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Not My Job: E Street Drummer Max Weinberg Gets Quizzed On New Jersey


Jewel grew up in the wilds of Alaska, but I had it harder. I grew up in New Jersey.


SAGAL: But at least New Jersey had the music of Bruce Springsteen, who mostly wrote songs about getting the hell out of New Jersey.


BILL KURTIS: When we visited Newark, N.J., we were joined by Bruce's lifelong drummer Max Weinberg.


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.

MAX 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.


WEINBERG: But that doesn't happen every night either. He'll give you a little hint in a guitar chord he may be playing.

SALIE: Really?

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. We don't know that.

WEINBERG: Well, and he gets to four and you don't know what song he's going to play.

SAGAL: Right.

WEINBERG: And if you know most of our songs, it sort of, like, goes one, two, ba-ba-da-ba - a little drumbeat that...

SAGAL: Yeah.

WEINBERG: ...Fills - so...

SAGAL: That's you. You're supposed to do the little drumbeat.

WEINBERG: That's me.

SAGAL: Right.

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 The Boss.

WEINBERG: That's why he's The Boss.

SAGAL: I read - we read that you 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.

WEINBERG: Absolutely.

SAGAL: And so your 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...

ROCCA: Yeah.

SALIE: Yeah.

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.

SALIE: Better than anybody.

ROCCA: But was it touched up at all, that album cover?


WEINBERG: No that's - you know, as they say, that's true butt.

SAGAL: Oh yeah.

WEINBERG: That is true butt.

SAGAL: Yeah.

WEINBERG: No butt double...

SAGAL: Right.

WEINBERG: ...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.

SAGAL: I know.

WEINBERG: 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.


WEINBERG: Thank you.

SAGAL: We've asked you here to play a game we're calling...

KURTIS: We're Sorry, New Jersey.

SAGAL: Now...


SAGAL: ...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.


SAGAL: 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're right, it was, in fact...

WEINBERG: All right.

SAGAL: ...The smell of maple syrup.




SAGAL: I think...

WEINBERG: 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.


SAGAL: All right, next question. 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 "Garden State" at 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. They told you I was a drummer, right?

SAGAL: They didn't mention that.


WEINBERG: I'm going to go with number two...

SAGAL: You're going to go with the tomatoes.

WEINBERG: I think it's the tomatoes.

SAGAL: 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 in New Jersey.


SAGAL: All right.


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.


FELBER: There you go.


SAGAL: This is - you may not have known this, but the American sanitary wares industry was born in Trenton, N.J. 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.

SAGAL: Yeah.


WEINBERG: So you might say that this company was a number one in a number-two business.


SAGAL: There you go.


FELBER: ...Number one and number two.

SAGAL: I can't understand why Bruce doesn't give you your own microphone back there.


SAGAL: Bill, how did Max Weinberg do on our quiz?

KURTIS: Well, Max did a number two. So on this show, you won.

WEINBERG: Oh hey...


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.

WEINBERG: Pleasure, it was great.

SAGAL: That does it for our show today.

WAIT WAIT... DON'T TELL ME is a production of NPR and WBEZ Chicago, in association with Urgent Haircut Productions - Doug Berman, benevolent overlord. Philipp Goedicke writes our limericks. Our house manager is Don Hall. Our assistant house manager is Tyler Greene. Our intern is Go Isabell-it on the Mountain Robertson (ph). Our web guru is Beth Novey. Special thanks to the crew at Chase Bank. B.J. Leiderman composed our theme. Our program is produced by Robin Linn (ph) and Miles Doornbos. Technical direction is from Lorna White. Our CFO is Ann Nguyen. Our production coordinator, Mr. Robert Neuhaus. Our senior producer is Ian Chillag. The executive producer of WAIT WAIT... DON'T TELL ME every darn week is Mike Danforth.

Thanks to Bill Kurtis, to all the guests and panelists you heard on this week's show. I'm Peter Sagal, and we will see you next week.


SAGAL: This is NPR. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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