The best songs: The Ghost of Tom Joad by Bruce Springsteen

The Ghost of Tom Joad is a fantastic and often overlooked song by Bruce Springsteen. It is the title track on his album from 1995. The album, The Ghost of Tom Joad, has a focus on storytelling. It is largely accoustic and the songs are stories of people in difficulties and struggles. The influence of Guthrie and Dylan is clear.

Recorded sometime April–June 1995 at Thrill Hill West (Bruce’s Los Angeles home studio). Springsteen handles guitar and vocals and his 4-man backing band on this recording is Danny Federici (keyboards), Garry Tallent (bass), Marty Rifkin (pedal steel, dobro) and Gary Mallaber (drums). (from Brucebase)

The character Tom Joad is the lead character in John Steinbeck’s classic 1939 novel The Grapes of Wrath, is mentioned in the title and narrative. Near the end of the story, Tom makes his famous “I’ll be there” speech, which is also noted in the lyrics.

The idea is that the ghost of Tom Joad, the spirit of working together as a community, will prevail in times of great injustice and depression. I think it means that our times are mirror images of past times, the ghost of the depression in the late twenties to the early forties.

The song also takes inspiration from The Ballad of Tom Joad by Woody Guthrie and by the John Ford film The Grapes of Wrath.

Another inspiration is this speech by George Bush in 1990:

“Until now, the world we’ve known has been a world divided – a world of barbed wire and concrete block, conflict and cold war. Now, we can see a new world coming into view. A world in which there is the very real prospect of a new world order. In the words of Winston Churchill, a ‘world order’ in which ‘the principles of justice and fair play … protect the weak against the strong …’ “

Springsteen was clearly ironically quoting Bush’s speech when he wrote the line, “Welcome to the new world order” in the first verse.

So it’s a song with several origins and a very political song.
It was originally done as a sombre protest/folk song by Springsteen but has later been done in a radically louder arrangement by Rage Against the Machine.

Men walkin’ ‘long the railroad tracks
Goin’ someplace there’s no goin’ back
Highway patrol choppers comin’ up over the ridge
Hot soup on a campfire under the bridge
Shelter line stretchin’ round the corner
Welcome to the new world order
Families sleepin’ in their cars in the southwest
No home no job no peace no rest

The highway is alive tonight
But nobody’s kiddin’ nobody about where it goes
I’m sittin’ down here in the campfire light
Searchin’ for the ghost of Tom Joad

Bruce Springsteen  has also performed the song in various arrangements, solo in very quiet shows and as a more hard and up-tempo rock song.

Here’s the fabulous album version from 1995:

He pulls prayer book out of his sleeping bag
Preacher lights up a butt and takes a drag
Waitin’ for when the last shall be first and the first shall be last
In a cardboard box ‘neath the underpass
Got a one-way ticket to the promised land
You got a hole in your belly and gun in your hand
Sleeping on a pillow of solid rock
Bathin’ in the city aqueduct

The highway is alive tonight
But where it’s headed everybody knows
I’m sittin’ down here in the campfire light
Waitin’ on the ghost of Tom Joad

The great cover version by Rage Against The Machine:

Continue reading The best songs: The Ghost of Tom Joad by Bruce Springsteen

The 5 best songs Bob Dylan left in the studio – updated..


Bob Dylan left many a jewel in the studio. Some were rerecorded for later albums, others were abandoned for good.

All the songs on this list have been officially released at a later date.. they might not be the best version of the song.. I will point out.. but at least he eventually put a version out.

The List:

  1. Blind Willie McTell
  2. Idiot Wind – New York version
  3. She’s Your Lover Now
  4. Red River Shore
  5. Caribbean Wind

Details:

Continue reading The 5 best songs Bob Dylan left in the studio – updated..

Today: Charles Mingus was born in 1922

Charles Mingus Jr. (April 22, 1922 – January 5, 1979) was an American jazz musician, composer, bandleader, and civil rights activist.

Mingus’s compositions retained the hot and soulful feel of hard bop and drew heavily from black gospel music while sometimes drawing on elements of Third stream, free jazz, and classical music. Yet Mingus avoided categorization, forging his own brand of music that fused tradition with unique and unexplored realms of jazz.

Mingus focused on collective improvisation, similar to the old New Orleans jazz parades, paying particular attention to how each band member interacted with the group as a whole. In creating his bands, Mingus looked not only at the skills of the available musicians, but also their personalities. Many musicians passed through his bands and later went on to impressive careers. He recruited talented and sometimes little-known artists whom he assembled into unconventional and revealing configurations. As a performer, Mingus was a pioneer in double bass technique, widely recognized as one of the instrument’s most proficient players. (wikipedia)

Goodbye Pork Pie Hat, Montreux 1975:

other 22 April.
Continue reading Today: Charles Mingus was born in 1922

The 20 best songs from Bruce Springsteen’s CD boxset “Tracks” according to JV – part 2

 

What’s really the most amazing thing about this vast collection is that there really isn’t a bad song on it – Bruce Springsteen’s outtakes and leftovers are better than most artists’ released album tracks.

 

When we first started this task of finding the 20 best tracks off Tracks I was sure it would be an enjoyable but easy endevour. Not so.

 

They’re all so goddam good!

 

It took a lot longer than expected, and it was much more fun!

 

 

…and here are the rest from 10 to 1:

 

10. Janey don’t you lose heart:

You got your book baby with all your fears
Let me, honey, and I’ll catch your tears
I’ll take your sorrow if you want me to
Come tomorrow that’s what I’ll do
Listen to me
Recorded June 16 in 1983. Great track from the Born in the USA sessions. Steve Van Zandt on guitar and background vocals. When the song was being readied for release as the B-side to “I’m Goin’ Down” in 1985,  Nils Lofgren went into a studio and replaced Van Zandt’s vocal track.

 

Like “My Love Will Not Let You Down,” this was also on side two of Landau’s suggested track listing for Born in the U.S.A.  “Janey” has been played in concert ten times (5 times on the Rising tour). Clarence Clemons’ name is not on the credits on the box set but obviously he participates, and he magnificently plays on the song.

Live in Los Angeles 1985:

Here’s a great version from the Devils and Dust tour (2005) solo/piano:

Continue reading The 20 best songs from Bruce Springsteen’s CD boxset “Tracks” according to JV – part 2

The 20 best songs from Bruce Springsteen’s CD boxset “Tracks” according to JV – part1

Bruce told Rolling Stone Magazine this four years before the set was released:

“We record a lot of material, but we just don’t release it all… I always tell myself that some day I’m gonna put an album out with all this stuff on it that didn’t fit in. I think there’s some good material there that should come out. Maybe at some point, I’ll do that.”

Bruce Springsteen to Mojo Magazine:

“So it began just with that idea and we listened to about 250 songs, maybe more, I made quick notes in a notebook and put it away. A year went by, more maybe, and I came off the Tom Joad tour and I began to write acoustically again and I wrote about half a record. Then I got stuck and said, ‘Well, I’m going to put this aside for a while.’ Then I wrote half of an electric record, and hit the same place. So I thought, instead of waiting for another year to put something out I’ll put some of this music together. So once again I went back to the archives.”

He told Billboard that the songs were chosen from 2-300 songs. A legal battle concerning the rights to Greetings from Ashbury Park NJ sessions, made these tunes unavailable for release.

The Tracks Box set was inteded as a 6 cd release, but it was cut down to 4 cds before the official release. This means that there’s still a ton of unreleased songs in “The Springsteen Vault”. The rumours of a second Tracks box set is strong on the web.

Continue reading The 20 best songs from Bruce Springsteen’s CD boxset “Tracks” according to JV – part1

Focusing on Bob Dylan & related music