also in this book, he talks about what a fanatic of Bruce Springsteen he is.  But mostly in Too Fat to Fish, he is completely open about his demons and vices.  The book ends with him giving the details of him overcoming his addiction to heroin.  The epilogue of the book seems to paint the picture that he might have relapsed but without him admitting it.

That is where this book picks up, with Artie in full blown relapse with pills, alcohol and heroin.  And it never really gets much better for him for the rest of the book.  This is a dark and depressing book.  Throughout the entire book, Artie lies to everyone in his life, promising to get clean only for him to almost immediately relapse.  It culminates on January 2nd, 2010, when Artie attempted to commit suicide.  Artie talks about how burned out he was at his life and career, and basically just wanted to go to sleep for a long, long time.  It isn't until the end of the book, that he finally admits to the readers, and to himself, that he really just did not want to live anymore.

However, it is during his recovery from his suicide attempt, where he is horribly depressed, that he gets a call from Bruce Springsteen.  Artie and Bruce met at the funeral of a mutual friend, who Artie refused to name, and had a brief chat.  It ended with Bruce giving Artie giving advice to clean up his life, because Bruce didn't want to have to go to Artie's funeral.  Bruce came incredibly close to doing just that.

Just when that seemed to be the end of Bruce Springsteen in Crash and Burn, Artie tells the story of going to Paris with his girlfriend to go to see Bruce in concert.  The concert, of course, was great and afterwards Nils Lofgren was able to get Artie backstage, where Artie was able to hang with The E Street band.  After spending some time with them they invite him back to the Four Seasons, where they were staying, for the after party.  It's there that Artie finally gets to have a heart to heart conversation with Bruce.

I bought this book without even knowing Bruce's name would be mentioned, let alone that he would play some an essential part in it.  The Bruce story from this book is worth the price alone.  It ends with Artie finally taking stock in his life and noticing how at the end of the night, a sober Bruce walked his mother, Adele, up to her hotel room.  Artie compares that to his own mother discovering his body after his failed suicide attempt.  After one more alcohol relapse, Artie finally gets clean for what is, hopefully, the final time.

I really hope Artie stays sober, the world is a funnier place with him in it.  I know Bruce would agree with me on that.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Politics In The Age of Springsteen

Author's Note:  As with the other posts on this blog, this entry is mine alone, and does not necessarily reflect the opinions of the other contributors to this blog, or Legends Of Springsteen as a whole.  Thank you.

I'm a conservative.  Calm down, it's not that big a deal.  I tend to vote for the Republican party (Although I am a registered independent, and identify as a Libertarian).  And I am a huge Bruce Springsteen fanatic.  I don't think the two should be mutually exclusive, but alas there are people who are shocked to hear that I am both.

To be honest, I don't feel Bruce is that political of a musician.  I think he points out certain issues but, for the most part, he tends to just point out a problem, and it's up to the listener to decide how it should be fixed.  Now, in concert, Bruce certainly tends to give more of his political opinions.  But when compared to the number of times he encourages fans to just sing, dance, and enjoy themselves it's practically non-existent.

Take a song like "41 Shots (American Skin)".  Most conservatives will tell you that this song is an "anti-police, anti-2nd Amendment, liberal, white guilt" anthem.  I don't get that whatsoever.  This song is simply about what happened to Amadou Diallo. Bruce doesn't say who's right or wrong, anything about gun control, or race.  He simply states the fact that an unarmed man was shot 41 times by police.  I don't care what side of the political spectrum you are on, that's not right.  Some on the far left have called those cops murderers.  Others on the far right have said those cops were just doing their job.  But I think most people fall somewhere in the middle.  I know I do.  Yes, those cops (who have possibly the most difficult job in the world) killed someone, but it wasn't with any malicious intent.  I doubt that makes it any easier for those cops to sleep at night, however.

Bruce brought this song back out early in the Wrecking Ball tour, in honor of Trayvon Martin.  (Note: I started writing this entry prior to Zimmerman being found "Not Guilty") Again, Bruce didn't mention Trayvon, didn't wear a hoodie, didn't mention anything about guns.  However, when he played the opening chords to this song every single person in the arena knew why.  He simply wanted to create discussion.  An unarmed young man was killed.  It's tragic.  I've debated the Trayvon Martin case several times among my friends (I don't think George Zimmerman is guilty of 2nd degree murder and I think the media portrayal of his has been disgraceful), but that doesn't take away from the fact that Trayvon is dead. And that is tragic.  I remember seeing Bruce play this song in 2012 at Madison Square Garden.  Many people in my section booed, heckled, sat down, some even went so far as to give Bruce the finger while he played it.  I didn't get it then, and I don't get it now.

Earlier this week, Chris Christie was re-elected as Governor Of New Jersey.  Christie, an avid Springsteen fan and conservative as well, probably isn't Springsteen's favorite politician but that hasn't stopped Christie from seeing Bruce in concert over 100 times.  And I don't think Bruce's criticisms of the governor has diminished Christie's enjoyment of Bruce's music, as seen here.

I remember seeing Bruce on the Magic tour in the summer of 2008, and several times throughout the night Bruce took a moment to criticize then President Bush, about the poor state the economy and the high number of Americans who were unemployed.  One year later, on the Working On A Dream, when the economy was worse and unemployment was even higher, Bruce did not criticize President Obama once. At the time part of me did think "Nothing to say, Bruce?" But then I thought about it.  Did it really matter?  Would it improve the economy?  Or create millions of jobs?  Nope.  So let Bruce have his opinion, I'll have mine, and let's just enjoy the music.  And that's about the most pacifist thing I've ever said.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Blu-ray Review: Springsteen & I

“Does anyone love their fans as much as Bruce?” That’s the question I posed a few weeks ago when BruceSpringsteen.net posted a “thank you” video to attendees of the Wrecking Ball Tour cut to an unreleased version of Bruce’s cover of “Dream Baby Dream.” Springsteen & I is a new a crowd-sourced documentary about the emotional connection fans feel to Springsteen. Purposefully, the film opens with with a clip of Springsteen in concert, telling the crowd that he can’t do it without their support. Springsteen & I is equal parts love letter to Springsteen and love letter to Springsteen’s fans.

When the filmmakers announced their call for submissions last November, inviting the entire world to upload video footage describing their connection to Bruce, I uploaded a video of my wife and I having our first dance to “Happy.” A year later, the finished film is so perfect that I’m only a little sad we didn’t make the cut.

The footage of fans’ first-person professions of love is intermingled with a healthy proportion of Springsteen performance footage from different venues and decades. Fans of all ages, races, ethnicities and nationalities are featured in the film. Included in the footage are monologues, three-word descriptions, visual representations, sprawling dialogues, and more. Many of the submissions are charmingly unpolished. Credit goes to the filmmakers that they don’t shy away from displaying a few submissions that teeter on the edge of unhealthy obsession.

Out of the tales, the live concert recollections are definitely the most powerful. I felt ridiculous, but I found myself choking back tears throughout the film. Forget any sentimental Oscar-bait coming out later this year; Springsteen & I is the true tearjerker of 2013. Well, at least for the Springsteen indoctrinated. I’m not sure how non-fans or casual fans would respond to this film – and I’d be fascinated to hear their reactions. Springsteen & I isn’t a life-changing experience. If you’re watching the film, chances are that Bruce Springsteen has already changed your life.

My own memories of concert experiences came flooding back to me throughout the film… Unexpectedly scoring day-of tickets to his first night at the Meadowlands on the Working on a Dream tour and being closer to Bruce than I ever imagined. Taking my Mom to see her first ever Springsteen concert. Watching Bruce blow out candles on his 63rd birthday at 2:00 in the morning after a three-hour weather delay. The ecstatic embrace my wife and I felt in Louisville when we heard “Rosalita” performed live together for the first time.

I’m still sad that I wasn’t able to see Springsteen & I in the movie theater to experience the communal atmosphere that accompanies those concert memories, but seeing it on this stunning Blu-ray is a great consolation. The bonus features include 30+ minutes of concert footage from Hard Rock Calling 2012, which is worth the price of the Blu-ray alone. The performances include a stripped-down, tear-inducing version of “Thunder Road” (introduced by Bruce as the first song he ever played on British soil) and the infamous duet with Paul McCartney on “Twist & Shout” (in all its uninterrupted glory). Between this and the Hard Rock Calling 2009 Blu-ray, I’ve vowed that if he ever plays Hyde Park again, I need to find a way to go see him there in person.

Also included are four uncut fan submissions. Each one is beautiful and artistic in its own way. My favorite is by Rogerio from Brazil. It details his odyssey to see Springsteen in concert through the use of stop-animation. The final special feature involves a few of the lucky fans featured in the movie getting to meet Bruce back-stage after a concert. Bruce interacts with his fans in the kind of personalized, intimate manner you’d imagine based on the many legends of fan-interaction we’ve heard over the years.

Springsteen & I is an accomplishment of diligent curating and masterful editing. The right clip in the wrong place could have seriously derailed the film, but the filmmakers never take a misstep. A sequence containing a man in his car crying as he talks about Springsteen easily could have been risible if it had been inserted with less grace.

Some of the film’s simplest moments are also its most profound. Early in the film, a young girl states that she likes Bruce Springsteen because he puts so much effort into every song. But my favorite part involved a lovesick young man who brought a sign saying “Hi Bruce, I just got dumped.” Springsteen reads the sign and asks the young man, “What happened?” “She didn’t think I was spending enough time with her,” the young man responds. “You probably weren’t,” Bruce advises before giving the man a hug. And that’s the Springsteen wisdom encapsulated. He offers truthful, sobering commentary, but he also offers compassion and comfort.

I’m hard-pressed to think of anything else to sum up the experience of watching Springsteen & I than to merely echo the chorus of voices that conclude the film: “Thank you, Bruce.”

More: Springsteen & I theatrical review

Friday, November 1, 2013

Johnny Cash - "I'm On Fire"

For this Friday, I am spotlighting Johnny Cash's cover of "I'm On Fire".  Referenced in an earlier post, it is a song that is covered frequently.  However, too often artists don't quite own it, and it clearly sounds like they are not singing one of their songs.  Here, in this simple version, the Man in Black makes it his own, with his trademark walking bass line and low, emotional voice.  On a personal note, it is this song that inspired me to listen to more of Johnny Cash's music, showing the importance of cover songs that cross genres.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Movie Review - The Grapes of Wrath

One of my favorite Springsteen legends revolves around John Ford's film adaptation of The Grapes of Wrath.  The story goes that Bruce was flipping around the television dial one night, and stumbled across The Grapes of Wrath, and was immediately drawn in by the tale of the Joad family.  He had never read the original novel by John Steinbeck, but used the film as the basis for his future songwriting (most notably in the album not surprisingly titled The Ghost of Tom Joad).  Before sitting down to write this post, I scoured the internet to try to find confirmation of this tale, but failed.  Maybe I had heard it at a concert, or read it in one of the many Springsteen books I've reviewed throughout the years, or perhaps it was just another one of my beautiful and disturbing Springsteen dreams.  Regardless, having never read the book either, I decided to plop on my couch, flip on Netflix, and emulate my hero.

Before going into my thoughts and feelings, let me just give a quick summary of the movie for those unfamiliar with the story.  If you are worried about spoilers for a movie that came out in 1940, I'd suggest you skip over the rest of the review.  The movie opens with Tom Joad, played by Henry Fonda, returning to his Oklahoma home after a four year stint in prison for killing a man in a bar fight.  Upon returning home, however, he finds that the Dust Bowl has wrecked the economy of his home town, and the banks are forclosing on his home.  There is no use battling back, as there is no specific man to blame, and the construction equipment coming to tear down his home cannot be haulted - you stop one, and they'll send more.  So the Joad family packs up and heads to California, hoping to find more work.  Unfortunately, when they arrive, they see that there are too many people looking for work, and the employers have slashed their wages due to the overabundance of labor.  They working picking peaches, and are forced to live in destitute bungalows where they are heavily monitored, as attempts to organize a resistance are immediately squashed by hired goons.  The family finds some peace in a government-run camp where the community is run by the workers.  In the end, Tom Joad moves away from his family, inspired to take up the fight for the working man across the nation.  His final words are stirring and memorable: "I'll be all around in the dark. I'll be everywhere. Wherever you can look, wherever there's a fight, so hungry people can eat, I'll be there. Wherever there's a cop beatin' up a guy, I'll be there. I'll be in the way guys yell when they're mad. I'll be in the way kids laugh when they're hungry and they know supper's ready, and when the people are eatin' the stuff they raise and livin' in the houses they build, I'll be there, too."

Reading that description alone sounds like you've just listened to about fifty different Springsteen songs.  As a Springsteen fan for years, it was eye-opening to see how heavily this influenced him.  I'd compare it to the first time I saw Citizen Kane after growing up on The Simpsons: it's amazing how many references you can pick up on now.  I'm not exaggerating: take a look at the very first shot of the movie, does it remind you of anything?

John Ford, with famed cinematographer Gregg Toland, fills the movie with beautiful, stark imagery like that above.  In traveling from Oklahoma to California, we see gorgeous scenic shots that remind me of a film noir version of Breaking Bad (there are a lot more parallels you can draw between Breaking Bad and The Grapes of Wrath, but that's a subject for a completely different blog).  Springsteen's music reflects the barren, depressing mood in the film most notably in Nebraska and the obvious The Ghost of Tom Joad.  As Steve wrote about this summer, The Ghost of Tom Joad could be considered the most cinematic Springsteen album, but I see a lot of influence from this film in his most recent work, Wrecking Ball.  Two songs particularly stand out: "Death To My Hometown", as the men who kick the Joads off their farm are exactly what you'd imagine the "greedy thieves that came around and ate the flesh of everything they’ve found" would look like; and "We Are Alive", which draws from Tom's aforementioned "I'll be there" speech.

I would highly recommend this movie to all Springsteen fans.  While it may be a bit liberal for some of the more conservative Springsteen fans, it tries its best to stay apolitical, with Tom not even knowing what a "red" is.  The main message, as Springsteen echoes (on Wrecking Ball again), is that we take care of our own.  It is a tribute to the working class and a plea for compassion for your fellow man.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Guest Post - JD & The Straight Shot cover "Pink Cadillac"

This post was written by Keith Stone, writer and editor of the blog Rainman Suite, the home of my own Atlantic City Diaries.  A die-hard Knicks fan, he discovered James Dolan's cover of Bruce's "Pink Cadillac" a couple weeks ago, and was inspired to write a post.  Take it away, sir!

In 1983, Bruce Frederick Joseph Springsteen recorded “Pink Cadillac” while a young musician named JD decided to put his rock star dreams on hold and take a greater interest in his father’s cable company. Well, fate has an interesting way of working out and 30 years later JD is Jim Dolan, the billionaire CEO of Cablevision and Madison Square Garden.

The funny thing is, when you’re a billionaire, you can do whatever you want: race yachts professionally, trade your legendary Hall of Fame-bound center for Glen Rice, or create your own classic rock-infused blues band filled with employees of companies that you run and tour with the Allman Brothers.

In honor of the upcoming NBA season and considering that the New York Knickerbockers are the closest team playing to New Jersey, here is JD & the Straight Shot performing their rendition of “Pink Cadillac.” Unfortunately, JD is not wearing his trademark fedora, but you can still hear the heartbreak and passion in his grizzled Southern accent that one can only get by growing up in a mansion on Long Island.

While to the casual eye the luxurious Oyster Bay house he converted into a recording studio is a far cry from the Stone Pony, a keen observer can spot notable similarities between JD and Bruce. For one, they are both bosses who have spent considerable time ordering around big men and tambourine-playing women. Secondly, they both gesticulate wildly while performing. However, while Bruce moves around the stage with the excitement of a child who just received a Nintendo for Christmas, Mr. Dolan is more like a diabetes patient who forgot to take his insulin.

Who knows how many takes it took to produce such a spontaneous looking music video? When the Cablevision helicopter is at your disposal, you can jam long into the night. Between JD reading the lyrics from a sheet of paper just off camera to the rest of the band awkwardly looking like they’re in the worst episode of The Office ever, it’s a disgrace this wasn't nominated for a VMA. Just make sure to look like you’re having fun when the red light is on, young guy in the Straight Shot. Otherwise, your check may not clear.

[Important note for law enforcement: I checked for shackles on the one guy in the glasses but it’s possible they were edited out in postproduction. He did not look like he was there by will. Just to be sure, is it possible to file a missing persons report?]

The important takeaway from the JD&TSS cover of “Pink Cadillac” is that dreams do come true (if your dad co-founded HBO). It doesn't matter if JD doesn't realize that Bruce wasn't actually referring to a car. Look at that huge smile on his face. With that said, musically it’s not bad. And therein lies every Knicks fan’s hope: that somehow JD can accidentally put together a winning team like the Straight Shot. Enjoy the video and enjoy the 2013-2014 NBA season.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Great Moments in Springsteen Television History - "No Surrender" from Glee

This past summer the TV World lost Glee stare Corey Monteith.  I'm not exactly what you would call a Glee fan, that is to say I've never seen an episode but still hate it.  However, I am saddened to hear that someone who was obviously talented die so young.  Monteith's character on the show, Finn, was honored by his fellow cast mates in the episode "The Quarterback", airing earlier this month.

As per usual with Glee, there were several musical performances throughout the episode, all paying tribute to Finn.  One of the songs was an acoustic, slowed down performance of "No Surrender" performed by the character Puck. Bruce has played stripped down acoustic versions of "No Surrender" before, most notably on the Live 1975-1985  box set.  The song takes on a whole new meaning when it's performed like this.  Much more somber than the rebellious enthusiastic electric version.

Again, I don't watch the show so I don't particularly know the significance of this character, or why he would choose this song specifically.  However, just going by content, "No Surrender" is a great choice for a song to tribute his friend.  The lyrical content of "No Surrender" has been discussed before on this blog, so I won't repeat myself.  But suffice to say, it's one of those songs that just about every Springsteen fan nods along with, and recalls their own memories to , when they hear this song.  So it's very easy to understand why this song would be the choice for the character to sing about his friend.  (Note: Rory has requested I sing "You're Missing" in my faux opera voice at his funeral.  If that song were more well known to the public, I would have suggested that instead.)

Friday, October 18, 2013

This Laugh's On Me: The Onion on Bruce Springsteen

The Onion, the internet's foremost authority on fake news, has had certain celebrities and politicians in their cross-hairs for years.  I've always enjoyed their continuing obsession with Spurs power forward Tim Duncan; his quiet and stoic presence both on and off the court have led to excellent, funny, and bizarre articles.  The Boss has been a frequent target as well, as his political causes mixed with his rock-and-roll lifestyle are ripe for satire.  Here are some of the highlights from the last five years:

Bruce Springsteen Concert Totally Changes Area Man's Mind About Voting (Oct. 27, 2008): In this article, Springsteen is used in place of any celebrity that is dragged out in election season for those silly "Rock The Vote" campaigns.  The choice of who to vote for (and choosing to vote period) are very complicated issues that always get reduced to simplistic platitudes that ultimately mean nothing.  The last line in the article sums it up best: "On Nov. 4, Garlock plans to vote for John McCain because he thinks Sarah Palin is hot."

Obama To Wait For Next Bruce Springsteen Album For Word On Economy (Jan. 10, 2010): The Onion has frequently predicted the future, and this article is no exception.  The next Springsteen album after this piece was Wrecking Ball, Springsteen's most direct take on the economy to date.  Whether or not Obama will base his policy off of it remains to be seen.  The shot at John Mellencamp at the end makes this article totally worth the thirty seconds it will take you to read it.

Bruce Springsteen Releases New Sci-Fi Concept Album About Struggles Of Poor Miners Working On Mars (Sep. 14, 2011):

As a fan of science-fiction and a fan of Springsteen, this article is the perfect storm.  The writer adds in so many details that help sell such a zany premise.  Song titles such as "Dead Man's Home", "Solid Ground", and "Martin Shoulders" truly sound like Springsteen tracks....provided he was doing a concept album about Martians.  You have to love the exasperated quotes from Steven Van Zandt, followed immediately by the sycophantic praise from a Rolling Stone editor.

It's Funny, I've Actually Only Been To New Jersey A Couple Of Times (Dec. 4, 2012): It's an article "written by" Bruce Springsteen, and I really wish Springsteen did write something like this.  It would be the greatest prank a rock star has ever pulled off.  It's funny how, even if you are not from New Jersey, hearing Springsteen reveal his "true nature" would forever change the way you see both him and his music.  Rationally, the music should stand on its own merit, but this article dares you to imagine a world where Springsteen was from Hollywood and how that would alter your thoughts on his work.

Bruce Springsteen On Fence About Playing Assad’s Birthday Gig (Sep 4., 2013): This article I didn't really care for, as it seemed like they could have inserted any artist into it, and just randomly picked Springsteen.  I mean, why would Springsteen agree to do only a 45-minute set?  That's way too unrealistic.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Dropkick Murphys - Rose Tattoo

I've really written a lot about the Dropkick Murphys on this blog, haven't I?  Anyways, this was a pretty cool re-release of a 2013 Murphy's song, redone with Bruce, in response to the Boston Marathon Bombings of earlier this year.

I wasn't too crazy about this song when I first heard it on the new album last year, and the Bruce inclusion improves it slightly, but it's still worth giving a listen to.  It's one of those songs that I never think to listen to, but when it comes on my playlist, I find myself getting into it more and more.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Great Moments in Springsteen Cinema History: Promised Land

Okay, so this isn’t a great moment but it’s a pretty good one. In the movie Promised Land, Matt Damon plays a natural gas representative who goes up against an anti-fracking environmentalist played by John Krasinski. The movie came and went with very little fanfare at the end of 2012 but it’s worth a viewing for its engaging performances and unexpected subject matter that doesn’t become as politically didactic as you might think – even if the plotting is a bit formulaic.

But we’re really here to talk about the Springsteen moment of course. Now, despite the film’s title, the song featured is not “The Promised Land.” Nor does the film feature Springsteen’s original music. Instead, it features Krasinski singing an (intentionally) off-key rendition of “Dancing in the Dark” at an open mic. The scene is classic Springsteen in nature. It begins with Krasinski alienating the crowd with his firm anti-natural gas beliefs before winning them over by singing Springsteen. His fellow bar patrons quickly join in and start singing with him on stage – the unifying nature of Springsteen incarnate.

In an interview with The Guardian, Damon expressed his appreciation for Springsteen and even said he feels that Promised Land is (coincidentally) a film version of Wrecking Ball. And he’s not off-base, there are strong thematic similarities to several of the songs on the album, particularly “Easy Money,” “Jack of all Trades,” and “Wrecking Ball.”

Guardian Excerpt:

Is Damon, I ask him in Berlin, a fan of Springsteen? It turns out to be a lucky guess, made only because his new film is called Promised Land – the name of a track from the 1978 album Darkness on the Edge of Town – and by the fact there is a memorable scene in the movie where Damon's co-star John Krasinski sings a karaoke version of the song "Dancing in the Dark".

"Uh-huh, huge," says Damon. "Springsteen's a god in my eyes." There then follows a few minutes where Damon picks his way excitedly through Springsteen's recent oeuvre: The Rising ("a masterpiece"), Magic ("such an intelligent takedown of the Bush administration"), and culminating with last year's Wrecking Ball, which reached number one in both the UK and the US. It is an intensely political record that shines a harsh light on the American dream, with music inspired by the Civil War and the Dust Bowl. "It doesn't feel like an act," Damon muses. "It doesn't feel like he's trying to pretend that he still has the common touch. I think he believes what he believes, and that's very real."

He continues: "I do view this movie, Promised Land, as the visual expression of his last album. It's actually eerily similar. I hadn't heard the album before we wrote the script, but John Krasinski and I went to hear him in Madison Square Garden at the first show that he did of Wrecking Ball and he played the album and I went: 'Fuck! That's the movie!' I went back to see him afterwards and he asked: 'What are you working on?' And I said: 'It's like the movie version of your new album.' And he goes: 'What the fuck does that mean?' And I said: 'I don't know, man! But you've got to see this thing when it comes out. I'm telling you, it's the movie version of your album.'"

Sadly, I couldn't find a clip of the open mic scene from Promised Land online so instead I'll include this video of John Krasinski and Jason Segal singing "I Get by with a Little Help from My Friends" at a karaoke bar in Michigan.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Pet Shop Boys - "The Last To Die"

Last month, I was needlessly whiny about the lack of diversity in Springsteen covers, opining for musicians to look deeper into the Boss's song catalog for inspiration.  Well, there I was, listening to the latest Pet Shop Boys album (which is the wonderful Electric), and I came across a song titled "The Last To Die".  I surely thought that the similarities between this song and Bruce's song would end at just the title; I mean, "Last To Die" isn't nearly as iconic as "I'm On Fire" or "Born To Run".  But, lo and behold, after an 80s synth opening that exemplifies the Pet Shop Boys, Neil Tennant begins to sing "We took the highway 'til the road went black..."  Gadzooks!  The song ends up playing out similar to a New Order song, with heavy-bass drops and catchy beats that will have you dancing along to melancholy story.  Going back to my point last month, it is interesting to see that an older band is the one more comfortable with taking on Springsteen's newer songs, while the younger bands usually stick to Springsteen's classics.  It's their experience in the industry that allows them to be more comfortable taking risks, and produces a fun interpretation of a nearly forgotten song.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Video Spotlight: Dream Baby Dream (Wrecking Ball Tour Thank You)

Today, BruceSpringsteen.net posted a "Thank You" note from Bruce to everyone who supported the Wrecking Ball tour. And he released a video of his cover of "Dream Baby Dream" with crowd footage from the tour. Does anyone love their fans as much as Springsteen?

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Video Spotlight - Louis CK on Loneliness, featuring Springsteen

Louis CK has been my favorite comedian for nearly a decade now.  I remember my first exposure to him was in the 90s, probably on one of those random Comedy Central specials, and I just filed him away as "generic white comic #644".  However, around my junior year of college, I discovered his excellent Live In Houston album (sadly out of print), and was instantly hooked.  Over the last 10 years, Louie's career has rose meteorically, to the point where I really don't need to explain who he is to anyone anymore.  Outside of his stand-up, his innovative deals that he has struck with both the filming of his television show and the distribution of his concert tickets and videos have been hugely influential on the comedy industry.  Personally, I've enjoyed watching his comedy evolve, as you can see "him"* go from a selfish, petty, and scared asshole to a humanist who has come to peace with his failings.

*Note: I put "him" in quotes just because it is important to distinguish that how the performer presents himself as a comedian is not necessarily who that person is.  Some comics do come off as more sincere, while others make it clear that they are playing a character - just see Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert.  However, it is sometimes when these lines are blurred is where comics can get into trouble, such as Andrew Dice Clay and Daniel Tosh.

Louie has always been fantastic on his talk show appearances, but over the past few years, his demeanor has become more relaxed and less "joke-y".  In his some of his most famous Conan appearances, Louie just goes full on into his comedy set, telling jokes immediately and get huge laughs.  However, it the performance above, Louis takes a more conversational, slower tone.  He is still on the subject of cell phones, and rather than focusing on the entitled people using them, he focuses on how the technology itself is divorcing the users from the human experience.  It's a difficult joke to tell, and Louie guides his audience along a long narration.  Eventually, they hit the subject that made me write this post: Bruce Springsteen.

Around the two-minute mark, Louie talks about listening to "Jungleland" on the radio.  Both he and Conan take a pause from Louie's story to ham it up with cartoon-y Springsteen impersonations.  Knowing how seriously Louie takes the joke-writing process, it is clear that invoking of Springsteen, and specifically "Jungleland" is not an accident (although Louie does "forget" the name of the song).  Springsteen is a universally known performer, and the chance to do an over-the-top Springsteen impersonation gives some goofiness to the somber story he was telling.  While "Jungleland" isn't as broadly known, it is the perfect Springsteen song to punctuate the joke, as those who know the song instantly connect to the moment Louie is talking about.  In the end, Louie crafts a sad, funny tale that eloquently describes what we here at the blog have been amateurishly trying to express: that the perfect Springsteen song can be a kick you right in your emotional gut, and connect you to parts of your humanity that are often neglected.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Journal of Springsteen Studies Call for Papers

A good friend of the blog tipped us off to the new academic journal BOSS: The Biannual Online-Journal of Springsteen Studies. The first issue is being published in June 2014 but they're currently accepting paper submissions. If you have anything of academic rigor, please see below for how to submit. We'll look forward to reading the first issue next year.

In the interim, if you're looking for good scholarly analysis of Springsteen's music, we recommend picking up a copy of "Bruce Springsteen and Philosophy."

BOSS: The Biannual Online-Journal of Springsteen Studies is a new open-access academic journal that publishes peer-reviewed essays pertaining to Bruce Springsteen. Springsteen’s immense body of work and remarkable musical career has inspired a recent outpouring of scholarly analysis. BOSS will create a scholarly space for Springsteen Studies in the contemporary academy. We seek to publish articles that examine the political, economic, and socio-cultural factors that have influenced Springsteen's music and shaped its reception. The editors of BOSS welcome broad interdisciplinary and cross-disciplinary approaches to Springsteen’s songwriting, performance, and fan community, as well as studies that conform to specific disciplinary perspectives.

Please submit articles between 15 and 25 pages that conform to The Chicago Manual of Style to Springsteenstudies@gmail.com by January 1st, 2014. Authors will be notified of acceptance by March and the first issue of BOSS will be published in June, 2014, which marks the thirtieth anniversary of the release of Born in the U.S.A.

Contact: Please address all inquiries to Jonathan D. Cohen (Managing Editor) at Springsteenstudies@gmail.com
Managing Editor:Jonathan D. Cohen
Email: springsteenstudies@gmail.com

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Which Bruce Song Do You Wish You Could Hear Acoustic?

As Rory mentioned recently in relation to "The Promised Land," we’re always susceptible to Bruce’s slowed-down acoustic versions of his hard rock singles. This got me thinking, which hard rocking song would I most like to hear performed acoustic but never have? For me, the answer is “Lucky Town.”

Of course, Bruce being a prolific experimenter and the Internet being a never-ending cache of live performance footage, I was able to find this pretty quickly. Bruce performed “Lucky Town” a few times during the Devils & Dust tour in 2005. Like so many of his acoustic versions, the lyrics take on a new sense of poignancy when delivered slower and unencumbered by a mass of instruments. In particular, I enjoyed hearing my favorite lyrics in this version: “I got dirt on my hands but I’m building me a new home.”

Are there any of Bruce’s classic rock songs that haven’t received the acoustic treatment yet? I’d be interested in hearing “Livin’ in the Future” acoustic but I feel that we get a good taste of that from the slower version he performed live during the Magic tour.

What is your favorite acoustic version of a Bruce classic? Which song hasn’t received the treatment yet but deserves it the most?

Friday, September 27, 2013

Great Moments in Springsteen Television History: The Facts of Life

So a few weeks ago I was hit with a serious case of insomnia.  I tried a number of different things to fall asleep, but as the minutes turned to hours and I just stared at the ceiling, I gave in, turned on the TV and flipped around.  I stopped on a late night marathon of The Facts Of Life.  For those who don't remember, The Facts of Life was a popular show in the 1980's about 4 girls coming of age while living together at a boarding school with their motherly figure, Mrs. Garrett.  The girls run the gamut of usual stereotypes: Blair, the rich and pretty girl, Jo, the tough tomboy, Tootie, the sassy black girl, and Natalie, the cheerful chubby girl.

This particular episode, "The Fear Strikes Back", was "a very special episode."  Again, for you young ones, "very special episodes" were a staple of sitcoms back in the 80s and early 90s where they tackled serious issues.  Usual topics included drug use, drinking and driving, and child abuse.  This time the topic was sexual assault.  In this particular episode, Natalie is the victim of sexual assault.  What does that have to do with Bruce Springsteen?  In a vain attempt to cheer Natalie up, the other girls get her tickets to the Bruce Springsteen concert.  I couldn't help but laugh at this episode, and think about how mercilessly this episode would be lambasted today as sexist and misogynistic.  The other girls spend a good part of the episode wondering why Natalie can't just get over what happened to her and go to the Springsteen concert, why would the attacker want Natalie as a victim (after all, she's a fat girl), and finally they all come to the conclusion that Natalie basically deserved what happened to her because she was by herself, and walking on a dimly lit street.  Ah, 80s TV... is there anything finer?

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Album Review - Magic

Six years ago today, Bruce Springsteen released his fifteenth studio album, Magic.  It was his first album with the E Street Band since The Rising, which was more or less the gateway album into my fandom (as it was for many younger Springsteen fans).  With that in mind, Magic had a lot to live up to - the last two albums, while they have grown on me in retrospect, were not the classic Springsteen sound that hooked me.

A month before the full album dropped, the first single "Radio Nowhere" was released.  While it was not a particularly groundbreaking or deep song (as many critics noted, it shared much in common with Tommy Tutone), it was a wake-up call that the Boss was back, and making sure we were all ready to join him.  When the album was finally released, I was immediately hooked.  After maybe a day (or an hour) of trying to be skeptical or nit-picky about the album, I just knew that Springsteen had released another classic album.  Like The Rising, the tracks were at once catchy rock tunes and very political.  Whereas The Rising spoke to the strength of America post-9/11, Magic spoke towards the mistakes we've made as a country, believing the lies of our leaders, and how it is our job to both acknowledge and solve the problems we've created.  It encapsulated a dark-yet-hopeful feeling, as opposed to Wrecking Ball's dark-and-angry feeling.  I saw two shows during the Magic tour, and I loved Springsteen's preambles introducing the new songs, such as "Livin' In The Future":

However, I really haven't given the album much of a listen in several years, and many songs from it were noticeably absent in the Working on a Dream and Wrecking Ball tours.  So, in the interests of the current blog post you are reading, I decided to re-immerse myself in Magic, hoping it didn't lose any of its...um...charm.  Instead of keeping you in suspense, I'll let you know up front: it is still amazing.

What is really outstanding about the album is it is just chock full of songs that, had they been released earlier in Springsteen's career, would be iconic hits for the boss.  The zenith of the album is "Livin' In The Future", which brings back the classic E Street sound from the Greetings from Asbury Park days.  In the track, the band is fast and free-wheeling, perhaps being influenced by the Seeger Sessions.  The lyrics are Springsteen turned up to his "Madman drummer bomber" level of zaniness, as we are treated to monkeys on leashes and barrel-piston-esque boot heels.

On a side note: Regarding the lyrics, each election year, fellow Legends of Springsteen writer Steve and I have a tradition based on "Livin' In The Future".  On the first Tuesday in November, Steve will update his Facebook status with "Woke up election day.  Sky's gunpowder and shades of grey."  I, dutifully, update mine with "Beneath the dirty sun, I whistle my time away."  While Steve's update generally receives little notice, mine usually sends a message that I'm being lazy, and have often received messages reminding me to get out there and vote (my general cynicism about politics also plays a roll in this perception).  Now, you may be wondering what this has to do with the album Magic, and you'd be right.  Moving on....

"Girls In Their Summer Clothes" was the album's biggest hit, as it encapsulated a unique and specific summer feeling that is rarely touched upon - the summer song of the aging.  Trust me, when I go to the Jersey shore and start seeing how much younger everyone than me is, you can be certain that I always grimly shake my head, put my headphones on, dial up "Girls In Their Summer Clothes", and slowly walk away.  I really do watch too many movies.

But the albums hits don't stop there.  "I'll Work For Your Love" also sounds like an early Springsteen track, as the haunting piano and religious imagery were Springsteen's modus operandi in the Born to Run era.  "Long Walk Home" is an amazing companion piece to "My Hometown" - you could easily see one segueing into another during a concert.  Even when Springsteen goes slower and sadder on this album, he absolutely nails it, making "Terry's Song", a tribute to Terry Magovern, a touching tribute that I'll write into my will to be played at my funeral.

And that just concludes what I consider to be the A-list songs, but there are several songs that are solid additions to the Springsteen catalog, such as the aforementioned "Radio Nowhere", "Gypsy Rider" (this is a near classic, as the opening is amazing, but I just wish it was more subdued throughout the whole song), and "Last To Die" (could have easily switched places with "Radio Nowhere" as the leading single, but the lyrics may have been too political).  If I had to list any criticisms, it would be that sometimes Bruce's voice is over-manipulated (as in "You'll Be Comin' Down Now"), making him sound flatter and removing the "raw" quality from his voice.  Also, the title track leaves me flat, as it is too dark for my tastes, yet the tune of the song is not that bad (it could easily be re-appropriated into a love song), and it is the shortest song on the track.

As I mentioned before, this album is an instant classic, and I'd easily rank it among Springsteen's ten best, if not in the top five.  It is a shame that we don't hear Springsteen play more tracks from this album in concert, as not hearing it live could make fans reluctant to continue to listen to it.  So, if you have overlooked this album recently (as I had before this article), do yourself a favor and give it another spin - you won't be disappointed.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Happy Birthday Bruce!

Happy birthday Boss, from your favorite blog!  Hard to believe that at age 64, Bruce is not only still going strong, but rocking harder and setting the standard for musicians half his age.

Below is a video I found on YouTube from last year's concert at Metlife Stadium on Bruce's birthday.  The Legends of Springsteen crew was proud to be there, and are proud to wish him the very best today.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Song Spotlight - "The Promised Land", Live in Freehold

Taking a fast-paced song and slowing it down is an oft-used tactic by Springsteen - he's done it with his classics like "Born To Run", "Born In The USA", and "Thunder Road".  These versions spotlight the powerful lyrics in each song that can be lost in the original versions, which lend themselves more towards dancing or blasting out of your car stereo.  One would think that after doing this so many times, it would become predictable, but I get sucked in every single time.  "The Promised Land" from his night in Freehold is the most recent slower, acoustic version I've discovered, and it once again gives the song's lyrics a deeper emotional punch.  It is one trick I keep falling for over and over again.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Bruce Springsteen by the Decades

In so many ways, Springsteen’s music is timeless. Without prior knowledge of a song’s release date, it can be difficult to pinpoint what decade it was produced. While Bruce’s songs may be instantly recognizable as his own, they are rarely defined by the decade in which they were released. Even with the massive popularity of the Born in the U.S.A. album, you’re less likely to find his songs on a “Best of the 80s” compilation than you are to find the work of the Go-Gos or Tears for Fears. However, Springsteen does have a few songs that are a bit easier to characterize. What follows is a list of songs that scream the decade they were created. Decade by decade, I’d argue these are his “most 70s” or “most 90s” sounding songs. Disagree? Let us know in the comments!

1970s – “The E Street Shuffle”

Lengthy instrumentals, background chatter and abrupt changes in pace. This is easily the grooviest song on Bruce’s grooviest album.

1980s – “Tougher than the Rest”

Synth-heavy with a lot of deep organ sounds. Is this Bruce Springsteen or an outtake from the Top Gun soundtrack?

1990s – “Man’s Job”

Every time the background vocals come in on “Loving you is a man’s job, baby” (see 0:50 for the first instance) I just picture ripped jeans, mullets and old school VH1 logos.

2000s – “Worlds Apart”

Bruce’s most clear attempt at “world music” boasts a Middle Eastern influence and a distinct vocal styling that denotes a time when global consciousness received heightened awareness.

2010s - ???

It’s too soon to tell – both due to the newness of the decade and the prospect of more albums to come down the road (fingers crossed!). But if I had to speculate, “Wrecking Ball” sounds like an old school barn burner, “Rocky Ground” feels more like early 2000s and “Death to my Hometown” just feels like it exists in its own time and place. For now, my money is on “We Take Care of Our Own.”

Friday, September 13, 2013

John Legend - "Dancing In The Dark"

There was a time when I was a huge Howard Stern fan, but due to the fact that he rarely does live shows anymore, and he's nearly 60 years old (he's gone from being a cutting edge and controversial to just a dirty old man), I've kind of soured on him.  However there are times when I'm reminded of his brilliance in his interviews.  Stern was famous for being able to get his guests to drop their guard and be able to get them to be themselves, thus creating some great radio.  And a late night search of classic Stern clips on YouTube led me to this great cover.

This is an example of that.  I'm not really a big John Legend, which is to say I'm not at all.  Not that I don't think he's talented, he's a phenomenal singer and great musician.  Just not my cup of tea.  I'm not sure if "Dancing in the Dark" is a regular in his setlist, but going by the context of the Stern interview, it sounds like more of a rarity.  It's a great cover, that really concentrates on the lyrics.  When you take away the synthesizers and 80's sound of the Bruce original, you're left with just the lyrics that speak of a desperate man.  And Legend isn't alone in covering this song this interpretation.  A quick search on YouTube, shows a number of great artists doing stripped down covers of this song.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Video Spotlight: Twin Shadow Covers "I'm On Fire"

It seems like every month, there's a new cover of a Springsteen song by one of the younger, hipper musicians on the scene.  This month, Twin Shadow makes his contribution with an even slower, more ethereal version of "I'm On Fire".  While it is a solid cover, I just wish that these newer acts would choose some different Springsteen songs.  It seems like every indie band now has a Springsteen song ready to burst out, which is a good thing.  Unfortunately, that Springsteen song is almost inevitably either "I'm On Fire", "I'm Goin' Down", or "Atlantic City".  Somehow, these three became the holy triumvirate of Springsteen songs to cover.  Come on fellas, let's take some chances - when everyone else zigs, you got to zag!  This is why I loved the Hanging Out On E Street series, because we were treated to Springsteen songs that are rarely covered, such as "You're Own Worst Enemy" and "Factory".  Personally, I think "All I'm Thinking About Is You" is ripe for an artist to re-interpret and make it their own.  Anyway, Twin Shadow's cover is fine, but at this point, there are plenty of "I'm On Fire"s that this one does not particularly stand out.  My favorite "I'm On Fire" cover is by Johnny Cash, but that may be the subject of a future post.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Lyrics Spotlight - Springsteen's Hard Times

This past Wednesday, I was listening to some live Springsteen on Youtube, as a Springsteen blogger is wont to do.  During this binge session, I came upon Springsteen's cover of the smash hit of 1854, Stephen Foster's "Hard Times Come Again No More".  It's just one of many highlights from his 2009 Hyde Park show, a performance spotlighted by a great solo from Clarence and Bruce's voice digging into new gravelly depths to sound like it was actually from the 1850s.

It is also a song that clearly inspired Springsteen, as he has often described the E Street Band as a band built for "hard times".  That phrase, "hard times", seems like it appears in numerous Springsteen songs.  So I began to research, and found that "hard times" appears in a whopping....three Springsteen songs.  There are songs where he is working hard, trying hard, looking so hard, having hard earned days, searching for things hard to find, and is in a hard land, but not a ton where Bruce specifically points out the hard times.  However, in these songs, as in most of his work, there is always a glimmer of hope at the other side of the dark tunnel.  Let's take a look:

"Rocky Ground"

You raise your children and you teach 'them to walk straight and sure 
You pray that hard times, hard times, come no more 

This is a bit of a cheat, since Michelle Moore is singing this part, but rumor has it that Bruce was originally going to do the rapping, so I'll assume the lyrics here were all penned by the Boss.  "Rocky Ground" really does have some great lyrics, but the song is a bit too over-produced (a problem with a lot of Wrecking Ball, as too many instruments are crammed on the tracks), and the rapping makes it feel more like a novelty Springsteen song.  It's a solid tune that I've enjoyed seeing live, but one I rarely listen to on the album.

"Waitin' On A Sunny Day"

Hard times baby, well they come to tell us all
Sure as the tickin' of the clock on the wall
Sure as the turnin' of the night into day

This, too, is another novelty-esque Springsteen song, moreso when performed live - as Bruce always finds an adorable eight-year-old girl to sing on stage with him, while I just stew in my seat, angrily thinking, "SHE DOESN'T EVEN KNOW THE WORDS!  SHE WILL PROBABLY END UP HATING YOUR MUSIC IN FIVE YEARS WHEN SHE STARTS REBELLING FROM HER PARENTS!  THAT SHOULD BE ME ON STAGE!"  Phew.

Anyway, I do love the lyrics above, as this particular "hard times" is delivered with such passion, both by Bruce, and by me singing along, trying to prove that I would've been the right choice to sing up there.  Sigh.  Perhaps I'll have better luck if I show up next time wearing my Elvis costume.

"Wrecking Ball"

And hard times come, hard times go
Hard times come, hard times go
And hard times come, hard times go
Hard times come, hard times go
Hard times come, hard times go
Yeah just to come again

First of all, it is a shame that when I search for "Wrecking Ball lyrics", Miley Cyrus's song is the top result.  Get your act together, Earth.  Anyway, fellow writer Steve is not a huge fan of the song, describing it as "overly repetitive and yet all over the place".  I completely agree, it is overly repetitive and yet all over the place - which is why I love it, because that's exactly what the process of living is like.  As Bruce repeats "Hard times come, hard times go", it invokes images of the difficulties you've had in your life and, simultaneously, your triumphs.  As you get older, you begin to see the events in your life and the world around you repeating, and you realize that these cycles have been happening way before you entered the game (to borrow from "Jack Of All Trades": It’s all happened before and it’ll happen again).  While much of "Wrecking Ball" works as a tribute to the Meadowlands, the "hard times" part here escalates the meaning of the song into another echelon, more universal for non-Jersey listeners.

There you have it, folks.  The first comprehensive look at the times Bruce has sang about, literally, "hard times".  Are there any other classic Bruce phrases that you've noticed in several songs that you'd like us to break down?  Let us know in the comments.