Last week, Radio.com spoke with Bruce Springsteen sidekick and E Street Band guitarist Steven Van Zandt about his Rock And Roll Forever Foundation, his initiative to get music history integrated with public school curriculum. But Little Steven being Little Steven, he’s juggling a number of projects right now.
We spoke to him about a few other things on his agenda including his recent hiatus from E Street Band, the Rascals‘ reunion shows (which he prompted and produced) and, for the fun of it, the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame, which he often seems to be at least peripherally involved in.
First off was the question of Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band’s recent tour of Australia, which Van Zandt had to miss due to his commitment to filming his Netflix-distributed TV show Lilyhammer. Rage Against The Machine member and Springsteen super-fan Tom Morello filled in on guitar for the tour.
“I thanked [Morello] for it,” Van Zandt said. “I was very happy that he was there. Anything that helps my friend Bruce! He’s my friend first (and foremost).”
(Van Zandt also noted that Morello paid tribute to him, playing a smoking version of “Sun City” at a tribute to the E Street Band guitarist in October 2012.)
The Lilyhammer filming finished in time for Van Zandt to get back to New York City in time for the official opening of the Rascals’ reunion show, Once Upon A Dream. The show, produced by Van Zandt, premiered at the Capitol Theatre in Port Chester, New York in December and is now wrapping up a a 15-night stand on Broadway. The production will make its way to Florida Memorial Day weekend. And Van Zandt reports, “There are 30 more dates I’m gonna be announcing soon!”
Van Zandt famously advocated for the Rascals’ induction into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame in 1997; his famous speech at the Jersey band’s induction ceremony even led to his being cast in HBO’s The Sopranos. He’s also advocated a number of other artists as well, including Darlene Love and the Dave Clark Five, and is pleased with his track record.
“I’m very lucky, I’ve gotten a lot of my groups in,” he said. “Donovan… the Small Faces [in 2012] was a big victory. We really have to thank Rod Stewart and Ron Wood for that, without the Faces, we would have never got the Small Faces in, and the Small Faces were probably more important than the Faces, actually.”
“But,” he’s quick to note, “both groups were great!”
(Conversations with Van Zandt often veer into discussions of great rock bands, as heard in the exchange above, by the way.)
Another group whom he campaigned for was the Hollies. Former members Allen Clarke and Graham Nash attended the ceremony, but founding members Tony Hicks and Bobby Elliott were unable to attend… because the current version of the Hollies had a gig in London the night of the induction. This still rankles Van Zandt.
“I couldn’t get all the Hollies to show up to the f***ing Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame,” he said, “after I practically had to kill people to get them in!”
So, who is the next artist who he thinks deserves induction?
“Easy answer: Procol Harum!” he declares, with no pause at all. “It’s absurd that they aren’t in yet! They’re No. 1 for me, on my ballot. I have a lot of No. 2’s, including Johnny Burnette and the Rock and Roll Trio, the greatest rockabilly group of all time, arguably… other than Elvis, Scotty and Bill,” referencing Elvis Presley and his early backing group Scotty Moore (on guitar) and Bill Black (on bass).
Also on Van Zandt’s shortlist: “The Paul Butterfield Blues Band, The J. Geils Band. There are a lot of doo-wop groups, too numerous to mention.”
Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band, with Van Zandt back on guitar, just kicked off a European tour in Oslo, Norway.