Singer/songwriters are able to paint pictures with their words.
My very favorite singer/songwriters manage to paint moving picture, i.e. movies, with their songs.
Mary Chapin Carpenter has consistently managed to do exactly that throughout her career. Let me give you an example via the lyrics for her song I Am A Town.
I’m a town in Carolina, I’m a detour on a ride For a phone call and a soda, I’m a blur from the driver’s side I’m the last gas for an hour if you’re going twenty-five I am Texaco and tobacco, I am dust you leave behind
I am peaches in September, and corn from a roadside stall I’m the language of the natives, I’m a cadence and a drawl I’m the pines behind the graveyard, and the cool beneath their shade, where the boys have left their beer cans I am weeds between the graves.
My porches sag and lean with old black men and children Their sleep is filled with dreams, I never can fulfill them I am a town.
I am a church beside the highway where the ditches never drain I’m a Baptist like my daddy, and Jesus knows my name I am memory and stillness, I am lonely in old age; I am not your destination I am clinging to my ways I am a town.
I’m a town in Carolina, I am billboards in the fields I’m an old truck up on cinder blocks, missing all my wheels I am Pabst Blue Ribbon, American, and “Southern Serves the South” I am tucked behind the Jaycees sign, on the rural route I am a town
Every time I hear this song it triggers not only a movie….. but a movie of my life….I know the places of which she so eloquently sings.
Based on the above, I really wasn’t surprised when I heard late last year that Mary was going to release a new album, called Songs From the Movie, consisting of some of her best songs re-recorded with full orchestration. After listening to this album for the past couple of months I’m happy to tell you that it’s a thing of great beauty. Although I already have have all of the original versions of these songs in my music collection, the new orchestrated versions compliment Mary’s great cinematic lyrics and make them essential additions to my music library. Here are three great songs from that album to let you experience what I’m trying to describe…..
I’ve waited way to long to discuss Jason Isbell’s, Southeastern, album that was released last year. It has been on heavy rotation in my car over the past several months.
Jason grew up very close to where I live in North Alabama so I feel compelled to support him based on just that but let me tell you……he deserves my support, and yours, based on raw talent. He is, without a doubt, one the favorite new singer/songwriters that I have discovered in years.
Jason may be best known as a member of Drive By Truckers but for the last 6-7 years he has focused on his solo career. His hard work paid off with the release of Southeastern which was, and continues to be, a huge hit. Tonight I have two of my favorite songs from that album for you. First up is Traveling Alone followed by a live performance of Different Days.
My first offering for this Two’fer Tuesday post comes to us from Iceland by way of Sindri Már Sigfússon side project Sin Fang. His album Flowers was released last year and featured Look At The Light which is the song I have for you today. I think you will like…..if you give it a listen……
Sin Fang – Look At The Light
The bonus is a live Sin Fang performance on Look At The Light……
My second offering for this Two’fer Tuesday post is from indie rocker Kurt Vile (pictured above) who released his fifth album, Walking on a Pretty Daze, last year. This album features much longer songs that his other releases and I have to say I really like the Neil Young kind of extended jam sound. Here’s the title track from that album so you can see what you think.
Kurt Vile – Walkin on a Pretty Day
The bonus is a live Kurt Vile performance of Walkin on a Pretty Day
Al Kooper! Now….here’s the story about how Al Kooper saved the day by sitting in on the recording of Like a Rolling Stone without ever having been invited. I pieced this story together from two key sources;
An April 11, 2014 interview with Al that appeared in the Wall Street Journal
The Wikipedia article about Like A Rolling Stone
We will start with the Wikipedia article:
The recording sessions were produced by Tom Wilson on June 15–16, 1965, in Studio A of Columbia Records, 799 Seventh Avenue, in New York City. In addition to Bloomfield, the other musicians enlisted were Paul Griffin on piano, Joe Macho, Jr. on bass, Bobby Gregg on drums, and Bruce Langhorne on tambourine, all booked by Wilson. Gregg and Griffin had previously worked with Dylan and Wilson on Bringing It All Back Home.
On the first day, five takes of the song were recorded in a markedly different style from the eventual release—a 3/4 waltz time, with Dylan on piano. The lack of sheet music meant the song was played by ear. However the essence of the song was discovered in the course of the chaotic session. They did not reach the first chorus until the fourth take, but after the following harmonica fill Dylan interrupted, saying, “My voice is gone, man. You wanna try it again?” This take was subsequently released on The Bootleg Series Volumes 1–3 (Rare & Unreleased) 1961–1991.The session ended shortly afterwards.
When the session re-convened the following day, June 16, Al Kooper joined the proceedings as a guest of Tom Wilson. Al picks up the story from this point in the Wall Street Journal interview…….
Question: How did you manage to play on a session you weren’t invited to: “Like A Rolling Stone?”
I was 21 by that time and because I wrote songs I knew a lot of producers. They would hire me to plan on sessions. So I was friends with Dylan’s producer (Tom Wilson). When he found out I was a Dylan fan he invited me to a session, not to play but to sit in the control room and watch. So I thought, I want to play on that record . I was practicing the guitar to be ready and I got there early–I wanted to pull this off before Tom Wilson could stop it. I got there 45 minutes early. But then like five minutes after I got there so did Dylan and he brought Mike Bloomfield. So I heard Bloomfield play and went into the control room where I belonged. I never heard anyone play like that, much less someone who appeared to be my age.
After a couple of rehearsal takes, Wilson moved Griffin from Hammond organ to piano. Al saw his opportunity and jumped at it but he had a couple of challenges to over come. We will let him continue the story from his Wall Street Journal interview:
Question: Then, long story short, you snuck in and played and Wilson didn’t kick you out. Had you played a Hammond organ before?
Yes, but I didn’t know how to turn it on-it’s very complicated. Also I didn’t know how to use all the controls. But (keyboardist Paul Griffin, who had moved to piano for the track) left it turned on and whatever the settings were that’s what I played.
Now let’s go back to the Wikipedia article to finish the story…..
Wilson, surprised to see Kooper at the organ, nevertheless allowed him to play on the track. Upon hearing a playback of the song, Dylan insisted that the organ be turned up in the mix, despite Wilson’s protestations that Kooper was “not an organ player.”
This session saw 15 recorded takes. The song had by now evolved into its familiar form, in 4/4 time with Dylan on electric guitar. After the fourth take—the master take that was released as a single—Wilson happily commented, “That sounds good to me.” Nevertheless, Dylan and the band persisted in recording the song 11 more times.
So, as they say, the rest was history. Al Kooper, an uninvited participant in the recording process, playing an instrument that he really wasn’t very familiar with, managed to improvise an organ riff that became one of the key elements of what is now widely recognized as one of the best songs of all time. That my friends is one of the best stories in rock history in my opinion.
Al went to to have quite a career but we will save most of that story for another day. Let me leave you with just one more tidbit. One of the great things that Al Kooper did later in career was to discover Lynyrd Skynyrd. The signature track of Lynyrd Skynyrd is a little ditty called Free Bird which happens to have a signature organ introduction. Guess who was in the studio playing that organ……yep it was none other that Al. Let’s listen….
This is the ninth in a long running series of posts that highlight rock songs featuring someone interesting sitting in on the recording session. For this series I post the song on one day and identify who is sitting in the next couple of days. I hope you enjoy the concept and maybe learn some interesting music history in the process.
My selection for today’s post is Like A Rolling Stone by Bob Dylan. This, now iconic, 1965 Dylan song has been named by Rolling Stone magazine as the greatest song of all time but getting it down on tape almost 50 years ago ended up being quite a challenge. The session was saved by a musician that wasn’t invited to sit and that ended up playing an instrument that they didn’t even know how to turn on. This is truly one of the great stories of rock music. I will give you all the details tomorrow including the identity of the musician that sat in uninvited and helped make rock history.
In the meantime let’s listen to the song. To listen, click on the link below which will take you to the official video for the song which has some really cool interactive features. I think you will enjoy it!
Now it’s your chance to show off your knowledge of music history. Post a comment with your guess about the identity of the musician that was the hero of the Like A Rolling Stone recording session. I will identify the the first person who gives the correct answer in tomorrow’s post.
The Dum Dum Girls are an American band that was formed in 2008. They just recently popped onto my radar and I have to say that I’m entranced at this point. Their new album, Too True, was released earlier this year and it is a really solid effort. Here are two of my favorite songs from the album. See what you think.
Are You OK
Wondering where the group’s name came from? I’m betting it has something to do with the Iggy Pop song Dum Dum Boys….let’s listen and you can make up your own mind…..
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame class of 2014 was an interesting mix of musical styles. Let’s take a quick look at the inductees and celebrate their accomplishments.
Peter, already inducted as a member of Genesis was an obvious choice. I’ve picked Here Comes The Flood from his first solo album, to celebrate his indiction.
Here Comes The Flood – Peter Gabriel
Kiss was my guilty pleasure during the 70s and I saw them live multiple times. To this day they were the most entertaining act I have ever seen. Today, I’m featuring Beth from, the Destroyer album, which was sung by drummer Peter Kriss and shows a softer side of the group.
Beth – Destroyer
I was impressed by the induction speech for the group by Tom Morello so I included it for your review.
Good evening, I’m Tom Morello.
They are four of the most recognizable faces on the planet, and one of the most iconic and badass bands of all time—tonight is the night that Kiss enters the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Growing up, Kiss was my favorite band—and it was not easy being a Kiss fan. Just as Kiss were relentlessly persecuted by critics, their fans were relentlessly persecuted by the self appointed arbiters of taste in middle schools and high schools across America. Arguments and even fistfights were not uncommon. I recall as a 15-year-old telling one bully, “You can kiss my Kiss-loving ass!” because Kiss was never a critics’ band, Kiss was a PEOPLE’s band. And so I waited in a long line on a bitter cold Chicago morning to buy a ticket for my first concert, a Kiss concert. I was especially thrilled because imprinted on the ticket were words that hinted that it was going to be a special event. The ticket said “A partial view of Kiss.” I was certain this meant the band were going to reveal some new secret corner of their artistic souls. In reality it meant that my seat was behind a pole. Still, that concert was the most exciting, cathartic, loudest and most thrilling two hours of live music I’ve seen to this day.
While there is a often debate about who should and shouldn’t be in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, I think the criteria are actually quite simple: IMPACT, INFLUENCE and AWESOMENESS. Kiss have all three in spades.
Impact? Kiss have sold over 100 million albums worldwide. They have 28 gold albums in the United States alone. That’s more than any other American rock band in history. Their theatrics were indisputably groundbreaking, but it was Kiss’ MUSIC that had an impact on ME. All four guys wrote great songs. All four guys were great LEAD singers. They practically invented the live album with Kiss Alive!. Then came Destroyer,Rock and Roll Over, Love Gun, Alive II, Dynasty, all exploding with killer riffs, anthemic choruses and screaming solos that for 40 years have been filling arenas and stadiums around the world.
Influence? Simply put, Kiss is the band that made me and millions of others love rock and roll. What Elvis and the Beatles were to previous generations, Kiss were to us. They propelled millions of young people to pick up instruments. Their influence is everywhere. From Metallica to Lady Gaga, Kiss have inspired thousands of artists of diverse genres, some of whom may be on a Hall of Fame trajectory themselves. They’ve been a formative influence on members of Tool, Pearl Jam, Alice In Chains, Slipknot, Garth Brooks, Pantera, Foo Fighters, Motley Crue, Lenny Kravitz, White Zombie, Soundgarden, Nine Inch Nails…and Rage Against The Machine, to name just a few.
Ok. Impact? Check. Influence? Check. And the final criteria? Awesomeness. There’s a simple test for that. What if you had never seen or heard Kiss before? What if you had never heard a note of their music, never viewed a YouTube clip, never seen a reality show featuring any of the members? And what if you wandered into a divey club in your hometown and saw Kiss in all their glory thrashing the place to the ground? One guy belching fire and spraying blood past his gargantuan tongue. A drum riser bursting through the roof. A guitar player so incredible his axe billowed smoke and shot rockets. A frontman flying back and forth across the joint like a superhero Tarzan. All of them in frightening horror movie/comic book superstar, sexifying kabuki make up. All of them in black and silver warrior bondage gear and 7 inch platform heels. The place blowing up with explosions, screeching with sirens, raining confetti, all to the pounding soundtrack of bareknuckle badass heavy duty liberating rock and roll. What would you say if you saw THAT? You’d say, “That band’s fucking AWESOME and deserves to be in the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame!!” That’s what you’d say.
Eric Carr, Vinnie Vincent, Mark St. John, Bruce Kulick, Eric Singer and Tommy Thayer have all been important in extending and expanding Kiss’ impressive legacy and they deserve a round of applause. But tonight we honor the fearsome foursome; the four original, founding members of Kiss. The Demon, Gene Simmons—he’s the God of Thunder, he’s Dr. Love. He’s Beatles-like bass on the bottom, a bat lizard Bela Lugosi on the top. The Starchild, Paul Stanley—the heart throb ringmaster of Kiss’ Psycho Circus. His vision, talent and dedication over four decades have made Kiss the band it is today. The Space Man, Ace Frehley—my first guitar hero. He designed the band’s iconic logo and blazed unforgettable, timeless licks across their greatest records. And The Cat, Peter Criss—jungle rhythms, jazz fills, and the writer and singer of the band’s biggest hit, the world’s first power ballad, “Beth.” Tonight we also honor the fifth member of the band without whom this night could never have happened. Tonight we honor The Kiss Army, generations of fiercely loyal fans who are celebrating this long overdue induction all over the planet tonight.
Tonight proves, beyond any shadow of a doubt, that the high school bullies and the critics were mistaken. We Kiss fans were right. So let’s celebrate.
I misspoke earlier when I said that tonight Kiss enters the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame. That’s ALMOST right. Because tonight…it’s not the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Tonight it’s the Rock and Roll All Night And Party Every Day Hall of Fame. And so without further ado…Gene Simmons, Paul Stanley, Ace Frehley, Peter Criss.
You wanted the best and you got the best, the hottest band in the world…Kiss.
I was older by the time that Nirvana burst onto the scene in the 90’s so I was never a big fan; however, their talent and influence on music is undeniable. Let’s listen to a great unplugged performance Come as You are from 1993. While you are listening you can read Michael Stipe’s induction speech for the group
Come As You Are – Unplugged 1993
Good evening. I’m Michael Stipe and I’m here to induct Nirvana into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
When an artists offers an idea, a perspective, it helps us all to see who we are. And it wakes up, and it pushes us forward towards our collective and individual potential. It makes us — each of us — able to see who we are more clearly. It’s progression and progressive movement. It’s the future staring us down in the present and saying, “C’mon, let’s get on with it. Here we are. Now.”
I embrace the use of the word “artist” rather than “musician” because the band Nirvana were artists in every sense of the word. It is the highest calling for an artist, as well as the greatest possible privilege to capture a moment, to find the zeitgeist, to expose our struggles, our aspirations, our desires. To embrace and define a period of time. That is my definition of an artist.
Nirvana captured lightning in a bottle. And now, per the dictionary — off the Internet — in defining “lightning in a bottle” as, “Capturing something powerful and elusive, and then being able to hold it and show it to the world.”
Kurt Cobain, Krist Novoselic and Dave Grohl were Nirvana. The legacy and the power of their defining moment has become, for us, indelible. Like my band, R.E.M., Nirvana came from a most unlikely place. Not a cultural city-center like London, San Francisco, Los Angeles or even New York — or Brooklyn — but from Aberdeen, Washington in the Pacific Northwest, a largely blue-collar town just outside of Seattle.
Krist Novoselic said Nirvana came out of the American hardcore scene of the 1980s — this was a true underground. It was punk rock, where the many bands or musical styles were eclectic. We were a product of a community of youth looking for a connection away from the mainstream. The community built structures outside of the corporate, governmental sphere, independent and decentralized. Media connected through the copy machine, a decade before the Internet, as we know it, came to be. This was social networking in the face.
Dave Grohl said, “We were drop-outs, making minimum wage, listening to vinyl, emulating our heroes — Ian MacKaye, Little Richard — getting high, sleeping in vans, never expecting the world to notice.”
Solo artists almost have it easier than bands — bands are not easy. You find yourself in a group of people who rub each other the wrong way and exactly the right way. And you have chemistry, zeitgeist, lightning in a bottle and a collective voice to help pinpoint a moment, to help understand what it is that we’re going through. You see this is about community and pushing ourselves. Nirvana tapped into a voice that was yearning to be heard.
Keep in mind the times: This was the late Eighties, early Nineties. America, the idea of a hopeful, democratic country, had been practically dismantled by Iran-Contra, by AIDS, by the Reagan/Bush Sr. administrations.
But with their music, their attitude, their voice, by acknowledging the political machinations of petty but broad-reaching, political arguments, movements and positions that had held us culturally back, Nirvana blasted through all that with crystalline, nuclear rage and fury. Nirvana were kicking against the system, bringing complete disdain for the music industry and their definition of corporate, mainstream America, to show a sweet and beautiful — but fed-up — fury, coupled with howling vulnerability.
Lyrically exposing our frailty, our frustrations, our shortcomings. Singing of retreat and acceptance over triumphs of an outsider community with such immense possibility, stymied or ignored, but not held down or held back by the stupidity and political pettiness of the times. They spoke truth, and a lot of people listened.
They picked up the mantle in that particular battle, but they were singular, and loud, and melodic, and deeply original. And that voice. That voice. Kurt, we miss you. I miss you.
Nirvana defined a moment, a movement for outsiders: for the fags; for the fat girls; for the broken toys; the shy nerds; the Goth kids from Tennessee and Kentucky; for the rockers and the awkward; for the fed-up; the too-smart kids and the bullied. We were a community, a generation — in Nirvana’s case, several generations — in the echo chamber of that collective howl, and Allen Ginsberg would have been very proud, here.
That moment and that voice reverberated into music and film, politics, a worldview, poetry, fashion, art, spiritualism, the beginning of the Internet and so many fields in so many ways in our lives. This is not just pop music — this is something much greater than that.
These are a few artists who rub each other the wrong way, and exactly the right way, at the right time: Nirvana. It is my honor to call to the stage Krist Novoselic and Dave Grohl.
Hall and Oates
I was a huge Hall and Oates fan early in their career (think Abandoned Luncheonette) but not so much after they moved into their more popular pop phase in the 80’s. If you weren’t paying close attention in the late 70’s you might have missed their underrated rock album called Beauty on the Backstreet. Let’s listen to Bad Habits and Infections from that album to celebrate their induction into the Hall.
Bad Habits and Infections – Beauty On The Backstreet
Linda, Linda, Linda……… It’s about damn time that she finally gets into the Hall of Fame. To celebrate here is Linda’s great performance of J. D Souther’s Prisoner In Disguise. By the way, that’s J.D. singing harmony. If you read Glenn Frey’s induction speech below you will discover that J.D. and Linda were a couple early in her career.
Prisoner In Disguise – Prisoner In Disguise
Hello, everybody. I’m Glenn Frey and it is my great pleasure tonight to induct Linda Ronstadt into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. I’d like to start by saying it’s about time. It was my selfish wish that Linda would have been inducted in 1998 with the Eagles, Fleetwood Mac, the Mamas and Papas and Santana. But that time has passed, the time is now, and Linda’s music and legacy give us so much to celebrate and contemplate.
In the late-1960s, after playing in various folk groups in her hometown of Tuscon, Arizona, Linda moved to Los Angeles and became a member of the Stone Poneys. They made three albums together and had one hit, ‘Different Drum.’ When the group broke up in 1968, ready or not, Linda became a solo artist. I first met Linda in 1970 at the Troubadour bar. For my part, it was love at first sight. There was just one problem: a guitar-slinging, love-rustler from Amarillo, Texas named John David Souther. He beat me to the punch, which would become a pattern throughout our careers — thank God he never met my wife.
So Linda and I, we became friends, and in the spring of 1971, she hired me and a singing drummer from Linden, Texas named Don Henley to play in her back-up band. From the first rehearsal, I felt we were working on a style of music none of us had ever heard before. Two years later, people called it “country-rock.” While touring with Linda that summer, Don and I told her that we wanted to start our own band, and she, more than anyone else, helped us put together the Eagles. That’s right. And later, she gave our careers a big shot in the arm by recording our song, ‘Desperado.’
Between 1969 and 1973, she made four solo albums. They were all really good, but they were laying the groundwork for what would be her breakthrough album, ‘Heart Like a Wheel,’ produced by Peter Asher. 1974 was the first of many magic years in Linda’s career. She found herself in a place that all artists dream of, when the producer and the material, the singer and the players all come together and something otherworldly happens in the recording studio, This was ‘Heart Like a Wheel,’ an album for all-time. The haunting title track, Linda’s deceptively simple arrangement of ‘Guess It Doesn’t Matter Anymore,’ the Hank Williams classic, ‘I Can’t Help It if I’m Still in Love With You’ and the smash ‘You’re No Good,’ kept this album in the charts for 51 weeks. And Linda became a star.
Peter and Linda went on to record five more albums, choosing material from songwriters she loved and admired. Songs like ‘Love Is a Rose,’ ‘Tracks of My Tears,’ ‘Heat Wave,’ ‘That’ll Be the Day,’ ‘It’s So Easy,’ ‘Blue Bayou,’ ‘Poor Poor Pitiful Me,’ ‘Tumblin’ Dice,’ ‘Back in the U.S.A.,’ ‘Ooh Baby Baby,’ ‘Blowin’ Away’ and ‘When Will I Be Loved.’
By the end of the 1970s, she was known as “The Queen of Country-Rock.” Uncomfortable with that label — or any other label, for that matter — she longed to break out and try things beyond rock and roll. She went to New York to sing the role of Mabel in Gilbert & Sullivan’s ‘Pirates of Penzance.’ She knocked it out of Central Park, and was nominated for a Tony.
While living and working in New York, she decided to make a jazz album — a standards album, if you will. She teamed with legendary arranger Nelson Riddle and made not one, but three records, each one an impeccable work of musical art. When the first album, ‘What’s New,’ was released, it sold three million copies and spent 81 weeks on the Billboard album chart.
For the longest time, she wanted to sing and record with two dear friends, Emmylou Harris and Dolly Parton. They called their partnership ‘Trio,’ and they made two gorgeous records together. When the first Trio album was released, it was certified platinum, it won a Grammy and a CMA.
Always reaching, always stretching, Linda had yet another dream. She wanted to record an album of Mexican songs, sung entirely in Spanish. Her record company freaked out. But she gathered the finest musicians in their field and recorded ‘Canciones de Mi Padre,’ the songs of my father. Upon release in 1987, it went double platinum…in a day. It sold millions of records worldwide and is the biggest-selling non-English language album in American recording history.
I wish I had the time to share with you the fascinating stories, you know, of all the talented people she’s worked with over the years. They’re all part of her music family — Linda’s always been about family.
Linda Ronstadt recorded 31 albums. She sold over 100 million records and had a career that spanned five decades. She has been a shining example and a true inspiration to every woman who ever stood in front of a microphone and sang her heart out. And through it all, she remains nothing but authentic. You see, Linda lives in a place where art trumps commerce, where self-exploration trumps self-exploitation, where hard work and integrity trump fame and failure. She never wanted to be a star, she just wanted to make good music.
Although Linda is now retired and does not travel anymore, she sends you all her very best wishes and a heartfelt “Thank you.” She is one of the greatest voices of all-time, and she shared her voice with beauty, grace and love. So on behalf of your family and your friends, your peers and music fans from all over the world, it’s my honor to say, “Welcome to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Linda Ronstadt!
Cat Stevens is an amazing talent and so deserves this honor. Father and Son, which I have featured below, meant a lot to me back in the 70’s when I was on the “Son” side of the song. Today it means a lot more to me looking at it from the perspective of the “Father”.
Father and Son – Tea For The Tillerman
The E Street Band
The E Street Band, Bruce’s trusty band of sidekicks finally got the recognition that they deserved this year. You can’t really appreciate the greatness of the band from a studio track so today I have featured a performance of Jungleland from 1975. Brilliant!
Jungleland – Live At Hammersmith 1975
Of course there was only one choice to induct the band…..here is what Bruce had to say in his speech……
Good evening. In the beginning, there was Mad Dog Vini Lopez, standing in front of me, fresh out of jail, his head shaved, in the Mermaid Room of the Upstage Club in Asbury Park. He told me he had a money-making outfit called Speed Limit 25, they were looking for a guitarist and was I interested? I was broke, so I was. So the genesis point of the E Street Band was actually a group that Vini Lopez asked me to join to make a few extra dollars on the weekend.
Shortly thereafter, I met Dan Federici. He was draped in three quarter-length leather, had his red hair slicked back with his wife Flo — she was decked out in the blonde, bouffant wig — and they were straight out of Flemington, NJ.
So Vini, Danny, myself, along with bass player Vinnie Roslin, were shortly woodshedding out of a cottage on the main street of a lobster-fishing town: Highlands, NJ. We first saw Garry Tallent along with Southside Johnny when they dragged two chairs onto an empty dance floor as I plugged my guitar into the upstage wall of sound. I was the new kid in a new town, and these were the guys who owned the place. They sat back and looked at me like, “Come on, come on, punk. Bring it. Let’s see what you got.” And I reached back and I burnt their house down.
Garry Tallent’s great bass-playing and Southern gentleman’s presence has anchored my band for 40 years. Thank you, Garry! Thank you, sir.
Then one night, I wandered in the Upstage, and I was dumbstruck by a baby-faced, 16-year-old David Sancious. Davey was very, very unusual: He was a young, black man who — in 1968, Asbury Park, which was not a peaceful place — crossed the tracks in search of musical adventure, and he blessed us with his talent and his love. He was my roomie in the early, two-guys-to-one-six-dollar-motel-room years of the E Street Band. He was good, he kept his socks clean; it was lovely. And he was carrying around a snake around his neck at that time, so I lucked out with Davey as my roommate. [laughs] AND, Davey’s the only member of the group who ever actually lived on E Street!
So I walked in and he was on the club’s organ. And Davey’s reserved now, but at the time, he danced like Sly Stone and he played like Booker T, and he poured out blues and soul and jazz and gospel and rock & roll and he had things in his keyboard that we just never heard before. It was just so full of soul and so beautiful. Davey, we love you, and we still miss you so, you know?
But predating all of this was Steve Van Zandt. Steven: frontman, hitman. I walk into the Middletown Hullabaloo Club; he was the frontman for a band called the Shadows. He had on a tie that went from here down to his feet. All I remember is that he was singing the Turtles’ “Happy Together.” During a break at the Hullabaloo Club in New Jersey, he played 55 minutes on and five minutes off, and if there was a fight, he had to rush onstage and start playing again.
So I met Stevie there and he soon became my bass player first, then lead guitarist. My consigliere, my dependable devil’s advocate whenever I need one. The invaluable ears for everything that I create, I always get ahold of him, and fan number one. So he’s my comic foil onstage, my fellow producer/arranger and my blood, blood, blood, blood, blood brother. Let’s keep rolling for as many lives as they’ll give us, alright?
Years and bands went by: Child, Steel Mill, the Bruce Springsteen Band — they were all some combo of the above-mentioned gang. Then I scored a solo recording contract with Columbia Records, and I argued to get to choose my recording “sidemen,” which was a misnomer, in this case, if there ever was one.
So, I chose my band and my great friends, and we finally landed on E Street — the rare, rock & roll hybrid of solo artistry and a true rock & roll band.
But one big thing was missing … It was a dark and stormy night, a Nor’easter rattled the street lamps on Kingsley Blvd. and in walked Clarence Clemons. I’d been enthralled by the sax sounds of King Curtis and I searched for years for a great rock & roll saxophonist. And that night Clarence walked in, walked towards the stage and he rose, towering to my right on the Prince’s tiny stage, about the size of this podium, and then he unleashed the force of nature that was the sound and the soul of the Big Man. In that moment, I knew that my life had changed. Miss you, love you Big Man. Wish that he was with us tonight. This would mean a great, great deal to Clarence.
An honorable mention and shout-out to Ernie “Boom” Carter. The drummer who played on one song only: “Born to Run.” He picked a good one. So here’s to you, Ernie. Thank you, thank you.
Thanks, of course, Max Weinberg and Roy Bittan, who answered an ad in the Village Voice. And they beat out 60 other drummers and keyboardists for the job. It was the indefatigable, almost dangerously dedicated Mighty Max Weinberg and the fabulous five finger of Professor Roy Bittan. They refined and they defined the sounds of the E Street Band that remains our calling card around the world to this day. Thank you, Roy. Thank you, Max. They are my professional hitmen. I love them both.
Then, 10 years later, Nils Lofgren and Patti Scialfa joined just in time to assist us in the rebirth of Born in the U.S.A. Nils, one of the world’s great, great rock guitarists, with a choir boy’s voice, has given me everything he’s had for the past 30 years. Thank you, Nils. So much love.
And Patti Scialfa — a Jersey Girl — who came down one weekend from New York City and sat in with a local band, Cats on a Smooth Surface and Bobby Bandiera at the Stone Pony, where she sang a killer version of the Exciters’ “Tell ‘Em.” She had a voice that was full of a little Ronnie Spector, a little Dusty Springfield and a lot of something that was her very, very own. After she was done, I walked up, I introduced myself at the back bar, we grabbed a couple of stools and we sat there for the next hour or thirty years or so — talking about music and everything else. So we added my lovely red-headed woman and she broke the boy’s club!
Now, I wanted our band to mirror our audience, and by 1984, that band had grown men and grown women. But, her entrance freaked us out so much that opening night of the Born in the U.S.A. tour, I asked her to come into my dressing room and see what she was gonna wear! So she had on kind of a slightly feminine T-shirt and I stood there, sort of sweating. At my feet, I had a little Samsonite luggage bag that I carried with me, and I kicked it over. It was full of all my smelly, sweaty T-shirts and I said, “Just pick one of these, it’ll be fine.” She’s not wearing one tonight. But Patti, I love you, thank you for your beautiful voice, you changed my band and my life. Thank you for our beautiful children.
So, real bands — real bands are made primarily from the neighborhood. From a real time and real place that exists for a little while, then changes and is gone forever. They’re made from the same circumstances, the same needs, the same hungers, culture. They’re forged in the search of something more promising than what you were born into. These are the elements, the tools, and these are the people who built the place called E Street.
Now, E Street was a dance; was an idea; was a wish; was a refuge; was a home; was a destination; was a gutter dream; and finally, it was a band. We struggled together, and sometimes, we struggled with one another. We bathed in the glory, and often, the heartbreaking confusion of our rewards together. We’ve enjoyed health, and we’ve suffered illness and aging and death together. We took care of one another when trouble knocked, and we hurt one another in big and small ways.
But in the end, we kept faith in each other. And one thing is for certain: As I said before in reference to Clarence Clemons — I told a story with the E Street Band that was, and is, bigger than I ever could have told on my own. And I believe that settles that question.
But that is the hallmark of a rock and roll band — the narrative you tell together is bigger than anyone could have told on your own. That’s the Rolling Stones; the Sex Pistols; that’s Bob Marley and the Wailers. That’s James Brown and His Famous Flames. That’s Neil Young and Crazy Horse.
So, I thank you my beautiful men and women of E Street. You made me dream and love bigger than I could have ever without you. And tonight I stand here with just one regret: that Danny and Clarence couldn’t be with us here tonight.
Sixteen years ago, a few days before my own induction, I stood in my darkened kitchen along with Steve Van Zandt. Steve was just returning to the band after a 15-year hiatus and he was petitioning me to push the Hall of Fame to induct all of us together. I listened, and the Hall of Fame had its rules, and I was proud of my independence. We hadn’t played together in 10 years, we were somewhat estranged, we were just taking the first small steps over reforming. We didn’t know what the future would bring. And perhaps the shadows of some of the old grudges held some sway.
It was a conundrum, as we’ve never quite been fish nor fowl. And Steve was quiet, but persistent. And at the end of our conversation, he just said, “Yeah, I understand. But Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band — that’s the legend.”
So I’m proud to induct, into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the heart-stopping, pants-dropping, hard-rocking, booty-shaking, love-making, earth-quaking, Viagra-taking, justifying, death-defying, legendary E Street Band.
I’m sorry to report that Jesse Winchester passed away yesterday. He was a great singer/songwriter who is better know for other artists interpretations of his songs than for his own recordings of them. Here is Jesse’s performance of his song Biloxi (from his self titled debut album) followed by Jimmy Buffet’s cover version version (from Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes).
I always had great respect for Jesse and his personal convictions that caused him to move to Canada in the 60’s rather than to be drafted into the military and sent to Vietnam. He was granted amnesty in the 70’s by President Carter. Jesse was back home in the US living in Virginia when he passed away yesterday.
This song had me immediately with its great female rock/pop group sound. I miss the Go Gos and the Bangles!
Cloud Control – Scar
When this song hits the chorus it make my heart sing! It transports me back to much of the great pop group music I listened to as a teenager.
Warm Soda – Tell Me In A Whisper
I was a big fan of the Flaming Groovies back in the 1970s. They single handedly tried to bring back mid-60s rock sound. Warm Soda is a 2014 vocal group trying to bring back the Flaming Groovies and thereby bring back the mid-1960s power pop sound. I know this sounds way too complicated so just listen, enjoy, and be amazed.
In 1974 I was 21, a full time college student, working three jobs, and somehow having the time of my life. Music was a major factor in my life and, fortunately for me, there was an amazing amount of wonderful new music every month. Let’s take a quick look at some of the key album releases during the first three months of 1974. By the way, if you are interested, the picture above is Big Star (more about them below).
So get ready, set aside some quality time, and head back to the first quarter of 1974 with me. Enjoy…….
January 1974 Album Releases
The Way We Were-Barbara Streisand
I’m a rocker at heart and it probably surprises many of you that I bought this album when it was released but ……great music is great music! The only comments I have about the album are: What a voice and what an album. It would have been easy to play the title track but here’s one that I like even better……I think you will like it……
What are you doing for this rest of your like? I ask myself that question a lot more now that I’m older…..
Court and Spark-Joni Mitchell
Joni, part of my holy trinity of Canadian music (Neil, Joni, and Gordon), was continuing to evolve her musical style. Court and Spark started to add in some jazz elements but lost none of it’s introspection which is what drew me to her in the first place. I’ve learned a lot of lessons in my years and in 1974 Joni choose to write about one of them in a song…..It’s Down To You……
Everything comes and goes
Pleasure moves on too early
And trouble leaves too slow
Just when you’re thinking
You’ve finally got it made
Bad news comes knocking
At your garden gate
Knocking for you
You’re a brute you’re an angel
You can crawl you can fly too
It’s down to you
It all comes down to you
Foghat was an amazing boogie band from the 70’s and has gotten the respect that they deserve in my humble opinion. Here is one of Foghat’s masterpieces that doesn’t get the respect it deserves……Home In My Hand. If you were lucky enough to see them play it live back in the 70’s, as I was, I guarantee that you were entertained…….
Grevious Angel-Gram Parsons
I’ve written about the sad story of Gram Parsons as part of my Southern California Sound series. Grevious Angel was released after Gram’s untimely death in the fall of 1973. Brass Buttons is a classic (Poco did an amazing cover version that you might want to checkout) and you need to hear it straight from the mouth of the writer…..sing it Gram……
January 1974 was a great month for Canadian music releases with Gordon joining Joni in releasing a new album. The title track was one of Gordon’s biggest sellers but you dig a little deeper in the album to find the real treasure……Seven Island Suite…….
Look around at the morning, guess you’re doing the best you can
Surely you know that when you go nobody gives you a hand
Think of the air you’re breathing in, think of the time you waste
Think of the right and wrong and consider the frown on your face
February 1974 Album Releases
Forty years after the release of their debut album, Kiss is finally going to get inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame….it’s about time! This album wasn’t a hit, the band wouldn’t really take off until their release of their double live album, but I’ve got to give it to the boys….they had ambition. Listen to its Kissin’ Time and you will see exactly what I mean……
If you are a reader of this blog you already know that I have a soft spot in my heart for Badfinger and their incredibly sad story. This was the group’s first album after leaving Apple records and unfortunately the end was a lot nearer than anyone foresaw. The song I have for you today from this album was written by Pete Ham, I Miss You………
Damn it Pete….I Miss You! RIP buddy!
Radio City-Big Star
Looking back it seems ironic that Big Star released their second album the same month as the Badfinger release discussed above. September Gurls was maybe the best pop song of the 70’s and to this day very few people have even heard of Big Star…..it’s a fucking tragedy ……
Of course the entire Big Star history is pretty much one big tragedy. I’m reading a biography of Alex Chilton, the band’s lead singer, right now and I’m planning a post dedicated to Big Star’s sad story. Stay tuned for that…..
What Were Once Vices Are Now Habits-Doobie Brothers
The Doobies were going through some significant personnel changes in 1974, and more were on the way, but they managed to put out another great album in 1974. The song that I have for you today makes me want to be floating down a little southern river in a canoe…..laid back without a care in the world….
If you listen closely, you can appreciate some amazing steel guitar added by Skunk Baxter. He would be an official member of the group by 1975 as the band’s sound started to change. More about that next……
A New Life-Marshall Tucker Band
This was Marshall Tucker’s second release and it confirmed that they were not just a one trick pony. The title track from this album highlights everything that makes Marshall Tucker Band one of the best bands from the 70 (great vocals, amazing musicianship, and great songwriting)…..listen and be amazed……
March 1974 Album Releases
I’m a sucker for bands named after the states that they’re from and Kansas is one of the best examples of such a band. This was the debut album for Kansas and if you listen to the lead off song and it immediately let’s you know that you should expect great things from this band……
Bridge Of Sighs-Robin Trower
Jimi Hendrix was gone but we still had Robin to blow our minds. You can’t go wrong with the title track from this album….absolutely Epic……..
On The Border-Eagles
1974 found the Eagles, one of my favorite Southern California Sound bands, starting to move towards a more rock oriented sound. You wouldn’t know it from the song I have for you today, Ol’ 55, one of the few songs on the album not written by the group. The amazing Tom Waits wrote the song and the Eagles performance of it is something to be treasured. It brings back some amazing memories of driving back home from various girlfriends houses as the sun was coming up in my rear view mirror……
Get Your Wings-Aerosmith
On their sophomore album Aerosmith fully hit their stride. It was an amazing album and the start of a string of releases that would make Aerosmith one of my all time favorites. Let’s listen to Track 5 from the album, SOS (Too Bad)……in case you are wondering SOS stands for Same Old Shit…….
Somethin’s Happening-Peter Frampton
In 1974 something was at least on the verge of happening for Peter. The release of Frampton Comes Alive in 1976 would make him a superstar but you could see it coming by listening to this 1974 release. Let’s listen to the title song from the album, Somethin’s Happening……