Friday, February 28, 2014

Bruce Covers.... THE BEE GEES!?!?!

Yep, you read that right.  In keeping up with his streak of "Holy crap, I can't believe Bruce covered that song!" covers,  Bruce paid tribute the other night to another legendary Aussie group, The Bee Gees. For the third week in a row, I'm posting about Bruce pulling a cover song totally out of left field.

At first when I saw this clip, I wasn't too impressed, but after giving it a little more time, I'm kinda getting into it.  The slow beginning, then the whole band kicks in, and, even if it's not one of the best Bruce covers I've ever heard, I'm sure this was an absolute blast to hear live.  I really loved the fact that no one knew what song it was by the intro but as soon as Bruce says "Well you can tell..." the entire crowd started getting into "Staying Alive".

Even though I despise disco, I have to admit this song is very dear to me.  In addition to being covered by Bruce, it was covered by another one of my favorite artists Ozzy Osbourne, was parodied in my favorite TV show "The Simpsons", and wasused in a great scene in one of the all-time funniest comedies, "Airplane!"  Truly, this song is the greatest contribution man has made to the arts.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Pictures of Heroes on the Wall - A Look Back At Springsteen's Album Covers

The release of High Hopes brought upon it many mixed reviews, but the critics could all agree on one thing: the album cover sucked.  It was yet another uninspired, blurry Springsteen photo, reminiscent of The Rising.  It's been a problem Springsteen's albums have had for years, and it only seems to be getting worse.  The issue here is that there has been little variation in Springsteen's cover album shots, as they generally fall into one of three categories: Bruce leaning on a car, Bruce performing to a crowd, and Bruce's face.  Let's take a look into each version:

1. Leaning On A Car
Examples: Tunnel of Love; Girls In Their Summer Clothes EP; Greatest Hits (2009); The Promise

It started with Tunnel of Love, with a simple shot by Annie Leibovitz and Springsteen rocking a nifty bolo tie.  Since then, this technique has been used a few more times, with the most cringe-worthy example being the limited released Greatest Hits album released in 2009.  Here, Springsteen poses on a motorcycle, trying hard to look "cool", but due to his age, he's giving off a mid-life crisis vibe.  My personal favorite is The Promise, which is a beautiful shot from Springsteen's youth.  It's unassuming and simple; rather than forcing you to know that this is a Springsteen album, it slowly draws you in.  The deserted road and ominous clouds causes you to find yourself as pensive and contemplating as Bruce is in the photo.  The cover of The Promise is easily one of the best Springsteen album covers to date, showing that the "lean on a car" concept still has potential.

2. LIVE!
Examples: Live/1975-85; In Concert - MTV Unplugged Film; Live In New York City; Hammersmith Odeon; Live In Hyde Park

It's a familiar line from every Springsteen fan: "You have to see him live!"  In fact, I'm even starting to get sick of hearing how great he is live...but he is!  It is tough to capture the power of a Springsteen concert in a single image, but I feel the 1975-85 collection and the Hammersmith Odeon cover do an admirable job.  Those covers capture a Springsteen mid-concert, and you can feel his exhaustion as he is pushing his stamina to give his all to his fans.  However, the live cover trope has a few stinkers, specifically the uninspired Live In New York City (which is such a disappointment for such a fantastic live album) and the MTV Unplugged album (which is easily my least favorite Springsteen album cover - it looks like a cheesy wedding photo).

3. Big 'Ole Bruce Faces
Examples: The Wild, The Innocent, and the E Street Shuffle; The River, The Essential Bruce Springsteen; Devils & Dust; Magic; Working On A Dream

Easily the most over-used of the Springsteen cover motifs, and these are the most difficult to defend.  It's.....Springsteen's face.  We get it.  There is little mystery when picking up one of these albums: you are getting a bunch of songs by Bruce Springsteen.  It's become more frequent in modern times, the obviousness of this design only being usurped by the Wrecking Ball cover which has the words "BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN" taking up 80% of the cover.

Bruce has the capacity for iconic covers.  Born To Run and Born In The U.S.A. are not just two of the most iconic rock-and-roll records of all-time, but two of the most iconic rock-and-roll album covers of all time.  An album cover is your gateway to the world that the music inside will create for you, and it is an opportunity to create a concrete visual forever associated with the songs inside.  That is a bit flowery and pretentious, but I can't help it: I like a good album cover.  I look at some of the great images mentioned in this article, and I know Bruce can do better.  I've got my fingers crossed he'll prove me right in the future.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Bruce Covers INXS!

So earlier this week Bruce continued his streak of awesome covers in Australia.  I'm not nearly as big as an INXS fan as I am of AC/DC, but "Don't Change" is hands down my favorite INXS song, so again I'm very happy about this.

I've got to think this is Tom Morello's influence in the band, and if he keeps up with this then I take back every bad thing I've said about him.  Seeing Bruce tackle new material is always a plus, especially with such great songs!  I am loving seeing Bruce expand out of his comfort zone of his usual cover songs.

Not much else to say about this, so enjoy the video and I can't wait to see what Bruce and the band cover next!

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Song Spotlight - "Your Hometown"

While I do love me some alternative takes Springsteen has done in the past, such as "Stolen Car" and "Wings For Wheels", this rockabilly version of "My Hometown" in second person doesn't quite work.  It seems Springsteen would admit this too - there isn't much information available about this version, and I assume, since it never made it onto any official Springsteen release, it was not met for public consumption.  That is the double-edged sword of the Internet: your best work can reach a much wider audience, but so can your worst.  It's best appreciated as a curio from Springsteen's apex, worthy of a listen or two.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Concert Review: Duke Street Kings at Mayne Stage (February 14, 2014)

On Friday night, I had the opportunity to see The Duke Street Kings featuring Michael McDermott perform at the Mayne Stage in Rogers Park. If you live in the Chicago area and haven’t been to Mayne Stage for a show, you should make a visit to the stage your 2014 resolution. Located a few steps from the Morse stop on the red line, Mayne Stage is a cozy theater with good seating, an old-fashioned atmosphere and a quaint bar/restaurant attached. The venue offers some interesting alternative programming, I’ve twice been there to see live recording of my favorite podcast, Filmspotting.

The Duke Street Kings took the stage on February 14 for what was billed as their third annual all-Springsteen show. The lead singer Michael McDermott is an original performer in his own right who has released several albums since the early 90s and is currently a member of The Westies. He acknowledged during the show that for many years he resisted the comparisons to Springsteen, until he finally came to embrace them. This was included in one of several bouts of storytelling interstitials that furthered the comparison to Springsteen. In the same breath, he also noted he’d been plagued by comparisons to David Hasselhoff, but I think he looks more like Colin Farrell.

The show definitely attracted a certain demographic – it’s safe to say the median age was older than at a Springsteen concert. The setlist leaned heavily on Springsteen’s early catalogue and Darkness on the Edge of Town in particular – which the band played with raw intensity and impressive instrumental accomplishment. I believe the 1987-era “Tunnel of Love” and “One Step Up” were the most recent tracks they played. It would have been nice to see them try their hand at some of the songs from The Rising or Magic or even High Hopes for novelty’s sake. But they stick to what works and the crowd was lapping it up, cheering in unison to “She’s the One”, clapping along to “Badlands” and crooning to “Growing Up”. I was particularly delighted that they concluded their encore with a rocking rendition of “I’m Going Down” that really brought down the house. Long a favorite song of mine, this was one of the best covers of “I’m Going Down” I’ve ever heard.

McDermott admitted he didn’t have the stamina of The Boss (but then who does) and the band took a brief break in the middle of the show. At this point the venue played a string of Springsteen music videos on the big screen, which was an event in itself. Seeing “Glory Days” on such a big screen was beguiling and I’d happily pay admission to see a Springsteen music video anthology screened in a venue like this. Can someone please organize this?

While The Duke Street Kings don’t play very frequently, if you do have the opportunity to see them you’ll appreciate their technical accomplishment, enthusiasm and reverence to the material. They join The B Street Band as one of the better Springsteen cover bands out there.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Lyrics Spotlight - "When You're Alone"

"I knew some day your runnin' would be through
And you'd think back on me and you
And your love would be strong
You'd forget all about the bad and think only of all the laughs that we had
And you'd wanna come home
Now it ain't hard feelings or nothin' sugar
That ain't what's got me singing this song
It's just nobody knows honey where love goes
But when it goes it's gone gone gone

When you're alone you're alone
When you're alone you're alone
When you're alone you're alone
When you're alone you ain't nothing but alone"

Happy Valentine's Day!  I know this isn't so much a spotlight, as it is a full verse spotlight, but I really wanted to include the entire thing and it's my post so I'm doing it!

I love that we run the gamut here at LOS.  Steve is happily married to his beautiful college sweetheart and expecting a child in a few months.  Rory is in a commited relationship and living with a wonderful girl he met post-graduation.  And me?  Well, I live the rugged bachelor life and couldn't be happier about it.  Now, on to the day at hand.  You're either with someone you love or you are not.  And if you're with someone you love, cheers!  Stop reading this blog right now and go do something special with them.  I promise, we will still be here tomorrow.

However if you're alone today, it's only natural to do a little soul searching.  And you'll think of a certain person, and realize "Ah, you know what?  They weren't that bad... I don't even know why we broke up.  Come to think of it, things were pretty great!"  DON'T DO IT!  I promise you, even if it's not immediately apparent, it ended for a reason.  The temptation is strong, I know, believe me I've done it too many times.  Rory suggests immediately deleting the phone number of a significant other when things end, to avoid embarrassment, and he's probably right.

Listening to this song the other day made me think of all the awful, half-assed attempts I made to rekindle flames that weren't lighting in the first place, only for me to end the night asking myself "What in God's name am I doing?"  It's not worth it.  I couldn't be happier for my best buddies Steve and Rory for finding their loves.  But if you're like me and you are single today, don't feel the pressure, don't call up exes, just enjoy being alone!  And I mean that in the best way possible.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Video Spotlight - Bruce Springsteen & Chuck Berry - "Johnny B. Goode", 1995

Bruce has played duets with many musicians, but I've never seen the man more upstaged than in this clip above.  In it, we see Chuck Berry getting the crowd to sing along, embellishing the lyrics, and dancing across the stage, while Bruce hangs in the background, awestruck.  Clarence's sax work here is a fantastic addition to the song (I had to go back and listen to the original to see if there had been a saxophone part there originally).  Chuck Berry, who is currently 87 years old, is still performing to this day; hopefully, Springsteen was able to glean a lesson or two about maintaining his endurance for the next decade.

Monday, February 10, 2014

US Tour Dates announced!

It's been a busy morning of news!

Anyway, the first leg of the US tour was announced. Hope Bruce is coming to a town near you. We will keep you posted as new dates are posted.

Bruce covers AC/DC in Australia!

Ok so maybe it is not one of the metal songs I wished Bruce had covered, but it's close enough. 

As a massive AC/DC fan, I can't even begin to say how much I love this. First and foremost, it's Bruce playing a song he has never played live before. Secondly, not only is he covering one of my all-time favorite groups, but Bruce is branching out and trying something new. Third, it's just awesome. Seriously,  covering AC/DC in Australia might sound cheesey, and if another artist did it, it might come off that way.  But this is just pure kick ass rock and roll. Here's to hoping this is just the first of many surprises on this tour. 

Friday, February 7, 2014

The Lost Boys - Affection

I first heard this song in an episode of The Sopranos (hands down, the greatest TV drama of all time in my opinion).  In the episode, Tony's mistress is searching the radio for a song to do a seductive strip tease to and comes across this song.  She asks Tony "What do you think of of him?", to which Tony replies "Eh, he's alright."  Of course, this is a wink to Van Zandt's role as Silvio Dante on the show.

I love this song; it's got a total old-school, classic rock sound while still being totally identifiable with the E Street sound.  The beginning has a very Tom Petty-ish sound and it keeps going even when Van Zandt's unique vocals kick in.  I've really come to respect Van Zandt's musicianship and singing the more I learn about which songs he had the most influence on.  See Disc 2 of Tracks and The Promise for some of his best work.

Unfortunately this song was never officially released, as The Lost Boys have never released their album.  The song did find a home on a compilation of songs heard on The Sopranos entitled Peppers and Eggs.  If this is only a sample of what they are capable of, I would love to hear some of their other work.

Duke Street Kings at Mayne Stage (Chicago) on Feb 14

Looking for something to do this Valentine’s Day? What better date than seeing The Duke Street Kings perform an All-Springsteen show at Mayne Stage in Chicago?

Mayne Stage:

The Duke Street Kings celebrate the music of Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band with spirit, energy and passion! But this isn’t a tribute band, it’s Chicago’s own Michael McDermott, whose own original music, songs and performances have often been compared to Springsteen. Michael brings the Duke Street Kings to life only a couple of times a year to create a party-like sing- along that pays tribute to The Boss in his own original and personal style. Journey back to the shores of Asbury Park with The Duke Street Kings as they perform the best of The Boss’s classic albums from Greetings From Asbury Park to Born to Run to The Rising and Born In The USA.

Legends of Springsteen will be in attendance, stay tuned for a review of the show.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Latest on Clarence Clemons Stamp Petition

A few weeks ago we reported that was working to get Clarence Clemons on a stamp. Here's an update from on the current status of the petition...

The Clarence Clemons Stamp Petition Drive Closes
Our online petition to honor Clarence Clemons with a U.S. postage stamp is now closed. In just over a month, we gathered more than 5,500 signatures, including hundreds of additional paper-and-pen signatures collected at this past weekend’s Clarence Clemons Day events in New Jersey. While the drive didn't reach its (admittedly ambitious) goal of 15,000 signatures, we still remain hopeful that Big Man will get this honor. After all, a Johnny Cash stamp was issued after the submission of one online petition with only 1,335 signatures. In any case, it now moves out of our hands: with our high hopes, copies of all signatures will now be sent to the U.S. Postal Service’s Citizens' Stamp Advisory Committee for its consideration/approval. This won't happen overnight, of course. The Committee meets quarterly, receives thousands of written requests each year for various stamp subjects, and reviews them all. In general, it can take about three years from the submission of a request to the actual creation of a stamp, if the request is approved. Check in with the Clarence Clemons Stamp Petition Facebook Page and/or for any and all updated news on this front as it occurs. And thanks again to everyone who signed and supported this effort!

You can also track their progress on the Facebook page.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Springsteen and Advertising

While I was watching the Super Bowl, I was depressed to see Bob Dylan in a truly awful commercial for Chrysler. What was worse? The shot of him looking at his own album or the casually racist ending? I wasn't alone in my distaste for the commercial.

It struck me that you would never see Bruce in a commercial like this. Even though most music scholars would say that Bob Dylan is the more artistically accomplished of the two artists, you have to give credit to Bruce for never doing something this shamefully commercial. Yes, Bruce may lend his music to MLB commercials and debut his songs on The Good Wife, but he wouldn't debase his star persona like this.