Mighty Max Weinberg was inspired to take up drumming when, like many players of his generation, he saw The Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show, and Ringo remained one of his key influences throughout his career. Max joined Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band in 1974, and was a vital component in their blue-collar rock meets Stax soul sound until their initial disbanding by The Boss in 1989.
Since their reformation, he has remained a core band member, but during the ten-year hiatus he led the house band on Late Night With Conan O’Brien and for Conan’s stint on The Tonight Show. Through his association with legendary producer Jim Steinman, Max also played on a number of huge-selling records in the ’70s and ’80s. Drumming runs in the Weinberg family of course – Max's son Jay is currently impressing even the most die-hard Joey Jordison fans as Slipknot’s new drum ace.
Born to Run
The first of the Boss’s albums to feature ‘Mighty’ Max Weinberg behind the kit. He channels his heroes, Ringo Starr and The Band’s Levon Helm, helping the E Street Band’s Stax leanings by dampening his snare to get that Memphis Soul sound. The songs are truly epic, with lavish production and lyrics spanning themes of romance and heartbreak, Max’s playing is perfectly-judged on the anthemic ‘Thunder Road’ and live favourites ‘Jungleland’ and ‘Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out’, the latter with its drum-roll lead-in and tasteful hat openings supporting Clarence Clemons’ bluesy sax. Career defining.
Key track: ‘Thunder Road’
Bat Out Of Hell
Meatloaf’s bombastic masterwork was helmed by producers Jim Steinman and Todd Rundgren, while Max lent his theatrical flair to the album’s unforgettable highlights. The rock-operatic Bat Out Of Hell, of course, calls for Max to bring his ‘2’ and ‘4’ A-game, as the song ebbs and flows with epic intensity, Max is right there with some great fills and syncopated kick. You Took The Words Right Out Of My Mouth features a Hal Blaine-esque beat, pumped up for extra bombast of course, and Paradise By The Dashboard Light is a swinging hillbilly rock’n’roller.
Key track: ‘Bat Out Of Hell’
Darkness On The Edge Of Town
Springsteen’s follow up to Born To Run found him in a more sombre, reflective mood and consequently Darkness… is a collection of tales of broken dreams and faded hopes – typified by the powerful Streets Of Fire, with Max’s ever-tasteful fills and effortless feel a joy to hear. He lends Adam Raised A Cain a pounding rhythm to back up the bluesy feel, and his bristling snare rolls drive Candy’s Room.
Key track: Candy’s Room
Faster Than The Speed Of Night
Max’s association with Bat Out Of Hell producer Jim Steinman resulted in his getting the call to play on the fifth album by husky voiced Welsh songstress Tyler. With a mix of reworked covers, like Bryan Adams’ Straight From The Heart, on which Weinberg is rock-solid, delivering the song’s snare motif with unerring conviction, and tracks penned by Steinman, Tyler made the move into a rockier sound for which she became best known. On Tyler’s version of Creedence’s Have You Ever Seen The Rain, Max delivers a crashing, driving beat with a huge ’80s sound, while on the massive worldwide hit Total Eclipse Of The Heart, Weinberg keeps things beautifully sparing, offering up one of rock’s most stirring drum parts to match the song’s epic feel.
Key track: Total Eclipse Of The Heart
Born In The USA
It doesn't get much bigger than this: Springsteen’s seventh and most commercially successful album has a drum sound from Max that's never been equalled. Max’s cracking snare hits open the album and title track, and give the song an immediate hand-clapping, stadium-sized hook, before he thunders into a driving groove with powerful, bombastic fills. ‘Glory Days’ is equally epic in scope, as Springsteen’s blue collar rock with its politically poignant themes almost got buried under the superficially patriotic anthemic qualities. ‘Dancing In The Dark’ is a rock beat masterclass as Max punches it in behind one of The Boss’s most hook-laden tunes.