Darkness falls on the edge of town where East Washington finally breaks loose from the Phoenix city limits and funnels the bumper-to-bumper procession of commuters out of the business hub and toward their after-five suburban oases in Tempe, Mesa, Ahwatukee and beyond. To the west, a gorgeous Arizona sunset illuminates billowy tufts of cirrocumulus clouds, casting opalescent hues of orange and blue on the hoods of the slowly fleeing automobiles.
Max Weinberg, the drummer for Bruce Springsteen's E Street Band, takes in the scenery from just outside the venerable Stockyards restaurant, where the visiting musician has just polished off a hearty, fit-for-a-cattle-rustler meal. The visual contrast of the mundane rush-hour traffic on the street a couple-dozen yards away and the awe-inspiring work of nature bathing all the chugging Detroit machinery with light from above provides an appropriate backdrop for an interview with the man who's kept the beat behind all those life-affirming, blue-collar anthems, songs that have likewise managed to cast rich hues on the mundane, workaday realities of--"Wait a minute, before we start this," Weinberg says suddenly, bringing my note-scribbling to a halt. "You're not talking to me here, okay? Say we're talking at the airport."
Uh . . . right. The airport. Riiippp! Crumple, crumple, crumple. Perhaps that sunset's just a little too postcard-perfect, like one of those painted skyline backdrops Johnny Carson keeps behind his desk and changes whenever he wants to with the press of a button. How 'bout a snowstorm, Doc? Something for the band! Or maybe Weinberg has the interview confused with some new Nintendo game where the player can change what "world" he's in simply by pressing the "select" button. C'mon, Warp Zone 8! Oh, well. It is only a print interview, after all. We can go places no TV news team dares to tread. A little artistic license, then, Maestro: DARKNESS FALLS ON THE runway at the edge of Terminal 3--"and it's Saturday morning, just before I leave."
All right, now hold on here! Enough! Okay, Mr. Weinberg, I know Bruce Springsteen calls you "the Mighty Max" on-stage. But does that give you the power to alter time and space?
Weinberg explains his reasons for rolling away the Thursday-night rush-hour backdrop in favor of early a.m. airport. Seems he's got a cousin here he's really not too eager to ring up, and he doesn't want the poor schmuck to discover via a newspaper article that his rich and famous relative was in town and took off without even so much as a howdy-do. A not entirely unreasonable request--we've all got some relatives we'd rather run into only at the departure gate. But, sorry, Weinberg has already taken this interview too much into his own hands.
For starters, he opened our meeting by banishing the photographer he had kept waiting for 45 minutes in the restaurant bar ("I don't do candids," Weinberg shrugged), supplying instead his own 8x10 glossy--a posed "action shot" depicting the charisma-starved stickman in Springsteen-style rolled-up sleeves.
Then, after insisting his comments be transcribed on a note pad rather than recorded on cassette (standard interviewer's practice), Weinberg began his comment-making by talking about what he wouldn't comment on: nothing about Bruce and Patti, nothing about Bruce and Julianne, nothing about Bruce and Sting's purported fight during the recent Amnesty International tour--nothing, actually, about Bruce at all, other than his role in making Max Weinberg the great and important star that he is today. And now he wants to travel 36 hours back to the future and stage the interview around an imaginary baggage-claim carousel?
It's an outrageous list of demands for any sideman to make of an interviewer, and inevitably Max's rules just become exasperating. After about three minutes with the guy, you wanna throw your hands up and yell, "Listen, you miserable skins-beater! You wanna control everything so badly, huh? You wanna pick your own questions, you wanna name your own time and place? Why don't you go off somewhere and interview yourself! Yeah! Hell, charge admission! See what kind of a crowd you can attract!"
Which, uh, is exactly what Weinberg does. THE PRESS RELEASE from New York's Greater Talent Network Inc. lays out the program for "Max Weinberg's Lecture Tour": "Part I: `Little Max'--How Max's dream of playing drums as a youth was realized as an adult (film clips and lecture).
"Part II: The English Invasion . . . Rock 'N' Roll of the 1960's--How rock 'n' roll evolved with the social and political ideologies from the Sixties to the present.
"Part III: The E Street Band's Role in the History of Rock.
"Part IV: Expansion of Political
Ideology . . . Worldwide Amnesty Peace Message via Rock." Well, it certainly sounds a lot more interesting and far-reaching than the interview Max gives me, which could be outlined something like this: Part I: Why Max Doesn't Like Cameras, Recorders or Pesky Journalists Who Won't Let Him Properly Digest a Meal.