BILL KURTIS, BYLINE: From NPR and WBEZ Chicago, this is WAIT WAIT …DON'T TELL ME, the NPR News quiz. I'm Chinese Communist sleeper agent, Bill Kurtis.
KURTIS: And here's your host at the Chase Bank Auditorium in downtown Chicago, Peter Sagal.
PETER SAGAL, HOST:
Thank you, Bill. Thank you, everybody.
SAGAL: Deep within every public radio host is a singer-songwriter desperate to come out. So that’s why we are devoting this special hour of WAIT WAIT …DON'T TELL ME to a solo performance I’ve come up with called My Life, My Loves, My Hair – The Peter Sagal Song Cycle.
KURTIS: I’m calling inaudible, Peter. We’re going to play some recent interviews with actual musicians instead.
SAGAL: Well, I’m disappointed, but all right. We’ll start with somebody who I have a lot I common with. We’re both Jewish guys from New Jersey and we both perform next to a giant of the business known as the boss.
KURTIS: Drummer Max Weinberg of the E Street Band joins us in the town where he was born – Newark, N.J., in December of 2014. Peter asked him how he got the job playing behind Springsteen.
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SAGAL: The story is that you auditioned - you answered an ad that Bruce took out in the mid-70s.
MAX WEINBERG: That's quite right. In the newspaper - The Village Voice, I answered a want ad that said, wanted drummer. No Ginger junior Bakers. Now Ginger Baker was the fantastic, flamboyant drummer of the rock group Cream.
WEINBERG: A wonderful movie out called, "Beware Of Mr. Baker," and you really get a flavor of Ginger Baker. He was a soloist. And the fact that it said no junior Ginger Bakers indicated to me that whoever this group was - and it said at the bottom, Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band - but then it said on Columbia Records. That was good, he was doing better than me. He had a record deal.
WEINBERG: No junior Ginger Bakers indicated to me he wanted an accompanist, and that's what I'd basically always done growing up in the '50s and '60s as a drummer in Newark and in all the suburbs around here.
SAGAL: Right. And...
WEINBERG: I think it's going to work out.
SAGAL: Really? Yeah?
WEINBERG: I was playing, as I said, in the Broadway show, “Godspell,” in the pit band – clearly aptly named, by the way. ‘Cause being in the pit band in those days, it was tough. There was this open call, and I was the 56th drummer of about 60-something drummers that went down to play. And I had this little drum set. And if you remember in the ‘70s, the style burgeoning then was to have these multi-drum – 15 drums, 11 cymbals, big flamboyant drum sets like Ginger Baker. And I didn’t have that. Anyway, I brought the drums in, carried them into a little studio on West 54th Street. What I noticed immediately – what was really interesting – and this is serious – was that the way the other musicians, Clarence Clemons, Gary Tallent and Dan Federici related to him…
WEINBERG: The core of the E Street Band at that time and the way they paid attention, that was very impressive to me. And I never quite knew why I got in the band. I mean, they did choose me. We went literally into rehearsal. We had five days of rehearsal and went on tour. My biggest thrill was I now had somebody to carry my drums and set them up.
SAGAL: Now Bruce - everybody calls him the boss. Do you? He is your boss.
MO ROCCA: Do you go to him to ask for a raise? Doe he issue at W-2 at the end of the year for you?
SAGAL: Does he make you do like a...
FAITH SALIE: Year-end review?
SAGAL: ...Like a performance review? A year-end review? Does he come in, he's sitting in his office, he says well, Max, your drumming has been very fine this year.
WEINBERG: You know, if you've ever seen our concert, you'd know that we have a performance review every night. It's true. Because we'll go out and we'll play for three or four hours, and usually that's about 30 songs. On any given night, 15 of those songs are what we call audibles. You literally don't know what he's going to decide to play. And if you're lucky, he'll tell you. But that doesn't happen every night either. He'll give you a little hint in a guitar chord he may be playing.
WEINBERG: So yes...
SAGAL: Really? He'll just launch into it and expect you to be on it?
WEINBERG: He'll just - oh yeah.
SAGAL: Has he ever like started a song and the rest of you guys are like, we don't know what that is?
WEINBERG: Yeah. Absolutely. Panic when Bruce Springsteen goes, in his patented voice, one, two, three.
SAGAL: And you're like, oh my God. I don't know that.
WEINBERG: Well, and he gets to four and you don't know what song he's going to play. And if you know most of our songs, it sort of like goes one, two, ba-ba-da-ba - a little drumbeat that fills...
SAGAL: That's you. You're supposed to do the little drumbeat.
WEINBERG: That's me. And I'm at three and I don't know what four is, and...
SAGAL: They're mostly about cars. How wrong could you go, really?
WEINBERG: You know, I've heard that said but then I know that Bruce once was saying, well, they're really about the people in the cars.
SAGAL: That's why he's boss.
WEINBERG: That's why he's the boss.
SAGAL: I read - we read that were famous among drummers for - and this may explain why - for your focus on Bruce. There's even a picture of you on Wikipedia, note drummer Max Weinberg staring intently at Bruce Springsteen as he always does.
SAGAL: And so you're view of the show is Bruce Springsteen's back.
WEINBERG: His entire back - his back, his waste, his butt. And I'll tell you, regarding that view, some of you may remember the "Born in the U.S.A." album.
SAGAL: Sure. The "Born in the U.S.A." album - and for those who are young and just hear it on Spotify - the album cover is a picture of Bruce Springsteen's ass.
WEINBERG: So when we were making that record, there were - in the studio we were in in New York City, there were these prototype record covers lined up on the wall. And most of them featured Bruce's face. There were a couple of cars with some people in them. And there was this one shot of what became the album cover. And I voted for that one because that was the view I always saw.
ADAM FELBER: That's the Bruce I know.
SAGAL: I know that butt.
WEINBERG: I didn't recognize him from the front. I've never seen him from the front. I've only seen from the back.
ROCCA: I mean, you know his butt - I mean, better than anybody. But was it touched up at all - that album cover?
WEINBERG: No that's - you know, as they say, that's true butt. That is true butt. No butt double there. That's the view.
SAGAL: Has your view of the butt changed over the years? Has the butt changed is what I'm saying?
ROCCA: Right. What is the evolution?
SAGAL: This recent international tour, have you been looking at the butt and going hey, I guess we're all getting on in years? Or has it been more like, wow, he's so timeless. His music is ageless as is his butt.
WEINBERG: You know, you took the words right out of my mouth. The music is timeless and so is the butt.
SAGAL: There you are.
SAGAL: Well, Max Weinberg, it is a pleasure to talk to you. We've asked you here today to play a game.
WEINBERG: Thank you. Thank you.
SAGAL: We've asked you here to play a game we're calling...
KURTIS: We're Sorry, New Jersey.
SAGAL: Now regular listeners may know that I have taken perhaps more than my fair share of potshots at my home state. And we are here today make amends. We are going to ask you, Max Weinberg, three questions about wonderful and interesting things about New Jersey taken from the magisterial book, the Encyclopedia of New Jersey. Which despite what you might've heard, does not have a leopard print velour cover. It's a real book. Answer two of these questions correctly, you'll win our prize for one of our listeners, Carl Kasell's voice on their voicemail. Bill who is Max Weinberg playing for?
KURTIS: Kori Phillips of Denville, N.J.
SAGAL: There you are.
WEINBERG: Happy to do it.
SAGAL: Here we go Max. Your first question - New Jersey has long bestowed gifts on its neighboring states. It's a generous state, am I right? Such as which of these - A, beginning in 2005, emissions from a factory in Hudson County have periodically made Manhattan smell like maple syrup; B, in 1702, a Cherry Hill resident invented the gold chain and gifted it to William Penn of Philadelphia; or C, in 1996, Delaware increased tourism revenue 10 percent when they debuted the slogan boring but we are near New Jersey.
WEINBERG: I really do need to go with number one, I believe.
SAGAL: Maple syrup. You are right, it was in fact the smell of maple syrup.
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WEINBERG: I'm right.
WEINBERG: I think you have to be from New Jersey to know that.
SAGAL: It's true. I think it's the nicest smell we've ever sent New York's way.
ROCCA: Well, wait a minute.
SAGAL: All right, next question. And as you know, New Jersey is known far and wide as the Garden State. It says so right on the license plates of the 8 million cars registered in New Jersey. To show off its verdant agricultural heart, the state does what? A, it offers free screenings of the classic Zach Braff movie "Gardens State" and state parks every week all summer; B, it imports tomatoes from Chile and gives them out for free at highway rest stops; or C, it paints the containment walls alongside the Garden State Parkway a nice bright green?
WEINBERG: Whoa. That's - those are terrible, terrible questions.
SAGAL: Yes they are.
WEINBERG: They told you I was a drummer right?
SAGAL: They didn't mention that.
WEINBERG: I'm going to go with number two I think it's the tomatoes.
SAGAL: You're going to go with the tomatoes. No, it was actually they paint the walls of the Parkway. You may not be able to tell, but they are painted green because it is the Garden State Parkway.
WEINBERG: I'd like to see them name one wall that's painted green.
SAGAL: Well, it doesn't matter 'cause you have one more chance.
WEINBERG: All right.
SAGAL: Here's your last question.
WEINBERG: It better be good.
SAGAL: Now these days, of course, New Jersey is known for producing the finest in reality shows. But back in the day, New Jersey was once the global capital for the manufacture of what? A, toilets; B, feminine hygiene products; or C, dentures?
SAGAL: In fact, we had a practical cartel. This is true. If you wanted one of these, you had to come to New Jersey.
WEINBERG: All right, I'm going to say toilets.
SAGAL: It's toilets.
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WEINBERG: Way to go.
SAGAL: This is - you may not have known this, but the American Sanitary Wares Industry was born in Trenton, New Jersey. And for many years, the manufacturers there had a virtual toilet cartel. If you wanted a toilet, you had talk to people in Trenton. That was broken up by the federal government in the 1920s. Who knew? Not me.
WEINBERG: If you still want a toilet you have to talk to the people in Trenton.
SAGAL: That's true.
FELBER: It should have said Trenton makes so the world can too.
WEINBERG: So you might say that this company was a number one in a number two business.
SAGAL: There you go.
FELBER: A number one in number two.
SAGAL: I can't understand why Bruce doesn't give you your own microphone back there. Bill, how did Max Weinberg do on our quiz?
KURTIS: Well, Max did a number two so on this show you won.
WEINBERG: Thank you. Thank you world.
SAGAL: Max Weinberg, a proud New Jerseyan and drummer for Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band. The leader of the Max Weinberg Quintet. Max Weinberg, thank you so much.
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