Graded on a Curve:
Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes,
I Don’t Want to Go Home

Sportscaster and Boring Guy Bob Hamilton: Welcome to the Stone Pony in Asbury Park, where we’re getting ready for the New Jersey Championship bout between Bruce Springsteen and “Southside Johnny” Lyons.

Sportscaster and color man Bob “Bazooka” Frills : Look at that crowd. You can practically smell the blood. Smart money says this one’s gonna be the biggest blowout since the Boss KO’d Jon Bon Jovi.

A microphone is lowered to a stage announcer in cheap Vegas tuxedo: In this corner we have Asbury Park World Champion belt holder Bruce “The Boss” Springsteen! (Wild chants of “Bruuu-zer! Bruuu-zer!”) And in this corner we have perpetual Asbury Park runner-up and “Grandfather of the Jersey Sound,” Southside Johnny! (Smattering of polite applause, cry of “Loser!”).

Bob Hamilton: Before the bell rings for Round One, let’s talk a bit about this face-off.

Bazooka Frills: Springsteen’s a straight-up brawler. He’s got a terrific right hook and always goes for the kill. Awhile back he decked Bobby “Hurricane” Dylan with a savage punch to the throat, and the poor guy hasn’t sounded the same since. Southside Johnny, on the other hand, punches like David Bowie having a hissy fit. And he’s a notorious bleeder. I see a TKO, first round.

Bob Hamilton: There’s no denying Southside Johnny’s the underdog here, but I wouldn’t write him off. His highly regarded 1976 debut, I Don’t Want to Go Home, was damn good. It proved he sure knows how to start a party. On the other hand, he’s spent his entire career in the shadow of the Boss.

Bazooka Frills: Stop sugaring the pill. Southside Johnny’s got a glass jaw and the songwriting skills of Chad Kroeger, and that’s fatal when you get into the ring with a mauler and brawler like the Boss. Johnny didn’t write a single tune on I Don’t Want to Go Home. Two of ‘em were written by the guy in the other corner, and the other eight, if I recall correctly, were written by his great aunt Agnes.

Bob Hamilton: The Springsteen influence on I Don’t Want to Go Home is undeniable. The Boss wrote “The Fever” and “You Mean So Much to Me,” and three of the LP’s other cuts were written by welterweight and fellow E Streeter “Miami Steve” Van Zandt, who also produced. And in case you’re wondering, the croaking on “The Fever” is former heavyweight champion Clarence “Big Man” Clemons.

Bazooka Frills: You could say Southside’s living on the Boss’ handouts. But he’s no canvas jockey–he broke Eric “Slowhand” Clapton’s nose awhile back at the Paramus Mall. Then again, you can see Clapton’s punches coming from Jupiter.

Bob Hamilton: At the Paramus Mall?

Bazooka Frills: They got into a Black Friday spat over a macrame kit. An onlooker said they looked like Elton John and Michael Jackson slapping wrists over a glitter sandwich.

Bob Hamilton: Maybe so, but let’s give Southside Johnny some props. He may have learned his entire repertoire of punches from his opponent, but he’s an apt pupil. His take on Miami Steve’ “I Don’t Want to Go Home” is killer. The same goes for “The Fever.”

Bazooka Frills: You’re right about that. Trouble is he sounds just like the Boss. Southside’s is rock’s equivalent of an ass double.

Bob Hamilton: And that raises an important …darnn! I just dropped my mic down the blouse of the ring girl.

Bazooka Frills: That’s what you get for leering. You have to know how to leer. The trick is to close your eyes and leer right through your eyelids. I don’t care what the scientists say. It can be done. Anyway, you were saying?

Bob Hamilton: Vocals have always been Southside’s weak spot. Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, but we’re talking flat-out plagiarism here. You’re not going to score any points using the other guy’s knock-out punch. He’ll see it coming every time.

Bazooka Frills: Kinda makes you wonder what would have happened had Bruce not been around. Would Southside Johnny have sounded the same? It’s a philosophical question worthy of Emmanuel Kant.

Bell rings for Round One:

Bazooka Frills: Southside Johnny comes out swinging.

Bob Hamilton: Now they’re in a clinch, Southside’s ducking and dipping and–Whoa! The Boss delivers a haymaker to Johnny’s chin!

Bazooka Frills: The Boss sent that one by special delivery. It’s his way of saying, “I respect your music, but it’s got all the originality of David Coverdale.”

Bob Hamilton: Southside Johnny just spit some blood. But he’s not out of it yet. He’s but don’t count him out just yet. He bobbing and weaving probing and dancing and employing some of his trademark punches. “Broke Down Piece of Man,” “Got to Get You Off My Mind” could knock out a lesser opponent. And his sucker punch, “It Ain’t the Meat (It’s the Motion),” led him to a decision by points over Looking Glass a few years back.

Bazooka Frills: Suicide Southside’s keeps on swinging, but I’ve seen Smurfs throw harder punches. And look at this; he’s trying to uppercut the Boss with “I Choose to Sing the…”

Bob Hamilton: Ouch! The Boss just knocked Southside off his feet! Now he’s leaning over and saying something…

Bazooka Frills: Dollars to dildos he’s saying, “This town ain’t big enough for the two of us. Stay down or I’ll send your teeth skittering across the canvas like loose chicklets.

Bob Hamilton: You stole that line from Woody Allen.

Bazooka Frills: Who’s Woody Allen?

Bob Hamilton: Never mind. Southside Johnny’s back on his feet… he’s staggering… oh boy.

Bazooka: Something tells me the Boss is about to put him down like Old Yeller.

Bob Hamilton: Here comes the one-two punch.“Rosalita (Come Out Tonight),” followed by “Born to Run.” Never fails.

Bazooka Frills: He just laid out Southside Johnny like a five dollar whore. I haven’t seen anything like that since the Chairman of the Board knocked the glass eye out of Sammy Davis Jr.

Bob Hamilton: Looks like Southside’s down for the count. But check it out. Gentleman Bruce is helping him to his feet.

Bazooka Frills: The Boss is one classy guy. I saw him mug an old lady in an alley once. He helped pick up her dentures.

Bob Hamilton: Looks like they’re going to hug–holy John “Bonzo” Bonham! Bruce just kneed Southside Johnny in the crotch!

Bazooka Frills: A real nut buster. Haven’t seen that one in a while.

Bob Hamilton: Guess the Boss isn’t such a nice guy after all.

Bazooka Frills: You don’t get to the top without kicking a few people in the funky junk. Welcome to the jungle, Johnny.

Bob Hamilton: Well that’s about it from here. Next month we’ll be on hand at the Boss’ rematch with Hurricane Dylan.

Bazooka Frills: The Boss is gonna eat him like Chinese potato salad

Bob Hamilton: What does that even mean?

Bazooka Frills: I’ll be damned if I know. I’ve got severe brain damage.

GRADED ON A CURVE:
B

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