Little Steven on Bruce Springsteen and Supreme Court Decisions
February 2, 2012 2 Comments
I love Little Steven’s Underground Garage and wish I knew how to podcast it. It’s one of the few radio shows I know that introduces me new stellar songs from yesterday and today, with erudition but without elitism — just a sincere love of music.
On Tuesday Steven Van Zandt visited Howard Stern and covered a range of topics, from learning the guitar to his least favorite Supreme Court decision.
As with his own radio show, Little Steven comes across as thoughtful and down-to-earth. He tells Howard that he never resented Bruce Springsteen being the boss and that Steven was actually the one who came up with that nickname.
I was very very respected locally, and when I started calling him “The Boss” people took notice.
Why did Steven called Bruce “The Boss”? Because Springsteen was in a league of his own.
He was very prolific right from the beginning. I remember, I’d go over to his house when we were first friends and he was writing then, you know, at the age of 16, which was really thinking ahead.
Steven said that he (Little Steven) is actually not a great guitar player.
I’m not really a musician’s musician. I wanted to play guitar well enough to complement the songs. It’s all about the songs for me.
And again, for anyone who doubts his deep love of music and songs, check out that radio show already!
Steven said that they haven’t yet decided how to handle the absence of recently deceased saxophonist Clarence Clemons when they go on the road.
We just started rehearsals this weekend. Obviously you can’t replace him….but we’re talking about it this week and see what we’re gonna do.
I’m not so sure about where I stand on that. Sure, Clarence made the saxophone a key component of many songs, but it was specifically his performance that was key. Could they change the arrangements, rather than enlisting a saxophonist-for-hire?
With the Superbowl coming up, Steven spoke about the E Street Bands halftime gig in 2009.
We were asked many times and Bruce waited until they allowed us to have the audience come right up to the stage….You’re playing to that thousand or two thousand people that are right there. I mean, you’re not playing to the billion — I mean, how do you do that?
One last quote concerning music…I feel that it’s a positive that The Beatles and the Stones came up doing some cover versions and wish that newer bands would do that. I’m not talking about just concocting a fake cover in a studio, but regularly playing a few select covers so that it gets in their bones. Of course, when Little Steven says it, he comes with a little more street cred.
That’s how you learn. That’s how you raise your standards, you’re playing the best songs out there.
Then, the interview turned political, and it was a good mix. I usually rail against the corporations, but Steven likes to be more specific:
It’s not the corporations, it’s four industries, okay. It’s the military industry, it is the pharmaceutical industry, it is the energy, and the agro business, okay. Those four industries run our lives.
I remember when Little Steven quit the E Street Band to focus on politics and music, and Howard gets him to talk specifics when it came to his growing political consciousness. Steven says it all started with books.
You start reading Noam Chomsky and people like that and you realize, “Oh my God,” we grew up thinking America was the heroes of the world and supporting democracy everywhere and it was not true. And we’re supporting half the dictators in the world and you start to feel responsible…I had gone to Europe and a kid came up to me and said, you know, “why are you putting missiles in my country, in Germany”…and I realized, “Oh my God,” I’m an American citizen, that’s how he looks at me. I’m not like a guitar player or a Democrat or a Republican, I’m an American to this guy. I didn’t know what that meant.
Howard asks Steven when it all went wrong, and he picks as good a turning point as any. 1975!
Buckley v. Valeo was the Supreme Court decision that said: the First Amendment says freedom of speech, and money is covered by freedom of speech. One of the worst decisions in the history of humankind.
If you’re interested and want to hear it for yourself, here’s the interview, in four parts:
Steven Van Zandt’s article “There is Only One Issue in America” (referenced in the interview) is posted here.