Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Video Spotlight - Jamming With Paul McCartney at Hard Rock Calling 2012

Everyone already knows the infamous story associated with this performance (as detailed exclusively on Legends of Springsteen), but here is a fantastically filmed version of the night.  The excellent camera work captures all of Bruce's mugging and Paul McCartney's glorious hair in high definition.  Personally, there's nothing overwhelming about the performance itself (I believe most Bruce fans have seen him play "Twist And Shout" in person by now), but it is still surreal to see two of the largest music icons in rock-and-roll history cavorting on stage.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Bob Dylan Covers "Dancing In The Dark"

I'd love to call this a "Video Spotlight", but unfortunately all we have is audio.  Taken from a concert in 1990, here Bob Dylan applies his folky drawl to Springsteen's poppiest tune.  While it has become a standard for nearly every musician to have a Dylan song cover in their repertoire, this is one of the rare times that Dylan turns the tables.  It is bizarre to say the least - and Dylan gives the tune his own unmistakable spin, adding a new verse towards the end (which is difficult to understand - and that's not a knock on the quality of the audio).  This is a great find, but the real drawback here is that, without the video, we will never know if Dylan danced with a fan at the end.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Lyrics Spotlight - In Freehold

"Well, I got a good Catholic education here in Freehold
Led to an awful lot of masturbation here in Freehold
Father, it was just something I did for a smile
Hell, I still get a good one off once in a while
and dedicate it to Freehold."
-- "In Freehold"

Who doesn't love a good masturbation joke? As an amateur comedian, I use masturbation as the crux of so many jokes that I've begun to abbreviate it as "M" in my notebook. It may be low-brow, but it gets a chuckle, or, in Bruce's case here, an enthusiastic cheer.

"In Freehold" is a song Springsteen wrote for a special concert he performed in his old high school gym. While the songs he penned in his teens and early 20s were all about breaking out of this "town full of losers", here he reflects on his youth with nostalgia, humor, and a twinge of sadness. Tales of his first kiss, his first band, his father, and his sister all make it into this epic. But ultimately, Bruce ends it with the one element that everyone can relate to when thinking about their high school years.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

None But the Brave: Bruce Springsteen on Courage (Guest Post)

We are pleased to present another guest post from frequent contributor and friend of the blog, James Layman.

There are no words to tack a silver lining on the tragedy in Boston earlier this week. There is nothing that can be written to put the pieces back together, or to make sense of the senseless. Still, it has never ceased to amaze me how the darkness in others brings out the light in ourselves. Whatever trials come to pass, we are never left with a shortage of Americans willing to answer the call. Here are some of Bruce’s thoughts on courage.

“…faith and duty called you someplace higher. Somewhere up the stairs, into the fire”

“Into the Fire”, The Rising, 2002

“There’s a dark cloud rising from the desert floor.

I packed my bags, and I’m heading straight into the storm.

Gonna be a twister to blow everything down

that ain’t got the faith to stand its ground.”

“The Promised Land”, Darkness on the Edge of Town, 1978

“Wherever there’s a fight against the blood and hatred in the air.

Look for me, Ma, I’ll be there.”

“The Ghost of Tom Joad”, The Ghost of Tom Joad, 1995

“None baby, but the brave.

No one baby, but the brave

Those strong enough to save

Something from what they gave.”

“None but the Brave”, The Essential Bruce Springsteen, 2003

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Video Spotlight: Hungry Heart Cover By Thomas Ian Nicholas

We were beyond ecstatic when musician and actor Thomas Ian Nicholas decided to start following Legends of Springsteen on Twitter last week. We already loved him from his performances in American Pie and Rookie of the Year (both movies changed our lives), but finding out he's a Springsteen fan? That's just the icing on the cake.

Here's a link to Thomas Ian Nicholas performing an accoustic cover of "Hungry Heart" in memory of the passing of Clarence Clemons: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iLbc5O1a0vs

Unfortunately, embedding was disabled on the above video so here's one more performance from TINBand for all you American Pie lovers out there...

Friday, April 12, 2013

Comic Book Review - "Wings for Wheels: A Tribute to Bruce Springsteen"

Although this blog has been producing a regular stream of articles each week, it is admittedly still in its nascent stages, as we try to find an audience and refine our writing skills.  In this task, I have taken great joy in exploring all aspects of my life, such as my love of gambling and my hatred of bees, and seeing how I can tie them in to Springsteen.  However, there is one subject that has yet to come up on the blog that has played a major role in my life: comic books.  Out of all the influences in my life from outside of my family and friends, comic books have had more impact on me than Bruce Springsteen.  But, they were always two different worlds in my life; there were comic book discussions, and there were Bruce Springsteen discussions, and never the two shall meet.  Until now.

Yes, that is a picture of "Wings for Wheels: A Tribute to Bruce Springsteen", a comic book anthology published in September of last year.  I stumbled upon this comic last weekend at the MoCCa Arts Fest.  The MoCCa (short for Museum of Comics and Cartoon art) Arts Fest in a comic show that spotlights small press publishers - you won't find Spider-Man and Batman here.  It has been going on for 11 years, and I myself was a regular patron for the first five years (while I was in high school and college).  But, as I got older, I found myself with more distractions (girls, jobs, booze), and lost touch with the independent comic world.  However, after visiting the San Diego Comic Con in the summer of 2011, I fell in love with the comic medium again. With my girlfriend preoccupied with acting duties, I decided to spend a beautiful spring New York City day inside a comic book art show.

It was a bit disconcerting at first - all the names I knew and loved from my college days were no longer there, replaced by young talent.  I roamed the aisles, trying not to spend too much money (back in the day, I'd easily drop over $100 at this show).  However, when I passed "Wings For Wheels" at artist Pat Barret's table, I knew I had to open up the wallet.  This was too good to pass up.

I'd say the packaging alone is worth the $6.00.  It has an incredibly unique design for the comic book, as it is in a record sleeve, and the book itself is designed to look like a record (it even has a raised plastic surface, to simulate that 45 record feeling).  Plus, Dan McCool's  in-color recreation of Born To Run is certainly eye-catching.

Inside, we are treated to an eclectic range of stories.  Each story is about 5 to 8 pages long, so the stories are very simple and fast-paced, which is to be expected in small press anthologies.  Jen Vaughn (who was also at the convention and gracious enough to sign my book) and Nomi Kane (the editor) both provide classic "getting into Bruce" stories, which reminded me of the tales that began this very website.  Like your three lovely blog writers, these cartoonists also credit their parents with passing on Springsteen to the next generation.  Josh PM Press also provides a quick slice-of-life involving a man go hog-wild at a karaoke bar.  It is a simple, one-joke story, but very relateable.  These previous three stories are the most grounded in reality, and will probably be the ones that those new to comics would appreciate the most.

However, I went to the comic convention looking for the strange and off-beat, and I found them with two stories here.  Pat Barret's "Growin' Up" starts as a conversation between friends about their childhoods, and within five pages, various Springsteens throughout history are battling each other.  Honestly, having reread it, I'm still uncertain how the story ended up there, but it made me laugh.  Todd McArthur's story is the lead-off for this anthology, and stars the late great Clarence Clemons.  Here, a young, cheap man ponders if he can spend $120 on a Springsteen concert ticket, and Clarence walks him through the same conversation we've all had in our heads.  It is funny and somewhat depressing, and contains perhaps the coolest visual in the book: a giant Clarence, with angel wings made out of saxophones, surrounded by two cherubic Springsteens.  Throughout the book, there are collages by artist Jen May that separate each story, but I found these a built difficult to understand.  It is a small quibble.

As I said before, the comics world and the Springsteen world have never made contact before, and as a first effort, I'd say this comic was a success.  Now, Bruce, the ball is in your court: let's hear a tune about a man who was working real hard trying to get his hands clean, then gets struck by lightening, gains superpowers, and fights crime.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Lyrics Spotlight - Darlington County

“Driving out of Darlington County,
Seen Wayne handcuffed to the bumper of a state trooper's Ford”
- Darlington County, Born in the U.S.A.

I have been reading a lot of Raymond Carver’s short stories lately and I feel that “Darling County” bears strong similarities to a Carver story. Carver’s writing style is brusque and to the point but paradoxically full of vivid detail. Many of the stories have an unexpected turn or twist in the end that reveals the ugly side of human behavior without rationalizing or explaining it.

This description seems like a natural connection to the Nebraska album but I actually think “Darlington County” is the closest in style to a Carver short story. The song begins happily enough with its tale of youthful abandon and the seemingly wide-open possibilities in front of the lead characters. As it progresses, the intentions of the characters appear more lascivious and less innocent. In the final line, the narrator drives out of Darlington County with the image of his buddy handcuffed to a cop car in his rear view mirror. We don't know what happened or why it happened but much like you find in a Carver story, something serious happened and it can't be explained, but it can be interpreted.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Under the Influence of Springsteen: Enrique Iglesias

While preparing a previous post on “Sad Eyes”, I came across this cover by Enrique Iglesias. According to Wikipedia, Iglesias is a huge Springsteen fan and cites the Born in the U.S.A. tour as his favorite concert experience. So much a fan, that he included this cover of “Sad Eyes” in his English-language debut album in 2000 entitled Enrique. In fact, it was even released as the album’s fifth single and made it on the Billboard top 40 (although it was Iglesias’ least successful single).

The song’s release itself has an interesting backstory. While the album version wasn’t a huge hit, a HQ2 club mix proved more popular. David LaChapelle even directed a music video for the remix but purportedly the video wasn’t released due to its extreme sexual content. The video is now available on YouTube and depicts Iglesias’ obsession with a model he sees in a phone sex commercial while he’s on the road. After watching it, I can see why they didn’t release it. Not just because of the explicit content, it’s also pretty bad. It’s so extreme it really borders on parody. My favorite moments are 0:43, 3:05 and 3:16…

I must admit that I like Iglesias’ version; but not enough to defend it against anyone who finds it blasphemous. He doesn’t really offer anything new to the cover but I do feel like he channels the right amount of pain in his voice.

“Sad Eyes” position within pop culture is interesting. It was originally recorded in 1990 but wasn’t released until 1998 on Tracks. When the four-disc Tracks set proved a commercial disappointment, Columbia released an abbreviated version in 18 Tracks. This less expensive and less exhaustive version was designed to court the casual fan and was made up of the more pop-friendly songs on Tracks. “Sad Eyes” was released as the album’s first (and only) single in the summer of 1999. I personally have no recollection of the song’s performance when it was released and I wonder how much of its selection was attributed to Bruce and how much to Columbia Records. Either way, it seems to have struck a chord with certain aspects of pop culture, not only was it covered by Enrique Iglesias a mere two years after its release, it was even included in an episode of Dawson’s Creek (season 2 – 1999). The only clip from this episode that I could find online is dubbed in Italian. But you can still get the idea of what it’s like to see Bruce Springsteen’s soulful crooning over images of the lovelorn Pacey Witter. Fast forward to 2:00 minutes for the goods…

How do you feel about this Springsteen song being so entrenched in the pursuit of pop music success? Do you feel it negates its value? And if anyone remembers how “Sad Eyes” was perceived by the media or by fans at the time of its release, I’d be very interested to learn more.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Hold Tight To Your Anger - Why People Hate Springsteen

Inspired by the discussion over at Reddit, it is time for us to take a short aside from our normal Springsteen lovefest and enter the dark world of the Springsteen haters.  When running into someone who doesn't like the Boss, the editors here at Legends of Springsteen react like Jerry Seinfeld's mother: "He's a wonderful, wondeful man!  How could anyone not like him?"  However, I feel it is important to understand why they dislike Springsteen, as it could help us understand our own fandom more.  I've assembled the five most common critiques I've heard of Springsteen, and ranked them by how important I personally see them in affecting someone's opinion of a musical artist.  That being said, let's start with a doozy:

5. His Politics: Many people may argue that this should be higher on the list, perhaps even number one.  From his ardent support of Obama and Kerry, to "41 Shots", to the "phoniness" of a millionaire making millions while singing about the poor and downtrodden, there's a lot there to angry up the blood of conservatives (just sit down for a beer or two with our contributor OB and you'll hear all about it).  However, I've ranked this fifth for a multitude of reasons.

First, the process of become a fan of a musician doesn't start usually with finding out their political identity.  You hear some songs, then you hear some albums, then you find out more about their life, then you create a fawning internet blog about them, etc.  There's many bands I listen to now where I couldn't name a single member of the group, let alone know their political leanings.  There are some outliers where you can know their politics before even listening to their music (i.e. Lady Gaga), but that is generally not the case.

Second, aside from a few tracks in Wrecking Ball, Bruce's political causes were positive, promoting empathy rather than assigning blame.  "Born In The U.S.A." and "41 Shots" were not calls to condemn those who sent our troops to Vietnam or the New York Police Department, but rather songs to shed a light and sympathize with the struggles of the returning veterans and the poor of the inner city.

Finally, whether you agree with his politics or not, I think you have to show him some respect for being honest with his opinions in today's heated political age.  Many celebrities choose not to make any bold statements, because, as Michael Jordan once said, "Republicans buy sneakers, too."  While I don't think anybody has an obligation to use their celebrity to promote a cause, I find it more respectable than dodging the issues and remaining a blank slate.

As someone who is fairly liberal, I am a fan of many artists and performers who lean to the right, such as Adam Carolla, Frank Miller, and Norm MacDonald.  I've been able to enjoy their work while not letting their specific opinion cloud my judgement (especially if the work has nothing to do with their politics).  I also think it is interesting to listen to someone with a different world view than mine - the world would be pretty boring looked as something the same way.  Just be sure your music is catchy, or I won't give you the time of day.

4. He's An Old White Guy: This applies more for those "kids today", but perhaps can be applied to multiple generations.  Bruce's act is all no-nonsense - he gets up there, and blasts out his music.  There aren't any props, no explosions, no wacky outfits, etc.  And, because of that, he seems "lame".

Mind you, this isn't to criticize other musicians who rely on an image - that's been a staple of pop music forever.  However, they own the "cool" factor today, just as Bruce and his leather jacket did in the 70s.

I assume those Bruce-haters that use this excuse are on the younger side, so there's still hope for them.  On a personal note, I'll share with you a dark secret that I"ve kept hidden in my past: in high school, I hated the Beatles.  It was just old, campy garbage to me.  Slowly, I started to like their later, more experiment stuff, but still didn't like their early pop songs until I was perhaps 19 or 20.  It will take everyone time to develop their true musical taste, where they aren't concerned with how liking a particular musician will make you seem to your peers.  Which segues nicely into reason number 3.....

3. Springsteen Fans: Imagine going to a Justin Bieber show, and being surrounded by thousands of screaming preteen girls.  Now, I have nothing against preteen girls, but it sounds like a scene I want no part of.  Now, instead of teenage girls, you are surrounded by middle-aged white dudes.  And then imagine that those middle-aged white dudes have the exact same amount of unbridled enthusiasm when Bruce comes on stage as those little girls have for Bieber.  While it might sound great for you, as a Springsteen fan, it may sound like a nightmare scenario for others.

It's a tough stereotype to battle.  Every time I go to a concert, I feel like I can count the number of black people with one hand - and those are mostly the ones in the band.  So, I don't disagree with the fact that middle-aged white guys have built Springsteen's mansion.  However, judging an artist by the people who enjoy them relates strongly to my previous point, and is a fairly immature attitude to have.  If you enjoy a certain type of music, who cares who else does?  It is also a self-fulfilling prophecy: you aren't enjoying Springsteen because you don't see people like you enjoying Springsteen.

2. His Pop Songs: When I think of musicians I don't really care for, it is only because of the limited amount of songs I've heard.  I'm not going to scour through all their albums and judge their entire body of work.  And, frankly, who has time for that?

In regards to Springsteen haters, it is probably because they have only heard a few of Springsteen's biggest hit songs.  "Glory Days" and "Dancing In The Dark" aren't in the top 60 of Springsteen songs as chosen by the fans, yet they are probably two of Springsteen's most widely known songs in the general populace.  It is not unreasonable to assume that these type of songs turned someone off from the Boss.  If you hate Springsteen based on limited knowledge, I'd implore you to explore this blog: I guarantee you will find something you like.

1. His Voice: Well, we've come to the part of the post that I really can't defend.  The previous four excuses I've chalked up to immaturity, lack of knowledge, and general uptightness.  But Bruce's voice clearly has people who will hate it no matter what.  As one comedian said, "Springsteen has the voice that everyone uses when they call in sick for work."  It's a funny line, and absolutely right.  This is just a matter of taste, and if someone has gotten past his politics, his fans, and his pop songs, and STILL hates Springsteen, you just have to shrug your shoulders and move on.  Not everyone has to love Springsteen; it is their loss, not ours.  To quote Wayne's World: "Led Zeppelin didn't write tunes everybody liked. They left that to the Bee Gees."