In his autobiography BORN TO RUN, Bruce Springsteen gives a highly personal account of his life that saw him rocket from his very humble beginnings in Freehold, New Jersey to one of the most popular of all time in music. This is truly an honest look at not only his music but his failings as a person.
This extremely well written account of Springsteen’s life compares favorably to his idol Bob Dylan’s autobiography. Unlike the disappointing and almost unreadable attempt by Steven Tyler in his autobiography that gets mired in his sexual and drug misadventures, this is a much more reveling look into what makes Bruce tick.
The Springsteen family was like so many others in Middle America. They suffered through many hardships and always seemed to be on the verge of losing everything, but that was pretty much par for the neighborhood. Somehow the family was able to find the money to the children to catholic schools. There the nuns gave Bruce the usual hard times that any aimless boys got from them.
It’s no secret that Ten Years After exploded on the music scene international after their explosive performance at Woodstock 50 years ago. This year there has been a flurry of concerts with some of the artists who played performing on the same program marking the anniversary of the legendary concert. Ten Years After has done a few of them, but on August 21, 2019 they were the only attraction at the Sellersville Theater.
Their performance that night showed the crowd that gave them a standing ovation that they are not just another old band trying to cash in on the Woodstock anniversary. While there are those who will claim that Ten Years After will never be the same since the departure of the late Alvin Lee, they should at least listen to the new lineup before passing judgment.
Some call Bob Dylan the greatest songwriter of all time. You certainly can argue that he is one of the best songwriters of the Rock era. No one has won more awards or been honored as much as Dylan. Is there an honor that hasn’t he hasn’t awarded at this point?
You certainly can’t dismiss the volume of music that Bob has written and released over his career. It is very easy to lose track of how many albums and singles he has released since the start of his debut in 1961. No other songwriter has had more other artists do covers of their songs.
With all that music it is easy to have overlooked some of his best singles. Dylan wrote and recorded so many great songs during the mid- sixties that he even admits are beyond his abilities to write today. Of course, he has reinvented himself so many times that his song writing has changed. These changes make it possible for him to have had such a successful career and sustain it over many decades.
First entry in an upcoming series.
Do you like to sort through stacks of records? Do you get real joy out of finding a real gem in those stacks?
If you read my book “Confessions of a Teenage Disc Jockey”, then you know that I spent countless hours in my local record stores. They were all Mom and Pop operations. You could strike up a conversation with the owners and often be taught about the music by them.
It was a true small business. I’m sure their profit margin wasn’t great, but they loved what they were doing. At the time I often thought that when I grew up I would open a record store or maybe a book shop.
The Beatles have always had interesting album covers. At three of them caused a great deal of controversy. We may get to others in the future, but today we will focus on the cover of Abbey Road.
When Paul McCartney did a pencil sketch of what he wanted on the cover of Abbey Road, he never imagined what demons he would unleash. It did seem pretty simple and straight forward. The fab four walking across Abbey Road.
The only problem that anyone foresaw was crowd control and traffic. That was easily solved when the police blocked off the area and gave the photographer just ten minutes to take his best shots. Despite having to balance himself on a step ladder while taking the legendary photo, the work was accomplished in the allotted time. Everyone was happy with the results.
At 6’7” in a rock world where the average height is well below six foot, John Baldry had the most natural nick name of “Long John”. He was a big man in many other ways as well.
While almost totally unknown by the average rock fan in the USA, Baldry was a key figure in the development of the British Rock scene. In my conversations with both Rod Stewart and Elton John, they gave Long John credit for developing their careers.
Baldry discovered Stewart singing in the street for change. He brought him into his band at the time. Later he brought Elton into another band. Elton had been playing on cover records of current hits that were sold at a cut rate price in super markets and drug stores. Since they sounded exactly like the originals, people would buy them to save money.
The first time I met Father Jim Drucker was at the Broadcast Pioneers lunch a few years ago. I thought to myself -now that is different. I had never seen a priest at one of our lunches. I didn’t know just how different until he approached me and introduced himself.
I knew the name Jim Drucker from listening to radio in Scranton, PA. Jim Drucker was on air at WARM. Virtually everyone who lived in the Scranton-Wilkes-Barre Area listened to WARM. There wasn’t even a close second at the time. Their signal was such that the entire NE PA could listen, and they certainly did. With such a large percentage of the population listening, WARM had more listeners than many top forty stations in much larger markets. If you were on the air at WARM, you had to be good. Some of the DJs on the air were certainly an influence on me.
There’s very little doubt in anyone’s mind that the British Invasion that took place in the United States was spearheaded by The Beatles. They were closely followed by the Rolling Stones. Both groups certainly earned the recognition and the place in rock music history that they are rightfully given.
One group that has not been given the credit that they deserve is The Yardbirds. When they are mentioned, it is almost always in the context of the famous guitarists who first established their reputation while being members of the band.
The Yardbirds were much more than Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page and Jeff Beck. In 1963 other members of the group helped make this band a major influence on so many bands that followed.
Back to almost the dawn of teen idols in Rock ‘n’ Roll, every record company was looking for another Elvis Presley. Here in Philadelphia Frankie Avalon, Fabian and Bobby Rydell were not Elvis, but they were teen heartthrobs that did rather well on the charts.
At that same time a young man who was born in the small town of Cut Off, LA was signed to Ace Records. Jimmy Clanton was very much into the music in nearby New Orleans. “Fats” Domino, Professor Longhair, and Huey “Piano” Smith were among the many Crescent City stars that influenced Jimmy. Another big influence was the smooth style of R & B star Johnny Ace (who didn’t record for Ace Records). The Clanton sound was a cross between the R & B sound of the city and that of the other teen idols.
In this edition of unsung heroes we again salute another man behind the glass. Tom Dowd is another name that is much overlooked when people even bother to look at the credits on a record.
Tom was born in Manhattan in 1925. Music was in the blood of Tom Dowd. His father was a concertmaster. That was the title given to the leader of a given orchestral section. His mother was an opera singer. Tom was taught music at an early age and was the master at the piano, tuba, violin and string bass by the time he was in high school.
Music wasn’t the only subject hat Tom excelled in while in school. He was excellent in every subject but really excelled in science. His exceptional abilities allowed him to graduate from high school at age 16. He continued to study music CCNY, while also studying Physics at Columbia. He also played in a band (before long he was their leader) and worked in the Physics lab at Columbia.
Most of us had a job or two before settling in to our life’s work. Very often these jobs were not the most desirable ways to earn money. My least favorite job that I had growing up was cleaning oil burners. It is very hard for me to imagine a dirtier occupation. I think I am still trying to clean off some of the dirt that clings to my body like glue.
We sometimes think that rock stars somehow lead a charmed life and never did anything other than be on stage. Well, most rock stars also had a job prior to making it in the music business. Some had jobs that were pretty far removed from playing music.
It is very hard to imagine that John McVie was a tax inspector prior to becoming a member of first John Mayall’s blues Breakers and then Fleetwood Mac. He trained for the job and it was such a secure occupation that he had to be talked into giving up his “day job”.
Sixty years ago I was too young to be really close to anyone who had died. Life at that young age does seem to be almost endless. Of course it isn’t but I was fortunate enough to have not known any tragedies at that stage of my life.
Then on February 3, 1959 an event took place that shook up my life. Like Don McClean, who made a name for himself with the epic “American Pie”, I read about it in the newspaper. In a huge, bold front page headline it told the chilling story. Three of the biggest rock stars of the day were killed when a plane crashed in cold Iowa field. The news froze my blood. I cut out the headlines and the story and still have them to this day.
No, I didn’t know the three performers, but I felt very close to them because of their music. Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and J. P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson were on a tour of the Midwest went their plane apparently had engine trouble and fell from the sky. The news hit me as if I had lost my best friend.
Anyone who has listened to the radio with any degree of frequency has heard the DJ refer to an artist or group as a one hit wonder. You may have wondered what exactly constitutes that designation.
The first thing is that it depends on what your definition of a “one hit wonder” is. Apparently Billboard Magazine, the bible for the industry for many years, considers a song to be a hit when it makes it into the Billboard top forty charts.
With that as the criteria, an astounding number of “superstars” were one hit wonders. Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Lou Reed, The Buffalo Springfield, Patti Smith, Dr John and Randy Newman are good examples. The reason of course is that they were all part of the transition from 45s being the marker for stardom to albums. While these “superstars” sold millions of albums, they didn’t do well in the singles market.