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We Want the Airwaves
Sopranos star and E-Street Band lynchpin Steve Van Zandt is determined to give Irish radio a kick up the FM dial!
Peter Murphy, 04 Nov 2008
“When did the fucking pussies take over?”
That was the question posed by Steve Van Zandt in his keynote address at the 2005 Radio & Records Convention in Cleveland.
The speech he gave that day, a no-bullshit, we’re-all-family-here diatribe against the state of the airwaves, and how the evils of statistics, demographics and marketing have neutered rock ‘n’ roll radio, was nothing less than the mission statement for a crusade he’s been pursuing for almost a decade.
Van Zandt’s celebrated and syndicated Underground Garage show (which premiered on 103.2 Dublin City FM recently), is dedicated to playing the kind of rock ‘n’ roll – from Gene Vincent to the Ronettes to the Ramones to the Von Bondies – that you won’t hear anywhere else on what his Boss termed Radio Nowhere, and is just one part of his revivalist campaign to preserve the values he believes made rock ‘n’ roll great throughout the renaissance era of the ‘50s and ‘60s. The E-Street Band guitarist also espouses dedication to the craft and graft of live performance, the preservation of analogue recordings, the teaching of rock ‘n’ roll in schools, a reappraisal and reaffirmation of the specialist skills of not just musicians, but also writers, engineers, producers and arrangers. Van Zandt believes the brotherhood of Bruce’s ability to hold a crowd for up to four hours is a direct consequence of their barroom education.
“I never really discuss this with Bruce, but I don’t think we’ve changed much mentally, or maybe we’ve just come full circle with it,” Van Zandt says. “I don’t remember ever going on stage in the last 30 years feeling any differently. Every gig’s the first gig, and every gig’s the last gig. But I think our European tour this time was the best we ever were, personally. We may be looking fondly back on those days as that moment.
“It was fun the way we started getting looser and looser and looser through the end of the tour and taking requests at a certain point not only for obscure Bruce Springsteen songs, but we started taking requests, period. Just songs we’ve never played before. With a stadium crowd. I don’t know too many other bands who would attempt that, but we got that loose mentally, so it was really, really a wonderful feeling of a return to the roots.”