music friday

Dave Brubeck, Concord, 1970s. Not sure if we saw Brubeck more than once. The Concord Jazz Festival started in 1969 ... I believe it is still running. It took place each year in Concord, California (Brubeck's birthplace, along with Tom Hanks, and about 15 miles from where I grew up). My wife's dad was in the newspaper business, so he often got free passes to the Festival, plus the Festival was created by a local car dealer and my dad was in that business, so sometimes he got free passes, too. We went to a few of them over the years ... can't remember when, but in the 70s. Brubeck being a local boy who did good, he was always welcome at the Festival. "Take Five" was that rarity, a jazz track that was a crossover hit. It was written by Paul Desmond, who plays sax. Brubeck is on piano, of course, Eugene Wright was on bass (he was probably gone by the time we saw Brubeck), and Joe Morello was the drummer who does wonders with the 54 time. This recording is from 1961:

Clarence Clemons and the Red Bank Rockers, Keystone Palo Alto, 12-3-82. Clarence put this band together to play with while Bruce was working on something, probably Born in the USA. They released one album, Rescue, which wasn't bad, with a singer named J.T. Bowen who could shout with the best of them. On this date, the crowd spent most of the time waiting for Bruce to show up (he didn't). At one point, Clarence teased us by saying they were going to play "Fire", only to perform the Jimi Hendrix song.

Bruce wrote a song for Rescue, "Savin' Up":

Crosby, Stills, and Nash, Candlestick Park, 9-8-84. I wrote about this a few years ago. It took place after a Giants' game ... CS&N set up on the field and played a set. Don't remember a lot about it, except that it happened, and I was there. You can listen to a show from the next day by clicking this link. Meantime, I'll once again post this, the best song Crosby and Nash ever did:

Tracy Chapman, Oakland Coliseum, 9/23/88. Human Rights Now! was a tour to benefit Amnesty International, with a load of stars: Sting, Peter Gabriel, Youssou N'Dour, Tracy Chapman. Bruce and the E Street Band closed the show. This was his 39th birthday ... as I recall, Joan Baez sang "Happy Birthday" to him. Chapman had released her self-titled debut album that year, featuring the runaway hit "Fast Car".

The last show of the Human Rights Now! tour, in Buenos Aires, was the last time Bruce toured with the E Street Band for more than a decade. The crowd in Argentina was bonkers:


bruce, jeep, super bowl

Today, Jeep released their Super Bowl ad for 2021. It features Bruce Springsteen.

Bruce had never done an ad before this. It helps that he isn't hurting for money ... he hasn't had to pick up the extra dough. But now, something changed.

I think it's depressing that he did a commercial.

Nobody is perfect. If you look up to someone, you don't expect perfection, but it is good to feel as if that someone represents our better selves, even when they, like all of us, fuck up.
Call me naïve, but the fact that Bruce Springsteen did a Jeep commercial for the Super Bowl is extremely dispiriting.
 
He doesn't need the money, he doesn't need the exposure. It is rare, if ever, that he could be accused of selling out, which makes this all the more depressing.
 
I do not have much issue with what Bruce says in the commercial. I am uninterested in coming together with the middle, but that's not the problem. The problem is that the one artist who has held out against the use of his work as fodder for advertising has broken the faith. He has many outlets for his message, and there's not much new in what he says in the ad. I just really wish he hadn't decided to do it in a Jeep commercial.

the live music questionaire

Everyone else is doing it, and it seems like a nice sidebar to recent Music Friday posts about concerts.

First concert: Judy Collins, Berkeley Community Theater, March 4, 1967.

Judy collins bct 1967

Last concert: Sleater-Kinney, Fox Theater, Oakland, November 17, 2019.

Best concert: Bruce Springsteen, Winterland, San Francisco, December 15, 1978.

Worst concert: Edgar Winter, San Diego, September, 1975. Brother Johnny was also on the bill, but we left before he came on. Sound was awful, so I can't really say how good/bad Edgar was.

Loudest concert: Neil Young and Crazy Horse, Cow Palace, San Francisco, October 22, 1978. This was the concert filmed for the movie Rust Never Sleeps.

Seen the most: Bruce Springsteen (36 times), Sleater-Kinney (17 times), Lou Reed (a lot), Prince (6), Pink (6), The Clash (5).

Most surprising: Probably an opening act, since by definition I didn't expect much out of them. Examples that come to mind: Rockpile (1979 opening for Blondie), The Gossip (2000? opening for Sleater-Kinney), Matt Nathanson (2006 opening for Pink at the Fillmore).

Next concert: Whatever it is, I fear it will be virtual.

Wish I could have seen: Elvis Presley, '68 Comeback Special sit-down session.


music friday

Last week, I wrote that I was "going to turn Music Friday into a random look at concerts I've attended over the years." The choices aren't really random this week ... Bruce Springsteen has a new album out, so I'll showcase Bruce and three acts I saw with him.

One thing the pandemic does is prevent us from going to concerts. I've seen Bruce 36 times, and more than most musicians, his music benefits from the live setting, such that I've never been able to really judge one of his new albums until I've heard it live. And that's not going to be happening for a while. So any response I have to Letter to You is partial. For now, I'll repeat what I said on Facebook ... the sound is interesting in its retrograde feel ... it always sounds like old-school Bruce, but it never sounds like the same old school ... one song sounds like it came from Working on a Dream, another from The River, another from some random Tracks era. Based on sound alone, it's obvious why some people are so taken with it. (And I'll add, where's Soozie?)

Bruce famously drops in on the shows of others. We got to experience that once, in 1981, when Bruce turned up at a small club for five songs with Gary U.S. Bonds when Bonds was touring behind his Bruce-enabled comeback album, Dedication.

1978 was the greatest year of my musical life, when we saw Bruce three times during his legendary 1978 tour.  He would close with this Gary U.S. Bonds number ... we saw him sing it on five different occasions:

While Bruce has appeared with other performers as part of benefit shows, we only saw one person open for him at a regular Bruce concert: John Wesley Harding. It was the first time in 20 years that anyone had opened for Bruce. Harding has written four novels under his real name, Wesley Stace.

We saw Bruce on his 39th birthday as part of an Amnesty International show. Joan Baez was one of the many artists who appeared, and she sang him "Happy Birthday". She was in the crowd in 2006 when we saw him with the Seeger Sessions Band ... she came onstage to help sing "Pay Me My Money Down". Here is Baez with Mercedes Sosa in 1988:

Finally, here is the Seeger Sessions Band with "Pay Me My Money Down":


music friday: rolling stone's 500 best albums of all time

So Rolling Stone updated its list of top albums ... I think this is version 3. Here are a few selections.

Prince, Purple Rain (#8):

Bruce Springsteen, Born to Run (#21):

Sleater-Kinney, Dig Me Out (#189):

Miranda Lambert, The Weight of These Wings (#480):


music friday: 35 years ago today

September 18, 1985 was a big night for Bay Area concerts. David Lindley played a club date at the Old Waldorf:

The Manhattan Transfer played a somewhat bigger venue at De Anza College in Cupertino:

The legendary Harry Belafonte was at the 12,500 seat Concord Pavilion:

We missed all of those shows, because we were here, with 50,000+ fans, in a baseball stadium near the end of the Born in the USA tour:


music friday: valentine's day

I'm driving a big lazy car rushin' up the highway in the dark
I got one hand steady on the wheel and one hand's tremblin' over my heart
It's pounding baby like it's gonna bust right on through
And it ain't gonna stop till I'm alone again with you
 
A friend of mine became a father last night
When we spoke in his voice I could hear the light
Of the skies and the rivers the timberwolf in the pines
And that great jukebox out on Route 39
They say he travels fastest who travels alone
But tonight I miss my girl mister tonight I miss my home
 
Is it the sound of the leaves
Left blown by the wayside
That's got me out here on this spooky old highway tonight
Is it the cry of the river
With the moonlight shining through
That ain't what scares me baby
What scares me is losing you
 
They say if you die in your dreams you really die in your bed
But honey last night I dreamed my eyes rolled straight back in my head
And God's light came shinin' on through
I woke up in the darkness scared and breathin' and born anew
It wasn't the cold river bottom I felt rushing over me
It wasn't the bitterness of a dream that didn't come true
It wasn't the wind in the grey fields I felt rushing through my arms
No no baby it was you

So hold me close honey say you're forever mine
And tell me you'll be my lonely valentine
 
Wedding

music friday: the ghost of tom joad

On this date in 1995, we saw the first of two Bruce shows on the Tom Joad tour. Here is what a few of the songs sounded like. First, "The Ghost of Tom Joad":

"Across the Border":

And "Youngstown":

Later, when these songs were played with the band, things got a bit ... um, louder? Here's "Youngtown" after Nils had his hip replacement surgery:

And the amazing "Ghost of Tom Joad" with Tom Morello:

One last thing. For those two Berkeley shows, Bruce had an opening act, the only time I ever saw such a thing except at multi-star concerts. It was John Wesley Harding. Here he is with Bruce:


music friday: western stars (thom zimny and bruce springsteen, 2019)

The simplest thing to say from a consumer guide perspective is that if you love Bruce, you'll like this movie. If you love his latest album, you'll love this movie. If you don't have an opinion about Bruce Springsteen, I'm not sure what you'll think, but it will give you insight into a 70-year-old rocker who still has a lot to say.

There are two things to address here. One is the music. At its core, Western Stars is a concert movie, where Bruce and a large band play the songs from the Western Stars album. He has a huge string section, and they kick ass ... their unison playing gives the songs something of a Phil Spector feel. As is often the case with Bruce, the songs benefit from being played live. Favorite songs are even better, songs I didn't much care for are better than I thought. If you're looking for familiar faces, you'll find Patti and Soozie and Charles and Lisa. The music sounds great played in Bruce's old barn.

The other thing is the movie-as-movie. There is no escaping the fact that the songs, and their performance, are what matters. But it's a gorgeous movie, from the way the inside of the barn is lit to the wide-open spaces of Joshua Tree. The brief commentary that accompanies the songs is just enough to expand our appreciation. It's hard to find anything to fault in Western Stars as a movie.

I don't know if a newcomer to Bruce would be convinced by this film. Emotionally, the songs represent a culmination of his life's work, but the music is different from his usual, and I don't suppose you should start here. But for long-time fans, the movie adds greatly to the album. The intimacy is lovely and rewarding.