News Archive September - October 2015

"Spend this Halloween with a classic rock face!"

Still trying to figure out what to be for Halloween? Jersey Devil costume not quite come together in time? We've got just the thing, especially as we gear up for The Ties That Bind. An artifact straight out of the River era, this Springsteen mask was one of six promotional designs issued by Chicago's now-defunct classic rock station 95.5 WMET as an invitation to their 1981 Halloween party:

Clip out this disguise and wear it. It's your chance to meet hundreds of other Jaggers — Springsteens... McCartneys... and at the biggest Halloween parties in the city! WMET supplies the mask... the rest is up to you. Collect all six SMET disguises at participating locations. And spend this Halloween with a classic rock face.

We’ve turned it into a PDF download, from which you can print, cut along the dotted lines and let the spirit of The River haunt Halloween once more. Or at least take a closer look. If you do decide to strap it on, as the original advised, don't forget to "cut out eyes before wearing or operating heavy machinery"... and "do not wear mask while cutting." Safety first, people.

WMET broadcast in Chicago for the decade surrounding The River, from 1976 to 1986. As you can see on the mask, they were The Official Chicago Station for the Rolling Stones American Tour for Tattoo You — presented by Jovan Fragrances, naturally. There's also an "I remember 95.5 WMET Chicago" Facebook page.

Thanks to The Friends of the Bruce Springsteen Special Collection, for not only finding this but preserving it and sharing it with us. Happy Halloween!
- October 31, 2015

Jesse Malin: "Watching Bob Benjamin's spirit and will has been an inspiration"

As the Light of Day Foundation announced earlier this week, tickets go on sale on Halloweeen for the Asbury Park portion of Light of Day Winterfest 2016. Held January 8-18 at venues including the Paramount Theater, the Stone Pony, and the Wonder Bar, this "Sweet Little 16" edition of the annual Parkinsons benefit extravaganza will be highlighted as usual by a Saturday night "Main Event," Bob Benjamin's Birthday Bash at the Paramount on January 16.

Tickets are available tomorrow at noon Eastern through, Ticketmaster charge-by-phone at 1-800-745-3000, and all Ticketmaster outlets (including select Walmart stores). A wide variety of combination ticket packages, as well as single tickets to each show, will be available. Acts on the bill include many returning LOD favorites including Joe Grushecky and the Houserockers, Willie Nile, Joe D'Urso and Stone Caravan, and Jesse Malin.

Malin's latest album, Outsiders, is his second of 2015, following the spring's New York Before the War. So he'll have two new records to pull from when he returns to Asbury Park for Light of Day 16. As he recently told the Village Voice, "There are no rules in the music business anymore. I just do what I do." Here's an inside look at Outsiders, which is available now (Amazon / iTunes):

Malin has been a regular supporter of Light Day for well over a decade now, as he tells Backstreets. "I was invited to play my first ever Light of Day show in late 2003," Jesse recalls. "I had played the Stone Pony in my punk days, but this was a different scene... everybody was really nice, even to a Queens boy from Manhattan. If I was feeling a bit like an outsider in this new community, everybody's camaraderie and hospitality knocked that out instantly."

That was also the night Malin connected with Bruce Springsteen. "After the set, I was hanging out in the greenroom with my mad man van driver, Johnny Stiff, getting ready to head back to the city," Jesse continues, "when Bruce and Patti came into the dressing room.  I was wearing my favorite London Calling T-shirt, and we talked about the last Joe Strummer album. I gave him a copy of The Fine Art of Self Destruction and we took some photographs."

Jesse credits Bruce as a big influence on that first solo album of his. "I became a Bruce Springsteen fan a lot later than most people, but earlier than my punk rock friends did. When I was looking for more inspiration and ways to write outside of the Marshall stacks and mosh pit, I came across Nebraska. A record, along with The River, that Ryan Adams and I were referencing a lot when I made The Fine Art of Self Destruction."

A couple weeks after that 2003 dressing room meeting, Bruce picked up the phone: "He called my apartment in the city, and asked me to be a part of those holiday shows he was doing at Convention Hall. It was surreal and exciting, and it was three nights of playing with everyone from Sam Moore to Little Steven, and Bruce with his band backing me up on songs I had written in my little 3rd Street apartment." 

Jesse's work with Light of Day has continued ever since. "I got to know Bob Benjamin a little bit more, and began playing regularly at the annual shows down the shore. I had a few friends who had family members fighting Parkinson's, and watching Bob's spirit and will has been an inspiration. I saw people come together from all over the world to raise money and awareness to find a cure for this horrible disease. Like many things I have been drawn to, not only was it a fight, but it was a celebration of life at the same time. As I tour around the world with my band and sometimes with the Light of Day troops, I realize that this music they call rock 'n' roll is our soundtrack to global unity and healing. We the artists, the fans, and the organizers are doctors without borders.

Springsteen joins in during Malin's set at Light of Day 2014, covering The Ramones' "Do You Remember Rock 'n' Roll Radio?" - photograph by A.M. Saddler

"I always love seeing the international mix of people at these shows," Jesse says, "folks that have come from countries all around the planet, raising money and awareness, as we take over the boardwalk, the streets and the Berkley Carteret Hotel that is already haunted with ghosts."

For further details and news regarding LOD Winterfest 2016, visit; keep up with Jesse at
- October 30, 2015

Southside Johnny and E Street Radio have a special Halloweekend treat for listeners. Beginning at 4pm ET today on Sirius/XM channel 20, E Street Radio will air Dave Marsh's conversation with Southside and Asbury Juke Jeff Kazee about their latest album Soultime! Southside Johnny & The Asbury Jukes also will perform an exclusive live set in the Sirius/XM-Studios. The one-hour-plus special also will receive repeat airings on the following dates/times:

  • Saturday October 31, 12am and 8am ET
  • Sunday November 1, 3pm ET
  • Monday November 2, 4pm ET
  • Tuesday November 3, 12am and 8am ET
  • Wednesday November 4, 5pm ET

- October 30, 2015 - Shawn Poole reporting

As Nis Lofgren readies the release of his new live album, due November 15, he's returned to the scene of the crime. Playing London tonight, Nils has begun a fall tour across the pond, where he recorded UK2015: Face the Music Tour earlier this year. He's playing 21 dates in England, Scotland, and Ireland through November 22; see his itinerary here, and listen to his recent appearance on BBC Radio 2 with Johnnie Walker.

Nils writes, "I'll be out after the shows to the merch table to visit and sign CDs and T-shirts. Come see us, we plan to do an inspired show thanks to you, our wonderful audience." So get there if you can... but if you can't, we do still have a few unspoken-for copies of his new live CD that Nils has already signed for us: pre-order here.
- October 29, 2015

The DOC NYC film festival runs this year from November 12 - 19, and they've just announced a surprise screening of The Ties That Bind as part of the fest. This will be the world premiere of Thom Zimny's 60-minute River documentary, at the SVA Theatre on Saturday, November 14 at 7:30pm. Zimny will be on hand to introduce the film, and the night will also include a preview clip of the forthcoming Tempe 1980 concert film.

"Bruce Springsteen fans won't want to miss this big screen experience," said DOC NYC Artistic Director Thom Powers. "Thom Zimny has proven to be a master
chronicler of Springsteen’s career in their past film collaborations. This
film deepens our understanding of The River."

Click here for more details and to purchase tickets

Three weeks later, both the Ties That Bind documentary and the Tempe 1980 concert film will come home, as part of the multi-disc The Ties That Bind box set (DVD / Blu-ray) celebrating The River and due December 4.

Pre-order the box set now from Backstreet Records for 5% off the list price PLUS a bonus you won't find anywhere else: beautiful portraits of Bruce Springsteen by photographer Frank Stefanko, outtakes from the sessions that gave us his River cover, in an exclusive set of postcards FREE with every box we ship out.

Pre-order The Ties That Bind (DVD) with exclusive postcard pack

Pre-order The Ties That Bind (Blu-ray) with exclusive postcard pack

- October 29, 2015

If you read the Time/Newsweek piece below, you know today is Mike Appel's birthday — we wish him a happy one, along with a happy 40th anniversary of that managerial masterstroke. It's also a big day for Mister Garry W. Tallent, who turns 66 today, born October 27, 1949. We send out big birthday greetings to the Foundation of the E Street Nation, wishing him many more dancing days to come.
- October 27, 2015 - photographs by Alan Chitlik


Forty years ago, the face of a young Bruce Springsteen — "Rock's New Sensation!" — landed simultaenously on the covers of both Time and Newsweek magazines. With Springsteen's star on the rise following Born to Run, Jay Cocks interviewed him for Time, and Maureen Orth for Newsweek; either cover story alone would have been astounding publicity, but both at once — a first for a rock musician — caused shockwaves. For Springsteen to go, in a year, from fears of being dropped from his label to the covers of both leading national news magazines... you have chalk it up to not only the strength of Born to Run and his live performances, but fast-talking manager Mike Appel.

"Everybody says, 'Oh, God, how did this happen? It's an extraordinary coup!'" Appel laughs as he tells Backstreets the story. And it's true, particularly with each magazine aware of the other's plans. In the days leading up to publication — would they or wouldn't they? — Mike passed along a message for each of the magazine's senior editors to give him a call. We'll let him take it from there.

So each one of them does call me. I talked to the first guy, from Newsweek, and he's saying to me, "Hey, listen, if Time Magazine does this, we're not doing it. We're gonna run a story about Mayor Beame and the New York City fiscal crisis. I'm telling you, we're ready to go with that, son." So I said, "Well, if you think Mayor Abe Beame and the fiscal crisis of New York City is gonna sell your magazines rather than the explosion of a great new superstar who's gonna be as big as Elvis Presley, and you're gonna end up having to put him on the cover six months from now... if you think that's better, then who the hell am I? I'm just a rock guy — you're the guru when it comes to magazines, not me." He said, "That's right!" Boom! And hangs up! He's not nice about it. I'm kissing his ass, and he's angry.

Next the guy from Time Magazine calls me up, he says — these guys are just incredible — "If Newsweek does the story, we're not, we're pulling the story. We have other options where we can go." I said, "Look, let me tell you: you have an opportunity to beat Rolling Stone. Rolling Stone is asleep at the wheel here. They don't know that there is a Bruce Springsteen and how important he's going to be. They are sound asleep. This is a chance for a stodgy magazine — pardon what I call you guys, pardon my adjective, but you're a stodgy magazine to guys like me — this your chance to kick Rolling Stone's butt all over the place by putting Bruce Springsteen on the cover of that magazine." He said, "Did you hear what I said?" I said, "Yes, I did." He said, "Well, good." Boom!

I look up at the ceiling, I go, "Mike, you're losing your touch... both of these guys fucking hate your guts, they're not gonna do this, this is not happening. Thank you very much, but this is not happening."

So everybody's calling me all weekend long. I'm like, "Hey, I don't know. I have to go to the newsstand just like everybody else on Monday morning to find out if it happened or it didn't. I do not know. Nobody's telling me anything. Nobody knows anything except for Time and Newsweek, and they're not lettin' anybody know anything. You got it?"

So on Monday morning I run down to the newsstand. It's six o'clock in the morning, I'm there, and they're unloading the truck that brings all the new Newsweeks and Times and all these other newspapers to the newsstand, and they have the stacks there. He says, "Buddy, that's the Time and Newsweek stacks." I see that it is — it says Time and Newsweek on the kraft paper, but you can't see the magazines yet. So I had one of the truck drivers slit the cords holding these stacks of magazines, and then when he rips them off I said, "Oh... oh my God, we got 'em both... we got 'em both! Holy Christ, we have 'em both!"

And then it says October 27th — that's my birthday, and of course, on both of them it says October 27th. Can you imagine? I mean, can you imagine? I grabbed as many as I could carry, went back to the hotel, I pounded on everybody's door... these guys are used to sleeping until 12, two o'clock in the afternoon, and I'm pounding on their doors at 6:15 or 6:30 in the morning, bang bang bang. Everybody's like, "Huh? What? What's the problem?" I said, "There's no problem, Jack. Covers of Time and Newsweek: here they are!"

Everybody went bananas. I mean, totally freaking bananas. The phone didn't stop ringing; in fact, the next day I got calls from big-time publicity agents for big acts, Stephen Stills, Barry Manilow, whoever, right? And the publicists were actually angry with me on the phone: "Who the fuck are you to get Time and Newsweek? Who the fuck are you?" And I can see exactly what they were saying. In other words, they were so right... but we were so blessed I guess is the word to use. We had struggled so hard and stayed true to, I guess, a rock 'n' roll kind of manifesto, if you will, that the gods gave it to us.

And all those shows that Bruce Springsteen played where he got a good review from some writer, there was this crescendo of good, positive press that ended up in the covers of Time and Newsweek. That's what happened. And maybe Mike Appel got carried with it, maybe he was the last little guy to take advantage of how everybody would fuck everybody around and manipulate everybody, but at the same time Bruce was himself a worthy recipient of this giant tsunami of press that ended up manifesting itself in Time and Newsweek simultaneous covers which never were done before. Not Elvis, not the Beatles... only Brucie.

In fact, the next issue of Time Magazine talked about the simultaneous covers in each one of the magazines, so we got this enormous amount of press from that twice over! And of course Rolling Stone was embarrassed — and they would not be embarrassed with Bruce Springsteen ever again. I mean, they put him on the cover more than anybody else. The Time and Newsweek stuff actually kicked them into gear where they were forced to put Bruce Springsteen on the cover an inordinate amount of times, to make up for the mistake.

- October 27, 2015 - as told to Christopher Phillips


It was a busy weekend in Asbury Park, New Jersey: Joe Grushecky & the Houserockers headlined the Stone Pony on Friday and Saturday night in commemoration of the 20th anniversary of American Babylon; E Street saxophonist Eddie Manion hosted three live performances in celebration of his own Nightlife CD release at the Where Music Lives performance space; this year’s crop of Asbury Angels were officially inducted on the Asbury Park boardwalk, and the life of longtime Stone Caravan guitarist "Mr. Lou" DeMartino was celebrated in a daylong event on Sunday (also at the Pony). And if that wasn't enough, those who made it up early on Sunday morning for the weekly Bruce Brunch with Tom Cunningham heard Tony Pallagrosi and Jean Mikle's rundown on next year's Light of Day Winterfest concert series, which is set to run January 10-18.

After the rapid sellout of a single Grushecky show and subsequent sellout of an additional night, expectations were high for a Springsteen guest shot or two at this weekend's appearances. Those expectations were significantly dampened by a tweet last week from Bruce himself, who announced that he would not be in town and thus would not attend the pair of concerts, which were being recorded for a live album. Fans had snapped up tickets in record time, many likely foreseeing another one of those unforgettable summits, a reprise of the Springsteen/Grushecky jam that had taken place over the summer at Asbury Park's Wonder Bar. After all, first the Stone Pony show had been announced that night. Of course, Springsteen's name had never been officially on the bill in the first place, but his declination RSVP changed the dynamic of the American Babylon concerts considerably.

But the Stone Pony was still filled for both shows, and with any "Bosswatch" tension dissipated, the Houserockers turned in a pair of strong performances that featured Ed Manion on saxophone and a guest appearance on Saturday night by singer/songwriters Gordon Brown and Reagan Richards, who had co-written a few songs with Grushecky for their new record, Williams Honor. Opening both nights was Johnny Grushecky’s band Milly, with veteran Shore artists John Eddie (Friday) and Garland Jeffreys (Saturday) warming up for the main attraction. With a sizeable Pittsburgh contingent in the house both nights, Grushecky and his band were supported by an appreciative and attentive audience, and they responded with a pair of heartfelt performances that should translate well to the forthcoming live CD.

Manion appeared on Sunday morning's Bruce Brunch, calling them "two incredible shows — I'm not sure which was better, I'm kinda leaning toward last night." He also talked with Cunningham about his decades playing in horn sections behind our favorite Jersey Shore frontmen, and learning parts from Stevie Van Zandt, who doesn't write a note of music: "He doesn't notate, he dictates — he would sing the horn parts," Edde says. "I've gotten very good over the years at understanding what Steven wants, and what Southside wants and what Bruce wants. It's all looking at them and hearing them sing it, and then writing parts down. We write it down, and then we arrange it from that point on." Tom spun Eddie's cover of Springsteen's "City of Night" from Nightlife, and Eddie played live in the studio, too. You can listen to the full guest spot here:

If you missed Manion's signing parties over the weekend, you can still pick up an autographed copy of Nightlife from Backstreet Records.

As for Light of Day, next year's New Jersey area shows will see the return of Jesse Malin, along with longtime participants Willie Nile and Joe D'Urso among many others. Light of Day Winterfest tickets go on sale this Saturday at noon through Ticketmaster and the Stone Pony box office. Visit the official web site for updates on lineup and venues.
- October 26, 2015 - Lisa Iannucci reporting - photographs by John Cavanaugh - thanks to Tom Cunningham for sharing the audio, recorded by Gary Titus & Marc de Bruin

Just a week or so younger than The River, Backstreets turns 35 today, with the very first issue of Backstreets magazine given out at the Seattle Center Coliseum stop on the 1980-'81 tour, October 24, 1980. Thanks to everyone — from founder Charles R. Cross, to the myriad employees at Backstreets HQ over the years, to all our readers, supporters, and contributors — who've helped us keep this strange little dream alive. It's always been a community effort, and we're gratfeul to all of you who've been running on the backstreets with us, whether it's been for a year or all 35 of them.

Take 35% off all back issues! For the next five days, to celebrate, all issues of Backstreets magazine are on sale, from a reprint of that very first edition to our big Clarence Clemons tribute. A number of the issues in between are sold out and out of print, but many of them are still available — including our Danny Federici tribute, our "Night for the Vietnam Veteran" special, our 15th anniversary double issue, and much more. This is a great chance to sample four decades of Backstreets in print, whether you're checking it out for the first time or filling in gaps in your collection. Use coupon code SPIRITOF80 to have the 35% discount applied at checkout. No minimum order necessary; grab one or a ton.

Our biggest back-issue sale ever — see them all here!

We also printed up the stickers above to mark our 35-year milestone... we're slipping them FREE in every order, in every package we ship out, as an extra little thank you.

- October 24, 2015


The yearly Little Kids Rock gala, hosted by Maureen Van Zandt, was held at The Grand Ballroom at The Manhattan Center in New York City on Tuesday night. For the seventh year, the large shadow of Clarence Clemons was present throughout the evening culminating with Paul Shaffer being honored as the "Big Man of The Year," the award that was named in Clemons’ honor for his tireless work to make sure school-age children can get a musical education in these times of curricular cutbacks.

The audience was treated to a number of special moments during the night, as has become the norm at this event. Special unannounced guests such as David Letterman, Marty Balin of Jefferson Airplane/Starship fame, and Marc Cohn presented the various awards to honorees, Paul Shaffer, Steve Miller, and Graham Nash after which each award winner performed.

As befitting someone who can be called Big Man of The Year, Shaffer brought a couple of other past honorees, Jake Clemons and Darlene Love, to end the night with songs such as "Hollywood Swingin'," the Shaffer-penned "It's Raining Men" (on which Ms. Love took ownership of yet another song), and the finale, "River Deep, Mountain High," also a highlight of Love's new album. Watch below as Jake pays moving tribute to his uncle. All in all a big night for all.

About Little Kids Rock
Little Kids Rock is a national nonprofit that is dedicated to unlocking children’s inner music makers by revitalizing music education in public schools. The organization partners with school districts to train public school teachers to run its innovative Modern Band curriculum and donates all of the accompanying instruments and resources necessary to teach popular music in a way that empowers students to experience instant achievement. Little Kids Rock started as a schoolteacher’s vision to give his students access to music education while diminishing budgets for the arts made that more and more difficult to do. What began as a single after-school guitar class has since exploded into a national movement that is bringing free, weekly music lessons to nearly 200,000 public school children due to the efforts of more than 1,500 teachers in 29 cities nationwide. To date, Little Kids Rock has served over 400,000 students.
- October 23, 2015 - report and photographs by A.M. Saddler - video courtesy of Mitch Slater


Twenty-five years after his now-legendary Christic Instutute Benefit performances there, almost to the day, Bruce Springsteen will return next month to perform at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles. The occasion: "Shining a Light: A Concert for Progress on Race in America" on November 18, which will be filmed for broadcast on A+E two days later.

According to today's press release, "The concert will kick off A+E Networks’ campaign to confront issues of race, and promote unity and progress on racial equity, inspired by the response of the Mother Emanuel family members in Charleston and others working for reconciliation and change around the country."

Also performing at will be the Zac Brown Band, Eric Church, Jamie Foxx, Rhiannon Giddens, Tori Kelly, John Legend, Miguel, Pink, Jill Scott, Ed Sheeran, Sia, Sting and Pharrell Williams. Tickets will go on sale Wednesday, October 28 at 10am PT/1pm ET through AEG Live at and Proceeds from ticket sales will benefit the Fund for Progress on Race in America powered by The United Way Worldwide.

For all those unable to attend in person, a two-hour special will air across the entire A+E Networks portfolio, including A&E, HISTORY, Lifetime, H2, LMN and FYI, as well as on iHeartMedia broadcast radio stations nationwide and the iHeartRadio digital platform.

Springsteen has played twice at the Shrine since those 11/16 and 11/17/90 Christic performances, performing "Streets of Philadelphia" at the Grammys (Grammy executive producer Ken Ehrlich is also producing "Shining a Light") and "Angel Eyes" for Frank Sinatra's 80th birthday celebration, both in 1995.

The upcoming concert is Springsteen's second scheduled performance next month, following the ninth annual Stand Up For Heroes event on November 10.
- October 22, 2015

Manion covers Springsteen, signs for Backstreets and Asbury Park

Tune in to E Street Radio this morning, as saxophonist Eddie "Kingfish" Manion talks with Dave Marsh about his new solo album, Nightlife. Ed will guest on Marsh's "Live From E Street Nation" program, which airs live from 10am to noon today on SiriusXM channel 20.

A staple of Springsteen's horn sections since 1976 (as well as an Asbury Juke and a Disciple of Soul), Eddie produced and arranged the 12 largely instrumental tracks on Nightlife, and the CD booklet is filled with his photography, too, from his globetrotting with the E Street Band from 2012 to 2014. "When I'm on the road," he writes, "I like to get out of my hotel room and take a few pictures of this beautiful world in which we live."

"I wanted to make a record that was like, this is what I sound like," Eddie tells Backstreets. Unlike his first album, 2004's Follow Through, this one is "all covers: Gene Pitney's 'Town Without Pity,' some standards like 'Stardust,' 'Smoke Gets in Your Eyes'... All my life, when I heard a song that I really connected with, I'd write it down. I had all these little pieces of paper in my wallet. So for this record, I dug them all out of my wallet, and I finally did all the songs I wanted to do."

The album gets its name from the Willie Nelson-penned "Night Life," originally a hit for Ray Price. Also among the covers on those slips of paper was a Springsteen tune, "City of Night," the Darkness on the Edge of Town outtake from The Promise, which appears on Nightlife in a six-minute arrangement. "I did a cool medley with it," says Eddie, "I go into King Curtis's 'Soul Serenade' and then back into 'City of Night.'"

Among Nightlife's many guest players are several friends from the E Street stage: "Charlie Giordano is on it, Curt Ramm is on it, I'm really proud of it." Also on the record is Joe Grushecky, who plays guitar on Sam Cooke's "A Change is Gonna Come." Ed has been playing with Joe a lot lately, and he'll join the Houserockers this Friday and Saturday for their American Babylon shows at the Stone Pony.

While in Asbury Park, Eddie will also be celebrating Nightlife with three "First Listen" album release parties at the Where Music Lives Exhibit & Performance Center: this Friday and Saturday, October 23 and 24, from noon to 3pm; and Sunday, October 25, from 7pm to 10pm. He'll be signing CDs as well as performing songs from the new album: "I've got Charlie Giordano coming down to play organ with me, it's gonna be fun!" See for more information.

If you can't get yourself to Asbury this weekend, you can still score an autographed copy of Nightlife: Eddie is signing CDs especially for Backstreet Records, and we've got them ready to go in the shop.

Order Nightlife signed by Eddie Manion here

- October 21, 2015

Vocalist/guitarist Bobby Bandiera, whose long and storied career on the Jersey Shore music scene includes countless appearances alongside Bruce Springsteen at the Stone Pony and elsewhere, as well as stints in Holme, Cats on a Smooth Surface, the Asbury Jukes and Bon Jovi, is celebrating his 63rd birthday today. Over the years, Bobby has assembled countless backing bands to support various charity appearances and spearheaded benefits for individuals and organizations too numerous to count in his 45 plus years as working musician, serving as ringleader, bandleader, arranger, producer and whatever else the event might call for. Bobby is a true musician's musician and an extraordinary human being, and Backstreets wishes him all the best.
- October 20, 2015 - photograph by John Cavanaugh

Saturday night, October 17, brought the long-awaited reunion of Marah, with brothers Dave and Serge Bielanko, in their Philly hometown. As our own Lisa Iannucci writes, "In an electric, two-hour-plus, two-set blockbuster performance before press, family, friends, and fans at Philadelphia's Underground Arts performance space, Marah reclaimed the city as its own, and in doing so reclaimed its status as one of the world's great rock 'n' roll bands.... Expectations for what this evening might bring had been impossibly high, and still somehow, Marah exceeded them." Read Lisa's full review here.

Marah returns to Asbury Park's Stone Pony on Friday December 11. Miss it at your peril. Tickets: or the Stone Pony box office.
- October 20, 2015 - photograph by Marko Korkeakoski

In addition to our own check-in with Thom Zimny, Springsteen's film archivist and director of The Ties That Band documentary has also spoken with Rolling Stone's Andy Greene about the forthcoming box set. A Q&A is up now. Zimny lists the songs Bruce performs in the doc (in addition to "Wreck on the Highway," "Independence Day," and the last verse of "Point Blank," we'll also get "The Ties That Bind," "The River," and what he calls "an amazing version of 'Two Hearts'"); discusses the decision-making behind Tempe; and muses about what he hopes to do next. Which could be very soon — as he tells Greene, work on the River box began "the day after the Darkness set came out."

Read: Springsteen's Video Archivist Breaks Down Huge New 'River' Box Set

- October 19, 2015

Clear your schedule for the next three minutes, crank it up, and take a dive into the River box. We've run down the full box contents here, but there's no substitute for seeing this footage yourself.

Pre-order The Ties That Bind (DVD) with exclusive postcard pack

Pre-order The Ties That Bind (Blu-ray) with exclusive postcard pack

- October 16, 2015

The Ties That Bind: The River Collection coming December 4

On the eve of the 35th anniversary of The River — Bruce Springsteen's 20-song double-LP was released on October 17, 1980 — comes the long-awaited news that Bruce's first #1 album will appear as part of a massive box set in time for the holidays. For longtime fans, the big draws will be more than two-and-a-half hours of stunning, multi-camera concert footage from the River tour's stop in Tempe, Arizona, and 11 previously unreleased studio outtakes.

These elements are part of The Ties That Bind: The River Collection, a multi-disc collection due December 4 that follows in the tradition of Born to Run 30th Anniversary Edition and The Promise: The Darkness on the Edge of Town Story. Like those box sets, the 4-CD/3-DVD The Ties That Bind gathers remastered audio for the album itself along with never-before-seen concert footage and a Thom Zimny documentary; like The Promise, it also includes previously unreleased studio outtakes from the album sessions. All of these elements will be housed with a coffee table book in a 10" x 12" box. A Blu-ray edition will consist of four CDs and two Blu-ray discs.

The audio: 52 tracks on four CDs, including the original The River double album (CDs 1 & 2); the first official release of 1979's The River: Single Album (CD 3); and a disc of 22 studio outtakes from 1979/80 (CD 4), half of which are previously unreleased. Listen to leadoff track "Meet Me in the City" above.

The video: a newly edited film of never-released, multi-camera footage from Springsteen's famed November 5, 1980 show in Arizona — a particularly intense performance, the day after Ronald Reagan was elected president — with a running time of 2:40; rare tour rehearsal footage of five songs; and a new 60-minute documentary about The River, titled The Ties That Bind.

The set comes with a 148-page coffee table book picturing pages from Springsteen's notebooks, River-era memorabilia, and 200 rare or previously unseen photos, both studio and live, from photographers including Joel Bernstein, David Gahr, Jim Marchese, and Frank Stefanko. Text includes an updated Songs essay from Springsteen and a new essay by Mikal Gilmore, who describes The River as "pivotal... [the] hinge between the ambitious commotions that had preceded it and the more succinct musical riots, and sometimes terrifying storytelling, that followed."

* * Continue reading for an in-depth look inside the box * *

Pre-order The Ties That Bind (DVD) with exclusive postcard pack

Pre-order The Ties That Bind (Blu-ray) with exclusive postcard pack

- October 16, 2015 - Christopher Phillips reporting


If Raise Your Hands!, the title of the first solo album from former Blind Boys of Alabama guitarist Sam Butler, sounds intriguing, it's for a good reason. None other than Bruce Springsteen's "Heaven's Wall" opens the album, where it's given a more traditional blues-based treatment. Other familiar secular titles interpreted by Butler on Raise Your Hands! include U2’s "Magnificent" and tracks originally recorded by Tom Waits, Van Morrison and even Paul Kelly. It's a fascinating and solid listen, out today from Severn Records.
- October 15, 2015 - Caryn Rose reporting

Next weekend, Joe Grushecky and the Houserockers will be playing Asbury Park — always cause for the Brucewatch to be out in full force. Particularly given that these shows are celebrating the 20th anniversary of the Springsteen-produced American Babylon, we've seen ticket demand shooting up. It's rare that Bruce will give any indication in advance of whether he plans to show up for a surprise club appearance, but today's Facebook post was a good call:

Catch the shows October 23 and 24 at the Stone Pony to see Joe and the Houserockers, with guest Eddie Manion, play the full American Babylon album and more, 20 years after the 1995 October Assault.
- October 15, 2015

This is not the product announcement you've been waiting for. But a new Bruce release drops tomorrow, and it's worth taking note. Twelve years after the 2003 release of The Essential Bruce Springsteen, Columbia has put together an "Updated Edition" to provide a career overview through 2015.

Making room for songs from Devils & Dust, Magic, Working on a Dream, Wrecking Ball, and High Hopes isn't the only tracklisting shift; the set has been reconsidered and revised from the very beginning, trading in "Blinded For the Light" for "Growin' Up" and swapping numerous other songs along the way. This is, "essentially," a new set and a fresh consideration of Springsteen's output to date. Let's compare:

Interesting that, upon reconsideration, The River now gets twice the play; Tunnel of Love's song count goes up too, though we lose the title track. Here's what's exclusive to each edition:

2003 Essential
Blinded by the Light
For You
Spirit in the Night
Darkness on the Edge of Town
Tunnel of Love
Living Proof
Lucky Town
Mary's Place
American Skin (41 Shots)
Land of Hope and Dreams
All of Disc 3

2015 Essential
Growin' Up
Tenth Avenue Freeze-out
Prove It All Night
The Ties That Bind
Out in the Street
Johnny 99
Tougher Than the Rest
One Step Up
Better Days
If I Should Fall Behind
Murder Incorporated
Devils & Dust
Long Time Comin'
Radio Nowhere
Working on a Dream
My Lucky Day
The Wrestler
We Take Care of Our Own
Hunter of Invisible Game

Most notably, this 2015 revamp drops the bonus third disc which, upon its release in 2003, gathered 12 rare and previously unreleased recordings — sort of a Tracks Disc 5. Twelve years is a fair span of time for what was described as a "limited edition" bonus disc to be available... but when it's gone, it's gone, gone.

Backstreet Records currently has both the 3-disc Essential (2003) and the new 2-disc Essential (2015) in stock.
- October 15, 2015

Not only did we lose Robbin Thompson over the weekend, we also have to say goodbye to John Berg, who died on Sunday of pneumonia at 83 after battling Parkinson's disease. We've probably writtten more about Berg [right in 1982, photographed by Giuseppe Pino for Vogue Italia] in the past few months than we ever have, given his design of the iconic Born to Run cover, which just turned 40. But the longtime Columbia art director is known for far more than that 1975 masterstroke, designing and overseeing more than 5,000 album packages after coming aboard the label in 1961, including classic sleeves for Bob Dylan, Count Basie, Simon & Garfunkel, Blood Sweat & Tears, Johnny Cash, the Byrds, Big Brother & the Holding Company/Janis Joplin, Santana, Aerosmith, Sly & the Family Stone, Blue Oyster Cult, Billy Joel, Miles Davis, Elton John, David Bowie, and more. He won five Grammy Awards for his design: for The Barbara Streisand Album (1964), Dylan's Greatest Hits (1968), Thelonius Monk's Underground (1969), Chicago X (1977), and Ramsey Lewis's Love Notes (1978).

Berg designed Springsteen's first three album packages: not only Born to Run with Eric Meola's famous photograph, but also Greetings From Asbury Park, NJ with its gatefold postcard, and the followup The Wild, the Innocent & the E Street Shuffle, with photography by David Gahr. Berg was still at Columbia in 1983, designing the sleeve for Rescue, Clarence Clemons's debut with the Red Bank Rockers. Known for his clever eye and sense of humor, he also created the sleeve for Cheap Trick's Next Position Please the same year, a clear wink to his own work with Meola and Springsteen a decade prior.

Art Chantry, a graphic design maven in his own right (and a designer for Backstreets in the '80s and early '90s), posted on Facebook following Berg's death: "John Berg was the BOSS. It was his JOB to make these acts look good, look successful, look like contenders. And that's what he did. He let no one stand in his way — not even uberfamous rock stars. In the end he was right. His body of album cover design work is unparalleled in the annals of record cover design. He was a giant among giants."

For more from on this design giant and his work with Bruce, occasioned by our official Born to Run 40th Anniversary poster benefitting WHY Hunger, read our "Faces of BTR40" piece on Berg as well as his memories of the cover's creation he wrote for E Street Radio. You'll also find obituaries in the New York Times and Rolling Stone.
- October 14, 2015

On the B3 organ, accordian or piano, with the Sessions Band or on the E Street stage, Charles Giordano has spent much of the last decade backing Bruce Springsteen as a musician. But he goes waaayyy back as a fan, first catching Wild & Innocent and Born to Run shows at The Bottom Line when he was 19 and 20. Today, he turns 61, born October 13, 1954. Happy birthday, Charlie!
- October 13, 2015 - photograph by Patrick Lion


Some very sad news came on the sweet Virginia breeze this weekend. Robbin Thompson, singer-songwriter and former member of Steel Mill, died yesterday at 66. His passing comes after fighting cancer for 15 years. We send our heartfelt condolences out to his family.

Robbin "Two B's please" Thompson was recruited by Bruce Springsteen to be Steel Mill's second lead singer, alongside Springsteen himself. They got to know each other after Thompson's Richmond-based college band Mercy Flight served as Steel Mill's opening act for several Virginia gigs. Along with Springsteen, Thompson's bandmates in Steel Mill were Vini Lopez, Danny Federici, and Steve Van Zandt. A few years back, Robbin sent us this photo (he's between Vini and Steve), writing, "This was sent to me by an old friend. It's the first i'd seen of this one and it might be the only one of the whole band I have."

"We all stuck together pretty much because none of us had any money," Thompson told Backstreets in 2009, "and as a group we could always manage to get a freebie here or there. Getting into a club or going to a party where there was food was never a problem. Plus, we were rehearsing all the time. In my case, I needed to rehearse because I had a lot of catching up to do, being the 'new guy.'"

Thompson remained with Steel Mill through its final performance at Asbury Park’s legendary Upstage Club on January 23, 1971. "It was a long time ago, and you have to remember that I was only in Steel Mill for maybe just under a year," Robbin told us. "When it was over I headed back to Virginia — like, immediately, to go back to school. It's always amazed me that people even remember me being in the band."

Part of the reason people remember him — and the reason that a band with Bruce Springsteen in it still added a lead vocalist —  is because Robbin could sing. When he joined Bruce and the E Street Band onstage in Virginia in recent years, it was a reminder of what a rich, warm voice he was naturally blessed with, and he hadn't lost a step. In addition to those March 6, 2003 and August 18, 2008 (below) Richmond gigs, Thompson also shared the stage with Springsteen over the years at his own August 6, 1981 Washington DC show at the Bayou, and at Springsteen's January 18, 1985 Greensboro NC concert.

After Steel Mill ended, Thompson continued to perform and record, releasing his debut in 1976 and becoming a very popular and respected Virginia-based musician with The Robbin Thompson Band. Earlier this year, "Sweet Virginia Breeze," a song that Thompson co-wrote and first recorded with Steve Bassett, was chosen as Virginia's "official popular state song." He founded the In Your Ear recording studio in 1990 and spent as much time as he could sailing on the Chesapeake Bay. ("Some people say a boat is a hole in the water where all your money goes," he said, "I say it's a place where you can go to throw all your problems overboard.") You might expect such a guy to be pretty laid back, and you'd be right — he was also one of the nicest guys we've had the pleasure to meet, and he clearly enjoyed keeping up with old friends; in 2007 he sent us this shot of "Tinker [West], me, and Vini [Lopez] on my deck in Richmond."

While living with cancer, Thompson continued to write, record, and perform, releasing albums — including Just a Blur in the Rearview (2007) and A Real Fine Day (2013) — all in between drug trials, routine blood tests and CT scans, surgeries, and regular train rides to New York, "getting to know cancer gurus on a first name basis." Two years ago, Robbin shared the news of his cancer in a newsletter to his fans:

I felt it was time to write this for a number of reasons. It's not like I'd kept it a secret, most of my friends have known since the beginning.  This cancer shit can happen to anybody. It doesn't matter who you are, what you do. Some of us get it, fight it and eventually become "cancer free" and are survivors. Some of us are surviving with cancer, and live long lives with whatever kind of cancer we have. I've learned that IT'S NOT THE END OF THE WORLD!! I've survived with cancer for 13 years so far, and I plan on surviving a lot longer. It took cancer to get me to start traveling the world. I suggest that you don't wait for this kind of news to start living like there's no tomorrow.

My CD Just a Blur in the Rearview was inspired by me living with cancer. Another reason I'm kinda "coming out" as it were is to hopefully inspire y'all with cancer or surviving with it to realize it's not the end of the world. It sucks, it hurts, it's life-changing, but with the right attitude it could help you live life with a very different outlook. If there's a drug study that might help you... get in it. If you don't have cancer and have friends that do, rally behind them, keep them thinking positively. And please, think about all this in relation to our healthcare system because no one can afford what needs to happen when you have cancer. No one.

Robbin was a good friend to Backstreets over the years, checking in reguarly whether about a new album, a guest appearance, or just keeping in touch. Not long after that newsletter, gearing up for a European tour, Robbin sent us a quick email: "Hey, wondering if it would be too much to ask for a Backstreets hat? It would be my 'go-to' hat on my tour coming up in September." We sent him two. Recalling that now brings us a smile — thinking of the man out there singing his songs, flying our colors, traveling the world and living a real fine life despite "this cancer shit." Robbin, we'll miss you.

More information on Robbin Thompson can be found in his obituaries at the Richmond Times-Dispatch and Asbury Park Press websites.
- October 11, 2015 - Chris Phillips and Shawn Poole reporting - photographs/images by Bob Zimmerman (1,4), and courtesy of Robbin Thompson (2,6,7), Billy Smith (3), and CDBaby (5).

Marah fans are shakin' like Little Richard with all the news lately, including big reunion shows coming up this month in PA. Last month we spoke with Dave Bielanko about gettin' the band back together, and this week brought the first-ever vinyl release of their 2000 classic, Kids in Philly. Now comes news that the band, with both Dave and his brother Serge, will play the Stone Pony in Asbury Park on December 11, including a performance of Kids in Philly in its entirety. Tickets go on sale tomorrow (Friday, October 9) at noon.

The band has posted Dave's new Kids in Philly liner notes on their Facebook page, well worth yer eyeballs.
- October 8, 2015

You can't throw a can of soup or a cannonball without hitting an anniversary. Of course, we've recently been doing a lot of celebrating of Born to Run at 40... but just about any day of the year could be a "This Day in Boss History." At this time in 1980, the River tour had just begun, pulling into Cleveland 35 years ago tonight. Thirty years ago, the Born in the U.S.A. World Tour had just wrapped. On this day in 1998, Tracks was officially announced as an astonishing dip into the vault. Twenty years ago, Bruce was strapping on guitars to begin the October Assault — an anniversary that Joe Grushecky & the Houserockers will commemorate later this month at the Stone Pony.

With everything else going on, we're glad to see a big milestone for The Ghost of not being overlooked. Two decades ago this month, on October 28, Springsteen debuted a pair of its songs at the 1995 Bridge School benefit, and in November, the album itself will turn 20. Today, the Onion's A.V. Club steps to the plate with a look at Springsteen's second stripped-down solo album, a full generation after Born to Run. Says Soozie Tyrell of Joad, "This is one of my favorite records. Tears well every time I listen to it. Each song is like a novelette... so rich in storytelling yet so concise. The album takes me on a journey."

Read: "Celebrating Bruce Springsteen's dark folk masterpiece: 20 years of The Ghost of Tom Joad" by Ron Hart

- October 6, 2015

With the New York Jets playing Miami in London this week, and as 105.7 The Hawk is their radio home at the Jersey Shore, and with kickoff set for 9:30 am eastern... what's it mean for tomorrow's Bruce Brunch? Tom Cunningham will kick off early too, in live at 6:30 am for two hours before the Jets pre-game show begins. Every song on the Bruce Brunch this week will be a live performance captured in London: Bruce with the E Street Band, Bruce with the Sessions Band, and solo Bruce. Plus Bruce with a Beatle and a set of cool covers. Bright and early, 6:30 am eastern on Sunday 10/4 on 105.7 The Hawk, or anywhere at
- October 3, 2015

Clock is ticking on Schneier's specially priced editions for Backstreets

Last Sunday, Barry Schneier was on a panel of luminary photographers at the opening of "Bruce Springsteen: A Photographic Journey," with three of his photos included in the exhibit at Monmouth University. They're the only live shots of Bruce in this traveling exhibition curated by the GRAMMY Museum. Text above the display tells the story:

Barry Schneier photographed Bruce Springsteen in what might have been the most important performance of his early career. In May 1974 Springsteen and the E Street Band played a Cambridge, Massachusetts, theater — at Schneier's suggestion — promoting the band's latest album The Wild, the Innocent and the E Street Shuffle. In attendance that night was rock critic Jon Landau who was so taken by Springsteen's performance that he wrote in his Real Paper review, "I have seen the future of rock & roll and its name is Bruce Springsteen," a quote that dramatically drew attention to Springsteen as a live performer. Shortly thereafter, Landau left journalism and joined Springsteen in the studio for the making of his landmark album Born to Run. Landau then became Springsteen's manager and remains so forty years later.

As a Friend of Backstreets, Barry has made a special batch of prints available to our readers at very affordable prices. All three shots on display at Monmouth show are on offer, along with another three from that same historical night. A previous news item describes these six signed editions in greater detail.

Click here to view and purchase the Backstreets Specials

With his star on the rise — these photos being freshly (re)discovered four decades after they were taken — his images won't be around at prices like these for much longer. We're grateful that he's extended this offer to his fellow fans before the galleries snap him up.

- Barry Schneier, center, with Danny Clinch, September 27, 2015

As for the Monmouth exhibition opening, which we reported on earlier in the week, Barry shared with us his own thoughts from Sunday:

It was a little under two years ago that I was first invited to have my images included in "Bruce Springsteen: A Photographic Journey." Since that time I have been honored to have become friends with the other photographers. We keep in touch and keep each other posted on what we are up to, though it's hard for any of us to keep up with Danny Clinch. So as September 27th approached, I knew we all looked forward to seeing each other again.

It was a glorious day and an incredible turnout. The show was beautifully mounted, and even though I've seen the photos before, I always see something new in them each time. Ed Gallucci's work shows us a young Bruce Springsteen, innocent and almost giddy over the idea he had actually just made his first record. Eric Meola's work depicts Bruce in a period of transition, trying to understand what lay ahead for him yet loving what he is doing at the same time. Frank Stefanko's work depicts a young man becoming an adult, seeing the world from a broader sense and starting to understand his role in being an artist. Pam Springsteen's work showcases Bruce as one of his characters, on the road, in a room to himself working on a piece, continuing to seek and find his identity. And Danny Clinch shows us that Bruce has many sides: a performer, a husband and a friend.

Its so special to sit at the dais with these talented individuals and share our stories with the audience. When we speak we don't just speak of the love we have for the craft of image creation we have been blessed to have as a big part of our livelihood, but we also speak of the genuine love and admiration we have for Bruce, an amazing talent and human being we have been so fortunate to have crossed paths with in our lives.

For everyone unable to attend last Sunday's event, here's the full Q&A with Gallucci, Meola, Schneier, Clinch, and Stefanko, moderated by GRAMMY Museum executive director (and longtime Backstreets associate editor) Bob Santelli, returning to his alma mater.

"Bruce Springsteen: A Photographic Journey" is on display at Monmouth University in West Long Branch, NJ, through December 22.
- October 2, 2015 - photographs by Melanie Paggioli (1) and Mark Krajnak/JerseyStyle Photography (2)

On October 2, 1975, a couple months into the Born to Run tour, Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band played Milwaukee, WI for the first time, where they debuted "Meeting Across the River" live to open the show. But that wasn't the story of the night. Seven songs into this show at the since-demolished Uptown Theater, the band had to leave the stage because of a bomb threat, marking this night everafter as the Milwaukee Bomb Scare Show. Just after midnight, Bruce and the band returned to the stage — after spending the interim at the Pfister hotel bar — for what can only be described as a very loose second set.

- October 2, 1975, fans waiting outside the Uptown Theater in Milwaukee after the bomb scare evacuation [photograph by Mark Goff via]

"I don't know what you did, but we got real weird," Bruce told the reconstitited crowd as the band launced into "Little Queenie." "There we was! We ran back to the hotel. Are you loose?... Ran into the bar. I said bartender, 'I need a drink!' I was shakin', my knees were weak, I couldn't see straight. Steve was there, c'mere Steve! Steve was there with me, we were sitting at the bar, we were scared to death, we said, 'Bartender, somebody tried to blow us up tonight.' We said, 'Bartender, are you loose?' We said, 'Bartender, somebody tried to blow us up tonight.' He looked at me and said, 'Son... son... are you loose?' I said, 'Yeah!' And there I was, and Clarence came in the bar. Clarence shuffled in in his white suit. The people over at The Pfffister didn't know what was happening...."

You can listen to the full concert on YouTube. For more on that night 40 years ago, read on....

  • "Oral history: Reliving the legendary Springsteen bomb scare show," by Bobby Tanzilo []
  • "Remembering the Bruce Springsteen bomb scare show, 40 years later," by Piet Levy []

Tonight at Milwaukee's Shank Hall, they'll be celebrating the anniversary with "Are You Loose?" a celebration of Springsteen and his music, headlined by MKE singer-songwriter John Sieger. Local disc jockey Bob Reitman, who was the emcee for the show that night, will be on hand along with Terry Cullen, director of Uptown security, and photographer Bob Cavallo.
- October 2, 2015

Two new additions to our shop for Nils Lofgren fans. For his forthcoming live release, this is a last call for signed copies! Nils will be autographing UK2015: Face the Music Tour CDs for us, and we need to finalize quantity by early next week — pre-order now to guarantee yours.

We've also just gotten the Wonderland CD back in stock, his fantastic 1983 album that's gone in and out of print. "Wonderland remains one of the most enjoyable musical projects of my life," Nils has said. "Due to a major record company upheaval, Wonderland was released and forgotten by the label which was a huge disappointment to me." It was his last album for Backstreet/MCA, released shortly before he joined the E Street Band, and this American Beat reissue has been hard to find... but for now it's back.
- October 2, 2015

This weekend, fans in the Philadephia area have a chance to meet the creator of the original E Street beat, Vini "Mad Dog" Lopez. Vini will be appearing at the second annual All Things That Rock festival, along with other celebrity guests including Ace Frehley, Carl Palmer, and Gene Cornish, to meet fans, sign autographs, and pose for photos.

And for those photo sessions, the festival's Matthew Shultz tells us, Mad Dog's got quite the prop: "Vini will be bringing his Rock and Roll Hall of Fame trophy with him to our show for fans to take a picture with. I'm not sure anyone has done that for the general public — that's a pretty cool add."

In addition to the guests, and a display of Les Paul's personal guitar collection, All Things That Rock is the largest CD, record, video, music memorabilia and pop culture collectibles show in the Delaware Valley, with hundreds of vendors looking to buy, sell, and trade. It takes place 10am to 5pm, October 3 and 4, at the Greater Philadelphia Expo Center. Visit for more details.
- October 1, 2015


Rechnitz Hall, on the campus of Monmouth University in West Long Branch, New Jersey, was packed with fans from both near and far on Sunday, September 27,  for the opening of the photography exhibit Bruce Springsteen: A Photographic Journey. This traveling exhibition, curated by the GRAMMY Museum, features 45 images of Bruce taken by noted Springsteen photographers Danny Clinch, Ed Gallucci, Eric Meola, Barry Schneier, Pamela Springsteen and Frank Stefanko.

Bruce fans, as well as photography fans, filled the DiMattio Gallery to see some of the most famous photos of Bruce, including Barry Schneier's photo from the Harvard Square Theatre show, Eric Meola's Born to Run cover shot, and Frank Stefanko's Corvette Winter. The photos span a time frame of over 40 years, from Ed Gallucci's shots in a Bradley Beach, NJ bungalow in the early '70s through Danny Clinch's most recent work with Bruce. 

As fans stopped to intently look at each photo, some attendees clearly had favorites. 

Annie Heininger from Philadelphia, PA, loves Stefanko's work. "He captures the inner spirit of Bruce, and from a woman's perspective, he's the one who best captures Bruce's luscious lips!"

Lisa Magliano from Long Beach Island, NJ, appreciates "the way Eric Meola titles his photos in such a poetic manner. The titles help connect me even further to the image." 

Wayne Villante was a big fan of Ed Gallucci's work. "Ed captures the innocence of Bruce in those early shots. In Ed's pictures, Bruce looks like a kid in a candy store as the world is opening up to him. The photos are so real and pure."  

Of Danny Clinch's photos, Laura Maimone of Howell, NJ, said "There is a depth of character and a sense of familiarity captured in Danny's photos. I look at them and can feel the intensity of the moment. The ordinary becomes something significant and leaves an impression" [above: Outlaw Pete illustrator Frank Caruso in front of Clinch's photographs].

Melanie Paggioli, Executive Director of The Friends of the Bruce Springsteen Special Collection, had this to say about Barry Schneier's work: "In one photo, Barry flawlessly communicated Bruce's intensity while playing the piano for a small crowd. Even though the photo was taken 40 years ago and the crowds are a lot larger now, that look of intensity has not really changed. In a number of Barry's works, he was able to capture the energy and movement of Bruce and the band performing perfectly. Overall, this exhibit is a definite must-see."

The photographers (minus Pam Springsteen, who was unable to attend) graciously mingled with the crowd, talking with fans about their photographs and signing books and records.  

The event also featured a panel discussion moderated by Bob Santelli, Executive Director of the GRAMMY Museum [above, with Monmouth University's Eileen Chapman]. A similar discussion was held in April 2014 in Tulsa, OK, at the Woody Guthrie Center with the same group of photographers. Bob said the goal of the exhibit was to show the different sides of Bruce — "the behind-the-scenes and hidden side of Bruce Springsteen" — as captured over a long time frame by different photographers.

The one-hour discussion covered a range of topics. All of the photographers agreed that Bruce was very photogenic and was as much of a perfectionist when it came to photo sessions as he is with his music. As Danny Clinch said of Springsteen: "As a student of rock 'n' roll, he has a sense of what he wants. A great photo requires that the subject give something back and Bruce is a great collaborator."

Frank Stefanko [above] told a great story about Patti Smith and Bruce. While he was working with Patti, Frank told her that she should listen to this guy because someday he will be great. Patti eventually mentioned this to Bruce, and Frank subsequently received a signed copy of Greetings From Asbury Park in the mail with the inscription "To Frank, my biggest fan." 

The photographers also discussed the photos that they choose for the exhibit. Eric Meola talked about the impact of the song Streets of Fire and specifically the line "in the darkness, I hear someone calling my name." He choose photos that captured the turmoil that Bruce was going through during that time. 

The group also discussed the importance of capturing on film what Bruce was writing about at the time of their photo sessions — or, at times, of not doing so. During the Nebraska sessions, Frank presented Bruce with a number of images of a literal mansion on the hill. Bruce declined them, saying he did not want one image to represent the song. Rather he wanted each listener to have their own individual perception of what that image should be. 

Danny Clinch talked about working with Bruce on album covers, and how a photo is chosen. He sends Bruce many possibilities, and very often Bruce chooses "adventurous" shots — Clinch gave The Rising cover as an example. 

The photographers also discussed their favorite photos. Ed Gallucci likes a shot of Bruce in Bradley Beach sitting at a kitchen table with a bowl of vegetables in front of him [above]. While Corvette Winter is Frank's best-selling image, he prefers a photo of Bruce in front of Frank's Barbershop in Haddonfield, NJ. "There is so much symbolism — a church missal, a surfboard — in that photo that most people do not see," Stefanko said. 

Many attendees, as well as the photographers, had high praise for Monmouth University for being such a gracious host, for the gallery itself and the job the University did in exhibiting the photographs. "Everything was top-boat," Stefanko told us.

In addition to the photographs, the exhibit features video interviews with each of the photographers, produced by the GRAMMY Museum. The exhibit runs through December 22, 2015, and is open to the public from 9am to 5pm.
- September 28, 2015 - Kevin Farrell reporting - photographs by Mark Krajnak/JerseyStyle Photography

Archive Series returns with a Devils & Dust tour standout

After a summer lull, Bruce Springsteen's archive download series is back, leaping forward two decades for the release of Columbus, July 31, 2005, one of the finest performances on the Devils & Dust solo tour.

Springsteen's 24-song setlist at the Schottenstein Center's Value City Theatre is a doozy and loaded with true rarities, from the set-opening world premiere of "Lift Me Up" to one of but six known performances of Tunnel of Love’s closing masterpiece "Valentine's Day," preceded by its TOL emotional companion, "When You're Alone." And that's just the beginning. Columbus also features the tour premiere of "Back in Your Arms" on electric piano, piano readings of "For You" and "Lost in the Flood," the Born in the U.S.A. outtake "Cynthia," and "State Trooper" among numerous highlights. It's available today on, powered by's Brad Serling tells Backstreets that, given its bounty of rarities, Columbus came up repeatedly as a worthy candidate when Toby Scott sought the input of "the electorate" to choose a show from the Devils & Dust tour. The performance is but one special night in a run of magical shows in the Midwest that fans have often cited as the tour's apex.

The entire D&D tour was captured live to 24/96 digital multi-tracks. To create the Columbus release, Scott loaded the raw show recordings into ProTools and used an analog mixing board to create the release mix, which was then captured high-res via a two-track DSD recorder. The DSD files were mastered, like other titles in the series, by Adam Ayan at Gateway Mastering for all formats. The live download store on will release Columbus in standard and high-res (24/96) formats, in addition to physical CDs, which will ship in the coming weeks.

Outside of the initial Apollo Theatre offering, Columbus is the first Archive release from this century, representing a tour many current fans will have seen in person. And fine audience recordings aside, this period of the Devils & Dust tour has never been heard before in this quality, another reason why the show was chosen.

As for the longer span between releases, Serling explained that stakeholder vacations did slow the pace a bit, and horses also changed in midstream: an initial plan for the next release was a show from the 1995 Tom Joad tour, which got as far as mixing before being set to the side in favor of 2005. But he reiterated that the goal remains a steady and consistent stream of archive releases. "We're independent of the Sony world (schedule-wise)," he assured, before hinting that consideration of titles for the next wave is already underway.

Serling also reminded us that while Devils & Dust was a solo tour, Columbus does feature one additional musician: Alan Fitzgerald, Springsteen's keyboard tech, who contributed off-stage keyboards and gets due credit here.
- September 25, 2015 - Erik Flannigan reporting - Columbus photograph by Christy Osoling

At the beginning of this year, Nils Lofgren brought his acoustic duo show back to the UK for a series of lauded performances after a few years off: "It was great," he told Backstreeets, "We spent most of January there and did 16 cities in 19 days on the bus — just like old times." Before the year is out, highlights from that run will be collected on a new live CD, UK2015: Face the Music Tour.

Nils will be signing copies for Backstreet Records customers — order now to reserve yours! Street date isn't until November, but we'll be using pre-orders over the next week to determine how many ol' Lefty puts his signature to, so we hope you'll get your order in quickly to guarantee a copy for yourself or for holiday gifts.

- September 24, 2015

Yesterday, in honor of Springsteen's 66th birthday, we posted his impromptu cover of "Route 66," performed with a supergroup of friends in at a club in Sayreville, NJ. Thanks to Terry Camp, who was there at the Playpen on October 20, 1994, today we've got the visual.

"Here's the group photo I shot after the show," Terry writes. "Just out of frame in the cramped backstage was legendary Philadelphia radio DJ, Ed Sciaky. (I just couldn't fit him, but the negative did permit me to crop right and include about 2/3 of Ed when I made him the print ). The show was part of John Eddie's 'American Style Series,' moved from Marz in Long Branch for the fall. This night was acoustic until John's band closed.... John had asked Bruce if he was going to get up early in the night with the acoustic line-up, and he said he'd wait for the band. That 'Route 66' — which Bruce introduced spontaneously, in the middle of 'Bang a Gong (Get It On)' — was one of his highest club moments ever, in my view."
- September 24, 2015 - photograph by Terry Camp - L-R: John Eddie, Greg Kihn, Bruce Springsteen, Elliott Murphy, Marshall Crenshaw

Boss photographers extraordinaire reconvene in NJ for Sunday event

As we celebrate Bruce Springsteen's birthday, a special exhibit celebrating his career is on view at Monmouth University in West Long Branch, NJ, having originally opened last year at the Woody Guthrie Center in Tulsa, OK. Bruce Springsteen: A Photographic Journey, a traveling photography exhibition curated by the GRAMMY Museum Los Angeles, features 45 iconic images of the Boss, captured by noted photographers Danny Clinch, Ed Gallucci, Eric Meola, Barry Schneier, Pamela Springsteen and Frank Stefanko.

The official opening reception is this Sunday, September 27, from 1-4pm. Free and open to the public, Sunday's event will include a Q&A with the photographers moderated by Grammy Museum executive director Bob Santelli at 2:30pm.

"Our goal with this exhibition is to define the career of Bruce Springsteen in an entirely new light, as captured by these five incredible photographers," says Santelli. "Each of these photographers was able to artfully document Bruce’s world, at different stages in his career. We are honored to partner with each of them in order to help tell the story of one of the most important figures in American music."

As Stefanko tells Backstreets, the exhibit "chronicles Bruce's life and evolution as seen from some of the photographers that had the most impact at each period in Bruce's life, going forward." That perspective comes through in the exhibit itself, which also features video interviews with each of the photographers, and will certainly be there with Sunday afternoon's Q&A. Based on a similar event at the Tulsa opening, Stefanko looks forward to another "lively roundtable format, with pertinent questions put out by Bob Santelli, where the insights from the photographers' photographic relationship with Bruce will be revealed."

- Bob Santelli, standing, leading the discussion with [L-R] Ed Gallucci, Eric Meola, Barry Schneier, Frank Stefanko, and Danny Clinch in Tulsa, 2014

Schneier remembers that roundtable as a highlight of Tulsa, too: "It was a great opportunity for attendees and fans to hear directly from the photographers the stories behind the photos and what its like to work with Bruce as a photographic subject. And each one having a different level of personal relationship with Bruce added that much more insight to his music, his personality, and how he sees himself. It was a great session."

"What I am excited about," Stefanko continues, "with this exhibition coming to the heart of Springsteen country — in the state that Bruce, Danny Clinch and I live, and not too far from where Eric, and Barry, and Ed live — is the turnout should be awesome."

- Stefanko yuks it up, with Schneier and Clinch

"With the Pope in Philadelphia and the Eagles playing the Jets in the Meadowlands," Frank adds, "West Long Branch, NJ could be a welcome escape plan, and not too far from Asbury Park."

Visit each photographer's website for more information, to see their work, or to purchase prints (Schneier is currently offering Backstreets specials specifically for our readers, high-quality ink jet prints of a selection of his historic images from May 9, 1974):

Bruce Springsteen: A Photographic Journey is on view at Rechnitz Hall's DiMattio Gallery, at Monmouth University in West Long Branch, NJ, through December 22.
- September 23, 2015 - exhibit postcard photograph by Pamela Springsteen - Q&A photographs by Scott Smith

In honor of Bruce Springsteen's 66th birthday, for your listening pleasure, a rare performance of "Route 66" (by way of "Bang a Gong"), when Bruce joined old friends John Eddie, Greg Kihn, Elliott Murphy and Marshall Crenshaw at the Playpen in Sayreville, NJ, 10/21/94.

Happy 66, Boss!

- September 23, 2015

The Boss spends his birthday eve with old friend Jackson Browne

Last night in New Jersey, Bruce Springsteen closed out his 66th year right where he belongs: on stage. After taking in Jackson Browne's concert at Red Bank's Count Basie Theatre from the audience, Springsteen joined him for the last two songs of the night, "Take It Easy" and "Our Lady of the Well." Show-goer Brian Gay tells us, "Bruce sang the second verse on 'Take It Easy,' the choruses and added harmonies throughout. He played some nice leads during a great extended ending which included solos by the other guitarists as well. He looked and sounded great!"

Watch their entire performance together below.

- September 23, 2015 - photograph by Brian Gay

New Jersey Hall of Famer, longtime Springsteen fan and Backstreets reader Brian Williams is back on the tellyvison today, as breaking news anchor on MSNBC covering the arrival of Pope Francis. We're glad to see him back.

The singer and the newsman were in Wyoming over the weekend, celebrating the wedding of Williams' daughter Allison on Saturday. Tom "Stop Bendin' the Shafts!" Hanks officiated the ceremony, and according to our source in attendance, Springsteen also sang. Congrats to the father of the bride (with hopes he'll let us know what the song was). Watch Springsteen induct Williams into the NJ Hall of Fame here.
- September 22, 2015 - photograph by Bob Zimmerman

We've just done a major restock of these shirts here at Backstreet Records, so the getting is good if you've been waiting for a certain size of one of these: The Little Cafe (Rosalita) - Thunder Road - E Street Nation - Greasy Lake. These shirts come in a wide size range, from Small to Triple-X with everything between — all sizes are now restocked. Proceeds benefit Protect, the National Association to Protect Children. Check out all current shirts in stock here.
- September 21, 2015


Introducing Darlene Love officially released today
In "Sweet Freedom," one of 14 wonderful performances on Introducing Darlene Love, it sounds at first like Love's getting ready to reveal to us some kind of secret criminal past. "I admit I was guilty as I could be," she sings, but then quickly adds, "Being a woman was my crime." Darlene Love's certainly no criminal, but she — and we — are victims of a kind of crime that allowed one of our greatest, most influential singers to go underappreciated and without a significant secular solo album for so many years. Of course, how that crime happened had much to do with Love being a woman in a sexist society, which is one reason why Hall of Famers Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil's new song fits so well on Introducing.

This is not, however, an album that wallows in bitterness over past misdeeds. Instead, it ultimately celebrates one woman's faith, perseverance and dignity in fulfilling her life's purpose: to sing out her heart and soul loudly, proudly and beautifully. Coming on the heels of her induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and her major presence in the Oscar-winning documentary 20 Feet From Stardom, Introducing Darlene Love is not the first-ever Darlene Love album, but it is certainly the first to demonstrate all that she can do with her amazing voice. And to make clear just how amazing that voice remains, consider this: at 74, Love sounds as powerful as ever, especially if it's true that, as she recently told E Street Radio's Dave Marsh, more than five decades ago legendary producer Phil Spector would often speed up her vocal tracks during mixing to make her sound younger on many of his (and her) greatest "Wall of Sound" recordings.

Many Springsteen fans already know just how influential those recordings were on the E Street universe, and just how strongly Bruce, Steve Van Zandt and other E Street Band members have supported Love's comeback efforts over many years. Therefore, it's fitting that Van Zandt has finally produced the kind of record that Darlene Love has wanted to make with him for decades. "I just want to thank you for being there for me," she writes Steven in the liner notes, "Where does the time go baby, you made it the best time. 30 years & counting!"

The record's got major E Street connections, too. Over a third of the album features songs written by Steve or Bruce. E Street Horns members Jake Clemons, Barry Danielian, Clark Gayton, Eddie Manion and Curt Ramm also play on the record, as do veteran Jersey Shore guitar-slinger Bobby Bandiera and Asbury Jukes, Disciples of Soul and Miami Horns alum Stan Harrison. With the help of these and many other talented songwriters, musicians and backing vocalists, Love gets the kind of full-scale rock/pop orchestral sound that best suits her voice.

The album opens with a killer cover of Van Zandt's "Among the Believers," a song that first appeared on Little Steven's Voice of America album. It quickly establishes a major theme of the album, which is the role of spirituality and faith in a troubled world. It also reaffirms something that Darlene Love stated clearly and succinctly in her excellent autobiography My Name Is Love: The Darlene Love Story: "I'm a rock and roll singer." Indeed, Love delivers strong rock vocals on "Among the Believers," Desmond Child and Joan Jett's "Little Liar," Michael Des Barres and Paul Ill's "Painkiller," and Van Zandt's "Last Time." As Love related onstage last week in Asbury Park, her version of "Last Time," a song originally written for and recorded by Gary "U.S." Bonds on his On the Line album, came about after Van Zandt used it as a rehearsal piece for Love and the musicians before recording. Love eventually told Van Zandt, "We've got to record this one." The result is a version of the moving rock ballad just as powerful as Bonds' original, sung from a female perspective this time around.

Love is a masterful pop singer, too, as her work with Spector and her years of background-vocal work on so many other classic recordings have proved many times already. Her performances on Introducing Darlene Love of Elvis Costello's "Forbidden Nights," Linda Perry's "Love Kept Us Foolin' Around," Springsteen's Wall of Sound homage "Night Closing In" and his more modern-sounding "Just Another Lonely Mile" reaffirm this delightful aspect of her artistry.

Rolling Stone recently reported that after requesting material from Bruce for Introducing Darlene Love, Steve Van Zandt received two "complete demos"; we know little about the origins of these two Springsteen songs otherwise. Elvis Costello's "Forbidden Nights" was attached to a Broadway musical the songwriter abandoned five years ago; it's possible that one or both of Springsteen's songs might have originally been written and demoed for a project of his own. This seems less likely in the case of "Night Closing In," in which every word, note, bell and kitchen sink sounds tailor-made for Love and the classic Phil Spector sound. (Steve recently discussed this at the Grammy Museum earlier this week: "I liked [Spector's] style, but he owns it. My recording style is different. I have a wall, but it's a Wall of Clarity. I want everyone to hear everything in a record. But 'Night Closing In' is the one song on the album that I gave the Spector approach to.") "Just Another Lonely Mile," however, sounds as if in a slightly different form it could be an outtake from, say, Devils & Dust or Working on a Dream.

Costello's other contribution, "Still Too Soon To Know," was originally recorded for his 1994 Brutal Youth album. On Introducing Darlene Love, it's one of the two songs in which Love breaks the most new ground in terms of her range of singing styles, duetting on the country-based ballad with old flame and good friend Bill Medley of The Righteous Brothers (with Costello joining in on guitar.) The other song, Jimmy Webb's "Who Under Heaven," was written especially for this album. Webb, the songwriting legend who rarely writes songs for other artists anymore, was asked by Van Zandt to compose something especially for Introducing Darlene Love. "I told him, 'Nothin' special," joked Van Zandt onstage in Asbury Park last week, "just another 'MacArthur Park.'" Webb delivered in spades, providing Love with an epic song that merges the musical approach of "MacArthur Park" with lyrics that echo the liberation theology of "Among the Believers."

Speaking of epic songs, Darlene Love has long suspected that "River Deep, Mountain High" was written originally for her to record, but Phil Spector eventually decided to record it with Tina Turner singing the lead vocals. Love sang backing vocals on that version, and wrote in her autobiography that she found the sessions to be nightmarish and thought the final product was one of Spector's worst records. (Incidentally, Love remains among the few who stood up to the worst aspects of Phil Spector's bullying behavior and even cleaned his clock in court over royalties, all while maintaining her own dignity and respect for Spector as an artist.) In 1985, as a member of the original Broadway cast of the musical Leader of the Pack, Love got to revisit "River Deep," but that recording, too, was less than stellar. On Introducing Darlene Love, she finally gets to tackle it as lead singer with a producer who loves the work of both Spector and Love. The result is arguably the best-ever version of "River Deep, Mountain High" (though Love's own 2007 version from The Late Show with David Letterman certainly gives it a run for its money).

Love's spirituality and her roots in gospel music infuse the album's final two songs: "Marvelous" and "Jesus Is the Rock (That Keeps Me Rollin')." It's worth noting here that young Darlene Wright's stage/recording-name of "Darlene Love" was chosen by Phil Spector and her as an homage to the great gospel singer/composer/civil rights activist Dorothy Love Coates. Love's version of gospel legend Walter Hawkins' "Marvelous" has been a staple of her live shows for years. (Not counting her 2007 Christmas album, Love's last full-length studio album before Introducing Darlene Love was her 1998 gospel album Unconditional Love, produced by Walter's equally legendary brother Edwin.) Last week she told her Asbury Park audience that Hawkins' song speaks very much to her own personal journey, and that when Steve Van Zandt saw her and her back-up singers perform "Marvelous" at B.B. King's New York City club, he finally decided to start making his long-planned Darlene Love album project a reality. He booked their first block of studio time for the very next day.

Van Zandt's "Jesus Is the Rock (That Keeps Me Rollin')" is his only song written especially for Introducing Darlene Love, and one of five tracks on which he plays guitar (doubling up on duties with Bobby Bandiera, and also joined on B3 organ by longtime Love friend and supporter Paul Shaffer). It closes this marvelous record on an ecstatic high note of triumph and hope.

Introducing Darlene Love is indeed a triumph for both Love and Van Zandt, who has successfully applied his ample production and arrangement skills in the service of one of the world's best singers still going strong in her eighth decade.

Order your copy of Introducing Darlene Love from Backstreet Records on CD or 180-gram 2LP vinyl.

Visit for upcoming tour dates and more information.

E Street Radio's Introducing Darlene Love special, featuring almost two hours of music and Dave Marsh's conversation with Love and Van Zandt, will air on Sirius/XM channel 20 on:

  • Friday 9/18 at 4pm ET
  • Saturday 9/19 at 12am & 8am ET
  • Sunday 9/20 at 3pm ET
  • Monday 9/21 at 4pm ET
  • Tuesday 9/22 at 12am & 8am ET
  • Wednesday 9/23 at 6pm ET

- September 18, 2015 - Shawn Poole reporting

After sharing the final minutes of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart this summer, Bruce Springsteen and Stewart will be together again this fall, once again teaming up for Stand Up For Heroes. Springsteen has played this Bob Woodruff Foundation benefit for each of its eight years so far, honoring veterans and aiding injured service members and their families; watch clips from last year here. The ninth annual event will also include John Oliver, Seth Meyers, Ray Romano, and Chris Botti.

Stand Up for Heroes kicks off the New York Comedy Festival — hence Bruce's now-traditional and ever-corny dirty jokes — on the day before Veterans Day, Tuesday, November 10 at the Theater at Madison Square Garden. Be there if you want a shot at bidding on his mother's lasagna! Tickets are on sale now.
- September 16, 2015

Shawn Colvin's forthcoming album, Uncovered, opens with her take on Bruce Springsteen's "Tougher Than the Rest"; above, a performance that premiered yesterday on the Wall Street Journal's Speakeasy blog. Colvin told the WSJ, "The song means a great deal to me, the album Tunnel of Love even more... I've always been struck by vulnerability coupled with quiet confidence in [the song]. I thought that a woman having a go at it would be powerful — we're tough, too."

Uncovered, due September 25, also includes songs written by Tom Waits, Neil Finn, John Fogerty, Paul Simon, Stevie Wonder, and more. Details at
- September 15, 2015


With Stevie leading the band, Darlene takes Asbury mountain high
Last night in Asbury Park, Darlene Love and Steven Van Zandt staged a CD release party-turned-gospel revival for the ages. Backed by a 40-piece Wall of Sound orchestra, a radiant Love was, at long last, once again fully in her element as both vocalist and stage performer, and the result was a sublime evening of entertainment — a Jersey Shore version of a Phil Spector revue.

There was much secrecy surrounding this event, with load-ins and a Friday night rehearsal the only signs that something big was coming. But the cloak-and-dagger tactics paid off; after a pre-show tape that was a virtual Who's Who of '60s garage pop (heavy on the early Beatles), an offstage voice announced, "Ladies and Gentlemen, it's showtime!" The curtain was raised to reveal a multi-tiered stage set worthy of the Duke Ellington Orchestra, eliciting audible gasps and applause from the sold-out house. From choreography and period '60s psychedelic lighting to gospel choir and mid-set costume changes, there was not a detail overlooked in the entire presentation; it was clear that both Steven and wife Maureen had put considerable effort into presenting this legendary artist in a setting that would thoroughly showcase her talents.

The orchestra, led by Van Zandt — in his glory in full bandleader/arranger mode — comprised the standard band lineup of guitar, bass, keyboards, and drums, augmented by two additional drummers/percussionists and massive brass and string sections, with the primary drum kit topmost and center. Performers were dressed in black or white, with all vocalists (including three background singers from Love's band) also clad in white. Darlene herself was resplendent in tight pants, short skirts, and even a white gown, spangles galore on each of her three costumes.

The show was built around performance of the complete Introducing Darlene Love album, with a pair of mid-set interludes. Although not played in sequential order, each track from the album was performed with full orchestration before an appreciative audience that sat in rapt attention as wonder after wonder appeared before their eyes. The first sequence included Van Zandt's "Among the Believers" to open, a tender Steven/Darlene duet on Elvis Costello's "Still Too Soon to Know," Mann/Weil's "Sweet Freedom," Bruce Springsteen's "Just Another Lonely Mile" [video], and Steven's "Last Time" (originally penned for Gary U.S. Bonds' On the Line album). After the latter number, Darlene walked offstage for the first of three costume changes, leaving Van Zandt momentarily in charge of the mic. Cue Little Steven, emcee.

"So, a priest, a rabbi..." he began. "No, in all seriousness, this project is long overdue, and has been a long time coming." Stressing the spiritual theme of the evening, Steven indicated that he was hoping to reflect the album's music and lyrical content, itself a document of both Love's love of gospel music, and of the rebirth of her storied music career.

"I promised to make an album with her, and it took 30 years," said Van Zandt as Love returned to the stage in a dramatic white gown cut to reveal a form-fitting white minidress. Also entering from stage left was longtime bandleader on the David Letterman show, her friend and devoted fan Paul Shaffer. Indeed, it was Letterman and Shaffer who had kept her name alive all these years. "Paul and David put her on TV every Christmas," said Steven.  

"And I'd like to thank both Paul and David," replied Love. "Dave, who's up in the cloud," she said, smiling (referring, of course, to Letterman's appearance in the video for her new single, Elvis Costello's "Forbidden Nights"). The ever-humble Shaffer graciously accepted the acclaim, taking over piano duties on the song just as he had in the video. Next up was the rapturous gospel of the Jimmy Webb composition "Who Under Heaven," after which Love left the stage once again. And what happened next was nothing short of stunning.

Picking up his mic, Steven moved front and center. "I only do this once every 25 years," he said by way of introduction. "I thought it'd be fun tonight — we actually have the instrumentation we recorded it with, for the first time ever. See if you remember this one." And with that came the opening bars of his Asbury Jukes classic "Love on the Wrong Side of Town" [video]. Rarely performed by its co-writer, it was just the beginning of a three-song mini set of Van Zandt originals that elicited rapturous cheers and a standing ovation (one of many) from the thrilled audience. It was as if no time had passed since Steven's years as Disciples of Soul bandleader, and, fully engaged as a frontman once again, he commanded the stage with power and authority, leading the crowd in mass sing-alongs on the long-lost gems "Until the Good is Gone" [video] and "Forever" [video] to conclude the mini-set.

Before anyone could catch their breath from that, out came Love again, clad just in the stunning white minidress and accompanied by Shaffer, who assumed piano duties on the next sequence, a set of six joyous Spector-era classics that magically transported everyone back to the youthful innocence that was the legendary producer/arranger's métier. From "He's a Rebel" to "Da Doo Ron Ron" and "Wait Til My Bobby Gets Home," it was pure Wall of Sound heaven. An animated Shaffer assisted with bandleading duties throughout, exchanging bows with Steven and Love at the set's conclusion. 

Next came "Marvelous," a Walter Hawkins song included in the latest album at her insistence. "I do this every night because of its message," she declared, as a full gospel choir walked on from both sides of the stage, the Glory to God Choir out of NYC. The performance was highlighted by solo vocals by her stellar trio of backup singers, each of whom took a turn at the mic.

After one final costume change by Love, the set was rounded out by Joan Jett's "Little Liar" and Springsteen's "Night Closing In" [video], after which the audience once again leapt to its feet, cheering wildly as Shaffer, Darlene, Steven and the entire band came down stage front for a group bow and finally, curtain.

After a brief pause, the lights and curtain came up to reveal the return of the full gospel choir for the final two numbers. Shaffer also came back out, immediately heading to his position at the piano — which could only mean another Spector song was in the offing. And if anyone present needed more evidence of Steven Van Zandt's mastery of Spector's body of work and its massive sensory overload, the arrangement and performance of "River Deep, Mountain High" by the assembled performers authoritatively removed any remaining doubt [video]. When the recording of the song was originally planned, Love was slated to lay down the song for Spector but was moved to backing vocal status in favor of Ike & Tina Turner; after her performance last night, it was difficult to imagine anyone else performing "River Deep" with such power and dynamism.

Moving from the secular to the religious for the finale, Love and Co. closed the night with Van Zandt's "Jesus is the Rock (That Keeps Me Rollin')," a rollicking shouter that had audience and vocalists raising the roof in gospel ecstasy [video]. And then, broad smiles and more than a few tears were exchanged as all vocalists and musicians assembled for one last grand bow. Everyone in attendance — audience and performers — seemed genuinely transported, and, beaming, parted ways, thus concluding one of the most memorable nights in Asbury Park's long and storied musical history. 

At the show's euphoric conclusion, performers and VIPs headed across the hallway to Convention Hall, where a bountiful caterer's spread and musical entertainment awaited; none other than Gene Cornish (The Rascals), Denny Laine (Wings) and Tommy James (The Shondells) took turns sitting in with Glen Burtnik and Bob Burger's new project, The Weeklings, on a set of '60s classics.
- September 13, 2015 - Lisa Iannucci reporting - photographs by A.M. Saddler


We're just one week away from the release of Introducing Darlene Love, and a First Listen comes courtesy of NPR, which is streaming the full album now (above). After musing on why Darlene remained too many feet from stardom for so many years, Ann Powers raves:

Introducing Darlene Love is a mighty blow against these marginalizing forces. Produced by Love's longtime friend and advocate Steven Van Zandt, and featuring compositions by Love's ardent champions — including Bruce Springsteen, Elvis Costello, Linda Perry and Jimmy Webb — this is a splashy victory lap for a woman who's run one of pop's great marathons. What's most memorable about this recording, though, is how it breaks the rules for such elder-statesman statements by framing Love's strapping voice within arrangements as robust as she is. Instead of the usual studied contemplations of mortality that marked the late careers of icons like Johnny Cash, Introducing Darlene Love is as gaudy as a chiffon dress a girl might wear on The Ed Sullivan Show. It overflows with horns and Hammond B3 organ and drums that reverberate all the way to St. Peter's gates. This is a huge-sounding album, and an unapologetic celebration of the Wall Of Sound that Love helped build.

Introducing Darlene Love doesn't sound dated, and one reason is the songwriting.... Springsteen's two contributions serve notice that Love could have been a blockbuster rock voice if music-business categories were more flexible....

Thanks to NPR, you can also go straight to streams of those two Bruce-penned songs:

In the UK, our friends at Badlands have the exclusive premiere of "Night Closing In" — listen now at

Introducing Darlene Love drops on Friday, September 18, and you can reserve your copy now from Backstreet Records for immediate shipping as soon as it's available next week:

Pre-order the CD

Pre-order the double vinyl

- September 11, 2015

A new exhibit focusing on the life and career of Steven Van Zandt will open this Saturday, September 12, at Asbury Park's Where Music Lives gallery on Cookman Avenue. Titled "Miami Steve to Silvio & Beyond," the show will feature photographs, video and artifacts reflecting not just the multi-talented Van Zandt's long and storied career in music, but his work as educator, actor and activist.

Also on Saturday, the prolific, hardworking Van Zandt's latest music project, Introducing Darlene Love, will be showcased across town at the Paramount Theatre, as Steven, Darlene and "special guests" will perform material from the forthcoming album as well as selections from her glory days with Phil Spector.

Also appearing this weekend: Bruce Tunkel, who will co-headline at the Brighton Bar in Long Branch, NJ tomorrow in support of his recent release, We’ll Make It Up as We Go; and Michelle Moore, also on Friday, September 11, returning to the Stone Pony with the Alliance Singers to perform selections from Bruce Springsteen's The Rising album.

The Where Music Lives exhibit runs through November 1. Visit for further information.
- September 10, 2015 - Lisa Iannucci reporting

Soultime!, the first Jukes studio album since 2010's Pills and Ammo, is exactly what it says on the package. It's hard to imagine a stronger collection of vintage-sounding contemporary soul than this eleven-track release. Much like 2000's Messin' With the Blues, Soultime! pays tribute to a style of music that is clearly held in high regard by Mr. Lyon and his cohorts, and — perhaps more importantly — is clearly understood by them, as well.

The album kicks off with "Spinning," a Sam & Dave-esque treat in the best tradition of "Broke Down Piece of Man," which appeared on I Don't Want to Go Home, the Jukes' debut. On that 1976 cover, Johnny sparred vocally with Little Steven, but on this new original, co-writer/co-producer/keyboardist Jeff Kazee provides the vocal foil, and the results are fantastic. Soultime! goes on to take in the entire spectrum of vintage soul throughout its eleven tracks. Curtis Mayfield's Chicago soul/funk provides inspiration for a couple of the tracks (the "Move On Up"-influenced "Looking For a Good Time," and the "Pusher Man"-sounding "Reality"), while the Motown male group sound is represented by "I'm Not That Lonely."

It's worth mentioning the fact that Southside had a hand in composing each of the eleven cuts on Soultime. He and Kazee have become a songwriting machine at this stage, co-writing nine of the tracks on the album in addition to sharing the production duties. The result — 42 minutes of soul/r&b tunes that manage to sound familiar and modern without sounding derivative, cartoonish or retro — is superb.

Soultime! contains a couple of tracks that might surprise even long time Southside-watchers: an uncommon instrumental, "Klank," that touches on the kind of soul groove that was coming out of Philadelphia in the 1970's, and "The Heart Always Knows," a tasteful homage to the pre-soul era of R&B as typified by the likes of Ben E. King and Sam Cooke in the late '50s and early '60s. Both serve to mix up the proceedings a bit, while adding to the overall feel of paying tribute to one of the greatest of American musical genres.

At this stage of the game, Southside has long become a legend in his own right, and while not as well-known as the heroes whose influence reigns over Soultime, his commitment to the blues and R&B side of American roots music is clear. If anything, his voice — that voice — has, through a combination of age and experience, become even more suited to sing the kind of music that he and the Jukes inherently understand.

Southside Johnny & the Asbury Jukes' Soultime! is in stock now at Backstreet Records. Also just in: Moa Holmsten's new Bruised Arms & Broken Rhtythm CD, consisting of 14 Springsteen covers from the popular ("Dancing in the Dark") to the obscure ("State Trooper"). See all Latest Additions
- September 9, 2015 - John Howie Jr. reporting

The new Darlene Love album drops next week, on September 18, and there's a lot to look forward to: not only is it her first pop album in a quarter-century, it's also a Steve Van Zandt production (on his own Wicked Cool label), featuring three of Stevie's compositions and two from his pal Bruce. The whole thing puts us in mind of their comeback work with Gary U.S. Bonds, albums we still consider classics. Springsteen has contributed two new songs to Introducing Darlene Love, "Night Closing In" and "Just Another Lonely Mile."

In addition to CD, Introducing Darlene Love is also being relelased on wax — should be a fine, fine 2LP set, on 180 gram vinyl — and Backstreet Records is taking pre-orders now for both formats, to ship out to our customers just as soon as we got our hands on 'em.

Pre-order the CD

Pre-order the double vinyl

Steve and Darlene will be celebrating the release this weekend in Asbury Park, with a sold-out performance at the Paramount Theatre on Saturday, September 12.
- September 8, 2015

It's been eight years since Marah has played a proper show in Philadelphia, and even longer (15 years, to be exact) since their 2000 release, Kids in Philly, saw the light of day. Consequently, their October 17 extravaganza at the Underground Arts performance space (the newest addition to Center City East's burgeoning club scene) — billed as the "Marah - Kids in Philly Vinyl Release + Reunion Show" — is kind of a big deal, not just to its fiercely loyal fan base, but to founding members Dave and Serge Bielanko. Indeed, given the band's untimely and ugly demise in 2008, which quite literally occurred overnight just prior to a major U.S. tour, and which fractured not just the band itself, but a songwriting partnership that had attracted attention from the likes of Steve Earle, it seemed unlikely that this mercurial group of misfits would ever agree to be in the same room together again, let alone perform in their own hometown. And yet, miraculously, they've already played a DC area "sneak attack" gig that has left fans breathless and salivating.

Given the nature of the current American cultural landscape, it seems rather quaint now that many were genuinely shocked and dismayed that Marah's singularly grisly breakup should have occurred in public, live on social media, but that's precisely what happened. And after so many glowing reviews of their (then) brand-new release Angels of Destruction!, with a supremely talented  and versatile lineup that many fans had thought was its strongest to date, with several national television appearances in the offing, with the proverbial table being set for a long-deserved major breakthrough after years of struggle and hardship, the dissolution of the band that novelist Stephen King had once called "probably the best rock band in America that nobody knows" was all the more heartbreaking for its fans.

After all, Marah was never just a band. It was, in the truest sense, a band of brothers held together by shared struggle and sacrifice, a community forged of countless friendships formed across oceans and continents, of longstanding personal relationships and musical partnerships, of romances and breakups and reconciliations too numerous to count.

If all this sounds excessive and just a tad over the top, consider that these same Bielankos were once called up onstage by none other than (friend and longtime fan) Bruce Springsteen on, of all places, his own home turf, Giants Stadium. This is a band that doesn't do anything halfway, and doesn't know how.

So how is it that this Marah reunion is happening now? Well, there is the long-overdue release of their seminal work, Kids in Philly, in vinyl and remastered, complete with the requisite extras: gatefold packaging, new liner notes, CD and download card with bonus material. But given the band's complicated past, surely there was more to the story. To that end, Backstreets conducted the following interview with Dave Bielanko, eliciting enlightening answers, occasional obfuscation and even a couple impromptu book reviews.

Backstreets: The show in October is kind of big deal for Marah fans. How has it felt for you guys getting "the gang" back together?
Dave Bielanko: Big deal for us too, just to stand in the same room together feels like a big deal to us now. We share a lot of past. Musically, it really seems to work for a bunch of reasons. Serge and I are obviously brothers and can finish each other's sentences, yes, but Adam [Garbinski] and Dave [Petersen] get our music in many ways that most others do not: our sense of timing, the momentum of a live show, sense of humor too, the difference between playing something "straight" or "swinging it" — two great techniques, if you know what you are doing. Christine is like a sister to us all. She is the music; if you have questions about anything, you usually go to Christine. We are a good squad, cover all the bases. Together we possess the collective ability to give ourselves away to the show, to swing really low, to make it happen night to night. So yeah, to me personally, it's the most valuable thing in the world, a strange, magic gift. We are lucky to have it. I'm lucky to even know these people. They are my favorite rock 'n' rollers. There is very little personal ego involved in any of it. I love rock 'n' roll bands, [and] I know this is a great one. If I ever have questions [about it], I could never again take that for granted....

Read the full interview here

- September 4, 2015 - Lisa Iannucci reporting - photograph by Marko Korkeakoski [L-R: Christine Smith, Dave Bielanko, Serge Bielanko, Adam Garbinski, Dave Peterson, Mark Sosnoskie]

E Street Radio to rebroadcast "The Bruce and Stevie Show"
Hey, baby. E Street Radio has lined up a wicked cool Labor Day Weekend treat for its subscribers. Through the courtesy of Underground Garage, its next-door neighbor in the SiriusXM channel lineup, E Street Radio will rebroadcast "The Bruce and Stevie Show" in its entirety over the extended holiday weekend.

"The Bruce and Stevie Show" originally aired in April 2011 as three separate episodes of the syndicated terrestrial-radio edition of Little Steven's Underground Garage, in celebration of the weekly show's ninth anniversary. It allowed listeners to eavesdrop on a special sit-down with longtime friends Bruce Springsteen and Steve Van Zandt. For hours, Springsteen and Van Zandt discussed and played much of the music they cherish the most, the stuff that also influenced deeply their own music. Bruce considered it to be an exploration of "our roots, the records that we love and that drove us crazy growing up in Jersey, our favorite songs." Stevie called it "our first public conversation after 46 years of friendship, but who's counting. It is basically the conversation we had in the mid-sixties, as we discovered one cool band after another, and this weekend we are playing them all for you." Not surprisingly, in addition to musical insights, the duo provided plenty of laughs for their radio audience and for each other along the way.

While each individual episode of "The Bruce and Stevie Show" (with parts two and three in extended form) remains archived online here, here and here, the E Street Radio rebroadcast will offer many listeners a unique opportunity to simply drop in on this fun and fascinating conversation wherever they happen to be during this long holiday weekend — you can hang out with Bruce and Stevie at home, in your car, on the beach, poolside or over by the grill.

The complete, uninterrupted six-hour extended edition of "The Bruce and Stevie Show" will air on SiriusXM channel 20 at the following dates/times throughout Labor Day Weekend, beginning today:

  • Friday, September 4 - 12 pm and 8 pm ET
  • Saturday, September 5 - 8 am ET
  • Sunday, September 6 - 12 am, 12 pm and 8 pm ET
  • Monday, September 7 - 9 am and 3 pm ET

- September 4, 2015 - Shawn Poole reporting - screenshot of Bruce & Stevie from Darlene Love's "Forbidden Nights" music video

A year ago this month, after leaving the Star-Ledger as longtime music critic and Arts & Entertainment editor, our friend Jay Lustig started The site's "All Arts, All Jersey" beat has included thorough coverage of Springsteen activity during that time, and we've been enjoying Jay's 350 Jersey Songs Project, which has been running for most of the year (one a day!) and is nearing its end. One week from today, Jay will post the final selection in the series, and he's holding a contest:

The last of the 350 posts will be on Sept. 8. I know what the song will be. But no one else — not my wife, not my mother — knows. Do you think you can guess it?

For the winner, two tickets to see Darlene Love and Steven Van Zandt at her upcoming Introducing Darlene Love album release concert, September 12 at the Paramount Theatre in Asbury Park.

The Jersey Songs series has featured "a post a day about a song that is about some aspect of New Jersey, or is by a Jersey artist, or was at least recorded in the state." So it goes way beyond Springsteen and related Jersey Shore artists; Jay's recent post on his "Top Ten Finds" over the course of the series has ranged from 1909's "Over on the Jersey Side" by Billy Murray to "Hasbrook Heights," written by Burt Bacharach/Hal David and sung by Dionne Warwick.

Of course, Clarence Clemons is also on that list of finds (singing "You're a Friend of Mine" live with Billy Preston). About 30 selections in the 350 Jersey Songs series are by Springsteen or have some connection to him and/or the E Street Band.

"I feel that our posts about Springsteen and related artists such as Southside Johnny have really been the backbone of the web site so far," Jay tells Backstreets, "and I'm sure that will continue to be the case in the years ahead. They have consistently been our most viewed, most shared, most commented on posts."

But remember, for #350, anything goes! For hints, more details, and to enter the contest, click here.
- September 1, 2015

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