Article 1992-05-09 New York City, NY

The Pop Life

Springsteen and Sales

When Bruce Springsteen's appearance last weekend on "Saturday Night Live" was announced on April 27, people assumed that the moderate response to his two new albums, "Human Touch" and "Lucky Town" (both Columbia) had forced him into it. Mr. Springsteen, known for being aloof when it comes to the media, had never done television. To some people his acceptance of the decades-old open offer from "Saturday Night Live" reduced him to the status of mere mortal.

Whatever the reasons for his appearance, the performance of three songs on the show — estimated by NBC to have been watched by more than 25 million viewers — appears to have paid off. Music stores across the country have already noticed an increase in sales.

"There's a 50 percent increase in sales for us," said Dave Benzian, the rock manager for Tower Records on lower Broadway. "That's what these records need, a boost. People need to hear him live, that's where he comes on the strongest. I wasn't surprised with the small sales the two albums have racked up, since there are two of them, and I think the two-album strategy tends to diffuse sales. I think once his tour starts, the sales will pick up again."

At other chains across the country the sales come in roughly at the same level. The appearance will probably slow the albums' rapid plunge. Both albums dropped out of the top 10 in this week's Billboard, with "Human Touch" selling 45,561 copies last week, according to Soundscan. "Lucky Town" sold 29,916 copies.

Mr. Springsteen's appearance helped break all records for "Saturday Night Live" since 1988, when the show changed its rating system. On the overnight rating, the show received an 11.8 rating and a 32 share, which means that 32 percent of all sets polled were watching the show. Usually, the season high brings in a 27 share.

"It was terrific, one of the highlights of the show's history," said Rosemary Keenan, the publicity representative for NBC.

People in the industry expect the album sales to pick up with Mr. Springsteen's seven-month tour, which was announced on Monday. It is to start on June 15 in Stockholm, and the North American segment is to start on July 23 with at least five dates at the Brendan Byrne Arena in East Rutherford, N.J. An Indian's Album

John Trudell figures prominently in two recent films about the Sioux reservation in South Dakota. He plays a role in "Thunderheart," a drama based on the violent events that led to the shooting of two F.B.I. agents in 1975, and he appears as himself in Michael Apted's documentary of that case, "Incident at Oglala." Now Mr. Trudell has released an album. "A K A Graffiti Man" (Rykodisc) has him talking and nearly singing over a rock background; the subjects range from Elvis to love and commercialism.

Mr. Trudell, who was one of the founding members of the American Indian Movement, has been more or less disengaged from active politics since 1979, when his wife, mother-in-law and three children died in a fire set by arsonists. Mr. Trudell strongly believes the killings were deliberate. After their deaths, Mr. Trudell drifted, coming to poetry and music almost by accident.

"During that time my worlds changed, and I realized that I couldn't stay in the Indian activist community because it wasn't safe for the people around me," Mr. Trudell said. "The Government had a quarrel with me, but they killed the women and children in my family. So I left that world and I wandered over to the no-nukes and environmentalists. I just wandered, I knew that I was moving into madness, and I didn't know how long that drift was going to last, or if I just rode it, maybe I could survive. I considered that my time of exile. Then I met Jackson Browne and he took me in and helped me, and I started writing poetry. I was writing lines because I needed something to hang on to, and I was sinking fast. And then these lines came."

At a poetry reading at California State University at Long Beach, Mr. Trudell met the American Indian guitarist Jesse Ed Davis. Mr. Davis proposed that they collaborate on a musical background for Mr. Trudell's poetry. That led to several tapes he distributed himself, and they have been condensed, remixed and revamped for the new album.

"Through Jackson I had access to a recording studio; he was more than generous," said Mr. Trudell. "I opted at first to do the oldest musical form, just using drums and chants. But then I put the poetry down on tape and I wanted to do it with the newest technology, so we added a band and synthesizers."

The Indian strains on the record are surprisingly subdued, considering Mr. Trudell's role in fostering respect for Indian culture. Mr. Trudell, who learned only a few words of his language, is committed to using English. And growing up in the 1960's, rock is his musical language. Stadium Tour

Guns 'n' Roses and Metallica announced yesterday that they would start a stadium tour on July 17 in Washington. The tour, which will last until the fall, will also include the band Faith No More.

By Peter Watrous via The New York Times.
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