Saturday, April 19, 2008

Boss Tracks; Stay, Maurice Williams & The Zodiacs

"Stay" is a well known cover done by Bruce Springsteen and Jackson Browne, officially released on the No Nukes LP as a registration of the Musicians United for Safe Energy (MUSE) shows. The shows marked Springsteen's first overt political alignment in his career, so I figured it would be a good single to take a look at in the week of Springsteen's endorsement of Obama. The MUSE shows were put together after the Three Mile Islands nuclear accident. A near meltdown of a nuclear reactor caused widespread panic in the media. Partly because of of public ignorance concerning nuclear energy, partly because of very misty communication from the power plant and the local government on the matter which only fed public fear. The activist group founded by Jackson Browne, Graham Nash and Bonnie Raitt was part of the public reaction that caused to stop the further development of nuclear energy in the US dead in its tracks for quite a while. The reasons why Springsteen chose to become involved have always been a bit unclear. It is questionable how much of an understanding Springsteen had of the incident and unknown what his personal views on nuclear energy were. Springsteen chose to let the music speak for itself and didn't comment in public on his involvement. It could very well just be that he was simply doing Jackson and Bonnie a favor. How very different from these days, when the Boss seems to grab every opportunity to make his political views and his dissatisfaction with president bystander known. With MUSE Springsteen's most controversial statement was a pie he threw in the audience. Ironically, it is Springsteen's little outspoken involvement in MUSE that made the shows a financial success in the end. No Nukes did a five night stand at Madison Square Garden in September 1979, but only the nights on which Springsteen would do his hour long set sold out. Bonnie Raitt and Chaka Khan opened for him, the Bruuuuuuuuuucing during their sets must have been daunting I'm sure. The movie that came out of the MUSE project would be the first official release of Springsteen live on film.

"Stay" was the only single Maurice Williams and the Zodiacs ever had popular success with. Williams had written the tune when he was 13 years old about his girlfriend. R&R lore has it that she and Maurice were out on a date together cut short by the curfew imposed on his girlfriend by her parents. Maurice cut a demo of it and then shelved it because he personally didn't think much of the song. Some seven years later Williams was flipping through his demo tapes playing them for his girlfriend, still the same one, and her younger sister. They loved the song so Williams decided to cut what he felt was trash with his Zodiacs. It would become Williams only hit under his own name and a whopper at that. On its initial release "Stay" became a number one hit single, with 1 minute 40 the shortest song ever to top the charts. Henry 'Shane' Gaston's incredible falsetto blasted through every transistor radio in the country and eventually world wide. Although the Hollies, Jackson Browne and the Four Seasons all had big hits with the song, these days "Stay" is mostly associated with Patrick Swayze's muscular torso from the movie "Dirty Dancing" in which the song was prominently featured. In the oldies revival that followed that movie "Stay" was re-released, selling a whopping 10 million copies. Maurice Williams never scored another hit after "Stay" but that one song proved successful enough to keep his career afloat. These days he even has not one, but two official web sites! He even cut an album not to long ago, "Back To Basics", but I doubt it will bring him any success remotely as big as this classic 45.

"Stay" - Maurice Williams & the Zodiacs
"Stay" - Bruce Springsteen & Jackson Browne at MUSE

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