Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band. They went together like Jersey and shore. Like chrome-wheeled and fuel-injected. Like 7 and 11. But not, alas, anymore, as Springsteen made other plans for his scheduled May 9 appearance on Saturday Night Live. Wife and backup singer Patti Scialfa and pianist Roy Bittan are still very much in the Boss’ camp, but the other musicians who made E Street and 10th Avenue in Belmar, N.J., famous were given leave in 1989 to explore other avenues. Here’s what they’re up to:
”I just wanted to be my own boss, so I’m doing that,” says Clarence Clemons, the 6’4” sax player known to fans as ”the Big Man.” Clemons, now 50, has been touring in Europe with German rock & roller Peter Maffay and pursuing an acting career in the States (he filmed two pilots for ABC and will act in one for Fox with Howie Mandel). Though he says he’s too busy to miss the band, Clemons admits that he’s not sure what happened between Springsteen and him.”I felt estranged for some reason, for the fact that things changed.”
Keyboard player Danny Federici, who was 18 when he invited Springsteen to start up a band at the Upstage Club in Asbury Park, has a new group, the Downtown Tangiers Band. They’re writing tunes and shopping for a record label. Federici, 42, who is also composing music for TV and film, says he sees Springsteen when he’s in L.A. ”We’re probably better friends now, because we can be. He’s not my boss anymore.”
Federici had initially wanted E Street bassist Garry Tallent, 42, in his band, but Tallent’s 1989 move to Old Hickory, Tenn., made that unfeasible. Tallent, who’d played with Springsteen since 1971, says he’s happy about ”having new areas to conquer with writing and producing” but admits he ”misses the fellas.” He’s producing independent albums from his Moondog Music studio in Nashville and continues playing bass, doing sessions with Emmylou Harris and Sweethearts of the Rodeo.
Drummer ”Mighty” Max Weinberg, 41, heads the New Jersey record label Hard Ticket Entertainment, and he produced and drummed on its first title, 1991’s Scene of the Crime, by New York group Killer Joe. The album includes two songs written by Springsteen, ”Club Soul City” and ”Summer on Signal Hill.” Weinberg answered Springsteen’s 1974 ad in The Village Voice, taking a huge pay cut from working in the pit band of Godspell to drum with him. ”We did what we set out to do, and I lived my fantasy. I played with the greatest rock & roll band I could find.”
Nils Lofgren, 40, who joined for the 1984 Born in the U.S.A. tour, produced a 1991 solo album, Silver Lining, which sold 200,000 copies and included a vocal appearance by Springsteen. He has just recorded a second album (due this summer) with his new rock band and now has plans to tour with Ringo Starr.
Will the E Streeters ever play with Springsteen again? Hard to tell, especially since they’ve never been told officially that they were disbanded. ”I was always told the band wasn’t broken up,” says Clemons, ”but who knows?” Well, apparently only the Boss.