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Video: Bruce Springsteen Credits Occupy Wall Street For Inspiring Newt Gingrich

21812bruce.jpg

 BROOOOOOCE performing at the Grammy Awards (AP)

 Coming off  an invigorating performance to kickoff the Grammy Awards, Bruce BROOOOOCE Springsteen was in Paris this week to formally introduce his new album, Wrecking Ball, for a select group of reporters. Springsteen gave over much of the press conference to discussing the current state of American politics, and how his “angry patriotism” was reflected in the new music: “Previous to Occupy Wall Street, there was no push back at all saying this was outrageous—a basic theft that struck at the heart of what America was about, a complete disregard for the American sense of history and community.”

Springsteen expects some people may misunderstand the politically charged songs—a mix of folk music, gospel music and the E-Street Band sound—on the new album, just as Ronald Reagan misunderstood “Born In The USA” almost 30 years ago. That’s especially true for the rousing first single “We Take Care Of Our Own,” an ironic song that sums up the broken promises of the country as far as Springsteen sees it. “I have spent my life judging the distance between American reality and the American dream…What was done to our country was wrong and unpatriotic and un-American and nobody has been held to account,” he later told the Guardian. “There is a real patriotism underneath the best of my music but it is a critical, questioning and often angry patriotism.”

Bruce Springsteen: Rocker Charges US Government With ‘Un-American’ Acts

Posted on Feb 17th 2012 4:00PM by Jason MacNeil

Taylor Hill, FilmMagic

Bruce Springsteen didn’t mince words Thursday night at the Theatre Marigny in Paris during a press conference while promoting his upcoming ‘Wrecking Ball‘ album. The topic: His utter disappointment with the current state of America. “What was done to our country was wrong and unpatriotic and un-American and nobody has been held to account,” Springsteen told The Guardian. “There’s a real patriotism underneath the best of my music. But it is a critical, questioning and often angry patriotism.” Springsteen, who gave critics an advanced listen of the new studio album, also said the fury behind some of the record’s lyrics, including the title track, was because “a big promise has been broken.” “You can’t have a United States if you are telling some folks that they can’t get on the train,” he said. “There’s a cracking point where a society collapses. You can’t have a civilization where something is factionalized like this.”The musician noted he plans to back President Barack Obama leading up to the November election but he may not offer his support as overtly as he did during the 2008 election. “I don’t write for one side of the street… But the Bush years were so horrific you could not just sit around,” Springsteen said. “It was such a blatant disaster. I campaigned for Kerry and Obama, and I am glad I did. But normally I would prefer to stay on the sidelines. The artist is supposed to be the canary in the cage.” As for Obama’s first term as President, Springsteen listed Obama’s healthcare legislation (“thought not the public system I would have wanted”), the death of Osama Bin Laden and bringing “sanity to the top level of government” as successes. But he also said “big business still has too much of a say in government” and felt the Guantanamo Bay detention camp “would have been closed” by now. Springsteen also cited the recent Occupy movements around the world, especially Occupy Wall Street, with pushing important issues to the forefront. “The Occupy Wall Street movement has been powerful about changing the national conversation,” he said, as reported by The Telegraph. “The Tea Party set the conversation for a while but now people are talking about economic equality. That’s a conversation America hasn’t had for 20 years.”

Watch Bruce Springsteen’s ‘We Take Care of Our Own’ Video

According to the rocker, the album’s first single ‘We Take Care of Our Own’ — which Springsteen performed last week at the Grammys — gets right to the point. “The song asks the question that the rest of the record tries to answer which is, ‘Do we?’ We often don’t,” he said as reported by The Evening Standard. “I write carefully and precisely and I believe clearly. If you’re missing it, you’re not quite thinking hard enough.” The Telegraph reports Springsteen addressed the strong emotion driving the album, too. “You can never go wrong in rock ‘n’ roll when you’re pissed off,” he said. “My work has always been about judging the distance between American reality and the American dream.” Springsteen also said “a lovely moment for me” on the album is the sax on ‘Land of Hope and Dreams,’ a song that features the late Clarence Clemons. “Losing Clarence is like something elemental, it’s like losing the rain, that’s a part of life,” he said. Springsteen launches the ‘Wrecking Ball’ world tour in Atlanta on March 18. The European leg begins May 13 in Sevilla and runs through July 31 in Helsinki. Although nothing is confirmed, there’s speculation a second North American leg is planned for later in 2012.

Exclusive: Bruce Springsteen Explains His Experimental New Album!

‘This is as direct a record as I ever made,’ he says

Bruce Springsteen performs during the 54th Annual Grammy Awards in Los Angeles.
Lester Cohen/WireImage
By Andy Greene
February 17, 2012 5:45 PM ET

Two years ago Bruce Springsteen told Rolling Stone that he had just written his first song about a “guy that wears a tie.”  The songwriter had spent much of his career writing about characters struggling in tough economic times, but the financial crisis convinced him it was time to write about the people and forces that brought America to this ugly point.
The result was Wrecking Ball, a scathing indictment of Wall Street greed and corruption and a look into the devastation it has wrought. “This is as direct a record as I ever made,” Springsteen tells Rolling Stone. “That’s with the possible exception of Nebraska, which this record has a lot in common with.”
The stark subject matter is paired with an experimental sonic palette that Springsteen created with producer Ron Aniello. “The record basically started out as folk music – just me and a guitar singing these songs,” says Springsteen. “Then Ron brought a large library of sound that allowed me to explore – like  maybe a hip-hop drum loop or country-blues stomp loop. The actual drums came later. There was no preconceived set of instruments that needed to be used, I could go anywhere, do anything, use anything. It was very wide open.”
Album opener “We Take Care of Our Own” poses a question: Do Americans take care of their own? The songs that follow make the answer clear: The narrator of the slow waltz “Jack of All Trades” struggles to find work, while the anti-hero of the country-folk stomper “Easy Money” decides to imitate “all them fat cats” on Wall Street by turning to crime. The similarly uptempo “Shackled and Drawn,” meanwhile, offers a political analysis worthy of Woody Guthrie: “Gambling man rolls the dice, workingman pays the bill/ It’s still fat and easy up on banker’s hill/ Up on banker’s hill, the party’s going strong/ Down here below we’re shackled and drawn.”
The album’s themes shift midway through, as economic despair gives way to a quest for spiritual redemption.  It ends on a hopeful note with the ambitious “We Are Alive.” The song takes on an Irish-wake feel, as Springsteen celebrates Americans (and aspiring ones) who died fighting for progress: “I was killed in Maryland in 1877/ When the railroad workers made their stand/ I was killed in 1963 one Sunday morning in Birmingham/ I died last year crossing the Southern desert my children left behind in San Pablo… We are alive/ And though we lie alone here in the dark/ Our souls will rise/ To carry the fire and light the spark/ To fight shoulder to shoulder and heart to heart.”
There are genuine musical surprises throughout. The cinematic “Rocky Ground” expands on the hip-hop-inspired vibe of “Streets of Philadelphia,” while prominently featuring the voice of gospel singer Michelle Moore, who even delivers a brief, apparently Springsteen-penned rap. “Death To My Hometown”  is a Celtic-influenced foot-stomper that wouldn’t sound out of place on a Dropkick Murphys album. “We Are Alive” borrows the horn riff from Johnny Cash’s “Ring Of Fire,” while “Land Of Hope And Dreams” (originally written and played live with the E Street Band in 1999) has been re-worked with electronic drums and a gospel choir.
“Hope and Dreams” also has a saxophone solo by the late Clarence Clemons. The Big Man’s sax can also be heard on “Wrecking Ball,” alongside trumpeter Curt Ramm – who will be in the five-piece horn section (which also includes Clemons’ nephew Jake) that will be hitting the road with Springsteen on his upcoming tour.

Read more: http://www.rollingstone.com/music/news/exclusive-bruce-springsteen-explains-his-experimental-new-album-20120217#ixzz1mhDOFoNd

Bruce Springsteen: “I Enjoy Artists Who Take On The World!”

Bruce Springsteen’s 17th studio album is his most overtly political yet.

At its launch in Paris, the blue-collar icon reveals why

Bruce Springsteen: 'I enjoy artists who take on the world'

Bruce Springsteen: ‘I enjoy artists who take on the world’ Photo: Rex Features

6:25PM GMT 16 Feb 2012

“You can never go wrong in rock’n’roll when you’re p—ed off,” according to   Bruce Springsteen. In Paris yesterday to unveil his new album, Wrecking   Ball, to the world’s media, Springsteen admitted it had been written in a   spirit of political anger. “My work has always been about judging the   distance between American reality and the American Dream.”

Right now, he suggested, the distance was greater than it had ever been in   his lifetime. With the financial crisis, “an enormous fault-line cracked the   American system wide open and its repercussions are just beginning to be   felt.”

Wrecking Ball is the 17th studio album from America’s blue-collar rock icon.   Befitting troubled times for the working man, it is Springsteen’s most   overtly political collection of songs. The title, he said, reflects “the   flat destruction of some American ideals and values over the last 30 years.   It seemed like a good metaphor.”

While the album is underpinned by a dark fury, in person Springsteen was relaxed, amusing and philosophical. Asked if he felt that his role as voice of protest was a burden, he laughed out loud. “I’m terribly burdened at night when I’m sleeping in my big house. It’s killing me,” he joked. “The rock life is brutal, don’t let anyone tell you different.”

Actually, he conceded, just to be a musician was “a charmed life. That’s why   they call it playing.” But he spoke eloquently about how his family   background, growing up in a household where his father had been   “emasculated” by long-term unemployment, fuelled his interest in the   underlying political causes, describing his songwriting as “having a   conversation with myself”.

Despite the anthemic roar and gutsy drive of the opening track, We Take Care   Of Our Own, Wrecking Ball is not the kind of back-to-basics E Street rock   Springsteen has been essaying in recent years. Reaching into the raucous   roots of his Seeger Sessions, referencing gospel, folk and blues while   bringing in drum loops, hints of hip hop and a raw mix that pushes vocals   high, Springsteen appears keen to build bridges between the past and the   present, finding contemporary resonances in timeless sources.

It also features the last sax solo from his long-time sparring partner, the   late Clarence Clemons. “I met Clarence when I was 22, my son’s age, still a   child really. Something happened when we got close, it fired my imagination.   So losing Clarence was like losing something elemental, the air or the rain.   There’s just something missing. We were lucky to get him on Land of Hope and   Dreams. When the sax solo comes up, its a lovely moment for me.”

There is, in the essence of Springsteen’s oeuvre, a very American sense of   exulting in the heroic underdog, but here there is a blackness to his mood,   fuelled not just by the sense that the dignity of the working man is being   assaulted and undermined, but that such assaults are, perhaps, a politically   inevitable expression of the very character of the nation.

Time and again, Springsteen sets the image of the honest toiler against   “bankers”, “fat cats” and “robber barons”. “An outrageous theft occurred   that struck to the heart of the American idea,” suggested Springsteen. “And   there has been no accountability.”

He does, however, see cause for optimism. “The Occupy Wall Street movement has   been powerful about changing the national conversation. The Tea Party set   the conversation for a while but now people are talking about economic   equality. That’s a conversation America hasn’t had for 20 years.”

There is also a religious dimension to Springsteen’s latest songs. The album   shifts towards the spiritual uplift of gospel music in its rousing finale,   evoking Jesus and the risen dead. “I got brainwashed as a child with   Catholicism,” joked Springsteen, who says biblical imagery increasingly   creeps into his songs almost unbidden. “Its like Al Pacino in The Godfather:   I try to get out but they pull you back in! Once a Catholic, always a   Catholic.”

Springsteen supported Obama’s presidential campaign, and We Take Care of Our   Own has already been added to the Obama re-election playlist, yet the often   bitter tone of the album suggests Springsteen is not impressed with the   powers-that-be.

He admitted, however, that he still supports Obama, who he felt had achieved   some things in a difficult political environment. Springsteen doubted he   would be actively involved in Obama’s campaign, however.  “As an artist, its   better to maintain a certain distance from the seat of power.”

He said the only thing he was really good at was making music. “I enjoy   artists who like to take on the world as well as entertain their audience. I   write to process my own experiences and if I can do that for me, I hope I   can do that for you.”

He did, however, suggest that Obama could have a shot at Springsteen’s job.   “Obama can sing!” he joked, referring to the Presidential karaoke   performance widely viewed on YouTube. “Let’s stick together,” croaked   Springsteen, then laughed at his own poor effort. “He’s better than me! I   can’t sing that!”

Wrecking Ball is released on Columbia on March 5

Angry Springsteen Gauges Gap Between American Dream & Reality

16 February 2012 – 21H53

 Bruce Springsteen performed at the Staples Center during the 54th Grammy Awards in Los Angeles, California, on February 12. Springsteen’s latest album “Wrecking Ball”, presented to journalists in Paris on Thursday ahead of release on March 6 and a US and European tour, is a tableau of the American Dream that has gone horribly wrong.
Anger at unfettered greed, sympathy for the poor and the unemployed, and gospel-style appeals for hope are the emotional threads that run through the 17th studio album in Springsteen’s 38-year career.

Springsteen said America had become a society where “people were locked into the strata under which they were born”.

“We’ve destroyed the idea of an equal playing field,” he said.

That’s a big promise that’s been broken. There’s a critical mass point where a society collapses, and you can’t have a civilisation with a society that’s as factionalised as that.”

The 11-track album kicks off with the already-released “We Take Care of Our Own”, which contrasts glib patriotic slogans with the dour reality for Americans fighting to keep a job or save their homes from foreclosure.

Other tracks pour bile over the “robber barons” of the financial system and wave an angry fist at anonymous corporations, able to destroy a town without a shot being fired.

“The banker man grows fat / The working man grows thin / It’s all happened before and it will happen again,” says “Jack of All Trades”, which adds, “If I had me a gun / I’d find the bastards and shoot ‘em on sight.”

Springsteen said the album was triggered by the 2008 financial crisis, which he said was a culmination of three decades of deregulation and unbridled profiteering.

Until the Occupy Wall Street movement began last year, no-one was even deemed accountable for the disaster, he said.

“A basic theft had occurred that struck the heart of just what the entire American idea was about, really. It was a complete disregard of history, of context, of community, and all about, ‘what can I get today?’.

“So it was an enormous faultline that cracked the American system wide open, and its repercussions were really just beginning to really be felt,” he said.

Springsteen said he had always had a close interest in inequality and unfairness in America and hit at those who chose to misinterpret his lyrics as unpatriotic, as happened in the 1984 classic “Born in the USA”.

“There is a feeling of patriotism underneath (…) in my best music, but at the same time, it’s a very critical, questioning, often angry sort of patriotism,” he said.

“That’s not something that I’m prepared to give up for fear that someone might simplify what I’m saying.”

He added: “My work has always been about judging the distance between American reality and the American dream. How far is that at any given moment?” he said.

The first part of the album — “very angry, particularly”, said Springsteen — cedes to songs that have an almost biblical feel in their longing for hope, solidarity and salvation.

Asked about this, Springsteen referred to a working-class Catholic childhood in New Jersey, where he lived next door to a church.

“I got completely brainwashed as a child with Catholicism,” he said. “(…) It’s given me a very active sense of spiritual life — and made it very difficult sexually,” he quipped.

In musical terms, the album borrows on folk, gospel and 1930s recession songs for what Springsteen described as “historical resonances” to convey social themes.

One of the strongest tracks is “Land of Hope and Dreams”, an anthem that feels rooted in the “Born to Run” album that propelled Springsteen to stardom in 1975.

It notably features the blasting saxophone of Clarence Clemons, aka “The Big Man”, a close friend of Springsteen who died last year from complications of a stroke. Clemons’ nephew, Jake Clemons, has been rostered to play sax on the upcoming tour, opening in Atlanta on Saturday.

“Losing Clarence is like losing something elemental. It’s like losing the rain, you know, or air,” Springsteen said.

“That’s a part of life. The currents of life affect even the dream world of popular music. There’s no escape.”

R.I.P. ‘Big Man’: Clarence Clemons In His Own Words

Our appreciation includes vintage interview with the late sax star

By George Varga
//
Originally published 12:31 p.m., June 20, 2011, updated 1:22 p.m., June 20, 2011
FILE - Saxophonist Clarence Clemons and Bruce Springsteen perform in Germany in 2009. Clemons died in Florida, at age 69, on Saturday, June 18, 2011.  (AP Photo/Christof Stache, File)

FILE – Saxophonist Clarence Clemons and Bruce Springsteen perform in Germany in 2009. Clemons died in Florida, at age 69, on Saturday, June 18, 2011.  (AP Photo/Christof Stache, File)                                           — AP

Should Springsteen and the E Street Band continue without Clarence Clemons?

Yes. The E Street Band will never sound the same without Clemons, so don’t bother trying to replace him. It’s time to call it a day.

No. The E Street band has survived other losses to its lineup, including the 2008 death of organist Danny Federici. The music matters more than the band members playing it.

or See results

Clarence Clemons knew how to cut it in almost any musical setting, be it with Bruce Springsteen and Ringo Starr, Aretha Franklin and Lady Gaga, or leading his own band at San Diego’s now-defunct Bacchanal nightclub.

“How many ways can you cut a steak? How many ways can a chord go? I’ve been in this business so long, I know how to cut it.”

Clemons made the above declaration in a 1989 San Diego Union interview, but his no-nonsense approach defined him throughout his storied musical career. That career ended, sadly, on Saturday, when he died of complications from a June 12 stroke. He was 69.

Known as “the Big Man” throughout his four-decade tenure with Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band, the hulking, six-foot-four Clemons cut a massive figure on stage and off. His soaring, ever-robust tenor sax playing was as much a trademark as Springsteen’s man-possessed singing on such definitive E Street classics as “Jungleland,” “Spirit in the Night,” “Kitty’s Back,” “Incident on 57th Street,” “Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out,” “Fire,” “Born to Run,” and “Rosalita” (with its great couplet: I know a pretty little place in Southern California down San Diego way / There’s a little cafe where they play guitars all night and all day / You can hear ‘em in the back room strummin’…).

While Clemons name will always be synonymous with Springsteen and the E Street Band, it’s worth noting that his discography includes albums with dozens of other artists, from Jackson Browne, Carl Perkins and Aretha Franklin (that’s Clemons’ sax solo erupting on Lady Soul’s “Freeway of Love”) to Joe Cocker, Ringo Starr and (earlier this year) Lady Gaga.

Sadly, his musical role diminished as Springsteen became a superstar in the 1980s and shifted to a guitar-driven sound that too often regarded the saxophone as an afterthought. Yet, while he was given less and less time in the spotlight after Springsteen reunited the E Street Band in 1999 and returned to the road, Clemons remained a fan favorite, earning the loudest cheers at concerts after Springsteen himself.

No matter how large (or small) Clemons’ role was, for many fans the image of The Boss and the Big Man remains indelible, be it on stage or on the iconic “Born to Run” album cover photo. At their best, they were a rock ‘n’ soul Batman & Robin, an all-mighty-duo driven by the fire of music and a quest for sonic salvation.

I first interviewed Clemons in August of 1989, then again in December of the same year. The first time was backstage in Buffalo, N.Y., where the saxophonist was on tour with Ringo Starr’s first All Starr Band (a group that, coincidentally, also included E Street Band alum Nils Lofgren on guitar). The second was four months later, by phone, to preview Clemons’ December concert at the Bacchanal, where he led his own band.

Alas, as far as we can recall, that 1989 show marked the last time Clemons performed here in any musical capacity (that is, on his own or with Springsteen and the E Street Band, which — inexplicably — has not played here since a 1982 San Diego Sports Arena gig).

In each interview, this gentle giant spoke thoughtfully and candidly. He combined the charisma of a rock star and the earthiness of the everyday guy he was.

Below is our second interview with Clemons, which ran Dec 13, 1989. Its headline, appropriately, was:

The Boss and the Big Man

From 1971 to 1984 they were virtually inseparable — rock ‘n’ roll brothers in arms who provided a musical and visual focal point for the millions of pop fans around the world who bopped and hopped to the sound of New Jersey‘s Big Boss beat.

But two months ago, with a new decade looming, Bruce Springsteen decided he didn’t want to be the Boss any longer.  With little fanfare, but much fan despair, he shelved his fabled E Street Band. By doing so, he also bid farewell to his longtime instrumental foil, Clarence Clemons, whose Big Man monicker stemmed as much from the enormous sound he gets from his saxophone as it did from his imposing physical stature.

“I’m pretty excited now that I have this freedom,” said Clemons, who performs tomorrow night at the Bacchanal with his band, the Red Bank Rockers.

“Before, I was waiting in limbo for Bruce.  But now that he’s made his decision to go ahead without the E Street Band, I can go ahead, which is really liberating.”

Just how liberating remains a matter of conjecture among Springsteen’s fans and music industry insiders.

Rather than confirm the permanent dissolution of the E Street Band, Springsteen’s management and record company have danced around the issue by describing the split as a hiatus of an indefinite nature.  Not so, counters Clemons.

” `Hiatus of an indefinite nature’ means there is no band!” he sputtered,   speaking by phone from his Marin County home.  “That’s how I think of it: We have no more E Street Band. Bruce might decide to take the band out again, and I hope everybody will be available.  But everybody isn’t going to sit around waiting. I have two sons to put through college.”

Was Clemons surprised by Springsteen’s decision?

“I guess I was,” he said.  “But I moved from New Jersey to the West Coast three years ago, and — at least subconsciously — that was the beginning (of the split). I’ve talked to a couple of the E Street guys, but we’re not as close as we used to be.  Even when I lived in New Jersey, we came together for one reason only, and that was the band.”

In fact, the split between the Big Man and the Boss was apparent as far back as 1983, when Springsteen recorded many of the songs that would appear on his enormously successful 1984 album, “Born in the USA.”  Both the album and the tour that followed established Springsteen as a mega-star whose generation-crossing popularity inspired Ronald Reagan to appropriate “Born in the USA’s” title track for his presidential re-election campaign.

Less noted at the time was the fact that the album and tour found Clemons unexpectedly relegated to a minor role in the increasingly bland E Street Band. During a conversation last August in Toronto, where he was on tour Ringo Starr’s All Starr Band, the friendly saxophonist acknowledged that his contributions to the E Street Band had been substantially reduced.

“Yeah, and I don’t know why,” Clemons said at the time. “Sure, it bothered me. But Bruce never discussed it with me.”

Now, four months later, Clemons regards with mixed feelings the sequence of events that led to the E Street Band’s presumed demise.

“I’ve been pretty blessed,” he said.  “Sometimes it comes in disguise.  When I first got the call from Bruce, I felt pretty disappointed, then angry — a lot of emotions.  But then I felt joy, because now I can go out and be my own man.

“My role had diminished in the E Street Band, so I’m glad it came to a head.  Everybody in the band was disappointed at first, but life goes on.”

Indeed, Clemons is wasting no time taking advantage of his new-found freedom. His Bacchanal concert tomorrow is the first in a series of California dates to promote his new CBS solo album, “A Night with Mr. C.”  The tour, his first with his Red Bank Rockers band since 1983, is scheduled to continue next spring in Europe, where Clemons hopes to regroup with the All Starr Band.

In addition to Clemons, the Red Bank Rockers includes guitarists Kevin Russell and Jim Dillon, Whitney Houston drummer GiGi Gonaway, keyboardist Mike Mani and bassist Polo Jones.  The band’s concerts will feature songs from all of Clemons’ solo albums, as well as “Fire,” “Paradise by the Sea” and several other staples from the Springsteen/E Street Band repertoire.

“I’m doing more vocals than I have,” said the veteran saxophonist.  “The Ringo tour helped, because I did more singing with Ringo than I ever did with Bruce.  Our show’s are a collage of the Big Man’s life.”

Asked to compare and contrast working with Starr and Springsteen, Clemons gave an answer that provided new insight about his relationship with his now-former Boss.

“With Ringo it was a lot looser,” he said.  “Of course, it was always fun with Bruce, but it was a job, work. Our first rehearsal with Ringo set the tone.  He said: `The first one who looks at me takes a solo!’ That was the attitude.

“It wasn’t as orchestrated as with Bruce, and that’s the way I like it to be — real tight but loose.  It was that way with the E Street Band at one stage, but then it started to change.”

Clemons has also been pursuing his passion for loose but tight music with Bay Area-neighbors the Grateful Dead. An increasingly regular guest star at Dead concerts, Clemons will join the band for its annual New Year’s Eve shows in the Bay Area.

“The first time they invited me to play with them I walked out on stage, and played and played and played, and it was like I’d been there all the time,” he said. “Our heads are in the same place; it’s a wonderful feeling to walk out there and fit right in.  My oldest son, who’s 21, got me into them.  I guess he’s a Deadhead.”

Clemons laughed when asked if he was becoming a Deadhead himself.

“It’s music, you know? It’s like, a butcher walks into a butcher shop, you give the guy a knife, and he cuts a steak. I mean, how many ways can you cut a steak? How many ways can a chord go? I’ve been in this business so long, I know how to cut it.”

george.varga@uniontrib.com; (619) 293-2253; Twitter, @georgevarga

Max Weinberg Steals the Spotlight From Springsteen, But The Birthers are Stumped by The Boss: Songs 120-111

RETREAT, NO SURRENDER

By Jim Beviglia
May 22nd, 2010 at 10:11 AM

The Ultimate Springsteen Countdown is almost half over and there hasn’t been a Born in the U.S.A song yet. That changes in this edition (but how far down?) And does Max Weinberg or Teenage Tramps in Skintight Pants steal more of the spotlight from Bruce Springsteen.

And while Springsteen will never cut off your beer sales at a concert like Van Morrison, he was definitely influenced by the man. Learn more in songs 120-111.

Song 120: “Fade Away”

Album: The River

“Fade Away” gets a bit of a bad rap in the Springsteen mythology. It was chosen as the follow-up to Bruce’s first Top 10 hit, “Hungry Heart,” but it failed to reach those same lofty heights, petering out at No. 20 on the U.S. charts. Thus it is also blamed for the fact that The River wasn’t the breakthrough megahit that Springsteen’s supporters wanted it to be.

That’s a lot of weight to hang on one song, let alone a modest one like “Fade Away.” Granted, a tender ballad with Springsteen basically on his hands and knees trying to get back together with his girl might not have been a commercial sure thing. But that doesn’t mean the song wasn’t executed well.

Indeed, the straightforward lyrics show Bruce at his most direct, one of the first signs of a more common style that would serve him well in the years to come. And the music is lovely throughout, spearheaded by Danny Federici’s lonely organ, which expresses yearning and desperation maybe even better than the songwriter himself. When you add the soulful harmonies of Bruce and Little Steven, you’ve got a pretty solid package, top-to-bottom.

All of the negative stuff is just a case of the right song at the wrong time.

Song 119: “The E Street Shuffle”
Album: The Wild, the Innocent & the E Street Shuffle

First of all, this song wins points for yielding one of Bruce’s all-time great character names: Power 13. It sounds like some obscure Math theorem, doesn’t it? What do you call the guy for short? Pow? Teenie? Do you think his Dad was Power Sr., had 12 other sons, and just did a George Foreman thing when naming them? These are the questions that keep me up at night.

Now that we’ve got that out of the way, we can get down to the business of praising “The E Street Shuffle,” the opening salvo off The Wild, the Innocent & the E Street Shuffle, the Boss’ first true masterpiece. From the opening blast of horns, which betrayed a heavy Van Morrison influence, to the wild and woolly outro, it’s one of the band’s funkiest offerings, even 35 years down the road.

Springsteen’s fast-talking lyrics are marvels of interior rhyme and alliteration. Listen to this killer first line: “Sparks fly on E Street when the boy prophets walk it handsome and hot.” These hoodlums get into the same hijinks as some of the doomed souls of other Springsteen opuses, but the good-time music here makes it seem like there are little consequences for them to face.

Indeed, even as Bruce tells it like it is (“teenage tramps in skintight pants”), he finds the romance in the scene: “As the sweet summer nights turn into summer dreams.”

If there’s a negative for me, it’s that the wocka-wocka clavinet that stands out of the mix makes the song seem a tad dated, something you can’t say about much of the E Street Band catalog. We’d like to believe that “The E Street Shuffle” is a timeless dance that kids still do today. All you need is a little soul, a lot of time on your hands, and the indefatigable foolishness of youth.

Song 118: “Candy’s Room”
Album: Darkness on the Edge of Town

Springsteen plays the romantic underdog as well as anyone out there. Here he tells a tale as old as time, and certainly as old as rock and roll. Crooners have been trying to rise above penury to grab their girl away from a rich guy since the dawn of pop music. But Bruce has the E Street Band behind him, and that gives him an edge on the competition.

The band never wavers in the face of Springsteen’s high-tempo construction, as they milk every bit of drama from the situation. Max Weinberg obviously takes the spotlight here, starting things off with the tension-building high-hats before bursting into full sprint joined by his cohorts. Bruce himself tears off a searing guitar solo that rips through the edginess in thrilling catharsis.

The passionate descriptions of the lovers’ encounters are perfectly in sync with the powerful thrust of the music. The narrator knows that Candy is probably a dead end and that her rich suitors will only cause him trouble, but Springsteen’s genius is that he makes his argument so persuasive that you can understand the guy’s reckless pursuit. In that way, he takes one of the oldest song topics in the book and makes it new again.

Song 117: “I’m Goin’ Down”
Album: Born in the U.S.A.

Here we are, 83 songs into the countdown, and we’re making our first foray into the 1984 supersmash, Born in the U.S.A. You think Bruce was at the top of his game for that one or what?

“I’m Goin’ Down” was an unlikely Top 10 hit when it was released as a single in 1985, almost a year after the album’s release. Considering that the song can be considered a relative lark compared to some of the heavier material on the album, the chart success is a testament to both the momentum Springsteen had at that time and to the group’s recording experience of bringing out big things from little songs.

The bar-band swagger brought to Springsteen’s tale of sexual frustration is remarkable. It also helps to leaven what could have been an off-putting character; the guy comes off more like a sad-sack than a whiner, which is saying something if you just judged him based on the lyrics. Check out the little touches here and there which pull the song from the mundane, like the Latin lilt on the acoustic guitars at the start of the song to the vocals and hand-clap breakdown toward the end. This is a band, and an artist, that suddenly understood how to court the radio.

I’m sure a lot of people read some sexual innuendo into the oft-repeated chorus, and I don’t think Bruce would dissuade that reading, even though it’s probably reaching. After so many years of so many great songs going unheard by the public at large, you couldn’t begrudge Bruce pulling in listeners by any means necessary.

Song 116: “Long Walk Home”
Album: Magic

In “My Hometown” in 1984, the song ends with a father putting his son on his lap and letting him steer around the streets of their town. It was right of passage his father had done with him, trying to imbue pride in the boy for his home even as the Dad was considering leaving the place. In a “Long Walk Home,” recorded by the same artist 23 years later, it’s easy to imagine that kid, now grown, as the narrator, estranged from all that he loves and unable to recognize the place that he once toured with his father.

The artist, of course, is Bruce Springsteen; This isn’t a Foghat countdown, after all.

“Long Walk Home” is a fascinating example of how Bruce begins with a personal tale of alienation and disillusionment and spins it outward to reveal a bigger picture that is just as bleak.

What begins with a man losing his love widens into a look at America in decline. The man doesn’t recognize the values he grew up with in the residents, now all “rank strangers.” And what’s even more disheartening is that he doesn’t recognize his country anymore, the country that once knew “who we are, what we’ll do, and what we won’t.” By including the opening with the man and woman coming apart, Springsteen effectively shows how the breaking of bonds at a one-to-one level contributes, on some small level, to the deterioration writ large.

The music is a bit generic; it’s like the heartland rock of contemporaries like Bob Seger or John Mellencamp, but there isn’t any bite. Only Clarence Clemons’ sax solo gets through, beautifully conveying both nostalgia for times gone past and sadness that the promise of that past has been broken time and again.

Song 115: “Local Hero”
Album: Lucky Town

Inspired by an actual occurrence in which he spotted a wall-hanging of himself in a local gift shop between those of “a Doberman and Bruce Lee,” Springsteen tackled his mid-life identity crisis head-on in this enjoyably lighthearted track off Lucky Town. It’s somewhat reminiscent of “Glory Days” in both its sing-along chorus and its preoccupation with former triumphs.

It must be a truly odd moment to see your younger self on display. It also must have been especially weird for Bruce considering that he saw the picture in Jersey at a time while he was living in L.A. (hence the shopkeeper’s reply, “He used to live here for a while.”) The rumored price of the picture by the way: $19.99. That’s how much heroes are valued if they’re a tad past their prime.

There’s nothing very memorable about the music save the uplifting melody. The pretty female backing vocals really help to buoy the choruses though, and Bruce’s lack of any vanity about the situation keeps the song a lot of fun all the way through. Only a guy as modest as Springsteen could be as successful as he is and still be surprised to be a collector’s item.

Song 114: “Darlington County”
Album: Born In The U.S.A.

When the first sound you hear is a cowbell, you know you’re in for one hell of a road trip. Written back in 1978, “Darlington County” wasn’t revived until the 1982 sessions that produced a large chunk of 1984’s Born In The U.S.A. (There will be a quiz on this later, and with Bruce’s crazy recording process, if you pass you immediately earn a Masters.)

Give credit to Jon Landau for exerting his influence and helping convince Springsteen that these kinds of good-timey songs deserved a place on the album right alongside the tougher stuff. The album might have still been great without them, but it wouldn’t have had the populist edge that made it such a smash and elevated The Boss to new heights.

“Darlington County” is in South Carolina, which means that the narrator and Wayne had a lot of time to get into trouble on their journey from New York City to find work and females more amenable to their advances. Of course, things don’t work out the way they planned. The narrator ends up deciding to leave Darlington for greener pastures, while Wayne ends up incarcerated as his former road-trip buddy leaves him behind.

It still sounds like they had a good time, though, thanks to the E Street Band’s amazing chemistry. From Bruce’s Southern-fried licks on guitar to Clarence doubling up the “sha-la-la” chorus with his booming sax, it’s a killer effort. “Darlington County” may not have been the right destination, but it’s the getting here that counts.

Song 113: “Mansion on the Hill”
Album: Nebraska

Although they never made it to an album that way, you can imagine many of the songs on Nebraska being turned into full band performances. (Over the years, the band and Bruce have done just that to some of them in performance.) But it’s hard, for me anyway, to imagine “Mansion On The Hill” in anything but the stark, chill-inducing form of the original “Nebraska” recording.

Springsteen based the song on true-life trips he actually took with his dad. Of course, by the time he wrote the song, he was rich enough to be the one on the inside looking out, and to see the “steel gates that completely surround” being as confining to those inside as it was foreboding to those outside.

What makes the song is that Springsteen sings it reverently. Had he allowed irony or the hint of a sneer into his vocals it would have shattered the balance and distorted the reality of the situation. In the final verse, years have passed and the boy, now a man, still looks out at the mansion, still in awe. The boundaries remain unchanged.

“Mansion On The Hill” boasts one of the prettiest melodies on the album, and although it’s a bit of the same thing verse-to-verse lyrically, it almost has to be to convey the level of obsession this character has with the life he’ll never enjoy. Bruce may be playing it close to the vest vocally here, but his sad harmonica conveys all of the longing of those who remain forever in the valley in thrall of a life they can only admire from afar.

Song 112: “Nothing Man”
Album: The Rising

It might be the most harrowing song Bruce has ever released, and that state of despair doesn’t really reveal itself until the final lines. At first glance, it’s a tale about survivor’s guilt, but it doesn’t take much power of deduction to realize that the narrator is a 9/11 responder who was lucky enough to make it out alive. Although, considering the mood of the song, lucky doesn’t seem to be the right word.

After all, this is the tale of a man going through something to which no one could possibly relate, save the few who share his experience. (Hence, his repeated calls for his mate to “understand.”) As if she could.

What makes his predicament worse is the way he is hailed as a hero while carrying around this extreme burden of memory. The world outside stubbornly remains the same while his inner turmoil continues. Even the sky refuses to cooperate, hanging above him in “unbelievable blue.” What a perfect choice of words.

The last verse lays bare the pain so cleverly hidden by Bruce’s straight-faced vocal. When cornered at his local bar by a well-wisher offering thanks for his courage, he snaps back: “You want courage, I’ll show you courage you can understand/The pearl and silver restin’ on my night table/It’s just me lord, pray I’m able.”

The hope so prevalent in Springsteen’s work is absent here, momentarily shut out by the reality of the situation. It’s a chillingly honest portrayal.

The music is just for atmospheric background, and it was wise of Bruce not to pile on a sentimental melody. It’s very to-the-point, Max Weinberg’s rim shots breaking through the fog like a countdown to some unthinkable outcome. When Bruce allows his character some falsetto “sha-la-lys” at song’s end, it’s a well-deserved reverie. The other alternative, expressed by that last verse, is the ending few could possibly understand, nor would they want to.

Song 111: “She’s the One”
Album: Born to Run

OK, so they stole the groove from Bo Diddley. You could make a pretty great countdown of rock songs that have done the same.

The point is that the E Street Band play that groove with gusto and force that they just hadn’t shown at all on their first two albums. If there was any doubt that Bruce had locked into a great band lineup on Born to Run, “She’s the One” answers it decisively.

The thunder that they create is so powerful that it sounds like they’ve got about 20 members instead of the five that actually contribute to the track. Weinberg is fabulous again here, all touch and feel in the open and then crunch and boom for the rest. Roy Bittan is all over the place as well, both in the introspective opening verse and then finding open spaces to add flavor once the heavy guns kick in.

And Springsteen’s guitar-playing, always overlooked, is nothing short of incendiary.

All of that power helps to overcome one of the most trite standbys in the rock songwriter canon, the femme fatale who’s too hot to resist but too wild to keep.

Bruce pays her a bunch of back-handed compliments that may be eloquent but not too sympathetic. She doesn’t ever feel like a three-dimensional character; as rendered, she’s just a finely detailed cliché. But, then again, who cares about the lyrics when you’ve got such compelling rock and roll right in your face?

Twitter Becoming Essential To (And Fun For) Musicians

On Thursday, Bruce Springsteen and poet Robert Pinsky treated students at Fairleigh Dickinson University in Madison to a couple of hours of music, poetry and conversation. Before the event even started, singer-songwriter John Wesley Harding, who organized and hosted it, sent out to the world a photo of Springsteen and Pinsky together backstage.

He did it through Twitter, the social networking service that launched in 2006 and now has more than 100 million users. Later, he offered some post-show reflections (“Starting to exhale,” read one message, in part) and sent out a link to a blog, where he wrote about it in more depth.

Like many other musicians, Harding has embraced Twitter as a way to communicate with friends and fans. At press time, more than 1,200 followers were listed on his Twitter page (twitter.com/wesleystace).

Musicians are finding countless ways to use the 140-character “tweets” you can send to anyone who wants to receive them. Wyclef Jean (twitter.com/wyclef) helped galvanize support for earthquake relief in Haiti via Twitter, and John Mayer (twitter.com/johncmayer) apologized for controversial statements he made in a Playboy magazine interview.

Lady Gaga (twitter.com/ladygaga) has nearly 4 million followers; countless local bands, meanwhile, struggle to get into triple or quadruple digits.

Many musicians use it simply to send out concert and album information. But it can also be, to use Harding’s phrase, a “clearinghouse for stray thoughts.”

“I love it because there is now some kind of place that is like being onstage, in a funny way, where I can just drop the stupid ideas that I have,” he says.

He cites, as an example, a tweet he sent out the day after the Springsteen event. He had seen, in a record store, a cassette tape of the classic David Bowie album, “The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars,” and tweeted (using these exact characters): “Depressing sight: “vintage’ cassettes on sale for $10. People, that ain’t rock n roll (or nostalgia), that’s suicide.”

It just seemed strange and sad to him, he said later, to see a cassette of the album on sale, since most people don’t listen to cassettes anymore. “There’s nothing good about it,” he explained, “unless you were a cassette obsessive, which there would be no reason to be, except pure idiotic nostalgia. I don’t need to say much about that at all, but just to note the fact that it’s there … that, to me, is a great tweet.”

I have been using Twitter since January (twitter.com/jaylustig). My primary reason is selfish: I want to get my articles out to as many people as possible. But I also have found it both useful (as a tool to stay in touch with things going on in the music world) and entertaining.

Most of the Twitter accounts I follow are related to music. Here are some of the musicians who, I believe, are worth following:

Tom Waits: (twitter.com/tomwaits) Cryptic pronouncements and odd facts. Sample tweet: “In Washington, it’s illegal to paint polka dots on the American flag.”

Courtney Love: (twitter.com/courtneyloveuk) Barely coherent rants and harrowing diary-like musings. Sample tweet: “but i know why we end up with a needle in our arms in some motel in hell sometimes, and i need to chant NOT HAPPYcan barely move.”

Nicole Atkins: (twitter.com/nicoleatkins) Chatty dispatches from this up-and-coming Jersey singer-songwriter. Sample tweet: “Of course when I’m lookin like a total greaseball I run into jason shwartzman at the guitar shop. Ugh.”

Erykah Badu: (twitter.com/fatbellybella) Random thoughts, uplifting meditations and, occasionally, some righteous anger, mixed in with lots of re-tweeted fan messages. Sample tweet: “A storm. Wind blows Wind chimes, gongs and things outside my window. It’s still dark. I love it. I love. Period.”

Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson: (twitter.com/questlove) Thompson is one of the most enthusiastic Twitter users around — he has sent out more than 17,000 messages — and often offers peeks behind the scenes of “Late Night With Jimmy Fallon,” where his group, the Roots, is the house band. Sample tweet: “lord. joan rivers and sarah silverman on the couch at the same time. lord help us.”

Aimee Mann: (twitter.com/aimeemann) Wickedly funny and relentlessly self-conscious. Five tweets, sent out in the span of about 22 hours last month: “Christ, there is no reason in the world anyone should ever have cast Ice T in a television show”… “Oh NOOOO!! Someone just told me that Ice T responded to my tweet about him!! THIS CAN’T BE GOOD!!!” … “I am not going to read it. I DO NOT WANT HIM MAD AT ME!!” … “Plus, I do not like to hurt people’s feelings. I forget that twitter is not just me and four other dorky friends, ragging on TV stars.” … “He’s out there doing his job. He doesn’t need any heckling from the peanut gallery. So, I am sorry, Mr. T! You get out there and DO IT!”

Jay Lustig may be reached at jlustig@starledger.com.

NewJerseyStage.com Writer Hopes to Have Asbury Park’s Rock ‘N Roll Story Told

Asbury Park, NJ, May 11, 2010 –(PR.com)– Many rock and roll fans have heard of Asbury Park, New Jersey because of Bruce Springsteen, and, in many ways, Bruce has helped make the town America’s Liverpool — a seaside setting known far beyond its borders because of its musical heritage. People have been travelling to Asbury Park to see the town behind Springsteen’s lyrics for decades, but its rock and roll history goes far beyond the Boss. The town’s true story has been largely untold, but will finally be revealed in “Beyond The Palace” with the help of music fans and Kickstarter.com.

In “Beyond The Palace,” Gary Wien (a three-time Asbury Music Journalist of the Year, currently writing for NewJerseyStage.com) takes you through the city’s long and illustrious music history from the Upstage Club where musicians like Bruce Springsteen, Billy Chinnock, David Sancious, Little Steven and Southside Johnny used to jam all night to early clubs like The Student Prince and Sunshine In; from the legendary Stone Pony and Fastlane to alternative clubs like the Green Parrot, T-Birds Cafe and The Saint.

The book takes you inside the scene like never before. You’ll hear the stories right from the artists themselves. It’s a look at drugs, sex and booze; bands that made it big, artists on the rise, and those that just missed the mark. It brings you inside the music industry from how bands fight to get signed to how things can fall apart overnight. Asbury Park has always been a town built on dreams and “Beyond The Palace” shows that artists do not have to sell millions of records to be remembered.

“Beyond The Palace” also contains over 100 rare or never-before-seen photographs of the artists and Asbury Park as it has changed over the years.

Wien is currently raising funds to pay for the book’s printing costs and royalty fees for the photographs included throughout the book. Music fans or fans of Asbury Park can make donations online at: www.kickstarter.com/projects/1614580898/beyond-the-palace-hardcover

The project has until June 5th to raise $3,000. If the amount is not raised in time, those who have placed donations will not owe anything and the project will be over. Those who pledge will receive rewards such as autographed copies of the book, 1 or 3-hour radio shows of their favorite songs, tickets to a private book release party, and their name thanked in the book. People can even have their own page to let the world know of their love of Asbury Park music or favorite memory of the town. Prizes will only be delivered if the project reaches its goal.

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Contact Information:
NewJerseyStage
Gary Wien
732-677-8184
gary@newjerseystage.com
www.NewJerseyStage.com

Click here to read the full story: NewJerseyStage.com Writer Hopes to Have Asbury Park’s Rock ‘N Roll Story Told

Bruce Springsteen’s Sax Player Recovering From Spinal Surgery

Posted by Mitch Michaels on 05.10.2010

Clarence Clemons says he’ll play through the pain…

Clarence Clemons, the saxophonist for Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band, is recovering from major spinal surgery, but says that won’t stop him from taking the stage.

The stage “always feels like home. It’s where I belong,” Clemons said after performing at the Hard Rock Cafe on Sunday night.

The back surgery went down on January 13th. “I am the bunny, baby!” he said, referncing the Energizer bunny. “I’m huge!”

Clemons spends a lot of time in a wheelchair, but performed on Sunday night using a cane. He was also wheelchair bound when Springsteen played the Super Bowl last year, thanks to a double knee surgery, but stood for the performance.

“Of all the surgeries I’ve had, there’s not much left to operate on. I am totally bionic,” Clarence mused.

Clemons is hoping to be back to 100% for E Street’s next big tour, likely in 2011.