LITTLE STEVEN AND THE DISCIPLES OF SOUL “OUT OF THE DARKNESS” Part II
(-Warmly Flickering, Delinquent, Teenage, Memories by Geordie Pleathur And the RocknRoll People…)
IT NEVER DIED INSIDE OF ME….
Little Steven was a huge, stadium-playing, full-time, kung-fu action, rock star, with Bruce, but that never stopped him from effortlessy churning out Strummer-like, star spangled, street poetry, and throwing switchblade-stanced Keith shapes….a dangerous, splayed-legged cross between Southside Johnny and Johnny Thunders, with maybe just a touch of Paul Stanley zebra-print swagger. Some may feel that summa Little Steven’s jubilant eighties L.P.’s suffer from dated, “radio-friendly”, over-production, like a spit-shined Survivor, or synth-drunk John Cafferty And The Beaver Brown Band–those slick, chiming, keyboards are soooo “eighties”–but for me, his songs were still empowering anthems of independent, blue collar inspiration. Back then, I still associated Bruce and the E Street Band with like, our parents, and nerdy, over-paid, baby-booming, rock critics, even though, years and years later, I finally discovered their poetic majesty and epic grandeur. I read a depressing book, about how Springsteen’s magical America, the celebratory, neon-pulsing, Land Of 1,000 Dances, is rapidly vanishing, and not just the actual places, like your favorite drive-in, record store, amusement park ride on The Boardwalk, the Stone Pony, and Chelsea Hotel, either, but liberty, itself. You get in your car, where you gonna go, how you gonna pay to fill ‘er up, and how far you gonna get, before you’re stopped and searched, and maybe tasered, by the man? America is on house-arrest. In times like these, if you still own a pink Cadillac, you probably keep it in a big, air-conditioned warehouse, and seldom see it, or you’re livin’ in it, with your wife, and her four kids, from her first two marriages…there ain’t no in-between. Everyday, we read about another tragic, taser death, or “botched drug raid”, under the ever expanding, umbrella of this phoney “war on teror”, and/or “war on drugs”. Sadly, it’s probably even less free now, in the United States Of Austerity, than it was when the book’s writer was romantisizing the early decline of the E Street glory days, but I hate to think that way, maybe if enough of us could keep it in our hearts??? We gotta stand together, like all the good folks boisterously defending the working man in Wisconsin.
Apparently, these E street fellas always had a connection to glam, glitter, and power-pop!! Alan Merrill, from the Arrows, the guy who actually wrote Joan Jett’s gem, “I Love Rock’n'Roll” remembers: “It was Bruce’s first gig in Manhattan, his band’s audition really, at ‘The Cafe Wha?’. I was already playing there, as a regular turn with my band, The Watertower West. Bruce and his band mates started to unload their gear from a van, which if memory serves was driven by his dad. I told him that nobody moved the back line (amps and drums that belonged to the club) and if he did try to do that his band wouldn’t get the audition. Bruce listened to me and they loaded their amps and drum kit back in the van and used the club’s gear. I explained the system of the club, how we got paid and things like that. The Castilles, Bruce’s band, passed the audition and got on regular rotation. We were close friends for that summer, probably 1966 or ’67.” …Who knew??
Canada’s mystical, motorcycle boys, Trash Gallery, are black leather-clad, cult-kings, in the crowny-thorned tradition of Southern Death Cult, Spear of Destiny, the Four Horsemen, and Circus Of Power. Their politically astute frontman, Neen, testifies about his high regard for the Artists Against Apartheid project: “I believe I may have become jaded, over these many years, by so many celebrity causes and insincerity, and deceptions, in the public eye…Especially, in this day and age of endless hype and misinformation. Certain celebrities that mask hidden agendas, other then what’s actually, in the best interest of a native population…Take the Sudan crisis….There is a lot that’s not being told, just as this so called, ‘Arab Spring’ is nonsense…As the magician put it, ‘there is more than meets the eye’…Behind every curtain…We must learn to always, look behind the scenes, and peer beyond the surface of what is shown to us.
However, looking back to Steven Van Zandt, and his cohorts, involved in the ‘I Ain’t Gonna Play Sun City’ video, I saw someone that was bravely willing to risk his reputation and livelihood for this cause…..There was no agenda…No sponsorship from the, quote, “Nice people from General Electric that brought you so and so”; or a mere sound-bite that only ends up in the dust-bin of history….I truly, believe that Little Steven was the stone that was dropped in the pool, and the ripples touched the Western Nations, that caused the downfall of the brutal P.W. Botha regime…The Berlin Wall was toppled, soon after. Little Steven was the one that took the path less beaten, or should I say, the one, that walked through the unmarked, mine-field, and made it easy for the rest, to reap the benefits of the spotlight, from Steven’s courage.”
The charismatic vocalist of Canada’s teen punks, the 222′s, AND the gothic-psychedelic 39 Steps, AND Pillbox NYC, AND the Stooges-like, Throbbing Purple, Chris Barry, fondly recollects the following: “Back when I was living in London, around ’82 or ’83, I shared a house with Little Steven’s European booking agent. I, of course, was dirt poor and basically, couldn’t even really afford the tube fare half the time, just to get out to gigs, or rehearsal, or whatever. So the only way I was ever able to actually get out of the house and into the world was if/when somebody I knew was involved with some event and slapped me on to a guest list, or better, was heading to the venue themselves, and offered to bring me along. I saw a lot of bands back then, many of them being groups I had little interest in –Spear of Destiny, Gene Loves Jezebel, One the Juggler. Damn, it seemed like everyone I knew was hooked up with U2 at the time, so when they did a one week residency at the Hammersmith Odeon, I probably wound up at half the shows. Then, a week later, when they were doing another one week residency at the Hammersmith Palais, I think I probably attended another 2 or 3 of those gigs as well. It just kind of worked out like that. I was hardly a huge U2 fan at the time, although I’ll give credit where credit is due and acknowledge that, annoying as hell or not, they were – and are – a pretty solid rock band. They were promoting ‘War’ at the time, a record I still kind of like when I hear it on the radio. So Little Steven and the Disciples of Souls were another act who I got dragged out to see on several occasions, all within a one month period or so. Not being much of a fan of The Boss, and not being at all familiar with the solo record Lil Stevie was promoting, my going out to see them was purely for social reasons. I could usually drink for free at these things and as often as not, run into people I already knew, or whatever. I figured I’d just suffer through the band for awhile and then hopefully hook up with people and maybe do something actually ‘fun’ afterward.
So I guess you kind of know where this is going, right? Yup, you guessed right, the band came onstage and blew me away. I didn’t know any of their songs, that whole Jersey sound thing had never really been my bag in the first place, but I couldn’t get over just how much I was enjoying them. At a time when Gene Loves fuckin’ Jezebel and similar nonsense was all the rage in the U.K., it was just so goddamned fuckin’ refreshing to witness an honest-to-God decent rock band for a change. I just instinctively knew that these guys ‘got it.’ And this, decades before Steven would rock mah world with his great, great, great ‘Underground Garage’ radio show – simply the best radio show I’ve ever had the pleasure of listening to – and clearly put together by a guy who ‘gets it.’ So no wonder his solo act was so fuckin’ good and refreshing. There really didn’t seem to be too many acts around at that time, in England, at least, who understood the spiritof rock n roll. But again, Little Steven had it down like a motherfucker.
And finally, although it’s got little to do with the man’s music itself, I’m eternally grateful for that amazing gig he set up on Randalls Island afew years back. Motherfucker, it was like my dream lineup of bands. The Stooges, NY Dolls, Bo Diddley, the Pretty Things, The Chocolate Watchband,the Electric Prunes, Nancy Sinatra, the Dictators… like, Holy Fuck!!! And that’s just scraping the surface of all these great, iconic acts who were on that bill. With the exception of maybe the Strokes, I don’t think there was even one act who I wasn’t interested in checking out that day. So there’s my tribute to Little Steven. I’ve nothing but respect for the man. That’s it.”
The extremely cool and talented, “Top Ten” Scott Kempner, from the Dictators, and Del Lords, recently released his soon-to-be classic LP, “Tenement Angels” on GB Music. He also, graciously, took the time to write the following:
“Little Steven: Keeper of the Flame.
I have no idea what religion Steven was born to, but I know what he believes in, and I know how much he believes it. Steven Van Zandt believes in Rock’n’Roll (a lot), and more specifically, in the Rock’n’Roll band (a lot), that rarer-than-ever animal that was essentially born in Liverpool in the late 50’s and brought to our shores on February 9th, 1964. Steven’s a funny guy, and a fun guy, as well as being a consummate musician, and not a half-bad actor, but this Rock’n’Roll stuff, he takes seriously. Very seriously.
Steven is a great multi-tasker, so being an integral part of the great E Street Band, as well as owner and program director of not one but two fabulous radio networks, his Underground Garage (where he also DJ’s) & Outlaw Country, the high school & college curriculum about Rock’n’Roll he’s developed for the school system, being co-owner of NYC’s great Rock’n’Roll bar, Manitoba’s, in the East Village, as well as being the star of the forthcoming LILY HAMMER series for HBO, comes relatively easy for him. It’s all relative.
How do I think of Steven? Mostly I think of him in the E Street. I really relate to his role in that band. Not so much as regards my role in the Del-Lords, but certainly my role in the Dictators. He’s the glue, the facilitator, the one who keeps that train on the tracks, with his guitar, his mandolin, his singing, and his presence, all in the service of the greater good, that is Rock’n’Roll, Bruce, Clarence, the band and the audience. He watches everything and everyone, hears everything and everyone, and keeps it steady as she goes, all while looking cool, sporting his now iconic (anything but the Everyman) look. He makes the band possible, and anyone who saw Bruce in those weird lost days with the ringer band (as I call them) (you know, the ones who weren’t the E Street Band) knows how true that is. That bunch were musicians, strong players but they weren’t no band.
A band is a holy thing, especially in Rock’n’Roll. Your band are your brothers and sisters, your street gang, they’ve got your back and you’ve got theirs, and the sound they make cannot be duplicated, bettered, or even equaled, no matter how good they play, how well they dress, how many notes per second they can play. A band is chemical. A band cannot really be explained. And, the music you make with your band is the best music you will ever make.
To me, Steven embodies all of this. I love watching him on stage, and I love hearing him, too. His presence provides a strong center of gravity, emotionally and musically. I’ve taken a lot of inspiration from him through the years, and never more so than when he returned from his sabbatical to play alongside his band back in 1999. The difference with him compared to the difference without him is the difference between real and imitation. If you love Rock’n’Roll, and Lord knows I do, you gotta love, respect, and appreciate Little Steven Van Zandt, for he, to a great extent, is a living breathing personification of it, its magic, its endless possibilities, and its eternal thunder. God bless Little Steven.”
DARKNESS ON THE EDGE OF TOWN…
….Zodiac Mindwarp even took his band’s name, Love Reaction, from Springsteen’s Huey Lewis-era hit, “Dancing In The Dark”. I eventually determined that important parts of Hanoi Rocks’ catalog were very reminiscent of “Born To Run” and “Rosalita”. Especially all the big, catchy, pop-opera, “Back To Mystery City” classics, like, “Ice Cream Summer”. It made a lot of sense when Little Steven went on to produce such immortal music, as his collaborations with the Lords Of The New Church, Demolition 23, and the Chesterfield Kings. Little Steven proved that it was possible to become a succesful rockstar without selling-out, or ever turning his back on the real rock’n'roll people. Just listen to the “Underground Garage” radio show! It’s awesome, it’s educational, and he even played my request!!! Clearly, he’s still one of US! A die-hard rock’n'roll motherfucker. A true scholar of music history, especially, sixties garage rock–like Greg Prevost and Andy Babiuk, Mick Farren, Richie Unterberger, or Lenny Kaye. It’s his religion. He’s smart, self-taught, and heroically wields all his influence for righteous causes, like trying to save C.B.G.B.’s, and helping get the true badass architects and outsiders, inducted into the Hall Of Fame, alongside fuggin’ Madonna. He’s still got outstanding taste, and is often, among the first to recognize new, fresh, cutting-edge talents. David Chase is clearly brilliant, in his own right, but who do you suppose was actually responsible for all that cool music on the soundtrack to the Sopranoes? I wasn’t the only teenage gutter slut to admire the noble contributions of Little Steven, and his chief-cohort, back then, ex-Plasmatic, Jean Beauvoir. His all-star crew variously boasted alumni of the Amboy Dukes, Young Rascals, Gary U.S. Bonds, and the E Street band-I bought my copies of “Men Without Women” and “Voice Of America” on discount vinyl, but I suppose somewhere you can still find them on remastered C.D. They are awash with glimmering, old school, new wavey synths, but still positively throb with Main Street pool-hall attitude, defiant calls for human rights, and righteous odes to freedom, and everyman glory. He’s got believers. Like in the old Bowie song.
AMONG THE BELIEVERS….
Stevie Klasson, of the Black Weeds, Diamond Dogs, Oddballs and Hanoi,says, “Little Steven and the Disciples Of Soul ‘Men Without Women’ is one of my favorite albums. It’s the album that opened up the door to soul music for me…”
Timo Kaltio, the legendary guitarist of Cheap And Nasty and Transystem V, best known for his musical and songwriting collaborations with Hanoi Rocks, Smack, Guns N Roses and Izzy Stradlin laments: “Unfortunately, I never had a chance to meet, or work with him, but I love his songwriting, sound, lyrics, and guitar!”
Frank Secich from Stiv Bators band/Blue Ash/Dead Beat Poets says: “Little Steven’s Underground Garage on Sunday night has been a ritual for me, for almost a decade now. It reminds me of listening to WIXY, CKLW & WHOT when I was a teenager in the 1960′s! I guess it just takes me to a good place for a few hours every week”
Carvelles/Disruptors guitarist, Brian Morgan testifies: “I thought Little Steven & The Disciples of Soul were a bright spot in the midst of the vapid ’80′s pop scene, gutsy themes with music that had more heart than a lot of what was around at the time. The Sun City record was a thrill too, there was this dude from the mega-superstar world, having Stiv and Michael on his song, respect! I don’t dig every thing the guy’s done, no use for the Sopranos (I’m probably a real minority in that!) and I took exception at his comments regarding Bobbie Gillespie and Primal Scream, but he’s done a lot for rock’n'roll. His more recent years as a DJ have been a real boost to those of us who still value pissed-off people with guitars. I hope he goes on forever!”
Mark Lemon, of the Village Green Machine/Jacobites adds, “Little Steven supports The Chesterfield Kings, in my view, America’s best band, so I salute him for that. His radio people asked for a Village Green Machine CD a while back.”
Bebe Buell is about to release a new album with the Bebe Buell Band, called ‘Hard Love.’ She says: “Little Steven is the best kind of rock band, side kick, arm candy- not only does he look cool, he has buckets of talent and charismatic energy. I love the guy-he just oozes COOL! Plus, he gives a lot of bands their first shot on radio. He gives back, and his fans feel that honesty from him.”
Kevin Junior, from Chicago’s Chamber Strings: “Little Steven will always be cool in my book. He has done many things that don’t always get recognized. He has great taste in music and will do anything to help those great underground artists that he knows would not get the true recognition they deserve. The Chesterfield Kings come to mind. I liked his band Little Steven & The Disciples Of Soul back in the early 80′s. I got the chance to see them open for The Who in Cleveland on their last American show (for they’re first Farewell tour!) in 1982. He had Jean Beauvoir on bass-another under the radar musician-and played a fantastic set. His talents go somewhat underappreciated when he plays with Springsteen, I think, and the Little Steven and The Diciples Of Soul record shows just that. Let’s not forget that he put together the Sun City project and recruited Stiv Bators, Michael Monroe, and Joey Ramone for that-three guys who were not welcome to participate in Live Aid, that’s for sure! Hopefully, Steven will be around for a long time, and can continue to do great work. I’ve always dug his gypsy rock ‘n’ roll look, as well…”
Pagan Raygun, of Rock City Angels: “What do you say to a guy who single-handedly rejuvenated a deader than dead format by shifting the role of DJ from juvenile douchebag personality back to cool music aficionado, consistently plays off-the-beaten-path gems from the past while also breaking great new bands, and basically put the balls back into rock n’ roll radio? You say, ‘Thank you Little Steven. Thank you, thank you, thank you!’ ”
Deb O’Nair, from Tina Peel and the Fuzztones: “Steven is a great messenger for the Garage bands of today, yesterday and tomorrow!! His radio show and his enthusiasm for this genre of pure American Rock’n'Roll has helped in bringing our music to more audiences around the world! Thanks Steven!…now…take off those pajama pants and get yourself into some tight black leather!! hahaha! Love ya, Steven…”
Share Ross, of Vixen, Contraband, Bubble, and Dogs D’Amour continues: “Little Steven plays it real, authentic, down n dirty. Doesn’t matter if he’s playing guitar, acting or running his radio show. It’s all slammin’. ”
Jeremy White, of The Blessings, sez, “Little Steven is one of the most underrated guitarists around. But more important is his contribution to the preservation of rock n roll
Marty E. Concussion, drummer extraordinaire, for NYC’s Dirty Pearls, chimes in: “Little Steven is much more than just a talented musician, producer, actor, and all-around cool character. He is also a champion for Rock ‘N’ Roll music, and the underdogs of many eras who have played it, many of which you may never have heard of. While many of his peers sit in their palaces and count their money, Little Steven is often out here, advocating those of us who are still out here busting our asses to make it, as well as unsung heros from the past, who never quite did. I think that’s extremely cool. That, and the fact that, when my band met him, shooting video for Fuzztopia, he was a total class dude, and made sure that we had plenty of beer. Much respect!”
I’m sure Barbara “Babzi Doll” Kane speaks for the whole NY DOLLS family, when she says, “Little Steven is a true Rock patriot! He plays the over and under dogs of the music biz! He speaks the truth in a no-holds-barred manner ! Arthur was looking forward to playing his festival in 2004 on Rikers Island but … He died 20 days after playing the Morrissey Meltdown. We L-U-V Lil’ Steven!”
Tony Visconti, legendary producer to Bolan, Bowie, Alejandro Escovedo, and the Electric Angels, said:
“Loved him in The Sopranos.”
LAST WORD WITH KIM FOWLEY:
We’ll give the last word to the ageless and under-appreciated, legendary, personality-king, master-mind, songwriter, producer, scene-maker, and Hollywood Duke Of Dreams, the always young-at-heart, Kim Fowley: “STEVEN VAN ZANDT IS 21ST CENTURY ROCK AND ROLL RADIO! HIS TASTE IN THE MUSIC THAT WE PLAY IN THE UNDERGROUND GARAGE, STRETCHES FROM THE DAWN OF TIME, TO THE START OF TOMORROW. THE FIRST RADIO ICON I EVER WORKED FOR IN 1959 WAS ALLEN FREED! ALLEN WOULD UNDERSTAND AND APPROVE OF STEVEN’S TASTE IN MUSIC. THAK YOU ALLEN & STEVEN… FOR LETTING ME WORK FOR THE BOTH YOU. SINCERELY, KIM FOWLEY”
R.I.P. CLARENCE CLEMONS, DANNY FEDERICI, GIOVANNI VITANZA, WURZEL, SHANE WILLIAMS…AND JANI LANE.
Reunite the Disciples Of Soul! Now, we need you more than ever!
FREEDOM, NO COMPROMISE…
“Out of the darkness and hand in hand, baby, together, we’ll make our stand”: