By Brian Ives
This week (September 24), Bruce Springsteen releases Chapter and Verse, a career-spanning compilation to accompany his much-anticipated autobiography, Born To Run (due out September 27). It’s cheating a bit to do a “5 Best Songs” for this collection, as most of it has been previously released… except for the first five tracks, all of which predate his debut album, 1973’s Greetings from Asbury Park, New Jersey. Still, here’s a look at the album.
The Castiles – “Baby I”: One of Springsteen’s early bands, he was a member of the Castiles in the mid-’60s (this song was recorded on May 2, 1966). “Baby I” is a enthusiastic slab of “Gloria”-inspired garage rock with a bit of surf guitar thrown in. Springsteen co-wrote it with Castiles guitarist George Theiss.
The Castiles – “Can’t Judge a Book”: A farfisa-organ drenched Bo Diddley cover (written by Willie Dixon) recorded by the Castilles on September 16, 1967. Both Castilles songs on the album would sound right at home on Bruce’s future bandmate Little Steven Van Zandt’s “Underground Garage” radio show (which, by the way, you can hear on Radio.com affiliates WNCX and WXRT).
Steel Mill – “He’s Guilty (The Judge Song)”: After the Castiles broke up, Springsteen was in a hard rock band called Earth (not the British band that later became Black Sabbath, obviously), which didn’t last long. After that, he formed another hard rock act, Child, with future E Street Band members Vini Lopez and Danny Federici, and they later changed their name to Steel Mill. “He’s Guilty (The Judge Song),” recorded on February 22, 1970, is classic ’70s boogie, like ZZ Top if they had a Hammond organ.
The Bruce Springsteen Band – “The Ballad of Jesse James”: After Steel Mill, Springsteen was in the short-lived Dr. Zoom and the Sonic Boom, featuring several future E Street Band members as well as fellow Jersey shore legend Southside Johnny. From there, he formed the Bruce Springsteen Band, which included future E Streeters Lopez, Van Zandt, Garry Tallent and David Sancious. This song, recorded on March 14, 1972, is a much more successful attempt at lionizing outlaws than 2009’s “Outlaw Pete.” If Springsteen ever tours with the E Street Band again, he should consider dusting this one off.
Bruce Springsteen – “Living Proof”: It’s worth mentioning that the other unreleased song is a solo acoustic Springsteen performance, “Henry Boy,” recorded in 1972, and is a cross between Greetings from Asbury Park, New Jersey‘s “Blinded By the Light” and “Mary, Queen of Arkansas.” “Henry Boy” isn’t bad. But “Living Proof,” an overlooked song from Springsteen’s overlooked 1992 album Lucky Town, is one that deserves revisiting. Inspired by his becoming a father, Springsteen dedicated the song to his son Evan at his August 30 show at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey. We’re not saying that it’s “better” than other songs on the collection, like “Born to Run” or “Born in the U.S.A.” or “The Rising,” but it’s one that many may have missed at the time. An honorable mention here also goes to “Long Time Comin'” from 2005’s Devils and Dust.