Mr Blowout Sax noted
A new book out on Bruce and was interested today while reading my mums Daily Telegraph about how Bruce shut down the E Street Band.Saw Bruce and Clarence Clemons at Wembley 1985 ,one helluva a gig and long too.
A new biography by Peter Ames Carlin traces the life of Bruce Springsteen from New Jersey nobody to champion of Barack Obama. In this extract, he examines a pivotal year for the singer.
10:59AM GMT 08 Nov 2012
During the Eighties, Bruce Springsteen conquered the world on the back of his best-selling album Born in the USA. But as the decade ended, Springsteen found himself at a a personal and professional crossroads. Here he talks about breaking up his musical family – the E Street Band – while embarking on life as a father…
On October 18, 1989, Bruce sat down with his address book and a task he’d both feared and fantasised about for most of the decade: breaking up the E Street Band. “I think we got into a rut,” he says. “Relationships got a little muddy, through co-dependence, or whatever. Probably that aggravated everyone a little bit. I needed to take a break, do some other things, probably play with some other musicians, which I hadn’t done in a long time.
“So I called the guys up and talked to them as best I could. I never looked at it as the band being done or kaput or finished. But it was a call that said, ‘I’m gonna do something else, and you’re not gonna be a part of it for a while.’ And that was very difficult for the guys and me.”
The suspicions that drummer Max Weinberg and the others felt at that last show on the two-year, world-conquering Born in the USA tour turned out to be exactly right.
“I just didn’t know where to take the band next,” Bruce reflects. “It seemed like we’d reached an apex of what we were trying to do and say.” Some found it easier to accept than others. Garry Tallent, for one, noticed that absence of finality in what Bruce had to say. “He never said he was breaking up the band,” the bassist says. “It seemed like a very nice, gracious call.”
Guitarist Nils Lofgren, who had started his sideman career working with the always unpredictable Neil Young, didn’t blink. “You gotta understand that this guy had spent his whole life playing with the same seven people,” he says. “No matter how good they are, you want to play with other people, try some different things.”
Weinberg had seen it coming. “You would have had to be completely blind not to notice there were major changes coming here,” he says. But the news was still “unrelentingly depressing”.
Clarence Clemons got the call in Japan, where he, along with Lofgren, was touring with Ringo Starr’s first All Starr Band. As Clemons remembered, Bruce sounded so casual, he assumed he was being called back to E Street. “I picked up the phone and heard him say, ‘Hey, Big Man!’ I said, ‘Hey, Boss!’ And he said, ‘Well, it’s all over.’ I said, ‘Oh, uh, OK,’ because I thought he meant the Ringo tour was over, and I had to come back home to go into the studio or start another tour.” The sax player said he’d get home and check in as soon as possible, but then Bruce set him straight. “He said, ‘Naw, naw, naw. I’m breaking up the band.’ ”
Bruce recalls talking to Clemons for a while. “I had the kid gloves on delivering what I knew would be very bad news.” But Clemons was juggling his surprise and grief with a sudden urge to reduce his hotel room to ruins. So many years on the road, so much sacrifice, the thousands of hours spent waiting for Bruce to hear just the right sound from the recording studio speakers. “And I’m thinking, ‘It’s all for this? My whole life dedicated to this band, this situation, this man, and what he believes in, then I’m out of town and I get a f—ing phone call?’ ”
Fortunately, he was in the company of Ringo Starr, who had experienced his own traumatic break-up when the Beatles imploded in 1970. And it wasn’t long before Clemons simply accepted the change for what it was. “Something in the back of my psyche said, ‘This is OK. He’ll come back. Because anything so great cannot be destroyed altogether. Anything the goddess created can’t be thrown away. It’ll come back.’ ”
Which of course is what happened ultimately!!
‘Bruce’ by Peter Ames Carlin is out today, published by Simon & Schuster
Nick Pentelow By Hester Lacey
Willy Russell’s musical Blood Brothers opened in 1988 at the Albery Theatre and I joined in 1991. I was deputising for the regular sax player and I thought I’d be there for two weeks. In fact, it’s been 21 years, a good stretch for anyone – particularly in the music profession. Blood Brothers isn’t like traditional musical theatre: you can hear influences of folk, pop, and that’s why I was asked to join; I can take on board all of those.
I always loved music but I never thought I’d be able to make a career of it – when I was a kid, it was difficult to afford an instrument, for a start. I began with the recorder at school; my parents bought me my first clarinet for £12, and when I was about 15, I got an alto saxophone. When I turned professional, my first week’s wages was two-and-a-half quid – even with inflation that’s not much.
One night, I was playing in a club in Birmingham and [the musician] Roy Wood came along and said: “How would you like to play at Wembley Stadium?” And then I was playing with Roy’s band Wizzard, on a bill alongside Little Richard and Jerry Lee Lewis – I was terrified. Goodness knows what it sounded like.
Blood Brothers was entirely different to anything I’d done before. Each act is one-and-a-quarter hours long and there are 37 musical cues within the two acts, for anything from a complete song to a motif from a song, just a few bars, or a sound effect like a heartbeat. There are a few spaces where I’m not doing anything – the longest is about 14 minutes. You give everything you’ve got for your solo or in the ensemble, then sit back.
In between cues you can read a book or have a doze – that doesn’t denote boredom or complacency, but you can’t be perched on the edge all the time. You wouldn’t function properly. There’s always a spark because, while I might have done this thousands of times, for people in the audience it’s the first time, so you do have to give it your all.
We’re not in a pit for the West End production; we’re on stage, but elevated. Looking from the auditorium towards the stage, it’s as though you’re on a street of terraced houses to the left and right, and the bedrooms of those small terraced houses are where we’re playing, with half the band on one side of the “street”, half on the other. I look out of the window from one of these rooms to where the musical director is across the “street”, and he cues us.
There are eight shows a week but you can also go out and do different types of work. Some people choose not to but I like the variety. That’s where the musical director, Rod Edwards, has been very generous; he let us have time off providing there weren’t too many of us off at the same time. The musicians have known each other for years. We meet up between shows, go out for something to eat. I couldn’t do the job if that atmosphere didn’t exist.
Naturally, as the actors come and go, the characters have stayed the same age. The musicians look like they’ve walked out of Shangri-La while the actors are forever young. “I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday” is the Wizzard record that comes round every year and most of the actors in Blood Brothers weren’t even born when it was first released. If any of them see the video, they have difficulty recognising me – they just don’t associate the bopping, ginger-quiffed sax-playing Teddy Boy with the doddery old guy that plays in the show.
When Blood Brothers finally closes next month, there will be sadness – but also a twinge of excitement. I’m going on tour with Andy Fairweather Low and the Low Riders and we’re also doing a new album. So I don’t think the end of the show will sink in until January. When I started, it was during a momentous period for me. My father died – and my partner found we were expecting our daughter. She’s 20 now, and I’m going out on the road again to live off Ginsters pies and real ale – I’m looking forward to it.