Bruce Springsteen is the undisputed icon of New Jersey rock and roll, of that there’s really no doubt. But who is second, the Robin to Bruce’s boardwalk Batman? Well, it obviously would be Little Steven Van Zandt, but I’m thinking here about the next individual and band in line. So first, please, PLEASE don’t try to name that feather-haired pantywaist Jon Bon Jovi and his loathsome cluster of bad-ass posers known as Bon Jovi. They’re the Jersey shore of mindless meatheads and MTV, far removed from the real deal of Asbury Park and The Stone Pony. Despite their disgraceful recent inclusion into the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame, and notwithstanding Howard Stern’s fawning induction speech, the reprehensibly cheesy Bon Jovi and their shamelessly smarmy leader would certainly not make my survey. Those counterfeit cowboys can ride their steel horses down the shore and right the hell into the Atlantic ocean (that’s a prayer I’m livin’ on).
No, the true #2, of course, has got to be John Lyon a.k.a. Southside Johnny of Southside Johnny & The Asbury Jukes. Southside, long acknowledged as the “Grandfather of the New Jersey sound,” has seemingly been off the radar for a while now, but is in fact still active and performing with the latest iteration of the ever-changing Jukes lineup, in which over 100 musicians can claim at one time to have been a member. They’ve put out so many incredible songs: ‘I Don’t Want To Go Home,’ ‘Trapped Again,’ ‘Talk To Me,’ ‘This Time It’s For Real,’ ‘Without Love,’ ‘Love On The Wrong Side Of Town’ and perhaps the best-known version of the Sam Cooke classic ‘Havin’ A Party’ (you forgot some of those, didn’t you?). And many of those were recorded and produced with the contributions of authentic E Street-ers Little Steven, Big Man Clarence, Mighty Max, Garry W., and, yup, The Boss himself (not to mention Richie “La Bamba” Rosenberg on trombone, for chrissakes).
So here’s a rollicking cut from the fantastic but mostly forgotten 1991 album Better Days, opening with some ripping rhythm guitar, Johnny’s harmonica and Max’s drums, laden throughout with the Jukes signature horn charts, and featuring a vocal duet with — WTF!…Jon Bon Jovi?!? Maybe there’s no escaping that insufferable preening pansy, but fortunately even he can’t come close to ruining this song.
(And just in case you didn’t catch the JBJ parts, here’s a live version too to document it – an unbelievably fun jump-cut video, once you get past his nauseating blown-hair entrance)