Released in November 1995, The Ghost of Tom Joad by Bruce Springsteen was a far cry from the celebratory rock and roll marathons of Born in the USA, sharing more in common with the sheer production and pointed commentary of his masterpiece, Nebraska. A largely acoustic album of spectral songs about marginalized characters struggling to survive in an increasingly troubled America, The Ghost of Tom Joad – and its gripping title track – recently found a new rock and roll audience.
Nearly 17 years after its release, in September 2012, the Chicago punk quartet Rise Against breathed new life into the powerful narratives and blunt political commentary of Springsteen's "Joad" at the Honda Center in Anaheim, California. Joined on stage by Gaslight Anthem frontman Brian Fallon, the MC5's Wayne Kramer and Rage Against the Machine guitarist Tom Morello, the members of Rise Against delivered a bold recasting of "The Ghost of Tom Joad." The song will appear on the forthcoming Rise Against rarities compilation, Long Forgotten Songs: B-Sides & Covers 2000-2013 (scheduled release date is September 10, 2013).
"I remember watching the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's 25th-anniversary special where Tom Morello played this song with Springsteen himself and just being absolutely blown away at the solo he did," Rise Against frontman Tom McIlrath recently told Rolling Stone. "Little did I know that someday I'd be watching him do it from three feet away. Mind-blowing. The guitar nerd inside of me had a thousand tiny heart attacks."
When Morello visited the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in Cleveland, he was interested in the Museum's Roots of Rock exhibits, where he posed before the guitar played by one of his guitar heroes: Lead Belly. Morello's own history is featured in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, in the form of the 1985 Ford Astro van that Rage Against the Machine toured in during their earliest days, from 1991 to 1993, opening for Pearl Jam, Public Enemy, Ice T and more.
"From desperate escapes from Tijuana to fomenting riots in Bakersfield, the Astro was always there," Morello told the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2012. "I was recently thinking of scrapping her and donating the money to charity, but it dawned on me that the RRHOF might have an auto division. Neither myself nor Rage literally never would have gotten anywhere without her."