Displaying items by tag: Bruce Springsteen

Today's Song You Should Know: 'Say Goodbye To Hollywood' By Ronnie Spector & The E-Street Band

18 January, 2021

Rather than focusing on the death of convicted murderer and well-known music producer Phil Spector, I wanted to focus on some of his victims. Specifically, people whose careers and lives were negatively impacted by Spector's erratic behavior and tendency towards violence. And if you want a textbook example of Spector's negative impact on a female singer's career, you have to look no farther than his ex-wife, Ronnie Spector.

Spector's voice is instantly identifiable, and as the lead singer of The Ronettes, she had a string of hits arranged and produced by Phil Spector. "Be My Baby," "Baby I Love You," "Walking In The Rain" and other singles helped define the pre-Beatles soundtrack of the early 1960s. But the group broke up in 1967 & the following year Ronnie Spector (born Veronica Yvette Bennett) had married Phil Spector. Where she quickly found herself in the grasps of a manipulative, angry psychopath.

She famously left the marriage when she escaped barefoot from his mansion in 1972, but in the years of her marriage she experienced a simply stunning level of abuse from her husband. In her 1990 memoir, "Be My Baby: How I Survived Mascara, Miniskirts And Madness," she detailed years of psychological torment. He surrounded the house with barbed wire, guard dogs and confiscated her shoes to keep her from leaving. On the rare occasions he allowed her out alone, she had to drive with a life-size dummy of Phil. She also claimed he sabotaged her career by forbidding her to perform. 

It wasn't until 1976 that she began an attempt to build a solo career by appearing on the Southside Johnny recording of "You Mean So Much To Me." The track was written by Bruce Springsteen and that association brings us to "Say Goodbye To Hollywood."

In 1976, Bruce Springsteen and the E-Street Band were hobbled by a lawsuit filed by former manager Mike Appel. They were legally prohibited from recording a follow-up to the "Born To Run" album and spent much of their time touring. But members of the E-Street Band did also did some session work, including drummer Max Weinberg and pianist Roy Bittan appearance on Meatloaf's "Bat Out Of Hell" album. In January of 1977, Steve Van Zandt decided to take the entire E Street Band into the studios and cut some tracks with Ronnie Spector. The result was a single of Billy Joel's "Say Goodbye To Hollywood" b/w "Baby, Please Don't Go." Release on the same CBS-distributed label as Meatloaf (Cleveland International), it was billed as the first single off an upcoming album.

Joel had released "Say Goodbye To Hollywood" in 1976 and was obviously inspired by the Phil Spector Wall of Sound that framed the Ronettes work. So much so that his version of the song began with the same drum intro as their single "Be My Baby." "Baby, Please Don't Go" was written by Steven Van Zandt. Both tracks are magnificent updates of the iconic Ronettes sound as listening to them now, it's hard to believe "Say Goodbye To Hollywood" wasn't a hit. Incessant piano undertones, the incessant Clarence Clemons sax counterpoints and an overall production that is best described as "timeless." There was some level of work done on an album, but in later years, Ronnie Spector said she was distracted by custody issues and other legal problems that prevented her from focusing on her career.

She has released several albums since (including a 1999 album produced by Joey Ramone), but her most recognizable work as a solo act is likely her vocals on the 1986 Eddie Money hit "Take Me Home Tonight."

Top Ten Most Viewed Posts In 2020

31 December, 2020

Like just about every other web site this week, we're posting a rundown of the ten most-read posts on the site this year. I think it's a positive that all of the most-read pieces were written in 2020. The only exception - a post about streaming - was first published in November 2019. I've removed any of the evergreen titles, such as the Netflix Top Ten or the various lists of premiere dates, etc. As usual, it's an odd & somewhat unpredictable mix of topics. Just click the headline to read the story

10) Surviving The Pandemic Thanks To The Partridge Family

9) What Is Fave TV?

8) Review: Bruce Springsteen's 'Letter To You'

7) From The Editor: Deadline Screws Up A Pence Testing Positive Story & We're All Partly To Blame

6) Streaming Services & The Theory Of Perceived Value

5) The Limits Of The Conservative Media Bubble

4) From The Editor: The Case For Independent Entertainment Web Sites

3) Review: 'La Révolution'

2) Q&A: Devon Terrell Talks 'Cursed' And Representation In The World Of Fantasy

1) Review: 'Voices Of Fire'

Review: 'Bruce Springsteen's Letter To You'

23 October, 2020

It's not an exaggeration to say that no artist has had a larger influence on how I view myself and the world around me than Bruce Springsteen.

I saw him live for the first time by accident. I grew up in Southern Indiana, an unhappy teen desperately longing for something more. I knew my place was elsewhere. I had no desire to get married out of high school and go work at the local Whirlpool factory like so many of my friends. I had no concept of what I might do with my life and my unhappiness was a burden that I wore like an uncomfortable concrete overcoat. One winter my rage and hopelessness was more than I could bear and for some unknown reason I decided to run away to Chicago. 

I didn't know anyone there, I barely had enough money to buy a soft drink. It was cold and desolate and I ended up riding the El train back and forth, trying to stay warm. At one point I needed to go to the bathroom and randomly got off at a stop on Chicago's Northside, hoping to find a bathroom and maybe convince someone to buy me a sandwich. The only place I could find was a small club, The Quiet Knight and I managed somehow to talk my way into the club. Maybe it was because I just looked harmless or maybe it's because I knew the music of The Persuasions, who were the headliners. I sat in the back corner of the club, trying to make myself small enough so no one would toss me out. And the opening act that night changed my life. 

I wasn't familiar with Bruce Springsteen before that moment. I was a hardcore music fan & remembered hearing some buzz about him. Comparisons to Bob Dylan and other comments that didn't motivate me to listen to his music. But in that small club. Springsteen and his pre-E Street band backup did a loose, rambling set that seem to look right into my soul. He was this unsettling mix of energy and thoughtfulness. He had so much to say, even though I barely understood any of it. I understood he was on a mission and on some level it suddenly occurred to me that like him I had things to say. And I needed to figure out what that meant and I knew I couldn't do it hiding in some club surrounded by strangers.

Looking back, it's strange how often Springsteen's music has been a familiar fabric interwoven into the important moments of my life. I went away to college and was in love with a smart and stunning young woman who worked at Columbia Records. She pulled some crazy amount of strings to get me into one of Springsteen's legendary shows at the Roxy. In fact, that show she and I attended was one of the last things we did before she was murdered. The joy of the night is wound up tightly with the pain and when I heard the recently released official bootleg of the show, it brought me to tears despite the passage of nearly 40 years. 

Springsteen Bruce Springsteen is seen in concert in New York's Madison Square GardenSPRINGSTEEN 1978, NEW YORK, USA

His Darkness On The Edge Of Town album came out just after my father died, a man whose life was filled with so much disappointment and unfulfilled dreams. The songs from that album haunted me for years. They seemed so personal to my life and fraught with emotion, even though the stories were Springsteen's and not mine.

It feels like his music has always been there speaking to my soul, even when I didn't appreciate it at the time. I was dating a woman I nearly married during his The River & Born To Run years and her love for Springsteen was a reflection of the joy she felt about life. It was a bond between us, the kind of shared experience that adds a special texture to a relationship. It's impossible for me to hear that music without thinking of her and remembering us at our happiest times together.

Over the years Springsteen's music changed as he experimented with different styles and backing musicians. I didn't always love the results, but I understood the compulsion to experiment. To wring every last little bit of creativity and opportunity out of life. I was a stand-up comic for ten years, a syndicated talk show host, a financial news reporter who also did the voice of a stock-picking sock puppet. I got married, had a kid and became a full-time TV industry journalist. I seemed driven to push myself in new directions, new careers. Even if my choices weren't the ones others would wish for me.

But Bruce Springsteen's music never left me and I would unexpectedly find older music of his dropping into my life with unsettling messages. As a thirtyish punk, I was lukewarm to his Tunnel of Love album with its subtle, almost slight arrangements and subject matter that made me long for the days of "Sherry Darling." But a couple of decades later, fighting to keep my marriage alive, I found its vision of the struggles between the promise of love and the reality of disappointment to be entirely too real for me.

In recent years I've begun to feel my age and as those feelings have seeped into my psyche, I've watched the same battles come into view in Springsteen's life. His autobiography and Broadway show centered on the struggles of a man who is looking back as much as he's moving forward. He hopes he's been a good man, he wrestles with the memories of  the mistakes and missed opportunities. Springsteen has been reflecting a lot about his life and it's come at a time when I've done the same. 

That reflection has been evident in the interviews Springsteen has given about his new album Letter To You, which has also spawned an Apple TV+ documentary of the same name. Even in the cheeriest of circumstances, reuniting with his beloved E-Street band on their first new album together in decades would be an occasion for reflection. But the album finds Springsteen and the band in perhaps the last chapter of their long friendship and the 90-minute film lets those moments wash across the screen without any explanation. 

Bruce Springsteen's Letter To You was primarily filmed during the recording of the album of the same name and if you're hoping to see some insight into the creative process, you'll be disappointed. The footage is less about the songs and more about the friendships and relationships that made the songs come to life. It's about the warm memories of the past, the lost friends whose memories haunt and the compulsion to keep creating - keep pushing forward - because like sharks most artists will drown if they stop moving.

As a man who feels every bit his age it's unsettling to see Springsteen and the band looking so very much like the senior citizens they are in real life. Springsteen seems frail and withered in some of the footage in a way that is startling. He's always been such a towering force of nature that seeing him slumped and tired, to hear his voice take on that old guy rasp is a painful personal reminder that like Springsteen and the rest of the E-Street Band, my years on this earth are limited.

The music of Bruce Springsteen changed me life and he continues to have an impact on the way I see myself. I won't argue that Bruce Springsteen is the most important musician of our generation. But he fills that role for me and ultimately, that's all you can hope for from your heroes.

Bruce Springsteen's Letter To You premieres Friday, October 23rd, 2020 on Apple TV+.

Today's Song You Should Know: 'Ghosts' By Bruce Springsteen

24 September, 2020

"Ghosts" is the second track released off of Bruce Springsteen's upcoming album "Letter To You" and the song will be a treat for fans hoping to hear some of the classic E-Street Band sound. Springsteen's voice might be weathered around the edges, but the tune is vintage Springsteen at its best. Solid chugging guitars and piano, explosive drums and just a hint of saxophone at the end. The video cuts between classic performance footage of Springsteen & the E-Streeters (along with snippets of a couple of old pre-E-Street bands) and footage shot earlier this year as the band recorded the track live in the studio.

The lyrics reflect a lot of the themes Springsteen has been discussing in interviews done to promote the new album. How we get to a certain age and we're both happy to still be here and doing good work. While still being haunted by the ghosts of all the loved ones we left behind. While the song is technically named "Ghosts," most people will probably refer to it by it's massive hook, "I'm Alive."

If this is a representative sample of what we can expect to hear on the new album, it can't get here fast enough.

(Update) There May Or May Not Be A New Bruce Springsteen Album Coming In October

09 September, 2020

Most of the time it's pretty easy to ignore rumors about possible upcoming albums, because the truth is that they are almost always wrong. Still, for those of us who are Bruce Springsteen fans, this rumor is one we'd like to see come to pass. Although Springsteen fans have been burned before by album rumors that turned out not to be true.

On Wednesday morning, a West Virginia record store web site and a page on Amazon's U.K. web site briefly promoted a previously unknown Springsteen album, "Letter To You." According to the listings, the 2-album set is set for release on October 23rd.

Within hours, both pages had been pulled. Which mean the album was either some weird unauthorized bootleg or a title that a couple of places announced prematurely. 

There was no indication of whether the album set - if it is indeed legitimate - is a solo Springsteen release or one that includes his longtime bandmates, the E-Street Band. Although based on the somewhat unsettling album artwork, it could easily just be a Christmas album. Springsteen had previously said that he had been writing a lot of songs for a new album he hoped to record with his band.

I've reached out to both Columbia Records as well as Springsteen's management company. Neither has yet responded at the time this story was posted.

UPDATE: The web site NJArts.net says it has confirmed more info about the album, which the site says is real and scheduled for release in October.

01 “One Minute You’re Here”
02 “Letter To You”
03 “Burnin Train”
04 “Janey Needs A Shooter”
05 “Last Man Standing”
06 “The Power Of Prayer”
07 “House Of A Thousand Guitars”
08 “Rainmaker”
09 “If I Was The Priest”
10 “Ghosts”
11 “Song For Orphans”
12 “I’ll See You In My Dreams”

The album was reportedly co-produced by Springsteen and Ron Aniello and the tracks include all of the members of the E-Street Band. "Janey Needs a Shooter," "If I Was the Priest" and "Song for Orphans" are new recordings of older songs not included on previous studio albums.

"Janey Needs A Shooter" dates back to 1978 and Springsteen has apparently worked on versions of the song several times over the years. Warren Zevon fell in love with the title after hearing the demo from Springsteen manager Jon Landau and wrote his own song using the title, which he changed slightly to "Jeannie Needs A Shooter." 

"If Was A Priest" is even older, dating back to 1972. Springsteen played it for Columbia exec John Hammond at their first meeting and according to Hammond, it was one of the reasons he signed the young singer-songwriter.

"Song For Orphans" is also from 1972 and while it's never been released officially, Springsteen inexplicably played it live once-at a 2005 Trenton, NJ concert that was part of his "Devils And Dust" tour.

There are also rumors that the first single off the album will be released on Thursday, but there aren't any other details so far.

The album cover was taken by photographer Danny Clinch in New York's Central Park in 2018. You can see the original, uncropped original of the photo on Clinch's site here.