Southside Johnny back on The Billboard Chart

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Here’s a strange coincidence for you. A couple of weeks ago I was talking to a couple of ex-members of Curse of Lono at a gig they were playing and we got to talking about the tour they did in support of Southside Johnny in 2019 and how much they were impressed by the band. Fast forward two weeks and I get press release telling me that the latest Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes album debuted at No. 5 in the Billboard Blues Chart. It may be the latest album, but ‘Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes Live in Cleveland ‘77’ was actually recorded forty-five years ago live at The Agora Ballroom and Theatre in Cleveland, Ohio, at a time when Cleveland was a major centre for rock music and The Jukes were on the up after two albums on Epic and a helpful Asbury Park association with Bruce Springsteen.

The album’s a fascinating snapshot of a band that was probably hitting its peak (and still has a loyal following to this day). The sound is big, with the full rock band augmented by a horn section packing a mighty punch and a singer with the voice to cut through the tight arrangements. It was a sound that you couldn’t ignore, combining elements of rock and soul and delivered with style and swagger. The opening song on the album, ‘This Time It’s for Real’ is a perfect example of the sound and the energy of The Jukes at that time. Have a listen:

The set on the night was a typical mixture of Jukes originals (mainly written by Steve van Zandt and Bruce Springsteen) and well-chosen covers including a version of Billy Joel’s ‘Goodbye to Hollywood’ featuring Ronnie Spector (who had featured on the Jukes’ first album ‘I Don’t Want to Go Home’). The album’s a great example of how a live album should sound and captures the energy and raw power of a big band at the top of their game. It’s a pity it took so long to unearth, but it’s a rare gem for Jukes fans and maybe it can bring a few more into the fold.

If you want to buy this classic live album, you can find the CD it on Cleveland International Records or Amazon and the vinyl will be available later in the year.

And meanwhile, The Jukes carry on the good work. There’s only Johnny left from the original line-up, but the current band has been together for about ten years and they’re still an awesome live experience. Here’s a shot of Johnny from a London gig at Kentish Town Forum almost exactly five years ago:

Copyright Allan McKay

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