Thursday, December 08, 2016

Lennon Slain - 36 Years Ago

On December 8, 1980, I was 11 years old. I also had a paper route with the San Gabriel Valley Tribune. As such, I had to wake up bloody early in the morning. The 9th that year was a Tuesday morning. Thus, the night John Lennon was murdered, I went to bed early (on time), so that I could ride my beach cruiser and deliver papers before I headed off to 6th grade and still be somewhat attentive. My morning ritual as an 11-year-old boy was always the same: go straight out to the very end of the driveway where it met the black asphalt and grab the large bundles of unfolded papers that were bound by a thick plastic band. I would carry those into our garage, the old-school kind that wasn't attached to the house. It was an awesome garage, right next to the washing machine, we had a large basin sink, and next to the sink we had a shelf that housed my radio, something larger than a small transistor radio, but smaller than a stereotypical 80s boombox. I would plop the papers on the floor, and promptly turn the radio on. It was always tuned to 94.7 FM KMET. It was there, in the wee hours of Tuesday morning, December 9, 1980, with my back leaning against the cold metal of the washing machine, and my butt sitting on the even colder hard concrete floor, with my hands just beginning to turn black from the ink, that I first heard the news that John Lennon was dead. He was gunned down the night before. You need to know that this isn't hindsight nostalgia. Quite the contrary, no, this was the end of the world for a kid who, on that morning, had the walls of his room decorated with multiple posters of The Beatles and the four (then cardstock) photos that came from inside The Beatles White Album. I owned Beatles buttons that I would routinely pin to my jacket or backpack. This was a kid that had already bought the cassette version of Double Fantasy prior to its post-death popularity of 1981. Before the horrible shooting, I had been acutely aware that I was blessed to be living in a time where two of The Beatles had songs out. Heck, I was even in the fanboy mindset that Paul McCartney’s “Coming Up” and Lennon’s “(Just Like) Starting Over” were better songs than what were likely much more quality hits from the likes of Queen, Pink Floyd, Michael Jackson, Blondie, and even Bruce Springsteen that year! You must remember that, in December of 1980, Reagan had not yet even taken office, and, especially with the exuberant hope of an idea like starting over, this then-11-year-old, was still operating within the mindset that full-fledged Beatles reunion was still possible. I mean Ringo Starr and George Harrison were still putting out records too, not that year, but they were active, Harrison’s “Blow Away” from the previous year was a fantastic song. Yep, I was certain that the Fab Four would one day make new music together. But, that morning, as KMET informed me, a deranged gunman ended all that. Born in 1969, I had only heard the history of atrocities like the slaying of JFK in ‘63 as well as MLK and RFK in ‘68. However, I had not lived through them. Until now. In 1979 two things happened that profoundly shaped me. First, in July, at a Jimmy Buffett concert, I had my first exposure to drugs. That wouldn’t have been a big deal, except that it was my father smoking marijuana in the seat next to me. I was confused, mom said drugs were bad, my dad used them. Which was it? Second, one night at a drive-in movie theater, during a double feature of The Eyes of Laura Mars and Alien, my dad exposed me to one of his adulterous affairs for the first time. While he was enjoying himself in the backseat, I was left to contend with the betrayal of the woman I had accepted as a second mother, all on my own. Sworn to silence on both incidents, to borrow from a Kink’s song from 1983: I was in a state of confusion. So, as silly as it may sound to some readers, that cold December morning, sitting there all alone, hearing back-to-back Lennon records on The Mighty Met, had a profound impact on me. The manner in which the author of Give Peace a Chance had been taken out, said something about the world I was inhabiting. Heroes, in the case of my father, were incredibly flawed. Heroes, in the case of John Lennon, were vulnerable. The DJ’s announcement that Lennon was dead was the final nail in the coffin that contained my innocence.

"Should feel happy, should feel glad.
I'm alive and it can't be bad,
But back on planet Earth they shatter the illusion,
The world's going 'round in a state of confusion."
--Ray Davies

Tuesday, October 04, 2016

Born to Run: Bruce Springsteen Appearance - The full story

Max, Bruce, me, & Wes!

I met Bruce Springsteen Monday, October 3, 2016! Many of my Facebook friends are asking for the whole story about yesterday’s Bruce photo, others asked what I said to him. I thought I would post the story here. Hopefully, those that asked in the comments will read this blog post if I post the link in a status update.

Let’s just get this out of the way, yes, I, a seemingly grown man, actually waited from 11:20pm to 12:20pm, a full 13 hours, just to get a photo with Bruce Springsteen.
Promotion for the event in the window of Barnes & Noble

This encounter was a scheduled event as part of his book tour. Bruce just released his autobiography, Born to Run, and he scheduled 10 different appearances. The Los Angeles event was yesterday, Monday, 10/3, at the Barnes & Noble at The Grove. It was scheduled to start at 12:00 noon on Monday. The original “rules” said no line-ups on the Grove property prior to 4:00am on Monday morning. It was expected that people would line up on city property along 3rd St. before then, just not as early as they ended up doing it! Although I had originally planned to get down there about 4:00am, I later changed it to 3:30am, then 2:00am, and it just kept getting earlier and earlier!

People started lining up way too early. Facebook posts showed people out there as early as Sunday morning. By Sunday evening, with people alerting me, it became clear I would have to get down there sooner than expected. At this particular event it was very clear that there would only be 1,100 autograph books sold, with each of those 1,100 people promised to get a photo with Bruce. As more and more people were telling me the line was growing, I started to panic!

Sunday night Facebook posts started showing the line was growing, photos were popping up, and then doomsayers started saying you weren’t going to make it if you got there after midnight. What really sealed the deal was when some people in a Springsteen group I'm in started encouraging me to get down there much earlier to make this meeting certain! About half of my mind thought that it was absolutely not true that I "needed" to arrive before 4:00am, but the other half of my mind was worried about making the strict cutoff of 1,100 people. One thing I knew, it was bad enough to sacrifice all that time to drive up there, but it would be completely shameful to waste that time and not get the photo. Thus, I ended up leaving my house at 10:00pm Sunday night, I picked-up Wes from Biola, and we arrived to the line at 11:20pm. Max came and joined us in line at about 12:10am. We did not sleep at all. Well, I guess Max did doze off a couple times in a chair. We brought two blankets, and, at various times, we had access to other people’s chairs. For example, once nice woman, Meghan decided to lay down, so she let me use her chair. Also, because any position became uncomfortable after awhile we actually switched positions, standing-up, etc., a lot. It was really fun meeting people in line. People were friendly and kind. A fellow-teacher, Jeff, even bought me a cup of coffee from 7-11 in the wee hours of the morning!

Now, a funny thing about the above-mentioned midnight rumor. People said that the security would be videotaping the line at 12:00am, and that nobody would be allowed in after that. This made no sense to me because the bookstore had made it clear for weeks that the cutoff was about a number (1,100 people) and not a time (like 12:00am or even 4:00am). However, at midnight a security guard did come around and videotaped the line. Max hadn't gotten there yet, and we were panicked, I called Max and told him to park at the 7-11 across the street and get in the video, but he missed the video by just 5 minutes! Turns out, as Wes called, the video was largely a sham, just a deterrent to stop people from allowing anyone that wasn't already in line to take cuts. Their intention was that anyone arriving after the video go to the very end of the line, even if you had friends or family holding your spot. That said, nobody around us decided to be a stickler about Max coming into the line at 12:10am.  
New friends in line - Left to right (top): Alec, Katie, Meghan, Josh, Max, Wes (bottom): Eric, Jeff, me

There were a lot of rumors about what number we might be in line. Regular folks in line kept coming by to count, and they told us we were 600, 700, 888. At one point a lady in line before us said she went from 700 to 1023 because folks in the front were allowing people cut in line. Lots of rumors going around all night, but we really didn’t know. I'm not going to lie, at times we did wonder if we'd make the cut.
Our first wristbands - when we were told we were about 650 in line and we were guaranteed to meet Bruce!

At 4:00am Barnes & Noble and Grove employees came out and started condensing the line by having us remove chairs and line up as far into Grove property as possible. Shortly after that, we were given wristbands, and told that I was 650 in line. They also said we were guaranteed to get our autographed book and photo. Later, starting at 6:00am, but the process took a while, we started getting ushered into the store to buy our books. Turns out one of the reasons the process took so long because someone in the first group inside actually passed out, and needed medical attention. That person had been waiting in line for two days!

A side note: When I went to put our blankets away, I met a woman who spotted my wristband, she had been shut-out and said, "Oh, my, you got in?" I told her, "Yes, I did." She asked what time I got in line. I told her 11:20pm the night before, and she responded, "I'm so dumb. I'm so mad at myself." I asked when she got there and she told me she arrived at 6:30am! I could have told her that! Even when I was planning to come "late" it was not ever going to be that tardy! She was really upset because she lived very close to where the event was, yet she still didn't come in time. At that point she told me that she was about 100 people back behind the last person with a wristband! There was no way she was getting in.

Eventually, we paid for our books, got receipts, and a new, nicer wristband that said, “Born To Run by Bruce Springsteen” on it. I finally purchased my book at 9:50am. At that point we were then taken out again, we walked along the back of the Grove, and were placed back into the same line we had been in, but this time we were all set: we were waiting to meet Bruce!

Now that the line had been free of chairs and blankets and we were all really condensed, our new spot in line seemed really close to the entrance now! At that point, Max and Wes went over to the Farmer's Market and bought all three of us these really killer breakfast burritos. That, along with the new position, and our book receipts, gave us a second wind.
The second wristband - received once I got the receipt from buying the book.

Bruce was scheduled to start at 12:00pm. At 10:20 Wes and I went to the restroom and walked along the front of the store again. At that point, Wes heard a security guy radio someone and say, “20 minutes out.” We assumed he was talking about Bruce, and turns out we were correct. By 10:40 Bruce was in the building, and the event started then.

Someone on Facebook asked me how I got him to stand in the photo, but that’s not how it went down. In fact, he only stood. This was not a book signing event. He never sat at a table. Rather, he had personally autographed all the cover pages, and these pages were actually bound into the book by the publisher. The books were on site, and it was made very clear that he wasn’t going to be actually signing anything at all on this day. Instead, he was standing, and fans were brought in one by one to have their photo taken with him.

The way it worked was, groups of 50 were brought into Barnes & Noble and they zig-zagged through level 1, level 2, and then level 3 of Barnes & Noble. Bruce was up in the back at level 3. Each person was to give their phone or camera to the employee and they would take your photo with Bruce. After your photo you got your phone back, handed someone your receipt, they cut your wristband off, and you got your signed book, and you went home. 
Wes and Bruce

I had a decision to make: Would I take the standard solo photo with Bruce, or would I push my luck and request that I be allowed to have my sons in the photo with me? I could see arguments for both. What I knew was that I didn’t want to be the guy who asked for something extra. I didn’t want to get my solo photo and then ask to have another with my sons. I also knew that they would probably move Max and Wes out of there immediately after they had their photos taken, they might not allow them to stand there and wait for mine, they might tell me that I couldn’t have my photo with them.
Max and Bruce

I watched my sons get their photo taken, and then I approached Bruce. As that was happening I asked the last official person, “Can I have my sons in my picture?” He seemed to not like the idea, but I pointed over to Max and Wes and announced, “I am not asking for anything extra. I am asking that my one photo include my sons.” With that, Bruce himself motioned both of them next to us. He genuinely seemed to like the idea of having my sons in the picture! The boys and I had been observing the others’ photos before us and noted that Bruce really wasn’t smiling, nothing negative, it actually makes sense. When we saw Kid Rock do a similar thing of taking photos with a huge number of fans, he didn’t smile much either. That said, it truly seems like we got a little smile out of Bruce.

People keep asking me many questions about my encounter with Bruce. “Did you talk to Bruce?” and “What did you say to him?” seemed to be the big ones. Yes, I talked to him. However, obviously, this encounter went by very quickly, a matter of seconds. As I walked up, the first thing I said was simply, “Thank you for doing this. It means a lot.” Once I got my sons in the photo I started with what I really wanted to say.

What I told Bruce was this: “Bruce, thank you for the Wrecking Ball album. Sounds silly, but that record saved my life, man. 2013 was a really, really rough year for me, and that record really pulled me through the tough times. It really is as good as anything you’ve ever done.” He said, “Thank you,” back to me, and he extended his hand for a nice handshake. That was it.

It was important to me to say something about one of his later albums. Everyone focuses on his classics like Born to Run, Darkness on the Edge of Town, or The River, maybe Nebraska. But, I personally think some of his “later” works like Tunnel of Love, The Rising, and, most recently, Wrecking Ball, are truly as good as anything he has ever done. Not like he needs props or praise, but I thought it would be nice for him to know that an album he put out in 2012, some 40 years after his first release, actually impacted someone, actually was powerful enough to make a difference. So, that’s what I said to Bruce Springsteen!

The post-Bruce glow: Max, Wes, & I with our books and ice cream cones!

As soon as we walked out of the store, the three of us went and got some waffle cones at a homemade ice cream shop we had spotted earlier. That was the perfect ending to this event. The place was called Bennett's Ice Cream. I tried this excellent flavor called Fancy Nancy. It was banana, coffee, and caramel. As we were walking to the parking garage with our books and ice cream, Wes says, "Wow, I'm kinda on a real high right now." That captured it perfectly. In fact, I was thinking the same thing, it was just a perfect moment, a beautiful day, and I felt euphoric.

Not counting driving there and back, I spent 13 hours in line on the ground to spend a few seconds with a man, shake his hand, get a photo, and buy an autographed book. Was it worth it? Yes. It was. It was an incredible experience. I loved it.

Would this be a good time to tell you that this was the third time I met Bruce Springsteen?


Friday, March 25, 2016

Songs Played in L.A. on The River Tour

My uncle John asked me about the setlist over the three nights of Springsteen at the Los Angeles Sports Arena last week, specifically, “What songs were played?” That’s a loaded question because the answer is, “A lot of them.” By my count, it was 45 different songs to be precise! I understand how obsessive this comes off to the non-fan, or even casual-fan, but here’s what was played. As mentioned in my previous post, 22 songs were a given: all 20 tracks on The River album as well as the opener, Meet Me In The City, and the encore, extended version with band intros of The Isley Bros’ Shout! That leaves 23 other tunes. Among those, there were 6 other songs that were staples, and also played all three nights. Those were:

Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out
Rosalita (Come Out Tonight)
Dancing in the Dark
Thunder Road
Born To Run

And, no, despite the popularity of those 6 songs, none of those have been played at every single Bruce concert I’ve seen, but for this tour they are standards.

There were only 3 songs that were played two nights in L.A.:

Wrecking Ball (not played on night 2)
Because The Night (not played on night 2)
The Rising (not played on night 3, the first time it has been dropped on this tour)

This brings us down to the “special songs” that I’m sure my uncle really wanted to know about. These are the ones that really changed things up from night to night. There were 14 of this variety as follows:

Night 1 (Tues.)
Lonesome Day
Human Touch
She’s The One
No Surrender

Night 2 (Thurs.)
Death To My Hometown (tour premiere)
The Promised Land
Brilliant Disguise
American Land (tour premiere)
[both premieres presumably for St. Patrick’s Day]

Night 3 (Sat.)
Prove It All Night
My Love Will Not Let You Down
Tougher Than The Rest
Bobby Jean (added as show closer for only the second time this tour)

Some other notable stats: Both night 1 and night 3 got 35 songs whereas night 2 got 34 songs. However, on night 2, it seemed like Bruce extended Shout longer than either of the other two nights, to the point where he and the audience were ready to drop, in fact, by where I was on the floor, several did. Time-wise though, night 3 was the longest show, 3 hours, 45 minutes, clocking in at the longest Springsteen show I have ever seen, and one of his longest ever!

Well, there you have it. Those are the song statistics for the historic 3-night run at The Dump That Jumps, the last shows at the Los Angeles Sports Arena ever. This was the first place I ever saw Springsteen. Notably, my uncle John Lynd, the guy I’m posting this for, took me to that show!

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Personal Premieres at the Springsteen L.A. Shows

Coming into the three shows at the Los Angeles Sports Arena, there were 9 songs off The River album that I had NEVER seen performed live in person. These songs were: Sherry Darling, Jackson Cage, Crush On You, I Wanna Marry You, Fade Away, Stolen Car, The Price You Pay, Drive All Night, & Wreck On The Highway. If you throw in The River outtake, Meet Me In The City, as well as the cover of The Isley Brothers’ Shout!, then those are 11 songs I had never ever heard Bruce sing live before. It turns out that over the 3-night stand, that those 11 songs would be the “only” new songs for me. Obviously, I say that a bit tongue-in-cheek, because, for any Springsteen fan, having never-before-heard-live-TO-YOU-songs, is a huge feather in your Bruce cap. And, having 11 personal premieres is nothing to sneeze at! That my friends, is the beauty of this current tour, Bruce promised to play the entire The River album each and every night. Thus, to my uncle who asked to hear a bit more about the setlists from last week, I want to start with this post, letting you know that, for each of the three nights, the first 21 songs were exactly the same. He opened with Meet Me In The City and then played all four sides (20 songs) of The River album straight through. This part of the show took-up the first 2+ hours of each evening. He also closed his encores with Shout, except for night 3 when he added a bonus closer. That was only the second night on the current tour that he didn’t close with Shout, but more on that in the next post.

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