Listen to Joe Grushecky and Bruce Springsteen Cover Chuck Berry
The October Assault tour Joe Grushecky and the Houserockers mounted with Bruce Springsteen was appropriately named.
Grushecky, Springsteen and the band hit the road in October 1995, beginning with a show on the Boss's home turf of Asbury Park, N.J. They blitzed through five shows in five nights, finishing off the short run a few nights later in Chicago.
Springsteen was soon off to another adventure, starting his own tour in support of The Ghost of Tom Joad, but two of the Grushecky dates in his Pittsburgh hometown were recorded for posterity. The tapes were mixed and then filed away.
Now, 13 tracks from the two performances at the now-shuttered Nick's Fat City are included as part of a 25th-anniversary reissue of Grushecky's American Babylon album, which was produced by Springsteen.
The collaboration was a potent one, yielding tracks like "Chain Smokin'" that remain in Grushecky's sets to this day. Springsteen cowrote two songs, in addition to helping his longtime friend refine and sharpen others. On the subsequent tour, it was noted (by Greg Kot in the Chicago Tribune) that Springsteen was "playing more lead guitar than at any time since the 1978 Darkness on the Edge of Town tour."
Just how much fun the pair had on the road together is evident in the live tracks included with the new version of American Babylon. After blazing through a set focused on Grushecky-written material, they played some favorite covers, including Van Morrison's "Brown Eyed Girl and "Gimme Shelter" by Rolling Stones. Their rowdy take on Chuck Berry's "Down the Road Apiece" often appeared during the last moments of the show each night. You can listen to the song below.
Grushecky says making American Babylon with Springsteen was a lifeline he desperately needed at the time. "I was at about the end of my rope," he tells UCR. "I was working myself to death. I felt like I had a new lease on life, doing that record. It was really a boost for me, mentally and artistically. It was just a really positive experience. Bruce and I, we have a friendship that still lasts to this day."
The updated version of American Babylon is available on CD and digital platforms now. A vinyl edition will arrive in early 2022.