The general disarray at Sony Music's Columbia Records may have a savior: Bruce Springsteen.
The Boss, as we still call him, is apparently planning a new album for release in late fall. Some sources insist that this will be an E Street Band album, and not another side project like the "Seeger Sessions" or a solo collection of introspective songs.
An E Street Band album means a big rock 'n' roll sound with Springsteen's featured players like Steve van Zandt, Max Weinberg and Clarence Clemons.
Sources tell me that tracks have been recorded with the group, and that the hope among Bruce insiders is that he will choose their project over several others he may have cooking.
"You never know," one observer said, "but it's looking better and better."
Sony insiders definitely confirmed in the last few days that Springsteen is scheduled to release new music before the end of the year. He would have to be, since last year, former Sony Music CEO Andy Lack helped the rock legend land a contract worth $100 million over several years.
Another and very important player would be Springsteen's wife: rocker Patti Scialfa. The timing would be perfect since Scialfa — one of my favorite female rockers — already has an album set for release in early September.
"Play It As It Lays" is Scialfa's first new set of songs since "23rd Street Lullaby," which was released three years ago. Patti is already booked on "Letterman" and the "Today" show as well as "The View," where she may have to co-host if Barbara Walters doesn't find replacements for her departed panelists.
For Bruce, a new album would be the first E Street Band release since "The Rising," his magnificent recording about 9/11. That album sold better than any previous Springsteen albums and picked up a number of Grammy nominations. Springsteen lost the award for best album to Norah Jones' debut, if you recall.
If you never tried it, pick up "The Rising" or download some of its amazing tracks like "Empty Sky" or "You're Missing."
The latter song, which had a serious message, could also be the theme song at Sony these days. Quite a few people are missing — and they're not coming back. I'm told that layoffs are continuing, with several departments in publicity and marketing gutted.
When I mentioned this to a Sony higher-up the other day, the person replied: "You are the last one writing about the record business. Don't you realize it's over?"
Maybe, but if so, what do I do with my 1,200 45s and thousands of CDs? Not everything fits in a computer. And when the Springsteen album comes out, I don't want to listen to it on earbuds, but through my Rogue tube amplifier and Sequerra Met 7 speakers. Loud, baby, loud.
I have been telling you for some time now that on May 31, 2008, Michael Jackson will lose the Beatles catalog. Sony has the right to buy it all out from him, thanks to a 2006 refinancing deal.
But sources tell me that Sony isn't so eager to pony up the $300 to $600 million this purchase would entail. For now, at least, my sources say, "the company is happy with its passive partner. Michael isn't bothering us and we're not bothering him."
Recently, Sony/ATV Music Publishing has made some excellent strategic purchases, thanks to new president and financial partner Martin Bandier. They picked up the Famous Music catalog and will continue to expand in the next year.
So Jackson is safe, but this also means he can't raise cash against the catalog anymore. He would have to go back to work to do that.
And stories about Jackson on the Maryland shore last week were amusing. But Jackson was also buzzing around Virginia, as this column reported. For the first few days, he was in northern Virginia's 540 area code checking out shopping malls. There's nothing like a good food court when your career is tanking.
Kelly Clarkson's "My December" dropped off around 60 percent in sales for its second week, bringing the pop star's self-penned collection to a decent 416,000 copies. Next week is the one to watch, especially if "Sober" doesn't appeal to kids as a summer hit.
I'm glad I'm not a kid now. In 1975, the big summer hit was "Get Down Tonight."
Russell Simmons was looking thin and trim as he entertained friends at the Waverly Inn for dinner. He skipped the meal himself. He's a vegan. ...
If you love music and film — in particular rock music and great films — you don't want to miss the Mods and Rockers Festival starting this weekend in Hollywood. Check it out at modsandrockers.com.
The choices are varied and fantastic, including a first-ever showing of a documentary about the late and very great Harry Nilsson and a free rock concert featuring Spencer Davis ("Gimme Some Lovin'"), Stephen Bishop ("On and On") and — this is really a must-see — the Records, the cult British New Wave group from the late '70s whose "Starry Nights" is a classic on every level. ...
Also this weekend in La La Land: Hollywood Roadshow is auctioning off over 750 movie props from "Dreamgirls," "Transformers," "1408," "Disturbia," "Blades of Glory" and other films. There's also lots of film memorabilia, and you can bid on it online as well at hollywoodroadshow.com.