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Archive for the ‘Clarence Clemons’ Category

Christmas’ Other Big Man: Unreleased Clarence Clemons Holiday Recordings Discovered

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What would Christmas be without the sound of Clarence Clemons’ saxophone ringing out through C.W. Post on Long Island as Bruce Springsteen and The E Street Band ran through a spirited rendition of “Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town” on December 12, 1975. The Big Man’s saxophone solo is a high point of the searing live take – released first on the Sesame Street compilation In Harmony 2 in 1982 and again on the flipside of the “My Hometown” single in 1985 – and his jovial “ho ho ho”s are enough to get The Boss laughing mid-song – one of the warmest onstage moments officially released by Springsteen, for sure.

Now, at the close of a year when we’ve had to do the unthinkable and bid farewell to Clemons, Oceangate Records has unearthed two vintage recordings from the saxophonist and have made them available on CD or for download. Recorded in 1981, the two tracks are a cover of “The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire)” and “There’s Still Christmas,” written by Stevie Betts and Dennis Bourke, the latter of whom co-produced these tracks and worked with The Clarence Clemons Trust in releasing these recordings.

Due credit to VVN Music for picking up this story. Get the tracks, digitally or physically, through Amazon right here.

Written by Mike Duquette

December 8, 2011 at 15:34

We Remember Clarence

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Clarence Clemons wasn’t born in New Jersey, but he might as well have been.  Those of us who hail from the Garden State are used to the “What exit?” jokes, but truth to tell, we can identify those exits by the great musicians who lived in those towns off the Garden State Parkway or New Jersey Turnpike.  One such towering talent was our favorite adopted son Clarence, who had an early job counseling troubled children in Newark (Parkway Exit 145), participated in one of his first recording sessions in Plainfield (Turnpike Exit 10), and met a certain Bruce Springsteen in Asbury Park (Parkway Exit 103) in 1971, joining the formative E Street Band roughly one year later.  As they say, the rest is history.  But it’s nonetheless hard to speak about Clemons, who died Saturday at the age of 69, in the past tense.  He was known as the “Big Man,” and even led his own outfit, The Red Bank Rockers (Parkway Exit 109).  But “big” might have been an understatement for this towering talent.

Though we’re both Jersey boys, Mike and I have had very different experiences over the years with the music of Clarence Clemons and his brothers and sisters in The E Street Band.  Today, we’d like to share those with you. 

Mike Duquette kicks things off…

I’ve often joked about the irony of starting a blog about catalogue music at my age – I’m writing about artists and albums I was largely not alive to enjoy. So it may make you feel old when I note that I first discovered Clarence Clemons outside of the E Street Band, which had been put on ice not long after I was born. I first saw and heard the Big Man blowing his horn for Darlene Love on “All Alone on Christmas,” her single cut with most of Bruce’s band for the soundtrack to Home Alone 2: Lost in New York (1992). Even then, though, I thought the towering guy who balanced Macaulay Culkin on his shoulders while playing tenor sax was pretty cool.

Fast forward to this year, and the news that Clarence was lending his talents to Lady Gaga’s new album. As one of the few modern day pop stars that can excite me musically, the idea of Gaga joining forces with one of the best sidemen in the game was exciting – and a reminder that Clarence was as cool and talented as he was when Bruce Springsteen was a young buck. In between there was a growing appreciation for the Boss and his crew, that started with the incredibly-ridiculous-on-paper decision to buy Born in the U.S.A. simply because it was a record lauded by critics and flourished with the realization that Springsteen really knows how to assemble a catalogue title. (There was also the recent rediscovery of “You’re a Friend of Mine,” Clemons’ hit duet with Jackson Browne, which is one of those songs I’d heard on FM radio as a kid and committed to memory without realizing who performed the track – until I dug it back up for a Reissue Theory post.)

Even if all you knew about Bruce Springsteen and The E Street Band was based on audio waves alone, there’s no mistaking their collective talents or the importance of Clemons to that group. Few others elevated the saxophone to the kind of heights that Clarence did; without him, the instrument would have been a relic of traditional rock or a staple of only R&B/soul music. And the Big Man possessed the kind of personality that we all wish sidemen could have. Can anyone name Britney Spears’ backing band members? Adam Lambert’s? And yet, The E Street Band weren’t relics, but relevant components of a bandleader that is still going strong after nearly four decades on the scene.

After the jump, Mike poses a difficult question, and Joe offers his tribute! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

June 20, 2011 at 15:01

Reissue Theory: Two for the Big Man

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Welcome to another installment of Reissue Theory, where we focus on notable albums and the reissues they could someday see. As we wish a speedy recovery to one of rock’s most beloved sidemen, we present a special look at a rare moment in the spotlight for the Big Man, Clarence Clemons.

To many, the saxophone is just one of those embellishments that can can spice up a pop song or dull its taste. It’s hard to deny, however, the tastiness of a tune garnished with the saxophone work of Clarence Clemons. The Norfolk, VA native has long earned his place in history as the saxophonist for Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band, not to mention session work for living legends like Aretha Franklin, Darlene Love, Janis Ian and The Four Tops. (Clemons recently crossed over into the consciousness of a new generation by contributing to several tracks on Lady Gaga’s Born This Way.)

Hearts froze all over the world, then, when it was announced earlier this week that the Big Man had suffered a stroke. Reports place the musician in serious but stable condition, with fans openly invited to send well-wishes his way. Allow us, then, to take a special look back at Clemons’ work outside of the E Street Band – namely, the first two solo albums he recorded for CBS Records in the early 1980s.

For rock and roll enthusiasts, it isn’t hard to think of Clarence Clemons and say, “you’re a friend of mine.” He’s yours to read about after the jump. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Mike Duquette

June 15, 2011 at 18:13