A seminal record from the Boss turns 50 right here in New Jersey.
The 50th Anniversary: The Wild, the Innocent, and the E Street Shuffle Symposium at the Bruce Springsteen Archives and Center for American Music at Monmouth University was held on October 28. And for the 50th anniversary of Bruce Springsteen’s second album, scholars, music fan, and a cadre of wild innocents took to Monmouth University in Long Branch to celebrate it – an album that came out in 1973.
Laying the foundation down for Born to Run, which would follow two years later roadies, producers, engineers, E Streeters, agents, and the man himself gathered to celebrate The Wild, the Innocent & the E Street Shuffle – a vinyl platter of seven songs that would ultimately place the Jersey Shore on the map of the rock and roll world.
Panel discussions took place in the Pollak Theatre on campus with former manager Mike Appel and his brother Steve. They added some anecdotes to life on the road that had the band struggling to make ends meet driving to gigs and staying at dive-y motels along the way. Robert Santelli, executive director of the Bruce Springsteen Archives and Center for American Music interviewed Greetings from Asbury Park and The Wild, Innocent, and the E Street Shuffle engineer Luis Lahav from 914 Sound Studios in Blauvelt, New York. He was also on board for the legendary sessions that produced the song “Born to Run”.
Springsteen was next and then returned with the E Streeters looking like a band of grizzled outlaws taking on 107.1 DJ Tom Cunnington, Vini Lopez, David Sancious, and Garry Tallent. Springsteen put the second record into its historical context as they discussed life on the road, its predecessor album Greetings, and Columbia record executives like the legendary John Hammond who discovered Dylan and was intent on presenting Springsteen as the next one in line.
Photos by Glyn Emmerson
Appel took on Columbia Records back then and the rest is history. Between albums the band transformed itself into a high-octane rock and roll unit opening for headliners like Chicago and Humble Pie (They even backed up Chuck Berry at a gig!) and got a taste of the big-time. Plying their craft on radio broadcasts and playing the clubs, E Street emerged from the mix as a sanctified and soulful rhythmic machine backing up the Boss. When Springsteen was asked by Columbia Records to use studio musicians for the next one, he admitted to the audience that he said no.
Springsteen recalled the Wild, the Innocent, and the E Street Shuffle sessions as “The first time I was able to bring my talents to fruition and write and setup cinematic scenes that I followed for the rest of my career.” He wrote “Incident on 57th Street” at Bradley Beach romanticizing about New York City. He called the arrangement “free and spontaneous” and the album “a lot of fun – a rock and soul record, a Gumbo of musical styles, and the most diverse record I ever made.”
When asked by Santelli about the 2009 performance where the band reprised the record at Madison Square Garden, Springsteen replied, “It takes you on a complete journey, at the end you feel like you’ve had a full meal.” On the differences between playing “Rosalita” with current E Street drummer Max Weinberg, the musician added, “You cannot imitate Vini Lopez!”. On keyboardist Danny Federici, he commented this: “He had the least interference between what he wanted to play and his heart.”
The event ended with a rockin’ blowout from local musicians including Jersey Shore favorite, the Pat Roddy Band, who play a Sunday night residency at the esteemed Parker House in Sea Girt. Bassist Garry Tallent, David Sancious, Vini Lopez, and percussionist Richard Blackwell turned the Pollak Theatre into party central as they joined in on “Kitty’s Back” and “E Street Shuffle” ending a glorious day of celebration to a great album and slice of Americana.
Thanks to Archive Director Eileen Chapman for putting this event together. For more information on the Bruce Springsteen Archives and Center for American Music at Monmouth University, check out their website.