NewMusicMondays – 9 November 2020

First track this week is a little bit of fun: Mexico’s acoustic metal duo, Rodrigo y Gabriela, have linked up with Pele (scorer of the most audacious goal that never was; the victim of that save by Gordon Banks (RIP); and with a key role in possibly the best goal ever scored) to record a song entitled ‘Acredita no Véio’ (‘Listen to the old man’) in celebration of the great man’s 80th birthday, on 23rd October.

The song is indeed somewhat ‘unusual‘: Rod’n’Gab’s role is limited to supplying little more than a bit of chugging rhythm and a few runs up and down the fretboard; and we perhaps don’t need to be detained for very long by the lyrics other than in their entirely fair admonition not to ignore the elderly just on the grounds of their age. It’s indeed no good getting old unless you also get a bit crafty. Nevertheless, the video is inclusive, as fun as the song itself and it features an old man with a beard as well as a little cameo for Rod’n’Gab, too. The song seems to have been written by Pele himself as far back as 2005, when he was just a strip of a lad of 65, and in a Covid-19 world, it has its place.

Of course, you can pick it up direct via Rod’n’Gab’s bandcamp. I can’t imagine that Pele is on his uppers just yet but all that 60s/70s entertainment on the football pitch has to be worth at least a dollar of anyone’s money.

If you’re looking for a bit more Rod’n’Gab, who are also struggling in lockdown to get a connection with fans, how about this video, in an echo of an earlier post also in this series, with Rod’n’Gab revisiting what is an old classic for them, too. This is part of a series of scenes of the pair shot at home rehearsing tunes and keeping those fingers in shape. I saw them once, at the Hammersmith Odeon, in what was probably the loudest gig I’ve ever been to (and in fair tribute: No Sleep ‘Til Hammersmith indeed). Not bad for two people strumming acoustic guitars.

Another old man well worth listening to is The Boss, whose 20th album album Letter to You came out at the start of November. My copy – grey vinyl and with gorgeous vellum sleeves courtesy of Andy at 101 (who, by the way, also needs your business during lockdown), along with a 4th side which, unusually, has no groove, just an image – arrived on Friday, just as a Democrat victory in the US elections started to become more of a likely reality.

Springsteen famously came out on the stump for John Kerry, Barack Obama (and Biden, as VP) and Hillary Clinton in elections previous – not so for Biden this time; I imagine he might have been more persuaded had Bernie Sanders got the nomination although these are of course entirely different times for all of us. Nevertheless, he did allow his music to be used in a couple of Biden campaign ads while he also (re-)produced a powerful excoriation of the lack of humanity at the heart of the Trump Presidency as part of his regular ‘From My Home to Yours’ lockdown radio show, (episode 14: ‘Farewell to the Thief‘, recorded as an eve-of-election special).

This is the first E Street album not to include posthumous contributions from Dan Federici and Clarence Clemons, with Charlie Giordano and Jake Clemons now listed as E Street Band members – I guess that particular well must have finally run dry. The album probably does belong to drummer ‘mighty’ Max Weinberg, whose unfailing power drives and energises the whole set. It’s hard not to see this as a valedictory collection, given the song choices and the sequencing, certainly as regards the ‘heart-stopping, pants-dropping, house-rocking, earth-quaking, booty-shaking, Viagra-taking, love-making – Le-gen-dary E – Street – Band! If so, what a way to bow out (and there will, CV-19 and the Grim Reaper permitting, be a tour in 2022).

I’ve picked here ‘Burnin’ Train’ – trains, almost as much as cars, drive the Springsteen oeuvre: it’s the connection back to Woody Guthrie, firstly; but also the imagery features frequently in his own songwriting. It does share a bit of DNA with ‘Long Walk Home’ (another topical song with current resonance) from 2007’s Magic. The video’s not up to much – just that fantastic shot of Springsteen in New York during his Broadway run, with an animation of snow falling (a current motif; and which also drives Thom Zimny’s film documentary release of Letter to You, now released as an Apple TV Original) – but listen to the power of the band and of Springsteen’s lyrical imagery:

Turn it up! That oncoming big black train ain’t gonna smack into us yet!

Not bad for an old guy of 71, and band members who are all, Jake apart, all around the same age.

The album was famously recorded almost exactly a year ago as a whole band performance in less than a week – the first time in 36 years (when, incidentally, Jake was 4 years old) – which clearly couldn’t happen in 2020. There is better film of the song, though you need to wait right to the end of Zimny’s film to catch it. ‘Burnin’ Train’ also features in Episode 5 of ‘Letter to You’ radio – a series of broadcasts recorded also for Apple Music, this one with Springsteen in enthusiastic conversation, not least about the album’s recording process, with long-time collaborator and fratello, Steve van Zandt.

Enjoy! ¡Disfrutenlo!

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