Monday, May 1, 2017

Bruce covers Sting's "I Hung My Head"

Here's Bruce doing a cover of Sting's "I Hung My Head" at the Kennedy Center honors.  I'm not too familiar with the original song (this isn't Legends of Sting), but man, Bruce really knocks this out of the park, making it feel like an old Bruce classic.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

RIP Jonathan Demme, 1944-2017

We lost another legend this year in filmmaker Jonathan Demme.  Perhaps best remembered for Silence of the Lambs, he was notable to us Springsteen fan's for his "Streets of Philadelphia" video (the use of it in Demme's Philadelphia earned Springsteen an Oscar).  It should also be noted that Demme used Springsteen's "My Love Will Not Let You Down" in his final major film Ricki And The Flash.  He's truly a great director, and will be missed be all of us here.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Springsteen Covers Crystals' "Then He Kissed Me" and Berry's "Little Queenie"

This past weekend, Springsteen released a concert he performed in St. Louis in 2008 on his website.  This concert from the Magic tour includes covers of the Crystals' "Then He Kissed Me" and Chuck Berry's "Little Queenie".  You can download the concert on his website, but here's "Then He Kissed Me" and "Little Queenie" for you now!

Monday, April 17, 2017

More Springsteen Sound-a-Likes!

On this blog, we've covered artists who have tried to ape Springsteen, as well as the songs and artists that have influenced Springsteen.  So, for this random post to keep the blog alive during this gorgeous spring, here's a few more songs that seem heavily influenced by the Boss.

Thin Lizzy - "The Boys Are Back In Town" (Springsteen - "Kitty's Back")

This one doesn't seem that blatant to me, but I've have seen it cited as a rip-off on numerous Springsteen forums, so I'll toss it in here just to be thorough.  While "Kitty's Back" is a sprawling epic, it has a dramatic build-and-release leading to Kitty being back in town (4:55 to 5:18).  This small section seems to have influenced the good folks of Thin Lizzy, as they were able to transform it into the hook of their their signature song.

Pink Floyd - "Lost For Words" (Springsteen - "Independence Day")

While I think the prior entry is a bit of a stretch, this is a slam dunk.  This song is from Floyd's The Division Bell, and the band was pretty long in the tooth, so I'm not going to hold this against them.  After producing 30+ years of progressive and experimental music, who can fault them for looking to Bruce for some inspiration?

Best Coast - "Boyfriend" (Springsteen - "Badlands")

OK, here we're just talking about two seconds of the drum opening.  I always feel duped every time "Boyfriend" comes up on my iPod.  But when I first noticed this, it did make me sit up and take notice of how great that opening two seconds of "Badlands" is - perhaps being the second most iconic Springsteen drum opening of all time (behind "Born To Run", obviously).

Now, this article isn't to knock any artists - I believe the three listed above are great musicians, and don't think any of them purposefully set out to "steal" from Springsteen.  We're here to appreciate Springsteen, as well as the (direct or incidental) influence he's made on others.  So, have you noticed any other songs similar to Springsteen songs (or vice versa)?  Any other Springsteen drum intros you love?  Let us know in the comments!

Friday, March 31, 2017

Album Review: Human Touch and Lucky Town

Today marks the 25th anniversary of one of Springsteen's most dubious career moves to date: the release of both Human Touch and Lucky Town.  These albums were Bruce's first away from the E Street Band, and missed out on the top spot on the billboard charts to the Wayne's World soundtrack.  Widely considered the nadir of Springsteen's popularity, Bruce didn't even mention these albums in his autobiography.  But, a generation later, it's time to look back and ask the question: was it really that bad?

Human Touch is a beast to review.  It's hard to say anything complimentary about any song without noting how much the music is a product of the time.  In the late 80s and early 90s, the "white dude rock world" (for obvious lack of a better term) was dominated by the ballad:

On Human Touch, Bruce was working too hard to find that type of sound.  While there's definitely some solid songs on here, they are buried under a 90s gloss.  "Soul Driver" has the new jack swing drum splash (think a slower Bell Biv Devoe).  "Cross My Heart" is the epitome of 90s country, seeming to draw from the then-uber popular Garth Brooks.  While songs like "Roll of the Dice" and "All or Nothin' At All" are energetic rockers, could you imagine them being done in a jazzier, looser E Street style?  They'd be instant classics!  The album is a long listen, and gets bogged down by numerous generic songs that just bleed into each other.

However, time has been much kinder to Lucky Town.  While Human Touch was a scattered attempt to find the "ballad", Lucky Town is a much more focused, personal, and catchier.  The album starts incredibly strong with the joyous "Better Days", the angry "Lucky Town", and the wedding classic "If I Should Fall Behind".  Unfortunately, the back half of the album sounds like remixes of the first: "Living Proof" is another "Better Days", "Book of Dreams" is another "If I Should Fall Behind", "Souls of the Departed" is another "Lucky Town".  However, the sound is definitely less dated than Human Touch - if this is what Bruce's long-rumored country album sounds like, I'll be very pleased.

Ultimately, I'd give Human Touch 2 out of 5 stars, and Lucky Town 3 out of 5 stars.  Human Touch is only for the Bruce completists, but the casual rock fan should be able to find a couple songs on Lucky Town that they'd enjoy.  Either way, I think we can all agree that the Wayne's World soundtrack definitely deserved the number 1 spot that week.

As for the question of Bruce's worst album of all-time - I'd still give that to Working On A Dream.  While I gave them both 2/5 scores, I can imagine a Human Touch E Street "remix" that could save a lot of the songs.  And, finally, the last thought exercise for this album: how would you make it one album?  Here's my Lucky Touch (Human Town?) playlist:

1. Better Days
2. Roll of the Dice
3. Real World
4. All Or Nothin' At All
5. Lucky Town
6. Man's Job
7. I Wish I Were Blind
8. If I Should Fall Behind
9. Leap of Faith
10. Human Touch

So, what are your thoughts on these two albums?  What would be your Lucky Touch? Let us know in the comments!

Friday, March 24, 2017

Video Spotlight - "You Never Can Tell", Germany 7/7/2013

For your weekend enjoyment: this cover of "You Never Can Tell", a Chuck Berry song that most from my generation will know from Pulp Fiction.  While Bruce's cover itself is fun and rocking (kind of like his version of "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town"), I absolutely love the first three minutes of the video.  Here, we see Bruce the bandleader - teaching not only his horn section how to play the song, but the entire crowd.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

When Bruce Springsteen opened for Chuck Berry


Found via the Springsteen sub-reddit, here is an advertisement for an April 1973 concert, where Bruce Springsteen opened for Chuck Berry and Jerry Lee Lewis.  According to Brucebase, Springsteen and company were told about a week before that they had to be Chuck Berry's backing band.  So, with very little practice, the boys went out there and improvised with Berry for 70 minutes.  Unfortunately, there exists no recording of this show.  But, I think we can safely assume that the concert goers got their $5.50 worth that night (roughly $30 today).

Monday, March 20, 2017

R.I.P. Chuck Berry, 1926-2017

This past weekend, we lost another musical legend - Chuck Berry.  While Chuck lived to the ripe old age of 90, he was still rocking out to his final days.  To honor him, let's re-watch this classic performance of Berry and the Boss, from 1995.  Watch for around the 2-minute mark, and you can see Bruce being completely star-struck, playing with one of his biggest musical heroes.

Friday, February 3, 2017

Legends of Springsteen's Super Bowl Picks - Celebrating Six Crappy Years!

Boy, are we gluttons for punishment.  After five years, and a robust 6-9 in just picking a game straight up, we're back for yet another round of the worst Super Bowl predictions you'll read on a Springsteen fanblog.  Here we go:

OB: Patriots 45, Falcons 21 (Overall 2-3)
Rory: Patriots 28, Falcons 27 (Overall 2-3)
Steve: Patriots 23, Falcons 7 (Overall 2-3)

I still cling to my glorious 2012 pick, where I actually called the exact score.

Anyway, since the Super Bowl is in Houston this year, here's Bruce singing about living on the streets of Houston with "Seeds" - live in Houston! How's that for synergy!

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Bill Burr referencing Springsteen on Jimmy Kimmel

Like the great comic Louie CK, Bill Burr has also turned to Springsteen for joke-inspiration.  Having just experienced the birth of his first child, he reflects on the attitude that would cause someone to abandon their family, noting the Springsteen hit "Hungry Heart".  While Burr doesn't know the song entirely, Kimmel gets the reference immediately.  This bit opens the video, but it is worth sticking around, as Burr is one of the best comics working today.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Obama Exits to "Land of Hope and Dreams"

Taking a page directly out of Jon Stewart's book, President Obama said goodbye to the nation on Tuesday night, being played off by Springsteen's "Land of Hope and Dreams".  You can skip to the 6:36:40 mark to where the song plays, if you don't want to hear a speech and just want to see a guy in a suit hugging and waiving to a Springsteen song.  While Springsteen fandom encompasses many political beliefs (the B Street Band are playing at the New Jersey Inauguration Ball next week), Obama and Springsteen have one of the strongest links I've seen between an artist and a president, from with Springsteen's "Obama-influenced" (for lack of a better description) Working on a Dream album in 2009 to Obama awarding Springsteen the Medal of Freedom a couple months ago.

 Any other president/artist combos that stand out in history?  Any you'd like to see in the future?  It's too early to tell how the Trump/Kanye relationship will grow, but you never know.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Book Review - Born To Run by Bruce Springsteen

Well, after three months, we here are finally able to weigh in on Bruce's highly anticipated autobiography Born To Run.  And, I must say, it lives up to the hype.  This book is an immensely satisfying look into one of the most unique American talents of the 20th century.

Told chronologically and straight-forward, Bruce takes you from his birth until, seemingly, the minute you finish the book.  Like a Springsteen concert, the book is extra-long, clocking in at just over 500 pages (with photos tucked into the back, a nice move since many books awkwardly stick the photo section in the middle).  However, the chapters are short (81 sections including the forward and epilogue), making a perfect "bathroom book" that you can read in small chunks.

The book is appropriately titled Born To Run, as the consistent theme of this book is how much of an "outsider" Bruce has been throughout his life.  He is a man of two worlds - both blue collar and an artist, and straddling the line has caused him alienation from both.  Having his family "abandon" him at 18 surely plays into this, but Bruce finds himself most comfortable on the road, be it driving across the country with a couple of friends or going on months-spanning tours across the globe.  While as a fan, we all have the tendency to be "armchair psychiatrists" to our favorite artists, it is fascinating to see Bruce open up in his own words.

Throughout it all, Bruce remains humble, almost to a fault.  He doesn't try to be your friend, but doesn't wallow in self-pity, either.  There are no salacious "rock star" stories either, as there's just a tale or two involving tequila, and the only relationships he dives into are his two marriages. (Bruce blames his past relationships failing on his immaturity and insecurities, but come on Bruce - there had to be at least one crazy girl in that mix!)  Perhaps the most unexpected confession comes at the end, where Bruce discusses how he views his own voice (for good and for bad).

Nearly every step of his career is covered, with special attention paid, unsurprisingly, to Born To Run and, surprisingly, to Wrecking Ball.  The biggest omissions were Lucky Town and Human Touch, which were not even mentioned by name in the book.  During that time, the book focuses on his children, which may be all that needs to be said about why these albums were skipped over.  Unlike many of the Springsteen biography's I've read in the past, Bruce doesn't skim when it comes to his later career, as he discusses with particular care the controversy surrounding "American Skin" as well as The Rising and its role post-9/11.

So, I know I'm late to the party, but if you are a Springsteen fan, this is an absolute must read.  I have read many books about Springsteen in the past, but this is easily the best.  Despite Clarence's disappointing autobiography, this has me itching for more E Street books - could Little Stevie be next?

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Bruce Springsteen on WTF with Marc Maron

Bruce Springsteen guested on this Monday's episode of Marc Maron's WTF podcast (interview starts around the 15 minute mark).  As far as I can tell, this is the Boss's first podcast experience.  The two Jersey boys reminisce about growing up in the Garden state, as well as dive into Bruce's own history (this is part of the promotion for Born To Run, which I assure you I'm just about 100 pages away from finishing!).  Springsteen's interviews of late have re-hashed themes that are thoroughly covered in the book, and this podcast ventures down that road at times.  However, in this interview, Springsteen is able to dive deeper and expand upon topics such as his father's illness, being a control nut, his "biological clock", and his mental health.  While I'm not the biggest Marc Maron fan (he does laugh at a few inappropriate times during the interview), it is still worth checking out.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Great Moments In Springsteen Comic Book History - Band For Life

Happy 2017 everybody!  Hopefully, your hangover is just about finished, and we here at Legends of Springsteen look forward to our FIFTH year of bringing you the strangest and obscure Springsteen articles on the Internets.  Today's entry comes from Anya Davidson's Band For Life, a graphic novel about the trials and tribulations of a struggling young experimental rock band.

In this small part of the story, the characters are retelling how they met to become a band, and take a pause at a point where they got stuck in an elevator.  How did they get out?  Why, a Bruce Springsteen cover band heard them, probably thought they were requesting them to play "Trapped", and came to the rescue.  This act of heroism turns the lead singer into from Springsteen hater to Springsteen lover!  As someone who has been stuck in an elevator before, let me tell you that it's no picnic, and you'll be forever grateful to your rescuers.

Band For Life has made several "Best Graphic Novels of 2016" lists, but, personally, I'd be hesitant to recommend it, as the dialogue can be a bit dense and corny, and the artwork is too chunky for my tastses.  However, it tells a unique story with many characters that get surprisingly fleshed out in under 300 pages.  It's definitely something for the graphic novel reader with discriminating tastes, but might be too challenging for a newcomer to the comics world.

But, still, they referenced Springsteen! Happy 2017!

(And, yes, this is what I've been reading instead of Born To Run, I'm a terrible Springsteen fan.  I assure you I will finish that very soon!)