May 14, 2006

Springsteen: Sold on Song

Bruce Springsteen
BBC Radio 2
“Sold on Song”
LSO St. Luke’s, London
10 May 2006
Broadcast 13 May 2006

As part of BBC Radio 2′s Sold On Song yesterday, Johnnie Walker introduced the most amazing programme yet.

Recorded in a converted church in North London in front of 200 competition winners. An amazing night captured here in a 57 minute edited form.

01. Intro
02. John Henry
03. Oh Mary Don’t You Weep
04. How Can A Poor Man Stand Such Times And Live?
05. Mrs. McGrath
06. My Oklahoma Home
07. Jacob’s Ladder
08. We Shall Overcome
09. Pay Me My Money Down
10. Outro


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March 25, 2006

You want more Springsteen? Well bring it, baby. Bring it.

Wow, huge interest in that last Springsteen post – traffic set a new record for the Fuel blog. Thank you for all of your heartfelt comments, I am just glad to see that my emotional ramblings about beauty and madness made some sense to you as well, and that y’all understood the essence of what I was trying to say.

Oh, and how beautiful was that little Pearl Jam trio of songs? I loved ‘em the best, Vedder’s quavering and earnest renditions, especially of No Surrender, just get me.

Lots of you guys sent me tons of cool Bruuuce-related mp3s. So, here goes again, round two of covers with The Boss:

(LINKS RE-UPPED 11/17/06)

Rain King –> Thunder Road – Counting Crows (gorgeous!)

It’s Hard To Be A Saint In The City – Bowie

I’m On Fire – Tori Amos

And then a slew from the UNCUT Springsteen covers CD (thanks Mike!) – Disc 1. Some of these are good, others are kind of ho-hum, pale imitations of the original, with all the soul sucked out of them, but you be the judge:

Thunder Road – Badly Drawn Boy
Atlantic City – The Band

Cover Me – Thea Gilmore
Streets of Philadelphia – Marah
Book of Dreams – Dion
Nebraska – Dan Bern
Tougher Than the Rest – The Mendoza Line
Racing in the Streets – Townes Van Zandt
I’m on Fire – Big Country
Stolen Car – Patty Griffin
For You – Greg Kihn
Jackson Cage – John Wesley Harding
Born to Run – Suzy Quatro
Fire – Link Wray
If I Should Fall Behind – Grant McLennan


CD 2 has Jesse Malin doing Hungry Heart (got it), Steve Earle doing “State Trooper,” and The Knack with “Don’t Look Back.” Anyone have it?

And now I definitely feel done with Springsteen covers for a bit. I crave the original, the real thing.

BONUS: Kevin Smith writes about his love of Bruce on his blog: “For years, I tried to deny the Boss – simply because I was a quietly rebellious Jersey lad who refused to dig on Bruce simply out of a sense of Central Jersey pride. But by the time I was twenty, I couldn’t escape the fact that I, too, dug Bruce.” Read the whole excellent entry.

No retreat, baby. No surrender.

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March 17, 2006

All the redemption I can offer girl is beneath this dirty hood

I am an admittedly late convert to anything having to do with Springsteen, and I am still far from a hardcore fan, but I do deeply appreciate a well-written lyric and this man practically drowns in well-written lyrics that just make me ache. I had kind of dismissed him from a dim memory growing up from the Dancing in the Dark video (you know, that one with Courteney Cox) and just left it at that.

UNTIL I really listened to this amazing, amazing live version of Born to Run that I accidentally downloaded on iTunes when I meant to get something else. It’s stripped down with a haunting harmonica and words sung like he feels every ounce of the sadness and the madness. Man alive, I understood what my friend meant when he said it was a song with funeral playability. Something about the lyrics and the way they capture the passion and the hot-bloodedness of being young and feeling the fire & desperation in your veins.

Born To Run - Bruce Springsteen
(off Chimes of Freedom)
If you’ve written Springsteen off in the past, please listen to this. Eyes closed is best. And the lyrics? Ridiculously evocative, especially the way he sings them here.

“Wendy let me in I wanna be your friend
I want to guard your dreams and visions
Just wrap your legs ’round these velvet rims
strap your hands across my engines.”


“The amusement park rises bold and stark
Kids are huddled on the beach in the mist
I wanna die with you Wendy on the streets tonight
In an everlasting kiss.”

or how ’bout,

“Together we could live with the sadness
I’ll love you with all the madness in my soul.”

Nick Hornby says exactly what I want to say when I listen to certain gorgeous Springsteen songs that just focus on the incredible imagery and songwriting and the sense of a shot at redemption. From Hornby’s excellent Songbook (required reading):

“…Sometimes, very occasionally, songs and books and films and pictures express who you are, perfectly. And they don’t do this in words or images, necessarily; the connection is a lot less direct and more complicated than that. . . . Some time in the early to mid-eighties, I came across another version of [Thunder Road], a bootleg studio recording of Springsteen alone with an acoustic guitar (it’s on War And Roses, the Born To Run outtakes bootleg); he reimagines ‘Thunder Road’ as a haunting, exhausted hymn to the past, to lost love and missed opportunities and self-delusion and bad luck and failure . . . In fact, when I try to hear that last line of the song in my head, it’s the acoustic version that comes first. It’s slow, and mournful, and utterly convincing: an artist who can persuade you of the truth of what he is singing with either version is an artist who is capable of an awful lot.

. . . One of the great things about the song as it appears on Born To Run is that those first few bars, on wheezy harmonica and achingly pretty piano, actually sound like they refer to something that has already happened before the beginning of the record, something momentous and sad but not destructive of all hope; as ‘Thunder Road’ is the first track on side one of Born To Run, the album begins, in effect, with its own closing credits. In performance at the end of the seventies, during the Darkness on the Edge of Town tour, Springsteen maximized this effect by segueing into ‘Thunder Road’ out of one of his bleakest, most desperate songs, ‘Racing In The Street’, and the harmonica that marks the transformation of one song into the other feels like a sudden and glorious hint of spring after a long, withering winter. On the bootlegs of those seventies shows, ‘Thunder Road’ can finally provide the salvation that its position on Born To Run denied it.

Maybe the reason ‘Thunder Road’ has sustained for me is that, despite its energy and volume and fast cars and hair, it somehow manages to sound elegiac, and the older I get the more I can hear that. When it comes down to it, I suppose that I too believe that life is momentous and sad but not destructive of all hope, and maybe that makes me a self-dramatizing depressive, or maybe it makes me a happy idiot, but either way ‘Thunder Road’ knows how I feel and who I am, and that, in the end, is one of the consolations of art.”

Thunder Road - Bruce Springsteen
(acoustic, off War and Roses)

Anyway, so the impetus for this long and rambling post came from a reader from the lovely campus of Stanford University (the less well-known ugly stepsister to the illustrious Santa Clara University just down the road) who asked me if I had any other good Springsteen covers to post (following the Stars one and the Pete Yorn one).

Why yes, yes I do.

You’re Missing – Cowboy Junkies
From their really good 2005 album Early 21st Century Blues out on Zoe Records. This is a collection of reinvented covers from original artists like John Lennon, U2, Springsteen, and George Harrison. I very much like their reinterpretations, with the evocative strings and lazy vocals, which still pack a sadness-drenched punch.

Mansion On A Hill – David Gray
Live from 4/14/2001. Enough said about David Gray – except I love him. But you knew that.

Thunder Road – Matt Nathanson
Live at the Fillmore 11/7/02. The always fabulous-in-concert Mr. Nathanson has a live album coming out April 4th: Live at The Point. But this song isn’t on it.

No Surrender – Pearl Jam
Live at the Borgata Casino in Atlantic City 9/30/05
Okay, one of my favorite covers EVER. It is incrediby pure and urgent and wavering — fantastic. Listen to the crowd start in with the “Bruuuuuuuuce” as soon as Vedder says he wants to play something “appropriate for our location this evening.”

Atlantic City – Pearl Jam
Live at the Borgata Casino in Atlantic City 10/1/05

The Promised Land – Pearl Jam with Sleater-Kinney
Live in Philly 10/3/05

Thunder Road – Tortoise and Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy
From the 2006 album The Brave and The Bold. I don’t understand the naming of the musicians here, but I liked this cover a lot more than I thought I would. The intro is a bit jarring, but the meat of it is grooving and bluesy.

In closing, if there is a nicer mental image than these lyrics (that open Thunder Road), I am not sure what it is:

“The screen door slams - Mary’s dress waves - Like a vision she dances across the porch - As the radio plays - Roy Orbison singing for the lonely - Hey that’s me and I want you only . . .”

December 13, 2005

Bruuuuce live, and R.E.M. cover Chris Isaak

Hello dear readers. Two quick hits for you today:

1. “The Arms of God, Vol. 2.” Zip file mix of Bruce Springsteen, solo acoustic from 1995. Twelve tracks of music and an interview. Thanks to Renee for uploading this gem. Details about the setlist (and even cover art!) here.

2. R.E.M. does a moody cover of Chris Isaak’s Wicked Game live. I love Michael Stipe’s voice, he can do this one justice.

“Wicked Game” – R.E.M. (live)

I have also heard that Giant Drag does a distorted cover of this song as well, but have had no luck finding it. Anyone out there have it? Annie from the band emailed me back and she doesn’t have a live recording, but maybe some uberfan out there?

Be good, kids.

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Bio Pic Name: Heather Browne
Location: Colorado, originally by way of California
Giving context to the torrent since 2005.

"I love the relationship that anyone has with music: because there's something in us that is beyond the reach of words, something that eludes and defies our best attempts to spit it out. It's the best part of us, probably, the richest and strangest part..."
—Nick Hornby, Songbook
"Music has always been a matter of energy to me, a question of Fuel. Sentimental people call it Inspiration, but what they really mean is Fuel."
—Hunter S. Thompson

Mp3s are for sampling purposes, kinda like when they give you the cheese cube at Costco, knowing that you'll often go home with having bought the whole 7 lb. spiced Brie log. They are left up for a limited time. If you LIKE the music, go and support these artists, buy their schwag, go to their concerts, purchase their CDs/records and tell all your friends. Rock on.

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