Sunday, 25 April 2010

My Bruce Journey - Part 16

'We shall live in peace someday. Well here in my heart, I do believe, we shall overcome some day'

So it was a Friday when I heard - or more accurately read about The Seeger Sessions tour.  I know it was a Friday because it was during the day and I am at home on a Friday.  It was an announcement on Backstreets News pages and immediately sent me in a panic about tickets.  At the time I was in a job where it wasn’t easy to get time off at short notice so if tickets went on sale at 9.00am on a work day I was stuffed.

I had tried to become a ‘Ties That Bind’ member for a ages.  At the time Badlands website had a problem which meant I got an error message every time I went to checkout.  It was a known fault and I could get round it by phoning instead.  Me and computers fall out regularly and if the computer does not do what I want I simply take my bat home!  So I never rang I just carried on trying to checkout and getting frustrated with the computer.

Anyway this day I had to bite the bullet because I needed to give us every chance of getting tickets.  Spoke to the Badlands people on the phone and I was a ‘Ties that Bind’ member for two years.

I was on tenterhooks waiting for the announcement of the day the tickets would go on sale.  There were different rumours every day and being a first timer I didn’t know how the ’Ties That Bind’ worked.  As it happens I got a phone call from them - a recorded message type thingy - when I was in Waterstones in Bradford.  I remember this because I am one of those very annoying people who have a mobile phone that is never (or hardly ever) switched on.

Well it was switched on this day so I got the message telling me that tickets were going on sale on 7 April 2006 - a Friday phew don’t need to beg for time off work.

The big day arrived and I was ready for the long haul - a flask of coffee, sandwiches, chocolate, Kendal Mint Cake and after several trips to the loo (didn’t want to get caught short at the crucial moment) I was in front of the computer at 8.55am.

Bought Manchester tickets from Ticketmaster.  I hate this - the agonising waiting whilst you are in the queue - the way it tells you the wait will be five minutes and then suddenly it’s seven minutes and… worst of all the page where you know you have tickets but you only have two minutes to fill in your credit card details - I am mildly hysterical by this time.

We had a broadband connection by then.  Don’t know whether that made the difference between this and last time but I was ringing Mike at work by 9.10am telling him we had the tickets - I was euphoric.

Decided to buy four tickets - we reasoned that somebody would want the extra two.  As it turned out the relatives we thought would come couldn’t make it.  A friend of Mike’s brother, who apparently was a big fan, said he would have them and then changed his mind because he had heard Bruce had gone all gospel. All our Bruce friends already had tickets so… two spare tickets anyone??

We decided to go to Hammersmith as well on our first Badlands package - getting these tickets wasn’t half so stressful.  In fact I don’t think tickets were hard to come by at all.  A lot of fans who would have killed for tickets to an E Street Band tour had no time for this folky stuff.

Being relative newbies we grabbed anything we could get.

So all set up for our first back to back shows.

And those spare Manchester tickets? They eventually went to a BTXer from Sheffield who came to pick them up the day we got our We Shall Overcome-The Seeger Sessions CD.

Saturday, 17 April 2010

My Bruce Journey - Part 15

'Tramps like us baby we were born to run'

The 30th anniversary edition of Born to Run came out on 14 November 2005.  We bought it in Sheffield.

We had decided to stay in Sheffield overnight after seeing Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes at The Leadmill.  This was our first SSJ gig but according to The Leadmill‘s website it was The Jukes fourth time there.  The Leadmill is certainly full of character and unlike anywhere we had been before.  The building was apparently a former flour mill and has played host to a raft of famous bands.

Anyway Southside was … well Southside. He is possibly an acquired taste as he does come across as a bit strange but he put on a great show.  We only recognised one or two songs but the crowd were clearly regulars and well versed in the gig rituals.  There was some banter between Johnny and the crowd and people shouted out requests.  He only heard the ones he wanted to though - bit like an early version of collecting the signs that you want and ignoring the others.

We saw Bernie for the first time at this gig. Many Springsteen regulars will know of Bernie even if they don’t know him. He is the wiry little guy with the long, wild grey hair who you will have seen dancing exuberantly around at many a Bruce show.  He has even appeared on YouTube.

There’s a lot to digest in the BTR boxed set - The making of DVD, the Hammersmith Odeon gig and of course the album itself which by this time had without doubt become my favourite album of all time.  I have since become very fond of Darkness too and either one could be my fave now.

We are not great DVD watchers so although we watched ‘Wings For Wheels‘ when we bought it we haven’t seen it since - until I watched it this week that is.  Bruce must have been a hard man to work with. So bad, in fact, I wonder why anyone stuck by him.  Not one person said making BTR was fun! Bruce seemed to look back on it with fondness though even if it was clear he struggled with it at the time.  The thought that it may never have been released at all is unimaginable now.

I wonder what people must have thought when they met him in those days.  Lets be honest he was a skinny scruffy little oik really.  He is a tiny figure on that Hammersmith stage - big hat though.

So was The World finally ready for Bruce Springsteen in 1975? - well, if the Hammersmith Odeon concert is anything to go by 'The World' wasn't sure to start with but he had won them over by the end.  Well almost all of them - Michael Palin's entry in his diary wasn't full of enthusiasm but he did speak to John Peel and his producer afterwards.  This might have coloured his judgement as it is well known that John was no fan of Bruce.  Here is an extract from his Desert Island Discs interview

There are undoubtedly groups who would never have made it to the top if it hadn't been for your initial loyalty and encouragement which has meant that you have been - are in - a very powerful position - do you enjoy that power?

Not at all, really, and I don't think you can allow yourself to reflect on it when you're putting programmes and I don't really entirely believe in it anyway, because, and people say there are certain bands and obviously you advance them a little bit and bring them to a slightly wider audience than they previously had, but at the same time there are numbers of bands whose records I've stoutly resisted playing and I've refused to have in session like U2 and the Police and Dire Straits all of whom applied for sessions at one time or another all of whom were turned down by myself and producer John Walters, quite rightly so I think, so if ever I started to think of myself as some sort of kingmaker, I can reflect back on those bands who have become stupendously successful... and Bruce Springsteen.

What, you turned him down?

Not for a session no, but when his earlier records arrived, I thought they were rubbish and no-one else could understand why I felt like this, I thought they were dreadful, I still think they're dreadful as a matter-of-fact and so it's really quite a good thing I think for me to turn against you because it's a guarantee of stupendous success

Was I ready for Bruce Springsteen - probably not.

Some of my favourite songs of 1975 were Ms Grace - The Tymes, I’m not in love -10cc (which was for a number of years in my top five favourite songs of all time) anything by The Bay City Rollers, The Hustle - Van McCoy and Lovin’ You - Minnie Ripperton.  The big hit single of 1975 was Bohemian Rhapsody which is a classic in anyone’s book whether you like the song or not.

I was working as a Saturday Girl at Woolworths in Skegness at the time, on the ’pick ’n’ mix’ counter - remember them? Unfortunately the sweet counter was right at the front of the store and the record counter at the very back.  This meant that me and my cohort, Jackie, couldn’t hear the records that were played constantly throughout the day.  It’s a very long time ago now but I seem to remember Jackie was a bit of a rocker. We became quite good friends for a while - I wonder where she is now.

I would have given anything to work on the record counter.  It was the job coveted by most of us but it was only given to full time staff.  Vanessa was on most Saturdays.  Funny - I can’t remember the name of someone I met yesterday but I remember the name of the girl on the record counter in Woollies over 30 years ago.

Anyway when I got my pay packet I used to spend a lot of it on LPs. Atlantic Crossing - Rod Stewart and Love to Love You Baby - Donna summer were two albums I bought that year.  Rod was my one musical constant at the time and I bought everything he released until 1983/1984 when I missed a couple of albums.

I remember splashing out one week and buying Minnie Ripperton’s ‘Perfect Angel’ and ‘Never can say Goodbye‘ by Gloria Gaynor the same Saturday.  Left me pretty skint for the rest of the week.  Loved Minnie but don’t remember playing Gloria Gaynor so much.

Bruce didn’t even cross my RADAR. Should I regret this? I missed out on 10 years of fandom.  On the other hand what if I had been swept up in the hype and then hated ‘Backstreets’ or ‘Thunder Road‘.  It certainly wasn’t the sort of thing I listened to at the time…

…and if I hadn’t liked it, ten years on, I might have dismissed BITUSA because I had already decided I didn’t like Springsteen.  A bit like deciding I didn’t like cabbage when I was five years old and not trying it again until I was 45...

…and If I had dismissed BITUSA - well my life would be a lot poorer now for all sorts of reasons.

So I caught up with the Hammersmith Odeon concert and ‘Born To Run’ much later than some but that’s life and, anyway, I have made up for it since.

And now dig out your braces and cowboy boots and dust off your banjo - we are heading towards The Seeger Sessions.

Saturday, 10 April 2010

My Bruce Journey - Part 14

'I'll be wating here until you take a chance...take a risk.  I'll take what's broken and I'll take what's fixed'  Patti Scialfa

 Never being one to do things by halves when I found Backstreets I became a super-sub.

This cost a good few dollars but I am a gullible soul and I was taken in by the list of all the extra benefits this would bring - one of which I took advantage of - the limited edition of Frank Stefanko‘s book.

I loved getting my ‘Backstreets’ magazines and read them from cover to cover - sometimes more than once. I felt like a true fan and flaunted my magazines in public places - the bus, the rest area at work in the hope of impressing someone: anyone.  As nobody ever mentioned it I can only assume I never came across any Springsteen fans.

My introduction to the world of bootlegs started with ‘Backstreets’ magazine but because they are sort of ‘under the counter’ there is no information about how to go about obtaining a boot.  OK OK so Crystal Cat’s boots are usually really good but who is he or she? and more to the point how do I get hold of one of these recordings??

It became obvious I couldn’t simply Google ‘Crystal Cat’ and find a list of CDs to buy!  A search for ‘Bruce boots‘ today actually brings up boots - those you wear on your feet - they look quite good actually.

‘Downloading’ wasn’t even in our vocabulary in 2005 so we ended up, after a lot of digging around on the internet, buying the 4 concerts we wanted from a website.  I can‘t remember the name of the site or how much we paid.  They came in battered old CD cases with poor artwork but Mike set to work designing new covers.  He found his previously hidden artistic talent with these and has been doing artwork for our boots ever since.

I was surprised by how good the sound quality is.  I thought they would be really awful.  I really get a sense of the concert atmosphere but I don’t think I will ever be a collector of boots in general.  We have them to remember that we were there - so apart from the odd one or two we only have copies of the concerts we have been to.

During this time we started buying music magazines - certain ones feature Bruce on a regular basis and we became ‘Uncut’ regulars.  We were introduced to a lot of new music through ‘Uncut’ magazine.  If they give a new album five stars we will consider buying it.

Radio 2 played a big part too. In 2004 Lesley Douglas became the controller of Radio 2 and I think she helped bring the play list more up to date.  What’s more I heard Terry Wogan play Bruce one day specifically for her because she is a big fan.

Unfortunately she resigned over the Russell Brand/Jonathan Ross thing.

The latest I have heard is that they (whoever they are) don‘t want Radio 2‘s audience to get any younger.  I hope this doesn‘t mean back to playing too much easy listening stuff.  Who remembers the old Light Programme?

Anyway regular readers will know I listen to Radio 2 a lot and during the noughties we bought quite a bit of stuff after hearing it on Radio 2.  It wasn’t necessarily trendy - no hip hop, grime or garage but, new, nevertheless.

I have a determination to try and keep up to date with music - one of my regular mantras is that I will never listen to any radio station that plays oldies all the time - no ‘Magic‘ for me.

I am a big fan of Johnnie Walker and when he presented the drive time show he had a good few guests doing acoustic sets.  I often went out to buy an album after hearing these - The Storys, The Thorns and The Finn Brothers being three of them.

But you can’t give up the old favourites all together so we also have some Bon Jovi, John Fogerty, Brian Adams and Rod Stewart that we bought between 2000 and 2005.

And our strangest reason for buying an album must go to Foo Fighters, which we bought because they featured in an episode of one of our favourite TV programmes - The West Wing.  We had previously bought Jeff Buckley’s ’Grace’ after hearing ’Hallelujah’ on The West Wing.

I hadn’t abandoned country either. I bought Gretchen Wilson and Keith Urban. Gretchen was one of Johnny Walker’s finds - I love ‘Redneck Woman’ just because it‘s funny.  Hell yeah!

 Keith Urban because ‘Days Go By’ reminds me how important it is to make the most of my life.

Finally honorary mentions for Patti Scialfa and Soozie Tyrell. We bought Patti’s ‘23rd Street Lullaby’ and Soozie‘s ‘White Lines’ as soon as they came out.  I really like Patti’s albums. ’Rumble Doll’ is on the list of my favourites that gets mentioned on a regular basis.  Perhaps I will discuss Patti more another week.

This takes us up to our first Southside Johnny concert in November 2005 and the release of the 30th anniversary edition of Born to Run (BTR) the day after.  Watching ’Wings for Wheels’ and the Hammersmith Odeon concert before next week's blog is a tough job but someone’s got to do it!

And as I listen to Radio 2 right now Dermot O’Leary is talking to Stephen Merchant (both Bruce fans). Stephen has chosen to play ’Thunder Road’ from the Hammersmith Odeon concert - how spooky is that?!

Saturday, 3 April 2010

My Bruce Journey - Part 13

'I wanna find me a world where love's the only sound'

‘Devils and Dust’ was released 25 April 2005 (in the UK). HMV had posters up.  I really wanted one - I assume they are just thrown away when they have finished with them.  I was afraid to ask and have regretted it ever since.

Johnnie Walker had played ‘Devils and Dust’ (the song) on his Drive Time show pre release.  Mike and I huddled round the radio listening intently.  We liked it - didn’t love it.  Think I might also have heard ‘All I’m Thinkin’ About‘ which took me back a bit at first.  Like the song but on this occasion not sure about the falsetto.  Hadn’t heard any other tracks though although I assume there were illegal copies about.

It has become my Friday ritual to put Bruce on the stereo and write my blog so those of you who are regular readers will know I am listening to the album now.  It’s never going to be my favourite but I really like some of it - ’Long Time Comin’’, ‘Maria’s Bed’, ’Leah’.  I don’t think I would put any of the tracks into my least favourite top ten although, to be honest, I have never thought about what these songs might be - perhaps something to think about for another week!

Now this was the first time I had tried to get tickets knowing that I was going to face problems.  Previously just being our two selves we had no idea that getting tickets could be such a headache but we were now part of the BTX community and all the discussions were full of how difficult it was going to be.

This just made me panic and by the time the big day came, although I was pleased that I was in the loop at last, I was a nervous wreck!

The morning the tickets went on sale is etched in my memory - I can still feel the stress, the frustration, the impending disappointment and then the…well you will find out if you read on.
Mike was at work so the task of getting the precious tickets fell to me.  We had a strategy of computer with one hand and phone with the other but I found I couldn’t get the hang of redialling and refreshing at the same time.

The phone network was busy so I gave up with that and concentrated on the internet.  This was my first time. I must have done something wrong, or perhaps it was just our really slow dial up connection, but by 12.00 I was still nowhere.

I changed tack and phoned The Albert Hall. It was constantly engaged until about 12.40pm when I got a ringing tone - on the one hand this was good but on the other I knew I was only heading for a fall.

We had decided to try for the Friday - we didn’t know anything about the second night rule in those days. Yes! there were two tickets but ‘right at the back’ - in fact right at the back of the top tier about as far away from the stage it is possible to get.  I told her I would sit on the roof if I had to - we were in!

Bruce thought it was ‘nice to be in a sweaty hot London‘ and so did we but it really was stifling.  We didn’t have much time before the start of the show and I had to choose between braving the masses at the bar to get a cold drink or joining the long queue to get my tour T shirt.  I chose the drink and I never got the T shirt.

 have to say this was not my favourite show.  At the time I think there were rumours about Bruce’s personal life and Patti didn’t travel with him all the time.  I have absolutely no grounds for saying this but it felt like Bruce was miserable and he wanted all of us to be miserable with him.  I know there are fans who really enjoyed this tour but I think Bruce was being a bit self indulgent and choosing to please himself rather than me. But - hey he has every right to do what he wants.

At one point some wag in the crowd shouted ‘Where’s Clarence?’- given the low key atmosphere this could have rubbed Bruce up the wrong way but luckily he did manage a little chuckle before saying ‘How the fuck should I know where he is‘.

He talked quite a bit between songs, which I like, but we couldn’t hear a lot of what he was saying. Unsurprisingly we now have a boot so we have been able to catch up with the stories since.

I can’t get my head around the solo acoustic versions of ‘The Rising’ and ‘Lonesome Day’.  Maybe it’s because there is no drum beat to carry me through but I hear a bit of the familiar tune when he is singing and then some frantic strumming on the guitar which seems completely at odds with the melody.  I am no musician - it might be really skilful for all I know!

Of the two I prefer ‘Lonesome Day’ and I have to say ‘The Rising’ at The Obama thing, on the steps of the Lincoln memorial with the choir behind him, certainly looked fabulous.

Don’t get me wrong spending two hours or so in the company of Bruce Springsteen is always going to be amazing.  The songs from the album were good.  I also loved ‘Tougher Than The Rest’ on the piano and ’The Wish’ was a treat.

So despite my reservations I could happily have sat there for another 2 hours but as ever it was over all too soon.

We stayed in London for a couple of days but then it was home again and the post concert blues.

Set List

My Beautiful Reward
Reason To Believe
Devils and Dust
Lonesome Day
Long Time Coming
Silver Palomino
The River
Tougher Than The Rest
Part Man Part Monkey
Maria's Bed
Cautious Man
The Wish
The Rising
Further On Up The Road
Jesus Was An Only Son
The Hitter
Matamoros Banks
My Best Was Never Good Enough
The Promised Land
Dream baby Dream