Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Jon Landau

If you're a fan of rock and roll music, Bruce Springsteen, or music criticism, then no doubt you have come across the famed words of Jon Landau. A music critic who became a manager, first to the MC5 and later Springsteen, then onwards to producer for many of Bruce's important records. It is his work as a critic that I've been enamoured with as of late. Anyone with any inclination to write critically about rock music should pick up a copy of It's Too Late To Stop Now - A Rock and Roll Journal. Published in 1972 it collects Jon's early work at Crawdaddy magazine, and later Rolling Stone. His most famous piece, in which he describes Bruce Springsteen as the future of Rock and Roll is not included in the collection. Published as a concert review for The Real Paper, A Boston alternative weekly, in May of '74, the piece, now rock and roll legend, is an exercise in capturing that feeling. Anyone who ever had their lives changed in a rock and roll concert knows this; that feeling when you get home and you feel somehow enriched, if even a little, thanks to what you heard and saw onstage. It is a beautiful feeling that is rare if you are blessed.

The article is short, six paragraphs in total. My reason for including it today is that I would like to give a little context to his famous words, more so than the legend and hyperbole they've taken on.

Tonight there is someone I can write of the way I used to write, without reservations of any kind. Last Thursday, at the Harvard Square Theatre, I saw my rock & roll past flash before my eyes. I saw something else: I saw rock & roll future and its name is Bruce Springsteen. And on a night when I needed to feel young, he made me feel like I was hearing music for the very first time.
When his two-hour set ended I could only think, can anyone really be this good, can anyone say this much to me, can rock & roll still speak with this kind of power and glory? And then I felt the sores on my thighs where I had been pounding my hands in time for the entire concert and knew that the answer was Yes.
Springsteen does it all. He is a rock & roll punk, a Latin street poet, a ballet dancer, an actor, a joker, bar band leader, hot rhythm guitar player, extraordinary singer, and a truly great rock & roll composer. He leads a band like he has been doing it forever. I racked my brains but I simply can't think of a white artist who does so many things superbly. There is no one I would rather watch on a stage today.
Bruce Springsteen is a wonder to look at. Skinny, dressed like a reject from Sha Na Na, he parades in front of his all-star rhythm band like a cross between Chuck Berry, early Bob Dylan and Marlon Brando. Every gesture, every syllable, adds something to his ultimate goal - to liberate our spirit while he liberates his by baring his soul through his music. Many try, few succeed, none more than he today.
It's five o'clock now - I write columns like this as fast as I can for fear I'll chicken out - and I'm listening to 'Kitty's Back'. I do feel old but the record and my memory of the concert has made me feel a little younger. I still feel the spirit and it still moves me.
I bought a new home this week and upstairs in the bedroom is a sleeping beauty who understands only too well what I try to do with my records and typewriter.About rock & roll, the Lovin' Spoonful once sang, 'I'll tell you about the magic that will free your soul/but it's like trying to tell a stranger about rock & roll.' last Thursday I remembered that the magic still exists and that as long as I write about rock, my mission is to tell a stranger about it - just as long as I remember that I'm the stranger I'm writing for.

Bruce Springsteen - Kitty's Back
mp3 from The Wild, The Innocent & The E Street Shuffle
Bruce Springsteen - Devils and Dust mp3 from Devils and Dust

Update: In my rush to share this with you I missed out on an important fact. Though I thought the above six paragraphs were the entire article, my post blogging peripheral research indicates that it is actually the part of a biiger article. Entitled, Growing Young With Rock and Roll, the full piece as it (presumably) appeared in the pages of The Real Paper on May 22, 1974 can be read in its entirety here.


Doctor Mooney said...

I've been reading a lot of Landau lately...thanks for the post!!


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