Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Another farewell: Clarence Clemons

Clarence Clemons

 A few days ago Clarence “Big Man” Clemons passed away at the age of 69.  In his honor I post the greatest set of recordings he ever made which also happens to double, in the Washerman’s Dog’s opinion as the greatest rock ‘n roll record ever, Born to Run.

Born to Run is the album that in 1975, blew Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band into the mainstream of American music. It won accolades from all over the place and won most critics Best Album of Year gong. While the title track did crack the AM airwaves for a short time the entire album was played repeatedly on the FM frequencies where ‘real’ music was the order of the day.

To my youngster ears, the wall of sound that was the album was like an aural tsunami. It was desperate music played desperately in a crash boom way by a band that seemed unable to do anything at less than 100 miles an hour. Springsteen’s guitar was thrashing, slicing and unrelenting. The drummer, Max Feinberg’s beats drove the band forward and Roy Bittan banged out major chord after major chord like he was holding on for dear life. And holding it all together, wrapping it up in sonic hope was the Big Man’s full throated sax blowing.

The central role Clemons played in Springsteen’s music and appeal was evidenced by him sharing the cover of the album. You could even say the very fact that Springsteen was leaning on the shoulder of Clemons indicates just who considered whom The Boss.

Clemons did lots of other things as a solo artist and sideman.  All of them were good and fine. But he never played better than he did with Springsteen and especially on Born to Run.

He summed it up best himself. His friendship with Bruce was as intimate as two people could get without having sex!

One night we were playing in Asbury Park. I'd heard The Bruce Springsteen Band was nearby at a club called The Student Prince and on a break between sets I walked over there. On-stage, Bruce used to tell different versions of this story but I'm a Baptist, remember, so this is the truth. A rainy, windy night it was, and when I opened the door the whole thing flew off its hinges and blew away down the street. The band were on-stage, but staring at me framed in the doorway. And maybe that did make Bruce a little nervous because I just said, "I want to play with your band," and he said, "Sure, you do anything you want." The first song we did was an early version of "Spirit In The Night". Bruce and I looked at each other and didn't say anything, we just knew. We knew we were the missing links in each other's lives. He was what I'd been searching for. In one way he was just a scrawny little kid. But he was a visionary. He wanted to follow his dream. So from then on I was part of history.

So long Clarence!

            Track Listing:
01.  thunder road
02.  tenth avenue freeze out
03.  night
04.  backstreets
05.  born to run
06.  she's the one
07.  meeting across the river
08.  jungleland

Listen here

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