Wednesday, August 25, 2010

And in Conclusion, Jon Landau -- Bite Me!

Interesting Boss-related news from last week's NY Times Arts & Leisure section, which also provides a convenient excuse to post a revelatory (to me, anyway) musical find:
HBO has announced plans to show The Promise: The Making of ‘Darkness on the Edge of Town, a documentary that follows the making of Bruce Springsteen’s fourth album, Variety reported. Directed by Thom Zimney, The Promise chronicles Mr. Springsteen’s work on Darkness from 1975, after the release of his pivotal album Born to Run, until 1978, a time when he was prohibited from recording any music because of a pending lawsuit with Mike Appel, his former manager. The film mixes footage from rehearsals during that time with recent commentary from Mr. Springsteen and the band. “The fact that this footage has been sitting in a vault, and no one has seen it for more than 30 years is just extraordinary,” said HBO exec Richard L. Plepler. The documentary will be shown on the network in October, after a premiere on Sept. 14, as the opening film of the Toronto Film Festival.
I happened to see a couple of stops on Bruce's 76 tour, during the period he was fighting that lawsuit (and apparently working in the studio -- in secret -- on the album that became Darkness). He opened those shows with the song that, for me anyway, is his greatest claim to relevance to the theme of the blog you are currently reading.

I refer, of course, to the sublime "Rendezvous," and here it is -- via a bootleg that became legendary amongst Bruce fans -- from one of those shows I attended.



I should add that the song, of course, was at the time unknown to Bruce's audience, and it became, literally, an instant classic; Springsteen devotees talked about it in hushed tones for years. It was covered by other artists later (Gary US Bonds, Greg Kihn) but an official Bruce version wasn't released until the Tracks box set in '98; typically, it was a live rendition from the same stand of shows in '76 but a different, less exciting one (and doctored after the fact, I think).

Now, of course, I've discovered that there was indeed a studio version all along, and here it is in rough but otherwise transplendent condition. Yes, it's not really mixed, and yes, Bruce's voice doesn't come in until the middle of the first verse, but jeebus -- this is gorgeous (and you can easily imagine how great it might have sounded had it ever been finished). And of course, it got left off the Darkness album, most likely because that asshole Jon Landau didn't think it was thematic enough.




In case anybody's wondering, BTW, I fricking hate Jon Landau, whose influence on Bruce has been by and large pernicious, I think, and whose "production" on the Darkness album has irked me for years. Seriously -- after the sonic boom that was Born to Run, what did the little creep opt for? A sterile sounding LA singer/songwriter record, with most of the rock-and-roll spirit leeched out of it. I mean, thank god the songs are strong by and large, because otherwise the damn thing would be an unlistenable period relic. IMHO.

Of course, I haven't forgiven Jon Landau since he dissed Roy Blumenfeld's drumming in a Crawdaddy review of the Blues Project's Projections. And don't even get me started on the way he neutered the MC5's Back in the USA.

Have I mentioned that I hate Jon Landau?

[h/t Gummo]

21 comments:

Faze said...

Whew. If you think you've opened a can of worms with your Frank Zappa posts ... Let me say that Rendezvous is not Bruce's only claim to power pop eminence. He himself confesses that he was powerfully influenced by the Raspberries around the time of "The River", and you can hear it, especially in the songs that start side two: Hungry Heart, Out on the Street, Crush on You, You Can Look but you'd Better Not Touch, and I Want to Marry You. Pure power pop all of them. Hungry Heart is dripping (sorry for the imagery) with Eric Carmen. But before that, Jungle Land from Born to Run is transparently inspired by the Raspberries magnum opus Hit Record -it even copies Hit Record's piano intro note for note.

Bruce, as we know, is an inspired borrower. His recent album "Magic" has a song -- and a damned good song -- called "Girls in their Summer Clothes" that wins you over instantly with the opening lines of the verse, which are more than a little reminiscent of the opening melody of The Kids Are All Right. I'm not sure I share you opinion that Jon Landau is a villain. You gotta hand it to a guy who could mount a pair of hurricanes like the MC5 and Springsteen.

steve simels said...

I totally agree about Bruce and power pop generally -- "Girls in Their Summer Clothes" being my most favorite recent example, in fact.

Hell, he was doing the Searchers "When You Walk in the Room" live, years before that sort of thing was fashionable.

I still say Landau sucks, though. Seriously -- imagine "Darkness" if Brendan O'Brien had produced it.

Sal Nunziato said...

How about "I Wanna Be With You" from the Tracks box? That's even closer to the Raspberries than the Raspberries.

TMink said...

Landau should hook up with Yoko.

Trey

Gummo said...

I was just rereading parts of "Bootleg," Heylin's history of the rock bootleg industry, and he reminds us that before he hooked up with Landau, Bruce was very supportive of the bootleggers and happily acknowledged their role in spreading his music (since so many people who wondered what all the fuss was about were often won over by the bootlegs of his live radio concerts).

But after he hooked up with control freak Landau, Bruce became one of the nastiest and most litigious of anti-bootleg artists.

One more thing to hate Landau for.

Jon said...

Right there with you on Landau, mainly because for so many years he seemed to encourage Bruce to act as if his first couple of records never existed and/or sucked.

steve simels said...

Bingo.

Brooklyn Girl said...

Well, I happen to like "Darkness" ... yes, it's schmaltzy, but the songs are just great. I loved driving around central Jersey with it blasting on the car stereo, with me singing at the top of my lungs (no, you didn't want to hear that). I was also really glad, when I saw him at the now-gone Giants Stadium last summer, that "Darkness" was the album he did in its entirety.

And "Girls in Their Summer Clothes" is, to me, his "Penny Lane" ...

steve simels said...

I'm sorry -- I don't believe we've been introduced?
:-)

Brooklyn Girl said...

Wiseguy. ;-)

And my word is "zygla" ... isn't that new drug from GlaxoSmithKline?

Michael said...

I have no love for Landau, but I find Brendan O'Brien's production work for Springsteen overdone and stilted. I know there's good music in there, but I have to fight my way through the production to hear it.

Noam Sane said...

It's not just the album's production, though...I love Darkness as the last great Springsteen record (flame away but it's true), but it's so different from his previous stuff in that there is absolutely no swing to the music, it's all squared-off 4/4 Max-pounding-away. The songs are fantastic and the rockers rock and the ballads are gorgeous but there's very little subtlety or mystery, which the earlier records have in spades.

It strikes me that this is where he's starting to believe Landau's hype, buying into the myth-making that has weighed him down lo these many years.

Rendezvous sounds like the vintage I prefer. Good stuff.

steve simels said...

I think Noam nails it here, although I'm partial to large chunks of "The River."

But that's the point at which I became as they say a lapsed Springsteen fan.

Maude Lange said...

Never really got Broooooce, probably never will. Always figured the reverence must be an east coast thing. (Saw the Born to Run tour & thought it was a good show, but I could say the same thing about, say, Brownsville Station from around the same time.) Totally agree about Back in the USA, though. The bastard.

TMink said...

Magic is an enthralling album. Bruce does pop and powerpop, it is really a good listen to my ears.

Trey

Anonymous said...

The book "Mansion on the Hill" will open your eyes to Landau and others. Turns out all of these spokespersons for their generation are more interested in raking in dough than one would have guessed.

MBowen said...

The "Darkness" tour was one of the greatest in history. Imagine coming out and playing a brand-new seven-minute ballad and having all 15,000 people in an ice hockey rink (or wherever) hanging on your every word, like Bruce did with "Point Blank" and "The River".

steve simels said...

Bruce did the (at that point, not released) "Drive All Night" on that tour.

Only time I ever wept at a rock concert. And when I looked around, I realized I wasn't the only one...

Anonymous said...

I always chalked "Darkness" up to hanging out with Patti Smith.

Dan said...

So Steve, Looks like you get your wish

http://www.shorefire.com/index.php?a=pressrelease&o=4215

Write Josh said...

jon landau is an complete ass. but i don't think bruce does anything he doesn't want to do. landau is a leech and a yes man. every egomaniac needs one. including bruce. listen to any interview with landau -- it's never bruce did this or wrote that or introduced that. it's ALWAYS, "WE." like he's part of the fucking e street band. what an ass.