Thursday, February 16, 2012

Welcome Springsteen fans!

The travel page at today features my story about the new Bruce Springsteen exhibit at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia. The editors there were kind enough to include a link to this 2009 blog post about my album-by-album career overview of Springsteen’s career.

So there’s a whole bunch of tasteful strangers poking around here today. I ask some of you regulars to please move to the centers of each row and be on your best behavior.

Welcome and allow me to introduce the blog.

First of all this blog has nothing to do with the Amish, a kind and gentle sect known for industry, thrift and hardwork.

This blog is none of those things.

What is it?

Well, it strives to be unpredictable. In the past two weeks confused readers have found using search terms that included, “do amish can bacon,” “amish boobs,” “hammock journalist,” and “ich bin ein horny.”

It strives to be visionary. This blog was the first to argue it would enhance the appeal of thoroughbred racing if one of the marquee Triple Crown events was run with 350-pound jockeys: that world hunger will end when scientists learn to farm dinosaurs; and that tedious NFL holding penalties could be eliminated if teams were forced to use armless lineman.

It strives to be cheerful. Only here will you be invited to celebrate things like the birthday of Maj. Frank Burns, the life of America’s greatest eunuch; and the time the alien P’lod played a pivotal role in a presidential election.

But what am I doing taking up all your time when the blog can speak for itself.

There’s only one rule: if you have to sneeze please do so into your inner elbow. It helps reduce the spread of germs.

The only exception being those of you who are heading to a barn square dance tonight. You can let it fly but please try to be careful.

And if you came here hoping for more Springsteen, here’s what the blog had to say on the passing of Clarence Clemmons. RIP, Big Man.

Thanks for the visit. Hope to see you again!

July 19, 2011

The last time I saw Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band I noticed Clarence Clemons had gold fingernails.

I remember thinking it wasn’t gold paint.

I thought it was actual gold and that’s just the way he grew them. He was just that cool.

You can check out a picture and decide for yourself here in my inconsequential blog review of the Boss’s May 19, 2009, Pittsburgh concert.

It’ll take the death of Stone to so fundamentally change one of the great remaining bands the way the death of Clemons changes Bruce and the band.

The artistic generosity of Springsteen meant Clemons would often steal the song and always steal the show.

“When the change was made up town and the Big Man joined the band

“From the coastline to the city all the little pretties raise their hands”

His vocal baritone cameos on “Fire,” “10th Avenue Freeze Out,” and the on-stage mugging between Clemons and Springsteen always sent fans into frenzies.

Clemons liberated the saxophone from the high school band room and made it as eloquent a rock ‘n’ roll instrument as the sainted guitar.

I argue he did as much for race relations as Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton or any of the pretenders to Martin Luther King Jr.’s throne.

That’s him on the black and white cover of maybe the greatest rock album of all time, “Born to Run,” from 1975.

The picture shows the greatest American rock ‘n’ roll star since Elvis draped across the back of a big black man in such an affectionate interracial embrace it seemed to demolish multiple taboos.

This brother was a brother.

It’s fitting, too, because the album is as much his as it is Bruce’s. His saxophone makes indelible contributions on the monumental title cut, “Thunder Road,” “10th Avenue Freezeout,” “Night,” and most memorably on “Jungleland.”

Even as Bruce began writing studio songs away from Clemons, the Clemons solos remained the highlights of concerts.

I listened to all 318 Springsteen songs in chronological order over 23.5 hours to write a career retrospective of one of America’s most important artists.

I’m still struck by the 18-year span from 1986-2002 when Bruce Springsteen chose to not record with one of the greatest bands in American history.

It’s still stunning. He did a bunch of mostly forgettable solo and often self-indulgent treacle while the scattered band did solo projects that never broke the pop culture surface.

I remember Clemons saying watching Bruce make music with other musicians was like watching your wife sleeping with other men.

And, you know, it felt like that to the rest of us, too. Each new release of forgettable material was like attending a divorce proceeding in family court where our custody was being decided.

What the hell was he thinking?

It took the tragedy of 9/11 for him to reunite the band for the sake of our national psyche.

That’s when even he understood. This isn’t just a band.

These are our brothers and sisters, our aunts and uncles. They raised us. They’re in all our scrapbooks.

There are times when I -- and I’m not ashamed of this -- actually look forward to the deaths of our legends, to the days when a well-aged Paul McCartney, Elton John or Mick Jagger struts off to rock ‘n’ roll heaven.

There will be parties at their passings.

Not out of disdain, certainly. It’s just that they’ve given us so much and I truly love them and I’m looking forward to putting their entire playlist on random and getting good and gassed listening to the songs that have meant so much to me.

It’s a kind of mourning we can all enjoy.

The passing of Clarence Clemons doesn’t feel at all like something to celebrate.

This was a death in the family.

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