3 Minute Record

"We learned more from a three minute record baby than we ever learned in school..." -from No Surrender by Bruce Springsteen

Filtering by Tag: Bruce Springsteen

R.I.P. Clarence Clemons, 1942-2011

RIP Clarence Big Man Clemons

When your music is bigger than life it takes a Big Man to convey it to the world. For Bruce Springsteen, his longtime saxophone player for the E Street Band, Clarence Clemons was that man. Sadly, Clemons died last Saturday at age 69 from the complications of a stroke.

A week ago Sunday, the sad news came that Clemons had a massive stroke at his home in Singer Island, FL, and the thoughts of having to write something like this came to mind. However, that prospect made it difficult to ponder when the person is still struggling for their life and their music meant so much to you. However, when Saturday evening the official word came from my fellow 3 Minute Record contributor Bart Darnell via text message that Clemons had passed the reality fully sank in.

The next morning as a slightly surreal Father's Day started I began to write this piece, but alas could not finish needing more time to gather my thoughts. Later that day as I listened to the music I found I could not sing along to those songs so ingrained in my head. I could only listen for any shred of sound that I could gleaned from Clemons' horn. Nevertheless, I knew that if I did not finish this piece I wouldn't be moving on.

Clarence Anicholas Clemons was born on January 11, 1942 in Norfolk, VA the son of a fish market owner and the grandson of a Southern Baptist preacher. Receiving an alto saxophone for Christmas at age 9, later switching to tenor sax, Clemons took up music just as rock 'n roll was starting in the early 1950s, beginning a lifelong love affair with the genre. 

Inspired by Elvis Presley and growing up on '50s and '60s rock 'n roll, Bruce Springsteen was a young, inspiring singer/songwriter in the early 1970s making a name for himself in the boardwalk clubs of Asbury Park, NJ. The oft-repeated story of how the E Street Band fully solidified starts like the prototypical opening line to a novel when once upon a dark stormy night in 1971, Clemons quite literally busted into Springsteen's life. As the 6' 4" 250 pound former Maryland State College football player, Clemons entered the club where Springsteen was playing as a raging storm blew the door off its hinges leaving the imposing shadow in the doorway. Springsteen invited the saxophone player up on stage to jam creating a bond that lasted until Clemons death. Clemons brought his soulful saxophone playing and signature sound to what would become bedrock of the E Street Band.

Springsteen summed his thoughts about what Clemons brought to his music in the classic "Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out" from his 1975 breakout album, Born To Run.

"Well, a change was made in time and the big man joined the band/From the coastline to the city all the little pretties raised their hands/I'm gonna sit back right easy and laugh/When the Scooter and the Big Man bust this city in half."

To this day, Springsteen admits that he does not know what the title of the song means or refers to, but clearly he knew - even at that early time of his career - that having Clemons in the band was very special.

For Clemons his difference in age with the rest of the E Street Band seemed to make him the older brother - a mentor of sorts. While Springsteen, "The Boss," may have taught Clemons the importance of dedication to the artistic craft; Clemons taught Springsteen how to be a big man.

Clemons tenor saxophone added depth to Springsteen's cinematic lyrics invoking full color to the stark imagery the singer experienced all around him. The sound of Clemons sax perfectly suited the overall feel Springsteen achieved with his music. Just as John Coltrane and Wayne Shorter provided their own stamp on the Jazz music of their band leader Miles Davis, Clemons provided a soulful quality to the Rock 'n Roll music played by the E Street Band.

"You can hide 'neath the covers and study your pain/Make crosses for your lovers, throw roses in the rain/Waste your summer praying in vain for a savior rise from these streets."

Certainly, the 25-year-old Bruce Springsteen did not intend this lyric from his now classic song "Thunder Road" to mourn his saxophone player, yet no saviors will be rising from the streets to match Clemons sound. The Boss can't fully replace what Clemons brought to the band both on and off the stage. While Springsteen seems to leave the door open for future E Street Band shows with the last line of his public statement following Clemons' death "His life, his memory, and his love will live on in that story and in our band," what the future truly holds for Springsteen and the E Street Band is uncertain, but the memories of the music will always be there.

"For the ones who had the notion, the notion deep inside/That it ain't no sin to be glad you're alive/I wanna find one face that ain't lookin' through me/I wanna find one place, I wanna spit in the face of these Badlands"

Whatever the future may hold we have a way to stay strong. As Springsteen notes so well in his song "Badlands" with the line "that it ain't no sin to be glad you're alive," we must cherish the happiness that Clemons gave us with his brilliant saxophone playing and enjoy life to the fullest. Because, unfortunately, the harsh reality of Springsteen's lyrics that so many fans identify with so closely have a way of telling the true reality of the situation. The music gives us the freedom to escape and be happy even if just for a little while.  Rest easy Big Man, you've made it to the Promised Land.

Jungleland - 1980

Jungleland - 2009

Thank you for the music Big Man...

Sadly, Clarence Clemons, iconic saxophone player for Bruce Springsteen and the E St. Band, passed away yesterday. I do not normally feel overly saddened by celebrity deaths, but this time I could not but help to feel very saddened upon hearing the news. If you have ever noticed the quote at the top of our page, you know that Bruce and the E St. Band's music means a lot to Scott and I. When we were kicking around ideas for the name of the blog, I was immediately drawn to the "3 Minute Record" name because of a long time love of the song "No Surrender" in which that quote comes from. That song still moves me as much now as when I first heard it some 25 years ago. I have already shared on this blog how my love of Springsteen can be attributed to my dad. The bond I share with my father has a lot to do with the music we have been able to share, especially the sounds of Bruce and the E St. Band. Mr. Clemons was one of the most important figures in helping create those sounds, and having to imagine the E St. Band without the Big Man is just unbelievable. I guess that is why I feel so sad tonight. I have so many great memories of seeing Bruce live and getting to hear Clarence's sax echo through the arena. I usually prefer intimate, small club shows as opposed to arenas, but there was something about seeing Bruce and the band live that was just amazing even in an arena. Clarence's sax soaring out of the PA and echoing throughout the hall had a way of just making you feel so alive. To know that I will never get to have that experience again is why I feel so sad tonight. Bands break up, relationships end, people pass on. When you realize that you will never get to experience something that brings so much happiness into your life, all you can really do is raise your glass and shed a few tears. Thank you sir for all the great music and performances, you had a great life.

"To bring joy and light to the world is my purpose in life" - Clarence Clemons

Back from Vegas...

I promise to get a review of the Chuck Ragan/Lucero/Social Distortion show from Vegas this past weekend up as soon as I can, but need to get caught up with some homework that I neglected while on the trip. :) Today is my father's birthday and I just wanted to take a little time and interweb space to say happy birthday Pops! One of the reasons I have such a wide range of taste in music is definitely thanks to my father. My dad's record collection consists of what you would expect to find in the collection of someone from his time. The Beatles, the Stones, Dylan, Cash, Willie, Otis, tons of Motown... you get the idea. My dad was also into some New Wave stuff like the Police, Elvis Costello, and Talking Heads. And then there were the Springsteen albums. I remember when Springsteen came to town on the Born in the USA tour and my dad getting all excited to go see the Boss. Many moons later a longtime wish of getting to see Bruce and the E Street Band alongside my dad came true, and it was more amazing than I imagined.

I know I probably drove my parents crazy with all the money I have blown on records, concerts, and band merch in my 35 years of living so far. I think deep down my dad gets it though. He continues to surprise me by taking an interest in all the music that I currently  love. He didn't bat an eye when I suggested we go to Minneapolis to see the Bruce/REM/Fogerty/Bright Eyes show. Went to see the Revival Tour in Memphis one year and just met me this past December in Nashville to see Hayes Carll and the Old 97s. He fully supported me when I decided to go to Full Sail for my Recording Arts degree. And all of these wonderful memories related to music are rooted in listening to my dad's records on our old console stereo.

So, thank you Dad, for having amazing taste in music, a wonderful collection, and, above all, being the greatest father I could ever wish for. Happy Birthday!

I also think it's really cool that it is Warren Zevon's birthday. My dad is a big fan, so here's some Warren for ya, and of course, some Bruuuuuuuce...