S outhside Johnny takes a trip to the past on his latest album, Men Without Women: Live 7-2-11. Though it's a live recording of a show he played just last year, the record features Southside and the Asbury Jukes performing songs from Little Steven's 1982 album. Longtime friends with both Steven (a founding member of the Jukes) and Bruce Springsteen, Southside Johnny has released more than 30 albums in a career that stretches back to the early '70s. He's working on a new album with the Jukes that's due next year.
Who knows more about early rock & roll – you or Little Steven?
I know a lot more than he does. He knows the '60 garage band, and I know the R&B and doo-wop stuff. He knows all the guitar hero stuff.
But you don't have a radio show.
I've been asked a number of times, but I can't commit to it because I'm on the road too much. I would like to, but it would be different than what they expect. I would be a psycho '60s jock being wild and all that. I know the people from Sirius and they've offered it, but until I get more time, I can't do it.
You have a huge vinyl collection, don't you?
We have over 5,000 45s and I don't know how many 78s. We had 10,000 and got rid of stuff we weren't listening to. My friend and I have a joint collection. When we lived in Nashville, we'd have parties and play hundred of those 45s. Now, he has it all in Whitefish, Montana, where he moved two years ago. I have visitation rights.
When did you start collecting fine art?
I don't collect a lot of fine art. I have two pieces I really like. David Hayes, who played in the Jukes and was Van Morrison's bass player for years and years, is a terrific painter. He painted me one painting of yellow flowers on a bright red background. The other piece is a piece I bought for $15 at a flea market. It's a primitive of a fishing shack on a marsh. It's soothing but very compelling. For $15, I figured what the heck? It's a neat folk-art kind of a thing. It pleases me to no end.
To what do you attribute your popularity in Cleveland?
I think [former WMMS DJ] Kid Leo should take the blame. He started playing our demo before we even put out of a record. Steve and I recorded four songs one afternoon at the Stone Pony with horn players from the Asbury Heights High School who weren't even in tune. We just wanted to show what the songs were. Steve Popovich, who ran Epic [Records], gave Leo a copy of the demo and started playing it on the air. I called him up and said, "What the fuck do you think you're doing?" We became good friends after that. He gave us our start.
Does it pain you to see the way MTV has tarnished the Jersey shore's reputation?
I don't even watch that show. When I was growing up, Johnny Carson would make fun of Burbank, California, and New Jersey. I'm immune to that. That's one of the reason we have a chip on our shoulder. We've always been looked down upon, especially from the New York people. It makes us more aggressive, and we're proud to stuff it in their faces.
Kind of like Clevelanders.
That's exactly right. That's why there's a bond between us. We're not going to put up with any crap.