SUMMER ON SIGNAL HILL is an instrumental composed by Bruce Springsteen. As far as it's known, he has not recorded it or performed it live. Springsteen donated the song to Clarence Clemons & The Red Bank Rockers who recorded it and released it as a B-side in 1983. The song was also recorded and released by Killer Joe on their 1991 album Scene Of The Crime.
Originally, SUMMER ON SIGNAL HILL was a song (with lyrics) called "Now And Forever". Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band may have recorded it around the spring of 1983 at The Hit Factory in New York City, NY, during the Born In The U.S.A. recording sessions, but that's unlikely since it does not appear in Sony's database of Springsteen recording sessions. Moreover, Max Weinberg stated that "The E Street Band played [SUMMER ON SIGNAL HILL] but never recorded it." See Max Weinberg's liner notes in the "Killer Joe's Cover Version" section below. Weinberg's statement may indicate that the song, SUMMER ON SIGNAL HILL or NOW AND FOREVER, was played during the band rehearsals that took place in April 1982 at Springsteen's home studio in Colts Neck, NJ.
The lyrics to NOW AND FOREVER have not surfaced and remain unknown to fans. Springsteen later scraped them and re-titled the song "Summer On Signal Hill" and donate it to Clarence Clemons & The Red Bank Rockers. They recorded it (as an instrumental) and first released it as a B-side in 1983. Curiously, in Australia the song was issued under the title "Now And Forever". This matter was chased up by a Springsteen fan in Australia back in 1983. This made CBS Australia check with Jonathan Music, Springsteen's song publisher in Australia and New Zealand. Jonathan Music replied that the title "Now And Forever" was not a typo, but rather the original working title of the song that had been changed to "Summer On Signal Hill" when it became an instrumental. Springsteen's organization had inadvertently sent one of its overseas publishers the wrong title information, and Jonathan Music passed on the wrong title info to CBS Australia and that's why the Australian 7-inch single was pressed in 1983 as "A Woman's Got The Power / Now And Forever". See the "Official Releases of Clarence Clemons' Cover Version" section below.
"Signal Hill" is the name for several communities and geographical locations in and outside the United States. However "Signal Hill" in the Springsteen song is probably a reference to Telegraph Hill Park, which is located very close to the house he rented on Telegraph Hill Road in Holmdel Township, NJ, between 1976 and 1981. Before the arrival of European settlers, the Lenni Lenape Native Americans used the elevated park, which has a panoramic view of the surrounding area, to send smoke signals. At about 114 meters above sea level, Crawford Hill is the highest point of land in the park and in Holmdel and is best known as the location of the Holmdel Horn Antenna, a large microwave horn antenna that was used as a radio telescope during the 1960s at Bell Telephone Laboratories in Holmdel. The antenna was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1988.
Curiously, when BROTHERS UNDER THE BRIDGES appeared for the first time on the Tracks box set in 1998, it contained the lyrics "[...] Tonight up on Signal Hill, I watch a young man in a red shirt walking through a night so still [...]". The song, which had never leaked out before its release on Tracks, is a Born In The U.S.A. outtake recorded at the Hit Factory in New York City, NY – the official Tracks take was recorded on 04 Sep 1983. Note that this is the only known song in Springsteen's repertoire that mentions Signal Hill – it's very unlikely that this is merely a coincidence.
Bruce Springsteen donated SUMMER ON SIGNAL HILL to Clarence Clemons & The Red Bank Rockers. They recorded it and released it in October 1983 on the B-side of A WOMAN'S GOT THE POWER in the USA and Australia and the B-side of SAVIN' UP in Europe. SUMMER ON SIGNAL HILL was also reissued worldwide in 1986 on the B-side of Clarence Clemons' I WANNA BE YOUR HERO. The track was not available in digital form until 2011. See the "Official Releases of Clarence Clemons' Cover Version" section below for more details.
Both A WOMAN'S GOT THE POWER and SAVIN' UP are from Clarence Clemons & The Red Bank Rockers' 1983 album Rescue, which was recorded in late summer 1983 at The Record Plant in New York City, NY. Clarence Clemons & The Red Bank Rockers' cover version of SUMMER ON SIGNAL HILL must have been recorded during those same sessions.
Bruce Springsteen was credited as the sole producer on SUMMER ON SIGNAL HILL when it was first released in 1983 – "Produced by Bruce Springsteen" can be found on the European pressings of "Savin' Up / Summer On Signal Hill" and the U.S. pressing of "A Woman's Got The Power / Summer On Signal Hill". This is also mentioned in some ads for the single that were in some trade magazines at the time. Yet when the same recorded track was re-issued in 1986, the production credit on the "I Wanna Be Your Hero / Summer On Signal Hill" single changed to "Produced by Bruce Springsteen & Ralph Schuckett". So there remains a still-outstanding point of confusion about which credit is right – whether Bruce Springsteen produced or co-produced the track. Springsteen does not appear to play on the recording.
When SUMMER ON SIGNAL HILL was first released in 1983, it was speculated that it was the E Street Band in disguise – understandable too, as it sounds like them. It was Charles R. Cross who wrote in issue #9 (Spring 1984) of Backstreets magazine a piece speculating that it might be Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band. As he put it, "it's the biggest joke in the world as it's billed as the Red Bank Rockers – since any educated ear could pick out the sound of the E Street Band". Cross also speculated that it is Springsteen playing lead guitar.
However, biographer Dave Marsh saw Cross' article and wrote a friendly letter to the editor that appeared in the following issue of Backstreets (Summer 1984). Marsh wrote in that letter that it is Clarence Clemons & The Red Bank Rockers playing, not the E Street Band. The ripping lead guitar solo heard in the recording is not Springsteen's; it's David Landau's (Jon Landau's brother) who was then the lead guitarist for the Red Bank Rockers. Marsh offers pretty compelling evidence in his letter, including a conversation with the parties involved.
In a November 2002 interview with Christopher Phillips published in issue #76 (Winter/Spring 2003) of Backstreets magazine, Clarence Clemons said that SUMMER ON SIGNAL HILL was the first song that Bruce Springsteen did for him. He confirmed that it was his band The Red Bank Rockers, not the E Street Band, playing on the track. When Phillips told him that the track sounds for all the world like the E Street Band and that there are a lot of people who maintain that's the E Street Band on the record, Clemons explained, "That's because the song was written like that, written by Bruce. It's his signature sound – other musicians may play, but his songs will sound like him, sound like the E Street Band. So you've got that real E Street Band sound in there. But that was my band."
What Clarence Clemons missed in his explanation was that the track was produced (or co-produced) by Bruce Springsteen, as evidenced in the credits found on the official releases (see below section for complete list). Moreover, Springsteen and Clemons may have played the instrumental's pre-cursor, NOW AND FOREVER, during the E Street Band rehearsals that took place in April 1982 at Springsteen's home studio in Colts Neck, NJ. This would mean that the two clearly had a blue print for how to lay down the instrumental once it was stripped of its lyrics. Of course, since NOW AND FOREVER has not been circulated, it is not known if the audio track for NOW AND FOREVER was the same or similar to what became SUMMER ON SIGNAL HILL.
Clarence Clemons & The Red Bank Rockers' recording of SUMMER ON SIGNAL HILL does not sound like the E Street Band simply because it was written by Bruce Springsteen, as Clarence explained. Countless Springsteen covers musically mimic the actual songs, but they all sound absolutely nothing like the E Street Band. However, a track being produced (or co-produced) by Bruce Springsteen can make it sound like the E Street Band. There are many examples in the history of recorded music, and an obvious one is the Phil Spector records from the sixties – as long as Phil Spector was producing the record, no matter who sang or played on it, it sounded the same.
So, in short, the fact that Bruce Springsteen produced (or co-produced) SUMMER ON SIGNAL HILL is exactly why it sounds exactly as if Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band had in fact recorded it.
Clarence Clemons & The Red Bank Rockers' version of SUMMER ON SIGNAL HILL was released as a B-side in 1983 and 1986. It was releases in digital form for the first time as a bonus track on the 2011 Japanese reissue of Clarence Clemons & The Red Bank Rockers' Rescue album.
When Bruce Springsteen temporary disbanded the E Street Band in 1989, drummer Max Weinberg decided to enter law school, following in his father's career footsteps. "All I had was an advanced degree in Bruce Springsteen music, and the market for used drummers was slim," he said at the time. He made it into law school but didn't stay long.
In 1990, Weinberg started his own record label, the New Jersey based Hard Ticket Entertainment. The following year he produced and drummed on the label's first title, Scene Of The Crime, an album by Killer Joe, a New York group Weinberg put together. This was the only album the group ever released, and it featured two rare tracks written by Bruce Springsteen: the instrumental SUMMER ON SIGNAL HILL and CLUB SOUL CITY. The former was only otherwise released by Clarence Clemons & The Red Bank Rockers as a B-side in 1983 and the latter was only otherwise released by Gary U.S. Bonds in 1982. Scene Of The Crime was released on 08 Oct 1991.
Killer Joe consisted of "Killer" Joe Delia, Max Weinberg, Jimmy Vivino, Haywood Gregory, David Keyes, Mark "Love Man" Pender, Jerry Vivino, Bob Smith, and Erik Lawrence. Their version of SUMMER ON SIGNAL HILL featured a large cast of guests: Liz Mann (flute), Steven Van Zandt (guitar solo), Jon Bon Jovi (acoustic guitar), Branford Marsalis (tenor sax solo), Benmont Tench (Hammond organ), The Beach Boys' Carl Wilson, Al Jardine, and introducing Matt Jardine (vocal harmony), and The Orchestra of St. Luke's under the direction of Julius Rudel.
Max Weinberg wrote in the liner notes of the Scene Of The Crime album:
Bruce wrote Summer On Signal Hill which the E Street Band played but never recorded. I always wanted to cut the tune, so the Killer Joe band did, with guest shots from Little Steven, Branford, Jon Bon Jovi, Benmont Tench from Tom Petty's band, the Heartbreakers, the Beach Boys (who I saw for the first time in 1963), and the wonderful musicians of the Orchestra of St. Luke's under the direction of Julius Rudel. This song brought together people from varied musical orientations to benefit the Big Brothers/Big Sisters of America organization. On behalf of the boys and girls and BB/BSA we thank you for your support.
SUMMER ON SIGNAL HILL was also released as a single in 1991, with proceeds benefiting Big Brothers Big Sisters of America, a non-profit organization whose mission is to help children reach their potential through professionally supported, one-to-one relationships with mentors that try to have a measurable impact on youth. BUSTED, another tracks from the Scene Of The Crime album, was released on the single's B-side. On the single, SUMMER ON SIGNAL HILL is credited to "Mighty Max & Friends" or "E Street's Mighty Max & Friends", and not "Killer Joe". Killer Joe's cover versions of SUMMER ON SIGNAL HILL and CLUB SOUL CITY, both originally released on the Scene Of The Crime album, were also included on Killer Joe band member Haywood Gregory's album The Haywood Gregory Collection, released in June 2005.
Thanks Jake (ol'catfishinthelake at BTX and Greasy Lake), HazyDavy (roulette909 at BTX), Steen Andersson (rosalita101 at Greasy Lake), and Little Melvin for the help on this page. Thanks Michael Simpson (Walklikeasupercaley at Greasy Lake), Audio2575 (from Rare Springsteen), Mark Bahlen, and Domingo (dobama at Greasy Lake) for providing scans for some of the above official releases.
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List of available versions of SUMMER ON SIGNAL HILL on this website:SUMMER ON SIGNAL HILL