Long before Little Steven Van Zandt began hosting Underground Garage, the world’s coolest syndicated radio show or captured cable TV viewers’ hearts as Silvio Dante on The Sopranos, he recorded the single “Forever” with The Disciples Of Soul. It’s from the LP Men Without Women. I’m pretty sure I saw the video for this song before I heard it on the radio. It mixes images of Van Zandt and his band performing onstage with footage of him tooling around the big city dressed in his biker chic. All I know for sure is that I bought the 45 back in 1982 and immediately included it on one of my mixed tapes.
Van Zandt, a long-time cohort of Bruce Springsteen, drew heavily on the Motown sound for this song about a man’s emotional plea to the woman he loves. Backed by energetic horns and guitars, he mixes a tough guy image (“I’ve been fighting my whole life”) with complete vulnerability (“If I can’t have you I don’t want no one at all”). The guy expects a lot from this woman, asking, “If the world falls apart could you keep it together?” and expecting her to “pick up the pieces if I stumble and fall.” Later, looking back on all he’s strived for in life, Van Zandt’s character concludes, “If I can’t have you to hold me, girl/All my work’s in vain.”
Van Zandt and the Disciples Of Souls went even further back than Motown for the spirited B-Side (also from Men Without Women); a rock and roll-infused take on the Duke Ellington classic, “Caravan.”