On December 1, 2017, UK Label Nub Music (via ADA/Warner Music) released the new DownTown Mystic EP, On E Street featuring Max Weinberg and Garry Tallent for the Holiday season in the UK & Europe. As you probably know, Max and Garry form the Rock’n’Roll Hall of Fame rhythm section for Bruce Springsteen’s legendary E Street Band. Personally, I think the rhythm guitar player should also be included as part of the rhythm section since the bass & drums won’t know what they’re playing to. 🙂
The On E Street EP contains 4 rare recordings with Max on drums and Garry on bass. Rare, because they’re playing with someone other than Bruce. There are only a few times this has happened, despite all of the studio work both men have done separately. As far as I know, other than Bruce, the only artists that Max & Garry have played together in the studio with are Ian Hunter, Gary U.S. Bonds, Ronnie Spector and me—DownTown Mystic. I know, that can’t be right, right?
I went to Columbia High School in Maplewood, NJ, the same as Max, who’s a year older. We had mutual friends and even then he was known as “the drummer”, walking the halls with his drumsticks in his hands. He played in the HS Orchestra and also the best rock band in the school. It was not surprising to me and others that he was playing in an orchestra pit on Broadway after graduation, or when we heard that he had become Springsteen‘s new drummer after auditioning for him.
I met Garry after giving his girlfriend a 45 my band had recorded and that I was handing out at a very “in” club in NYC that we were playing. She gave it to Garry and he dug it and came out to hear us play. He ended up playing bass with us in the studio for a production deal that we got from playing that same club and even did a live gig with us in Asbury Park, NJ. The band eventually broke up and I stayed in touch with him. I contacted Garry and asked him if he wanted to work together to record some songs of mine. He brought in Max to play drums. What are the odds, right?
The 1st track on the EP, Way to Know, was recently released in the UK as a single for the Rage Against The Brexit Machine project by Nub Music. It’s not the version that I played for Garry. The original demo that I recorded for the song was a bit more mid-tempo and much sparser in the arrangement. It also featured a piano. Garry was the one who changed the tempo and the arrangement, so I have to blame him for this recorded version. lol As I’ve stated previously, the funniest thing I remember about cutting the track was hearing Garry tell Max to “play like Charlie Watts”. 🙂
The 2nd track, And You Know Why, features a very economical bass line from Garry and one of the most restrained drum tracks from Max that I think he’s ever played. And You Know Why has a great deal of meaning to me personally. It’s a song that came to me at a time when I was burnt out on writing and playing music. I was seriously thinking about giving up music altogether and this little tune would not let me quit. Then to have the good fortune of getting to record it with the E Street rhythm section is really quite a blessing.
The 3rd track, retro rocker Hard Enough, is an up-tempo number that owes a great deal to the great New Wave band Rockpile, which featured guitarist Dave Edmunds and bassist Nick Lowe. The funny thing about this song is that I was not that thrilled to record it. I had given Garry 2 songs to listen to and decide which one he wanted to record. He picked Hard Enough, which was not the song I favored. Garry said he liked the George Harrison-type riff that I played but I think he picked it for more obvious reasons. When I hear his bass line it reminds me of his bass on Springsteen’s Ramrod from The River album, which is one of my fave songs by Bruce. So what’s not to like, right? 🙂
The last track Sometimes Wrong (Demo) was an idea that I had to rock up the song from the way I originally wrote it. Garry and Max gave it their best shot but I don’t think it really quite meshed the way I had envisioned it. I finally decided to go back to the original version when I recorded the track with Steve Holley and Paul Page (the rhythm section for Ian Hunter’s Rant Band). It leads off DownTown Nashville and I think it’s much better as I wrote it. I did keep most of the guitar parts from this demo version and the guitar solo I play on the end of the song is one of the best off the cuff solos I’ve ever put down on tape. It was a one-shot live take that I was able to pull off. I just wish I could mute the incessant vocal track singing “sometimes wrong” on the fade out! 🙂
I’ve been asked many times what it was like to play with Max & Garry and I always say it was one of the easiest sessions I ever played on. They play so intuitively together. Just a look at each other and they instinctively know what they’re going to play or where to go next. All I had to do was play my guitar. It gave me an appreciation for what Bruce has with these two anchoring his E Street Band. The other thing I get asked is why there are no photos from the studio. There are a couple of reasons. #1, the E Street Band has very strict rules as its own entity. They don’t do endorsements as a band and photos are a bit of a gray area. So #2, I didn’t want to seem like a “fanboy” taking pics and possibly creating a bad vibe in the studio. I think it’s always better to err on the side of caution in these types of situations.
One of the coolest things for me personally from On E Street is that I realized one of my deepest musical ambitions. After my band broke up so many years ago, I made a goal for myself to play with the very best musicians possible, and with On E Street that became a reality. My sincerest gratitude to Garry and Max for truly making that dream come true. 🙂