There is always an argument made by fans over which song may serve as an artist’s signature song. In the case of Southside Johnny, it would be hard to argue against his great recording of Bruce Springsteen’s “The Fever.” Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes have for many years closed their concerts with the iconic song. Its seems almost unimaginable that a songwriter would give away such a brilliantly written song. However, Bruce Springsteen has always been such a prolific songwriter,that the idea of giving away such great material seemed to be no big deal to the artist.In fairness to Southside Johnny, songwriters dream of having their material covered by such amazing vocalist such as Southside. However, Springsteen has always defined the perfect trifecta of artist, singer, and performer. So in the end, it was probably their friendship that motivated Springsteen to give Southside such great material. Yes, we know that Bruce and Steven Van Zant produced and wrote most of the songs for Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes first two 1970’s albums. And, of course there were going to write and produce great material for Southside Johnny. However, a song like “The Fever,” is quiet special and must have at least given Springsteen some sort of degree of hesitancy before he gave it to Southside Johnny to record.
For many years, the only version of “The Fever,” ever officially released was the Southside Johnny and Asbury Jukes recording that was released on the band’s debut album. Only hardcore Springsteen fans may have heard the various recordings of “The Fever,” performed by Springsteen on scattered bootleg releases. The original studio version has long circulated along with various live performances of the song. However, all fans finally benefited in 1999 when Springsteen released “The Fever,” on the 18 Tracks CD which served as a companion piece to the 1997 four CD Tracks Box Set. The 18 Tracks recording was the original 1973 recording of Bruce Springsteen’s “The Fever.”
Both Southside Johnny and Bruce Springsteen’s version of “The Fever,” are dramatically different. Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes version employees Southside’s horn section in spectacular fashion. The tempo of the song is significantly faster than Springsteen’s version. The original recording of Bruce Springsteen’s version is a far slower paced arrangement, striped down to the just the basic elements of Springsteen’s early sound. The lyrics are slightly different in some sections than Southside’s version. Springsteen’s is darker, while Southside’s swings. Both versions are brilliant.
So that leads us to the ultimate question. Which version do you prefer? Of course they both exist together in classic rock history as masterful recordings. But if you had to choose just one to fit onto that cassette mix tape, which one would you pick. We would love to hear what you have to say.
Southside Johnny & The Asbury Jukes – The Fever
Bruce Springsteen – The Fever
Photo: “Bruce Springsteen @ Santiago Bernabeu, Madrid” flickr photo by Alive87 https://flickr.com/photos/alive87/7420039638 shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license