E Street should lead directly to the Rock Hall of Fame

Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band

The E Street Band – the greatest rock & roll band ever assembled?

(No. 33 in a continuing series on artists who should be in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, but are not)

By Phill Marder

The records, for the most part, read Bruce Springsteen.

But most concert banners screamed “Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band.” And most record buyers understood the record cover may say “Bruce Springsteen,” but the music said “Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band.”

Springsteen was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1999, his first year of eligibility. He has been one of the Hall’s most active supporters, before and since his induction, becoming a fixture at the yearly banquets. A true Rock historian, he has played a major role in calling attention to some early Rock & Roll stars who otherwise may have slipped through the cracks – Darlene Love, for example. I call Springsteen a “true” Rock historian because he has studied the music’s foundations not from a critic’s viewpoint, but from the viewpoint of one who truly loves the music and understands the talent necessary to produce it.

All things considered, it is now time for Springsteen to help get his band mates inducted. For while Springsteen is recognized as one of Rock’s greatest songwriters, often a great singer and almost always a great live performer, it also should be remembered that he has assembled and maintained perhaps the greatest band in the history of Rock & Roll.

“The Boss” probably would have achieved superstar status without his employees. But his recordings may have lacked some elements of brilliance and it’s hard to imagine his stage marathons being the ultimate live experience without his colleagues.

For me, it started with “The Wild, The Innocent & The E Street Shuffle.” I bought “Greetings From Asbury Park, NJ,” but, honestly, I was very disappointed, my reaction being “this is what all the hype is about?” But the second album…that was the one. And Goldmine nailed it in the recent 5-star album issue, naming this masterpiece as Springsteen’s true (but unsung) classic.

But what made it so?

First and foremost, the songwriting. There are just seven songs, but each one is a beauty. However, listening then and now, I find myself drawn in by the keyboard touches of David Sancious and Danny Federici and the bass playing of Gary Tallent, not to mention his tuba work on “Wild Bill’s Circus Story.” And while the album is credited only to Bruce Springsteen, the back cover clearly pictures and names six individuals, Clarence “Nick” Clemons, Springsteen, David L. Sancious, Vini “Mad Dog” Lopez, the late Danny Federici, who passed away in 2008, and Gary W. Tallent. The inside jacket not only lists each member equally with Springsteen, but lists the instruments played by each. And it is clearly noted, each contributes vocals as well.

Springsteen was the leader and the star, but this, apparently, was a true team effort.

“Born To Run,“ the next album and the work that lifted Springsteen into Rock’s superstar stratosphere, was another on which the talents of the E Street Band, now taking the form we’re most familiar with, made brilliant songs into brilliant mini-symphonies. The opening “Thunder Road” would not have been the same without the contributions of new keyboardist Roy Bittan, and wouldn’t have had nearly the impact it does without the single-stroke roll of new drummer Max Weinberg leading right into the haunting sax refrain of Clemons.

Bittan’s keyboards again shine on “Backstreets” and “Jungleland,” the latter being enhanced by a super string arrangement by the Four Seasons’ Charles Calello. Of course, Clemons’ sax once again raises the song to another level midstream before Bittan’s keyboards bring it, and the album, to its grand conclusion.

Bruce Springsteen

While the E Street Band has not participated on some of Springsteen’s albums, and the group was even disbanded by Springsteen at times, “The Boss” and the band are joined at the musical hip, a fact readily acknowledged in Springsteen’s legendary live appearances for which E Street members reportedly are paid equal shares with “The Boss.”

Even more so than in the studio, it is hard to imagine Springsteen having the impact he has live without his cohorts, lovingly referred to by Bruce, who gives each a stirring introduction during their on-stage marathons. The keyboardists Bittan and Federici, whose touches remain the heart of the group, became “The Professor” and “The Phantom.” “Little Steven“ or “Miami Steve“ Van Zandt and Lofgren provide the E Street Band with two guitar virtuosos in addition to Springsteen, who isn‘t exactly chopped liver on lead. And, of course, Bruce’s wife, Patti Scialfa, adds rhythm guitar and harmony vocals in addition to contributing some excellent solo albums to the family‘s portfolio.

“Mighty” Max Weinberg certainly lives up to his nickname. For three hours a night, he sits on the drum platform providing power only the greatest talent and stamina could produce. If he’s made a mistake, I haven’t heard it. And the anchor he provides is complimented to the fullest by bassist Gary “W.” Tallent.

Then, of course, there is “The Big Man” Clemons, probably the best known and most talented sax player in Rock & Roll since King Curtis. If Bruce refers to him as “The Master of the Universe,” it’s no exaggeration – at least as far as the Rock & Roll Universe is concerned.

Springsteen knows what he‘s had working with him for most of the past 40 years. Each member has had a pretty good career without Bruce, but together they make the E Street Band a true band and one without equal. Springsteen gave it the leadership and the material, molding the individual superstar talents into a Rock & Roll juggernaut. And what they gave back made the difference between great music and music for the ages.

One year soon, Springsteen should take the podium at the Hall of Fame inductions and bellow, “in conclusion, it is my great honor and privilege to welcome into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame these marvelous musicians who have had my back from the beginning of my career. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the heart-stopping, pants-dropping, house-rocking, earth-shaking, booty-quaking, Viagra-taking, love-making

… legendary









20 thoughts on “E Street should lead directly to the Rock Hall of Fame

  1. I agree whole heartedly. I cannot imagine Bruce sounding the same without The Big Man, Little Stevie & the rest of the E Street Band. This seems like a no-brainer.

    PS Number 34 in this series should be BIG STAR 🙂

  2. Neville,
    They haven’t been inducted yet because they haven’t been eligible.
    Even though they played on all of Bruce’s albums in the 70’s they were not officially listed as the artists until the live album came out in 1986. The other albums are all under the name “Bruce Springsteen”.
    A minor technicality – so I’m sure they’ll get in now that they are finally eligible.

  3. Rhino –

    Very good point. However, getting “very” technical, I’m not sure of its validity. The HOF criteria – and I use the term loosely – states “the artist must have released a record, in the generally accepted sense of that phrase, at least 25 years prior to the year of induction; and have demonstrated unquestionable musical excellence.”

    I’m sure the last part applies. I’m not quite sure of the definition of “generally accepted sense of that phrase.” To me, that would apply to Bruce’s second album when the band clearly was known publicly as the E Street Band and each member was listed and pictured on the cover. I would consider that releasing a record in the generally accepted sense of the phrase. Plus, under the names of who played what, which includes Bruce’s name listed last, there are some “cameo appearances” listed which, to me, indicates the six members previously listed were responsible for the album as a whole.

    In addition, the “No Nukes” album, released around 1980, I believe, lists Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band right on the album’s front cover, so certainly that would qualify as releasing a record (the criteria doesn’t specify 45, album, album cut etc.). And if that doesn’t do it, the “Born In The USA” album, released in 1984, denotes the tracks were “performed by the E Street Band.”

    But the point you make may well be the reason the band hasn’t been inducted yet. If it is, the induction should occur this year. Hopefully, it will be.

  4. I’m so glad to be hearing that someone else is finally lighting the torch for The E Street Band. I’ve been a fan of Bruce’s for 40 years, and, I suppose a fan of The E Street Band nearly as long. They are one and the same. Bruce is not Bruce without the Band, and the band is not the band without Bruce. They are, and have always been, a family. I remember distinctly when it was announced that Bruce was being inducted into The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame I just assumed that The E Street Band was going in with him. Then when I heard otherwise, I flipped out. I couldn’t believe it, and I honestly don’t think that Bruce could either. I have read that Bruce always felt funny about it. To me it is the biggest injustice in the history of the Hall of Fame.

  5. It will be FANTASTIC news to hear they are inducted. It just has to happen. I LOVE the E Street Band. Best band ever.

  6. Just to clarify a point. It was Ernest “Boom” Carter and David Sancious playing drums and piano on the title track of the Born to Run album.

    Also, the E Street Band has played together and been credited on other artists’ recordings without Bruce over the years…Darlene Love’s “All Alone On Christmas”…and with Bruce…Ronnie Spector’s recording of the Billy Joel tune “Say Goodbye To Hollywood.”

    I’m guessing that one of the issues with recognizing the E Street Band in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame may be the legalities of defining who the E Street Band members are. Only the core members of the band who were with Bruce in the early years are officially listed as members. Some of this is probably related to royalties due to members who actually helped to create Bruce’s songs on the original recordings. For instance, Patti Scialfa, Suzi Tyrell, and Charlie Giordano are featured with the band today, but not formal members.

    While we’re at it, why hasn’t Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes been considered for the R&R Hall of Fame. They’ve been around almost as long as Bruce and the E Streeters, and their third album (made up largely of songs written by Bruce and Steve Van Zandt) was listed on Rolling Stone’s top 100 rock and roll albums of all time. That band also is legendary on stage, and it has survived in the tough music industry for almost 35 years recording both original songs and classics by other Hall of Fame members. By the time Bruce had hit it big he was no longer playing full shows in Asbury Park. Southside and the Jukes carried the torch as the Stone Pony house band and drew critical attention to the Asbury music scene which eventually led to the emergence of other artists (i.e. Bon Jovi). Southside was even part of the short-lived Dr. Zoom and the Sonic Boom band fronted by Bruce early in his career. He, and his band, should be considered for Hall of Fame honors.

  7. I am not sure how the eligibility works for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, but the first time that the Band was offically credited as the E Street Band was in the liner notes of The River. At least, that is the first time that I have been able to identify.

  8. Actually, Don is incorrect. Patty Scialfa is listed as a formal member of the E Street Band as of 1988’s Tunnel of Love. Suzi Tyrell and Charlie Giordano are not formal members

  9. Could not agree more. And the unassailable proof comes up again and again in all the albums and tours, and is captured in the limited edition book, The Light in Darkness…

  10. To quote a wise Bulls coach. ” The wolf is nothing without the pack and the pack is nothing without the wolf”.

    JUST GET THEM IN ASAP!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  11. Andy –

    Maybe because Linda Ronstadt did some of his songs. (I hope you all know that was said tongue in cheek)



  13. Regarding the neglect of the mighty E Street Band, wasn’t that because when Bruce was inducted in the early 90’s he had disbanded the E Street band at the time? Thankfully he came back to his senses when they released Tracks in 1998

  14. If my memory serves me (and its been 12 years since Bruce was inducted) Bruce tried like hell to get the E Street Bank inducted with him. The Rock Hall induction committee said “no” because they had not been listed on one of his album covers until 1986. When the committee told Bruce that he promised that he would make sure that they were inducted when their time came. 2011 is the year. Hopefully his 60 plus year old memory holds true and it happens real soon.

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