Saturday, May 18, 2019
‘It was just perfect’: Southside Johnny on his glory days with Springsteen and Miami Steve in Asbury Park
By Dan DeLuca
May 9, 2019
When New Jersey’s Asbury Park music scene rose up in the 1970s, there were three bright lights on its rock-and-soul triangle.
Bruce Springsteen was the breakout star. Steve Van Zandt was the songwriter-producer and Springsteen sidekick and consigliere who would go on to The Sopranos and Underground Garage satellite radio notoriety. And Southside Johnny Lyon was the blues and R&B vocalist and bandleader who could outsing both of them.
Starting with I Don’t Want to Go Home in 1976, Southside Johnny & the Asbury Jukes released three classic Van Zandt-produced albums that epitomized the Jersey Shore sound. He’s carried on as a hardworking road warrior for decades since, recording with an ever-evolving Jukes lineup, most recently on the 2015 return to form, Soultime!
Lyon is a key figure in Asbury Park: Riot, Redemption, Rock ‘N Roll, director Tom Jones‘ documentary about the rise, fall, and revival of the central Jersey boardwalk town showing in theaters May 22 and 29.
This week, the 70-year-old singer spoke on the phone from his hometown of Ocean Grove, N.J. He’ll be in Philadelphia with the Jukes at SugarHouse Casino on Saturday
The Jukes were house band at the Stone Pony in the 1970s. But there’s a lot in the Asbury Park movie about the Upstage Club, the after-hours venue that opened in 1968. Why was that place important?
That was our college. It was open from 8 till 5 o’clock in the morning. There was no alcohol, so teenagers could get in. It was two floors above a Thom McAn shoe store.
That’s where I met Bruce and Steve. I already knew Garry Tallent and Vini Lopez. … If they needed a singer — and this was in the guitar-hero era, two verses and then 20 minutes of a guitar solo — I became the singer. So I had to learn all these songs. It was a great education for all of us.
How’d you become a singer?
My parents loved music. Real music … Louis Armstrong and the Hot Fives, the Hot Sevens. T-Bone Walker, Big Joe Turner. This was not the kind of music that other people listened to, but I didn’t know that. I thought this is what people do.
They come home from work, have a couple of beers, and put on [Wynonie Harris’] “Don’t Roll Those Bloodshot Eyes at Me.”
Ocean Grove was a very quiet place. Mostly retired people. Sundays there were no cars allowed on the street. I would hear songs like Louis Armstrong “Struttin’ With Some Barbecue” and it felt like there was life somewhere. We were young and we wanted adventure and there was this music that promised that.
I detested school. My mother worked, and would say it was OK to stay home as long as I cleaned the house. So I would vacuum and make the beds and play their records and sing along with them.
Southside Johnny with Little Steven in Amsterdam (SouthsideJohnny.com)
Shore towns can be cultural wastelands. Why was Asbury different?
The Beatles and the Stones and the Animals — those kind of successful garage bands — it gave us the impetus to try it. To dream a dream of making music. And then there were girls that would look at us, for once.
We never made any money. We were all scuffling. You somehow scrounged your way through and if you weren’t starving to death you got to play on Friday and Saturday night.
Was it a legitimately special place and time?
I think we knew it at the time. I’m not a nostalgist. I don’t look back that much, but when I do I think: How lucky can anybody be?
Bruce, we all thought was really going to be something, though we didn’t expect him to get as huge as he got. But he started to have success after his third album, and we all got the chance to put our foot in the door too. And we were tenacious about it. I wasn’t going back to working at the post office.
So it was a confluence of things. The Upstage Club. The fact that young people were starting to make their own music and there was audience for that. And we were lucky to find each other.
With the African American community on the west side of town, there was a strong black music influence on the scene.
That’s right. I remember going over to the Orchid Lounge and listening to B.B. King play his guitar through the cracked window. And Garry wound up playing with Little Melvin & the Invaders. That was an all-black band that had Clarence Clemons, and there’s this little skinny white kid Garry Tallent playing bass.
There was a place called Piner’s Lounge and Steven and I would go there and Bruce would come and we’d watch Garry play. We weren’t old enough to drink, but because we knew Garry we could get in. We’d eat fried chicken and listen to the band.
You had the great good fortune of Bruce and Steve writing songs like “Hearts of Stone” and “The Fever” and “This Time It’s for Real” for you.
They were’t really written for me. “I Don’t Want to Go Home” might have been. That was really a Drifters thing. I lived with Steven and two other guys, and we would listen to each other’s records. It was such a great time. ... We reinforced our belief in ourselves. We swapped musical educations. We honed our crafts. It was just perfect.
How many people have been in the Jukes?
Right now, it’s over 130.
That’s the nature of this kind of long-lived horn band. I had to replace the horn section when they went out with Diana Ross. One of my sax players went with David Bowie. ... I was always of the mind-set of if you get a better offer for more money, take it.
How do you take care of your voice?
I’ve been very lucky. I have a real iron throat. When people ask me for advice, I say, “Get some rest, drink lots of water, don’t party all night, and certainly don’t do cocaine.”
You learned that through experience? Including the cocaine?
Very much so. I wasn’t a big cocaine person, though. I did it once and went on stage and my voice dried out. It’s the stupidest drug. ... I remember a hair band opening for us, and I looked in the dressing room and there was a big mirror with all this cocaine. That’s got to be $1,000 worth of cocaine and you’re only making $500 a night? Economics is not your strong suit.
Who named you Southside?
That’s in dispute. Bruce Springsteen had visited his parents in California. When he came back to N.J., he was broke and needed to put together a band. That was Dr. Zoom & the Sonic Boom. We had a Monopoly game on stage. We had cheerleaders. Baton twirlers. It was crazy. And every musician had to have a nickname. Steve was Miami Steve, and I became Southside Johnny because of my love of Chicago blues.
Not because you were from Ocean Grove, south of Asbury Park?
The great blues mecca of Ocean Grove, New Jersey? No.
May 16, 2019
For decades, the College Board defended the SAT, which it writes and administers, against charges that the test gives an unfair advantage to middle-class white students. No longer. Under relentless pressure from the racial-preferences lobby, the Board has now caved to the anti-meritocratic ideology of “diversity.” The Board will calculate for each SAT-taker an “adversity score” that purports to measure a student’s socioeconomic position, according to the Wall Street Journal. Colleges can use this adversity index to boost the admissions ranking of allegedly disadvantaged students who otherwise would score too poorly to be considered for admission.
Advocates of this change claim that it is not about race. That is a fiction. In fact, the SAT adversity score is simply the latest response on the part of mainstream institutions to the seeming intractability of the racial academic-achievement gap. If that gap did not exist, the entire discourse about “diversity” would evaporate overnight. The average white score on the SAT (1,123 out of a possible 1,600) is 177 points higher than the average black score (946), approximately a standard deviation of difference. This gap has persisted for decades. It is not explained by socioeconomic disparities. The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education reported in 1998 that white students from households with incomes of $10,000 or less score better on the SAT than black students from households with incomes of $80,000 to $100,000. In 2015, students with family incomes of $20,000 or less (a category that includes all racial groups) scored higher on average on the math SAT than the average math score of black students from all income levels. The University of California has calculated that race predicts SAT scores better than class.
Those who rail against “white privilege” as a determinant of academic achievement have a nagging problem: Asians. Asian students outscore white students on the SAT by 100 points; they outscore blacks by 277 points. It is not Asian families’ economic capital that vaults them to the top of the academic totem pole; it is their emphasis on scholarly effort and self-discipline. Every year in New York City, Asian elementary school students vastly outperform every other racial and ethnic group on the admissions test for the city’s competitive public high schools, even though a disproportionate number of them come from poor immigrant families.
Colleges pay lip service to socioeconomic diversity, but that concept is inevitably a surrogate for race. Colleges have repeatedly rejected admissions schemes that purport to substitute socioeconomic preferences for racial preferences, on the ground that those socioeconomic schemes do not yield enough “underrepresented minorities.” Harvard admits richer black students with a lower academic ranking over poorer but more qualified white and Asian applicants; it admits more than two times as many middle-class blacks as “disadvantaged” blacks and confers no admissions preference to disadvantaged blacks compared with their non-disadvantaged racial peers.
The SAT’s critics notwithstanding, no alternative measure of student capacity exists that better predicts student success. “Leadership,” “character,” “persistence”—all these earlier attempts to come up with a more politically palatable proxy for racial preferences are far less valid as a measure of academic capacity than the SAT. The College Board’s “adversity score” will be no different. And it will subject its alleged beneficiaries to the same problem as overt racial preferences—academic mismatch. Students admitted to a selective college with significantly weaker academic credentials than the school norm will, on average, struggle to keep up in their classes. Many will switch out of demanding majors like the STEM fields; a significant portion will drop out of college entirely. Had those artificially preferred students enrolled in a college for which they were academically prepared, like their non-preferred peers, they would have a much higher chance of graduating in their chosen field of study. There is no shame or handicap in graduating from a non-elite college. The proponents of racial preferences, like all “woke” advocates, claim to be against privilege. Yet those anti-privilege warriors adopt a blatantly elitist view of college, holding, in essence, that attending a name-brand college is the only route to life success.
The College Board’s adversity score will give students a boost for coming from a high-crime, high-poverty school and neighborhood, according to the Wall Street Journal. Being raised by a single parent will also be a plus factor. Such a scheme penalizes the bourgeois values that make for individual and community success.
The solution to the academic achievement gap lies in cultural change, not in yet another attack on a meritocratic standard. Black parents need to focus as relentlessly as Asian parents on their children’s school attendance and performance. They need to monitor homework completion and grades. Academic achievement must no longer be stigmatized as “acting white.” And a far greater percentage of black children must be raised by both their mother and their father, to ensure the socialization that prevents classrooms from turning into scenes of chaos and violence.
At present, thanks to racial preferences, many black high school students know that they don’t need to put in as much scholarly effort as non-“students of color” to be admitted to highly competitive colleges. The adversity score will only reinforce that knowledge. That is not a reality conducive to life achievement. The only guaranteed beneficiaries of this new scheme are the campus diversity bureaucrats. They have been given another assurance of academically handicapped students who can be leveraged into grievance, more diversity sinecures, and lowered academic standards.
Heather Mac Donald is the Thomas W. Smith Fellow at the Manhattan Institute, a contributing editor of City Journal, and the author of the bestselling books The Diversity Delusion: How Race and Gender Pandering Corrupt the University and Undermine Our Culture and The War on Cops.
Friday, May 17, 2019
By Joseph J. Ellis
May 11, 2019
THE BRITISH ARE COMING
The War for America, Lexington to Princeton, 1775-1777
By Rick Atkinson
Illustrated. 776 pp. Henry Holt & Company. $40
By Gerard DeGroot
10 May 2019
On a journey from Kew Palace to Portsmouth in June 1773 George III did not stop at Lotheby Manor in Surrey. According to Rick Atkinson, this was because “an ancient English custom required that if a monarch visited Lotheby, the lord of the manor was ‘to present His Majesty with three whores’”.
Thursday, May 16, 2019
Real ‘Mindhunter’ John Douglas recalls most shocking murderer he's met: ‘He put victims in a meat grinder’
May 14, 2019
Jonathan Groff as Holden Ford/John Douglas (Netflix/Getty Images)