Part 35 of a series that will run every Friday throughout 2012 as I discuss records that have affected me throughout the years – Flashback Fridays

When I was a 10-year-old kid (give or take a year or two) one of the major cable stations (HBO or PRISM) played the movie Eddie and the Cruisers non-stop. The movie (based on the book by P.F. Kluge) concerned a mysterious singer in a band that had been ahead of their time. It featured Michael Pare as Eddie and a supporting cast that would go on to be extremely famous in other film roles (Tom Berenger, Ellen Barkin, Joe Pantoliano). The movie was trashed by critics upon release but eventually found a cult following as a result of the nonstop plays on cable. The mood was overly dramatic with the plot focused around the disappearance of singer Eddie Wilson. Was he alive or wasn’t he? It remains one of my favorite movies ever created.

When you got into the musical aspect of the fictional band, it presented a dilemma. The music supposedly created in the 60’s by Eddie and the Cruisers was supposed to be “ahead of its time” but sounded like a leaner version of Bruce Springsteen from the 70’s (maybe it would have been ahead of its time, then). The fictional band was set on the Jersey shore (as in New Jersey and the Atlantic Ocean for those non locals reading this) and the real band – John Cafferty & The Beaver Brown Band – hailed from another East Coast seaport, Rhode Island. John Cafferty and his band perfectly capture everything that Eddie & The Cruisers are supposed to be about. Accusations of Springsteen-lite have dogged Cafferty, but I’d have to wholeheartedly disagree – this soundtrack is a classic and deserves the accolades heaped upon Bruce Springsteen. My memories and love of this music intertwines with my love of the movie and my breakdown of the album will most likely show that.

Catching Stardust in the Light

The Dark Side – the song that is used repeatedly throughout the film as evidence that the band were far ahead of the times – it is a catchy, classic rock based track. The vocals in tandem with the piano during the intro are simply perfection – you’d believe this could have been huge in the mid 60’s and not the early 80’s when it was originally cut. The music shifts into an extremely melodic bar band type jam for the remaining duration. The sax solos throughout are impressive and you can see why the Springsteen comparisons arose. None of it really matters, this is perfect classic Rock n Roll. If you’ve seen the film, it is impossible to get Michael Pare’s face out of your head while listening to this. Key lyrics:

The dark side’s callin’ now, nothin’ is real
She’ll never know just how I feel
From out of the shadows she walks like a dream
Makes me feel crazy, makes me feel so mean

Tender Years – It is amazing how music can spark deeply personal memories. This song brings me back to the scene from the film with Tom Berenger working out how to play a piano piece on the deck of a Jersey Shore house. That scene reminds me of my now deceased Grandfather’s house that he owned on Long Beach Island, NJ. So when I listen to this song I am haunted by visions of Tom Berenger and my Grandfather. All very pleasant visions, mind you. Incredible saxophone throughout and emotional singing from John Cafferty. A slower paced song and a clear highlight of the album (and movie). The ending piano solo is one of the most incredible pieces of music I’ve ever had the pleasure to listen to. Key lyrics:

Whoa, whoa tender years
Won’t you wash away my tears
How I wish you were here
Please don’t go, tender years

A summer love, a beach romance
Sought her kisses in the sand
Two young hearts filled with fire
Lost in never-neverland

Runaround Sue – a straight cover of the 1961 hit by Dion and the Del-Satins. The movie provided the context of the song, something a band from Jersey in the 60’s would easily incorporate into their set-list. Saxophone is again a highlight of this track.

Down On My Knees / Hang Up My Rock and Roll Shoes – Some versions of the soundtrack split these tracks, some have them separate. It makes sense to segue the two tracks into each other in the context of the film. In the film they are played back to back in a scene where the band plays a show at a local college. Interestingly, the 50’s styled songs are played right after Eddie’s girlfriend Joanne shares an intimate moment with Tom Berenger’s character Frank. The lyrics take on a menacing quality viewed within that context. Key lyrics:

I need a woman’s special touch
I need a lover’s soul to trust
I want you baby, you know it’s true
There’s just one thing I would do for you
Never say get down on, get down on my knees

Wild Summer Nights – the perfect soundtrack for summer nights on the Jersey Shore. I have so many memories of the Jersey Shore, it is hard to believe I haven’t lived on the East Coast for over 10 years. This track is a melodic, classic rock based jam. Seems to be an even split of Springsteen / Mellencamp influences (I promise you, there is a difference). Instantly memorable, featuring these lyrics:

Street lights, crystallize the city
Scarlet, sunset soft and pretty
Shadows, race along the beach
School boys are back up on the streets
Gears are power shiftin’ down the Old Escape Road
All the kids are dancin’ as the jockey spins gold
Everybody’s fakin’ that they’ll never grow old
Open up your door
Let those lake pipes roar
Into the

Wild Summer Nights oh babe those
Wild Summer Nights (summer nights)
Wild Summer Nights oh babe but
Wild Summer Nights
Summer nights

Boardwalk Angel – a 50’s sounding song, emotional vocals and equally emotional instrumental backing. Evokes visions of the Jersey Shore and the Boardwalk just as effectively as Bruce Springsteen. It is unfortunate that John Cafferty has to constantly be compared to Springsteen as this has a different feel to it and stands on its own. Saxophone carries the song towards the latter half. Key lyrics:

Meet me out on the boardwalk tonight
Meet me down by the sea
We can dance in the carnival lights
On the shores of Jersey
We’ll fall in love on a carousel
Little boardwalk angel

Betty Lou’s Got a New Pair of Shoes – a straight cover of the 1958 single by Bobby Freeman. It obviously has an oldies feel to it, but it is played to perfection. Guitar solo is a highlight of this track.

Those Oldies But Goodies (Remind Me of You) – a cover of the 1961 hit by Little Caesar & the Romans. A throwback to the 50’s, it appeared in the film as a track that a former band member of the Cruisers was playing in his nostalgic musical act.

Season in Hell (Fire Suite) – In the film, this was the song that led to the breakdown of the band. Was it too far ahead of its time for the mid 60’s? Why was a pop singer referring to Rimbaud in his lyrics? Was it a vision of the future or a vision of hell? The track sounds like something out of the 70’s, leather jackets and cool guys driving their Plymouth Dusters to impress the ladies. It is really tied into the dramatic final scenes of the film which makes it resonate on a deeper level. It segues into a final suite that has a lighter tone (it played over the credits of the film). A way out of the darkness, if you will. Brings me back to a quote from Eddie Wilson in the film “If we can’t be great, then there’s no sense in ever playing music again”. Key lyrics:

See the writting on the wall
Ivory tower’s bound to fall
Voices whisper in the wind
I can hear them calling

Love is a fire, burning
And I want to burn
Darkest hour before the dawn
Times we know will soon be gone

Flames of freedom fill the air
I can hear them calling
Love is a fire, burning

This album evokes visions of the Jersey Shore (so recently devastated by Hurricane Sandy), my grandfather, and childhood memories. I’d recommend you watch the movie if you haven’t already, and then listen to the soundtrack. Spend that time in a relaxed state, transported to a time and place that no longer exists. It’ll be time well spent. Join me next week as I discuss a dark masterpiece by the Eels – their 2nd record, Electro-Shock Blues.

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