Tag Archives: 1985

Asbury Park, 854 miles that way

It’s all over Facebook and Twitter today. Bruce Springsteen’s “Born To Run” LP was released 40 years ago today, on Aug. 25, 1975.

Many of my friends are Springsteen fans, and I understand and appreciate their passion for The Boss. I just don’t share it, at least not with that intensity.

I vividly remember when Springsteen was the hottest thing in music, making the covers of Time and Newsweek in the same week. That came in late October 1975, a couple of months after “Born To Run” came out.

That was during the first semester of my freshman year of college, when I was stepping out into the world on my own for the first time. Into that new world came that new sound. I remember thinking: So this is what music is like now.

springsteen born to run lp

But at 18, I just wasn’t sophisticated enough to appreciate it all.

As you might imagine, Springsteen sounded like nothing else we’d heard in central Wisconsin. The Stone Pony in Asbury Park, New Jersey, was 854 miles from where I lived. It might as well have been halfway around the world.

At the time, I still viewed music largely through the prism of the radio. In the Midwest, Springsteen’s R&B-influenced Jersey Shore rock seemingly wasn’t suited for anything but free-form FM radio, which by late 1975 was starting to fade from the scene. So we didn’t hear a lot of Springsteen, save for the occasional album cut.

Wanting to be sure I wasn’t remembering it wrong, I checked some of the Wisconsin radio charts from that time. There’s no sign of “Born To Run,” the album or the single.

It wasn’t until after those Time and Newsweek covers came out that Springsteen even registered on the charts at Chicago’s WLS, whose playlist often influenced what other Midwest stations played. Even then, “Born To Run” lasted only two weeks on the WLS album charts. At year’s end, “Born To Run” wasn’t among WLS’ Big 89 songs of 1975.

None of my friends were Springsteen fans. Until I met my friend Doug in 1978, that is. He tried to get me to dig Springsteen in the late ’70s. He tried hard. We met halfway, on another member of the extended Springsteen family. I’ve long enjoyed Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes. But I’ve never seen Springsteen live, nor do I have any of his records, much to my son’s chagrin.

Over time, though, I started digging covers, first by others doing Springsteen songs, then by Springsteen doing others’ songs. Here are a couple of those.

daveedmundsde7thlp

“From Small Things (Big Things One Day Come),” Dave Edmunds, from “D.E. 7th,” 1982. It’s out of print but is available digitally. This song, an outtake from “The River” sessions, was given to Edmunds by Springsteen in 1981. Springsteen’s version wasn’t released until 2003.

Springsteen covered “War,” the Motown classic that’s one of my all-time favorites, during his Born in the U.S.A. Tour in 1985.

 

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Filed under August 2015, Sounds

Who’ll follow the Big Man?

Louis Jordan … King Curtis … Sam Butera … Clarence Clemons … all gone.

No one takes their place, but someone must follow.

Who’s the most influential rock ‘n’ roll and R&B sax player out there now? I’ll go with Maceo Parker, but no one else leaps to mind. (And at 68, Parker is just a year younger than Clemons.)

I confessed here long ago that I’ve never been much of a Springsteen fan. That said, I’ve always loved horns, and especially the Big Man’s tenor sax.

One of my favorite albums from the ’80s is Clarence Clemons’ first LP.

In 1983, with Springsteen and the E Street Band between albums and tours, Clemons put together a group on the side. Clarence Clemons and the Red Bank Rockers — named for Red Bank, New Jersey, where Clemons briefly owned a club in the early ’80s — put out one record.

I dug it out last fall and wrote about it on my other blog, The Midnight Tracker.

“Rescue” is full of spirited, blue-collar R&B and rock, the kind you’d hear from a bar band. Which is exactly what the Red Bank Rockers appeared to be, albeit with one well-known sax player.

“A Man In Love” and “Resurrection Shuffle,” Clarence Clemons and the Red Bank Rockers, from “Rescue,” 1983. It’s said to be available on a two-fer CD along with “Hero,” his 1985 solo debut, but it’s hard to find.

The first song is co-written by Clemons and Desmond Child, who at the time was just getting started on his remarkable songwriting career. Keyboard player and producer Ralph Schuckett and Terry Abramson also are credited as co-writers.

The second, of course, is a cover of the old Ashton, Gardner and Dyke song from 1971. This cover alone may be why I bought this record.

The vocals on both are by John “J.T.” Bowen, whose hard-luck story we shared over at The Midnight Tracker.

“Peter Gunn Theme,” Clarence Clemons, from the “Porky’s Revenge” soundtrack, 1985. It’s out of print.

You always wanted to hear this one played by the Big Man, didn’t you? The credits aren’t specific, but I believe he’s backed by Dave Edmunds on guitar.

Finally, there is this …

This song popped up on shuffle earlier today. I immediately got the sense of being at church and hearing the tenor sax preaching a tribute to the Big Man. That is Andrew Love of the Mar-Keys on the tenor sax.

“Let It Be,” the Mar-Keys, 1971, from “Stax Does The Beatles,” 2007. It originally was on “Memphis Experience,” their last Stax LP (available on this two-fer CD with the “Damifiknow!” LP from 1969). I have this tune on “Beatlemania, Volume 2,” a Mojo magazine compilation CD from September 2004.

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Filed under June 2011, Sounds

12 days of Christmas, Day 11

“A Charlie Brown Christmas” was on the other night. Mariah Carey and her mom had their Christmas special, too. “Scrooged” has been on. “Miracle on 34th Street” — the good one, from 1947 — is coming up.

They even screened “Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol” in Santa Monica, California, today. (Did you know that when it aired on NBC in 1962, it was the first animated Christmas special?) That was one of my favorites. Kinda scary in places, but still one of my favorites.

I wonder whether they’re showing some of my favorites from another time.

Gather around the hearth, kids, and hear how MTV once aired Christmas videos. It was the early ’80s, and MTV seemed so cutting-edge at the time. Those old videos seem so quaint and innocent now. Our 15-year-old son would take one look at them, roll his eyes and say, “That’s so corny!”

Absolutely. And it wouldn’t be Christmas without them.

Take 1:

“Christmas Is The Time To Say I Love You,” Billy Squier, 1981, from “A Rock ‘n’ Roll Christmas,” 1995.

Squier lip-syncs it with the MTV VJs and crew on the video. A good memory from that time. It revives the age-old debate: Nina Blackwood or Martha Quinn?

Take 2:

“Rock & Roll Christmas,” George Thorogood and the Destroyers, 1983, from “A Rock ‘n’ Roll Christmas,” 1985.

This once rocked the house at MTV. Mark Goodman gets a nice long smooch from a cutie under the mistletoe at 1:55!

(Is that really John Lee Hooker as Santa Claus? My friend Larry says: “I think that may in fact be Hooker as Santa” and points to the photos of Thorogood and Hooker taken by Bob Leafe at an MTV taping in 1984. “I’d love to know for sure,” Larry says. So would I. Ah, those little mysteries.)

Take 3:

“Run Rudolph Run,” Dave Edmunds, 1982, from “A Different Kind of Christmas,” 1994. The CD is out of print but the song is available digitally.

This is from the MTV New Year’s Eve Rock ‘n’ Roll Ball, so Happy New Year 1987, everyone in the Central time zone!

And some others seen on MTV …

Take 4:

“2000 Miles,” the Pretenders, from “Learning to Crawl,” 1983.

Talk about playing a guitar like ringing a bell, quietly, gracefully. A modern Christmas classic about a loved one gone at Christmas. That it came from an album with so many other great, straight-up rock songs — this was the flip side to “Middle of the Road” — makes it all the more remarkable.

Take 5:

“Do They Know It’s Christmas (single edit),” Band Aid, 1985, from the 12-inch single. It’s out of print but is available on “Now That’s What I Call Christmas!” 2001.

Before “We Are The World,” there was this. In 1984, everyone who was anyone on the UK music scene came together as Band Aid to sing “Do They Know It’s Christmas.” Bob Geldof wrote the words. Midge Ure wrote the music. The song, which benefited hunger relief in Ethiopia, was huge — a solid No. 1 in Britain and close to it in the States.

So, how many of those performers you can name?

Take 6:

“Christmas In Hollis,” Run-D.M.C., from “A Very Special Christmas,” 1987.

This one, as always, is for Doug.

Bonus video!

Grace Jones sings “The Little Drummer Boy” on Pee-Wee Herman’s 1988 Christmas special!

 

And now, a word from our sponsor.

It may just be a Midwestern thing, but this used to be a familiar sight at this time of year. It debuted in 1977; this clip is dated 1981.

A friend who once worked at Miller Brewing in Milwaukee told us people so loved this commercial that they’d start calling the brewery in November to try to find out when it was going to air.

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Filed under Christmas music, December 2010

12 days of Christmas, Day 10

When we started these 12 days of Christmas, I noted that in writing the Three Under the Tree series for the last three years, I picked up a bunch of old Christmas vinyl and CDs, more for you than for me.

In so doing, there were a bunch of records that had more misses than hits. Most of them were used, so there wasn’t a lot of money wasted.

This year, I bought only one Christmas CD, one I’d been seeking for a while. I bought it new, and it turned out to be another one with more misses than hits. So it goes.

Rarely do I come across a Christmas record that doesn’t have something worth hearing. I can think of a couple, but there’s no need to name names.

We’re here to put some nice things in your Christmas stocking, so hope you will enjoy these tunes from records that had some nice moments.

“Christmas Time,” the Mighty Blue Kings, from “The Christmas Album,” 2000. This Chicago group covers a tune by West Coast bluesman Jimmy McCracklin.

“Christmas Is A Special Day,” Fats Domino, from “Christmas Gumbo,” 1993. It’s out of print as such, but is available as “Christmas Is A Special Day,” a 2006 CD re-release with a different cover. Fats wrote this charming little hymn and does it in — what else? — a laid-back New Orleans style.

“We Four Kings (Little Drummer Boy),” the Blue Hawaiians, from “Christmas On Big Island,” 1995. Let a little surf wash into your Christmas.

“Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” Shawn Colvin, from “A Different Kind of Christmas,” 1994. It’s out of print. A lovely, low-key version.

“Merry Christmas Darling,” Deana Carter, from “Father Christmas,” 2001. What makes this cover of the Carpenters song so remarkable is its acoustic arrangement with Carter’s father, veteran Nashville session man Fred Carter, on guitar. Deana Carter sings this in a higher register than did Karen Carpenter — and that may not be for everyone — but she nicely complements her dad. Fred Carter died earlier this year.

“Santa Claus Is Coming To Town,” the Whispers, from “Happy Holidays To You,” 1979. (The buy link is to a 2001 import CD.) Off the same album that delivered “Funky Christmas,” this is a smooth, jazzy arrangement clearly from the late ’70s.

“Joy To The World,” Aretha Franklin, 1994, from “Joy To The World,” 2006. This is an odd little compilation of Christmas songs, gospel songs and show tunes recorded over 30-plus years. This cut features Aretha backed by the Fame Freedom Choir, from the soundtrack to the 1994 remake of “Miracle on 34th Street.” That is about the only nice thing we have to say about any remake of the 1947 classic, long one of our favorite films.

“What Christmas Means To Me,” Darlene Love, from “It’s Christmas, Of Course,” 2007. A cover of the Motown song done first by Stevie Wonder.

“Christmas Is,” Lou Rawls, from “Merry Christmas Ho Ho Ho,” 1967. It’s out of print. This tune starts out with a swinging big-band arrangement, then has Lou channeling Santa Claus midway through before wrapping up with some smooth nightclub cheer. This Percy Faith tune never sounded so good.

“Merry Christmas Baby,” Melissa Etheridge, from “A New Thought For Christmas,” 2008. Etheridge lets it rip on this Charles Brown blues tune.

“Christmas Celebration,” Roomful of Blues, from “Roomful of Christmas,” 1997. The B.B. King version may be more familiar, but this take by the veteran East Coast group is pretty good.

“It’s the Most Wonderful Time,” Pete Jolly, from “Something Festive!” 1968. Long out of print. This is a Christmas sampler from A&M Records. It was sold at B.F. Goodrich tire dealers in 1968. This cut is a cool, stylish, upbeat rendition by the California jazz pianist. (You’ll also find it on “Cool Yule: The Swinging Sound of Christmas,” a UK compilation released in 2004.)

“Blue Christmas,” Ann and Nancy Wilson, from “A Very Special Christmas 2,” 1992. Not a big fan of this tune, which everyone associates with Elvis, but this is a pretty good version. Melissa Etheridge also does it justice.

“What Child Is This,” Reverend Horton Heat, from “We Three Kings,” 2005. An upbeat yet moody take — it feels a little like Morricone — on a song usually done with much reverence.

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Filed under Christmas music, December 2010

I heard the news today

Oh, man …

Amazing Records — my local used record store — is closing in a month.

Jim is packing it up and taking it with him as he leaves our corner of Wisconsin and moves back home to northern California.

As I walked across the front of the store this afternoon, I noted the progress he’d made in clearing the boxes and stacks of LPs and 45s that usually clutter the floor. That’s when Jim dropped the news on me.

Ah, that’s why. And why there’s so much new stock in the bins.

Therein lies the mixed blessing in all of this.

For as long as I’ve been going to Amazing Records, there have been boxes and crates full of records I never got to look through. Jim hadn’t looked through them yet. OK, fair enough.

I’d go through the new arrivals and the dollar bins, then say “So, Jim, what else can I look at today?” Sometimes, he’d point to boxes on the floor under the dollar bins. Sometimes, nothing else.

Now, though, he’s going through everything, separating the wheat from the chaff and trying to sell as many records as he can before he moves. He promises there will be plenty to look through.

I still have a month. Here are a couple of tunes, a couple of covers, from the records I found today.

“Life During Wartime,” the Staple Singers, from “The Staple Singers,” 1985. It’s out of print. This Talking Heads cover didn’t do as well as “Slippery People” had a year earlier. This was the Staples’ last record as a family group.

“It’s Alright Ma (I’m Only Bleeding),” Billy Preston, from “Everybody Likes Some Kind Of Music,” 1973. It’s out of print, save for the Japanese re-issue that’s in the buy link. This is a Bob Dylan cover, of course.

“I’ll be back,” I told Jim.

“Bring lots of money,” he said.

Oh, I’ll try, especially if I pop for that vintage King Curtis LP.

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Filed under March 2010, Sounds

Three under the tree, Vol. 42

Watching that old George Thorogood video last night, it struck me how cutting-edge MTV seemed at the time and how quaint and innocent those old videos seem now.

It sure would be nice to sit down with our 14-year-old son and watch something like that now.

Of course, he’d roll his eyes and say, “Dad! That’s so corny!”

Absolutely. And it wouldn’t be Christmas without it.

Take 1:

“Christmas Is The Time To Say I Love You,” Billy Squier, 1981, from “A Rock ‘n’ Roll Christmas,” 1995.

Here’s a little behind-the-scenes bonus: Bob Leafe was taking photos on the set when Billy Squier and Co. shot that video in the MTV studios. He shares some memories and photos.

Take 2:

“Do They Know It’s Christmas (single edit),” Band Aid, 1985, from the 12-inch single. It’s out of print but is available on “Now That’s What I Call Christmas!” 2001.

Take 3:

“Christmas In Hollis,” Run-D.M.C., from “A Very Special Christmas,” 1987. (This one is for Doug.)

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Filed under December 2009, Sounds

The ABCs of DE, Vol. 10

Our 14-year-old son registered for high school today.

Student fees? Pay the man. School yearbook? Pay the man. School photos? Pay the man. Athletics pass? Pay the man.

No complaints, though. Evan is looking forward to high school. A great adventure, to be sure.

Our old friend Dave Edmunds remembers that adventure in a good tune from a bad film from the mid-’80s.

Those were the days
Them high school nights
You will remember all your life

And …

Those high school nights
They were the best
Those high school nights
Could be the best days of your life

That may not be everyone’s experience, but let’s hope for the best, eh?

daveedmundsporkysostlp

“High School Nights,” Dave Edmunds, from “Porky’s Revenge” original soundtrack, 1985. It’s out of print, but still a pretty good record. Also on it: Jeff Beck, George Harrison, the Fabulous Thunderbirds, Carl Perkins (backed by two-thirds of Stray Cats), Clarence Clemons, Willie Nelson and the impromptu supergroup The Crawling King Snakes — Edmunds and old pals Robert Plant, Phil Collins and bass player Paul Martinez.

Here’s the original video. For maximum enjoyment, crank the volume way up.

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Filed under August 2009, Sounds