Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Top Ten "Beer & A Pee" Songs


(carry on)

An interview with Nils Lofgren ran on Rolling about a month ago. I only just read it last night, thanks to a conversation I had with my friend Harry about concerts, crowds, Bruce, Dylan and things in general.

I asked him if he had any plans on seeing Bob Dylan up in Port Chester or any of the Bruce shows in September, and though his answer didn't only consist of this, it was this that I focused on:

"Don't expect any 4 hour show from Bruce like he's been doing in Europe."

Nils Lofgren explains why-

"Bruce's intent isn't to play a four-hour show. His intent is to make the best of the night. Honestly, and I don't mean this in a bad way, I don't know if American audiences can take a three-and-a-half hour show. They're exhausted. In Europe there's a rat race too, but they take six-week vacations. They have siestas. They take naps in the afternoon where everything shuts down. In general, people move at a slower pace and a concert is just a concert. In America, everyone is so driven and rat-raced out."

"Even my buddies that come, it's their high school reunion, it's their college graduation, it's the bachelor party they never had. Every night, Bruce's shows represent three parties in one night. Every slow song, every guy is rushing for a beer and a pee. In Europe, most of the audience just sits there and listens."

I jokingly asked Harry, after he paraphrased this part of the interview, if Nils mentioned me by name. I am very guilty of the beer and the pee, though not during slow songs, and worse, if I know that the last two songs of the night are going to be "Glory Days" and "Dancing In The Dark," I'll admit, I'd rather be in a taxi.

Lofgren goes on to talk about touring, Bruce's audibles, and the possibility of playing without (Not so) Little Steven. It's worth the read.  The full interview is HERE.

I do have mixed feelings about the comments made regarding American audiences versus European audiences. While I totally understand Bruce feeding off the crowd--I know I wouldn't like it if someone walked away while I was offering up something that was important to me--it's a bit disheartening to think that the fans who sit or stand at full attention, totally immersed in every note and move, might be punished with a shortened set and fewer audibles thanks to the few jagoffs who can't be bothered to listen to "Jack Of All Trades" or "Meeting Across The River" because "they don't rock."

That said, here are my Top 10 Bruce "Go get a beer and pee" songs and my Top 5 by other artists.

1.  Waitin' On A Sunny Day
2.  Outlaw Pete (Thankfully, that was just the one tour)
3.  Bobby Jean
4.  Glory Days
5.  Ramrod
6.  The Ghost Of Tom Joad (Sorry, Nils)
7.  Cadillac Ranch
8.  Seven Nights To Rock
9.  Johnny 99
10. Any song where Tom Morello shows up

As for some other artists who I've seen countless times:

1. God's Comic- Elvis Costello

(There is no artist whose in concert banter is as painfully unfunny and clumsy as Costello's, and "God's Comic," an already too long song, is usually filled with it.)

2. Hammer In My Heart- Utopia

A minor hit for Todd Rundgren in 1982, this song shifts gears 3 times, and all 3 are incredibly cheesy and ham-handed. It was okay in the 80s, when Utopia pounded out a full band version. But Todd, inexplicably kept this driving "dance" tune in his acoustic set for years. Just horrible.

3. China Girl- David Bowie

A terrible song by Iggy, even worse by Bowie. Why this was a hit, I'll never know.

4. TIE: Can't You Hear Me Knockin/Midnight Rambler- Rolling Stones

The Stones are a rock and roll band. And of course, they can play the blues. But their chops are just not made for extended jamming.

5. Non Fiction- The Black Crowes

This tune is a sweet, 4 minute acoustic ballad that becomes a 15 minute showcase for the band to pretty much not do anything. I've said this before, the Black Crowes are my favorite band to see live, but their extended jamming rarely amounts to much, and this song, when performed live, is the best example of wasted time.


FD13NYC said...

Funny thought though. When you get up to do this, there's usually a hundred other people thinking the same thing. And you wind up missing a song or two that you like. We've all experienced this, for sure.

big bad wolf said...

all the whining about people leaving during jack of all trades makes me crazy. people leave, not becuase it is slow, but becuase it is ponderous and obvious, which, ironically, is, i think, why it was a song singled out over and over again for praise in reviews of wrecking ball. bruce doesn't have to "rock" to be great and interesting (i think magic works very well, for instance), but too many of his slow songs of the last two decades are beer-and-pee songs because they treat the audience as too dumb to get a political/social point unless they are shushed and sung at. it's not just a bruce problem, but it is more evident with him because his best songs, fast and slow, make their points in performance, not as lectures. they need to. even great song lyrics are often not worth reading or contemplating by themselves. it's the whole that makes songs work---music, passion, singing, connection. when bruce gives us his social theories (almost all of which i agree with) in a serious, obvious way, i'm bored.forcing us to focus on the words slowly put out at us often with little melody or rhythm, makes me think, not such a good song bruce, this matter could be handled far more skillfully by a good novelist or barack obama. as i have said before, to me bruce sounds during such songs like tom morello's idea of bruce springsteen.

did anyone here the ridculous dave marsh on e street radio going on about how we in the audience are essentially unworthy of making judgments about bruce shows but simply must accept what the great man has chosen to do. nonsense. one doesn't check one's critical faculties at the door, and i surely hope that springsteen does not expect us to.

sal, your list looks much like mine. i'd put my hometown, mary's place, and out in the street on mine.

Sal Nunziato said...

@ Big Bad

"it is more evident with him because his best songs, fast and slow, make their points in performance, not as lectures."

Great point. But, is that Bruce's problem or is it the way the songs are perceived? I know personally, it all starts with sound. If I hear Bruce start singing in that faux-hillbilly drawl, my first thought is "Why can't he sing this in his Thunder Road" voice?" But once I'm over that, the words and music either fall into place or they don't.

I would NEVER get up for a B&P during his speech in "My City Of Ruins." I could listen to that all night. Politcally motivated? Absolutely. But ultimately, I love the song.

I bet if Jack Of All Trades sounded like Murder Inc., no one would leave, regardless of the lyrical content.

Anonymous said...

I have to agree with you on a couple of those choices. To me there are not many B&P songs during a Bruce show but Waitin' On A Sunny Day and Bobby Jean top the list. I can't hink of a song of his that I like less than either of those two. And pretty much every time I have seen him over the past 10 years I get one or the other or horror of horros...both.

It especially irks me when he has a kid sing along during Sunny Day. An embarrasing moment during an otherwise great evening. But that's just me. Apparently everyone else in the arena, Bruce included, loves that song. So I get a beer and take a pee break. Sorry Bruce.

It also irks me a bit that Europe does often get some of the better setlists of the tour. I'm in NY damn it...he's ours!

Here's hoping we don't get either of them in September (going the Friday and Saturday).

big bad wolf said...

Sal, i think it is bruce's fault, not the way the song is perceived. jack of all trades is just too ponderous; yes, it is sad, yes it is accurate, and yes many of the people at the concert are not keeping up with the political world like i am, but it also just doesn't work well because of its ponderousness. it's not just the music---the songs on nebraska worked, both on record and in concert better than the slow songs since joad. i think that is because one felt charlie starkweather and johnny 99 and the guy in state trooper in the vocals.
with the joad and subsequent slow songs, i hear bruce declaiming or describing, not inhabitating and illuminating. i don't feel the guy in jack of all trades, i feel bruce, the good liberal (me too, so that's not it)being somber and solemn, drawing, not people, but a social-realism workman who speaks in quasi-biblical cliches (floods, droughts, hurricanes, fat bankers). if this was a movie it would be unendurably obvious. he and we are better than this. i think that there is an argument to be made that, in taking a beer-and-pee break during such a song sends a useful message to bruce---we thought about whether this song works, we find it doesn't. the great man (and he is in many ways) needs to hear feedback that is otehr than adoring, but is also not merely backlash. to dismiss those who leave during jack of all trades, as nils and marsh do, is to decline to consider ideas other than what one's paycheck depends on. bruce, like any other entertainer, must earn praise, not simply expect it.

all that said, i think wrecking ball is a worthy, needed album. what is said on it, should be said. that it should be said doesn't make it great art or nuanced political and social thought. all in all, when consuming such obvious, if necessary messages, i'd prefer the music do more of teh work, as it does on we take care of our own or death to my hometown.

Sal Nunziato said...

@big bad

Point taken. Part of this comment should probably go on the Gaslight Anthem post, but...sometimes I take songs at face value the first few times I hear them.

I mentioned this to a friend the other day: I know people who love ketchup, marinara sauce and pizza, but gag at the thought of a tomato. Texture, they say.

The first thing I get from a song is texture. If I like it, I go in deeper. I don't like the texture of the GA, so it doesn't matter if all the ingredients are good. With "Jack Of All Trades," I loved the texture. Then, I loved the lyrics and the way it was delivered. I don't hear it as ponderous. And by the time I understood what the detractors were saying, you included, about Bruce "describing and not inhabiting," it didn't matter. The song is a highlight for me.

Good stuff.

big bad wolf said...


i totally get the texture thing. i don't dislike jack of all trades at all; i find myself caught up in it sometimes. artistically i find it less than compelling and i came at the album reacting to reviews proclaiming jack a great and deep songs. from that perspective, i was disappointed. i am tougher toward bruce than on anyone else whose music i love. with most, i'd just shrug.

part of it is that i have got to stop leaving the radio on e street when marsh or one of those "springsteen community conferences" are on. the reverence and infallability those shows promote is contrary to the principles of integrity, dialogue, and self-examination that i think (hope) bruce still stands for after all these years.

i admit i am worried that bruce doesn't tell e street radio to pull those hideous promos such as "bruce holds you in the palm of his hand" and "you worship at the church of bruce." gross. so people like being treated as unthinking worshipers? it is weird to me. doesn't stop me from spending too much of my time on e street but it does give me the willies.

bglobe313 said...

As posted many times, the perfect song for a beer and pee is "Meet Me At Mary's Place" which the Boss seemed to think for years was a real barn-burner like "Rosalita" but was a bore that never really took off. In fact, if Bruce adds his "soul man preacher" shtick to "Mary's Place" you can add another beer, pizza, pretzels and a good dump to go with the pee.

This one might cause some disagreement but the other top choice for me was when he used to do that horrible angsty version of "Youngstown" where they lit his face up with a red light so he looked like the DEVIL! Yuk.


A walk in the woods said...

This has been an interesting one to read the comments on. Not much to add, since I'm much more of a Bruce album fan than a going-to-see-Bruce-in-concert-in-2012 fan.

But I laughed at your comment about "If I hear Bruce start singing in that faux-hillbilly drawl..."

MAN I don't get why he does that. Fake, fake, fake.

Sal Nunziato said...



That's what I meant. Not "Ghost Of Tom Joad."

Anonymous said...

As far as Marsh's comments, give me a break - this a show by an entertainer I have enjoyed live for 35+ years and I better be able to critique the performance. I consider the evolution of both the artist and the audience (myself included) when enjoying a show. How could you not? BP songs? Sunny Day, Glory Days (sometimes, depends on the context) and maybe Kitty's Back. Other artists: Stones would be You Can't Always Get...but my wife won't let me leave, Cracker's Eurotrash Girl (too many times)and, of course, Macca's toilet trilogy: Silly Love Songs, My Love and Coming Up.
On the flip side,Drive By Truckers do the first person narrative better than anyone these days, getting social issues covered in a song like "Uncle Frank" or "Puttin' People on the Moon."

William Repsher said...

Yeah, the only time I saw Bruce, late 90s, Brendan Byrne Arena, "Youngstown" was the piss-break anthem. It was comical. Bruce slipped into that fake Okie accent, slipped on an acoustic guitar ... and 20% of the crowd immediately bolted for the aisles, it was like between-inning beer lines at a sporting event.

As I recall that night, every ballad caused that reaction. It was obviously a heavy Jersey crowd (literally and figuratively), and they just wanted to rock to the songs they knew so well. But every slow song, it was almost like these hundreds of beer-drenched guys were mooing on their way to the men's room.

I saw that show with a guy who was from Point Pleasant and lived in Fanwood, a Jersey guy all of his life. And when Bruce started speaking in that accent, he grabbed my arm and said, "Man, I've never heard anyone in any part of Jersey talk with that kind of accent. Come on, man, this is bullshit."

Maybe he met some Okies in the Pine Barrens while out driving around one day and was duly impressed? I don't know. That was a real surly, strange crowd that night. It felt more like a football game than a concert.

kevin m said...

I think the Stones played Knocking only during the Licks tour so it was actually a treat!

Completely agree with Non-Fiction