Bruce Springsteen rocks the Hall (part one)

(Above: Bruce Springsteen isn’t even close to being the biggest legend onstage in this historic performance of “I Saw Her Standing There” from 1987.)

By Joel Francis
The Daily Record

“Rock Hall Live,” an exquisite nine DVD box set of performances and speeches from the past 25 years of Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremonies is a treasure trove for all music fans, but it should especially attractive to Bruce Springsteen fans. Springsteen appears on all but two of the discs in more than a dozen performances and nearly as many speeches. As the unofficial MC of the collection, Springsteen makes more appearances than anyone else.

The Daily Record previously reviewed “Rock Hall Live.” On Monday and Friday of this week it will examine every Springsteen performance on the collection. Although these performances are scattered throughout the box set, we will look at them in chronological order. On Wednesday, The Daily Record will review Springsteen’s concert at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo. (NOTE: Tuesday’s concert was cancelled because of the death of Springsteen’s cousin and road manager. On Wednesday The Daily Record will discuss Stevie Wonder’s 1968 hit “For Once in My Life.”)

1987 – “(Oh) Pretty Woman” (with Roy Orbison)

The footage from these early inductions – 1987 heralded the Hall’s second class of members – is shaky and the audio is questionable at best. Surrounded by Bo Diddley, Smokey Robinson, B.B. King, Carl Perkins and scores of other music legends, and awestruck Springsteen pays tribute to the man he immortalized in the lyrics to “Thunder Road.” Springsteen is so excited he forgets the song in a couple places, but his joy at being able to celebrate with Roy Orbison is infectious. Two years later, Orbison was gone and Springsteen paid him another tribute by performing “Crying” at that year’s ceremony.

1988 – “I Saw Her Standing There” (with Mick Jagger and the Rock Hall Jam Band)

It takes the cameraman a few moments to find the vocalist amongst the throng of performers onstage, but the camera finally lands on Billy Joel, belting out the first verse from the peanut gallery. Mick Jagger takes the second verse with an assist from George Harrison. Somewhere onstage, Ringo Starr is one of several happy drummers, making the occasion the closest thing to a Beatles reunion to happen until the Anthology project. (Paul McCartney was feuding with Harrison and Starr at the time and opted not to attend.) After a guitar solo from Jeff Beck, Springsteen finally gets the mic for the third verse. Despite forgetting a few of the words, he exuberantly finishes the number with Jagger.

1988 – “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” (with Mick Jagger and the Rock Hall Jam Band)

In his 2004 speech inducting Jackson Browne to the Rock Hall, Springsteen says he wishes he’d written “Satisfaction.” Sixteen years earlier, Springsteen realized part of his dream by performing the number with half of its authors. Surrounded by John Fogerty, Bob Dylan, Harrison, Beach Boy Mike Love, Jeff Lynne, Tina Turner, Ben E. King and keytar-rocking band leader Paul Schaffer, Springsteen trades lines with Jagger on the chorus. Sporting a gray suit and bolo tie and backed by E Street drummer Max Weinberg somewhere in the swarm, Springsteen is little more than a vocal prop in this chaotic number.

1993 – “Green River,” “Born on the Bayou,” “Who’ll Stop the Rain” (all with John Fogerty and Robbie Robertson)

Springsteen plays rhythm guitar and adds backing vocals to this trio of Creedence Clearwater Revival classics. Still upset at his former CCR band mates, John Fogerty refuses to perform with Doug Clifford and Stu Cook. The tension between the three is evident during the acceptance speech, but it completely dissolves once Fogerty straps on his guitar and steps behind the mic. The songs don’t really need three guitarists, but Springsteen is elated to be performing with yet another idol and happy to let Robbie Robertson and Fogerty do all the heavy lifting. There is also rehearsal footage of Springsteen, Fogerty, Robertson and bass player Don Was playing around with different arrangements. Robertson is clearly in charge of the ensemble and again Springsteen seems content to observe. Springsteen does jump into action, however, to work out the harmony vocal line with Fogerty and to successfully lobby for the inclusion of “Green River.”

1994 – “Come Together” (with Axl Rose)

This is a bad idea on paper and it’s even worse onstage. Springsteen looks stiff, sharply strumming a black Stratocaster that matches his tuxedo. A few paces away, Axl Rose more relaxed wearing jeans and flannel as he bobs and weaves like a snake hearing some inaudible flute. This isn’t a duet so much as two performers doing the same song in a shared space. Rose’s voice is fine in its own context, but it’s rarely complementary. His performance here is so grating it makes one long for Aerosmith’s version (shudder). Springsteen seems relieved when the song finally ends.

Keep reading:

Springsteen Rocks the Hall (part 2)

Review: Boss is Bigger than Big 12 Tourney (2008)

Bruce Springsteen and Tom Morello – “The Ghost of Tom Joad”

Review: Springsteen’s “Dream” Needs More Work

Springsteen in the Waiting Room: Drop the Needle and Pray

New DVD Set Celebrates Rock Hall Performances

More Bruce Springsteen in The Daily Record


Beatles’ cash grab redefines “Money for Nothing”

(Above: Generations later, Paul’s message still rings out: “You Never Give Me Your Money.”)

By Joel Francis
The Daily Record

Hold tight to your pocketbooks; 9/9/9, the inverted day of the Beast draws neigh.

As any Beatle fan will tell you, Aug. 9 is not only the day Beatles edition of Rock Band lands in stores, but when the remastered Beatles albums will finally be released. On CD, that is, not to iTunes.

That information has been second only to anything related to Michael Jackson or Jack White in the online news hemisphere. The buried story, however, is that the Beatles trail only KISS in their devotion to part fans from their money.

Earlier this week, Paul and Ringo teased the public with their “Box of Vision,” an LP-sized storage container-cum-book for the upcoming remasters. The $90 artifact contains full-size replicas of all the original LP artwork, spiffy new sleeves to house the disc and a “Catalography” guidebook. Inventing new words doesn’t make this a better value.

Basically what you get with this set is a guidebook of discography information readily accessed online, blow-ups of all the artwork that will accompany the CDs and a mega-expensive flip-book. To top off the insult, the flip-book contains slots not only for the traditional catalog (i.e. “Please Please Me” through “Let It Be”) but posthumous releases like “Live at the BBC,” “Love,” and the “Anthology” series. That’s fine, but why are there spaces designated for the red and blue albums and “1” collection? That material is already presented throughout the rest of the catalog.

It’s easy to be cynical and say this move is designed to rankle completes and make them buy redundant collections. It’s easy because even a quick glance at the Beatles online store will jade the most intensely optimistic fans.

When the 40th anniversary of the White Album hit last summer, the Beatles did not release the long hoped-for remastered edition. They offered a $530 white pen. Last year also marked the 40th anniversary of the “Yellow Submarine” film, which one could commemorate with a $200 9-inch figurine or a $65 Yellow Submarine “musical globe with Nowhere Man base.” (I wonder who decided they could get more for a Nowhere Man base over a Blue Meanie base.) Oh, and don’t forget to get a jump start on the 45th anniversary of “Help” buy grabbing the $121 deluxe edition DVD with a reproduction of the script and 60-page book with rarely seen photos.

Official band stores are rarely a bargain, but asking $33 for “Live at the BBC,” $30 for the red and blue albums and $35 for the “Anthology” entries is insulting, especially since all these items may be found on Amazon for about $10 (some are significantly cheaper). You can find a used version of the “Help” deluxe edition for $25 there, too.

The Beatles have a big and diverse enough fan base that more than a few of their admirers can afford to spend extravagantly. But shouldn’t they be getting more bang for their buck than $1,000 album cover lithograph collection?  (I wonder if there’s a connection between these prints and what appears in the Box of Vision.) Is a Beatles edition of Monopoly or Trivial Pursuit really worth double the price ($40)?

Instead of wasting fans’ time and money with worthless trinkets, the band giving the fans what they want. The remastered CDs would have meant something if they appeared six or seven years ago when the upgraded Bob Dylan and Rolling Stones catalogs were introduced. And instead of hoarding the non-album and alternate cuts until the Past Masters and Anthology releases, they could have been sprinkled on the intended albums, creating a sense of context.

Ironically, by trying to dictate the conversation and sell overpriced novelties, Paul and Ringo have inadvertently left piles of cash on the table. Unable to find legitimate remasters, the “purple chick” bootlegs appeared. Unable to legally download the catalog, torrents and illegal MP3s proliferated the Web.

If Paul and Ringo really wanted to create a stir and control the game, they would mine the Apple vaults and create something as innovative, comprehensive and entertaining as Neil Young’s “Archives” box set. Instead, the pair end up looking as backwards and out-of-touch as all the bands that tried to keep up them back in the ‘60s.