This is the last dance, the last chance, for hearts of stone…
Johnny… Southside Johnny of Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes.
Bruce… The Boss, Springsteen.
Danny… Wilson, main man behind Grand Drive, a great Americana band, based in South London!
The song, “Hearts of Stone”, written by Bruce, played by them all.
The first version I heard was way back in 1978, when Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes released their album of the same name. I don’t recall how I came across the album, although it would have been a connection with Bruce somewhere, and I do recall buying it from the record store on Oxford High Street. It was a wonderful album, full of those New Jersey soul and R’n’B sounds that were at the heart of Bruce Springsteen’s music in the early days.
The title track was my favourite tune on the album. As well as a rousing soul sound, it had some soaring guitar. It was a song to send a shiver down the spine.
(Can’t get the song to upload from my iTunes, so here’s a Youtube cut.)
While the track listing showed it was a Springsteen song, I hardly noticed that. Looking back it’s amazing, some of the songs that Bruce gave away. Others included “Because The Night”, of Patti Smith fame, and “Fire”, sung by the Pointer Sisters. Given away! Bruce recorded them all at different times and featured them in his live shows. “Hearts Of Stone” found its way on to “Tracks”, the 4 CD box set of unreleased songs and outtakes which came out in 1998.
“Tracks” is a brilliant selection of songs, and “Hearts of Stone” is really quite different to Southside’s version. It has less guitar, more sax, and Bruce rambles through the tune. It’s a demo, essentially. But an entrancing one, which reveals the emotional power of the song.
And then, a bit of an afterthought, the Grand Drive version.
It’s on a double CD compilation put together by Uncut magazine in 2003 , with loads of artists doing their takes of Springsteen songs. It’s a simple, tender version of the song, with Danny’s fragile vocals to the fore. I saw Grand Drive in concert around the time the compilation came out, at the Lyric Theatre in Hammersmith. It was a wonderful concert – Grand Drive are a fantastic band and I’ll be writing more about them in the future. They did “Hearts of Stone” and it was one of the highlights. Truly moving on the night. Here’s the CD version.
Three versions of a great song – a song that Bruce knocked off and gave away. Because he had so many more. The genius of the man…