The 1978 masterpiece of Southside Johnny

By Ray Chelstowski

Southside_Johnny_1978_Album_Hearts_of_StoneSouthside Johnny And The Asbury Jukes
“Hearts Of Stone”
Epic ‎– JE 35488
1978

Southside Johnny is perhaps no better defined than by his 1978 masterpiece, “Hearts of Stone.” His third studio record, it was Johnny’s stab at proving he had the chops to be as serious a performer as his good buddy Bruce. With HOS, Springsteen and Steve Van Zandt continued to operate as Johnny’s personal Brill Building, providing him with the material found on all 9 tracks. Clocking in at under 35 minutes, it’s a short but powerful musical statement.

With HOS, Southside discarded all of the comedy that laced his first two records, and replaced numerous quirky guest appearances with but just one outside force – the sturdy drumming of mighty Max Weinberg. While often seen as a casual piece of album trivia, Max (on loan from E Street) anchored what remains the band’s most serious piece of work. Often compared to “Exile On Main Street,” HOS is firmly footed in rock n roll. The horns help accelerate the music as opposed to making it sparkle or operate like a Tower of Power trump card. With Van Zandt again holding down production duties, the record puts the focus squarely on the powerful vocals delivered by the band’s front man. He has never been in better voice than he was here with this record.

Songs like “I Played The Fool” and “This Time Baby’s Gone For Good” showcase Van Zandt’s exceptional writing skills and provide a glimpse into how his own solo career would soon evolve. They are appropriately dark in theme, laddering to Bruce’s title track in a manner that is gritty and real. What makes the album work so well is the utter honesty revealed in the writing, the performances, and the production. Nothing here sounds contrived or forced – it all works.

The record remains a critics darling, but it never delivered on its commercial promise. Touring was derailed when Southside hurt his hand and the added exposure that the album needed to propel the band forward was never to be. They were dropped by their label and watched both Bruce and Steve move on to E Street duties and to reigniting the quieted career of Gary U.S. Bonds.

Southside would not deliver as cohesive and powerful a record until 1991’s “Better Days” when he reunited with Steve and expanded the pure rock sound fans found here first. Hearts stands tall even today, almost 40 years later, and the material continues to anchor most of South’s live shows – performances that often sound as fresh as the studio originals that inspire the bands entire act.


Highlighted below is the value of the aforementioned album in Near Mint (NM) condition, according to Goldmine’s Record Album Price Guide, 8th Edition. Note: As a standard rule, a vinyl record in VG+ condition is 50% of NM value and VG record is 25% NM value.

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