Articolo del 1977 quello di questa settimana. Ho ancora diversi articoli ma più lunghi ancora; pensavo quindi di pubblicarli a puntate, che ne dite?
BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN’S LONGEST SEASON
BY ROBERT DUNCAN
The big news the week of October 20, 1975 was a rock star and a kid who ran into
President Ford’s limo in Hartford.
Quick. What were their names? “Everyone will be famous for 15 minutes,” Andy
Warhol once said. I don’t think James Falamites would argue with that.
Through a misjudgment on the part of Hartford police and the Secret Service,
Falamites was cleared to pass through a Hartford intersection and when he struck the
President’s passing limo, he gained his 15 minutes of fame. Newspapers, magazines
and news shows across the country ran this teenager’s story and later in the month,
he was introduced on Howard Cosell’s ill-fated Saturday Night Live show (not to be
confused with NBC’s Saturday Night).
I don’t think the rock star would argue, either. The week of October 20, 1975 he was
out on a moderately successful tour of the Midwest when, in a quirk almost
unprecedented in periodical publishing, he appeared as the cover subject on the
nation’s two biggest weekly news magazines, Time and Newsweek, simultaneously. It
was a similar misjudgment to that of the Hartford police and the Secret Service. The
news weeklies were tossing around words like “superstar” and “hit single” and
“regeneration of rock” in relation to this virtual unknown. Naturally, the rock press
had preceded them with even more lavish praise. When the ink settled, however, it
may have also been just Bruce Springsteen’s 15 minutes.
In the 18 months since the press’ premature ejaculation, Springsteen’s career has
followed a strangely familiar script. Actually, there are two or three plots progressing
Most visible of the plots, and maybe most familiar to the show biz fans, has been his
legal battle with what some may term his “rapacious” manager. The gist of it is, or so
the reports go: he is not making very much money (relatively speaking) and his
manager is. While at the same time, his manager is trying to tell him exactly what to
do—up to forbidding him to ener a studio with friend/producer Jon Landau to
record. Of course, this means that the follow-up to the muchvaunted Born To Run is
way overdue, and Columbia Records (who is also involved in litigation) is extremely
anxious. Worse, the public presumably is forgetting— cover stories of a year and a
half ago or no, just like they did with what’s-his-name who smashed up Ford’s limo.
The second of the plots here is that Springsteen is, even at this moment, out touring
the country—specifically, the Midwest again—just as he has been on and off since all
the hoopla hit the fan. In other words, he is leading the typical life of any upper
mediumly successful rock ‘n’ roller.
But the punchline, what all rock soap opera fans are dying to know is: WHAT WILL
HAPPEN TO BRUCE Springsteen? Is a quarter of an hour in the spotlight long
enough—or perhaps too long—for the kid from Asbury Park?
I can only argue as an unrepentant fan of Springsteen and tell what I’ve seen and
heard over the past 18 months.
To backtrack: I interviewed Springsteen in Detroit where I was working for CREEM
back in October of ’75. The Time/ Newsweek covers had yet happened. I had seen
him only the week before in Ann Arbor and thought, while he talked too much
onstage, shuffled about a lot like some sort of Jersey citybilly, the show was
ultimately too slick. I’d expected true grit from the hype, and had never stopped to
think that Born To Run was about as far from true grit as a symphony orchestra. I
also never thought about the fact that the last thing an honest-togoodness true grit
person wanted to appear as onstage was an honest-togoodness true grit person. When
you come from a background as mundane as Springsteen does, you don’t celebrate
it—you celebrate release from it. You go for the larger than life. He wasn’t going to be
the bus driver’s son, he would be James Dean or Marlon Brando. While Springsteen
often wore a T-shirt and leather jacket, they were Brando’s and Dean’s wardrobe,
strictly a Hollywood version of true grit.
Something like that.
Anyway, the point is, I went to see Springsteen a week later in Detroit proper to give
him a second chance. He had shaken the cold by then that made him sniff like a
junkie throughout his set in Ann Arbor, and he and his powerhouse band gave a great
rock ‘n’ roll show. Afterwards, I was supposed to meet him, and over the
protestations of an overprotective publicist (you know who you are), Springsteen
invited me along to dinner with him and Miami Steve and one or two other of the
band members. We seemed to be getting along great: loosened up (I’d like to think)
by two beers (Remember? He doesn’t drink or take drugs, Time told us), Springsteen
spun some terrific stories about the agony of recording Born To Run, real tearjerkers
about not being able to finish the damn thing and every night going back to his
girlfriend at the hotel and almost crying. Great stuff.
I fell in love.
When Springsteen jumps on the roof of his publicist’s car, I later report in my article
about the romance (“Bruce Springsteen Is Not God And Doesn’t Want to Be,” CREEM,
January ’76—get it now!), I laugh. It’s the kind of wanton nonsense I expect from
Rock ‘n’ Roll Kings. And furthermore, I climbed aboard the Springsteen publicity
bandwagon. (Next stop: backlash.) About the same time as the interview, Bom To Run
made it to number one on the charts, even—despite what Time and Newsweek might
have you believe about the title cut—without a hit single. Which is a big step towards
fulfilling all the media’s proclamations of “superstar” (Newsweek). Though, as it has
become readily apparent to me from talking to him, Springsteen could care less. He’d
like to make money, sure, and be comfortable, but this hype and this superstar
nonsense is too much. (In the spring of last year, before his first performance in
London, he is caught tearing down some “Future of Rock ‘n’ Roll” posters in the lobby
of the hall.)
But my conversion is further confirmed when, a month and a half after our talk in
Detroit, I’m walking down New York’s fabled Eighth Street one evening and I’m
accosted—in a friendly sort of way—by this collegiate-looking beard in a pinstriped
shirt and pea coat who initially I take to be some long-forgotten asshole from high
school. Only when I catch the glint of a little gold post in his ear do I put together the
sinuous sleaze and the face.
“Springsteen!” I shout, in surprise and embarrassment. And he keeps going on,
friendly as ever, shuffling back and forth in the cold, one hand in his pocket, the
other arm around Karen Darvin, his slender, shy, redheaded girlfriend. I presumed
that he was pleased with me for one reason.
“So you read the article?” I say.
“No,” he responded quizzically. “What? Where?” I tell him and we depart. He heads
for the nearby newsstand. Did I say humble? Friendly? No pretentions whatsoever? I
mean, this guy has been on the covers of Time and Newsweek.
My love grows.
Back in Detroit, three or four months later, I’m elated to find that Springsteen will be
playing Lansing, about an hour and a half away. But, as it turns out, I’m unable to go
to the concert because I have to work that night. I send along a note with friends that
reads: “Go back to Jersey.” The next day the phone message on my desk reads “B.S.
called, wouldn’t leave his name,” and included a Cleveland phone number. I called. I
didn’t recognize the voice that answered, maybe because I don’t believe that you call
phone numbers and get rock stars instead of an endless stream of rock Nubians.
Indeed, the “regeneration of rock” himself has answered his phone, and is trying to
convince me to catch the show there the next night.
The next day Springsteen and I and Peter Laughner are cruising Cleveland in
Laughner’s marginal automobile (B.S. has foregone the CBS rental car), with the
oldies station on per Springsteen’s request. In the meantime, Bruce elaborates on that
great and largely unexamined group of musicians in rock ‘n’ roll known as Frat Bands,
who include, among others, Hot Nuts and the Kingsmen (“Louie, Louie”), with special
notice to the Swinging Medallions. Man, that was a band! (They did “Double Shot of
My Baby’s Love.”)
The concert, as expected, creased the roof—I mean, what do you expect from a
Swinging Medallions fan—and Springsteen
added a new unfinished ballad called “Frankie.” There’s a brief postconcert
party—brief, because these guys do it all onstage—then Bruce Springsteen and the E
Street Band are off in their bus, about which—well, the bus is one notch above the
worst leaky Trailways you’ve ever been on, not something your average “Superstar”
travels in (Johnny Rodriguez moves around in a fivebedroom, TV, stereo, bar, motelonwheels),
more along the lines of a bus the Swinging Medallions might have used.
In Wallingford, Connecticut, one of those adorable New England towns outside of New
Haven, they have an institution called the Choate School. It’s a fine prep school that
boasts among its alumni John Kennedy and Robert Frost, but basically, like all prep
schools, it’s a 24-hour live-in day care center for the teenage children of the wealthy.
It’s May now, and I have just moved to New York from Detroit, when the phone rings
one Friday, and a publicist friend at Columbia asks if I want to see Springsteen in
“Where?” I inquired.
“Choate,” comes the unusual answer. Which takes me somewhat aback. The adorably
quaint New Englandy Choate is just not my idea of a booking for Asbury Park’s first
cover boy. As it turns out, there are extraordinary motives at work.
John Hammond has asked Bruce to do the show.
John Hammond is retiring from Columbia after some 30 years as an A8R man (aka
talent scout). John Hammond is the man who got recording contracts for Billie
Holliday, Benny Goodman, Aretha Franklin, and Bob Dylan. In other words, this paper
is too light to hold the reputation of Hammond and the respect accorded him in the
music business. To top it off, John Hammond is an incredibly amiable polite person.
And to top all that off, John also signed Bruce Springsteen to Columbia. (He told
Newsweek for the cover story: “The kid absolutely knocked me out. I only hear
somebody good every 10 years, and not only is Bruce the best, he was a lot better
than Dylan when I first heard him.”) In other words, were Bruce Springsteen the
coldest-hearted bastard on the face of the earth, if John Hammond asked him for a
favor for his (Hammond’s) old school, he would do it, no questions asked.
In the past 18 months I’ve seen Springsteen perform about 18 times, in all imaginable
circumstances. I’ve seen him perform in New York, Detroit and Cleveland in halls for
the money. I saw him do a few numbers at the Crawdaddy 1 0th anniversary party,
and absolutely rivet the crowd. But I have never seen him, before or since, play like
he did at Choate. And it certainly wasn’t the audience—they loved him but expressed
their love primarily by sitting in their seats, clapping their hands and wiping ketchup
off their ties. Granted the Asbury gig with Southside was for love and fun, but it was
Johnny’s show, so Bruce laid off. When, after two and a half hours a totally
exhausted, sweat-drenched Springsteen crashed into “Rosalita,” it was clear that he
wasn’t getting paid. “This one’s for John Hammond,” he said. That’s all. The fact that
this may have been one of the greatest rock ‘n’ roll shows of all time ever is the
purest tribute one could pay to Springsteen. He did it for love.
The attitude was I can do rock ‘n’ roll like a motherfucker and this is how I do it.
Thank-you-John Hammond-for-know ing-that. He never let up. At the end, if you
knew him, you’d realize that here was a man capable of a chilling generosity to an
audience and an art form. The man is fucking rock ‘n’ roll.
Which is why he’s not the rock ‘n’ roll savior. Because more than anything these days,
rock ‘n’ roll is run like a sausage factory. Give us the three-minute sausage and smile,
you bastards. While no one mourns the stinking hippies, and their 45-minute jumbled
jams or the psychedelic posters, the three-minute sausage is not what it’s about,
either. It’s about diabolical abandonment and humor. It’s about wanting to rip your
shoes in half, it’s so good. Listen to “Born To Run.” It’s about that. It’s about crazy.
It’s about not writing stories about guys like Bruce Springsteen. Which is why the
motherfucker took me so long.
I’ll tell you what I think about Bruce. He’s a road musician now, like he should be.
Like he essentially wants to be. He’s a working stiff in rock ‘n’ roll. Nothing
highfalutin. No analysis. No cover stories. No tell-me-what-you-meant.
I’ll tell you what will happen to him. No matter the outcome of all this bullshit
litigation, he will continue on the road. He will continue to write songs and he will be
pretty fucking healthy and happy— because he doesn’t take drugs or crap, he takes
rock ‘n’ roll. And someday all the legal crap will be over (if it isn’t by the time you
read this). And someday he’ll make the best rock ‘n’ roll album of all time. It may not
be the next one or the one after, but someday. He can wait. I can wait. We have no
choice. This man is the first rock ‘n’ roll musician I’ve ever met or read about or
heard about or anything that could be a rock ‘n’ roll musician the rest of his life and
still come up with something great when he’s 70. This guy is a student (OK, I know),
but most of all he’s a lover. With a giant rock ‘n’ roll dick.—