Southside Johnny
& The Asbury Jukes

TrackAlbum
The FeverI Don'’t Want To Go Home
Without LoveThis Time It’'s For Real
Hearts Of StoneHearts Of Stone
Trapped AgainHearts Of Stone
Better DaysBetter Days
Soul’'s On FireBetter Days
Lost In The NightGoing To Jukesville
HappyInto The Harbour
New Coat Of PaintGrapefruit Moon
Harder Than It LooksPills and Ammo

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Contributor: Stacy Harris

Chances are if you’ve heard of Southside Johnny it’s because of his involvement with lifelong pal, Bruce Springsteen. Johnny (John Lyon) by his own admission states he was never interested in making it big like his contemporaries; his priority as an artist was to give his audience a good time and be on the top of his game. Money and worldwide fame has always eluded the New Jersey born singer, so called because of his love of Chicago’s Southside R&B scene.

With Steve Van Zandt’s genius-like production, Southside Johnny & The Asbury Jukes emerged from the Jersey Shore music scene in 1976 with the album I Don’t Want To Go Home. That brings us to the first track in this toppermost, a Springsteen-penned horn-drenched number titled The Fever, showcasing Johnny’s range magnificently, from smooth opening vocals to the tonsil tearing chorus and what would later become Johnny’s trademark bursts of harmonica throughout.

The superbly arranged Stax-influenced Without Love from 1977’s This Time It’s For Real proved Johnny’s talents as a versatile vocalist, with the trademark brass high in the mix throughout as his voice croons soulfully – the results are four and a half minutes of Van Zandt-produced wizardry.

I’ve included two tracks from Johnny’s most renowned album, Hearts Of Stone, the title track being one. Springsteen’s version can be found on the Tracks set but here it’s a much more raw affair with Billy Rush’s guitar chiming along with Steve Van Zandt’s backing vocals beautifully. The second offering from Hearts Of Stone (and one which I simply could not exclude in this list) is Trapped Again, a Lyon/Springsteen/Van Zandt track and a staple at Southside’s gigs. Max Weinberg’s hi-hat doesn’t let up throughout and once again Van Zandt’s backing vocals add a rough edge to Southside Johnny’s unusually smooth vocal.

1991’s Better Days was a true return to form for the ever charismatic Mr Lyon, teaming up with Van Zandt and Springtseen once again as well his famous admirer, Jon Bon Jovi. It’s the title track that features next in this chart, an upbeat, inspiring lyric with those familiarly raucous vocals and an actual promotion video which landed Southside on Letterman to promote the album.

Soul’s On Fire from the same album will go down as my favourite Southside track, with its long intro, littered with slide guitar by Bobby Bandiera and that familiar Jukes brass section, the track demonstrates the pure intensity and bluesy individuality of Johnny’s voice.

Another break from the limelight followed but the band returned in 2002 with Going To Jukesville, and the selected track is Lost In The Night, a Lyon/Noble collaboration, with its Shaft-esque beginning that rapidly explodes into a crescendo of brass. Southside’s noticably rougher and more mature vocal making the track an obvious ode to the Blues that he so clearly adores.

2005’s Into The Harbour showcases a prolific Southside Johnny, the tight bond between himself and his band is evident on the Jagger/Richards track, Happy. Southside’s biting vocal and sloppy harmonica is certainly one gutsy opener and a perfect tribute to this 1972 Stones classic.

2008 saw Southside Johnny & The Asbury Jukes record an album of Tom Waits tracks, Grapefruit Moon. The stand out track and the next in this playlist is New Coat Of Paint. The listener is transcended into a smoke drenched bar almost tasting the bourbon. It’s raw, dirty and in classic Southside style he’s ruining those vocal chords purely for your entertainment.

This toppermost finishes on the most recent Southside Johnny & The Asbury Jukes release, 2010’s Pills and Ammo. Johnny’s voice takes on new life on the opener Harder Than It Looks. Gone is the soulful range we heard on Without Love, this is modern blues at its roughest and purest. There are no rivals to Southside Johnny; he’s unique and he’s busting a gut for all of us.

Southside Johnny and The Asbury Jukes official website

TopperPost #181

4 Comments

  1. Peter Viney
    Jan 29, 2014

    I don’t know enough about Southside Johnny & The Asbury Jukes, except that they revived Ronnie Spector’s career, when she duetted with him on the first album on You Mean So Much To Me (by Bruce Springsteen). She says she toured with them for over a year, with a solo spot with Ronettes hits (Ronnie Spector is a Toppermost in preparation). Great song. Will look up more.

  2. Peter Viney
    Jan 31, 2014

    The article had me looking in my local secondhand vinyl shop today and I picked up This Time It’s For Real … guest spots from The Coasters, The Satins and The Drifters. Glad I saw it.

  3. Rob Millis
    Feb 2, 2014

    I was hoping somebody would do SJ&AJ because I love them but would have had trouble not making my 10 selections very biased towards the first LP! The Fever is a great tune; one I have never tired of and indeed would add I Don’t Want To Go Home itself and Sweeter Than Honey to my 10 without even pulling out the LPs to check. Good stuff.

  4. Stacy Harris
    Feb 4, 2014

    Thanks for the comments, great to hear my top ten has inspired some record sales! A very difficult top ten for sure but I wanted a mix of old and new and I genuinely think Pills & Ammo is a fine LP, can’t get away from how fantastic they were in the seventies, could’ve quite easily turned into a greatest hits style list!

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