Friday, November 02, 2007

The Boss's Wife

National Blog Posting Month Day 2

I’ve worked for a lot small companies and it’s not uncommon for the wife of the boss to work as either the receptionist or the office manager. At my first job, the boss’s wife was a complete shrew and the boss was the mildest, nicest guy. One day about four of us ended up in the bathroom at the same time and we started ragging on the wife. As we were in mid-laugh, the boss walked out of the far stall, washed his hands, and went back to his office. We all stood around looking awkward.

I bring that up because as hard as it is to be the boss’s wife, it must be a real bitch to be the Wife of The Boss. Patti Scialfa is in one of the most awkward position’s in music, the spouse of a rock star with her own career. You can successfully argue that she wouldn’t have the modicum of success that she has if she weren’t waking up with sheets soaking wet beside Bruce. She had a record deal before joining Bruce’s band, but the actual album wasn’t released until long after the couple had a kid and tied the knot (in that order).

She also has been called the E Street Yoko Ono and the bare outline of the facts support that. She joined the band irregularly as early as 1984. Broooce married a Hollywood starlet in 1988. During the Tunnel of Love tour, the two shared a microphone so much that there probably should have been dental dam on it. The breakup of Bruce’s first marriage was followed shortly by the breakup of the E Street Band. He retreated to California to put out mediocre albums with talented but personality-less studio musicians. All signs of following the Lennon track into marginalization were there.

I prefer to look at her more favorably. The first marriage to Julianne Phillips was an obvious mistake. The two had nothing in common and she seemed eager to kickstart her acting career rather than tour the country. Patti was a Joisey Girl closer to Bruce's roots, even if she was from the mansion on the hill. As his spunky red-headed woman, she eventually lured him back to the East Coast to raise three slightly pampered teenagers. The E-Street Band is now reunited, even if they aren’t consulting my kid’s marching band schedule when they plan tours. I see Patti as a net positive force on Springsteen.

And none of this addresses her music. It’s bluesy in the Bonnie Raitt tradition, and it’s not just the red hair they have in common. Her new album got released a month before her husband’s latest media blitz, so I’m not sure whether that helps her ride his coattails or get lost in the flood. Her new album, Play It As It Lies, is not very different from her other two, but it shows a higher level of polish, to the point where some tracks are a little over produced. Her single is “Looking for Elvis” and I am a sucker for Memphis invoking tunes. Bruce fans on either side of the Patti divide look to her well-crafted lyrics for clues into the state of the relationship. Her song “Bad For You” is as close to a confession as you’ll get.

Hey there baby
There once was a time
You could’ve rolled me like a tobacco
You could’ve spilled me like wine
Across the lips
Across the fingers
Across the skin of your neighborhood
Oh I could have had it bad for you
And that’s not good.

You almost need a cold shower after that song.

Would I have ever stumbled upon this soulful singer-songwriter without the scandal? Probably not. And that wouldn’t have been good.

BlatantCommentWhoring™: Have any other married couples ever managed successful independent music careers?
BonusBlatantCommentWhoring™: Find all the clumsy Springsteen lyric allusions.


Anonymous said...

I'd say Aimee Mann and Michael Penn, but I'm not sure they're careers count as "successful" anymore. Still, they both had independent careers of roughly equal stature when they married and I don't think anyone attributes their declining visibility to their getting hitched...

yellojkt said...

Great example, but I'd have to say that Aimee has had the better career.

Jeff and Charli Lee said...

I'm quite sure there are more, but two obvious references are
-waking up with sheets soaking wet
-from the mansion on the hill

I suppose when JT and Carly Simon were still married they were considered as successful independent duo.

Sue T. said...

This might be getting too obscure, but how about Victoria Williams and Peter Case? (They divorced a number of years ago, but did release solo albums during their marriage.)

flasshe said...

Marti Jones and Don Dixon?

2fs said...

Well, sometimes they're in the same band - sometimes they stay married, sometimes they don't (if they were married in the first place): John Doe & Exene from X, Brett and Rennie Sparks from the Handsome Family, Tim Bracy & Shannon McArdle from the Mendoza Line (recently divorced), Scott Miller & Donette Thayer (Game Theory: not married, band broke up shortly after they did), Steve Kilbey & Donette Thayer (Hex), Mitch Easter & Shalini Chatterjee (Shalini)...

Oh - and who's that band that did that song the Clintons liked so much?

(PS: Yoko did not break up the Beatles. The Beatles would've broken up regardless of Yoko. I'm sick of this whole obnoxious "bros before hoes" attitude...)

yellojkt said...

I'm not sure the couples in Fleetwood Mac count as independent careers while they were in the band. They all had fine solo careers after they all split up.

2fs said...

Ah - missed the "successful *independent* careers" bit. Many of the couples I listed didn't have independent careers.

I think the Mann/Penn combo's the best, longest-lived example of separate careers which remain at least moderately successful. A bit more obscure - but John K. Samson (of The Weakerthans) and Christine Fellows are a couple, each with their own musical careers.