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TSD Q&A: Legendary Rocker Southside Johnny (Best of 2012)

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TSD: Delaware’s best take on events, community and local life

As 2012 draws to a close, we at TSD have made it an annual tradition to share some of the year’s best features with our readers. It’s a time for both reflection and anticipation, and we’re looking forward to an even better 2013! 

ORIGINAL PUBLISHING DATE: July 6, 2012

Town Square Delaware had an exclusive opportunity to talk with “Southside” Johnny Lyon, frontman for the Asbury Jukes, who will play the Freeman Stage in Selbyville Friday night.

With a successful, decades-long career, Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes deliver a special brand of blues, rock and R&B, which can be heard on more than 30 albums and in hits like, “I Don’t Want To Go Home,” “The Fever” and “This Time It’s For Real.” Their latest album, Men Without Women: Live 7-2-11, was released this week.

Town Square Delaware: Listening to the original Men Without Women [released by Steven Van Zandt and Disciples of Soul] and very much looking forward to the live album…What was it about those songs that made you say, “Wow, I’d love to put this out as an Asbury Jukes album”?

Southside Johnny: Well, we originally did several of those songs years ago as the Jukes [when Steven Van Zandt was in the band]. When Steven and I started putting them together as an album, it just didn’t feel right. At the time, I didn’t want to do Motown and the songs were personal to Steven. It just made sense that he put it out, and the Jukes put out Hearts of Stone.

Last year, someone gave me a CD of those old cuts, and I played it in the car and thought it was great. About a month before the show [where it was recorded], I called Steve and asked what he thought about putting it out as a live album. He loved the idea, so we got the band together, practiced the songs and went out on stage that night. We love playing those songs, and that’s what carried us through the night.

TSD: Men Without Women was recorded last July at the Stone Pony in Asbury Park, New Jersey. The energy at that place rocks. Tell me about that 2011 show with Steven.

SSJ: It was great. It just made sense to go somewhere where people would know Steven, know me and where we could do something special for the 4th. Made sense to me even if it didn’t to anybody else!

TSD: One of the best quotes attributed to you is that rock and roll should be made by truck drivers from Tupelo, not studio musicians with an album commitment to fulfill. What is it about SSJ and The Asbury Jukes’ music that continues to connect with audiences, new and old?

SSJ: [Laughs] Did I say that? We truly love what we do. We enjoy ourselves, and I think our audience sees that. That’s one of the things I’m proudest of – that in the hardest of times, people can go and see a show and just have fun!

TSD: Speaking of connections, Jon Bon Jovi has said you’re his inspiration. That’s pretty cool. Does he have an open invitation to play with the Jukes?

SSJ: Absolutely! We’ve played with Jon a lot. In fact, he joined us on the road not too long ago when he had some rare down time. I’m not sure Dorothea [his wife] was too happy with me for doing that!

TSD: Another fan of yours is the Boss. You recently joined Bruce on stage in Madrid to do Talk to Me.” How did that come about?

SSJ: I was on vacation with my girlfriend in Spain. We love to hike and birdwatch, and while we were there, she wanted to see Bruce’s show. So I called some folks to buy a couple of tickets, and Bruce asked me to join him on stage. I couldn’t say no – after all, he wrote the song!

TSD: Incidentally, that show was rumored to be his longest ever. I know the Jukes used to play some marathon shows – any that stick out in your head?

SSJ: Well, when we started playing, we were booked at the Upstage [in Asbury Park] and we used to do eight 45-minute shows. So you had to learn a million songs, and Garry [Tallent], Vini [Lopez], Bruce [Springsteen] and the guys, we’d jam and anyone who wanted to play would join you on stage. But as for a four-hour show, none that I can remember!

TSD: You’ve had a busy year. You’ve been touring with both the Jukes and [your new band] The Poor Fools, hopping up on stage with Bruce and preparing to release a new CD. Can you tell me what we fans can look for on that?

Well, it’s not done yet! [Laughs] It’s been such a busy summer, touring with both bands, but I can say that we’ve also got a Poor Fools album in the works.

TSD: Backstage at a show at the Grand Opera House in Wilmington, you mentioned that you used to live in Dover. Please, pray tell, how did that come to be?

I was living in New Jersey, but was on the road a lot and looking for something a little more central. I was driving down Route 9 with some friends, headed to Pickering Beach, and I saw a house for sale. Owner hadn’t even put the “For Sale” sign out yet! I asked how much, he told me, and I took it!

Great location – away from town, in the wetlands. I was there for several years until the septic system went. DNREC told me a sewage system was coming, but I couldn’t wait and decided to sell it.

TSD: Well, you might not know this about our little state, but Delaware’s beaches have recently been named number one in the country for swimming water quality. Any chance you’ll leave Ocean Grove [New Jersey] for Rehoboth Beach?

SSJ: Not likely! I’m a three-minute walk from the beach in a strange little town…perfect for me!


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