A Beatles album, memoirs and a potential tour with Bruce Springsteen: a busy year for Steven Van Zandt
Steven Van Zandt is used to being the coolest man in the room.
Whether it’s providing genre-defining riffs for Born to run as the guitarist of Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band, or exuding threat and joy as gangster Silvio Dante in a classic TV series The Sopranos, nothing frightens the man in the bandana.
Although, as Van Zandt says The National, that icy veneer cracked very slightly at the end of 2017 when offered two experiences he could not have dreamed of until early in his career more than five decades ago.
It is first of all the opportunity to appear in a film by Martin Scorsese.
” It was for Irish and a little cameo role, but I didn’t care, ”he recalls. “I just said ‘yes’ because it’s always been my dream to work with him. You don’t say no to that.
Satisfied after filming in the US, he flew to London in time to kick off a UK tour with his famous cover band, Little Steven and the Disciples of Soul.
And then came the second moment.
“I got a phone call saying Paul McCartney wanted to come to the show,” he says. “Now that was a big deal because the Beatles are my everything. They have changed my whole life.”
Sure enough, McCartney arrived at the Roundhouse concert in London, not only to watch, but also to share the stage with Van Zandt to perform the Beatles classic. I saw her standing there.
This performance is now immortalized as a bonus track on Macca in Mecca, the new live album and DVD from Little Steven and the Disciples of Soul.
Recorded in November 2017 at Liverpool’s famed Cavern Club, the special was a tribute to the Fab Four, as Van Zandt’s 15-piece group effortlessly tore up some of the group’s biggest hits, including Magical Mystery Tour and All you need is love.
Not only was it a fitting way to end the tour, he says, but the album title practically wrote itself.
“From that first gig with McCartney in London where he joined us, I was just in Beatles mood after that,” he says. “And then playing in the same venue in Liverpool where the Beatles started their career was a childhood dream come true.
“For my rock’n’roll religion, The Cavern is the first sacred site. It was an honor – no, make it a revelation – to play there. “
A sense of closure
These memories, moments on stage and appearances on the small and big screen will feature in Van Zandt’s new memoirs.
Release Tuesday, September 28 Unrequited fads traces his debut on the Jersey Shore music scene alongside his friend Springsteen, leading the resistance of the American pop industry against the former apartheid regime of South Africa across the City of the sun group album.
Van Zandt, 70, took advantage of the unexpected downtime caused by the pandemic to write the book.
“I tried to write this about 10 or 12 years ago, but I couldn’t quite figure out the ending,” he says. “Now that doesn’t mean I’m done because I still have a million ideas and I’m just getting started. But going back to how McCartney came to my stage gave me that feeling of closing.”
There was no plan B
This thought process also brought some piercing insights into the early days with Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, and the making of their debut album, Greetings from Asbury Park, NJ.
“We didn’t have a plan B,” says Van Zandt. “We were a whole bunch of misfits and monsters and we didn’t know anything else to do. Either we were going to make it or we would die trying.”
Van Zandt thinks the music business was less ruthless back then.
“We didn’t have any real success until our fifth album (1980s River), “he says.” The record companies back then were really investing in you as an artist and the tragedy today is that the concept of development is gone.
“The truth is, greatness in any form was not born, but developed over years of working on your craft.”
As for his success as an actor, Van Zandt credits both The Sopranos star James Gandolfini and series creator David Chase.
“[Chase] showed me the importance of detail, “he says.” As I step into the little, little eccentricities of New Jersey life in The Sopranos, he made the series even more universal and gave us more things we can relate to.
“Springsteen does the same with his songs and that’s also why people love them all over the world.”
Does Van Zandt want to test this theory further with a Bruce Springsteen and E Street Band regional tour?
“Oh, I hope so and we would love to come to the United Arab Emirates,” he said. “We love to travel anywhere and play, and right now with the people getting the shots we’re thinking about what we can do in 2022 and hopefully that part of the world can be part of the conversation.”