CLARENCE CLEMONS

 

The E-Street Band

 

Originally aired October 2009 on WRGW Radio from The George Washington University.

Jesse Regis alongside colleague Patrick Baranowski.

Interview edited for length and clarity. Audio available upon request. All rights reserved.

 

 

Jesse Regis: When we were putting together questions for this interview we considered just asking you to play the “Jungleland” solo, or finding creative ways to introduce you for half the time, but we did find some relevant questions though Pat and I are shaking a little bit.

 

Clarence Clemons: That's okay!

 

JR: What's it like to be out there and keep performing? This tour was supposed end a long time ago and you're still out there putting on monster shows night after night.

 

CC: It's great. I'm doing what I love to do and I'm fulfilling my purpose in my life. My spiritual teacher told me years ago that my purpose in life is to bring joy and light to the world and I think that's what I'm doing. I'm really glad to have the opportunity to do it. This is a long, long tour but the energy comes form the joy I get from doing it.

 

Patrick Baranowski: Over the long tour some bands might feel like they lose the energy after a long time, but seems like your band they just build the energy. Is that how it is?

 

CC: Yeah, this is totally different than anything you've seen before. I think this band we get stronger and stronger as we go. Although I've been through some very traumatic physical handicaps that have kind of held me back a little, I'm getting stronger. My body is healing itself and I'm just happy doing what I'm doing, that's the main thing. We have a good time out there, you know. It's pure, clear energy and it's not disguised. Some bands you see they got stuff on their face. We just go out there with the pure energy of doing something great and the joy of doing it.

 

JR: I don't know if you have a favorite song, but what song do you really love to get up there and perform? Do you have one that really gets your juices flowing?

 

CC: We can't get past the “Jungleland” thing, that's a classic for me, but “Night” is one of my favorites.

 

JR: One of the reasons I respect the E Street Band so much is that you're out there performing night after night and you're doing the same songs (some new stuff) but you still seem to love what you're doing and the fans see that.

 

CC: Sometimes we play the same songs but it's never the same. We don't play it the same every night. Every song is never played exactly the same. Bruce changes the set list up a lot and I like that. Sometimes he has a written set list and throws it out the window. Sometimes we say we'll do another one after the first song, but sometimes the first song changes. I love the spontaneity of the band, which keeps us on our toes and makes everyone sharp.

 

PB: Absolutely. I noticed last year on the Magic tour, and you continued it this tour, you're taking requests from posters from people in the stands.

 

CC: That's one of the joys of my life, I tell you. Songs that we never played before and we just do them. That's the confidence you have in a band that's been together for over 38 years. I remember, years ago he would never ever do that. We would rehearse things until it was down to every breath. But, it's really great that [Bruce] has the confidence in his band and the band is just ready to do it.

 

PB: It definitely adds a lot to the shows, it's such a loose feeling. You guys busted out Elvis Presley's “Jailhouse Rock,” that was great.

 

CC: Yeah, we never played that before

 

JR: How many people have to show up in the pit with a poster that says, “You're a Friend of Mine” for you to play that song?

 

CC: [Laughs] I don't know! There'd have to be a lot of them I think.

 

JR: I'm going to Jersey on Thursday, man, if you played that song, I don't know what I'd do.

 

CC: I'll do my part!

 

PB: What are the chances of hearing “Paradise by the C"?

 

CC: That's another one that I think we should try to get! I'll put them on my own posters and put them up.

 

PB: That's right get some people to hold up signs with “Paradise by the C”. Give the Big Man some time on the sax!

 

CC: [Laughs] I may do it myself. I may hold that poster. I've been known to do that.

 

JR: Yeah! You got a new book coming out - Big Man: Real Life and Tall Tales is coming out October 21. Tell me a little about it.

 

CC: It's something that's been in the making all my life. I never stopped to write it down. Don Reo, my partner in this situation, who is one of the funniest people I've ever met in my life - we were fishing like we do when we hang out. I was telling a story and he says you should write this down, you should write a book. I said ok let's write a book. That's how it got started.

 

PB: What's one crazy story about the E Street Band that we won't get from this book?

 

CC: There will be some stuff that will be in the next book!

 

PB: The sequel!

 

CC: The next book will be more x-rated. I don't want to shock my friends too much at one time. There will be another book following this book. There's just some great stories and some great legends. All the stories that were classified as “legends” did have some factual background. There was something that happened that allowed us to write that legend.

 

PB: Once the tour concludes, what do you think you're going to do with your time off?

 

CC: I'm going to go fishing and I'm going to go on my honeymoon that I haven't been on yet.

 

JR: What about some side projects? Do you have anything outside the E Street Band that you're working on?

 

CC: The Temple of Soul Band. We did have an album that we didn't do much with, but I want to go back and do that, and start working on the new book.

 

JR: You've collaborated with a lot of people. Is there any artist or musician you would like to make a track with?

 

CC: You know I've always secretly loved The Rolling Stones. I've always wanted to play with them – play a song with them. But, there are some rap guys and I'm starting to get into the hip-hop thing. I'm looking forward to some hip-hop honors to invite me to play. I'm looking forward to all these things and the opportunity to do that. I got the time!

 

PB: I noticed on Saturday night for the first time ever during "Hungry Heart," Bruce got to do some crowd surfing.

 

CC: Oh, man, that was the most amazing thing I've ever seen.

 

PB: I think he even called out a solo for you. What's it going to take the Big Man to do some crowd surfing?

 

CC: I think it's going to take a lot, because I'm a Big Man. We would need an audience of body builders. My body is too delicate right now. It's taken a long time to get it back to this point, I can't take a chance.

 

PB: I've seen videos from 1975. You're wearing white tuxedos, and big elaborate capes. What's with the wardrobe choices? What draws you to those choices?

 

CC: I don't know. I'm an old school guy. You dress up. At some point it got to the band – that part of our music. There's still that formal thing out there on that stage.

 

JR: One of the things that was really special about this tour is that you're playing full albums. What's your feeling towards playing full albums and do you have a favorite?

 

CC: It's pretty exciting to do it. When people buy an album they hear the songs in a certain order. To be able to give it to them live in the same order is very, very exciting for the crowd. One day, I would love to hear [Bruce] do the first album like that – Greetings from Asbury Park in live form. That would be interesting.

 

JR: Can you come to New Jersey and do that for us?

 

CC: That would be great, wouldn't it?

 

JR: I'm wondering, who's going to open the new Giants Stadium?

 

CC: Well, I don't know! We closed this one so I hope we get the invite to do it.

 

JR: “Wrecking Ball” is a great song, by the way.

 

CC: Oh, my God isn't it? It just blew my mind. We learned it in sound check.

 

JR: I cried.

 

CC: Awww. I hear ya.

 

PB: What are the chances of maybe doing The Wild, the Innocent, and the E Street Shuffle in its entirety? I don't know if you have time for The River in its entirety, but I think the fans would love to see it.

 

CC: [Laughs] Yeah, [The Wild and the Innocent] would be a great album. He might do that. I don't know when. The River would be a really long show.

 

JR: But a great show! Legendary.

 

CC: Yeah, it would be a great one.

 

JR: Is there anything else we have to know?

 

CC: I'm going to be working on a new book, and I'm looking to get into a new genre - hip-hop. I'm trying to get in touch with some of those guys to possibly get the chance to get a chance to play with them.

 

JR: Are you ever going to get off the stage? Will you ever produce or do anything behind the scenes?

 

CC: I'm a performer. I would like to produce some stuff and I have done some producing but I really like to perform – it's my forte.