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Is There Really an E Street?

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Editor's Note: Matt Soniak is going to see The Boss in Philadelphia tonight. (And probably tomorrow, too.) Here's a look back at the Springsteen FAQ that Matt put together last May.

I love Bruce Springsteen and the E Street band in much the same way that a dog loves its master: unconditionally and with the kind of enthusiasm that makes gratuitous slobbering forgivable. The Boss is the patron saint of the Soniak family, one of the few things I have in common with my father that's not a genetic oddity (ask me about my crooked fingers sometime). Here's some Springsteen fanboy nerdery crammed into an FAQ for you.

1. When Bruce says that "they blew up the Chicken Man in Philly last night" in the song "Atlantic City," what the hell is he talking about?

The Chicken Man was Phil Testa, the underboss of the Philadelphia crime family under Angelo Bruno. Bruno was killed in 1980, and Testa, who got his nickname from his involvement in a poultry business, succeeded him as don of the family. His nine-month reign ended when conspirators in the family placed a nail bomb under his porch and detonated it when he walked out the front door.

2. Is There Really an E Street? Where?

E Street runs north east through the New Jersey shore town of Belmar. According to Springsteen lore, the band took its name from the street because original keyboard player David Sancious' mother lived there and allowed the band to rehearse in her house. The titular avenue of "Tenth Avenue Freeze Out" is also in Belmar.

3. "Tenth Avenue Freeze Out"? I'm glad you brought that up. What's that song about?

"Tenth Avenue" tells the story of how the band was formed. The "Bad Scooter" that's searching for his groove is a young Springsteen in search of a new backing band. The "Big Man" in the third verse is saxophonist Clarence Clemons. Springsteen met him while playing in a club in Asbury Park. It was a stormy night with strong winds and when Clemons opened the door to the club, it flew off its hinges. Clemons has become a larger than life figure in the band, their personal Paul Bunyan, and Springsteen likes to use the story as proof that Clemons can blow the doors off any room he's in. The horn intro was proposed and arranged by guitarist Steven Van Zandt, and at several concerts it's been performed by the Miami Horns, a horn section that includes La Bamba and Pender from Late Night with Conan O'Brien.

4. It seems like the E Street Band has been around forever, but what did these guys do before the band formed, and during the decade between the break up and the reunion?

In the late 60s and early 70s, the Jersey Shore had a lively music scene, especially in Asbury Park, and almost all the E Street musicians got their start in various shore bands like Little Melvin & The Invaders, The Downtown Tangiers Band, The Jaywalkers, Steel Mill and Dr. Zoom & The Sonic Booms. Springsteen himself cut his teeth in The Castiles, Steel Mill and even played with Chuck Berry, who toured without a band in the early 70s to save money. He would pick up local musicians at each tour stop to do a show or two, and Springsteen performed with him when he came to New Jersey.

During lulls in E Street activity, and during the ten years between the band's dissolution and 1999 reunion, all the musicians kept themselves busy. Drummer max-7.jpgMax Weinberg, of course, leads the Max Weinberg Seven, the house band on Late Night with Conan O'Brien. He was also a session drummer on Meat Loaf's Bat out of Hell (E Street pianist Roy Bittan also played on the album) and played on "Bat Out of Hell," "You Took the Words Right Out of My Mouth" and "Paradise by the Dashboard Light," which gives him the honor of keeping the beat on two of the best selling rock albums of all time. He's also performed at the 1993 and 1997 Presidential Inauguration Galas, the 1995 Grammy Awards, the dedication of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and on albums by Sting, Paul McCartney, Peter Gabriel, Ringo Starr and Barbra Streisand.

Steven Van Zandt took the role of Silvio Dante on The Sopranos, released some solo albums, hosts the syndicated garage rock radio show Little Steven's Underground Garage and, in 2006, assembled and directed an all-star band to back Hank Williams, Jr. on recording of "All My Rowdy Friends Are Coming Over Tonight" for the season premiere of Monday Night Football that included Little Richard, Cheap Trick's Rick Nielsen, Aerosmith's Joe Perry, The Roots' ?uestlove and Bootsy Collins. Van Zandt was also the director of the music selection committee that picked the songs for the video game Rock Band.

Clarence Clemons also made a brief foray into acting and appeared as one of the "Three Most Important People In The World" in Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure, and made a guest appearance on Diff'rent Strokes as a saxophonist who helps Arnold Jackson learn to play. He most recently appeared twice on The Wire as a Baltimore youth-program organizer. During the 80s, he also owned a Big Man's West, a nightclub in Red Bank, New Jersey.

Anyone else going to be at the show tonight? Here's a piece from The Morning Call about Springsteen's history with Philadelphia.

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Food
Let Alexa Help You Brine a Turkey This Thanksgiving
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There’s a reason most of us only cook turkey once a year: The bird is notoriously easy to overcook. You could rely on gravy and cranberry sauce to salvage your dried-out turkey this Thanksgiving, or you could follow cooking advice from the experts.

Brining a turkey is the best way to guarantee it retains its moisture after hours in the oven. The process is also time-consuming, so do yourself a favor this year and let Alexa be your sous chef.

“Morton Brine Time” is a new skill from the cloud-based home assistant. If you own an Amazon Echo you can download it for free by going online or by asking Alexa to enable it. Once it’s set up, start asking Alexa for brining tips and step-by-step recipes customized to the size of your turkey. Two recipes were developed by Richard Blais, the celebrity chef and restaurateur best known for his Top Chef win and Food Network appearances.

Whether you go for a wet brine (soaking your turkey in water, salt, sugar, and spices) or a dry one (just salt and spices), the process isn’t as intimidating as it sounds. And the knowledge that your bird will come out succulent and juicy will definitely take some stress out of the holiday.

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Big Questions
Why Do the Lions and Cowboys Always Play on Thanksgiving?
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Because it's tradition! But how did this tradition begin?

Every year since 1934, the Detroit Lions have taken the field for a Thanksgiving game, no matter how bad their record has been. It all goes back to when the Lions were still a fairly young franchise. The team started in 1929 in Portsmouth, Ohio, as the Spartans. Portsmouth, while surely a lovely town, wasn't quite big enough to support a pro team in the young NFL. Detroit radio station owner George A. Richards bought the Spartans and moved the team to Detroit in 1934.

Although Richards's new squad was a solid team, they were playing second fiddle in Detroit to the Hank Greenberg-led Tigers, who had gone 101-53 to win the 1934 American League Pennant. In the early weeks of the 1934 season, the biggest crowd the Lions could draw for a game was a relatively paltry 15,000. Desperate for a marketing trick to get Detroit excited about its fledgling football franchise, Richards hit on the idea of playing a game on Thanksgiving. Since Richards's WJR was one of the bigger radio stations in the country, he had considerable clout with his network and convinced NBC to broadcast a Thanksgiving game on 94 stations nationwide.

The move worked brilliantly. The undefeated Chicago Bears rolled into town as defending NFL champions, and since the Lions had only one loss, the winner of the first Thanksgiving game would take the NFL's Western Division. The Lions not only sold out their 26,000-seat stadium, they also had to turn fans away at the gate. Even though the juggernaut Bears won that game, the tradition took hold, and the Lions have been playing on Thanksgiving ever since.

This year, the Lions host the Minnesota Vikings.

HOW 'BOUT THEM COWBOYS?


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The Cowboys, too, jumped on the opportunity to play on Thanksgiving as an extra little bump for their popularity. When the chance to take the field on Thanksgiving arose in 1966, it might not have been a huge benefit for the Cowboys. Sure, the Lions had filled their stadium for their Thanksgiving games, but that was no assurance that Texans would warm to holiday football so quickly.

Cowboys general manager Tex Schramm, though, was something of a marketing genius; among his other achievements was the creation of the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders.

Schramm saw the Thanksgiving Day game as a great way to get the team some national publicity even as it struggled under young head coach Tom Landry. Schramm signed the Cowboys up for the game even though the NFL was worried that the fans might just not show up—the league guaranteed the team a certain gate revenue in case nobody bought tickets. But the fans showed up in droves, and the team broke its attendance record as 80,259 crammed into the Cotton Bowl. The Cowboys beat the Cleveland Browns 26-14 that day, and a second Thanksgiving pigskin tradition caught hold. Since 1966, the Cowboys have missed having Thanksgiving games only twice.

Dallas will take on the Los Angeles Chargers on Thursday.

WHAT'S WITH THE NIGHT GAME?


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In 2006, because 6-plus hours of holiday football was not sufficient, the NFL added a third game to the Thanksgiving lineup. This game is not assigned to a specific franchise—this year, the Washington Redskins will welcome the New York Giants.

Re-running this 2008 article a few days before the games is our Thanksgiving tradition.

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