Martin Kirkup

ARTICLE ABOUT Bruce Springsteen FROM SOUNDS, August 31, 1974

A lot of people like this man, not only because of his music, but also because of his positive human interaction and his way of talking to the ordinary blue-collar workers around the world. That deserves some respect from this blog, so I give you this early article with one of Americas most beloved artists.

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Shuffling with Springsteen

Martin Kirkup reports from America

The first couple of songs that Bruce Springsteen ever performed in public were things like “I Sold My Heart To The Junkman” and “Twist & Shout”. And even now, nearly ten years later, when the mood and the crowd are right, and the band have played through the two hours of original songs that Bruce has recorded, then maybe they`ll blow into a few roots tunes like that.
And Bruce will lean his small body up against Clarence Clemmons tall black frame, and Clarence will blow his sax hard, and Bruce will thrash the guitar, and out it comes – “well shake it up baybee, ah twist and shout!” – and it`s got all the feeling that young Johnny Lennon could put in it back then, and it`s just as primal and real as it ever was, because young Bruce Springsteen`s just as real and compelling a presence as any rock `n` roller we`ve seen.
People from the New Jersey shore say that Bruce has been a legend there ever since he could pull a guitar round his narrow shoulders. But it was only three years ago, when he`d gone through maybe ten bands in four years, that he began to really attract attention through performing his own songs in the Village clubs of New York City.
Many of his audience were the people who`d regularly seen Bob Dylan in the same situation a few years earlier, and one of them tagged Bruce as “the new Dylan” which was a heavy enough mill-stone to nearly sink the first album when Columbia chose to promote it with the same tag. A year later and critics began comparing his second album to Van Morrison and Lou Reed. But underneath all the tired, lame, old comparisons those two albums also give the news, if we`ll hear it, that one of the strongest and most original talents in America is now Mr. B. Springsteen.

The guy has absorbed Dylan, Morrison, Reed, and all the other comparisons, and can throw out a lyric as if he`d chewed his way through whole dictionaries and encyclopaedias:
“I had skin like leather
and the diamond-
hard look of a cobra
I was born blue and
weathered but I
burst just like a
supernova
I could walk like
Brando right into the
sun and then dance
just like Casa-
nova…”
– one of his best songs starts, before slipping into a manic sequence of rhymes and rhythms which still come across as pure colloquial street-talk.
And it`s real and believable because Springsteen knows, and is from, the streets. Both he and Lou Reed write about New York City, so there seems to be some rational comparison until you suss that Bruce is talking about what happens outside of Max`s Kansas City bar and the apartments where Reed`s characters shoot-up and cut-up each other.

Maybe he`s got that wider range simply because he`s not quite from old Noo Yawk itself. Bruce comes from nearby New Jersey, from Asbury Park, N.J. to be precise. And Asbury Park is the seaside place with candy-floss, a boardwalk, and amusement arcades, that the city people go to if they haven`t much money but want a good time. If you really want to know just what it`s like to live in a place like that then listen to “Sandy” on Springsteen`s “The Wild, The Innocent & The E-Street Shuffle” album.
“People used to tell me that to be a success I should say I was from New York City”, Bruce recalls easily now, “Oh yeah, and that I`d better change my name! Even my mother, when I told her I had a recording contract, said `What`ll you call yourself now?`. But you are who you are, it`s obvious isn`t it?, the one thing I learned is be real”, and his voice goes into italics, “be you, and be real. Just make what you are okay. Because New Jersey is a place, and it`s a funny place, and I`m not Lou Reed. He has some good stuff, and there are some of the same subjects, but we take them at different angles.”
And so Bruce`s songs come through from the point of view of a clever young guy growing up in a tough area. The guy who`s standing on the streetcorners watching the bike gangs roll through town, who at weekends rides down to 57th Street and sees the smalltime gangsters making their moves, and hanging out with funky Puerto Rican and Black dudes.
But somehow no matter how drunk or intimate he gets with them there`s still the part of him that`s on the edge just observing it all, and writing it into songs for his band to play. And so each song becomes a story, and on each album the stories link together into a whole world.
Both Springsteen albums are wonderful. They`re the things I used to play when friends asked what was new and good in rock music; and nobody ever disliked them. But they`re still only touching the surface of his talent, because his live performances are the most impressive and riveting experiences I`ve had during the past year in America. No blague, no bullshit, and yes I`m including seeing Mr. Dylan.

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Bob Johnston, who produced Dylan`s best albums, wants to produce Springsteen, and he says he`d just get Bruce to perform and then let the tapes roll and catch it all. And maybe that`s the way to do it, because there`s a maniacal intensity about the way he performs now, a feeling that he`s telling these stories to you alone in some tiny bar.
I once saw him go into a ten minute monologue between songs, all about the trouble his band used to have with the mafiosos in Jersey, and then say to an audience of six hundred “now hey, that`s in confidence, I wouldn`t want that to go outside this room” and the spell was strong enough that nobody laughed.
Springsteen`s learned how to hold an audience by dropping every instrument, picking up a hat and dancing and acting out the story of “Spirits In The Night:
“Well now Wild Billy
was a crazy cat and
he shook some dust
outa his coonskin
hat,
He said `Trust some of
this it`ll show you
where you`re at, or
at least it`ll help you
really feel it`.”
The songs themselves have changed hugely from the recorded versions, whole verses have vanished or appeared in them, and a formerly fast tune like “For You” can now be performed as a heart-rendingly slow piano solo by Bruce, who brings out all the latent pain of lines like “they`re waiting for you at Bellevue with their oxygen masks”. Night by night he twists the lines in different direction and adds new meanings.

Everything the band plays is tightly arranged, and yet there`s still a stunning feeling of pure freedom and energy in the way they play, which was only hinted at on the albums. “The songs are now played the way they`re meant to be heard”, is all Bruce will say, though he`ll freely discuss the way his band is put together. “The band`s built to be flexible. That way if everybody leaves tomorrow or everybody stays it`ll work out. You can get mediocre guys and if you have the right arrangements and know what to do with them you`ll still have a good band.
“You see, I`m lucky, I know how to put together a good band, plus I have great musicians right now, especially a great piano player in Davey Sancious and a great saxplayer in Clarence Clemmons. Clarence and I are like that”, and he crosses his fingers tightly, “his music and my music are ideally suited, we breathe the same thing.”
For the last six months or so, Springsteen`s been occupied with the songs for his third album, and frustrated because he can`t get into the studios to record it until September. “It`s the record company, man!”, he bitches, “they want me to put out a new single before they let me do the album. And maybe they mean well, but I doubt it. I`m a pain in the ass to them now after doing two albums that didn`t sell millions for them, and they want to make someone else famous this month or next month.”
He begins to get very serious for the first time in a long conversation, “they should treat me with more respect, that`s all. I`m signed to them, and I work hard. I can put a good band together from nothing, and I`m not going to quit on them, I`m going to be making music for the rest of my life! there`s nothing else I want to do…”, and dropping his voice a little, “there`s nothing else I can do. And now they want a single instead of my album! Did they ask Michaelangelo to paint them a picture of his parents before he could do the Sistine Chapel?”

I begin to say that well yes, they did give Michaelangelo a hard time too, but Bruce runs on, “The next album`s going to be good too. It`s not actually a concept type thing, but it`s like you get a jigsaw-puzzle and you put it down on the floor and it slowly comes together. I`ve been getting batches of songs, many different melodies and lyrics, and putting them all together. Not on the first two albums so much, but this is the way the new one is manifesting itself. Songs around a feeling, a mood. It`s going to need more instruments than the other albums to get that feel, but it can be done.”
Then he leans back looking suddenly more tired, “but I guess I`ll have to give them their single first. There are a couple of things that might fit. I thought that `Rosalita` could be a good single though, and nothing happened there. So I`ll record a few things for a single, and I`ll keep on touring, and I`ll do the album in September or October, and then I want to get to England to play. I`m told that I sold a couple of thousand there. Not bad. I just want to play to people who are involved in what`s going on, because it feels good then.”
But whatever the frustration, tiredness, or depression that hits him when he thinks about the implications of his business, when he`s up on stage on a good night he`s just setting himself and his audience free. “Mama always told me not to look into the sights of the sun”, he shouts as the band get hot, “Ooh! but Mama that`s where the fun is”.
And for the time that he`s singing you`re quite prepared to believe that Bruce Springsteen really did find the key to the universe in the engine of an old parked car.

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I have personally transcribed this from the original paper. Any errors in the text from the original magazine may not have been corrected for the sake of accuracy. If you have a music-related web-page where this fits – please make a link to the article. With credits to the original writer of the article from all of us music fans!

This number of Sounds also contains articles/interviews with these people: Rod Stewart, Jim Capaldi, Ray Davies, Lowell George, Grand Funk, Sweet, H. B. Barnum, Mike Flood Page, Denny Laine, Roy Orbison, Rufus Thomas, Badfinger, Strider, The Neutrons.

The original music paper this article came from (pictured at the top) is for sale!

1. Send me an e-mail if you are interested. Send it to: geirmykl@gmail.com
2. The offer should be 20 $ (US Dollars) to be considered. (This includes postage).
3. We conduct the transaction through my verified Paypal account for the safety of both parties.

ARTICLE ABOUT David Bowie FROM SOUNDS, June 29, 1974

Should be a good article for you Bowie-fanatics out there. Enjoy!

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Broadway`s got nuthin` on this

Bowie`s new show features the kind of sensational stage effects that even Broadway could only afford for brief periods in the 30`s and 40`s. Martin Kirkup reports on Bowie`s `new style` debut from Montreal.

This may be the last big production type of tour that I do,” Bowie had told me back in April. At that time I`d wondered why, cynically assuming that there`d be a touch of the old “His first farewell tour” promotion behind the remark, since it was apparent that Bowie`s direction was towards greater use of theatricality in his performances.
After watching the debut of his new tour at Montreal on June 14, however, it finally seems inevitable that if he`s to continue performing in public he`ll have to do it as a smaller kind of production, because after this tour I simply can`t imagine what he`d do to top it.
His new show features the kind of sensational stage effects that even Broadway could only afford for brief periods in the 1930`s and 40`s, when Florenz Ziegfeld had his dancing girls walk through streams onto rising staircases built in the great old theatres. I doubt whether even Ziegfeld linked so many outrageous effects together into one two-hour show, as Bowie now does. By comparison, the timid “rock theatrics” of an Alice Cooper or a “Jesus Christ Superstar” look decidedly like a `Punch & Judy` show, and right now it`s hard to imagine how any other rock star could go further than the new limits Bowie`s established.
Bowie aimed for the maximum possible visual effect, and I think that he succeeded entirely in what he was trying to do. “Come on up to Montreal for the first night, it`ll be worth your while,” he suggested earlier in the month, “it`s a show, and I think it`s very exciting.” Retrospectively, I can see that the words “show” and “exciting” weren`t just casually used, they convey the essence of what his new tour is all about.

When he arrived in New York on the S.S. France on April 11. Bowie had moved straight into a suite in the Sherry-Netherland Hotel on Fifth Avenue, and begun a routine that persisted for the next two months. Rising after noon, and usually as late as three in the afternoon, he`d start a strenuous series of rehearsals that often ran from five o`clock to well into the next morning, when he`d head to a bar or club to unwind and perhaps check out the new talent.
During those ten weeks he could often be seen flitting behind the stage at a concert, by Roxy Music for example – “well, they`re the only English band worth seeing, aren`t they”, at a reception, like Todd Rundgren`s, or in a small club seeing new bands. “Yes, I`ve seen a lot of good new bands this time. A lot of bands with good names, anyway, how d`ya like `Leather Secrets` and `Television`?”. And if you talked to him then he was friendly, witty, and perceptive about anything at all except his own music. A question about how the long rehearsals were going would elicit only “Oh, you don`t even have to ask, I`m so happy with this band”, and that`d be that.
Now it`s revealed that those rehearsals had as much to do with practising and perfecting the tricky stage techniques as they had to do with preparing his new band. Bowie had hired Jules Fisher to collaborate with him on the stage presentation and design, and Fisher`s the best designer around at the moment in America. He`s got a list of awards that starts with shows like “Hair”, “Pippin” and “Lenny”, and runs on as long as your leg. I`ve seen Broadway plays like “Ulysses in Nighttown”, where Fisher`s lighting and design were the only good things about the show.
The set that he and David have created for the tour is impressive from the moment you walk into the arena and see it. The stage is dominated by a huge scaffolding arch with a cat-walk looking like an imported section of Tower Bridge set thirty feet above the stage. Even higher than this are two gigantic lighting towers, disguised as skyscrapers. The immediate effect is of looking into a surreally distorted city. Off to the right is the area set aside for the band, with two whole keyboards complexes and a large drum-kit, while off to the left stands a six-foot tall red, spurting cock! RCA may have castrated the “Diamond Dogs” cover with their sneaky airbrushes, but Bowie has his revenge here.

Bowie had come up to Canada the day before the concert to give everything one last run-through. Since it`s a nine-hour, 600 mile drive from New York City I had decided to do the same thing, a fact worth mentioning only because David`s going to be driving to every gig too. He still refuses absolutely to fly, so most of the concerts have been arranged at convenient hundred mile intervals across the continent.
His band and entourage were leaving the Hotel Windsor just as I arrived, informing me that they were off to “a final dress rehearsal” – yup, those were the words used. As the elevator doors opened and I stepped forward to enter, I could see a flash of red hair surrounded by tall and muscular men. Bowie emerged in a wedge of bodyguards, pausing briefly to say “Hello” – I stuck out a hand to shake his, but pulled it back quickly when an ultra-efficient guard flexed himself at me. I mean, there are things I`d rather not go through just to shake someone`s hand.
For the whole day before the concert it became impossible to turn on the TV or radio without hearing either a track from “Diamond Dogs”, or – more importantly – an advert for it and the concert. The whole campaign that`s been mounted by “MainMan” and RCA should become a model of its type.
“The album of the century” voices proclaimed regularly on all the dozen different radio stations, “century”?. And since Montreal is a bi-lingual city (just imagine one of those cute sexy French accent marks over the “e” of Montreal) all the papers informed one of a “Concert rock avec ce fameux chanteur anglais”, ah mais Oui! et maintenant le pouf celebre, Monsieur Bowie. But oddest of all, on television a short colour film of Bowie in the studio leering at the camera and muttering “Awright then?”.
Nevertheless, the next night at the Forum it was apparent from the empty rows of seats that the concert was only about 90% sold-out. The biggest anomaly in American rock shows now is that the British bands who are hugely successful in the States. Foghat, Robin Trower, Peter Frampton and Sharks among them, tend to mean very little back home, while groups like T. Rex, Slade, and Roxy Music have failed to really dent the American charts or consciousness.

Bowie falls into this latter group, he just hasn`t the stature in America that he`s won in Britain. He does very well in some areas, and for example he sold two concerts in Toronto and a whole week in Philadelphia very quickly indeed, but in other regions he may not be playing to full houses.
In Montreal, though, there`s a hard-core Bowie following, and the usual painted faces, dyed heads, and Bowie lookalikes make an appearance. RCA has even run “lookalike” contests for free tickets. From the moment you enter the arena you`re enveloped by the sounds of moog hisses, tolling bells and howling dogs that emerge from the huge speakers positioned along the hall, and soon the crowd are involved in studying the stage set, and you can feel the tension rising. After all, this is David`s first gig since he announced last July 3 that he was quitting live performances and then disbanded the hugely successful “Spiders from Mars” band.
As the houselights finally dim, searchlights begin to sweep the hall, the “1984” theme blasts out, and there`s Bowie in a white suit, flanked by two singer/dancers and with his band almost invisibly positioned well to stage right. Throughout the first three numbers the sound balance is tinny and distorted, but with “Sweet Thing” it all suddenly comes together. For this number Bowie`s walking along the bridge set high over the stage, with a raincoat pulled over his shoulders and looking very much like that old “Strand” cigarettes advert. He stays there, removing his coat and jacket, to do a cooler and clearer version of “Changes” than he`s previously done, then gets down to ground level for a fast “Suffragette City”.
The songs themselves have changed much more in this show than they previously did in live performance. The next song, “Alladin Sane”, for example, is now done as a boogie number, with those manic, fragmented melodies turned into solid and chunky chords with organ and sax leads replacing Garson`s mad piano. This segues into “All the Young Dudes”, which is taken at half the pace Mott the Hoople do it, it`s slow and final, and more of a requiem than an anthem.

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Now here I`m deliberately avoiding describing the stage effects that accompany the songs. This tour may hit England in the autumn, and to describe all the staging in detail is a bit like recommending an Agatha Christie novel and then telling you that the butler did it. But perhaps one example will give you an idea.
The stage blacks out for just five seconds at the opening acoustic-guitar chords of “Space Oddity”, and when a spotlight suddenly flashes on simultaneous with the lyric we see Bowie sitting inside a rocket segment high in one of those fake skyscraper lighting towers, quietly singing into his astronaut`s microphone. The spot illuminating him is the only light in the whole arena, everything`s pitch black, and then suddenly the seat and Bowie begin to glide out of the capsule, just like a scene from “2001”. Very slowly Bowie is lowered out into mid-air high over the audience for the rest of the song, until as he slumps and the astronaut dies he is retrieved into the space-ship. It`s all done with a crane, of course, but the first ten seconds before you work that out are very exciting indeed.
The whole two-hour show`s like that, each shock surpassing an earlier one. The set never runs out of tricks and surprises.
Visually and dramatically I don`t think the show can be faulted, but this kind of staging has played some strange tricks with the music too. The band are so anonymously presented that you`d never recognise any of them again, Bowie never speaks, even to introduce them. However, they`re very good indeed, and they play the new versions of Bowie`s songs very solidly and precisely.
“Drive-In Saturday” is now done by David on a twelve string acoustic, with just sax and piano backing, and it`s fine in a rather Jacques Brel way. That one works perfectly, but then you also find “Jean Genie” being performed as a slow Frank Sinatra-ish night club song, with David sitting astride a chair, ciggie in his mouth and hat flopping in his eyes. I thought that song was the best thing on the “Alladin Sane” album, but without its raw blasting edge it`s just a prissy joke.

Really, the problem is that Bowie is now doing a one-man star show. There`s no Mick Ronson in the new band to share his lime-light or edge up to a mike with him, just these fine, ultra-competent guys in suits standing in the shadows, and you barely look at them twice.
They`re fine musicians of course, they know their trade and have paid their dues. On bass guitar there`s Herbie Flowers and as Bowie says, “He`s got to be the best in the country”. Herbie`s really a session-man, it was him doing that lovely bass line on Lou Reed`s “Walk On The Wild Side”. If you`ve ever seen him on TV then it was probably with Blue Mink a year or two back, and he was the big tall guy grinning.
On drums there`s Tony Newman, the original drummer in the Jeff Beck Group, and Beck`s one of Bowie`s early idols from the London club scene days. Newman`s very precise and adaptable, and that`s probably why David picked him. Mick Garson is the only survivor from the last touring band, and his style continues to develop and change. These three were the original nucleus of the `74 Bowie band, and early in April David was planning on using two black guitarists to get “a really funky sound”.
However, by the time serious rehearsals had started in May he`d changed his mind. “I dropped the idea of a second-guitarist and decided to have lots of keyboards people”, he says, “so I ended up getting two guys from the old New York Rock & Roll Ensemble. Earl Slick will be lead-guitarist, and Michael Kamen will be second keyboards player. They`re both very talented, Mike`s written a ballet about Rodin which will be performed at the Harkness soon”.

The keyboard sounds are effective and wide-ranging, and have a lot to do with Bowie`s new sound. Earl Slick gets few chances to really extend himself, but when he takes a solo, as in “Moonage Daydream”, he reveals that he excels at strong power chords in the tradition of Pete Townshend. I`d like to have seen him really work out on “Jean Genie” if David had stuck to his original arrangement of it.
Considering that along with the rest of the audience I was so entirely surprised and mesmerised by the visual show, I felt strangely disappointed the next day, and a little cheated in some vague way. I could clearly recall only five or six songs out of the whole show, and the emotional content seemed far less than I`d felt seeing Bowie a year ago.
Over the past three years “decadence” has become a catch-all word used to describe anything in glitter and make-up, but there`s a real and useful meaning behind the word. Apart from its dictionary definition of “deteriorating, declining, decaying” I think it also implies an artform where style has become more important than content. If so, then David Bowie at present is surely a decadent artist.
As a composer and arranger he`s creating some of the best songs of his period. As a performing artist he`s obscuring the form and content of those songs with a style which is flashy, sensational, superficial, and perhaps trivialising. He said recently that “just writing a song is not good enough”, and whether it`s his own inclination or because of the demands of his audience, he can`t simply stand up and play his songs. He has to deliver them within a “jack in the box” stage setting which must constantly thrill and titillate the audience.
On record his music has often thrilled and provoked me, but in concert I simply sit back to be entertained by the spectacle. I`m glad to have seen just how far he could take visual spectacle, but having seen it I`m looking forward to seeing him do a straightforward set, in a small club, because that`s the highest art of all.

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I have personally transcribed this from the original paper. Any errors in the text from the original magazine may not have been corrected for the sake of accuracy. If you have a music-related web-page where this fits – please make a link to the article. With credits to the original writer of the article from all of us music fans!

This number of Sounds also contains articles/interviews with these people: Eric Clapton, Bill Henderson, Moody Blues, Laura Nyro, Carly Simon, Eddie Riff, Leonard Cohen, The Rats, Alex Harvey, Dave Edmunds, Blood, Sweat & Tears, Gordon Lightfoot, Rick Wakeman.

The original music paper this article came from (pictured at the top) is for sale!

1. Send me an e-mail if you are interested. Send it to: geirmykl@gmail.com
2. The offer should be 20 $ (US Dollars) to be considered. (This includes postage).
3. We conduct the transaction through my verified Paypal account for the safety of both parties.