It's funny what you can do with a decade on your hands.
When Bruce Springsteen fired his famed backing group, the E Street Band, 10 years ago, several members of the band weren't quite ready to call it a day.
But now that Springsteen has called them back into action for a summer reunion tour, they all find themselves with other business to think about.
None of the E Streeters, who are now in tour rehearsals with the Boss, seriously considered taking a pass on the chance to revisit such classics as "Born to Run" (RealAudio excerpt) this summer. But one of them will continue working a day job while the tour is under way and another is already looking ahead to the tour's end.
"I really look forward to coming back after the summer and resuming my activities here at 'Late Night,'" drummer Max Weinberg, 47, said. The most visible of the E Street alums, Weinberg (a.k.a. "Mighty Max") is beamed into millions of homes each weeknight as the bandleader on NBC-TV's "Late Night With Conan O'Brien."
"It's been a blast," he said. "The last five years have been life-changing for me."
Weinberg isn't the only E Streeter on the small screen. Guitarist "Miami" Steve Van Zandt -- who left the band for a solo career as Little Steven in 1982, but who will be part of the reunion -- recently began playing Silvio Dante, owner of the Bada Bing Room strip club on HBO's Mafia drama "The Sopranos."
Van Zandt, 48, said the Dante character is a throwback to the underworld of the 1950s. "He doesn't quite acknowledge or enjoy the modern world ... the way that ethics and friendship and loyalty have all become a thing of the past," he said.
Springsteen devotees might not recognize the typically bandana-clad Van Zandt under his thick mop of hair on the series. Getting Dante's look down pat, along with writing a fictional bio for the character, was integral to Van Zandt's playing the part.
"I made sure I had the right clothes, the jewelry, the hair -- it all looks exactly right," he said. "I look in the mirror and there he is."
While most of the E Streeters will put their solo careers on hold for the tour, Van Zandt will continue filming episodes of "The Sopranos." He'll work his shoots into Springsteen's U.S. itinerary, which begins in June after several weeks of shows in Europe.
Not surprisingly, many of the E Street players have remained in music. Keyboardist Roy Bittan -- who worked on Springsteen's post-E-Street albums Human Touch and Lucky Town -- and bass player Garry Tallent have launched successful producing careers. Organist Danny Federici recently toured with rocker Mary Cutrufello.
Springsteen's onstage foil, saxophonist Clarence Clemons, quit the unpredictable weather of the band's New Jersey stomping grounds for the warm climes of Palm Beach, Fla., where he recently brought an end to a year-long weekly stint at Club 251 with his own group, the Band of Faith.
The club gig "always takes me back to when I was getting started with Bruce," said the 57-year-old Clemons, who once owned a club in Red Bank, N.J. "We met in a small club. The arena stuff has its own place, too. Small clubs aren't as lucrative, but spiritually they're my favorite places to play. It's a homey kind of thing. I refer to it as the Church of What's Happening Now."
Clemons has begun recording an album of rock and R&B with the Band of Faith, which he hopes to release next year. The six-piece band includes a violin along with traditional rock instruments. "That adds a polish, a rounding off of the hard edges I present," Clemons said.
Guitarist Nils Lofgren, 46, has begun recording a new studio album, too. He said he hopes to finish it by the end of the year.
Although he replaced Van Zandt in the E Street Band in 1984, the pair shared the stage for the 1995 live video of "Murder Incorporated" (RealAudio excerpt of studio version) and both will play with Springsteen this summer.
Last year, Lofgren issued Acoustic Live, an in-concert mix of new songs and favorites from his three-decade career, including "Keith Don't Go" and "No Mercy."
Van Zandt, meanwhile, who was always known as the most politically outspoken of all the E Street Band members, has completed two new Little Steven records and said he may release them through his website (www.littlesteven.com). One of those discs is the last of five political records he outlined shortly after leaving the E Street Band.