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The Ten Best Springsteen/Max Weinberg Songs

Celebrating the boss through his Jewish drummer

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Max Weinberg and the Boss earlier this year at the Apollo.(Larry Busacca/Getty Images)

As Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band prepare for the second of two nights at the Izod Center in East Rutherford, in the Garden State, we pause and acknowledge the most prominent Jewish member of the Boss’ crew (and I don’t mean longtime producer/Svengali Jon Landau): Max Weinberg. Last week, in Philadelphia, the drummer (who also led the house band on Conan O’Brien’s show for many years) toured the National Museum of American Jewish History. He also gave a great interview to the Forward.

Weinberg has been the prime drummer on eight Springsteen studio albums, including most of your favorites (Born to Run, Born in the U.S.A., Darkness on the Edge of Town, The Rising) as well as a couple seminal live ones (Live/1975-85, chiefly). Drums in Springsteen songs and concerts are not showy; they keep the beat and add to the bombast. It means Weinberg is rarely the focus of attention, but it also means that, more than anybody else performing, he can’t afford to screw up, even slightly. Forthwith: the ten best Bruce songs for Max Weinberg!

Update: It was pointed out to me that “Born to Run” is the one track with drums on Born to Run that Weinberg didn’t play on. Replacing the studio version with a live one.

10: “Born to Run” (live)—maybe the only prominent Springsteen song that begins exclusively with drumming, it also is the one that owes the greatest debt to Phil Spector’s “Wall of Sound” techniques, which means the drumming has to be very loud indeed.

9: “I’m Going Down” (studio)—another great opening.

8: “Radio Nowhere” (studio)—the drums are essential to driving this relatively recent single through.

7: “Because the Night” (live)—the 10,000 Maniacs hit was actually written by Bruce and Patti Smith, and played only live. Weinberg really builds into the chorus.

6: “Out in the Street” (studio)—low-key, with some hints of range.

5: “Sandy” (live)—proves he can do slow and dramatic just as well as fast and sharp.

4: “Candy’s Room” (live)—Weinberg actually did record the studio version, too, but the live one is better, and perhaps more than any other record showcases his range.

3: “Rosalita” (live)—antic, wonderful madness.

2: “Born in the U.S.A.” (studio)—yes, unbelievably simple. But every hit has to be exactly right, or the entire song falls apart. Plus, if you wait til the end, he does let it rip.

1: “Badlands” (live)—Same as above, except the drumming’s even more important and trickier. And as much as that’s true of the studio version, it’s even more true of the seminal live one.

Q&A: Max Weinberg on Springsteen and Conan [Forward The Arty Semite]

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ronny says:

Hello, Max doesn’t even play born to run on the studio version, that’s Ernest “boom” Carter.
Max joined later in the born to run sessions that would eventually evolve into the finished record. Ernest Carter left the band midway in the sessions to form a band of his own, along with David Sancious.

Max does reveal that there’s one particulair lick in the studio version of born to run, that he has never ever been able to achieve live. That’ll be the moment in the song when the drums go bazerk. Listen.

Marc R says:

Oddly enough, Max’s favorite song is Ramrod, which gives him relatively little to do.

Personally, I like when Max deliberately screws up in Waitin’ on a Sunny Day when Bruce sings “I’m a drummer that can’t keep a beat.”

And, maybe it’s me, but I always thought Max played a bit harder on the beat in American Land when Bruce screams out “the Germans and the Jews.”

He’s told a story about losing his sense of timing, and not recovering it until the Born in the U.S.A. sessions, but I was under the impression it was all him. Bruce has said he was the best thing on the album.

Nice list; I might have thrown in Promised Land.

ctsquared says:

One comment – Ernest Carter played drums on the stufio version of Born to Run, NOT Max Weinberg.

Ernest Boom Carter says:

I played the drums on Born to Run, not Max.

Anonymouse says:

Because the Night isn’t only a live track — it’s on The Promise, a 2 disc set released as part of the Darkness on the Edge of Town box set about 2 years ago.

Neil Parkar says:

Magical, atmosphere like a Super Bowl. They could sing anything and it would sound like shul and summer camp and an unbuttoned shirt filled with chest hair, so to hear him sing this song is pretty amazing.


>>maybe the only prominent Springsteen song that begins exclusively with drumming

Check out Candy’s Room and My Love Will Not Let U Down!!


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The Ten Best Springsteen/Max Weinberg Songs

Celebrating the boss through his Jewish drummer

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