Growing Young With Rock and Roll
The Real Paper - May 22, 1974
By Jon Landau
four in the morning and raining. I'm 27 today, feeling old,
listening to my records, and remembering that things were
diferent a decade ago. In 1964, I was a freshman at Brandeis
University, playing guitar and banjo five hours a day, listening
to records most of the rest of the time, jamming with friends
during the late-night hours, working out the harmonies to
Beach Boys' and Beatles' songs.
Real Paper soul writer Russell Gersten was my best friend
and we would run through the 45s everyday: Dionne Warwick's
"Walk On By" and "Anyone Who Had A Heart,"
the Drifters' "Up On the Roof," Jackie Ross' "Selfish
One," the Marvellettes' "Too Many Fish in the Sea,"
and the one that no one ever forgets, Martha Reeves and the
Vandellas' "Heat Wave." Later that year a special
woman named Tamar turned me onto Wilson Pickett's "Midnight
Hour" and Otis Redding's "Respect," and then
came the soul. Meanwhile, I still went to bed to the sounds
of the Byrds' "Mr. Tambourine Man" and later "Younger
than Yesterday," still one of my favorite good-night
albums. I woke up to Having a Rave-Up with the Yardbirds instead
of coffee. And for a change of pace, there was always bluegrass:
The Stanley Brothers, Bill Monroe, and Jimmy Martin.
Through college, I consumed sound as if it were the staff
of life. Others enjoyed drugs, school, travel, adventure.
I just liked music: listening to it, playing it, talking about
it. If some followed the inspiration of acid, or Zen, or dropping
out, I followed the spirit of rock'n'roll.
Individual songs often achieved the status of sacraments.
One September, I was driving through Waltham looking for a
new apartment when the sound on the car radio stunned me.
I pulled over to the side of the road, turned it up, demanded
silence of my friends and two minutes and fifty-six second
later knew that God had spoken to me through the Four Tops'
"Reach Out, I'll Be There," a record that I will
cherish for as long as [I] live.
During those often lonely years, music was my constant companion
and the search for the new record was like a search for a
new friend and new revelation. "Mystic Eyes" open
mine to whole new vistas in white rock and roll and there
were days when I couldn't go to sleep without hearing it a
Whether it was a neurotic and manic approach to music, or
just a religious one, or both, I don't really care. I only
know that, then, as now, I'm grateful to the artists who gave
the experience to me and hope that I can always respond to
The records were, of course, only part of it. In '65 and '66
I played in a band, the Jellyroll, that never made it. At
the time I concluded that I was too much of a perfectionist
to work with the other band members; in the end I realized
I was too much of an autocrat, unable to relate to other people
enough to share music with them.
Realizing that I wasn't destined to play in a band, I gravitated
to rock criticism. Starting with a few wretched pieces in
Broadside and then some amateurish but convincing reviews
in the earliest Crawdaddy, I at least found a substitute outlet
for my desire to express myself about rock: If I couldn't
cope with playing, I may have done better writing about it.
But in those days, I didn't see myself as a critic -- the
writing was just another extension of an all-encompassing
obsession. It carried over to my love for live music, which
I cared for even more than the records. I went to the Club
47 three times a week and then hunted down the rock shows
-- which weren't so easy to find because they weren't all
conveniently located at downtown theatres. I flipped for the
Animals' two-hour show at Rindge Tech; the Rolling Stones,
not just at Boston Garden, where they did the best half hour
rock'n'roll set I had ever seen, but at Lynn Football Stadium,
where they started a riot; Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels
overcoming the worst of performing conditions at Watpole Skating
Rink; and the Beatles at Suffolk Down, plainly audible, beatiful
to look at, and confirmation that we -- and I -- existed as
a special body of people who understood the power and the
flory of rock'n'roll.
I lived those days with a sense of anticipation. I worked
in Briggs & Briggs a few summers and would know when the
next albums were coming. The disappointment when the new Stones
was a day late, the exhilaration when Another Side of Bob
Dylan showed up a week early. The thrill of turning on WBZ
and hearing some strange sound, both beautiful and horrible,
but that demanded to be heard again; it turned out to be "You've
Lost That Loving Feeling," a record that stands just
behind "Reach Out I'll Be There" as means of musical
My temperament being what it is, I often enjoyed hating as
much as loving. That San Francisco shit corrupted the purity
of the rock that I lvoed and I could have led a crusade against
it. The Moby Grape moved me, but those songs about White Rabbits
and hippie love made me laugh when they didn't make me sick.
I found more rock'n'roll in the dubbed-in hysteria on the
Rolling Stones Got Live if You Want It than on most San Francisco
For every moment I remember there are a dozen I've forgotten,
but I feel like they are with me on a night like this, a permanent
part of my consciousness, a feeling lost on my mind but never
on my soul. And then there are those individual experiences
so transcendent that I can remember them as if they happened
yesterday: Sam and Dave at the Soul Together at Madison Square
Garden in 1967: every gesture, every movement, the order of
the songs. I would give anything to hear them sing "When
Something's Wrong with My Baby" just the way they did
it that night.
The obsessions with Otis Redding, Jerry Butler, and B.B. King
came a little bit later; each occupied six months of my time,
while I digested every nuance of every album. Like the Byrds,
I turn to them today and still find, when I least expect it,
something new, something deeply flet, something that speaks
As I left college in 1969 and went into record production
I started exhausting my seemingly insatiable appetite. I felt
no less intensely than before about certain artists; I just
felt that way about fewer of them. I not only became more
discriminating but more indifferent. I found it especially
hard to listen to new faces. I had accumulated enough musical
experience to fall back on when I needed its companionship
but during this period in my life I found I needed music less
and people, whom I spend too much of my life ignoring, much
Today I listen to music with a certain measure of detachment.
I'm a professional and I make my living commenting on it.
There are months when I hate it, going through the routine
just as a shoe salesman goes through his. I follow films with
the passion that music once held for me. But in my own moments
of greatest need, I never give up the search for sounds that
can answer every impulse, consume all emotion, cleanse and
purify -- all things that we have no right to expect from
even the greatest works of art but which we can occasionally
derive from them.
Still, today, if I hear a record I like it is no longer a
signal for me to seek out every other that the artist has
made. I take them as they come, love them, and leave them.
Some have stuck -- a few that come quickly to mind are Neil
Young's After the Goldrush, Stevie Wonder's Innervisions,
Van Morrison's Tupelo Honey, James Taylor's records, Valerie
Simpson's Exposed, Randy Newman's Sail Away, Exile on Main
Street, Ry Cooder's records, and, very specially, the last
three albums of Joni Mitchell -- but many more slip through
the mind, making much fainter impressions than their counterparts
of a decade ago.
tonight there is someone I can write of the way I used to
write, without reservations of any kind. Last Thursday, at
the Harvard Square theatre, I saw my rock'n'roll past flash
before my eyes. And I saw something else: I saw rock
and roll future and its name is Bruce Springsteen.
And on a night when I needed to feel young, he made me feel
like I was hearing music for the very first time.
his two-hour set ended I could only think, can anyone really
be this good; can anyone say this much to me, can rock'n'roll
still speak with this kind of power and glory? And then I
felt the sores on my thighs where I had been pounding my hands
in time for the entire concert and knew that the answer was
Springsteen does it all. He is a rock'n'roll punk, a Latin
street poet, a ballet dancer, an actor, a joker, bar band
leader, hot-shit rhythm guitar player, extraordinary singer,
and a truly great rock'n'roll composer. He leads a band like
he has been doing it forever. I racked my brains but simply
can't think of a white artist who does so many things so superbly.
There is no one I would rather watch on a stage today. He
opened with his fabulous party record "The E Street Shuffle"
-- but he slowed it down so graphically that it seemed a new
song and it worked as well as the old. He took his overpowering
story of a suicide, "For You," and sang it with
just piano accompaniment and a voice that rang out to the
very last row of the Harvard Square theatre. He did three
new songs, all of them street trash rockers, one even with
a "Telstar" guitar introduction and an Eddie Cochran
rhythm pattern. We missed hearing his "Four Winds Blow,"
done to a fare-thee-well at his sensational week-long gig
at Charley's but "Rosalita" never sounded better
and "Kitty's Back," one of the great contemporary
shuffles, rocked me out of my chair, as I personally led the
crowd to its feet and kept them there.
Bruce Springsteen is a wonder to look at. Skinny, dressed
like a reject from Sha Na Na, he parades in front of his all-star
rhythm band like a cross between Chuck Berry, early Bob Dylan,
and Marlon Brando. Every gesture, every syllable adds something
to his ultimate goal -- to liberate our spirit while he liberates
his by baring his soul through his music. Many try, few succeed,
none more than he today.
five o'clock now -- I write columns like this as fast as I
can for fear I'll chicken out -- and I'm listening to "Kitty's
Back." I do feel old but the record and my memory of
the concert has made me feel a little younger. I still feel
the spirit and it still moves me.
bought a new home this week and upstairs in the bedroom is
a sleeping beauty who understands only too well what I try
to do with my records and typewriter. About rock'n'roll, the
Lovin' Spoonful once sang, "I'll tell you about the magic
that will free your soul/But it's like trying to tell a stranger
about rock'n'roll." Last Thursday, I remembered that
the magic still exists and as long as I write about rock,
my mission is to tell a stranger about it - just as long as
I remember that I'm the stranger I'm writing for.
. Jon Landau, conheceu Bruce Springsteen
nos bastidores de uma actuação em Boston, em 1974.
crítico da revista Rolling Stone e do
The Real Paper, que ao escrever este artigo,
ligaria para sempre o seu nome ao do Boss.
. Começou o seu trabalho como manager e co-produtor no
terceiro disco de Springsteen: "Born
to Run" de 1975, deixando definitivamente para
trás a carreira de jornalista.