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Our motto: "Critical thinking in the cheap seats." Unbiased, honest classical music and opera opinions, occasional obituaries and classical news reporting, since 2007. All written content © 2016 by Paul J. Pelkonen. For more about Superconductor, visit this link. For advertising rates, click this link. Follow us on Facebook.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Off Topic: The Saxophone Colossus

"And last but not least.  Do I have to say his name?  Do I have to speak his name?  Do I have to say his name?  In this corner: the king of the world, master of the Universe, weighing in at 260 pounds...The Big Man, Clarence Clemons!"
--Bruce Springsteen, from the live version of "Rosalita (Come Out Tonight)".

"I want you to think about the beautiful symphonic sound that came out of one man's saxophone.
I want you to think about Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band of Brothers.
I want you to think of Clarence Clemons.
This man just carried music and music carried him until this day."
--Bono, last night in Anaheim.
Clarence Clemons. Photo by Danny Clinch,
© 2011 BruceSpringsteen.Net
This morning, the opera iPod is silent in favor of watching Bruce Springsteen on VH1 Classic, remembering the genius of the recently departed Clarence Clemons, saxophonist in the E Street Band. I've been a Bruce fan for years. I was 11 when Born in the USA came out. But it was the Live 1975-85 album (on three cassettes) that was my early songbook. That long version of Rosalita (Come Out Tonight) with the wonderfully over-the-top introduction of Clarence Clemons

I sort of lost track of Bruce when he broke up the E Street Band although I always liked the 'old' stuff and especially his solo albums Nebraska and The Ghost of Tom Joad. For my money, "Highway Patrolman" is the best song he ever wrote.

I saw the rejuvenated, reunited E Street Band live, once, on The Rising tour in Ottawa, ON (in 2003) and I've always loved the way he tells stories through complex imagery and lyrics--much like the post I wrote last week about lieder and its ultimate influence on rock and roll.

The Rising was also a very "healing" record for me. I'm a native New Yorker and the whole record is about the tragedy and after-effects of the events of Sept. 11, 2001.

That said, this isn't usually a blog about Springsteen (or this great sax player.) But we'll end with something opera-related, the lyrics from the second verse of classic Bruce track "Jungleland."

"The midnight gangs assembled, and picked a rendezvous for the night,
They'll meet `neath that giant EXXON sign that brings this fair city light,
Man there's an opera out on the Turnpike,
There's a ballet being fought out in the alley,
Until the local cops, cherry tops, rips this holy night.
The street's alive, as secret debts are paid,
Contacts made, they vanished unseen.
Kids flash guitars just like switch-blades, hustling for the record machine,
The hungry and the hunted explode into rock 'n' roll bands,
That face off against each other out in the street,
down in Jungleland."
And here's the song, complete with Clarence's magnificent sax solo. Enjoy, and we'll get back to classical music tomorrow.
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Critical Thinking in the Cheap Seats

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Since 2007, Superconductor has grown from an occasional concert or CD review to a near-daily publication covering classical music, opera and the arts in and around NYC, with excursions to Boston, Philadelphia, and upstate NY. I am a freelance writer living and working in Brooklyn NY. And no, I'm not a conductor.