Springsteen at His Best

I met my wife in New Jersey in the spring of 1973, and one of the first things she did was play me an album by a Jersey kid named Bruce Springsteen. He only had one album at the time, Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J. — his second album, The Wild, the Innocent and the E Street Shuffle, wasn’t released until September of that year. I was, of course, impressed, and I’ve been a fan ever since.

Bruce Springsteen is one of those artists for whom I like their early stuff the best.  Eric Clapton and Joe Walsh are a couple of others that come to mind.  Some artists seem to do their best work when they’re young and hungry.  Springsteen’s Born in the USA album marked his ascent to the top of the music world; for me it’s a line of demarcation — my favorite stuff of his is what came before that.

My all-time #1 concert was when we saw Bruce and the E Street Band at McDonough Arena, Georgetown University (Washington DC) on December 6, 1975.  The show was part of the Born to Run tour (it had been released that summer), and they played songs from the first 3 albums. They were AMAZING.

Three weeks or so prior to that, Bruce and the band played their first-ever show in London, at Hammersmith Odeon on November 18. For those of you up on your Springsteen lore, this was the night he spent some time tearing down ‘Finally London is ready for Bruce Springsteen’ posters before the show. The band was as excellent as I remembered them from the show we saw. There’s some extended jamming like they didn’t do in later years. Ever want to hear an extended solo from Roy Bittan on piano or Bruce on guitar? Check out Kitty’s Back.  The show starts with the acoustic version of Thunder Road, with just Roy on piano and Bruce on harmonica.  When Bruce played at London’s Hyde Park in 2012, he opened with the same song, and introduced it as the first song he ever played in London, referring to this show.

A DVD of this show was included with the 30th anniversary release of Born to Run in 2005, and the concert was then released as an audio CD in 2006.  When I want to listen to some Springsteen, this is usually the one I turn to. I found the video on YouTube, so I include it here for your enjoyment.  It’s a must-see for Springsteen fans, and also for those who want to know what’s the big deal about this guy.

Rock at the Movie Theater

My wife and I recently spent two enjoyable evenings attending rock-related events at our local movie theater. The first event was the showing of the documentary Springsteen and I; the second was for Grateful Dead Meet Up at the Movies 2013 for the showing of the concert film Sunshine Daydream. The really big screen and a pretty good sound system made for an enjoyable viewing experience.

Both events had extra material in addition to the primary films. Plus, before the shows, instead of the usual promos for movies you couldn’t pay me to see and other commercials, they had things that were relevant to the show we were about to see. (Amazing!) Among other things, before the Springsteen show they had a video of the band in concert and before the Grateful Dead show they had a film of some amazing tie dye fabric with the band playing in the background.

Springsteen and I

Springsteen and I was put together by Ridley Scott Associates. They sent out a request to fans to make a film about what the music of Bruce Springsteen means to them. The film is made up of films that were submitted in response. It’s primarily aimed at fans, and my wife (the Jersey girl) and I, having first seen him in 1975, would certainly qualify. We loved it. Here are some reviews. Searching for “Springsteen and I” on YouTube will find many of the submissions.

The emotions run the gamut from heartfelt to hilarious. There are people who talk about how Bruce has provided the soundtrack to their life. There’s one from a woman who danced on stage with Bruce during Dancing in the Dark. I liked the one from the mother who, when she’s chauffeuring her kids around, will only play Springsteen. The funniest one was from a guy who went to a show in Philadelphia dressed as Elvis, and was pulled up on stage to do an Elvis song with the band. Then there was the English guy who went to the shows because his wife is a fan, and complained that the shows were too long.

The documentary is about 1:15. After that, they showed some concert footage and then some additional film of Bruce meeting with a few of the people whose films were included in the documentary (including the guy who thought the shows were too long and his wife). A wish-that-were-me moment.

The concert footage was of 6 songs from the band’s show in Hyde Park, London, in the summer of 2012. Apparently it was televised in England and, as a result, the performance is available on YouTube. The highlight, by far, comes when Paul McCartney joins them to do a couple of Beatles songs at the end. I know that, for most of you, it’s just a couple of old guys playing. Bruce was about 14 when the Beatles first came out, so he had a ‘that’s what I want to do’ moment as a young kid watching them. When introducing Paul, he says that he’s waited 50 years to do this. The set list:

  • Thunder Road (with just Roy Bittan on piano and Bruce on harmonica)
  • Shackled and Drawn
  • Because the Night (has an amazing guitar solo from Nils Lofgren)
  • We Are Alive
  • I Saw Her Standing There (with Paul McCartney)
  • Twist and Shout (with Paul McCartney)


Sunshine Daydream

This is a film of part of a Grateful Dead concert that took place on August 27, 1972 in Veneta, Oregon. The concert was staged as a benefit for the Springfield Creamery, which was owned by the family of author Ken Kesey. The friendship between the Grateful Dead and Kesey and the Merry Pranksters is well-documented (particularly in Tom Wolfe’s book The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test).

Since it was a relatively primitive time technologically, and due to cost, the show was recorded on 16mm video. They didn’t get the whole show, including the end because the sun went down and they weren’t able to film after sunset. Recently, the video and audio have been cleaned up using modern technology and they salvaged more of the video; that’s what we saw at the movie theater. In addition to the concert film, they also showed a documentary called Grateful Days, which talks about how the show was put together and has a number of interviews with people who were there that day. They are now selling this revised film at the Grateful Dead’s website, along with a 3-CD set of the complete concert, plus the documentary.

They may not have the whole concert on video, but what they do have is outstanding. The band was in fine form that day. The only gripe I have is that since filming ended because of darkness, we don’t get to see Sugar Magnolia, Casey Jones and One More Saturday Night. The other thing you get from the concert film plus the documentary is a sense of the culture that the Grateful Dead were a part of. The Springfield Creamery was part of the then-new organic food movement, and you see how caring for the earth is part of the movement too.

Click here to listen to an audio recording of the (complete) show. This is from the Grateful Dead Internet Archives, which has two types of recordings — audience microphone and sound board. The link is for a sound board recording, which can only be streamed. If you want to download the show, search on the site for “1972-08-27″ — there are also audience recordings of this show. And, in case you are wondering, the site has a recording of just about every show the Grateful Dead played during their 30-year career.

I also found an older video of Sunshine Daydream on YouTube, which is linked below. It is definitely worth watching, but it’s less than what we saw in the updated version that was shown in the theater. There’s at least one more song that they were able to restore in the revised version of the film, and, while I didn’t watch every minute of the YouTube version, I didn’t see any of the “naked hippies dancing” part. You can still see and hear how great they were that day. We’ve ordered the DVD/CD package.

The Dora Zockman Principle

I named the Dora Zockman Principle after the the heroine of one of my favorite cartoons ever. It’s by R. Crumb (biographyhis website) and it appeared in Uneeda Comix in 1970:

It’s one of the unacknowledged laws of parenthood. If the parents tell them not to do something, the kids will likely find it interesting. It can apply to authority figures in general, not just parents. It’s about being contrary in response to being told what to do.

The Dora Zockman Principle can explain many things. The popularity of hair metal, for example. Shock jocks. How many times in a movie or TV show has the condemnation of something by some up-tight fuddy-duddy only confirmed its popularity? I’ll leave it to you, dear readers, to come up with your own examples.

Great Moments in Rock – La Bamba (Richie Rosenberg)

Anyone who is a fan of the Conan O’Brien TV show (link for original show here) is familiar with trombone player Richie “La Bamba” Rosenberg. You may not know about his history before the show. He got started as a member of Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes. The Jukes were part of the New Jersey scene that included Bruce Springsteen (who gave La Bamba his nickname). In fact, E Street Band member Steven Van Zandt was a member of the Jukes in the early days. That also explains how La Bamba knew E Street Band drummer Max Weinberg, who recruited him for the Conan O’Brien Show band.

Below is a link for the Jukes’ song When You Dance, written by Springsteen and Van Zandt, which first appeared on the 1977 album This Time It’s For Real. This shows that La Bamba had a flair for comedy 35 years ago. At the beginning of the song the band is chanting “La Bamba, La Bamba, …” while La Bamba does a crazed elephant impersonation on his trombone. It’s hilarious and it’s a great song; give it a listen:

Click here to listen

Posters

My wife and I have been collecting posters, mostly for rock concerts, for many years. We’ve covered the walls of our rec room with the collection. The top of the page in this blog shows some of them. Highlights include:

  • a poster for the Beatles’ first concert in the US
  • a Woodstock poster autographed by Marty Balin of Jefferson Airplane
  • a Hot Tuna poster signed by band members Jack Casady and Jorma Kaukonen, plus artist Kenny Pisani
  • a poster for a joint poetry reading by Patti Smith and Allen Ginsberg signed by both of them
  • a sheet of blotter acid autographed by Timothy Leary
  • We’ve acquired them for various reasons over the years. Some just looked good at a poster store; others we obtained though mail order.

    I’ve done most of my work on this blog while sitting on the couch in the rec room. I’m facing the east wall, so those posters are what I see when I look up. I’ll start there and go around the room.

    East Wall

    (1) The Doors, Lavender Hill Mob, Joint Effort and Captain Speed. August 5 1967 at Earl Warren Showgrounds, Santa Barbara, California. A dance concert presented by Kacy and Jim Salzer. Tickets $2.50 in advance, $3.00 at the door. Light show by Family Cat.

    (2) Little Feat and Robben Ford. Thursday, September 1 1988 at the Fillmore, San Francisco. Presented by Bill Graham.

    (3) Youngbloods and Ace of Cups. January 5-6-7, 1968 at Avalon Ballroom, San Francisco. Presented by Family Dog.

    (4) Iron Butterfly, Indian Head Band, The Collectors and The Electroluminescence. July 4-5-6-7, 1968 at Avalon Ballroom, San Francisco. Presented by Family Dog. Alice in Wonderland characters on the poster.

    (5) Sheet of blotter acid autographed by Timothy Leary. Obtained in 1995 from Artrock as part of their Blotter Acid Art show. Has images of Felix the Cat (and no LSD).

    (6) We’re All Mad. Found this poster back in the mid-1980s in North Beach, San Francisco. It seemed appropriate.

    (7) Timothy Leary in Wonderland. An Exhibition of Blotter Acid Art. August 10 – October 10, 1995 at Artrock Gallery in San Francisco. Dr. Timothy Leary hosts a reception 5 – 9 pm 10 August.

    (8) Grateful Dead, New Riders of the Purple Sage and Blues Brothers. December 31, 1978 at Winterland, San Francisco. Presented by Bill Graham. Breakfast served at dawn. This was the final show at Winterland, and is available on DVD as The Closing of Winterland. I included some notes about the show in my post about the Grateful Dead — click here. I’ve used the blue rose from this poster as a gravatar on WordPress and as an avatar elsewhere.

    (9) Spirit, Piewacket and Stillborn Time.  July 4-5-6, 1968 at Sound Factory, Sacramento.  Show on the 6th is a special dance concert.  Tickets $3.00.

    (10) A Wonderful Invention. Poster for the Library of Congress exhibit A Brief History of the Phonograph from Tinfoil to the LP, July 19 – October 30, 1977.

    (11) Miriam Makeba and Hugh Masekela. September 9, 1988 at the Fillmore in San Francisco. Presented by Bill Graham.

    (12) Dinosaurs, Commander Cody and New Riders of the Purple Sage.  September 10, 1988 at the Fillmore in San Francisco. Presented by Bill Graham.

    Included the above photo to provide a closer look at these two posters near the top.

    (13) Little Charlie and the Nightcats, The Paladins and Ruth Webster. July 15, 1988 at the Fillmore in San Francisco. Presented by Bill Graham.

    (14) Robin Hitchcock and the Egyptians, Game Theory and Monks of Doom. September 8, 1988 at the Fillmore, San Francisco. Presented by Bill Graham.

    (15) Days of Sounds, December 26 – New Years Eve, 1967 at the Fillmore, San Francisco. Presented by Bill Graham. December 26-27-28 — The Doors, Chuck Berry and Salvation, lights by Holy See. December 29-30 — Chuck Berry, Big Brother and the Holding Company and Quicksilver Messenger Service, lights by Glenn McKay’s Headlights. New Years Eve (9 pm – 9 am) — Jefferson Airplane, Big Brother and the Holding Company, Quicksilver Messenger Service and Freedom Highway.

    (16) Buffalo Springfield and Eighth Penny Matter. October 6-7, 1967 at the Family Dog, Denver. Presented by the Family Dog.

    (17) Grateful Dead. Fall Tour 1995 — Boston, New York City, Philadelphia, Toronto. Tour didn’t take place because of the death of Jerry Garcia on August 9, 1995.

    (18) Big Brother and the Holding Company, Iron Butterfly and Booker T. and the M.G.’s. April 11, 1968 at the Fillmore, San Francisco, and April 12-13, 1968 at Winterland, San Francisco. Presented by Bill Graham.

    (19) Bryan Ferry. September 8, 1988 at Sacramento Community Theatre, Sacramento, and September 9, 1988 at the Greek Theatre, U.C. Berkeley. Presented by Bill Graham.

    North Wall

    (1) Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band. October 31, 1975 at Paramount Theatre, Oakland. Presented by Bill Graham.

    (2) Canned Heat, Lothar and the Hand People, Allman Joy and Super Ball. November 3-4-5, 1967 at Avalon Ballroom, San Francisco. Presented by Family Dog. Note: the Allman Joys were an early band fronted by Duane and Gregg Allman, before the Allman Brothers Band.

    (3) Bill Haley and the Comets, the Drifters and the Flaming Groovies. August 16-17-18, 1968 at Avalon Ballroom, San Francisco. Presented by Family Dog.

    (4) On Halloween, the Dead Rise Again. Promotional poster from Arista Records for the release of the Grateful Dead’s CD Built to Last on October 31, 1989.

    (5) Jefferson Airplane, Charlie Musselwhite, the Ceyleib People and Clear Light. February 23-24, 1968 at Pinnacle Shrine Exposition Hall, Los Angeles.

    West Wall


    (1) California Music Fair. August 18 through August 25, 1972 at the Fox, Long Beach. 80 bands including Wishbone Ash, El Chicano, Spirit, John Stewart and Ballin Jack, plus old flicks and stage comedies.

    (2) Art of the Dead, a 30-year Retrospective. November 14, 1996 – January, 1997 at the Artrock Gallery in San Francisco.

    (3) Grateful Dead. August 17, 1986 at Boreal Ridge, Donner Summit, California (ski resort near Lake Tahoe). The highest Grateful Dead concert in the world — elevation 7200 feet (2200 meters). Good Food, Cold Drinks, Tall Pines, Cool Breeze, Trip & Slide.

    (4) Hole, Veruca Salt and Star 69. November 11, 1994 at the Fillmore, San Francisco. Presented by Bill Graham.

    (5) Led Zeppelin, Bonzo Dog Band and Roland Kirk. November 6-7-8, 1968 at Winterland, San Francisco. Lights by Brotherhood of Light. Tickets $4.00.

    (6) The Beatles, the Caravelles, Tommy Roe and the Chiffons. February 11, 1964 at Washington (DC) Sports Arena. Tickets $5.00. This was the Beatles’ first concert in the US. Their first performance in the US was on the Ed Sullivan TV show on February 9. My wife saw them later that year (September 2) in Philadelphia — it was her first concert. Tickets for the Philadelphia show, with no opening acts, were $3.50.

    (7) Big Brother and the Holding Company, the Charlatans and Blue Cheer. March 31 – April 1, 1967 at Avalon Ballroom, San Francisco. Presented by Family Dog.

    (8) Patti Smith and Alan Ginsburg poetry reading. April 5, 1996 at Hill Auditorium, Ann Arbor, Michigan. Poster is signed by both of them. Presented by Jewel Heart, which is “dedicated to the preservation of the endangered Tibetan culture, and to Tibetan Buddhist studies and the practice of this rich tradition within the context of contemporary life”.

    (9) R.E.M. Green World Tour 1989. Poster is for the tour (after release of the album Green) rather than for a single show.

    (10) Captain Trips Festival. The Dead Heads, Grateful Dead Music, Eyes of the World Light Show and Surprise Guests. A Gathering of the Tribes — En Hommage à Jerry Garcia. January 14, 1996 at Parc de la Villette in Paris.

    (11) Bo Diddley, Lightnin’ Hopkins, New York Rock Ensemble and Beefy Red. October 22-23-24-25, 1970 at Fillmore West, San Francisco. Presented by Bill Graham. Also mentions special Wednesday shows for $3.00 — October 21 Pink Floyd and October 28 Small Faces with Rod Stewart.

    (12) Woodstock Festival poster autographed by Marty Balin of Jefferson Airplane. August 15-16-17, 1969 at Max Yasgur’s farm near White Lake, New York. Three days of peace and music. My wife, who was a college student in Pennsylvania at the time, was going to go with some friends, but couldn’t because her father was in the hospital.

    (13) Watkins Glen Summer Jam — Allman Brothers Band, Grateful Dead and The Band. July 28, 1973 at Watkins Glen speedway, Watkins Glen, New York. Noon Till ?. $10 includes concert, parking and camping. Drew a larger crowd than Woodstock — estimated at 600,000. For what it’s worth, my spot on the couch for working on the computer is right under this poster.

    (14) Grateful Dead, Miles Davis Quintet and Stone the Crows. April 9-10-11-12, 1970 at Fillmore West, San Francisco. Presented by Bill Graham.

    South Wall

    (1) Furthur Festival. Ratdog (Bob Weir, Rob Wasserman, Matthew Kelly, Jay Lane, Joanne Johnson), Bruce Hornsby, (Electric) Hot Tuna, Mickey Hart’s Mystery Box, Los Lobos, Flying Karamazov Brothers, John Wesley Harding, Chalo Eduardo and Alvin Youngblood Hart, June 20 – August 4, 1996 at many US locations. Saw the Sacramento show of this tour on July 29 at Cal Expo along with my wife and daughter, who was 9 at the time and for whom it was her first rock concert.

    (2) The Other Ones (Phil Lesh, Bob Weir, Mickey Hart and Bruce Hornsby). June 25 – July 23, 1998 at many US locations.

    (3) Hot Tuna. November 26, 1977 at the Palladium, New York City. Signed by band members Jack Casady and Jorma Kaukonen, plus artist Kenny Pisani, #293 of 400. Top part was also the cover art for their 1985 album Historic Hot Tuna (album contains performances from 1971). According to the artist on his page on the site b-uncut: I airbrushed this album/CD cover for the band “Hot Tuna” when I was still in jr. high school, earning the gig when I got hold of some “bad acid” backstage and the guys in the band wanted to make it up to me. I was like the kid in “Almost Famous” but a lot less lucid.

    In Conclusion

    I’ve enjoyed putting this together. I found out quite a few things about images I’ve been looking at for years. I would love to hear from readers who have more information about any of these shows.

    I should add that as I looked over the pictures it occurred to me that maybe I should have straightened the posters up before getting the camera out. Then the perfect excuse came to me — Hey, it’s California, the ground shakes here sometimes.

    Amazing Performances

    I went to a lot of concerts in the 70s and 80s. That covers the time from when I started college (actually fall 1969) through the time my wife and I became parents in 1987. Suddenly the logistics were more complicated and there were more things going on, so we haven’t gone to as many since that time.

    When I think back over all the concerts I’ve gone to, there are two performances that stand out for me as the coolest things I’ve seen. There were others concerts I enjoyed more overall, but these two performances were amazing.

    I saw the New York Rock and Roll Ensemble during my freshman year in college, so this was during the 1969-70 school year. Their performance of the Chuck Berry classic Roll Over Beethoven blew me away. The band was started by students at the Juilliard School (link to school website), so they were of course outstanding at classical music. They sat down as a string quartet (2 violins, viola and cello) and started a Beethoven piece. Then, one of them picked up an electric guitar and played the Chuck Berry riff that starts the rock song, and they all switched instruments and became a rock band. They went back to the string quartet for the bridge, then back to the rock band to finish the song. The playing, in both formats, was very impressive. For me it focused on how musicianship can make rock music more enjoyable to listen to — it’s more than just getting your hair and your attitude right. There was an energy that made their performance special. When I listened to their records later, their playing seemed to restrained by comparison, that energy was missing.

    At a Weather Report concert in the early 1980s at Merriweather Post Pavillion in Columbia, Maryland, I saw bass player Jaco Pastorius play Jimi HendrixPurple Haze as a bass duet — WITH HIMSELF. He set two speakers facing each other with a guitar stand in between. With the first bass he played the repeating notes (octaves?) that start the song (click here to refresh your memory). He set the bass between the speakers so that the notes repeated in a loop. Then he picked up a second bass and played the lead of the song. I found it mind-boggling that not only could he play it on a bass but that it sounded just like the Hendrix original. I don’t think he sang, and I don’t remember anything about the end of the song. It was that WHAM moment at the beginning of the song that stuck with me.

    In addition to being awesome performances, another thing they have in common — unfortunately, in this case — is that there doesn’t seem to be video available. At least not that I could find. So all I have to share with you is the memory. I hope you have also experienced a magical in-concert moment like these.

    My Favorite Singer

    My favorite singer is the answer to an interesting bit of trivia — In all of the Led Zeppelin albums, there is only one song that has a vocalist from outside the band. The singer is Sandy Denny and the song is The Battle of Evermore. As I stated in my Introduction to this blog, I listen to the voice as an instrument, and I think Sandy Denny’s voice is just beautiful. Listen to her duet with Robert Plant:

    Sandy Denny was best known as the lead singer for the folk rock band Fairport Convention (she was a member of the band from 1968-70 and 1974-75). Fairport Convention are, according to their Wikipedia biography, “widely regarded as the most important single group in the English folk rock movement. Their seminal album Liege and Lief is generally considered to have launched the electric folk or English folk rock movement, which provided a distinctively English identity to rock music and helped awaken much wider interest in traditional music in general.”

    Here are videos for two traditional folk songs from Liege and Lief that showcase her wonderful singing. The first is English folk ballad Matty Groves, about an adulterous affair that ends badly:

    Tam Lin is a Scottish ballad about a man who is a captive of the faeries and the woman who rescues him:

    Sandy Denny was also an accomplished songwriter and musician. Best known of her compositions is Who Knows Where the Time Goes, which was a hit for Judy Collins and has been covered by many others. Here’s a video of Sandy performing her song:

    I didn’t find a lot of live footage of her, but I did find this clip of her performing 3 songs while accompanying herself on piano and guitar — North Star Grassman and the Ravens, Crazy Lady Blues and Late November. The first song is the title of one of her solo albums.

    Sadly, she died young, at 30. She left behind an impressive body of work, and that wonderful voice that we can listen to.

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