♦ Clarence Clemons Jnr ♦
January 11 1942 – June 18 2011.
Some people promote Bruce Springsteen’s Jungleland as one of the greatest songs of all time. They may or may not be correct, but one thing is for sure, there aren’t many better!
enter the boss
So, it’s 1975. All my friends are getting into this new guy they’re calling The Boss. Bruce Springsteen’s third album is out and, I have to admit, it’s taking me a while to warm to it. Ironic considering Bruce has since grown on me to the point where I’ve gone through extended periods when he’s been on such high rotate on my music roster that nothing else has had a look in.
how many #1 singles???
Born to Run was Bruce’s third, and breakthrough, album. Since then his popularity has been phenomenal. In total Bruce has released 16 studio albums, 66 singles, four live albums, and four compiliation albums. He’s sold over 65 million albums in the USA, and 120 million worldwide.
So, how many #1 singles has Bruce had in the USA?
The amazing thing (for me anyway), is that Bruce has never had a #1 single in the USA. The closest he’s come is Dancing in the Dark which in went to #2 in 1984. The next closest would be the three #5’s he’s managed (including Hungry Heart). He
has, however, achieved an incredible nine #1 albums.
enter the big man
The thing that first hooked me into Bruce’s music was the wonderful saxophone of Clarence Clemons. Clarence died just a few days
ago – hence the timing of this week’s blog.
In my mind, Bruce was always going to be a star. The intensity of the star was governed by Clarence’s inclusion in the E-Street Band.
There are all sorts of rumours and stories about how Clarence came to be in the band. Clarence told the story this way:
One night I was playing in a band 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.
I think that story is just wonderful because both Bruce and Clarence knew the truth – they were both incredibly talented but, together, they were simple magnificent.
Anyway, back to 1975. I’m at my mate’s place. He’s playing Born to Run, Bruce’s new album. It’s great. We listen in amazement to the subtle power of Thunder Road and the staccato piano of Tenth Avenue Freeze-out. We listen to the searing saxophone of the album’s title track, but what grabs me (and still does) is the final track on the album. Still my favourite Bruce song, Jungleland. 9:34 of sublime music including over three minutes of Clarence’s sax.
Clarence was also immortalised in the second song from the album, Born to Run. Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out contains the lyrics;
When the change was made uptown and the Big Man joined the band
From the coastline to the city, all the little pretties raised their hands.
- Q magazine listed Jungleland as one of the 1010 songs you must own in their September 2004 edition.
- Bruce and the E Street Band performed Jungleland live for over a year before recording it.
- Jungleland was Clarence’s favourite E-Street Band song. He expressed great disappointment when it didn’t make the 1995 Greatest Hits album.
- The Born to Run album from which Jungleland is taken, has one of the most iconic covers within rock ‘n’ roll. It features Bruce leaning against Clarence’s back – Clarence is only fully visible when the cover is opened.
- There’s an interesting link between Jungleland and Dire Straits’ Romeo and Juliet. The opening piano riff on Jungleland, recorded in 1975, is the same as the guitar riff Mark Knopfler plays at the beginning of Romeo & Juliet, recorded in 1980. The interesting thing is that Roy Bittan, the pianist for the E-Street Band and pianist on Jungleland, is the pianist for Dire Straits on the Making Movies album which contains Romeo and Juliet.
- Jungleland lyrics.