Sunday, November 12, 2017

Living Life to the Max

Regular readers of this blog have heard me write on several occasions about our dear friend Martin Brewer, who we lost at way too early an age.  In the wake of this passing, his family was kind enough to share his voluminous CD collection with us, and it was dream catalog of most of the music we E Streeters have grown up with.
And among each of his deluxe boxed sets of music, each CD would contain a bonus CD, featuring another smaller, indie band that Martin enjoyed and felt a link to the cover artist, along, in most cases with a ticket stub from one of the hundreds of concerts when he had seen the featured performer, from throughout his decades-long rock and roll pilgrimages to venues around the globe.  Barry, Andrew, John and I were fortunate to log quite a few of those concerts with said Martin stateside, and on the other side of the pond, folks like Paul, Andy, Frank and Gillian were fortunate enough to have experienced the shows in London and its surrounding environs.
Where's this post going, you may be wondering?  Wonder no more.
Since Barry, Andrew and I attended Martin's services outside Littlehampton, England, we've had many a conversation about Martin's zest for life, and his willingness to always say yes to an event or an experience, because as life would come to show us, our time here doesn't always last as long as we'd like it to.  So go for the gusto when you have the opportunity.
Which brings me to a recent windswept night at Laugh nightclub in Boston, attending an unforgettable concert experience - Max Weinberg's Jukebox -along with my brother Jimmy and fellow Bruce Springsteen veteran Ken Gordon and his wife Breena.
And with that, the long-winded story behind this photo and the others to follow: (and despite what many already think - these are NOT photoshopped, as rock and roll photographer to the stars Ken Gordon can attest to - there's also video)
If you ever have a chance to check out the E Street Band's drummer solo tour - GO.  He and his back-up band, the Weeklings, a Beatles homage band out of Jersey, scroll about 200 songs on video screens around the venue, and he encourages the audience to shout out which of those songs they want to see the band play.  As a result, you NEVER get the same setlist for the band's performances.
Our setlist in Boston opened with Glad All Over from the Dave Clark Five, into Fortunate Son from Creedence Clearwater Revival, and then peppered through a litany of some of my favorite songs of all time, including I Wanna Be Sedated by the Ramones, and American Girl from Tom Petty, part of which can be viewed here:

If you haven't seen the Weeklings, they're quite an entertaining group in their own right, and it shouldn't come as a surprise that the songs to choose from included dozens of Beatles hits.  Surprisingly, though, there weren't a TON featured this night in Boston
We did, however, get to see Max channel some Keith Moon on the drum frenzy of I Can See for Miles, clips of which can be seen in these two links:

With the smaller venue, akin to the Garry Tallent show I blogged about earlier in the summer, Max had no problem getting up close and personal with his fans, as he related tales of his youth, his rock and roll upbringing, and of course, his time touring with the the heart-stopping, pants-dropping, hard-rocking, booty-shaking, love-making, earth-quaking, Viagra-taking, justifying, death-defying, legendary E Street Band! 
At one point, he brought a 13-year-old up to give it a go on the drums 
And then came the final song of the night, and the full circle of events I started talking about up top.
Max asked if anyone in the crowd knew all the words to Springsteen's Glory Days.
Without hesitation, and with a tip of my Thunder Road cap to Martin, my hand shot right up, no hesitation.  My brother looked at me incredulously.  Partly because he was surprised at my zeal, but maybe also because he fancied himself the singer in the family.  He's just more along the unrecognizable pitch and decibels of Bob Dylan.
Max beckoned me up onto the stage, and I found myself standing at one mic, along with a bearded stranger who was also clearly both a Springsteen fan, and a music aficionado.  We swapped cell phones to capture the moment for social media posterity.
Here's his pic of me 
And here's further proof, of him taking said pic
Come to find out the next morning, via the miracles of the interwebs and Twitter that my fellow stage performer was none other than Lowell's Chuck Kuenzler, who happens to be a nephew of my good friend, Mike Kuenzler.
Happy to share the stage with such a music buff as you, Chuck!
Here's me returning the stage pic favor
At song's end, with Max's big drum solo finale, it was time to bow down and pay homage to the Mighty One himself
And naturally, get a high five for my singing debut.  Not really, but I couldn't pass up the chance to thank my favorite rock drummer for the decades of enjoyment he's helped provide through his touring with Bruce and the rest of the band.
So there you have it. Probably my first and last time ever sharing stage with a rock and roll legend - Max, not Chuck, mind you.
Thank you Martin, for instilling in me the confidence to carpe diem, and in this case, to carpe microphone and write my own little chapter in rock and roll history.
So to quote the singers in other band I blogged about this week, the Who,
Meet the New Boss.
DEFINITELY not the same as the Old Boss.

Now I think I'm going down to the well tonight 
and I'm going to drink till I get my fill 
And I hope when I get old I don't sit around thinking about it 
but I probably will 
Yeah, just sitting back trying to recapture 
a little of the glory of, well time slips away 
and leaves you with nothing mister but 
boring stories of glory days 

Friday, November 10, 2017

It's Who, You Know!

Lots of pipe-cleaning to do on the blogging front, so let's toss it back to a special evening at Mohegan Sun, as the E Streeters took their rock-and-roll 2017 tour to see one of Britain's greatest exports, The Who, still rocking it out half a century later, albeit with a different band composition than when they first burst on the scene.
(A little behind the scenes of blogging?  Currently streaming Tommy, one of my desert island albums in the background even as we type.  It's a little tale you may have heard about a deaf, dumb, and blind boy.)
This outing would mark the first time seeing the epic band for at three of the road travelers, and the band would not disappoint this evening.
Before we got to the rocking and rolling, though, we needed to make a couple of pitstops to stimulate the local economy.  Speaking of stimulation, luckily Tommy - the E Streeter, not the Who operatic messiah - wasn't with us to pay "homage" to his one-gloved wonder idol, MJ himself. 
From there, we were off to be Pinball Wizards in our own right.  Or at least Game of Thrones slot wizards.
In a scene straight out of Tommy's Holiday Camp, we put in our earplugs, put on our eyeshades, we knew where to put the cork, and started winning big bucks 
Andrew, however, was slightly skeptical of John's slot skills
Me - I was looking for a little face hugger action.  Watch out for them Alien eggs!
Finally, it was showtime, and our seats were primo, about eight rows from the stage.  We were getting a tad over-excited with anticipation, but luckily, the signs were there to help us.
Stepping into the WayBack machine with Mr. Peabody and Sherman, a little bit of E Streeter Who history for you eager readers.
Back in 1979, my brother Jimmy took me to one my earliest live concert experiences, seeing the Who at the Boston Garden on December 16.
Unfortunately, this was one of the first shows the band did after a tragedy in Cincinnati, Ohio, when 11 fans were killed and 26 others injured during a crowd rush for general seating at the Riverfront Coliseum.  And yes, with heightened security in place, this was the legendary carving knife event - the likes of which I Can't Explain within the confines of this blog.
Also at the Boston show, some inane fan threw a cherry bomb firework onto the stage during the first few songs, prompting Who frontman Pete Townshend to stop the show dead and wait until security dragged the idiot out (after challenging him to come up on stage so Townshend could first kick his ass.)
Jimmy, famously, had also been at the March 9, 1976 Who show at the Garden when drummer extraordinaire Keith Moon famously stood up at his drum kit and proceeded to pass out, forcing the band to outright cancel the show, sending the 15,000 fans in attendance into a frenzy as they scrambled around the Garden floor to find the ticket stubs they had already discarded.
The band wrote Moon's collapse off as "the flu."  History would later peel back the curtain a bit more on the sordid backstage antics of the demented drummer.  Let's just  say  rumors of elephant tranquilizers abounded in the years to follow.
At the Mohegan show, Andrew was singing right along with Roger Daltrey and Townshend for most of the show.  He Drowned in euphoria right along with the rest of the arena, especially for the Quadrophenia cuts
Back to some Who History 101: It was September, 1978, and I had just started my freshman year at St. Joseph's Regional High School.  In that first month, I would meet a series of friends that, incredibly, I remain friends with today, nearly 40 years later.
But it was also in that first week of high school that Keith Moon passed away, his surreal and self-destructive  personal life finally catching up with him.
 The death, however, would become a talking point between myself and one of the new faces I encountered that September, another fan of British Rock (although admittedly, he tipped a bit more to the Kinks music coming from the other side of the Pond), Tom Beaupre.
The Who would become the band that first unified Tom and I on common ground and laid the seeds for a friendship that still reverberates 39 years later, even though separated by a couple of states here and there.  We can still see for Miles and Miles and Miles and Miles.
The 1979 rockumentary The Kids are Alright, still to this day, holds the distinction of being the movie I saw repeatedly in the theater than any other flick in history, climbing into double digit viewings.  Tom and I, along with others, would, on little more than a case of boredom, trek in to Boston to watch it on the big screen on a weekend just to bask in the Who's backstory and of course, their music.  And yes, we had all of the lines of that flick memorized as well.  My favorite takeaway from that movie was the greatness that was the mini opera A Quick One While He's Away from the Rolling Stones rock and roll circus show.
So yes, Tom and I were indeed, card-carrying members of this here club, in the video within this link:

In the ensuing decades, I saw the Who a few more times, but was especially eager to experience them again in 2017 with Andrew in tow.  Now it wasn't just people talking about MY Generation, but the next generation of music aficionados as well.
The Who was a band that also provided common ground for Martin Brewer and I in the 1990s and 2000s as well, as our favourite Brit was also a huge fan and had seen them quite a few times more than I.  The Who proved to be one of dozens of music groups that Martin and the rest of us E Streeters could Join Together over.
And what kind of a Who concert would it be if we didn't get Daltrey's microphone flailing and of course, Townshend's trademark windmill strum?   The Sparks still fly on stage when these two bring their A Games.
Along with Pink Floyd's the Wall, the Who's Tommy was one of those albums that literally shaped my interest in music throughout my oh-so formative teenage years.
I listened to it ad nauseum, memorizing every one of the songs, front to back.
The 1975 squirmingly uncomfortable Ken Russell flick of Tommy was literally the first movie I ever saw more than one time in the theaters, catching it on the small screen up at Hampton Beach with Eddie Jakutis, who lived across the street from our beach house on N Street.
The story of the messianic savior whose coming of age via pinball and his internal rebirth was the source of a term paper I wrote in Mr. Waugh's religion class in 1979, earning me an A+, and a glowing review from said teacher.

See Me, Feel Me, Touch Me, Heal Me
Decades later, the music, along with the Quadrophenia cuts, bring the memories of that impressionable teen exploring his music tastes rushing back.

For your enjoyment, courtesy of my Vimeo account, here's a couple of other quick clips from the Mohegan show:

So there you go.  Forty-plus years down the road for this particular Who fan, and I'm happy to report that despite all the twists and turns that life has thrown in everybody's way on the meandering paths of this Amazing Journey that we've all followed, yeah, in 2017, the Kids are STILL Alright.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Reach Up and Touch the Sky

Rolling right along with blog hits via the Jersey Shore (see previous concert entries on Garry Tallent and Little Steven, not to mention more than a few passing references to a certain Boss), this time we're checking in with Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes, still having a party after all these years.
John Lyon, better known simply as Southside for the past 40+ years, was one of several acts to emerge from the Jersey Shore, home of the Stone Pony nightclub and multiple other hotspots that helped produce some of the greatest musical acts of our generation.
Southside actually graduated from high school with the aforementioned Tallent, not to mention another early member of the E Street Band, Vini Lopez.
For this outing, we once again enlisted the Godfather himself, my brother Jimmy, and even managed a rendezvous with the music encyclopedia on two feet, Mike O'Connell, not to mention fellow Boss boss, Ken Gordon.  Between the six of us, we've notched dozens of Southside shows these past decades.  For Andrew, it was his first exposure.
The venue was the Blue Ocean Music Hall in Salisbury, so for these E Streeters, that first meant a pit stop not at the Jersey Shore, but the Seabrook Shore.
A father/son relationship on the rocks
Right out of the gate, Southside was armed and ready with his flyswatter
I saw Southside multiple times during the 1980s, when I had just started dipping my toes into the live concert pools.  You were always guaranteed a raucous club party whenever the Jukes came to town.
Stevie Van Zandt and Southside were inextricably linked in the band's early years, with Stevie playing a number of roles with the group.  Many of Stevie Van Zandt's songs have since become the lyrical background of many of Southside's club shows these past 40 years, and the two remain close friends, with influences frequently bleeding into one another's on-stage performances.
In the ensuing decades, several other members of the E Street Band have toured or recorded with the Jukes, including the Big Man Clarence Clemons, Garry Tallent, Mighty Max Weinberg, Sister Soozie Tyrell, and Patti Scialfa, who would go on to become Springsteen's wife.
Can't let the blog pass without trumpeting the talent of Southside's horns section - John Isley, Chris Anderson and Neal Pawley
So once again, thanks Southside, for allowing this longtime fan to reach up and touch the sky and create a new soul-filled, soulful musical memory with family and friends in the process.
 I know that it's getting late
But I don't want to go home
I am in no hurry baby time can wait
I don't want to go home
Listen to the man sing his song
I don't want to go home
I don't mind baby to stay alnight long
Cause I don't want to go home
Listen baby
I know we had to try
To reach up and touch the sky baby
What ever happened to you and I
That I don't want to go home 

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Still Disciples After All These Years

October 16, 1982 - to date, it remains one of the hands-down LOUDEST concerts this music aficionado has ever attended.
(Rivaled only by Roger Waters at the Worcester Centrum on March 30, 1985.)
The show?  Little Steven and the Disciples of Soul at 15 Landsdowne Street, Boston.
Admittedly, the club itself wasn't that large, which contributed to the ear-splitting volume.   Course, it also had a lot to do with the performer - Miami Steve Van Zandt, frontman for Bruce Springsteen, who was exploring a foray into a solo career with his Men Without Women album.
The Boston-born Miami Steve had broken off from touring with Bruce after the Boss's Nebraska album and prior to Born in the U.S.A., which rocketed Freehold's favorite son into the rock and roll stratosphere.
Suddenly, here was Little Steven, bedecked in bandana and leather jacket complete with a Disciples of Soul rocker, and a band all his own, not to mention a sound.
I have to admit, I was a big fan from the outset, as were several of my fellow E Streeters, especially John Piekos.  Yes, things took some sideways detours with Stevie's political Sun City anti-apartheid anthem a few years later, but Men Without Women, coupled with his follow up album, Voice of America, still hold a special place in my music collection.
Which brings us to September 29, 2017, a new tour with Little Steven and a return to the Orpheum Theatre in Boston.
In the 1980s I was lucky enough to see several music acts at the Orpheum, including the Police and a little known band from Dublin, U2, in May of 1983.
This time, I had not only the guy who introduced me to all things E Street, but the next generation E Streeter in tow as well - my brother, Jimmy and son, Andrew. Jimmy, by the way, was the one who took me to my first Little Steven show 35 years ago, so it all comes around. 
Drawing from his latest album, Soulfire, Stevie and his Disciples riffed through several of the new tracks, but also paid more than ample homage to the music of some of his Asbury Park cohorts, including Southside Johnny and Gary U. S. Bonds.
The show featured street corner Doo Wop, soul sounds, R&B, blues - heck, he covered just about every genre he could squeeze into the 2 1/2 hour rockfest 
It was akin to a night spent listening to his varied Underground Garage discography over on Sirius radio.  A tremendous five-man horns section, complimented by a trio of non-stop dancers helped make for a packed stage of frenetic music talent.
It's no secret that Stevie and Peter Wolf, the former front man for the J. Geils band are best buds -the Wooba Gooba with the Green Teeth is a staple at virtually any Springsteen Boston-area show over the last 30 years, and almost always ends up sharing a microphone with Van Zandt.
This particular night, he resurrected a couple of J. Geils songs from the music crypt - Lookin' For a Love and Freeze Frame - both which kept the sold-out crowd on its feet hearkening back to the Boston-based band's 1980s tandem of hits.
Stevie wrapped up his show with the song Out of the Darkness, from his second album.
Released 33 years ago, its message and lyrics seem even more poignant in today's divided society.

Check it out here:
There's a sadness all around us
There are words we're too afraid to say
The things that I thought would last forever
Are changing every day
There's a hunger can't be satisfied
And the streets are filled with rage
It's time to dig deep inside ourselves
And face the life we've made
It's gonna take two of us
Ijust can't do it all on my own
I see the day gettin' brighter
Hold me a little bit tighter
Out of the darkness in hand in hand
Baby together we will make our stand
Reach out and touch me we can win somehow
I know there's nothing that can stop us now
Oh, baby, come with me out of the darkness
I've lived my life trapped with trouble
Now it's time to make a new start
I thought the only justice in this world
Came from an angry heart
Now I know there's got to be love to protect us
But we can't wait for it to come
I know there's more to life than black and white
The sooner we learn, the sooner we've won
It's gonna take the two of us
I just can't make it all on my own
If you are a fighter
Hold me a little bit tighter
Out of the darkness and hand in hand
Baby together we will make our stand
Reach out and touch me we can win somehow
I know there's nothin' that can stop us now
Oh baby, come with me out of the darkness
Peace, love and understanding!
35 years later, still a Disciple.