Tag Archives: Bruce Springsteen

The Price of Performance

“Keep me searching for a pot of gold/And I’m growing old”—with apologies to Neil Young

For the past several months, climate activists in London have been staging protests at the British Museum. They want the institution to stop taking sponsorship money from bp. bp (formerly British Petroleum) is, of course, an oil and gas company. There is probably a bp station close by to where you are right now. The company says, “Our purpose is reimagining energy for people and our planet. We want to help the world reach net zero and improve people’s lives.” I don’t know what “reimagining energy” means. Probably some clever copywriter came up with that term. It is hard to imagine (to say nothing of reimagine) precisely how a company that is primarily predicated on drilling holes to pump out fossil fuels that are then processed so that they can be combusted in various things like motor vehicles is going to get to net zero, even by 2050 because as long as these carbon-based fuels are burned, the consequences are, well, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration: “the substances produced when gasoline is burned (carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, particulate matter, and unburned hydrocarbons) contribute to air pollution. Burning gasoline also produces carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas.”

Just how the elimination of the sponsorship by bp for the 990,000-square-foot history museum—which, by the way, has free admission—is going to have an effect on the chemistry of combustion or on the use of petrol there or gasoline here is difficult to suss, but there is something to be said for the pluck of those stalwart Brits who are gluing themselves to things like paintings to prove their dedication to the mission. (What, I wonder, do they do when they have to go to the loo? Bust out the nail polish remover and make a quick break?).

Whether it is a museum or a band, the importance of sponsorship—a.k.a., funding—is absolutely important.

Continue reading The Price of Performance

Shine On, You Crazy. . .

Bob Dylan, the troubadour of the ‘60s who managed to write his way through the following decades with a number of songs that have become like cotton for many people, whether they know that he wrote the songs or not, is 81. For some people his career might be like the old joke about McCartney being in a band before Wings, but in Dylan’s case, that he actually did something before the Traveling Wilburys (and if you think about that band, it is a rather creepy situation, given that only Dylan and Jeff Lynne still on stage, with George Harrison, Tom Petty and Roy Orbison all exiting) may be somewhat astonishing to some people, although the best of Dylan was in that earlier period, not the later.

Although Dylan received the Nobel Prize in Literature (2016), he never had a number-one song on the charts. He did get to #2 twice, with “Like a Rolling Stone”* and Rainy Day Women #12 & 35.” The Byrd’s 1965 cover of “Mr. Tambourine Man” did make it to the top of the charts, however.

Dylan, of course, has a resonance that transcends whether he managed to acquire gold discs to adorn his walls. Which goes a long way to explaining why he’s managed to acquire, in the last couple of years, some $350-million or more by selling his recordings and catalog (to Sony Music and Universal Music respectively). Given that an LP weighs about six ounces and the price of an ounce of gold is $1,825, Dylan could easily wallpaper a room with gold records.

If we roughly estimate that Dylan has been working for the past 61 years, that means $5.7-million per year, which is probably somewhat better than he’d imagined when he lived in a cold water flat. (I don’t know for certain whether he lived in such a place, but obviously the nature of the performer lends itself to that, just as now we can posit that he has more than the wherewithal to live in the manner to which he has probably become accustomed, which has an expectation of more than hot water.)

Springsteen has done better with his catalog, estimated to have garnered $550 million, and odds are that he will add more work to his back pages.

Word now is that Pink Floyd—or the band previously known as Pink Floyd—is putting its catalog up for sale. The price is estimated to be $500 million.

Continue reading Shine On, You Crazy. . .

On the Potential Commercialization of Bruce Springsteen

And here you have it:

NEW YORK – December 16, 2021 – Sony Music Group today announced it has acquired Bruce Springsteen’s entire recorded music and songwriting catalogs through separate agreements. The two agreements cover the recorded music and music publishing rights to all of Springsteen’s songs, including “Born to Run,” “Born In The USA” “Dancing in the Dark” “Glory Days,” “The River,” “Hungry Heart,” “Brilliant Disguise” and “I’m On Fire,” among many others. Sony Music Publishing partnered with Eldridge on the songwriting catalog purchase.

And the news release goes on from there, including a quote from Springsteen: “I am one artist who can truly say that when I signed with Columbia Records in 1972, I came to the right place. During the last 50 years, the men and women of Sony Music have treated me with the greatest respect as an artist and as a person. I’m thrilled that my legacy will continue to be cared for by the Company and people I know and trust.”

A few things.

First know that Springsteen is 72 years old, and according to the Social Security Administration, a 72-year-old has a life expectancy of 13.25 years.

It is reported that the purchase is on the order of $550 million. Presumably, that would be liable to the 37% federal tax rate, which would leave him with $346,500,000.

Serious walking around money.

Continue reading On the Potential Commercialization of Bruce Springsteen

“The Middle”

One of the all-time best Super Bowl commercials, and certainly the best-ever ad for a car company, was aired 10 years ago during Super Bowl XLV. The ad, known both as “Born of Fire” and “Imported from Detroit,” shows Eminem rolling through the streets of Detroit. The images were not all chamber-of-commerce shiny and bright. The edge nature of the crumbling environment, a situation that led to people visiting to see the post-industrial archelogy in front of their eyes (not exactly Pompei-like ruins, but certainly not necessarily a place you’d like to take a Sunday walk). The soundtrack is an instrumental version of Eminem’s “Lose Yourself.” He is driving what was then a new Chrysler 200.

You see the Robert Graham “Monument to Joe Louis,” a sculpture that is better known around these parts as “The Fist,” which is located at the foot of Woodward at Jefferson, and you know that Detroit is not a city that is like any other.

Eminem drives the 200 to the Fox Theatre, a classic movie house opened in 1928 and completely rehabilitated by the company that owns Little Caesar’s Pizza (yes, that is from Detroit, as is Domino’s), where the marque outside reads “Keep Detroit Beautiful.” The narrator to that point had talked about how Detroit isn’t New York, Chicago, Vegas, “And we’re certainly no one’s Emerald City.”

He walks down an aisle of the theater, which has long been a music venue rather than a movie house, and on the stage there’s the Selected of God choir, wearing their Sunday robes and singing, as the instrumental “Lose Yourself” builds.

Eminem turns to the camera, accusatorially points his finger, and says, “This is the Motor City and this is what we do.”

“God damn right,” Detroiters everywhere nodded.

Continue reading “The Middle”

Folklore Is Found in the Threads of Despair

…Driving in to Darlington County
Me and Wayne were quarantining since the Fourth of July
Driving in to Darlington County
Looking for any kinda work on the county line
We drove down from New York City
Where the pretty girls wearing’ masks just want to know your COVID history
Driving in to Darlington County
Got a connection for free testing with an uncle of Wayne’s
We drove 800 miles without seeing a temperature checkpoint
We got rock and roll music blasting off the T-top singing…

The hard truths of our American COVID moment are many, maddening, and bitter. Cases spiraling upward and spiking daily in towns, cities, counties and states; a mortality rate in the hundreds of thousands; an economy in tatters and the average person isolated, masked, and desperately shifting their weight on uncertain ground. From barbecues to ballgames, fancy graduations to informal get togethers, the course of everyday life in America has careened off course into unknown territory. The numbers are scary, the danger is real, and the only thing anybody knows for sure is that nothing is for sure, and none of us will ever be the same again.

The fact of the virus as the arbiter of our new American reality is sobering enough. Its effect on our institutions of leisure, the games we watch and play, and the arts that we hold dear has been a bewildering leveling agent. Basketball? In a bubble. Baseball? Getting by, barely. Summer movie release schedules? Decimated. And music — for so many of us, the guiding factor throughout the year, but the brightest of lines in Summer, when traipsing around boffo music festivals, seeing sets outside at street fairs, and reveling in sweaty rock club moments form a kind of idyll — music is facing its own peril as both an economic system and an art form built from shared experience. What does music look like when it wears COVID’s scars?

…It’s a long day, locked down in Reseda
There’s a community testing site out in the front yard
I’m a bad boy, ‘cause I didn’t practice proper distancing
I’m a bad boy, for bringing it here…

On June 23rd, Taylor Swift surprised the world with the announcement of Folklore, her eighth studio album. The set was conceived of, written and recorded entirely in quarantine after the singer and songwriter’s plans for a tour in support of her 2019 record Lover were blown apart by the virus. For Swift, the pandemic’s altering effect on her business model offered a unique opportunity for creativity, one which lent a new intimacy and earthiness to her music, received critical appreciation for her stylistic and economic pivot, and netted positive returns in the all-important social media news cycle. The pandemic sucks, but people still love a surprise.

For the folklorists and musicians Gillian Welch and David Rawlings, the pandemic hit as hard as an early March tornado that nearly destroyed their home base and recording studio in Nashville, Tenn. As performers and gigging musicians whose money is often made on the road, it was natural to drop a new set of demos for the heads (Boots No. 2: The Lost Songs, Vol. 1) and use the lockdown to record the Americana covers set All The Good Times.

“Music has some things that only music can do in a time like this,” Rawlings explained to Rolling Stone. “With folk songs, every person has put a little bit of their DNA into what becomes the bloodstream of that song, and the culture and time period they came out of usually did also.”

“[Playing these songs] in a time of isolation and reflection, it’s almost like all those people are there.”

Exploring the spinal fluid of what makes a folk song live seems especially important in a period like this COVID journey, when our modes of living are realigning and sickness, death, and fear are in too high supply.

In the stark, melancholy and achingly emotive world he created for “Highway Patrolman” from 1982’s bleakly rewarding Nebraska, Bruce Springsteen tells a tale of two brothers torn by loyalties and a love triangle. “Me and Franky laughing and drinking, nothing feels better than blood on blood,” he sings. And the brothers take turns dancing with Maria, as the band plays “Night of the Johnstown Flood.” While no such folk song seems to exist, with the reference Springsteen alludes to a catastrophic 1889 dam failure just upstream from Johnstown, Pennsylvania that killed over 2,200 people and more than $17 million in damages, or nearly $500 million in 2020 money. The Johnstown Flood was the worst loss of civilian life in US history, a grim title it held until the devastating Galveston hurricane of 1900 and, later, the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. What will the coming folkloric record chronicle about this tragedy of our time, this unseen flood, and its even more profound toll in lives and destruction?

JTL

New Low Cut Connie video: Look What They Did

Video: Low Cut Connie – “Look What They Did”

Low Cut Connie - Look What They Did

Directed by Adam Weiner and Alex Wroblewski. Single out now on Contender.

Tough shit for the little guy
Living like a chump with his back to the wall

Damn! Adam Weiner pulls no punches in this tribute to Atlantic City. Not only the town, but also to Bruce Springsteen’s classic song, even calling it a sequel to it. As Caryn Rose writes in Backstreet, even the video is a deliberate homage to Springsteen’s 1982 clip.

Rose describes it as an “update and a confirmation; it’s a continuation of the same story, picked up and carried along, updated and renewed, like a modern folk tradition, the one that reminds the people in power that we notice, we are standing watch, we are paying attention.”

They built casinos in 1981
They said the whole freakin’ city’s gonna grow
Donald Trump made half a billion
What have we got to show?

In a press release, Weiner explained, “I figured now that almost 40 years has passed, it was time for a little moral and civic check-in. Let’s see where Atlantic City is at now. What we find is some serious devastation. Trump went in on a lie, made his gazillions, stiffed a lot of people and skipped town. Now he’s running his scam on everyone else. In New Jersey, we had his number a long time ago.”

Let’s hope the rest of the country is starting to figure it out too…

Low Cut Connie: web, twitter, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

Continue reading New Low Cut Connie video: Look What They Did

My rock and roll library update

The Zapple Diaries: The Rise and Fall of the Last Beatles Label by Barry Miles (Harry N. Abrams, 2016)

Do we need another Beatles book? Is there any facet of the Beatles’ 12-year existence as a group that hasn’t been written into the ground? Well, at least until Mark Lewisohn completes his definitive multi-volume history, it looks like we’re going to continue to get more. This one is a specific first-person look at the big-idea, short-lived subsidiary label that the naive idealists formed to release experimental recordings. Miles was hired to record poets such as Charles Bukowski, Laurence Ferlinghetti, and Allen Ginsberg. Spoiler alert: Zapple ended up only releasing two records (vanity projects by George Harrison and John Lennon) before new manager Allen Klein fired everybody and closed shop.

The Underground Is Massive: How Electronic Dance Music Conquered America by Michaelangelo Matos (Dey Street, 2015)

I’m probably not the intended audience for this book since I don’t really know the difference between house and techno and jungle and dubstep, and I don’t particularly care. Dance music people are very into genre differentiation, but it’s still rock and roll to me. I do, however, enjoy reading well researched and engaging history, and this book is full of that. Lots of young people doing their own thing, making their own scenes, getting loaded, and digging music. Despite the fact that Matos has claimed “The book is not about recordings,” I could have really used a soundtrack when reading it since virtually all of the music was unfamiliar to me.

Sound Man: A Life Recording Hits with The Rolling Stones, The Who, Led Zeppelin, the Eagles, Eric Clapton, the Faces… by Glyn Johns (Plume, 2014)

It’s rare that I start but don’t finish a book. This is one of those rarities. For all the characters and events this guy witnessed, you’d think he’d be able to come up with some interesting insights or at least a few good stories. Nope. It’s just tame and boring. Which is a shame because I’ve read interviews with Johns where he’s been hilarious and opinionated. Unfortunately, this book — at least the first half — doesn’t reveal any of that.

Willie Nelson: An Epic Life by Joe Nick Patoski (Back Bay, 2008)

I picked up this book after reading Patoski’s Oxford American article about drummer/character Paul English, “Watching Willie’s Back.” Willie Nelson is an American hero whose greatness has only occasionally been captured on tape despite the fact that he’s got 50+ years of recording under his belt. This book goes a long way in explaining what it is about Willie that makes him such a compelling and unique figure. He’s as close to the Buddha as this country is every going to produce.

Continue reading My rock and roll library update

A Few Words About Springsteen

Last night Sab and I and several thousand other people saw Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band at the Palace of Auburn Hills, in suburban Detroit.

Sab has seen Springsteen on a number of occasions.  Something like seven.  I’ve never seen him before.  Sab is going to write something breaking down the show.  He’s got a whole lot of reference to do so.  And seeing the show in his company was good, in that when he wasn’t whooping, shouting and screaming, he explained what album this song appeared on or when he’d heard this other song at another show.

For me, it was about seeing an American rock and roll icon more than anything else.  I was happiest listening to Nils Lofgren playing; his solo on “Youngstown” (“That’s an acoustic song on the disc,” Sab explained to me after the guitar shredded out note after note in a remarkable display of capability; Little Steven may get the attention, but Lofgren has the chops) was nothing short of show-stopping.

One aspect that seemed somewhat unsettling was that Springsteen, who had misidentified where he was the last time he played Detroit (Cleveland?!), emphasized that he knew where he was from the start, and after opening with the anthem-like “We Take Care Of Our Own,” the sort of lyric that Kid Rock might produce, launched into “Wrecking Ball,” “Badlands,” “Death to My Hometown,” and “My City of Ruins.”

Meanwhile, back in the offices of the mayor of Detroit, the real possibility that the city could be taken over by a state-appointed emergency financial manager continues.

A little musical municipal uplift would have been nice for the denizens of Detroit.  That run of songs was like something Christopher Nolan might have been listening to when he reimagined Gotham City.

He did give a vigorous nod to the importance of Motown music to his career (and arguably to that of a multitude of other acts), and they launched into the Temptation’s “The Way You Do the Things You Do,” which was written by Smokey Robinson and Bobby Rogers of The Miracles.  (I am more of a partisan of Eddie Kendricks’ vocal stylings on that than Bruce’s rougher handling.)  Oddly, that segued into “634-5789,” which was originally performed by “Wicked” Wilson Pickett, who was not a Motown artist.  C’mon: the Motown songbook certainly has more than a sufficient number of compositions that could have followed.

Be that as it may, it was a worthwhile experience.  Springsteen and his band are rare performers, people who are unabashedly about rock and roll, who are continuing to produce new music that is fresh and relevant, not pale imitations of what had gone before or the sort of mellowed-down pap that things like “American Idol” and “Glee” have led the listening public to adore.

Photo by John T. Greilick / The Detroit News.

GLONO Video: Two Cow’s Micah Schnabel Live

Video: Micah Schnabel – “Throwing Rocks at the Sun” (live)

Shot by Whiskey Bender Productions for Glorious Noise during a solo/acoustic performance at Beat Kitchen in Chicago on January 7, 2010. Micah Schnabel is the singer-songwriter-guitar player for one of GLONO’s favorite bands, Two Cow Garage. We’ve been gushing about them for years, and now Micah’s got a solo album, When The Stage Lights Go Dim, out now (or coming soon?) on Suburban Home.

I spent about ten minutes clicking around Google and the Suburban Home website and I can’t figure out how to buy the damn thing. Maybe it’s out of print already, and maybe they’ll reissue it, but there’s not much info online.

Anyway, he just wrapped up a solo acoustic tour, and the whole band is hitting the road in March. We’ve got a couple more live videos after the jump, including another song from When The Stage Lights Go Dim plus a great Bruce Springsteen cover off Nebraska.

Continue reading GLONO Video: Two Cow’s Micah Schnabel Live

The Boss is Number 1

Billboard reports this week’s album sales:

1. Bruce Springsteen – Working on a Dream – 224,000 (debut)

2. Taylor Swift – Fearless – 55,000 – (-11%)

3. Beyonce – I Am … Sasha Fierce – 52,000 (+1%)

4. Nickelback – Dark Horse (-3%)

5. Kanye West – 808s & Heartbreak – 33,000 (-15%)

6. Grammy Nominees 2009 – 33,000 (debut)

7. Jamie Foxx – Intuition – 32,000 (+4%)

8. Keyshia Cole – A Different Me – 31,000 (-1%)

9. Franz Ferdinand – Tonight: Franz Ferdinand – 31,000 (debut)

10. Britney Spears – Circus – 28,000 (-8%)

• With nine No. 1 albums, “Springsteen is now tied with the Rolling Stones for the third most No. 1 albums. Only the Beatles (with 19), Elvis Presley (10) and Jay-Z (also 10) have more.”

• “At 6.50 million units, sales are up 1.2% compared to the same total last week but are off by 14% compared to the same week in 2008.”