Category Archives: Bruce Springsteen

February Ramblin'

cartoon from

Cartoon by Dave Walker. Find more cartoons you can freely re-use on your blog at We Blog Cartoons.

Roger Ebert’s Last Words, con’t, commenting on the Esquire article (linked) and photo of him. “Resentment is allowing someone to live rent-free in a room in your head.”

How the Somaly Mam Foundation is trying to help end human trafficking

Wayne John tells about the time when a Burger King employee threw a double cheeseburger at him. Lousy aim, too.

Gordon reveals Dymowski and DeNiro – together.

Lady Gaga or Johnny Weir? “Can you tell the difference between the pop princess’ outrageous outfits and the Olympic skating star’s flamboyant costumes without seeing their poker faces?” You Olympics watchers who see figure skating only once every four years have no idea…

Springsteen covers.

And SamuraiFrog has three recent pieces worthy of mention, about Kermit the Frog and friend,Christina Hendricks – no, I’ve never seen Mad Men, either – and a particular Super Bowl ad which also annoyed me. (Should note that, on the latter two pieces, his language is coarser than mine.)

This next section is graphic.

Western New York Legacy web site,, is freely available online, and contains thousands of digital images, documents, letters, maps, books, slides, and other items reflecting the rich cultural heritage of Western New York

Print & Photographs (P&P) online catalog: Some photos copyright free (and some not).

Rose DesRochers – World Outside my Window: Free Cartoons for Your Blog, two examples of which appear in this very post.

Courtesy of Past Expiry Cartoon


Kennedy Center Honors

As I’ve mentioned in the past, I am a sucker for the Kennedy Center Honors. This is the 32nd year, and I’ve been following them since practically the beginning. The difference is that in the early days, the performers were sometimes names I knew, though often not, and even the people I recognized, I had not really sampled their works.

This year, as last four out of the five awardees are rather familiar to me.

Writer, composer, actor, director, and producer Mel Brooks

I have always HEARD of Mel Brooks, from the early days of television, from Sid Caesar’s Your Show of Shows, which started before I was born, to creating the series Get Smart in the mid-1960s and the Robin Hood spoof When Things Were Rotten in the mid-1970s.

But it is his writing/producing/directing movies for which I know him.
The Producers (1968) -long before the musical, or the movie of the musical, there was the movie about making money by seemingly losing money. One of the funniest things I ever saw is when the audience is slackjawed after hearing “Springtime for Hitler”, which Brooks not only wrote but sang. There was a 2001 interview on 60 Minutes, which I saw at the time, where he describes his feelings about Hitler:
Hitler was part of this incredible idea that you could put Jews in concentration camps and kill them. And how do you get even? How do you get even with the man? How do you get even with him? There’s only one way to get even. You have to bring him down with ridicule. Because if you stand on a soapbox and you match him with rhetoric, you’re just as bad as he is. But if you can make people laugh at him, then you’re one up on him. And it’s been one of my lifelong jobs has been to make the
world laugh at Adolf Hitler.

That he succeeded is a great understatement.
Blazing Saddles (1974): it’s pretty funny, though it has no suitable ending.
Young Frankenstein (1974): one of the funniest films ever made. I literally fell out of my seat when I saw this in the movie theater; good thing I had an aisle seat.
Silent Movie (1976); High Anxiety (1977) – both funnier in concept than in execution
History of the World: Part I (1981) – few movies I’ve enjoyed less than this. The chief redeeming quality, and it comes near the end: Hitler on ice skates.
Other items of his I saw: My Favorite Year (1982), which he executive produced, and the TV show Mad About You in the late 1990s, where he played Uncle Phil.
Sommeday, I’ll see The Producers on stage.

Pianist and composer Dave Brubeck.

The only CD I own is Time Out (1960), but I have some Brubeck on vinyl. I know I have Time Further Out (1961), which has music in just about every time signature imaginable. I have My Favorite Things (1966). I’ve given out his greatest hits album to people who don’t know him, saying, “You need to know this guy.”
He turned 89 this month and is STILL playing on tour. I was playing Time Out earlier this month and someone visiting my house said, “What’s the name of that song?” It was Take Five. Coincidentally, my buddy Steve Bissette linked to it this month.

Opera singer Grace Bumbry

OK, here’s the hole in my wisdom. I’d heard the name, but I just don’t know opera.

Actor, director, and producer Robert De Niro

I need to go back and see some of his performances from the 1970s; actually a whole bunch of his films, now that I look at the list. But these I definitely did see:
Raging Bull (1980)
The King of Comedy (1982)
Goodfellas (1990)
Stanley & Iris (1990)
Awakenings (1990)
Cape Fear (1991)
Wag the Dog (1997)
Jackie Brown (1997)
Analyze This (1999)
Meet the Parents (2000)
But it’s his work with the Tribeca Film Festival which may be his lasting legacy.
The Tribeca Film Festival was founded in 2002 by Jane Rosenthal, Robert De Niro and Craig Hatkoff in a response to the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and the consequent loss of vitality in the TriBeCa neighborhood in Manhattan.

The mission of the film festival is “to enable the international film community and the general public to experience the power of film by redefining the film festival experience.” The Tribeca Film Festival was founded to celebrate New York City as a major filmmaking center and to contribute to the long-term recovery of lower Manhattan.

Singer and songwriter Bruce Springsteen.

I had this office mate around whom one was not allowed to play Bruce Springsteen music; apparently, it had to do with a broken relationship. Conversely, I had an old girlfriend who was pretty much obsessed with “the Boss.” Which reminds me of that joke on Saturday Night Live a couple weeks ago, about Obama being the President, but
Springsteen being the Boss; so Springsteen ordered all the troops home from Afghanistan.

I noted here my Springsteen discography. Add the 2009 Working On A Dream CD to that and the er, unauthorized record
ings someone sent me

Plus he shows up as songwriter/producer for many other artists’ music I own such as Gary “U.S.” Bonds and Southside Johnny & the Asbury Dukes, not to mention his rendition of Merry Christmas Baby on the very first A Very Special Christmas.

Oh, and I got to see him this year, for the very first time.

The Kennedy Center Honors medallions [were] presented on Saturday, December 5, the night before the gala, at a State Department dinner hosted by Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton…The Honors Gala will be recorded for broadcast on the CBS Network for the 32nd consecutive year as a two-hour primetime special on Tuesday, December 29 at 9:00 p.m. (ET/PT).


Concert Review: Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band

May 14, 2009, Times Union Center, Albany, NY

Maybe it was that I was tired from coming back from a conference, then got to see wife and child for only 20 minutes after three days away. Perhaps it was near-vertigo from climbing those Times Union Center steps to the very top row. More likely though, it was the 45-minute wait from the scheduled 7:30 start time to the actual commencement of the performance. But I was not ready to be just swept away by Bruce and the band playing “Badlands” as their first number; it was too obvious to me. Later in the show, maybe, as he did on a Barcelona performance that played on WMHT public television a couple months ago. I later discover that Badlands was the opening song on every performance on this tour so far, save for the first one.

But wait …that drummer is GREAT! Who the heck IS he? He’s a good 30 years younger than Springsteen. With the energy he’s playing, will he be burned out by the end of the second song, Radio Nowhere?

And Bruce finally captured me with that third tune, Outlaw Pete, which my friend the Hoffinator said was “ten times, 25 times better” than the studio recording on the current album. From then on, I was with the program; in other words, by “No Surrender” – where did those great backup singers come from? – I had. On “Out in the Street”, he faced those of us seated behind him and used his now shared standard bit of letting most of the band have a line. In “Working on a Dream” he preached, they doo wopped. “Johnny 99” was a magnificent rocking reimagining of the song from the stark Nebraska album.

Astonishing guitar work by Nils Lofgrin on “The Ghost of Tom Joad” was captured on a guitar cam. During “Raise Your Hand”, it seems that the people on the floor of the TU Center raised their signs, with Bruce musing over which ones to collect; this, I’m told, is a tradition that began during the latter stages of the band’s previous tour. “Thunder Road” and “Mony Mony”, the latter the Tommy James and the Shondells hit, were the first two requests played.

Some people complain when the artist leaves it to the audience to sing parts of the song. In this case, they were singly loudly already even when the E Streeters were as well; it was certainly true on the solidly performed “Promised Land” and the requested “Backstreets”.

“Kingdom of Days” was dedicated to Springsteen’s wife, Patty Scialfa, who is recovering from a horse-ring injury. I thought it was uncharacteristically flat; not so much emotionally but pitch-wise. But he ended strong with “The Rising” and that song generally abbreviated B2R.

The encore started with incredible shared vocals on Stephen Foster’s “Hard Times”, which was preceded by a pitch for the Regional Food Bank of Northeastern New York.

The best drawing from my vantage point that I saw and Bruce picked to sing was “Kitty’s Back”, a live staple for decades; the jazzy tune featured several tasty solos. It’s from The Wild, the Innocent and the E Street Shuffle album, which I only have on vinyl and need to fix that. I was recently listening to a bootl an unauthorized recording of that tune from c. 1976.

The group looked like they were finishing with American Land, but then launched into the obligatory song from Born in the USA album, “Glory Days”, complete with the banter between Bruce and Little Steven reminiscent of the Super Bowl appearance.

Oh, and that drummer? He was 18-year-old Jay Weinberg, son of Max. The elder Weinberg, the usual drummer, is also Conan O’Brien’s bandleader and had to be in California while Springsteen was on tour. Bruce said, “This is the first time in 35 years” that someone other than Max sat at the drums. As you can tell from Michael Eck’s review in the Times Union, he more than kept the seat warm for dad.


Springsteen and Powell

In anticipation of seeing Bruce Springsteen tonight in Albany, I have, of course, been listening to a lot of his music. And I HAVE a lot off his music:
Greetings From Asbury Park, N.J. 1973 LP, CD
The Wild, The Innocent and the E Street Shuffle 1974 LP
Born To Run 1975 LP, CD
Darkness on the Edge of Town 1978 LP, CD
The River 1980 CD
Nebraska 1982 LP, burned CD
Born in the U.S.A. 1984 LP, CD
Live 1975/85 1986 LPs
Tunnel of Love 1987 LP
Human Touch 1992 CD
Lucky Town 1992 CD
Greatest Hits 1995 CD
The Ghost of Tom Joad 1995 CD
The Rising 2002 CD
We Shall Overcome The Seeger Sessions American Land Edition 2006
Live In Dublin 2007 CD
Magic 2007 CD

What occurred to me is that all of the albums that I have in vinyl and compact disc I got from one source, my brother-in-law John, who was a big advocate for my relationship with his sister Carol, even during the time we were apart.

One December, he asked what I wanted for Christmas, and I gave him a list of Springsteen albums I had on vinyl but not on CD, plus The River, which, for some reason, I had never owned. So John, who was by then living in New Jersey, incidentally, gave me ALL of them; I was angling for maybe two or three.

John died of colon cancer on Lincoln’s Birthday 2002. It seems somehow appropriate to go see The Boss for the first time on what would have been John Powell’s 49th birthday.
Oh, and here are some great Springsteen covers.


BRUCE, T-minus 2

A couple months, I was talking to one of my colleagues about the fact that I would be seeing Bruce Springsteen in May. He, who has seen Bruce a double digit number of times but cannot on this tour, sent me three discs of Springsteen bootl unauthorized recordings. Two discs were from 1979.

It was the third disc, though, was the most intriguing. I put it into my iTunes and lo, iTunes recognized it. It turned out to be the second disc of something called You Can Trust Your Car to the Man Who Wears the Star, a 1975 performance that fits chronologically between Springsteen’s second and third albums.

If one Googles the title and Springsteen, one gets over 11,000 hits, so it is not an obscure recording, but rather a legendary one. And now, only 34 years after that recording, I’m going to see Springsteen live myself.

But what’s with the album title? I’m old enough to recognize the original reference – think fossil fuel – but WHY use it? Anyone know?


Pre-inaugural Music

There was this concert last Sunday at the Lincoln Memorial. The program was on HBO, but it was to made free to anyone with basic cable. From what I’ve read, a number of cable companies didn’t get the word to unscramble HBO, though that was the intent. I know my cable was asking for a PIN number (yes, I know “PIN number” is redundant); Time Warner told me it is the “universal default” number, 0000, and it was.

In any case, the We Are One concert is on the HBO website for free. It runs just under two hours, and starts with Bishop Gene Robinson’s invocation, which was reportedly excised from the broadcast; Robinson is openly gay. From time to time, I had a buffering problem, so I decided to see if I could find at least the pop music performances on YouTube, and I did. The ones from, I think, Groban/Headley on are from one person and are pretty good quality. The earlier videos are of various folks and quality; at least one jittery video was obviously taken by someone actually at the show, not dependent on a TV feed.

Master Sergeant Caleb B. Green III The Star-Spangled Banner

Denzel Washington Homage to the leaders given Monuments or Memorials

Bruce Springsteen “The Rising” by Bruce Springsteen. The choir is very effective.

Laura Linney and Martin Luther King III: F.D.R and John F. Kennedy

Mary J. Blige “Lean on Me” by Bill Withers

Jamie Foxx and Steve Carell Referencing Thomas Jefferson, Thurgood Marshall and Robert Kennedy – Foxx imitates Obama.

Bettye LaVette and Jon Bon Jovi “A Change Is Gonna Come” by Sam Cooke – LaVette blows away Bon Jovi

Tom Hanks Tribute to Abraham Lincoln

Marisa Tomei Quoting Ronald Reagan

James Taylor, John Legend and Jennifer Nettles “Shower the People” by James Taylor. I’m old, because I liked it.

Joe Biden Speech

John Mellencamp “Pink Houses” by John Mellencamp

Queen Latifah Referencing Marian Anderson

Josh Groban and Heather Headley “My Country, ‘Tis of Thee”

Kal Pen and George Lopez Quotes Dwight Eisenhower and Barbara Jordan

Herbie Hancock, and Sheryl Crow “One Love” by Bob Marley

Tiger Woods Dedicating the Armed Forces

Renee Fleming “You’ll Never Walk Alone”

Jack Black and Rosario Dawson Tribute to Theodore Roosevelt

Garth Brooks “American Pie” by Don McLean/”Shout” (Isley Brothers)/”We Shall Be Free” (Garth Brooks). The new Commander-in-Chief knows at least some of the lyrics to American Pie.

Ashley Judd and Forest Whitaker Referencing John F. Kennedy and William Faulkner

Usher, Stevie Wonder and Shakira “Higher Ground” by Stevie Wonder. A number of people suggested that Shakira was the worst performer of the day. One YouTube person wondered who that guy was playing keyboards was – it was Stevie.

Samuel L. Jackson Referencing Abraham
Lincoln, Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr.

U2 “Pride (in the Name of Love)” and “City of Blinding Lights” by U2. Pride, especially in that setting, was particularly moving. City, I read recently, is reportedly on Obama’s iPod.

Barack Obama Speech: Voices Calling for Change

Pete Seeger and Bruce Springsteen “This Land is your Land” by Woody Guthrie. Pete’s voice is shot (though his grandson Tao’s is strong), but it was very moving to hear those verses one doesn’t usually hear:

“In the squares of the city – By the shadow of the steeple
By the relief office – I saw my people
As they stood there hungry, I stood there wonderin
If this land’s still made for you and me.”

“There was a big high wall there – that tried to stop me;
Sign was painted – it said private property;
But on the other side – it didn’t say nothing;
That side was made for you and me.”

“Nobody living can ever stop me,
As I go walking – that freedom highway;
Nobody living can ever make me turn back
This land was made for you and me.”

Beyonce “America the Beautiful”. A suitable ending.


Songs That Move Me, 90-81

90. Wah Wah – George Harrison.
On an album, All This Must Pass, of mostly lovely little tunes, this really rocks. I love the harmonies. And is that a race car engine revving at the end?
Feeling: like playing air guitar.

So you want to write a fugue by Glenn Gould.


Kill More Of Your Idols

Back in JANUARY, I summarized the first half of the book Kill Your Idols, edited by Jim DeRogatis and Carmel Carrillo, about classic albums that were overpraised. I promised the rest the following month. Well, the book then disappeared in my home office, until my wife tidied up (mostly HER stuff, I might add), and I found it again.

Patti Smith, Horses. Arista, 1975. By Melanie Haupt.
The writer’s point: I really want to like it, but I just can’t get down with it.
My point: Actually, I tend to agree. I bought this, on LP, and listened to it several times, trying to “get” it, but I don’t.

Bob Marley and the Wailers, Exodus. Island, 1977. By Dave Chamberlain
The writer’s point: overly commercial, not his best effort, lacks fire.
My point: I don’t know the other albums well enough to say, but I enjoy it on its own merits.

Fleetwood Mac, Rumours. Reprise, 1977. By Jim Walsh.
The writer’s point: Actually, I don’t know WHAT the point is. Mostly, how he wants to get a gun so he can kill the members of the band, I think.
My point: I own it on vinyl. There are a few songs on here I actually like (Go Your Own Way) – I know people who would disagree – but I am surprised that it became the utter phenomenon it did.

Paul McCartney - Ram
Paul McCartney, Ram. Capitol, 1971. By Tom Phalen.
The writer’s point: bombastic, over-produced weak songs.
My point: OK, it’s definitely a goofy album, and even at the time of its release, it took some heat, so I’m surprised it’s even included in the book. That said, I enjoyed it well enough, and don’t care that Paul swiped stuff from his previous band.

John Lennon/Yoko Ono, Double Fantasy. Geffen, 1980. By Allison Stewart.
The writer’s point: The album is impossible to separate from the events of December 8, 1980. Lennon’s contributions were moving, if slightly cloying. But Ono’s atonality interrupts even that.
My point: Yes, 12/8/80 is all over it. I liked that John was (finally) comfortable in his skin. And I sorta like Kiss Kiss Kiss. But truth to tell, I haven’t listened to it in so long, that except for the Makin’ Whoopie swipe I’m Your Angel, I can’t even REMEMBER the Yoko songs.

The Sex Pistols, Never Mind the Bollocks…Here’s the Sex Pistols. Warner Brothers, 1977. By Jim Testa.
The writer’s point: Except for Anarchy in the U.K. and God Save the Queen, he’s got the feeling that he’s been cheated.
My point: Agree. I find the rest all but unlistenable.

Dead Kennedys, Fresh Fruit For Rotting Vegetables. Alternative Tentacles, 1980. By Marco Leavitt (of Albany, NY).
The writer’s point: Hard to take because they take themselves so seriously, even when they’re trying to be humorous.
My point: Actually, I’ve never heard of this album.

Bruce Springsteen, Born to Run. Columbia, 1975. By David Sprague.
The writer’s point: The Newsweek/Time hype of this bloated album with characters devolved from his previous releases was muscled by the pre-release of every song to a rock station in Cleveland.
My point: O.K., it isn’t the messianic departure the hype suggested, and maybe is a bit overproduced in that Phil Spector way, but still enjoyable.

Bruce Springsteen, Born in the U.S.A. Columbia, 1984. By Rob O’Connor.
The writer’s point: Springsteen is corny, mundane, and conventional. He doesn’t recognize rock and roll as the rebellious forbidden fruit, and obviously never had a real job in his life. He intentionally misled people into misreading the title song, ripped off the other songs from other artists, and generally panders to his audience. The album sounds like mud.
My point: I was never hot on Dancing in the Dark, but that aside, I think this is an interesting, diverse piece of Americana.

Various Artists, My Greatest Exes. By Carmel Carrillo.
The writer’s point: Since I’m the co-editor of this book, I can write an indulgent chapter about music my ex-girlfriends like and dis them (the songs, and, by extension, the ex-girlfriends).
My point: Not worthy of comment.

Elvis Costello and the Attractions, Imperial Bedroom. Columbia, 1982, By Michael Corcoran.
The writer’s point: It’s trying to be Sgt. Pepper or at least Pet Sounds. Instead the album is bloated and pretentious.
My point: I was totally distracted by this sentence:
I was there when they unlocked the front door at Strawberry Records in Albany, New York, the day Imperial Bedroom came out. I KNEW this guy! He used to write for a variety of publications, some of which he put out himself, that he would drop off at FantaCo, the comic book store I worked at in that time period. Knew his then-girlfriend, too, who was MUCH younger. AND I used to buy albums at Strawberry’s, and at Just A Song, which was virtually in the same space before that.
As for the album, I just didn’t play it all that often. There were three or four great songs that stood out, but the rest, not so much.

U2, The Joshua Tree. Island, 1987. By Eric Waggoner and Bob Mehr.
The writers’ point: U2 hemorrhaged sincerity to produce “one of the most relentlessly banal albums in the pantheon of the greats.”
My point: As early as 1988, I had this album on my 20 desert albums. When I told that to someone, he thought it was too soon to tell. Fair enough; it’s still on my 20-30 desert albums.

Public Enemy, It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back. Def Jam/Columbia, 1988. By Arsenio Orteza.
The writer’s point: Shrill noise similar to “Chinese water torture” with a 20-year-old message. And racist to boot.
My point: I have never owned this album, so feel unqualified to comment.

Nirvana, Nevermind. Geffen, 1991. By Anders Smith Lindell.
The writer’s point: It “made punk safe for the shopping mall.” The overdone soft/loud schtick wore out its welcome.
My point: This is first album that made me feel old. I thought the lyrics to Smells Like Teen Spirit were laughable or a parody, though I appreciated it musically. Upon more plays, I appreciated it more, though it DOES have too much of that soft/loud schtick.

The Smashing Pumpkins, Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness. Virgin, 1995. By Rick Reger.
The writer’s point: It was “designed to create the impression of ‘significance’ where, in fact, none existed. The scope of the album isn’t its strength, it’s its “fatal flaw”.
My point: I’ve never owned it, so can’t speak well enough of it.

Radiohead, OK Computer. Capitol, 1997. By David Menconi.
The writer’s point: Completely boring and unmoving, though marketed well.
My point: I bought it. I listened to it thrice. I don’t get it, either, though the last time, I heard it in 2- or 3-song chunks and it was (surprisingly) better.

Wilco, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. Nonesuch, 2003. By Allison Augustyn.
The writer’s point: Tranquilizing, with a few catchy songs
My point: This was on my “to buy” list -I have other Wilco, which I like – but I haven’t yet.

That’s it, except for About the Contributors, which is a lot of fun, actually, because at least half of them have one or more albums on their Top Ten albums that someone else has royally panned.