Thursday, November 29, 2007

Gary U.S. Bonds - "This Little Girl" (1981)

Rock and roll comeback stories like this are far and few between. They don't seem to happen anymore, really. So before we even talk about the song, this story has to be told first. It's become rock music urban legend.

In the early 60's, Gary U.S. Bonds had a few big rock party hits, along the same lineage as The Isley Brothers' "Shout" and J.J. Jackson's "It's Alright." Bonds' recordings were kind of primitive but they zoomed up the charts and became classics of the era -- "New Orleans," "Dear Lady Twist," and the one that went to the top, "Quarter to Three."

Then, nothing. The hits stopped coming after a three year ride.

Fast forward 15 years later. Bruce Springsteen and the Street Band are touring to promote Darkness on the Edge of Town. As a matter of fact, he's been doing "Quarter To Three" as an encore. The band hears that Bonds is performing at some Jersey hotel nightclub, so they go see him. They agree to keep in touch.

A couple of years later, Springsteen is touring for his double album The River, which is heavily influenced by those early 60's rock songs. Springsteen and Miami Steve reunite with their hero Bonds and record an entire album with him, with the two of them contributing songs and vocals. EMI Records signs Bonds and out comes his big comeback album Dedication, blessed by the E Street Band.

The record opens up with a joyous version of an old Cajun song, "Jole Blon," where Bonds duets with Springsteen, and E Streeter Danny Federici joins in on accordion. But the next song becomes Bonds' comeback hit, "This Little Girl," written especially for him by Springsteen, and man, it does not disappoint.

Coming right out of that River-era mold, it starts with a slow A minor strum across a Telecaster through a tube amp, like a curtain opener. Then right into that 60's party beat you can clap your hands to -- "Here she comes... Walking down the street." Mighty Max Weinberg builds up on his booming snare drum to the chorus, "This little girl is mine, wo-oh, this little girl is mine. This little girl, this little girl, this little girl is mine!" It's like the hands of time spun all the way back again, and Bonds has himself a moderately-sized FM radio hit.

Bonds, who already years touring, hits the road again with a new band, this time with the Bruce Blessing. He tours clubs everywhere, bringing back his original hits while playing his new album.

And that is history, my friends. Bonds followed up with another Springsteen/Miami Steve album called On The Line, which was good but never broke through like Dedication. A few years later, he was back on the nostalgia circuit, still as smooth and young looking as ever.

As an aside, there was a time when people where covering Springsteen songs left and right (remember the Pointer Sisters doing "Fire?")and he was giving them away or co-writing them with notables like Patti Smith ("Because The Night"). It's been many years since he's done that and boy, we could use some more of those Springsteen tossaways.

Below is a video of Bonds and his band making an early 80's pit stop on the wonderful cult New Jersey local TV access program, "The Uncle Floyd Show," which attracted many rock notables of the day like the Ramones. The songs were always lip-synched, but that was part of the corny fun of that program, which is also missed.

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