Have You heard? – (25) “Hearts of Stone” by Johnny, Bruce and Danny

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…

About John S

I'm blogging about the things I love: music, sport, culture, London, with some photos to illustrate aspects of our wonderful city. I’ve written a novel called “The Decision”, a futuristic political thriller, and first of a trilogy. I’m also the author of a book on music since the 1970s called “ I Was There - A Musical Journey” and a volume of poetry about youth, “Growin’ Up - Snapshots/ Fragments”. All available on Amazon and Kindle.
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8 Responses to Have You heard? – (25) “Hearts of Stone” by Johnny, Bruce and Danny

  1. West side Jonny says:

    Hi J – find myself with a little time to revisit your blogs, and this one popped out very clearly.

    I must thank our esteemed university associate, Anthony J. C. Mitchell, for bringing me to Southside. It seems you and I discovered him almost simultaneously – for me, it was certainly in that wonderfully dozy summer of 1979, with early exams behind us, and Finals several millennia seemingly ahead.

    I bought and loved all the early Southside early stuff, but this was always my favourite – tender, racy, heartfelt, raunchy, passionate, and very, very poignant. There’s something about that voice that really gets to your gut, and Mr. Johnny has never sounded better.

    Of course, I knew nothing about Grand Drive, and especially Danny Wilson, apart from his brief and not entirely happy tenure as manager of Bristol City. I’ll track down his version straight away, so thanks for the lead. As ever.

    • John S says:

      Yeah, Southside was a bit of a Univ thing. Re Grand Drive, the Bruce cover was on a CD from a magazine so not sure whether it’s available elsewhere. But they are a truly excellent band and you could do worse than start with their debut album, “Road Music”.

    • Mark Goodwin says:

      Though borne here by happenstance, I’ll leave a comment in case you still have a functioning email for Anthony (John Campbell) Mitchell, for it is doubtless he. I am the one who brought him to Southside Johnny, in truth, and more besides. I remember visiting him and sleeping over on a spare couch in Univ when I came up for gigs (New Theatre) in 1977, 1978. And eating in Hall and the JCR. We were close as youngsters, and indeed our parents cohabited for a time. I‘d be keen to renew contact, share fond memories and generally write in flaky non-threatening language. Nice blog, BTW – Mark Goodwin

      • John S says:

        Hi Mark, thanks for the comment – nearly six years after the blog was written! If you’d like to let me know your email address, I’ll pass it on to Ant.

  2. Westside Jonny says:

    Ah! Almost forgot to say. Ian Mac and I tried to book Southside for our 1980 college ball, and they were hot to trot, and would have been ours for £3,000. Pretty good! But nobody else on the bloody Ball Committee had ever heard of them, and we got overruled. We got The Beat instead, as you’ll recall, for less money, but more free Heineken. They did rock, it must be said, with the whole place bopping to Mirror in the Bathroom. So, fair play? If it had been Hearts of Stone, it would probably have been just me and Ian – and you – getting weepy on a deserted dance floor…

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