In a starless November New York night in 1971, high above the streets in a busy Madison Avenue songwriting factory, the first face-to-face meeting of Bruce Springsteen and Mike Appel took place.
APPEL: Springsteen comes up to the writers’ room of the Wes Farrell Organization. He was wearing ripped-up jeans and a T-shirt. He said he wanted to get an album deal with a major label. I remember he looked at me and said, “I’m tired of being a big fish in a little pond. ” “Fine, ” I said, “let’s hear what you’ve got. ” So he sat down at the piano and played only two songs. The first was the most boring thing I’d ever heard in my entire life. But the second had something. It was a song about dancing with a girl who was deaf, dumb, and blind with a Iyric that included, “They danced all night to a silent band…. “
It was a very weird line and stuck in my head, as did the way he sang, with an intensity I couldn’t believe. I was sitting right on the piano bench next to him and could see the side of his face as he sang And let me tell you, he sang that song like his life depended on it.

Still, I didn ‘t feel the earth moving beneath me. I thought to myself, let me just be polite. So when he finished, I said, “Look, first of all, if you want an album deal, you have to write more songs. You can’t just have two songs. ” Plus, I told him these were the worst two songs I ever heard, utterly devoid of any pop potential. Instead of being incensed, he said, “Well, I’m going to San Mateo to see my folks for Christmas. I’ll write some more songs and come back.” I said, “Great, the door’s always open.

SPRINGSTEEN: [At that first meeting there was]me and Tink, Mike [Appel], and Jimmy Cretecos. Tinker introduced us. He said, “Mike, this is Bruce. ” Mainly, I just remember playing some songs on the piano. Mike said, “I like the songs a lot. They’re great. ” I told him I was going away to California. I’d decided to get out of the area [New Jersey] for a while. I was having personal problems at the time with girls and things. It was just a good time to get away. I saw my folks for a while. [The band] continued working Steve [Van Zandt] came in and kept the organization together…. It was sort of my band. I never really broke it up when I left. I sort of said, “I’ll see you. Maybe I’ll be back. “
Bruce returned to the East Coast in February of ’72. Three months had passed since his first meeting with Appel.

APPEL: He called back sometime in February, and I totally forgot who he was. My secretary said to me, “There’s this guy by the name of Bruce Springsteen on the phone. ” I told her I didn’t know any Bruce Springsteen. “Well,” she said, “he knows you. ” “Tell him I never heard of him, ” I said, figuring that would be the end of it. A few seconds later she came back and said, “Look, he insists he knows you. He said something about a guy named Tinker. ” “Oh, that guy, ” I said. “Sure, I’ll talk to him. “
So I picked up the phone and said, “Hi, how you doin’?” “Okay, ” he said. “I got these songs, I think you’ll . . . Iike ’em now. ” “Fine, ” I said. “Come on up. ” He came up that night and told me he had songs ready to record, a whole album’s worth. I was there, Jimmy, and Bob Spitz, the writer, who at the time was working for me.
Bruce started off with a song he’d written he called “[It’s Hard to Be a] Saint in the City, ” which had the following lyric:
With my blackjack and jacket And hair slicked sweet Silver-star studs on my duds Just like a Harley in heat . . .
When he finished the song, before I told him how great I thought it was, I asked him if he ‘d sing it one more time. This time when he finished, I just looked at him and repeated out loud, slowly, “Like a Harley in heat, ” and told him I thought that was the most amazing lyric I ‘d ever heard in my life. Then he played six or seven others with the most poetic, potent, and powerful lyrics I’ve ever heard to this day. “For You ” was one of them. “Henry Boy, ” “The Angel, ” “If I Was the Priest” were a couple of the others. By this time I was listening to a voice in my head saying, ” Why me ? ” I mean, I ‘m sitting there in this big commercial firm knocking my brains out banging my head against the wall when suddenly this wonderful, talented guy walks into my life. I remember thinking to myself, he should be in Albert Grossman ‘s office, not mine.
Still, I said to Bruce, “Look, all I can tell you is I want to go forward. I want to take your songs around to record companies, I want to do this, I want to do that, I want to do it all. Come in tomorrow and we’ll talk some business, okay?” The next day he came back, and I told him I wanted to sign him up. “Bruce, ” I said, “I don’t think you’re going
to find anybody who’s going to love your stuff any more than I do. You’ve seen both sides of me. When you played songs I didn’t like, I told you they sucked, they were horrible, and when you came back, I told you they were great, so you have to know that I’m being straight with you. If you know anybody else who ’11 bust his ass any harder for you, you ought to go straight to ’em. “
A week or two later he signed up, and we were off to the races.

SPRINGSTEEN: I didn’t say anything He said he had a contract. If we were going to do anything, before we do anything, I have to sign it. It was a basic deal, he said. I took it, looked at it once, and brought it back [about a week later]. I told him I didn’t know. He said, like, “Come on.” We did that for a while and I signed them.
In March of 1972, Appel resigned from the Wes Farrell Organization. Cretecos, who’d never actually worked directly for Farrell, formed a corporation with Mike. They agreed on a straight fifty-fifty split, including publishing and production, all to come under the umbrella of Laurel Canyon, Ltd. Springsteen signed three separate contracts with Laurel Canyon over a period of three months between March and May of 1972.
The first, in March, was a recording contract. The second covered publishing, and the third was a management contract. The terms of the recording (production) agreement gave Appel’s company exclusive production rights to record Springsteen, in return for 3 percent of the suggested retail price of all records sold in the United States, and 1.5 percent of all foreign retail sales (figures to escalate with each album to 5 percent within a three-to-five-year time span). The production deal Springsteen received from Appel was competitive because the artist was brought to the label. When that occurs, the independent producer, being a part of the original deal, gets a higher percentage than if the label adds its own producer after the artist has been signed. In that instance, money and royalties have to be taken from the original deal to pay the new producer.

A P P E L: I came up with the name of the company. People think I knew about California ‘s Laurel Canyon, which I didn ‘t at the time. What happened was, I passed a record store on Broadway in New York City, and in the window I saw Joni Mitchell’s album Ladies of the Canyon. The same day, Jimmy called me from Newton, Massachusetts, where he spent a lot of time working for Emerson Electronics, picking up some extra money being the house electronics whiz kid. It was the fall of ’71, and he wanted me to come up and see the laurel because it was really beautiful this time of year. The word laurel stuck in my head, along with canyon. So, in March of ’72, when I was trying to come up with a name, I just put them together. In fact, our original name was Laurel Canyon Productions, until a name search indicated a Laurel Canyon Productions already existed, which is why we changed it to Limited. Sioux City Ltd. would later become the music company and Laurel Canyon Management the management arm.
Now, I liked Jimmy. He was very quick-witted, funny, and a very talented guy, a tech-head who loved to work the console knobs, while I couldn’t care less about that stuff. So the way we set things up, I handled the daytime operation. In fact, Jimmy stopped coming to the office, preferring to stay at home and putter around the house in Suffern, New York. He’d just gotten married, and his wife wanted him around a lot.
The second of the three contracts was signed by Springsteen in May. This was the songwriter’s agreement between Bruce and Sioux City Ltd., the publishing arm of Laurel Canyon, Ltd. It should be understood that almost all professional songwriters today sign co-publishing deals with some major publishing house at the time they get a legitimate recording contract. In that way, the publishing subsidiary operates for the artist like a bank, advancing monies against future royalties. A major record label and its publishing arm protect their relationship/investment in new and upcoming talent by acquiring control of more profit centers. In 1972, however, it was still possible for an artist to get a deal without having to include his publishing as part of the overall package.
There is what’s known in the industry as “mechanical” income, a royalty paid from the record company to the publisher for every song it controls on every album sold. If an album has ten of a publisher’s songs, the publisher receives ten separate payouts. Twenty years ago (when Springsteen signed his deal with Appel), the
standard industry figure was approximately four * Later changed to Laurel Canyon Music, Ltd.
cents per song (it is 6.50-6.75 cents today). The normal practice (although not by legal statute) when a publisher wholly acquires an artist’s song catalog is an equal split between publisher and composer. The other form of income from publishing is “performance,” or airplay, royalties (as opposed to mechanical royalties, which are paid by the record company from record sales). In the United States, the two largest licensing organizations, ASCAP and BMI, monitor virtually all songs played on the radio, in concert, and on TV, and they pay out direct royalties, again equally split, between publisher and composer.
Mike Appel has often been accused of using undue influence to persuade Springsteen to sign over 100 percent of his publishing rights to Sioux City Ltd. While it’s true that Appel and Cretecos did acquire 100 percent of the publishing, that meant that as publisher, Appel’s company was entitled to and received only its full contractual share of 50 percent of the royalties, with Springsteen receiving the other 50 percent. Springsteen, having signed with ASCAP, received his checks directly from ASCAP, identical in value to those received by his publisher (until 1983, when he bought out Sioux City and became the sole owner of his entire song catalog).
One thing Appel didn’t do, which many other rock managers did and still do, was to put his name on Springsteen’s songs as one of the composers in order to cut himself in on the writer’s piece of the publishing pie. Springsteen is one of very few successful rock acts who writes almost all his own material, without partners or collaborators. The other who immediately comes to mind is, of course, Bob Dylan, who except for a very occasional collaboration has written all of his own songs. Lennon/McCartney, Jagger/Richards, Henley/Frey, Sting and The Police—all shared their writing credits and, subsequently, their royalties.
During Appel’s time, Springsteen never included the E Street Band as coauthors. During the band’s long association with Springsteen, they remained on fixed salaries. Perhaps one reason Bruce kept them on as long as he did was simply that they were a great bargain. Not being cut in on any of his publishing, they were, in effect, salaried (albeit handsomely remunerated) employees. (By comparison, the relatively brief run of The Police may have been due in part to Sting’s having to share his publishing profits with the other two members of the group, even though he did most of the writing and was the most visible of the three.)

A P P E L: It ‘s important to remember that in the beginning it was all academic because there wasn’t any real money, as we got relatively little airplay and had no real sales until ’74, ’75. As a practical matter, when publishing money came into the company, say eighteen or twenty thousand dollars on a publishing statement, we’d take the whole thing and use it to keep the band and the office afloat. It all went into one pot until late 1975, and Bruce always knew it. I’d give him a financial statement, and he’d ask me why he didn’t get any money, and I’d explain how we’d used it to pay everyone’s bills. He’d shake his head and say okay, and that would be the end of it.

The third contract Bruce signed, in May of ’72, was the management contract. According to rock critic Dave Marsh in Born to Run, Bruce “signed a long-term management contract only a few days [after the second meeting with Appel], on an automobile hood in the unlighted parking lot of a bar,” which implies the signing was a hasty, un-thought-out act done under pressure. In fact, it took nearly three months—from March to May—for Bruce to finalize his management contract negotiations, which came after he’d signed separate publishing and production contracts with Appel. Further, the management contract wasn’t “long-term,” but a then industry-standard five years. And finally, it wasn’t the management contract Bruce signed on the hood of a car but the separate Laurel Canyon/CBS record production deal. This deal, which Appel, through his production company, made with Columbia, was for 18 percent of wholesale (9 percent retail) record and tape sales. The Laurel Canyon end of the deal was split equally among Appel, Cretecos, and Springsteen. They each received 6 percent (with Springsteen’s escalating against theirs annually). The longer Springsteen survived on Columbia, the bigger his piece would be.
Still, one of the most long-lasting and damaging attacks on Appel, and the reason most often cited for the split
between him and Springsteen, has been (and continues to be) that the management contract Bruce signed gave Appel 50 percent of all monies Springsteen earned. Here, for the first time, is Mike Appel’s testimony regarding the matter, taken directly from his sworn deposition that was part of the pretrial procedures in the 1976 landmark lawsuit Laurel Canyon, Ltd. vs. Bruce Springsteen,CBS, Inc., and Jon Landau.

Q: Can you recall the substance of anything you said to Mr. Springsteen about the terms and conditions of the original management agreement and the record production agreement at this third meeting that you are now testifying about? A: The only thing specifically I can remember is that we altered the commission in the management agreement, which was originally 20 percent.
Q: What did you say to Mr. Springsteen about the management commission, and what did he say to you ? A: I told him I was under the impression that Elvis Presley and Colonel Parker had a fifty-fifty management arrangement, and the two of us, I said, if that was the most successful combination, why don ‘t we operate that way? And we both agreed to that, and that is why we changed it. That is why you see the 20 percent crossed out. Q: Is it fair to say that the only persons present [to discuss the alterations to the management contract] were you and Mr. Springsteen ? A: Yes, it is. Q: What did you say to Mr. Springsteen, and what did he say to you at that meeting? A: At that particular time [March 1972] the only thing I can remember him saying is when he came back with the contract. He said, “Here they are, ” and we went over them, you know, briefly one more time, and it was basically the kind of things we said the first time. We went over the contracts in general, and it was mutually satisfactory to both of us. He wanted a record deal. I thought I could do it. I thought I could get it for him. I thought we could get the ball rolling and that was it. And he signed them, and that was the end of the signing of the first management and the first, the only production agreement. Q: Do you recall anything that you said to Mr. Springsteen or Mr. Springsteen said to you relating to the terms and conditions or the rights and obligations of the parties pursuant to the first management agreement and record production agreement at this fourth meeting? [A brief exchange takes place between the lawyers.] Q: Subsequent to the signing of the initial management agreement, the company owned by yourself and Mr. Cretecos entered into a second management agreement with Mr. Springsteen, did it not? A: Yes, it did. Q: I believe you testified [previously] that that occurred sometime in May of 1972? A: That is correct. Q: What discussions did either you or Mr. Cretecos have with Mr. Springsteen relating to the second management agreement subsequent to the signing of the first management agreement? A: I don’t remember any conversations between Mr. Cretecos and myself and Springsteen. Cretecos I don ‘t believe was involved in any of the discussions. Q: Did you indicate to Mr. Springsteen what type of change was going to be made on the second management agreement? A: I just told him it would be 50 percent of net rather than gross…. Q: What did Mr. Springsteen say to that? A: Great. Q: So it is your testimony that Mr. Springsteen voluntarily consented in the first management agreement to a 50 percent of gross and in the second management agreement to a 50 percent of net commission agreement, is that correct? A: That is correct.
[More discussion between the lawyers.] Q: Who prepared the second management agreement? A: Jules Kurz [Mike Appel’s attorney for Laurel Canyon] did. Q: Who requested Mr. Kurz to prepare the second management agreement? A: Well, it was kind of mutual between Jules and I. See, Jules had given me the original management contract,
which was a 20 percent contract. I told you that Bruce and I subsequently changed that to a 50 percent. Then I went back and told Jules that, and he said if it has to be 50 percent, if you have okayed it, I would say you make it 50 percent of net. That is how it happened and I talked to him about it…. We discussed it, and I told him that I was under the impression, I think I saw that that was the Colonel’s arrangement with Elvis Presley, and we thought we could emulate the two most successful people in the record industry.

Q: By giving you 50 percent of the gross ? A: That was the Colonel’s arrangement with Elvis Presley, so I thought at that particular time. Q: Did you ask Mr. Springsteen to initial that change? A: We mutually initialled it. It was our agreement. We had just agreed upon it. We initialled it. [Several pages of initial-checking and document verification are followed by the next exchange.] A: 1 then took the contracts to Bill Krasilovsky [Bill Krasilovsky was the lawyer whom John Hammond of Columbia Records suggested Bruce’s camp consult~, and he said to me, “The management contract is too high. ” I went back to Jules and I said, “Look, Krasilovsky said the management contract is too high, even at a net figure. ” So he said, “Why don ‘t we go back to the original thing I told you at the beginning I sent you a twenty percent contract, and why don ‘t you do that?” And he at that time told me that he had found out that the Colonel did not in fact have a 50 percent arrangement with Elvis Presley. He thought it was more like 25 percent. I said, “Leave it at twenty. ” We told Bruce. He knew about it. We operated on a 20 percent basis from that point on. The amended [and retroactive] management contract went into effect that June.
The negotiations and subsequent agreed-upon management contract hardly constitute what Dave Marsh indirectly quotes Krasilovsky (unnamed in Born to Run) as calling “a slavery deal. ” Yet two paragraphs later in his book, Marsh gently admonishes Bruce for “never [bothering] to have these provisions [of the contracts] explained to him by an attorney; he would later pay the price for his cavalier attitude toward money.”
In truth, nobody really seemed to know what they were doing, what they wanted, or what they could get, which is probably why John Hammond suggested that Springsteen’s side consult a lawyer, prior to signing, in the first place. The suggestion in Marsh’s book is that Hammond was “saving” Bruce. Not likely. Hammond, obviously very high on Bruce and optimistic about his future, wasn’t about to go one-on-one with Appel and Laurel Canyon, whom he had to deal with in order to sign Springsteen.
His recommended choice of a lawyer gave Springsteen the opportunity to ask for and negotiate a better, fairer deal. Which is exactly what he did. And nowhere, on the record, is there any reference by anybody to any kind of “slavery deal.” One final note: Krasilovsky, who became involved at Hammond’s urging, wasn’t paid by Appel or Springsteen. It remains unclear as to who, if anyone, paid Krasilovsky for his services. If, in fact, CBS did, a serious conflict- of-interest situation may have existed. Both CBS and the Springsteen office were called regarding this matter. Neither chose to respond.
After signing Springsteen, Mike went to Wes Farrell and, among other things, offered Farrell part of Bruce’s contract, as per their agreement regarding any new talent Appel might discover while working for the organization. Farrell turned him down in no uncertain terms. He had no use for the music of Springsteen and told Appel so.
APPEL: Wes hated acts like Led Zeppelin, The Who, Jethro Tull, The Moody Blues, all those English acts. He just couldn ‘t remove himself from the pop teen acts off of which he’d made so much money. Make no mistake, Wes, in his day, was the real thing But he couldn’t see the future coming He passed on Bruce, and that’s when I knew I had to leave the company. Had he said, “Mike, this guy’s fantastic, I want to help you with this, do you need any money?” he would’ve ended up with a piece of the Springsteen pie.
The first thing Appel did after resigning from the Farrell Organization was to look for office space. He found
some on East Fifty-fifth Street. In a bizarre twist of fate, he discovered after moving in that the previous tenant had been none other than Albert Grossman.

APPEL: Laurel Canyon’s first office was at 75 East Fifty-fifth Street. It happened to have been Albert Grossman’s office. He’d moved downstairs. I used to run into Albert all the time. He was so big and so fat that when he’d get into the elevator, which was very, very small, there wasn’t much room for anybody else. You had to stand straight up and hold your breath. Otherwise you ‘d be bumping bellies with him. He was always very polite but on Mars. Albert was out there somewhere. But we did have something in common: the only toilet bowl shared by Dylan and Springsteen.
True enough. Although Dylan had brought Grossman to the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, Springsteen, Appel, and Cretecos still didn’t have much more than their celebrated, if much pissed-in, pot.


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Mike Appel was born in the Flushing section of Queens, New York, October 27, 1942. Three-quarters Irish, one-quarter Jewish on his father’s side, he was raised Roman Catholic, although today he boasts of having divested himself of “those ecclesiastic burdens.” Appel’s father was a successful real estate broker during the fifties boom years of Long Island’s housing expansion. Mike discovered the guitar at the age of fourteen.

APPEL: I had an acoustic guitar at the time, went to my teacher, and all he would teach was songs like “Buffalo Gals Won’t You Come Out Tonight, ” and of course, the songs I was listening to were by Chuck Berry, and I wanted to learn how to play his songs. My mother bought me my first rock and roll records—Carl Perkins’s “Blue Suede Shoes,” “Speedo” by The Cadillacs, and “Roll Over Beethoven” by Chuck Berry. Those were the first three records I remember getting As soon as I heard them, I knew that was what I wanted to do—to play music. I dropped the lessons and picked up a black-and-white Sears Silvertone electric guitar with a little amplifier and started teaching myself how to play. Pretty soon I started playing with the guy who lived next door.

At the age of sixteen, Mike formed his first group and went to Bell Sound Studios in New York City to record twelve original songs—eleven instrumentals and one vocal. A year later, the boys had a professional record deal.

APPEL: We went under the name of The Humbugs. We were all going to North Shore High School when we recorded a version of “How Dry I Am” done rock-and-roll style called “Thirsty, ” released on the Studio label, a subdivision of 20th Century-Fox Records. After that we made another instrumental, “Brand X,” on Fields Records, a Tin Pan Alley label owned by a fellow named Jerry Fields, who had an office at 1650 Broadway.
After that we came up a few steps. Al Silver was a guy who lived in Queens and ran a very successful independent record label called Herald-Ember Records. Herald-Ember had had a hit with “In the Still of the Night” by the 5 Satins, the original version of Maurice Williams’s “Stay, ” some real quality stuff. We were then called The Camelots and made a record called “The Chase, ” which was something of a local hit. We played all the local high schools, backed up The Marvelettes one time in a theater in Newark, New Jersey, and became a sort of house band there. We were the only white faces in this entirely black theater. All the patrons and other acts were black except for us. I was friendly with a black DJ on WNJR; he liked me and was looking for a group of solid musicians who could play everybody else’s records. That was us.

We also played other venues and at various times backed up Freddie “Boom Boom ” Cannon, the original Jay and the Americans, Brian Hyland, and Little Peggy March. We also played with Link Wray and the Wraymen.

We played a million of these shows while still in high school. I wasn’t really making a living at it but didn’t have to. I liked golf, I used to caddy a lot, and made just as much money, if not more, doing that at the local blue-blood Long Island golf clubs. We then recorded a second instrumental called “The Scratch, Part One and Part Two, ” the only vocal part being a black guy with a really deep voice at the break singing, “Do the scratch . . ., ” something like the old Cozy Cole “Topsy. ” One time when the E Street Band was playing The Roxy, Garry Tallent arranged to open the show by playing a tape of some of my old records, without saying anything to me, as a practical joke. It was like they’d made me Bruce ‘s opening act. I thought I was going to die! I could have killed them.

Anyway, the second record didn’t do anything, and that was more or less it until about a year or so later, in 1964, when The Beatles hit. I remember I was living with my parents in a three acre colonial estate in Old Brookville, Long Island, near Westbury. I remember the first time I heard The Beatles I was driving my mother’s car, and “I Want to Hold Your Hand” came on the radio. It was a revelation because for the longest time, it seemed to me, my original rock and roll heroes—guys like Chuck Berry and Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins and early Elvis Presley—had been replaced by a different kind of rock, a softer music, like what Bobby Vinton did on “Blue on Blue, ” or Frankie Avalon on “Venus. ” One softie pie after another. America had gone Sandra Dee and Troy Donahue. There was nothing really out there in rock I could get into until The Beatles. When I first heard that record in the car, I remember saying out loud, “Hey, this is like old Eddie Cochran stuff! Who are these guys?”

The next time I heard of the group I was in my doctor’s office, and I saw their picture in Life magazine. I still didn’t really know who they were or enough about their music; and then, of course, the invasion. My second wake-up call. Elvis was the first. I was thunderstruck by the British invasion. The British acts were able to reach back to the seminal American rockers and serve up their riffs as something new, and I loved it. My band started learning their music right away. We changed the name of our group to The Unforgiven and cut some tunes for Dot Records, another power independent. “Two of a Kind ” by The Unforgiven was one of our better efforts for them. We even recorded a record with the Les and Larry Elgart Orchestra.

Meanwhile, I was writing songs for various publishers— L. F. Music, Dutchess Music, E. B. Marks Music, H & L Music—and then worked for Liberty Records for a period of time and played at night with a group called Tex and the Chex. Then I produced Michael St. Shaw, my first stab at producing someone other than myself. In those days producing wasn’t thought of as anything really exotic. The producer’s role was really little more than to record voices and instruments. We really couldn’t afford to have anyone else do it, so we did it ourselves. Actually, I’d been the group’s producer all along, by default.

I’d heard Michael sing at The Metropole, at The Phone Booth, and The Peppermint Lounge, the happening clubs of those days. He was a rough, tough, ballsy singer and struck me as a Mitch Ryder type. I took him in the studio where we recorded a song that was a combination of “Great Balls of Fire” and “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On. ” I played on and wrote the song on the flip side, “Joint Meeting ” Atco Records bought the record.

This was a transitional time, really the very beginning of the end of the singles thing The British groups, leading up to The Who and The Stones and the long LP cuts by groups like The Vanilla Fudge, were changing the business to a more freeform and, in many cases, self-indulgent format. Michael’s record never went anywhere, but that didn’t hurt you in those days, primarily because it wasn’t that heavy an investment by the label. That was part of what made the scene so exciting, so experimental. You wanted to make a record, you made it. You sold it to a small label, they put it out, and you were in the music business.
The next step I took was joining the group The Balloon Farm, named after the old Andy Warhol club. I played lead guitar, sang lead vocals, wrote the song, and produced the record, although someone else got the production credit. We were signed to Laurie Records, Dion’s label at the time. We put out two records, “Farmer Brown’s Ole Mill Pond, ” which was a Lovin’ Spoonful kind of thing, and a rock record, “A Question of Temperature. ” “Question” actually went Top 40* and was recently chosen as one of the Top 40 songs of all time by the Village Voice, of all publications. We got to tour with The Box Tops, John Fred and His Playboy Band, and Sly and the Family Stone. By this time I was really hooked on the music business.

Meanwhile, I’d been going to college and graduated with a BBA, Bachelor of Business Arts, in 1965 from St. John ‘s University, and sure enough, weeks later received my notice from the army to come down for my physical. It was a cattle call. The war was getting hot, and the draft was increasing its numbers every day. I passed in a second and got a notice soon that said, Greetings, you’re inducted. I said, oh, boy, let me see if I can get into one of those reserve centers. I checked every one, and they all had lists three miles long I didn’t have any particular clout with the military, I didn ‘t know anybody, so I couldn ‘t jump the list, and it looked like I was going

Then my sister happened to mention to me that her boyfriend had joined a Marine reserve unit. “Don ‘t be silly, ” I told her, “the Marines don ‘t have reserves. ” At least that’s what I thought in those days. I called the Huntington Reserve Unit, and sure enough, they had some openings. I went down to talk to them, told them I’d already passed my army physical and was scheduled to show up in two weeks. “Don’t you worry about a thing,” the recruiter told me, and took a little red stamp and stamped my folder. “This is it, ” he said. “We’ll send this to the army. You’ll never hear from them again. ” And I never did. I guess the army figured if I was dumb enough to join the Marine reserves, so be it. Straight to Parris Island for seven and a half weeks, about half the normal time because of the war and the speed with which they had to train new recruits. I got lucky in the Marines—one day I turned over my duffel bag and my college ID fell out. When my senior drill instructor asked if I’d graduated, I said, “Yes sir, ” and he said, “You’re my scribe, ” meaning I became the secretary to the platoon and got out of a lot of bullshit the other guys suffered through. I only had to do six months, then go to weekend meetings for what seemed like the rest of my life.

* It reached number thirty-seven on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. When I came home, I got back into producing I signed with a production/publishing company, H & L Music. Hugo Peretti and Luigi Creatore were the guys who produced Sam Cooke. They produced every one of his hits, including “Cupid, ” “Chain Gang, ” and “Another Saturday Night. ” They were the first producers who ever got their name and logo on their records. They did The Tokens’ “Lion Sleeps Tonight” on RCA, one of the biggest singles of the sixties, number one for three weeks. I was signed personally by Hugo and Luigi as a writer/ producer and recording artist for Laurie Records, with an advance of about a thousand dollars. I wrote a song for them called “Soul Searchin ‘ ” for Bobby Lewis, who ‘d had a hit with “Tossin ‘ and Turnin ‘ ” for Mercury Records.

By 1967, Mike had cut his professional teeth turning out rock and roll records that captured the mood and flavor of sixties Top 40 music. It was around this time that he met Jimmy Cretecos through a mutual friend, Robin McNamara. McNamara was a New York actor/singer who’d been in the Broadway musical Hair, after which he’d recorded a song called “Lay a Little Lovin’ on Me,” a Top 10 hit that Cretecos had co-written with Jeff Barry, one of Tin Pan Alley’s legendary pop/rock songwriters. Mike and Jimmy hit it off and began to write songs together.

During this time, Cretecos was hanging out at a New York organization called New Beat Management, which handled McNamara. New Beat, headed by Mark Allen and the Slater brothers, managed the best club bands and placed them in the hottest New York discos of the day, including Harlow’s, Sybil’s, and The Phone Booth. One day McNamara introduced Mike to Mark Allen, who in turn brought him to see Wes Farrell. Farrell had a successful production/publishing operation at the time.
APPEL: I went over and sang my songs for Wes, who liked me as an artist as well as a writer. I told him that I wanted to write with my friend Jimmy Cretecos, and he said fine, which is how Jimmy became my full-time writing partner.

Farrell offered Mike $250 a week, with an escalation clause to $300, as a writer/artist for the Wes Farrell Organization, and a chance to produce.

APPEL: Although prior to my work with Farrell I’d written a couple of songs that had actually charted, I never saw any real money. No one did. You usually sold the rights when you sold a song in those days. So I decided to go for the steady salary and went to work for the Farrell Organization. A steady income was important to me because I’d just gotten married. Wes was a songwriter who’d had a couple of real big hits, like “Hang On Sloopy,” “Let’s Lock the Door and Throw Away the Key, ” and “Come a Little Bit Closer. ” He ran what amounted to a writing/producing/publishing house.
I was twenty-four years old in 1966 when I met my wife, Jo Anne. She was working at the time in the copyright department of Southern Peer International, a great country-oriented music publishing company. I was up there making a demo, met her, and a year later in ’67 we were married. Meanwhile, with the Farrell Organization I wrote a song for Paul Anka called “Midnight Angel, ” one for Aretha Franklin ‘s sister, Carolyn, “Chain Reaction,” and another one called “Doesn’t Somebody Want to Be Wanted, ” for David Cassidy and the Partridge Family, which actually went to number six. I then wrote a lot of David Cassidy songs and commercials for several top products.

There was a guy working for Wes, Steve Bedell, whom Wes had hired away from Grey Advertising to do commercials. His job was to expand the operation in that direction. Under Bedell, the Farrell Organization produced dozens of commercials for Pepsi, Coke, and other popular products. All these small independents like Farrell were always looking for cash flow to stay afloat. Farrell figured jingles were as good a way to make it as any, so through Steve’s efforts we did a lot of successful commercials.
Appel was assigned the job of writing material for additional acts handled by Farrell’s organization, which at that time consisted of, among others, the Osmond Brothers (circa Andy Williams), Wayne Newton, and The Brooklyn Bridge with Johnny Maestro. The Wes Farrell Organization was strictly Tin Pan Alley, three-minute-hit, one-minute-commercial mentality. Appel and Cretecos were more or less perceived by the others as house hippies, not so much for the way they dressed, which was as straight as anyone else, but for their taste in rock, which ran toward what was then coming to be known as “progressive.”

In 1969, while with the Farrell Organization, Appel discovered and produced the Sir Lord Baltimore group, which Mercury signed to an album deal. Baltimore’s album, Kingdom Come, for which Appel and Cretecos wrote all the lyrics and produced, became something of an underground pre-heavy metal hit. The publishing and profits remained with Farrell and a manager named Dee Anthony.
APPEL: Sir Lord Baltimore was a power trio, not unlike Cream. The guys were from Brooklyn and played a type of rock that today you’d call heavy metal. It was obvious they were going to need a manager to get them a powerful agent to book tours for them. I decided to call up Dee Anthony. I’d never met him before. I did know who he was, though. It was the studio owner in Jersey who brought Dee to the studio to listen to Sir Lord Baltimore’s tapes. At the time Dee handled such acts as Joe Cocker, Traffic, Cat Stevens, all heavyweights. I remember watching him as I played Baltimore ‘s tapes for him. He closed his eyes and had this expression on his face meant to show he was “really into the music, ” and I felt right then and there the guy was a complete fraud. “Yeah, ” he finally said, “I like the guys, I think I can do something with them. ” And I’ll never forget, he said, “My handshake is my bond. “
That, of course, was the kiss of death. According to Dee, we were “family” now. He kept saying that to me. “We’re family, so don’t worry…. ” The next thing I knew, Dee Anthony took the tapes to Mercury Records and signed the group to the label without me. He took the entire advance monies from Mercury himself. Even though I was the producer and I’d co-written the goddamn songs, I got album credit and that ‘s all. Not a penny. So I had to eat it, as the expression goes. Which was the main reason I decided if I ever got another act, I’d have to be the manager. I never wanted another Dee Anthony in my life.
Shortly after that, the group Montana Flintlock, or Tumbleweed, as they were also known, came into our lives. They were a Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young-type act, and I took them down to Nashville to make an album for Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller. They liked the record, but for reasons I believe had nothing to do with the band it was shelved.

At the time, Montana Flintlock had a guy doing their sound, a fellow everyone called Tinker. He doubled informally as their manager and handled a lot of their local bookings. Since I never wanted to be involved in small-time local band activities, I figured fine, let him do it. At the time, I was also working with an artist by the name of Tony Azito, a Cat Stevens soundalike. Jimmy and I wrote some songs for Azito, produced him, and signed him to Epic Records.

By now, Appel had nearly ten years’ professional music experience, including a Top 40 hit with his own group, several major tours with some of the biggest acts of the day, and a legitimate position with two of the hottest songwriting/production/artist houses in the business.

LOPEZ: I’d heard from some other musician friends of mine that there were a couple of producers in New York City looking for singer-songwriters. I mentioned this to Tinker and suggested there might be something in it for Bruce. I knew Bruce was having a hard time and thought this might get him some work. I went to Tinker, who said he knew the guys I was talking about, Mike Appel and Jim Cretecos, and called Appel up.
APPEL: Then one day I got a call from Tinker, who wanted to send a youngster up by the name of Bruce Springsteen to my office to see if I’d be interested in working with him. I’d previously mentioned to Tinker that I was looking for acts who wrote their own music. So I said sure, send him up. Why not? I liked Tinker, I respected his taste in music, so I figured, what have I got to lose?


In many ways, not all of them immediately apparent, Mike Appel was to Bruce Springsteen what Colonel Tom Parker was to Elvis Presley, and what Albert Grossman was to Bob Dylan. All three managers, Parker, Grossman, and Appel, shared the ability to recognise the raw talent of their clients before anyone else and had the savvy to exploit it to maximum commercial potential. With an extraordinary dose of good fortune, providence, prophecy, or perception, each happened upon one of the three most influential talents in the history of rock and roll.

All three artists—the “King,” the “Poet,” and the “Boss”— functioned under similar creative paradoxes. While helping to liberate the youth of their respective decades from the restrictions of their elders, they remained unable to free themselves from the clutches of their own idealised manager/daddies. Elvis’s expressive individualism showed itself first and most forcefully in his appearance: the dress, stance, hair, and moves so different from those of anyone before him (and some might argue since). It didn’t really matter that he couldn’t play the guitar all that well, or that he could sing better than anyone else —at first, Elvis’s look was enough to reject the image of Brando’s then-predominant bruiser type and help establish the pretty-boy vernacular of the teenage fifties.

Elvis’s physical beauty was in and of itself the ultimate revolt against the gritty ugliness of the Depression generation whose kids grew up to fight World War II. The eventual disillusionment that followed the Allied victory; the onset of the Cold War; the domestic paranoia of the fifties; the social, political, sexist, and racist repression and economic recession—all became the governing world of the fathers of postwar America’s teens. To Elvis, Vernon Presley represented everything worth rebelling against, perhaps nowhere more than in his treatment of Elvis’s mother. A womanizer, a thief, a ne’er-do-well who paid little attention to his son, Vernon undoubtedly resented the amount of affection Gladys heaped upon the boy. Elvis’s adolescent narcissism, combined with his well-documented attachment to Mom (with her enthusiastic encouragement), most clearly expressed itself in his image of the prototypical hip-swiveling, blue haired rocking mama’s boy.

Elvis’s subsequent lifelong attachment to Colonel Parker, whom Presley rightly credited with making him a star, suggests a psychological changing of the guard, a replacement of the real father (Vernon) with an idealised version (the Colonel) who not only approved of Elvis’s look, manner, and music, but who (like Gladys) enthusiastically encouraged it. It was Parker, not Vernon, who guided the boy out of the ghetto of anonymity into the kingdom of fame, and in doing so became the primal father figure for rock’s premier rebel.

The story is familiar now, how Elvis was never able to untie the bonds of control Parker wrapped around the King’s psyche. Long after it became apparent that the Colonel was dedicated more to his own interests than to Elvis’s, Presley remained unquestioningly, if unwillingly, loyal. Unable to wrest control of his movie and recording career from the Colonel’s iron clutches, his marriage a bust, and perhaps most painfully, his awareness of his lost youth reflected in the death of his mother, Elvis simply gave up. Psychologically attached to the Colonel’s exploitative embrace and desiring, perhaps, to “reunite” with Gladys, Elvis simply followed up his existential death with the real thing.

Yet during Elvis’s lifetime, the story of the Colonel and his teenage truck driver with the million-dollar hips had all the charm of a Hollywood rags-to-riches fairy tale, complete with loving, doting parents and a benevolent wise-old-man manager. Of all the books written about Elvis, none have ever provided the essential missing ingredient needed to tell the complete story of their relationship—the Colonel himself.
Throughout his entire professional association with Elvis, Parker refused any direct contact with the press and declined all interviews, preferring the relative anonymity of the invisible background. One can only wonder what revelations might have been forthcoming had the Colonel ever decided to tell his side of the story. Without question, that version, as one-sided as it might have been, would still be among the most valued, if not the mostvaluable, for its privileged viewpoint of the lifelong tar-baby relationship that revolutionised America’s music and manner.

The age difference between Elvis Presley and Bob Dylan is seven and a half years, yet their music remains separated by that great chasm of time between the end of the Truman-Eisenhower-Nixon fifties and the dawn of the Kennedy-Johnson-Nixon sixties. Dylan’s rise effectively warehoused the Presley era of white American rock and roll, and along with it the King himself. Although Dylan began his career as a Woody Guthrie imitator in physical appearance, vocal style, and lyric content, it was the addition of sixties “hip” to the ingredients of his enormous talent that helped redefine Elvis as fifties “square.”
Dylan’s rebellion took many forms, feeding not only on the music of the fifties that drove him straight to Highway 61, but on the music makers of the fifties, whose look, sound, and attitude he brilliantly, if savagely, mocked. Dylan grew his hair long, like Elvis, but with an attitude, satirising the brilliantine Dippity-Do that greased the previous generation’s physical veneer. Whereas Elvis’s clothes were the long collar, pressed pants, shiny shoes of the Saturday-night, working-class, dress-up-and-go-drinking variety, Dylan’s public persona identified with the blacks, tees, turtlenecks, and boots of the liberal, middle-class, coffeehouse crowd. Elvis sang what was handed to him, rarely if ever protesting the script, while Dylan quickly rejected everything that came before in favour of his own music, his own words, his own way. Finally, if Elvis’s voice was the stuff of sweet-fifties romantic dreams, Dylan’s was the gruff of bitter-sixties social nightmares.

Yet, the scenario of Dylan’s greatest rebellion, and greatest failure, bears remarkable resemblance to that of Presley’s. Like Elvis’s, Dylan’s childhood was dominated by a loving, doting mother and a distant, unapproving father. Dylan’s father, a furniture dealer, insisted his six-year-old son accompany him into the homes of his customers unable to keep up their payments and help repossess the furniture. This was a nightmare Dylan would recall a hundred ways in his early songs of social protest that championed the good, poor folk against the inherently (to him) evil, well-to-do landlords, land barons, judges, racists, and warmongers (among others).

No other era in recent American history has produced so vocal a reaction to the sociopolitical-psychological gap between father and son as did the sixties. If the Vietnam War divided the country politically, so did it generationally. When the sons of World War II veterans (and the daughters who stood with them) refused to support the war in Asia, the lines were clearly drawn. Those who opposed the war rejected not only the politics of their country, but the dominion of their fathers. Rock shed its fifties innocence as Kennedy was assassinated (the idealised father of a generation), The Beatles arrived, and the Gulf of Tonkin erupted. And Dylan’s rebel rhetoric grabbed a nation’s youth by its wet ears.
Elvis, whose musical fortunes dwindled when he enlisted in the armed forces, was from that moment on seen by the children of the sixties as a part of their fathers’ world, while Dylan redefined rock’s primal scream by singing not only to but for a generation, rejecting the values and commitments of all who came before. But he didn’t do it alone.

His manager, Albert Grossman, showed the way. Unlike the Colonel, Grossman was inherently urbane. Whereas the Colonel’s musical roots derived from country/western, Grossman came out of the Chicago jazz and folk scene. Whereas Parker was the ultimate daytime carny, Grossman was the eternal night side intellectual. What the two men did have in common, however, was the ability to recognise raw, undeveloped musical genius. Grossman realised the nascent talents in the ripsaw vocals of a young, unvarnished Bob Dylan and encouraged him to go for the intellect. By doing so, he gave the young man from Minnesota the essential ingredient missing from his real father (and possibly longed for by Dylan)—the license of approval to drive top speed down the back roads of his mind.

Dylan’s key career move, like Presley’s, was the replacement of his real father with an idealised father figure. Having accomplished that, he spent the next fourteen years financially (and most likely emotionally) dependent on Albert Grossman. Grossman, like the Colonel, personally managed all the money, handled all the publishing, booked all the dates, scheduled all the interviews, and paid all the bills.

At a very high price. Once Dylan became disillusioned with the style and tactics of his personally created father superior, it took him years to escape from the prison of arrested emotional adolescence to which he’d sentenced himself. It wasn’t until 1974 that Dylan was able to free himself from the long reach of Grossman’s financial and emotional grasp—a turning point he marked by the celebrated, aptly titled “comeback” album Blood on the Tracks. When the end finally came and all financial connections between the two were severed, Grossman’s place in Dylan’s world, and the world of rock and roll, faded quietly into the background. Grossman retired to Woodstock, New York, to live out the rest of his days.
And steadfastly refused to talk to the press. Grossman never granted a single interview on the subject of Bob Dylan. He turned down all offers, many for astronomical amounts, to write his memoirs. And when he died, the secrets of his soul died with him. Without Grossman’s version of events, the book on Dylan will remain forever incomplete.

The age difference between Dylan and Springsteen is eight years, approximately the same as that between Presley and Dylan. Again, the generational divide far exceeds the linear, as the children of the seventies woke up to the worst morning-after since the day Buddy Holly’s plane went down. Kent State, Watergate, the ongoing Vietnam War, rebounding racism, and the rush toward harder drugs all but crushed the utopian future their older brothers and sisters had dreamt of. As late as 1975, even though he’d long abandoned social protest, Dylan remained an icon of the sixties. The children of the seventies wanted someone they could call their own and found him in the person of Bruce Springsteen.
Springsteen’s persona perfectly resolved the conflicting elements of his predecessors. Springsteen combined Presley’s sensuality with Dylan’s poetic intellectualism while somehow managing to reflect neither. He was a preener, to be sure, but he never hid behind it, as Elvis did. And he was a poet, without question, although his imagery and sub text never disguised itself in dense metaphor. Whereas Presley found solace “Crying in the Chapel,” and Dylan anguish beyond “The Gates of Eden,” Springsteen declared his inability to function as a “Saint in the City.”

What has always made Springsteen special is his ability to acknowledge and educe the essential qualities of the best of those who came before, without mimicry or derisiveness, in order to create an extraordinary body of work immediately identifiable as his own. That talent has helped place him among the great originals of rock and roll.

Yet the similarities in the lives of Presley, Dylan, and Springsteen startle in their resonance. Anyone who’s ever attended a Springsteen concert (or heard his “live” album) knows well the troubled history between father and son, the fights over hair length, draft dodging, the infamous “goddamn guitar” harangues Bruce suffered at the hands of his “old man” that left deep emotional scars and affected every aspect of Springsteen’s professional and personal life. Perhaps, then, it’s not so surprising that Bruce would look for someone in his self-created world to replace his father in a more perfect way. Mike Appel, like Colonel Parker and Albert Grossman before him, made no secret of his admiration for the talents and potential he saw before him. Whereas Springsteen’s “old man” kept turning down the stereo, Appel promised to turn up the volume of Bruce’s life. Springsteen’s mother, on the other hand, perfectly fit the mold of Presley’s and Dylan’s. She was the parent Springsteen brought onstage during the Born in the USA tour for “Dancing in the Dark,” a terpsichorean extravaganza of overwhelming Oedipal proportion.

In a recent poll taken by Backstreets magazine, a Bruce fanzine, readers were asked to submit what they believed was Springsteen’s best career move. The overwhelming consensus was the firing of Mike Appel as manager and producer. Not surprising, in light of the fact that much of what has been written about Appel (as was the case with the Colonel and Grossman) has been uncompromisingly negative. The two semi-authorized biographies of Springsteen (Dave Marsh’s Born to Run and Glory Days) dismiss Appel in a few, mostly negative paragraphs. In fact, much of the Appel-Springsteen relationship has been so distorted that it would seem to readers that Bruce sprang full blown from the obscurity of New Jersey to international fame not only without the help of but despite Mike Appel. The truth is, Springsteen’s career wasn’t simply assisted by Mike Appel, Springsteen had no career until he put himself in Appel’s hands. To tell Bruce’s story without Mike Appel’s is like trying to hear the ticking of a clock that has no mainspring.

Until now. For the first time, Appel has decided to “go public” with his version of how he discovered Bruce Springsteen, what it took to make him a star, and why and how he lost him. But this isn’t just his version. In addition to dozens of interviews conducted with others involved in the story, crucial support documents, contracts, depositions, and personal diaries have also been made available. Indeed, as the saga unfolds, it will become clear that Appel’s role was less the shining, mythic Sir Gawain; Jon Landau’s, more the All About Eve Harrington; and Bruce’s, the Hamlet in black dress leather haunted by the ghost of his real father, fighting to break the emotional, legal, often surly ties to his idealised one, Mike Appel.

HE’S ON FIRE – SPRINGSTEEN 1985 (part 2)

Seconda parte del articolo su Springsteen tratto da un Newsweek del 1985.

On this tour, for the first time, the more somber songs have moved to the heart of the show. “Highway Patrolman” was a highlight of last year’s concerts—a lovely, heartbreaking song about a cop torn between loyalties to the law and his black-sheep brother. “The River” told the story of a working-class kid trapped in a sad marriage; “Johnny 99” was a laid-off autoworker driven to crime by insurmountable money troubles. And across America last year, the words of “My Hometown” resonated strongly at each stop: “Now Main Street’s whitewashed windows and vacant stores/Seems like there ain ‘t nobody want to come down here no more/ They’re closing down the textile mill across the tracks/Foreman says these jobs are goingboys andthey ain ‘t coming back …. “
Burners: These are grim messages, but Springsteen is too much a rocker at heart to let the sadder songs overwhelm. What makes his shows exhilarating pop events is the ease with which he shifts gears into high-energy burners like “Thunder Road” and “Cadillac Ranch” – songs that encapsulate all the fire and abandon of the rock-and-roll spirit. Springsteen seems to be everywhere at once on the concert stage: high atop a speaker bank, racing up a stairway to play to the people in the back, tearing back down to the lip of the stage. His shows are marathons, often reaching four hours in length. Says E Street guitarist Nils Lofgren, an established Columbia artist who signed on with Springsteen last year, “With Bruce you wind up treating those four hours as if someone said, ‘You’ve got four hours left on earth. What are you going to do with it?’ “

Springsteen, friends say, would rather be doing nothing else than playing rock and roll . Behind every show lies a thought that’s central to great rock-and-roll performing—the idea that only this moment matters. Not Yesterday, not tomorrow.
but now. His commitment to the moment is total,andevery show in every city bristles with passion and good
humor. Even the hokey moments are deliriously exciting—like the scene when Springsteen and sax player Clemons ( “The BigMan! The King of the World The Master of Disaster!”) square off at opposite ends of a long arena stage, mock scowling, eyes locked, each playing at full tilt—and then race toward one another to meet at center stage for an exuberant twist, twine or rumba.
Privacy: Offstage, the singer devotes his formidable drive to a more personal pursuit: keeping his private life his own business. He is surrounded by a determined cadre of loyal friends and handlers, none of whom has much enthusiasm for talking to the press, and Springsteen himself hasn’t given an interview since talking to Rolling Stone late last year. “I give my entire energy to the public,” he told his new father-in-law after marrying Julianne Phillips in May. “But this is different. Things that are private should be kept private. ” But privacy is harder than ever to come by. He is not only a bigger star than he has ever been, but a different kind of star—a political symbol, a national symbol … and, let’s face it, a sex symbol, thanks to a rigorous schedule of weight training that has chiseled him a whole new profile.
It’s not his first new look. Over the last dozen years Springsteen has worn several faces: the scowling late-Dylan of the late ’70s, the leather-clad tough of the middle decade, the earringed singer / songwriter of l974.To start with,back in his hometown of Freehold,N.J. he was a scrawny Jersey kid with an Irish father, an Italian mother and a Dutch name. A headstrong boy who chafed under discipline both at home and in parochial school, he felt everything turn when he bought a pawnshop guitar at 13. “It was one of the most beautiful sights I’d ever seen in my life,”he told rock journalist Dave Marsh. “I
had found a way to do everything I wanted to do. ” Hooking up with a local band called the Castiles, Springsteen began playing in Jersey bars. Stints in four more local groups followed before he landed an audition with Columbia executive John Hammond, who years earlier had discovered Billie Holiday and Bob Dylan. Hammond gave the young singer 15 minutes of his time. He was stunned. Springsteen signed with Columbia Records in 1972.
His first LP, “Greetings From Asbury Park, N.J.,” was done in just three weeks and showed—maybe too strongly—the influence Dylan had had on Springsteen. Wild torrents of words skittered across the record’s surface: “Madman drummers bummers and Indians in the summer with a teen-age diplomat . . . ” Springsteen sang in the album’s opening line. Nobody was quite sure what that meant. From Dylan, who had been obtuse for a decade by that time, music fans expected such. No one knew what to make of this skinny Jersey kid with the scraggly beard. The second Springsteen LP, “The Wild, the Innocent & the E Street Shuffle,” pared the verbiage back some, to better effect, and played up the jazzier side of Springsteen’s music. It also introduced characters who under one name or another would populate all the singer’s records from then on: this time out they were Spanish Johnny and Puerto Rican Jane, lonely teens fighting to keep their dreams alive in the big city.A few deejays,including Philadelphia’s Ed Sciaky, began to play the records and talk up Springsteen’s incendiary live shows. Sciaky, then with WMMR recalls with special fondness the first time he heard “Rosalita”: “I thought I’d never hear louder applause. It was like an explosion. “
Unfortunately, ecstatic reception in the clubs didn’t mean big sales in the record
stores. But Springsteen kept working the East Coast circuit and attracting a good measure of critical attention. His best notice came from a young Boston writer named Jon Landau: “I
saw rock and roll future,” he wrote in Boston’s weekly Real Paper in May 1974, after a typically exuberant show at the Harvard Square Theatre. “Its name is Bruce Springsteen.” By October 1975 the singer’s small,fiercely loyal group of fans was convinced that Springsteen couldn’t be held down much longer. They were right. The third LP,”Born to Run,”hit the street like a firecracker,a superb,passionate record that traced a whole heartbreaking day in the lives of Springsteen’s urban heroes. Although some critics dismissed the record’s dense sound and complex song cycle as bombastic, sales were brisk—finally—and the album landed in the Top 10. That’s when the national media came around. NEWSWEEK and Time featured the singer on their covers—both in the same week— initiating a chain reaction of press coverage that focused on Springsteen more as an event than a musician. Something of a backlash resulted, and according to associates the young rocker wasn’t ready. “But he learned a lot from it,” an insider says. “He learned to relax and keep focused on what’s real.”
He would need all his forbearance. A legal wrangle with Mike Appel, his manager at the time, would keep him out of the studio for almost two years, dampening his upward momentum and causing some observers to write him off. Springsteen wasn’t legally free to record again until May 1977, with Jon Landau now along as manager and coproducer. “Darkness on the Edge of Town,” released in 1978, was a grittier work than any of the earlier records—no doubt reflecting the frustrating two-year layoff—and it sounded a theme that Springsteen has continued to address: the terrible gap between expectation and reality in the American dream. Home and family emerged as the only comfort; the title tune reminded listeners how bleak the world can be beyond the safe confines of home, and what a high price it exacts from those who try to break away “Lives on the line dreams are found and lost, ” he sang, “I’ll be there on time and I’ll pay the cost/For wanting things that can only be found/In the darkness on the edge of town. “
Reacbing On subsequent records Springsteen’s America grew darkerstill. “The River,”a double LP released in 1980,boasted some of his most affecting work to date, and ended with a jolt: “Wreck on the Highway,” a somber Hank Williams sound-alike about a young man who sees his own mortality in a late-night auto crash on a deserted highway. This was deeply moving stuff, and there was more on “The River,” but on the whole the record felt bloated, overly fussed over. Springsteen seemed to be reaching toward something new. Two years later he found it: the surprising and heartfelt “Nebraska, ” a bleak collection of folk tunes recorded solo in his New Jersey home. Inspired (if that’s the right word) by the story of serial killer Charles Starkweather, it is his worst-selling LP to date, and his most powerful. “[The album] was about that American isolation,” he told Rolling Stone, “what happens to people when they’re alienated from their friends and their community and their government and their job. Those are the things that keep you sane, that give meaning to life in some fashion . And if they slip away, then anything can happen.” His Iyrics had grown stronger with each album— quicker, terser, more photographic. His live shows had continued to
attract glowing notices, not least for their skillful mingling of rave-up rockers and American Gothic. By the time “Born in the U.S.A.” was released last June, Springsteen
was ready to assume the title of The Great American Rock and Roller. But even those around him are a little surprised at the leap Springsteen has taken this year in the public consciousness. There is a sense that this latest round of frenzy is somehow beyond—a step past even the madness of last year’s American tour. “The depth and width of the attention have taken an exponential jump,” one associate said last week. “We’re only just adjusting to it now.” That means, among other things, fielding ticket requests from high-profile fans in every walk of life—even politics. New Jersey Sen. Bill Bradley will be at the Washington show; some White
House staffers, who can usually wangle admittance to any event, won’t. A rumor about a secret VIP ticket list at federally owned RFK Stadium was shot down late last week, and the denial seems credible—even Gray & Co., the Capital’s premier public- relations firm, has been forced to score tickets from scalpers.
In the band, the press of public attention means more excitement focused on the stage. “Right now you’ve got 7 or 8 million people that are fanatic fans, ” Nils Lofgren says. “Two years ago 5 or 6 million of them didn’t know who Bruce was. There’s electricity that won’t ever quite be exactly like this.” Even allowing for rock-star hyperbole, there’s truth to this. And although this may not be the time to fan the flames, there’s one more reason for people to go nuts about this summer’s Springsteen tour: he and the band have been on the road for 13 months, and according to band intimates the last show on this tour—probably in October—will be the band’s last group activity for quite some time. Springsteen won’t go the way of Prince and retire from the stage. but
Lord, the man needs rest. No one is sure when work on the next record will start. This summer tour “seems like a friendly thing to do,” says a Springsteen insider, “a way to say goodbye for a while. ” During his layoff Springsteen will ponder his next album project, although no one around him knows what shape it will take. There is talk of a live record, as there is after every tour, but it’s just talk so far. The singer’s handlers will spend their time fielding offers from people who want to cash in on his huge new fame. There’s been speculation about movie roles, especially in the wake of Springsteen’s good performances in two rock videos—”I’m on Fire” and “Glory Days”—directed by John Sayles. It’s not likely that he’ll accept an outside offer, though. If he does decide to do a movie it will probably be a project of his own devising, like Prince’s “Purple Rain. ” One thing he definitely will not do is accept any of the offers that have come in for commercial endorsements. An associate rolls his eyes toward the ceiling as he promises that Springsteen will never rewrite “Born in the U.S.A.” for a TV commercial.
Some things, after all, are too important to mess around with. Springsteen’s hard core of admirers talk about how he and his music have changed their lives. They mean it literally. Everyone has a story to tell about the decisive moment when he realized that rock and roll
means as much to the man onstage as it does to him. There’s a sense of community in that moment between artist and audience, one that other forms of expression can’t approach for power and immediacy. In that instant, as guitars thunder and hot lights blaze, Springsteen and his fans share above all a conviction that the music means something—that properly applied, rock and roll can heal broken hearts, mend shattered lives, light the way through hard times or at least ease the pain for one thrilling moment. Another rock idol, Mick Jagger, once said, ‘It’s only rock and roll,
but I like it. ” In Springsteen’s world the thought would be different. It’s rock and roll, he might say. And it matters.


Seconda parte dell’ articolo tratto da Musician del febbraio 1981.

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“There’s a beauty in work and I love it, all different kinds of work. That’s what I consider it. This is my job, and that’s my work. And I work my ass off, you know.”

MUSICIAN: The way the stage show is organized is that the first half is about work and struggling; the second half is about joy, release, transcending a lot of those things in the first half. Is that conscious?
SPRINGSTEEN: I knew that I wanted a certain feeling for the first set. That’s sorta the way it stacks up.
MUSICIAN: What you rarely get a sense of around rock bands is work, especially rock
and roll as a job of work. Yet around this band, you can’t miss it.
SPRINGSTEEN: That’s at the heart of the whole thing. There’s a beauty in work and I love it, all different kinds of work. That’s what I consider it. This is my job, and that’s my work. And I work my ass off, you know.
MUSICIAN: In Los Angeles one night, when you introduced “Factory,” you made a distinction between two different kinds of work. Do you remember what it was?
SPRINGSTEEN: There’s people that get a chance to do the kind of work that changes the world, and make things really different. And then there’s the kind that just keeps the world from falling apart. And that was the kind that my dad always did. Cause we were always together as a family, and we grew up in a…good situation, where we had what we needed. And there was a lot of sacrifice on his part and my mother’s part for that to happen…
MUSICIAN: The River has a lot of those sorts of workers— the people in “Jackson Cage,” the guy in “The River” itself. SPRINGSTEEN: I never knew anybody who was unhappy with their job and was happy with their life. It’s your sense of purpose. Now, some people can find it elsewhere. Some people can work a job and find it some place else.
MUSICIAN: Like the character in “Racing in the Street”?
SPRINGSTEEN: Yeah. But I don’t know if that’s lasting. But people do, they find ways.
MUSICIAN: Or else… ?
SPRINGSTEEN: (Long pause) Or else they join the Ku Klux Klan or something. That’s where it can take you, you know. It can take you a lot of strange places.
MUSICIAN: Introducing “Factory” on a different night, you spoke about your father having been real angry, and then, after awhile, not being angry anymore. “He was just silent.” Are you still angry?
SPRINGSTEEN: I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t know if I know myself that well. I think I know myself a lot but I’m not sure. (Laughs) It’s impossible not to be [angry] when you see the state of things and look around. You have to be, somewhat.
MUSICIAN: Tonight, you were saying on stage that you found the election terrifying. That seems to go hand in hand with playing the M.U.S.E. benefits, and striking back at ticket scalpers in L.A. You wouldn’t have done those things two years ago, I don’t think. Are you finding social outlets for that anger now?
SPRINGSTEEN: That’s true. It’s just a whole values thing. Take the ticket thing. It’s a hustle. And a hustle has become . . . respected. In a lot of quarters—on a street level, dope pushers—it’s a respectable thing, to hustle somebody. I mean, how many times in the Watergate thing did people say about Nixon, “Well, he just wasn’t smart enough to get away with it.” Like his only mistake was that he didn’t get away with it. And there’s a certain point where people have become cynical, where the hustle, that’s the American way. I think it’s just turned upside down in a real bad way. I think it should
lose its respect.

MUSICIAN: Do you feel that way about nuclear energy?
SPRINGSTEEN: It’s just the whole thing, it’s the whole thing. It’s terrible, it’s horrible. Somewhere along the way, the idea, which I think was initially to get some fair transaction between people, went out the window. And what came in was, the most you can get. (Laughs) The most you can get and the least you
“To be a good live performer, you have to be instinctive. It’s like, to walk in the jungle, or to do anything where there’s a certain tightrope wire aspect, you need to be instinctive.”
can give. That’s why cars are the way they are today. It’s just an erosion of all the things that were true and right about the original idea.
MUSICIAN: But that isn’t something that was on your mind much until the Darkness album?
SPRINGSTEEN: Up to then, I didn’t think about too many things. In Greetings from Asbury Park, I did. And then I went off a-little bit, and sort of roundabout came back to it.
I guess it just started after Born to Run somehow. I had all that time off, and I spent a lotta time home. We were off for three years, and home for a long time. It came out of a local kind of thing —what my old friends were doing, what my relatives were doing. How things were affecting them, and what their lives were like. And what my life was like.
MUSICIAN: Did you have a sense that no one else was telling that story?
SPRINGSTEEN: I didn’t see it too much, except in the English stuff. Things were being addressed that way in that stuff.
MUSICIAN: You mean, for instance, the Clash?
SPRINGSTEEN: Yeah, all that kinda stuff. I liked it, I always liked that stuff. But there wasn’t too much stuff in America happening. It just seemed to me that’s the story. But there was a crucial level of things missing, and it is today still. Maybe it’s just me getting older and seeing things more as they are.
MUSICIAN: On Darkness, the character’s response is to isolate himself from any community, and try to beat the system on his own. The various characters on The River are much more living in the mainstream of society.
SPRINGSTEEN: That guy at the end of Darkness has reached a point where you just have to strip yourself of everything, to get yourself. together. For a minute, sometimes, you just have to get rid of everything, just to get yourself together inside, be able to push everything away. And I think that’s what happened at the end of the record.
And then there was the thing where the guy comes back.
MUSICIAN: And The River is what he sees?
SPRINGSTEEN: Yeah, these are his feelings. it’s pretty much there, and in the shows, it’s there now, too, I guess. I hate to get too literal about it, because I can never explain it as well as when I wrote about it. I hate to limit it. I look back at Darkness or the other records, and there were other things going on that I never knew were going on.
MUSICIAN: Do you like Born to Run and Darkness better now?
SPRINGSTEEN: Not particularly. On Darkness, I like the ideas, I’m not crazy about the performances. We play all those songs ten times better live. But I like the idea. Born to Run, I like the performances and the sound. Sometimes, it sounds funny
MUSICIAN: Young and innocent?
SPRINGSTEEN: Yeah, yeah. Same thing with The Wild and the Innocent. I have a hard time listening to any of those records. Certain things on each record I can listen to: “Racing in the Street,” “Backstreets,” “Prove It All Night,” “Darkness on the Edge of Town.” But not a lot, because either the performance doesn’t sound right to me, or the ideas sound like a long time ago.
MUSICIAN: Do you remember when you threw the birthday cake into the crowd, at the second M.U.S.E. concert?
SPRINGSTEEN: (Laughs) Oh yeah. That was a wild night.
MUSICIAN: You’d just turned 30 that night, and didn’t seem to be overjoyed by it. But a couple weeks ago in Cleveland, I was kidding Danny about turning 30, and said, “Oh yeah, we’re 30 now, can’t do what we used to do.” You said, real quick, “That’s not true.” What happened in that year? Was that significant, turning 30?
SPRINGSTEEN: I don’t remember. It just made me wanna do more things. I think, as a matter of fact, when we were in the studio, that was the thing that was big. I didn’t feel we were going too slow for what we were doing. But I felt that I wanted to be quicker just to have more time. I wanted to be touring, for one thing. I wanted to be touring right now.
MUSICIAN: But by the time you finish this tour, you’ll be crowding 32. Then, if you’re right and it’s just gonna take a year or so to make a record, you’ll be 33 or 34 by the time you get out again. Can you still have the stamina to do the kind of show you feel the need to do?
SPRINGSTEEN: Who knows? I’m sure it’ll be a different type of show. It’s impossible to tell and a waste of time guessin’.
When I was in the studio and wanted to play, it wasn’t the way I felt in a physical kind of way, it was what I felt mentally. I was excited about the record and I wanted to play those songs live. I wanted to get out there and travel around the world with people who were my friends. And see every place and play just as hard as we could play,
every place in the world. Just get into things, see things, see what happens.
MUSICIAN: Like in “Badlands”?
SPRINGSTEEN: That’s it. That’s the idea. I want to see what happens, what’s next. All I knew when I was in the studio, sometimes, was that I felt great that day. And I was wishing I was somewhere strange, playing. I guess that’s the thing I love doing the most. And it’s the thing that makes me feel most alert and alive.
MUSICIAN: You look awful before a show, and then those hours up there, which exhaust everyone else, refresh you.
SPRINGSTEEN: I always look terrible before the show. That’s when I feel worst. And after the show it’s like a million bucks. Simple as that. You feel a little tired but you never feel better. Nothing makes me ~, feel as good as those hours between when
you walk offstage, until I go to bed. That’s the hours that I live for. As feelings go, that’s ten on a scale of ten. I just feel like talking to people, going out back and meeting those kids, doing any damn thing. Most times I just come back and eat and lay down and feel good. Most people, I don’t think, get to feel that good, doing whatever they do.
MUSICIAN: You can’t get that in the studio?
SPRINGSTEEN: Sometimes, but it’s different. You get wired for two or three days or a week or so and then sometimes, you feel real low. I never feel as low, playing, as I do in the studio. You know, I just knew that’s what I wanted to do—go all over and play. See people and go all over the world. I want to see what all those people are like. I want to meet people from all different countries and stuff.
MUSICIAN: You’ve always liked to have a certain mobility, a certain freedom of movement. Can you still walk down the street?
SPRINGSTEEN: Oh sure, sure. It depends where you go. Usually…you can do anything you want to do. The idea that you can’t walk down the street is in people’s minds. You can walk down any street, any time. What you gonna be afraid of, someone coming up to you? In general, it’s not that different than it ever was, except you meet people you ordinarily might not meet—you meet some strangers and you talk to ’em for a little while.
The other night I went out, I went driving, we were in Denver. Got a car and went out, drove all around. Went to the movies by myself, walked in, got my popcorn. This guy comes up to me, real nice guy. He says, “Listen, you want to sit with me and my sister?” I said, “All right.” So we watch the movie (laughs). It was great, too, because it was that Woody Allen movie [Stardust Memories], the guy’s slammin’ to his fans. And I’m sittin’ there and this poor kid says, “Jesus, I don’t know what to say to ya. Is this the way it is? Is that how you feel?” I said, “No, I don’t feel like that so much.” And he had the amazing courage to come up to me at the end of the movie, and ask if I’d go home and meet his mother and father. I said, “What time is it?” It was 11 o’clock, so I said, “Well OK.”
So I go home with him; he lives out in some suburb. So we get over to the house and here’s his mother and father, laying out on the couch, watching TV and reading the paper. He brings me in and he says, “Hey I got Bruce Springsteen here.” And they don’t believe him. So he pulls me over, and he says, “This is Bruce Springsteen.” “Aw, g’wan,” they say. So he runs in his room and brings out an album and he holds it up to my face. And his mother says (breathlessly) “Ohhh yeah!” She starts yelling “Yeah,” she starts screaming.
And for two hours I was in this kid’s house, talking with these people, they were really nice, they cooked me up all this food, watermelon, and the guy gave me a ride home a few hours later.
I felt so good that night. Because here are these strange people I didn’t know, they take you in their house, treat you fantastic and this kid was real nice, they were real nice. That is something that can happen to me that can’t happen to most people. And when it does happen, it’s fantastic. You get somebody’s whole life in three hours. You get their parents, you get their sister, you get their family life, in three hours. And I went back to that hotel and felt really good because I thought, “Wow (almost whispering), what a thing to be able to do. What an experience to be able to have, to be able to step into some stranger’s life.”
And that’s what I thought about in the studio. I thought about going out and meeting people I don’t know. Going to France and Germany and Japan, and meeting Japanese people and French people and German people. Meeting them and seeing what they think, and being able to go over there with some
“But what a moment, what a mythic moment, what a mystery! Those rockabilly records are shrouded with mystery. Like these wild men came out from somewhere, and man, they were so alive. The joy and the abandon!”
thing. To go over there with a pocketful of ideas or to go over there with just something, to be able to take something over. And boom! To do it.
But you can’t do one without the other. I couldn’t do it if I hadn’t spent time in the studio, knowing what I saw and what I felt right now.
MUSICIAN: Because then you wouldn’t have that pocketful of ideas?
SPRINGSTEEN: Then, if you don’t have that, stay home or something. If you have some ideas to exchange, that’s what it’s about. That’s at the heart of it. I just wouldn’t go out and tour unless I had that. There wouldn’t be a reason.
The reason is you have some idea you wanna say. You have an idea about things, an opinion, a feeling about the way things are or the way things could be. You wanna go out and tell people about it. You wanna tell people, well, if everybody did this or if people thought this, maybe it would be better.
When we play the long show, that’s because it gives the whole picture.,And if you aren’t given the who picture, you’re not gonna get the whole picture. We play the first part…that first part is about those things that you said it was about. That’s the foundation, without that the rest couldn’t happen. Wouldn’t be no second half without the first half; couldn’t be all them other things, without those things. Without that foundation of the hard things,and the struggling things, the work things. That’s the heart, that’s what it comes down to.
And then on top of that, there’s the living, the things that surround that. That’s why the show’s so long. “You wanna leave out ‘Stolen Car’? No, that’s a little part of the puzzle.
“You wanna leave this out?” No that’s a little part of the puzzle. And at the end, if you want, you can look back and see… just a point of view really. You see somebody’s idea, the way somebody sees things. And you know somebody.
People go to that show, they know me. They know a lotta me, as much as I know that part of myself. That’s why, when I meet ’em on the street, they know you already. And you know them, too. Because of their response.
MUSICIAN: Even these days, it’s still not very far from the dressing room to the stage for you, is it?
SPRINGSTEEN: I don’t know if it is. I don’t know if it should be. I don’t know for sure how different
the thing is or how it’s perceived. Except a lot of the music is real idealistic, and I guess like anybody else, you don’t live up to it all the time. You just don’t. That’s the challenge.
You got to walk it like you talk it. That’s the idea. That’s the line. I guess that’s pretty much what it’s about.
The E Street Band Equipment Bruce Springsteen
Guitars: 1954 Esquire, modified with extra Telecaster pick-up (the guitar); 1956 Telecaster (spare); 1954 Telecaster (spare); Ovation six-string acoustic; two Rickenbacker 1 2-string electric; 1958 Gibson J-200 Acoustic guitar (this is the same guitar as Elvis’s original, and was a gift from crew members Mike Batlan, Marc Brickman and Bob Chirmside). Amps: Four pre-CBS Fender Bassman amps, ca. 1958- 1962; two Peavey Vintage amps (imitation Bassmans)—one of each is used onstage under the drum riser. Also: a prime time digital delay and harmonizer and an MXR distortion box. The Fender Esquire is modified with a battery operated impedence
transformer for long cable lengths. Information supplied by Mike Batlan, who also notes that there is an asterisk in front of the Esquire’s serial number, indicating that is was a factory reject, probably originally sold as a reject.
Miaml Steve Van Zandt MUSICIAN. What equipment do you use on stage? VAN ZANDT: I don’t know, you’ve gotta ask Dougie (Sutphin, E Street roadie). MUSICIAN: When was the last time you did know? VAN ZANDT: In ’65, I bought a Telecaster, and that’s the last thing I remember. MUSICIAN: But lately, you’ve begun to use those Ovation 12 strings on stage…
VAN ZANDT. I went to [actor] Sal Viscuso’s house here in L.A., and he had homemade pasta, homemade bracciola, he had provolone and mozarrella flown in from New York. And the strangest thing happened: I went home and dreamed I was Leadbelly with an Italian accent.
MUSICIAN. So not paying attention to the technical details doesn’t have much effect on your sound?
VAN ZANDT. No. I’ll tell you, I’ve got a secret technique. I play everything at 10. That’s the great equalizer. You’d be surprised how similar everything sounds when you do that.
MUSICIAN eventually did track down Doug Sutphin, doing laps at Malibu Grand Prix. At a pit stop, Sutphin informed us that Van Zandt has two Stratocasters, a ’57 and a ’67, a Gibson Firebird (a spare which he almost never plays onstage, and two hollow- body 12 string Ovation guitars, with pickups. One of the Ovations and one of the Strats is capo’d. Van Zandt has a Mesa Boogie amp with Electro-Voice speakers, two Roland Jazz Choirs (120) amps, and a 100-watt Hi Watt brain and cabinet, plus an MXR distortion unit. And yes, he does play it all at 10.
Clarence Clemons
The Big Man plays Selver Mark Vl tenors (a whole bunch of ’em) and altos, Yamaha baris and sopranos, with La-Voz reeds and Berg Larson mouthpieces. He uses a variety of Latin percussion (claves, tambourines, cowbell, etc.) and maracas by the Argentinian Hernandez company. His horns are miked with a device invented by Clemons and Bruce Jackson.
Roy Bittan
Bittan, who’s almost as well known for his session playing (with Meat Loaf, Dire Straits and others) as for his work with the E Street crew, uses a Yamaha C-7 grand piano as his basic instrument. He also plays a Yamaha CS80 synthesizer on a couple of numbers. The piano is fitted with a modified Helpinstill pickup. “The most important
thing,” the Professor says, “is ten fingers an~ fast hands.”
Danny Federici
Danny Federici is surrounded by banks of equipment onstage, which is unfortunate, since it tends to obscure some of the fanciest footwork in human history. While dancing, Federici plays a Hammond B-3 organ (with a spare backstage—one of them was cut down by John Stilwell), two Farfisa combo compacts, and an Acetone (Top 5 model), used exclusively for “Wreck on the Highway.” The sound is channelled through two customized Leslies, with 12 2″ speakers, Gauss HF 4000 horn drivers and IF 15″ speakers, and speed relays for both. Federici’s amp rack, designed by Sound Specialties of Philadelphia, holds a Marantz 510 MR (600 watts) for the low end, a Phase Linear 400 for the horns, a Urei 521 cross-over system, a Bi-Amp Model 270graphic equalizer, and a Roland RU100 reverb unit.
Danny also plays a keyboard operated glockenspiel, which is, he thinks, one of only two or three in the world. (When the E Streeters toured England and Scandinavia in ’75, they managed to find one to complement his pair.~ That runs through a standard Leslie 122 mounted in an Anvil case with an acoustic chamber and permanent mikes for off-stage miking.
Federici’s organ modifications (B3 cutdown, speed switches and relays) were done by John Stilwell, of Ithaca, N.Y., and Springsteen sound man Bruce Jackson.
Max Weinberg
The Mighty Max, as he’s introduced nightly, brought to his drum list as highly developed a sense of detail a-, he brings to his playing. He uses a 24″ x 14″ Ludwig 6- ply bass, with an Emperor head and 14 coats of white varnish; it’s stuffed with two old down pillows and miked with a Beyer 88.
Weinberg’s toms are also Ludwigs; he uses both a 10″ x 14″ and a 16″ x 16″. The rack tom has Countryman contact mikes taped to the inside shell and a Sennheiser 421 mike for the top head. The floor tom is miked with just the 421. The toms are slightly muffled with Green Bay paper towels—Weinberg insists on that brand.
His stage snare is a 61/2″ x 14″ Pearl Snare, with a Diplomat snare head, and a Durotone batter head, mike~ inside with a Countryman, outside with a Shure SM81 and another Sennheiser 421. (For recording, he prefers a black 5’/2″ X 14″ snare.)
Weinberg plays with Pro Mack 5B sticks (no varnish), uses a Cameo Chain pedal (squared off), a Pearl Hi Hat Stand and Pearl hardware. A custom welded roll bar holds his three Zildjian cymbals (18″ crash, 21″ ride and 20″ medium thin crash), mikes (AKG451 EB CK-1 Cart. and 3 Countrymen) and snare—this eliminates mike and cymbal stands.
“I’ve got four drums, ” says Weinberg. “Anything more is redundant. Besides, I tend to trip over things.”
Garry Tallent
“I use a Music Man bass, with four strings (two of which I seldom use)—they’re D’Addario halfrounds. The only modification is a can of black lacquer. I’ve got a Countryman direct box, which is what everybody hears. Plus my own special Funky setup, which I’ve thought about long and hard for two years. It includes a solid state amplifier, Acoustic 320, with an equalizer that I never use, and four Music Man bass cabinets with 15″ Lansings, which I never hear. The rest is up to God and Bruce Jackson.”


Articolo ovviamente su Bruce Springsteen tratto dal numero di Musician del febbraio 1981 che spero sia gradito.

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Bruce Springsteen
Springsteen returns from his two year marathon in the studio and introduces some new characters and insights along with some older influences, roaring to life the cylinders of his instinctive sense of emotional event. Dave Marsh examines the view from inside then of the last Roadside Romantic. by Dave Marsh
A year ago, taking a respite from recording to play two nights of the MUSE anti- nuclear benefit concerts, Bruce Springsteen pared his normal three hour show down to a more everyday 90 minutes. The result was pandemonium just this side of Beatlemania. Following the biggest stars in American soft rock to the Madison Square Garden stage, Springsteen and the E Street Band upstaged everyone, including the issue itself. The air in the hall that night was one of fanaticism and conversion, as though Springsteen were a rock and roll evangelist and the Garden his tabernacle.
It’s easy to imagine that Springsteen was just a pro rising to an occasion which included a camera crew and a recording truck, not to mention a backstage full of peers. What’s harder to explain, unless you’ve seen him onstage before a crowd that might not include so much as a weekly newspaper reviewer, is that the MUSE shows were just a fragment of what he usually does. “After those shows went over so great, I just figured that that’s what we’d do on this tour,” remembers E Street guitarist Steve Van Zandt, “Just 90 minutes, a couple of ballads, and make the people as crazy as you can, like the old days. We can do that. But not Bruce. What we ended up doing was just adding that 90 minutes to the show we always do.”
By late October, when the E Streeters hit LA for four shows at the 15,000 seat Sports Arena, they were playing four and one half hour shows, five nights a week. Going on at 8:30, they’d break at 10, and return a half hour later and play until 12:45- or 1:00 or 1:15. And they weren”t playing the ebb-and-flow show offered by most bands who play so long. We’re talking about four hours of ensemble rock and roll here, in which even the ballads are attacked more strenuously than most modal jams. Yet Jon Landau, his manager, said one night, “I think Bruce might actually play longer, except that the band just gets worn out.” True enough, drummer Max Weinberg often spends intermission taping bleeding fingers, and the others are spared such medicaments only because their instruments are less physically demanding.
Generally, Springsteen did 32 or 33 songs, including 17 or 18 from The River, a half dozen from Darkness on the Edge of Town, five from Born to Run, the perennial set closer “Rosalita” from The Wild, The Innocent and the E Street Shuffle, plus “Fire” and “Because the Night” from his seemingly bottomless supply of unrecorded hits.

And, of course, the Mitch Ryder medley which was the highlight of the No Nukes LP.
But the show has that shape only on nights when Springsteen hasn’t declared a special occasion, which is a rare night in itself. On Halloween, the second night in L.A., he cooked up a version of “Haunted House,” the old Jumpin’ Gene Simmons hit, at soundcheck, and opened the set with it—after appearing from a coffin, and being chased around the stage by ghoul-robed roadies during the guitar break.
On Saturday, Bruce added an acoustic guitar and accordion version of “The Price You Pay,” and debuted “Fade Away,” the one song from The River he’d avoided. On Monday night, with Bob Dylan in the house for a second night (he’d come with Jim Keltner on Thursday, and been impressed), Springsteen put “The Price You Pay” back in and dedicated it to his “inspiration.” Plus a lengthy version of “Growing Up,” from his first album. On both nights, he ended the encores with Jackson Browne, dueting on “Sweet Little Sixteen.” On neither night did the inclusion of the additional songs mean the removal of any of the others.
“Yeah, but you really missed it in St. Paul,” said Van Zandt. “He turned around and called ‘Midnight Hour,’ and we all just about fainted. Funky (bassist Garry Tallent) didn’t even believe we were doing it until about the second chorus.” The band had not rehearsed the song, and it’s unlikely that the E Street Band’s present lineup had ever played it before in its five years together. But even the musicians thought that it sounded great.
The expansiveness and elasticity of Springsteen’s show is a conundrum, because arena rock is in all other hands the surest route to formula. One of the most miserable summers of my existence was spent watching 15 Rolling Stones shows in 1975. By the fifth, I was fighting to stay awake; by the tenth I’d stopped fighting, a circumstance I ascribed to the band’s . senility until it occurred to me that no one was meant to look at more than one or maybe two of their damn fiestas.
That’s rock and roll for tourists. Springsteen plays for the natives. Although he would probably put it more idealistically, he’s really just never lost the consciousness of a bar band musician, who knows that a good part of the house may be seeing all three sets. And like a bar band veteran, he refuses to resort to gimmicks. Mark Brickman’s lighting is the best in rock, but it’s based on relatively simple theatrical gels and an authoritative sense of timing with follow spots; any funk band in the Midwest might have a more elaborate concept, but nobody with lasers achieves such an effective result. (Brickman has a computer along on this tour, but only, he told me, because “if you can figure out a way to program Bruce’s show, you can figure a way to make it work for anything.” Most nights, Brickman and soundman Bruce Jackson might as well throw their set lists away.)
But what reveals Springsteen bar band roots more than anything is his sense of intimacy with the crowd. One night during this tour, someone told me, he actually announced from the stage, “If the guy I met at the airport yesterday is here, please come to the stage at the break. I’ve got something for you,” which is about as close to sock hop mentality as you could ask. At his show in Phoenix, during “Rosalita,” Bruce made one of his patented leaps to the speakers at the side of the stage. But this time
he missed.
The crowd just kept on cheering, but back at the soundboard where Jackson and I were sitting, the tension was thick. Bruce might do anything, but this was weird; the band was holding the chord, and the chords of “Rosalita” are not meant to be held for five seconds, much less fifteen.
It’s a good long drop from the speakers, two feet high, to the floor, a good eight or nine feet away. All there was between Bruce and the hard concrete floor was the band’s monitor mixing board, but as he tumbled down, roadie Bob Werner reached out and broke the fall. (He sprained his wrist in the process.)
Neither the band nor the crowd could see any of this. The next thing any of us knew, the guitar appeared, tossed atop the speakers. Then a pair of hands and at last, Springsteen’s head, with his silly-faced-little-boy grin. He shook his head, pulled himself the rest of the way up, and strapped on his guitar, went back into action as if nothing had occurred.
This moment is presumably on film—there was a crew shooting a commercial that night—though from what angle I cannot say. But what that incident proclaims, more than anything, even Bruce’s sense of spontaneity, is his sense of event. The cardinal rule of his shows is that something always happens. It’s not only, as he says in the interview below, that he’s prepared for whatever happens. Somehow, he always makes sure that something does occur. I’ve seen at least 100 shows in the past six or seven years. The worst of them was fascinating, but maybe the most awesome have been the times when, after four or five nights of hell raising action, he manages to make it different again. This guy does not know the meaning of anticlimax.
“The moment you begin to depend on audience reaction, you’re doing the wrong thing. You can’t allow yourself,
no matter what, to depend on them.”
But there’s the bright side. There are darker ones. In Los Angeles, where ticket scalping is legal, front row seats for this extravaganza were going for $180, $200, $250. And fans wrote Bruce to complain, not just that tickets were being scalped, but that the best ones were. It’s an old story, and most bands would let it slide, but Bruce took a stand. Each night in L.A., he gave the crowd the name of a state legislator, and a radio station, who’d agreed to campaign to change the scalping law in California. This might qualify as a gesture—although the night after Landau got a pre-show phone call from a “ticket agent” suggesting that Bruce “do what he does, and I’ll do what I do, so why don’t he just lay off,” he made the announcement three times—but he’s also hired investigators to get to the bottom of the mess, with intentions of turning the information over to the proper authorities, if any hard evidence can be turned up.
And this reflects the spirit in which Springsteen played M.U.S.E. Although he was one
of only two musicians at the benefit who did not make a political statement in the concert program (the other was Tom Petty), Springsteen upstaged the issue only accidentally. He felt that particular problem to his marrow; “Roulette,” the song he wrote right after Three Mile Island, is the scariest piece of music he’s ever done, for my money more frightening that even the last lines of “Stolen Car,” and unmistakably based on the event. (Not to mention Del Shannon’s paranoiac “Stranger in Town.”) There is more to come.
The River itself feels like a farewell to innocence. As Springsteen notes in the interview below, the innocent characters on this album are anachronisms. Their time is-gone. That guy Iying by the side of the road in “Wreck on the Highway” is not only the guy in “Cadillac Ranch” and “Ramrod,” he is also Spanish Johnny, the original man-child hero of The Wild, the Innocent and The E Street Shuffle.
The River is, I think, Bruce Springsteen’s best album for this very reason. It sums up seven years of work, and it does not shy away from the errors of his career thus far, nor does it disown them. He remains a romantic and a bit of a juvenile, after all this, for who but a romantic juvenile could conceive of a purposeless car thief as a genuine figure of tragedy? But he is also capable now of tying together his hopes and fears— the most joyous of songs are awash with brutal undercurrents.
The River wasn’t the record anyone would have predicted Bruce Springsteen would make. Epics aren’t anticipated (although they might be the subject of certain fervent hopes.) But if The River was unpredictable, the album that will follow it is almost unimaginable. And not only because the society that shaped Springsteen’s most beloved characters and the musical tradition he cherishes is now crumbling.
Among other things, The River is a Number One record. “Hungry Heart” looks likely to be his first Top Ten single. Things change when that happens, and we have not yet seen the rock and roller who is strong enough to withstand those changes. It would be naive to expect Bruce Springsteen to be any different.
Yet Bruce Springsteen’s career is all about naive faith. Who else could have survived The New Dylan, The Future of Rock and Roll, The Hype, The Boss? And emerged not only successful, but respected. It’s easy to play cynical rock journalist and suppose the worst—no one else has exactly cruised through success—but the fact is, Bruce Springsteen is the only human I have ever met who cannot sell out. He doesn’t have a price, because the things he wants are quite literally beyond price. You don’t have to believe me. Just wait and see. As Miami Steve says, “For the first time, I can really imagine rock and roll at 40.”
The interview below took place at the Fiesta Motel in Tempe, Arizona on Nov. 6th, from about 3:30 AM until dawn.
(The time frame is typical.) Bruce had just completed a show at Arizona State University, and in a strange way, what I’ll remember about that night isn’t talking with him or even the fall off the speakers but the lines he sang just after the fall, that climactic verse of “Rosalita:”
Tell your daddy this is his last chance If he wants his daughter to have some fun Because my brand new record, Rosie
Just came in at Number one
He won’t forget, either.
MUSICIAN: Here you are, The River is a Number One album, the single is a hit, you’re playing great shows in the biggest halls, and selling them out. In a sense, a lot of goals you must have had are now achieved. What goals are left?
SPRINGSTEEN: Doing it is the goal. It’s not to play some big place, or for a record to be Number One. Doing it is the end— not the means. That’s the point. So the point is: What’s next? Some more of this.
But bigness—that is no end. That as an end, is meaningless, essentially. It’s good, ’cause you can reach a lotta people, and that’s the idea. The idea was just to go out and to reach people. And after tonight, you go out and you reach more people, and then the night after that, you do that again.
MUSICIAN: One of the things that The River and also the show, its length and certain of the things you say between songs, are about is seeing more possibilities, more opportunities for things to do.
SPRINGSTEEN: Yeah. There’s an immense amount, and I’m just starting to get some idea about what I want to do. Because we’ve been in a situation, always, until recently, there’s been a lot of instability in everybody’s life. The band’s and mine. It dates back to the very beginning, from the bars on up to even after we were successful. Then there was the lawsuit.
And then there’s the way we work, which is: We’re slow. And in the studio, I’m slow. I take a long time. That means you spend a lotta money in the studio. Not only do you spend a lotta money, you don’t make any money, because you’re out of the stream of things. It’s like you can never get ahead, because as soon as you get ahead, you stop for two years and you go back to where you were.
MUSICIAN: Is that slowness as frustrating for you as it i;, for everybody else?
SPRINGSTEEN: I’m lucky, because I’m in there, I’m seeing it every step of the way. I would assume that if you didn’t know what was going on, and you cared about it, it would be frustrating. With me, it was not frustrating.
You know, we started to work [on the album] and I had a certain idea at the beginning. And at the end, that was the idea that came out on the record. It took a very long time, all the coloring and stuff, there was a lot of decisions and songs to be written. Right up until the very last two weeks, when I rewrote the last two verses to “Point Blank.” “Drive All Night” was done just the week before that. Those songs
didn’t exist, in the form that they’re on the record, until the last few weeks we were in the studio. So there’s stuff happening all the time. But we get into that little bit of a cycle, which hopefully we’ll be able to break—maybe, I don’t know.
MUSICIAN: In a lot of ways, The River feels like the end of a
“All the characters, they’re part of the past, they’re part of the future and they’re part of the present. And I guess in “Ramrod” there was a certain frightening aspect to seeing one that wasn’t part of the future. “
cycle. Certain ideas that began with the second and third albums have matured, and a lot of the contrasts and contradictions have been — not resolved — but they’ve been heightened .
SPRINGSTEEN: On this album, I just said, “I don’t understand all these things. I don’t see where all these things fit. I don’t see how all these things can work together.” It was because I was always focusing in on some small thing; when I stepped back, they made a sense of their own. It was just a situation of living with all those contradictions. And that’s what happens. There’s never any resolution. You have moments of clarity, things become clear to you that you didn’t understand before. But there’s never any making ends meet or finding any time of longstanding peace of mind about something.
MUSICIAN: That’s sort of like “Wreck on the Highway,” where, for the first time in your songs, you’ve got the nightmare and the dream in a package.
SPRINGSTEEN: That was a funny song. I wrote that song real fast, in one night. We came in and played a few takes of it and that’s pretty much what’s on the album, I think. That’s an automatic song, a song that you don’t really think about, or work on. You just look back and it sorta surprises you.
MUSICIAN: On this record, it also feels like you’re relying a lot more on your instincts, the sort of things that happen on stage.
SPRINGSTEEN: Yeah, that’s what happens the most to make the record different. A lot of it is real instinctive. “Hungry Heart” I wrote in a half hour, or ten minutes, real fast. All the rockers—”Crush On You,” “You Can Look,” “Ramrod”— were all written very quickly, from what I can remember. “Wreck on the Highway” was; “Stolen Car” was. Most of the songs were, sit down and write ’em. There weren’t any songs where I worked—”Point Blank” I did, but actually those last two verses I wrote pretty quickly. “The River” took awhile. I had the verses, I never had any chorus, and I didn’t have no title for a long time.
MUSICIAN: But you always had the basic arrangement?
SPRINGSTEEN: No, on that song, I had these verses, and I was fooling around with the music. What gave me the idea for the title was a Hank Williams song, I think it’s “My Bucket’s Got a Hole In It,” where he goes down to the river to jump in and kill
himself, and he can’t because it dried up. So I was just sitting there one night, thinking, and I just thought about this song, “My Bucket’s Got a Hole In It,” and that’s where I got the chorus. [Actually, he’s referring to “Long Gone, Lonesome Blues”—D M.]
I love that old country music. All during the last tour that’s what I listened to a whole lot—I listened to Hank Williams. I went back and dug up all his first sessions, the gospel kind of stuff that he did. That and the first real Johnny Cash record with “Give My Love to Rose,” “I Walk the Line,” “Hey Porter,” “Six Foot High and Risin’,” “I Don’t Like It But I Guess Things Happen That Way.” That and the rockabilly.
There was a certain something in all that stuff that just seemed to fit in with things that I was thinking about, or worrying about. Especially the Hank Williams stuff. He always has all that conflict, he always has that real religious side, and the honky tonkin’, all that side. There’s a great song, “Settin’ the Woods on Fire.” That thing is outrageous. That’s “Ramrod,” that had some of that in it. And “Cadillac Ranch.”
MUSICIAN: Earlier, you said that “Ramrod” was one of the saddest things you’d written. Why?
SPRINGSTEEN: (Laughs) Well, it’s so anachronistic, you know. The character—it’s impossible, what he wants to do. One of the ideas of it, when I wrote it, it was sort of like a partner to “Cadillac Ranch” and a few things, it’s got that old big engine sound. That song is a goddam gas guzzler (laughing) And that was the sound I wanted, that big, rumbling, big engine lo sound. And this guy, he’s there, but he’s really not there no |~ more. He’s the guy in “Wreck on the Highway”—either guy, |~, actually. But he’s also the guy, in the end, who says, “I’ll give YOU the word, now, sugar, we’ll go ramroddin’ forevermore.” I don’t know, that’s a real sad line to me, sometimes.
MUSICIAN: If you believe it, you mean.
“I go back, back further all the time. Back into Hank Williams, back into Jimmy Rodgers. Because the human thing in those records is just so beautiful and awesome. “
SPRINGSTEEN: Yeah, but it’s a funny kinda thing. I love it when we play that song on stage. It’s just a happy song, a celebration of all that stuff that’s gonna be gone—is gone already, almost.
I threw that song ten million times off the record. Ten million times. I threw it off Darkness and I threw it off this one, too. Because I thought it was wrong.
MUSICIAN: You mentioned something similar about “Out in the Street,” that it was too much of a fantasy to possibly believe it.
SPRINGSTEEN: I was just wary of it at that time, I guess for some of the same reasons. It always seemed anachronistic, and at the time, I was demanding of all the songs that
they be able to translate. All the characters, they’re part of the past, they’re part of the future and they’re part of the present. And I guess there was a certain frightening aspect to seeing one that wasn’t part of the future. He was part of the past.
To me, that was the conflict of that particular song. I loved it, we used to play it all the time. And there was that confusion too. Well, if I love playing the damn thing so much, why the hell don’t I want to put it on the record?
I guess I always made sure that the characters always had that foot planted up ahead somewhere. Not just the one back there. That’s what makes ’em viable, or real, today. But I also knew a lotta people who were exactly like this. So I said, well, that’s OK. There was just a point where I said, that’s OK, to a lot of things where I previously would not have said so.
I gained a certain freedom, in making the two record set, because I could let all those people out, that usually I’d put away. Most of the time, they’d end up being my favorite songs, and probably some of my best songs, you know.
MUSICIAN: You mean the kind of songs that would show up on stage, but not on record? [“Fire,” Because the Night,” “Sherry Darling”]
SPRINGSTEEN: Yeah. I’m the kind of person, I think a lot about everything. Nothin’ I can do about it. It’s like, I’m a thinkin’ fool. That’s a big part of me. Now, the other part is, I can get onstage and cut that off and be super instinctive. To be a good live performer, you have to be instinctive. It’s like, to walk in the jungle, or to do anything where there’s a certain tightrope wire aspect you need to be instinctive. And you have to be comfortable at it also.
Like tonight, I was falling on my head. I wasn’t worryin’ about it. I just went, it just happened. (Laughs) You just think, what happens next? When I was gonna jump on that speaker, I couldn’t worry about whether I was gonna make it or not. You can’t. You just gotta do it. And if you do, you do, and if you don’t, you don’t, and then something else happens. That’s the point of the live performance.
Now, when I get into the studio, both things operate. When we perform on this record, I feel that we have that thing going that we’ve got live. To me, we’re not rockin’ that stuff better live than a lot of it is on the record. I can still listen to it. Usually, two weeks after we’re out on the record, I cannot listen to my record any more. ‘Cause as soon as I hear some crappy tape off the board, it sounds ten times better than what we spent all that time doing in the studio. This is the very first album that I’ve been able to go back and put on to play, and it sounds good to me.
But in the studio, I’m conceptual. I have a self-consciousness. And there’s a point where I often would try to stop that. “No, that’s bad. Look at all these great records, and I betcha they didn’t think about it like this, or think about it this long.” You realize that it doesn’t matter. That’s unimportant, it’s ridiculous. I got into a situation where I just said, “Hey, this is what I do, and these are my assets and these are my burdens.” I got comfortable with myself being that kind of person.
MUSICIAN: But only after going to extremes. Darkness is the least spontaneous of
your records.
SPRINGSTEEN: That’s right. And it’s funny because Darkness on the Edge of Town, that cut is live in the studio. “Streets of Fire” is live in the studio, essentially. “Factory” is live. It’s not a question of how you actually do it. The idea is to sound spontaneous, not be spontaneous.
So at this point, I just got settled into accepting certain things that I’ve always been uncomfortable with. I stopped setting limits and definitions—which I always threw out anyway, but which I’d always feel guilty about. Spending a long time in the studio, I stopped feeling bad about that. I said, that’s me, that’s what I do. I work slow, and I work slow for a reason To get the results that I want.
When you try to define what makes a good rock and roll record, or what is rock and roll, everyone has their own personal definition. But when you put limits on it, you’re just throwing stuff away.
MUSICIAN: Isn’t one of your definitions that it’s limitless?
SPRINGSTEEN: I think it is. That’s my definition, I guess. Hey, you can go out in the street and do the twist and that’s rock and roll. It’s the moment, it’s all things. (Laughs) It’s funny, to me it just is.
You know, my music utilizes things from the past, because that’s what the past is for. It’s to learn from. It’s not to limit you, you shouldn’t be limited by it, which I guess was one of my fears on “Ramrod.” I don’t want to make a record like they made in the ’50s or the ’60s or the ’70s. I want to make a record like today, that’s right now.
To do that, I go back, back further all the time. Back into Hank Williams, back into Jimmy Rodgers. Because the human thing in those records, that should be at least the heart of it. The human thing that’s in those records is just beautiful and awesome. I put on that Hank Williams and Jimmy Rodgers stuff and Wow! What inspiration! It’s got that beauty and the purity. The same thing with a lot of the great Fifties records, and the early rockabilly. I went back and dug up all the early rockabilly stuff because . . . what mysterious people they were.
There’s this song, “Jungle Rock” by Hank Mizell. Where is Hank Mizell? What happened to him? What a mysterious person, what a ghost. And you put that thing on and you can see him. You can see him standing in some little studio, way back when, and just singing that song. No reason. (Laughs) Nothing gonna come out of it. Didn’t sell. That wasn’t no Number One record, and he wasn’t playin’ no big arena after it, either.
But what a moment, what a mythic moment, what a mystery. Those records are filled with mystery; they’re shrouded with mystery. Like these wild men came out from somewhere, and man, they were so alive. The joy and the abandon. Inspirational, inspirational records, those records.
MUSICIAN: You mentioned earlier that when you went into the arenas that you were worried about losing certain things.
SPRINGSTEEN: I was afraid maybe it would screw up the range of artistic expression that the band had. Because of the lack of silence. A couple things happened. Number one, it’s a rock and roll show. People are gonna scream their heads off whenever they feel like it. That’s fine—happens in theatres, happens in clubs. (Laughs) Doesn’t matter where the hell it is, happens every place, and that’s part of it, you know.
On this tour, it’s been really amazing, because we’ve been doing all those real quiet songs. And we’ve been able to do ’em. And then we’ve been able to rock real hard and get that thing happening from the audience. I think part of the difference is that the demands that are made on the audience now are much heavier, much heavier on the audience that sees us now than on the last tour.
But the moment you begin to depend on audience reaction, you’re doing the wrong thing. You’re doin’ it wrong, it’s a mistake, it’s not right. You can’t allow yourself, no matter what, to depend on them. I put that mike out to the crowd, you have a certain faith that somebody’s gonna yell somethin’ back. Some nights it’s louder than other nights and some nights they do, and on some songs they don’t. But that’s the idea. I think when you begin to expect a reaction, it’s a mistake. You gotta have your thing completely together—boom! right there with you. That’s what makes nights special and what makes nights different from other nights.
MUSICIAN: On the other hand, the only way to do a really perfect show is to involve that audience. Maybe an audience only gets lazy if the performer doesn’t somehow keep it on its toes.
SPRINGSTEEN: I’m out there for a good time and to be inspired at night, and to play with my band and to rock those songs as hard as we can rock ’em. I think that you can have some of the best nights under the very roughest conditions. A lotta times, at Max’s or some of the clubs down in Jersey, they’d be sittin’ on their hands or nobody wants to dance, and the adversity is a positive motivation.
The only concern is that what’s being done is being done the way it should be done. The rest you don’t have control over. But I think that our audience is the best audience in the world. The amount of freedom that I get from the crowd is really a lot.

-continua –


L’articolo su Bruce Springsteen di oggi è tratto da un giornale del 1982.
Buona lettura e buona settimana.

When he switched on his new four-track Tascam cassette recorder in a bed room of his rented Holmdel, N.J. home last January 3, Bruce Springsteen wasn’t trying to make an album, just demos of a batch of songs written since his marathon 19801981 tour of Europe and America had ended the previous September. Springsteen was shortly due to begin rehearsals with the E Street Band before recording the followup to his first number one album, The River. The band would learn the songs from solo demo tapes. So Springsteen didn’t need to worry that the straight-backed wooden chair in which he sat creaked as he swayed and sang. He wasn’t concerned that a couple of the songs repeated lines almost word for word; the Iyrics were always the last item finished, anyway. Most of all, he relaxed as he played. With only roadie Mike Batlin, sitting in as engineer, for an audience, Springsteen let some of his extraordinary self- consciousness slip away. He did not simply toss off the songs; each number was an assured performance. But the performances weren’t calculated or studied. Like an artist sketching, Springsteen used only the simplest implements: acoustic guitar, harmonica, and occasionally, a muted electric guitar, without a reverb or fuzztone. Springsteen then put the Tascam through its paces, adding echo, a bit of synthesizer, doubling his voice in some spots, putting in backing vocals in others.
Over the next few days, listening to the cassette that resulted, Springsteen became more and more fascinated, not only by the songs themselves, but by his performances, too. The songs were as much of a piece as any album he had released, and the singing and playing, for all their starkness, flowed freely and elegantly, creating a mood that was intimate and uninhibited. There was something else, too, an eerie mystery that suggested the cassette had a life and will of its own. In a word, the tape sounded spooky.
Springsteen went into rehearsals, and then the recording sessions, determined not to lose this quality. But such unworldly moments aren’t simply repeated on command. Though the E Street Band made very good versions of some of the songs, none satisfied Bruce. The other songs he’d written were turning out fabulously but the cassette resisted.
Through the spring, Springsteen fought with those songs. For technical reasons, the cassette would be difficult to master as an alhum but he was being pulled towards doing the songs solo, nevertheless. Desperate, he even tried recording them over again, on his own but in the Power Station. Eventually, he and engineer Chuck Plotkin simply determined that they would sweatout whatever it took to master the original cassette. Over the course of a couple of months, both Springsteen and Plotkin lost a lot of sleep and wore their nerves to a frazzle, but in a way, that just made the process seem more real, sister to the famous struggles that had resulted in Springsteen’s other albums. At any rate, by early August, they’d won, with a master disc that kept the sound of the cassette and steadied the stylus in the grooves, as well. Called it Nebraska.
That’s one story you can tell about this record; there’s another version of the events leading up to the creation of Nebraska that begs to he recounted. however.
In October, 1980, when The River was released and his last tour be gan, Bruce Springsteen played to an enormous cult audience. This audi ence believed intensely in the trans formative powers of a Springsteen performance; as a result, through previous tours a compact grew up between Bruce and his listeners. Ht would give them epic sagas of rock and roll grandeur, replete with power and glory, joy and despair, endless struggle and instant party. They would grant him complete attentiveness, and a virtually insatiable desire for more, pushing not greedily so much as reflexively, keeping the faith the songs expressed, surfing the waves of the music. “The amount of freedom that I get from the crowd is really a lot,” said Springsteen, after a month on the road. He was especially fond of what he referred to as “the big silence,” the contemplative stillness which greeted his quieter, more reflective pieces. A month later, with “Hungry Heart” well on its way to becoming his first top ten single, Springsteen faced a far different audience, no less enthusiastic but a great deal more casual about his shows. This was fitting and necessary; the ritualized cultism, by itself, was a dead end for an artist with Springsteen’s broad ambition. And when it came to rocking out, the new audiences were amazing, quickly caught up in the rapturous E Street environment.
Nevertheless, the newer and larger audience diluted the depth of the rapport, which was especially noticeable in the restlessness with which Springsteen’s slower, quieter songs were greeted. Caught in the exhilaration of the situation, nobody was complaining, though a few observers grew wary of whether even Springsteen could control this massive audience.
In the spring of ’81, Springsteen and the band began their first fullscale European tour. Bruce was greeted as a rock ‘n’ roll emissary whose mission was nothing less than the dissemination of the American dream, and he was given all the respect and devotion that went with it.
Early in each evening’s show, Springsteen would request that the audience maintain silence during the softer passages of the show. The result was as stunning as anything I have ever seen in fifteen years of writing about music. When Springsteen offered a spoken introduction, sang a ballad or the nightly version of “This Land Is Your Land,” the crowd became dead still. But this silence had a special quality—it was vibrant, electric and intense, broken, if at all, only by the soft murmur of friends who spoke English offering quick translations for others nearby. On especially good nights, I felt I could hear people listening. Their deep concentration hung tangibly in the air, and when Springsteen roared back into a rocker like “Badlands,” the mood broke like a superb wave. Bruce rode it that way.
Meanwhile, back in the States, Springsteen’s audience grew even younger and less sensitive to any kind of exchange with the star. It became more and more evident that Springsteen’s listeners were beginning to hem him in, as every superstar’s audience has hemmed him in. Reviewers mentioned this, wondering about how Springsteen would cope; long-time fans grew disgruntled as the newcomers stomped and clapped through “Independence Day” and “Point Blank,” ostensibly in tribute but really asserting their impatience to get on with the rocking.
I don’t know if this decreasing sense of rapport frustrated Bruce; it would be amazing if it hadn’t disturbed him somehow. In any case, it seems certain that if he had released another hard rock record as the sequel to The River, that newer, more casual audience might have buried any possibility of regaining the special relationship
his best concerts created. Those concerts were genuinely two-way affairs, as all great rock shows must be; the new audiences weren’t passive—they demanded entertainment—but they weren’t willing to work, either.
At the very least, Nebraska will tax the attention of such listeners. While I doubt that this had much to do with why Bruce Springsteen made this album, reclaiming that rapport with his listeners is one of Nebraska’s most important functions. But there’s another reason to tell this tale. In some of Nebraska’s best songs—”Used Cars,” “Highway Patrolman,” “Mansion on the Hill”—Springsteen recaptures the hushed intimacy of those European concerts. Indeed, from time to time, these songs seem to have blossomed from the echoes of those vibrant silences.
Ten years ago, when Bruce Springsteen made his first album, Columbia Records and his manager-producer, Mike Appel, tried to force him into a mold: Springsteen was to be “the new Dylan,” the apotheosis of the singer-songwriter. A largely acoustic solo set was what Appel and Columbia’s John Hammond wanted and expected. So it’s tempting to say with the largely acoustic, solo Nebraska, Bruce has finally made his “Dylan” album.
But this isn’t singer-songwriter music, any more than it is rock ‘n’ roll. Nor is it folk music, despite the acoustic instrumentation. The chords and melodies from which Springsteen builds his songs are pop and rock rudiments. It’s the coloration and phrasing that have changed. In the way his guitar playing sometimes suggests a mandolin or his vocals recall Jimmie Rodgers’ yodelling or the cadences of white gospel singers, Springsteen, rock’s greatest synthesist of traditions, hints at an ability to incorporate for the first time in his music, genres older than rock ‘n’ roll and rhythm ‘n’ blues. All of his resources, however, remain rooted in specifically American styles; this provides an undeniable link to Dylan’s best work, but that doesn’t make Nebraska neo-Dylan, unless you’d say that of Willie and The Poor Boys, too.
Dylan’s influence can be heard here, especially in the extended, sighing “all” which links the last line of “Used Cars” to Dylan’s first great song, ”Song to Woody.” That’s fitting, for if Dylan is the father of such a musical approach, its grandfathers are Woody Guthrie and Hank Williams. Nor does it take an expert with a road map to trace the impact of this lineage on Nebraska. But rooting about for antecedents gets you only so &r, for more than anything Nebraska is Bruce Springsteen himself, speaking more directly and more personally than ever before.
Once you’re past the shock of hearing Springsteen play and sing with such stark assurance, Nebraska clearly works familiar territory. It has the cars, the highways, the guilt and quest for redemption and most importantly, many of the same characters of Springgteen’s other work. Joe Roberts, the protagonist of “Highway Patrolman,” is a more mature relation of the men in “Racing in the Street,” “The River” and “Born to Run.” The nameless narrator of “Atlantic City” might be reliving “Meeting Across the River,” and the anonymous wild man of “State Trooper” and “Open All Night” is virtually indistinguishable from the hopeless romantics of “Stolen Car” and “Ramrod.” And who is Mary Lou but the girl whose dress waves early in “Thunder Road”? Isn’t the dreamer of “My Father’s House” the man whose other nightmares are recounted in “Darkness on the Edge of Town” and “Wreck on the Highway”?
But there is someone missing from the cast, or rather, someone who is almost
unrecognizable here: the exuberantly hopeful singer of “Badlands” and “The Promised Land,” “Hungry Heart” and “Thunder Road.” If that man is here, his presence is stunted and twisted, stripped of the desperate joy that is fundamental to his earlier incarnations.
This measures the degree to which Springsteen’s world has changed. Springsteen’s first two rock ‘n’ roll albums opened with proclamations of vitality: “It ain’t no sin to be glad you’re alive” (“Badlands”); “This is a town full of losers, I’m pullin’ outta here to win” (“Thunder Road”). In two of the first four songs on Nebraska, men virtually beg to be executed. And in this album’s most heartbreaking moment, the protagonist of “Used Cars,” a decent kid embittered by poverty, sings of a town full of losers in which no one has even the hope of pulling away: “My dad sweats the same job from mornin’ to morn/Me, I walk home on the same dirty streets where I was born.”
In this world, someone like the highway patrolman Joe Roberts, the most beautifully drawn character Springsteen has ever created, may obey his most decent instincts and still find that he has betrayed himself. In this world, there are “debts no honest man could pay”— owed not by one man, but by many men. There is not just the scarcity of work found in The River; “they closed down the auto plant in Mahway,” and it stays shut. Bosses run wild over workers, and while one class hides behind “gates of hardened steel,” the other works the night shift for punishment. In this land, it is no wonder that men can become as twisted as those in “Johnny 99,” “Atlantic City” and most of all, “Nebraska.”
The tragedy is that this world is recognizable; it is the land we now live in, the society being created by Reaganism and neo-conservatism. Nebraska is the first album by an American performer to come to terms with this political and emotional climate, in which mass murderer Charles Starkweather’s “meanness in the world” is unleashed and made a central tenet of the way human beings are expected to deal with one another.
In this climate, people go mad— not only crazy, but vicious. Nothing remains to check their casual cruelty, and even someone like Joe Roberts, a stolid center of gravity, can’t keep his world from falling apart. In the face of this mean reality, hope, faith, the possibility of redemption—the very engines that have always propelled Springsteen’s music—seem nothing less than absurd. In “Atlantic City,” the singer toys with the idea of reincarnation, as a signal that he’ll soon be able to test its truth; in “Reason to Believe,” the album’s final song, the idea of a life after death is seen as no more ridiculous than the idea that people will treat one another with decency in this one.
In his European shows, Springsteen would sometimes sing an Elvis Presley song. He chose “Follow That Dream,” writing a new verse which expressed his faith in the American possibility Elvis personified: Now every man has the right to live, The right to a chance to give what he has to give, The right to fight for the things he believes
For the things that come to him in dreams
In many ways, Springsteen’s life and career can be seen as an acting out of those lines, an unswerving attempt to put that faith into action. In Nebraska’s final two songs, “My Father’s House” and “Reason to Believe,”
Springsteen finally confronts the possibility that his faith will never be effective, that his idealism is in fact a view of the world turned upside down. “My Father’s House,” a song which moves with the ancient cadences of myth, is as fully realized as any song Springsteen has ever written. But its dream of reconciliation between father and son is ultimately hollow, and while this dream (which incorporates psychological, political and religious symbols) continues to beckon, at the end, he just acknowledges that “our sins lie unatoned,” something that not only has never occurred in Springsteen’s other work, but isn’t even conceivable in most of it.
Cast so far from grace, the very fact that men bother to rise from their beds comes to seem wondrous and bizarre. “Reason to Believe,” on which the album closes, is far from the upbeat, optimistic ending a supericial glimpse might suggest. Indeed, its title is a macabre joke, since the song is really a series of situations in which belief is all but impossiblc- situations in which believing may finally be inconsequential. And while Springsteen brings himself to accept that men (including himself, he hints) do believe, he is unable to fathom why.
The quandary in which this leaves Springsteen isn’t strictly personal. Nebraska is an album which speaks to a broad section of his audience not only through its images of unemployment and economic despair, but through the vehicle of radical doubt itself. However accidentally constructed, its parts are integrated in such an invigorating and complex way that it has the ability of important works to seize an entire historical moment. If all Bruce Springsteen had done in this album was “grow up” enough to question the remainder of his innocence, that would be an achievement, since most artists never get that far. But in asking such questions, he forces them upon his listeners, too.
There’s no way of knowing how many will hear what Nebraska has to say. One of the functions of the political climate now being created is to sap people of their energy to respond, and since Springsteen is also wrestling with the preconceptions of his audience and, inevitably, the deathlock conservatism of the marketplace, the odds aren’t exactly stacked in his favor. The tragedy is that too many—fans, deejays, critics—may not recall how to respond, may already have surrendered to the erosion of possibility and hope that Nebraska so eloquently depicts.
But as grim as it is, Nebraska suggests to me a kind of hope. If, in our dark, heartless land, there is room for work this personal and challenging, then the battles are still being fought. And while that may be an insufficient respopse, it is one hell of a significant start.
Yet Nebraska continues to seem spooky, not only because it is invested with musical magic, but also because these songs are inhabited by the ghost of a time when we knew very well how to respond. The most imposing question is whether the spirit represented by those ghosts can be made manifest once more. Toward that end, too, Nebraska is a start.


Articolo vecchio e molto lungo questo su Springsteen tratto dal numero di Creem dell’ ottobre 1978.

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Buona lettura.

The middle-aged white man who runs the biggest oldies shop in the very old city of
New Orleans is ranting hysterically on the edge of tears. He has recently seen the
movie American Hot Wax and senses that history has passed him last time.
“That’s right. I was a disk jockey in Canton, Ohio when Alan Freed was a d.j. in Akron.
I was playing nigger records, and you know what Alan Freed was playing??? He was
playing country & western! Country & western music! Then he starts playing nigger
records and they fire him after a day. One day!
“Well, I’m sitting in this coffee shop with him afterwards, and he’s stirring his coffee
real slow and looking over my shoulder out the window. I says to him, ‘Alan, just look
at what you’re doing. ‘ And he says, ‘What?’ And I say, ‘Alan, you’re stirring your
goddamn coffee with a spoon! And there’s the cream and sugar sitting right over
there and you haven’t put a one of them in!’

“Then I tell him that I’m just going to have to write his next contract for him and that
he’s not going to get fired no more! A no-fire contract! I told him that you got to ask
for what you want ’cause if you don’t, they figure you ain’t worth nothing anyway!
And I did it! I did the contract! I did his contract! Listen to me! I created Alan Freed!!!
Did you read that in the history??? Did you see that in the goddamn movie??? I said,
Did you see that in that goddamn movie???”
And he falls into a little red-faced jig behind his cash register with one arm stretching
forward to detain us further and the other stretching beseechingly towards the sky.
All we asked was how much for a Huey Smith record.
Several hundred miles up the road from New Orleans, in an empty, hermetically
modern conference room that is acutely air conditioned against the buttery summer
air, Bruce Springsteen, who’s never met the white man in New Orleans, tells me what
he has been thinking about.
“lt’s a real simple story. You grow up, and they bury you. They keep throwing dirt on
you, throwing dirt on and dirt on and dirt on, and some guys they bury so deep they
never get out. Six foot, twelve foot down . Other guys, something comes along and
they’re able to get some of it away. They get a hand free or they get free one way or
“I don’t think you ever really blow it all off, but the idea is to keep charging. It’s like
anything. Everybody can’t make it. You can see the guys on the street who aren’t
going to make it, and that’s a frightening thing.
“That’s what I’m talking about. That some people get dug in so deep that there’s a
point where it stops getting shovelled on them and they roll over and start digging
down. They literally roll over and start digging down themselves. Because they don’t
know which way is up. You get down so deep that you don’t know which way’s up.
You don’t know if you’re digging sideways, up, down, you don’t know . . until
something comes along, if you’re lucky, and shakes you ’til all of a sudden you have a
certain sense of direction and at least know where you’re going.
“A lot of people don’t ever get that. You go into the bars and you see the guys
wandering around in there who got the crazy eyes. They just hate. They’re just
looking for an immediate expenditure of all this build-up. They’re just screaming to
throw it all off. But you can’t and it turns into, like, death throes. A guy walks into a
bar, a little guy, and he walks up to another guy, a dome, and the little guy’s looking
to get creamed. Looking to get massacred. He wants to. ‘Look,’ he’s saying, ‘I’m dying
here and I don’t know what the fuck to do.’ It’s a scary thing when you see the guys
that ain’t gonna get out, just ain’t gonna get out.
“But I guess it comes down to . . . You just see too many faces, you just see too many .
. It’s a funny kind of thing. It’s the kind of thing where you can’t save everybody, but
you gotta
I remember the guy in New Orleans and how his herky-jerky movements and his nearweeping
are less like death throes than like the throes of postdeath, the confused,
bizarre, parodistic behavior of a dead body responding to the last garbled signals of
the brain. It seems a remarkable burden for Bruce Springsteen to have to “try” with
this guy. But Bruce is radiant in the sense of his mission these days, reminding me of
no one so much as Catcher In The Rye’s Holden Caulfield, whose similar passion
steered him straight to the nuthouse .
Bruce has never read the book, so I tell him about the key scene where Holden tells his
baby sister Phoebe. Says Holden:
“You know what I’d like to be? I mean if I had my goddamn choice?”
“What? Stop swearing.”
“You know that song, ‘If a body catch a body comin’ through the rye’? I’d like—”
“It’s ‘If a body meet a body coming through the rye’!” old Phoebe said. “It’s a poem by
Robert Burns.”
“I know it’s a poem by Robert Burns. “
She was right, though. It is “If a body meet a body coming through the rye.
“Idin’tknow it then, though.
“I thought it was ‘If a body catch a body,’ ” I said. “Anyway, I keep picturing all these
little kids playing some game in this big field of rye and all. Thousands of little kids,
and nobody’s around—nobody big, I mean—except me. And l’m standing on the edge
of some crazy cliff. What I have to do, I have to catch everybody if they start togo
ouer the cliff—I mean if they ‘re running and they don ‘t look where they ‘re going I
have to come out from somewhere and catch them. That’s all I’d do all day. I’d just be
the catcher in the rye and all. I know it’s crazy, but that’s the
only thing I’d really like to be. I know it’s crazy . ” ‘ “Wow,” says Bruce when I finish
telling him the story. “That’s wild.”
t t t
Three years ago, Bruce Springsteen, a nice boy who loved rock ‘n’ roll more than
anything, was dragged into the ugly and brutal fluorescence of American celebrity.
For all his naivete (that same naivete that allowed him, for one thing, to love rock ‘n’
roll so much when everybody else had given up andgotten a job), and perhaps
because of
it, he bore up under the relentless scrutiny, managing in the process to acquit himself
remarkably well during his first big league rock ‘n’ roll tour. In the meantime, his
record company made hay from his new celebrity and hustled his Born To Run album
to number one on the charts and eventually to platinum sales figures. And, so, three
years ago a “superstar” was born; surely, the poet must die.
Darkness On The Edge Of Town took eleven months to record. Legal disputes of the
kind that tend to accrue to anyone who is suddenly rich and famous occupies the
remainder of his over two year layoff. But what appears to have really happened
during this period is that Bruce Springsteen stood back, took stock of his world both
in and, more importantly, out of rock ‘n’ roll, and focused back on his career with a
newly keen and powerful vision, becoming more the artist than ever. This talent no
longer overwhelms him on Darkness but is harnessed fully to a coherent, usually
incisive, and definitely more mature view of the world. “This album’s stripped down,”
Springsteen says, “to run as clean as possible and stay true.”
Paradoxically while it is stripped down, it is also more complete. Where there was
once only hope, now there is also warning. Where he once dealt only with
youthfulness and “kids,” he now also deals with age (“Racing In The Street”) and
parents (“Factory,” “Adam Raised A Cain”). Where everything used to be about
movement, the faster the better, now there is a concern with standing still and stiller
(“Factory,” “Streets Of Fire”). Where a sense of community was all-important, with
Spanish Johnny and the Magic Rat and Puerto Rican Jane and Eddie and a whole host
of people crisscrossing one another’s lives, now a man stands alone on a hill, having
lost everything and everyone, in “Darkness On The Edge Of Town.” Where he once put
certain things into occasionally inadequate words, now he knows to wail wordlessly.
Not that Bruce has forsaken the highway, the kids, the gang, the words, or any of
that, just that on this new album these concerns have unfolded to reveal their many
facets, their true intricacies and subtleties. “Darkness,” says Springsteen, “is a
confrontation with a lot of things. Born To Run had a certain romantic feel. This is
more realistic.”
But realistic is a misleading description. There’s nothing cold and hardedged about
Darkness. The realism here is more naturalism or social realism, realism with a
purpose beyond the mere representational, something along the lines of what the
WPA artist of the 30’s employed to inspire the common man from his massive
malaise. No doubt, there is a reformer, a helper at work on this record and one who
seems especially driven to the task by deep spiritual connections. I ask Springsteen if
he feels religious.
“Yeah, well, but not in the organized way,” he responds. “I was raised Catholic and
everybody who was raised Catholic hates religion. They hate it, can’t stand it. It’s
funny, I went to a funeral the other day and all my relatives were there and we got to
talking about it. It’s a funny thing, they’re all in their thirties, my sister and all, and
they all feel the same way I do. But their kids go to Catholic school and to church
every Sunday. They’re really under the gun to this Catholic thing.
“I quit that stuff when I was in eighth grade. Bythe time you’re older than 13 it’s too
ludicrous to go along with anymore. By the time I was in eighth grade I just lost it all.
I decided to go to public high school, and that was a big deal. If you got up in eighth
grade class and said that next year you were going to Freehold Regional it was like . . .
‘Are you insane??? You are dirt! You are the worst! You’re a . . . barbarian!’ ” He gives
a short laugh.
I tell him that what I wanted to get at is where the idea for a song like “Adam Raised
A Cain” came from.
Springsteen explains: “I did read the Bible some. I tried to read it for a while about a
year ago. It was great. It’s fascinating. I got into it quite a ways. Great stories.
Actually, what happened was I was thinking of writing that particular song, and I went
back trying to get a feeling for it.”
Elsewhere Bruce has mentioned The Grapes Of Wrath (speaking of social realism and
religious allegory) as having been a source of inspiration for Darkness. He readily
volunteers that the movie was “one of the big influences,” but waxes a bit guilty when
asked about the book. “I haven’t read it yet,” he says, adding quickly, “but I’ve got it
in my suitcase. I have got it.
“The movie affected me a lot. It brought up a lot of questions I didn’t think about
before. There’s the great part where he’s coming back from prison and he finds that
little guy hiding in the closet. Little guy says, ‘They’re coming.’ ‘Well, who’s coming?’
‘They’re coming. Taking away all the land.’ And then the guy comes on the tractor
and it’s their friend. They ask him, ‘Who’s doing this?’ And the tractor guy just says,
‘Well, I got my orders from this guy and it goes back to him.’
“To me, it’s like, Where do you point the gun? There’s no place to take aim. There’s
nobody to blame. It’s just things, just the way. Whose fault is it? It’s a little bit of this
guy, a little bit of that guy, a little bit of this other guy. That was real interesting to
me . . . And it was great that when that movie came out it was a very popular movie.”
As I write, Darkness is an immensely popular record.
Darkness On The Edge Of Town is not a tour de force like Born To Run. That could
never be because the things on Darkness and in Bruce Springsteen have become too
complex, too ambiguous. The album is a transitional piece, in two ways. It is
transitional as far as content in that it is a questioning of the old values and a
broadening towards the new; it is transitional as far as Springsteen’s car,eer goes
because it marks a full ripening of his artistic powers and the emergence as well of a
serious social conscience
Bruce is telling me why he likes touring. “Home never had a. big attraction for me. I
get excited staying in all these different hotels, in a whole lot of rooms. I’m always
curious what the wallpaper’s gonna be like. Do I have a big bed or a little one? And
what’s this funny painting? Always a sense of transition.” Darkness is a transitional
record because Springsteen is devoted to the transition that is living.
t t t
I was on the road three days andnights with Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band,
and that’s about as good a time stand in which to hold a resurrection as I can think
of. The problem is I don’t know who exactly was more resurrected Bruce and the
band or me. Southsile Johnny once spoke glowingly of Bruce in terms of “charisma.”
But charisma has the odor of the secular. After what I saw, heard
and felt, I’m looking for a word that’s something more in the religious price range.
And maybe three conhrmed miracles.
No sweat. It’s 100 degrees in Houston in July. The death toll from the Texas heat has
topped 20 persons and is still rising and Bruce Springsteen is not sweating at the
intermission of his titanic three-hour show. Now, some among our rock stars would
approach such an accomplishment from the obvious direction—e.g. no effort, no
sweat. But not Springsteen. “I’m jumping around and there’s oceans of sweat coming
off my arms and face and all of a sudden . . . no more sweat! I feel my face, bone dry.
I guess I just got no more. Weird.”
And then he went out for another hour and a half.
Having not seen Springsteen and the band perform for nearly two years, what initially
strikes me my first night on the road—besides the fact that the new ,ongs sound
great, besides the fact that he does superior versions of both “Fire” and “Because The
Night,” besides the fact that the band is as tight and expressive a rock ‘n’ roll unit as
I’ve ever seen, besides the fact that Clarence has achieved such elegance, such
authority on stage and on the sax that he more than fills his billing as “King of the
World,” besides all that and much, much more—is simply the fact that the set is so
gruelling and the tour is so long. No sweat, no wonder.
In Houston, it occurs to me that Springsteen’s rap in the middle of “Growin’ Up” is
sort of-the glue that binds them. He talks about the days when he and Steve were
playing around Asbury, waiting to be discovered, how they can’t figure out what the
missing X factor is and how the exmanager of the Byrds and the exmanager of so and
so have all said they’ll come down and see them and so forth. Eventually, Bruce winds
it around to Clarence descending from a spaceship to make the band complete. Space
travel aside, it’s clear that this is pretty much the way it was with this band (indeed,
what band didn’t count on the helping hand of the friend of a friend of an exmanager
sometime?), and that reciting the story, remembering their humble
beginnings, their shared past, provides a sense of—if you’ll pardon me—roots. That,
along with love.
As if to confirm my theory, Bruce later tells me another story about the early days
when they first travelled to Boston and were staying in the attic of a friend’s house
where there were only four mattresses. “So every night after the gig we had to try and
figure out whose turn it was to sleep on the floor.” He laughs. “But it really didn’t
matter. The guys were great. They’re guys who you can go through that sort of stuff
with. It was never a down. Me and Steve would always sit back and say, ‘As bad as this
is right now, it will never be as bad as it was before we made an album or got a break.’
Who are we to complain? Thisis Easy Street. I’m lucky number one. So are all those
guys. A bunch of lucky jokers. It’s a lot of work, but you’re doing something you like.
We always considered ourselves to be way in front with the whole ball game.
“I know what it’s like not to be able to do what you want to do, ’cause when I go
home that’s what I see. It’s no fun. It’s no joke. I see my sister and her husband.
They’re living the lives of my parents in a certain kind of way. They got kids, they’re
working hard. They’re just real nice, real soulful people . These are people you can
see something in their eyes. It’s really something. I know a lot of people back there . .
.” The picture looms vivid in his mind, so does what can only be described as his
mission. “That’s why my album, a big part of it, is the way it is. It’s about people that
are living the lives of their parents, working two jobs . . . It’s also about a certain
thing where they don’t give up . I asked my sister, ‘What do you do for fun?’ ‘I don’t
have any fun,’ she says. She wasn’t kidding . . . I’m just really thinking about a whole
lot of things.”
He thinks at this hands for a moment. “A whole lot of stuff went down on me in the
last year or two and then I was around home a lot and there was a lot of stuff going
on with the people I was friends with back there and I see it from all sides. Which is
why I can’t go out on stage at night and not try and bring it home. Because . . . what
an ingrate??? What a spit in the face of everything that is anything??? I could never do
that. I’d rather get thrown off the bus. They should throw me off the bus at 60 m.p.h.
‘You don’t belong in the bus!’ It’s funny when I read something I say about this stuff. I
always sound like some kind of fanatic some kind of zealot. But I think there’s things
that people take for granted. How can you take it for granted? I stick too close to the
other side to know what’s real about this side. And I still got too many people who
are close to me who are still living on that other side.”
The Bruce Springsteen tour rolls on into New Orleans in a sort of time warp trip from
Houston, a forbidding city of the future, into this forbidden city of the past. “Who
you got in here?” the cop who lolls about the lobby of our French Quarter hotel asks
the desk clerk watching the unusual activity. “Bruce ‘Springstein,’ ” drawls the clerk,
adding in his mind no doubt, “You know, that Jewish fellow from up north.” Bruce
Springstein? That’s right, or at least that’s how they’ve got him on the guest manifest.
Music. It’s everywhere. If anyplace, American music was born here, right down the
block from the hotel at what is now called Jackson Square and what was once called
Congo Square because that’s where all the blacks and their music were auctioned into
slavery. Musicians. There’s probably more per square foot in New Orleans than
anyplace in the world. (Just ask the white man at the biggest oldies shop.) Always a
horn blowing somewhere in the heat. It’s not quite the 20th Century here . It’s not
quite reality . Maybe it’s the movies, but it’s not faked. Around the corner the Good
Friends Bar has amended its factory-printed sign with some hand-lettering: “Under
new management—Same old customers.” No future, only past in New Orleans. In the
middle of Bourbon Street, a scrawny black kid dances a little circle, metal taps taped
onto his raggedy sneakers. I take that back: No future, only New Orleans here. An
existence outside of time .
He’s a teetotalling Yankee, whose songs these days have more in common with the
rural West than the South. But when he talks about rock ‘n’ roll as if it were some
spirit creature that takes possession of a man, or, indeed when he is playing on a
stage like a man possessed, it is clear that he belongs in New Orleans, this
musician/poet/ Catholic /fallen-away Catholic /religious seeker/religious person
(?)/exhortator/mad dancer and raspy-voiced shaman Bruce Springsteen along with
his E Street tent show. Does he even know where he is? It’s hard to tell. But of the
three shows I saw this tour, this one is the best.
Halleujah! The bibical wailing of “Adam Raised A Cain” becomes a voodoo chant here.
The fever and “The Fever,” a song he has added in Houston, burn white-hot, turning
the soaking air to steam. The jungle drums and jungle sound effects of “Not Fade
Away”/”She’s The One” bounce off Jackson Square and echo back to the coastline of
Africa. Like the spontaneous Dixietand parades that can spill down Bourbon Street at
a moment’s notice, Bruce and Clarence spill off the stage and up the aisles into the
reachng and exultant crowd, a rock ‘n’ roll parade. Then there’s”The Rap.”
Bruce Springsteen as usual steps out in the middle of “Growin’ Up” to talk. In
Houston, he told a sci-fi/horror movie story about things that aren’t really spooky;
tonight, he invokes the real thing, and it goes something like this: “When I was a boy
there were two things in my house that my parents didn’t like. One was me. The other
was the guitar. ‘That goddamn guitar!’ my father.used to say. I think he thought all
the things in my room were made by the same company, ‘That Goddamn guitar. The
Goddamn stereo. Those Goddamn records . . .’ Anyway, one day my parents called me
downstairs for a talk. And they sit me down at the kitchen table with ’em and they
start telling me it’s about time I start getting serious with my life. ‘And don’t tell me
about that goddamn guitar!’ my father. says. See, my father wants me to be a lawyer
and my mother wants me to be an author. ‘Be a lawyer,’ my father tells me, ‘then
you’ll be all set. Lawyers own the world!’ Now, my mother’s Italian and my father’s
Irish—and I’m stuck here in the middle—so they decide I should go around the comer
and have a talk with the priest about my life . ‘And don’t say anything about the
goddamn guitar!’
“Okay, I go around the comer and I walk up the steps to the rectory and I ring the bell
and after a while the priest comes out. ‘I’m Mr. Springsteen’s son,’ I say to the priest,
‘and he told me I should come over to you and have a serious talk about what I’m
gonna do with my life.’ The priest, he thinks for a minute, and then says to me ‘Have
you tried praying, my son? I think you should speak to God about this.’
“So I go home and I’m thinking about how I’ve got to speak to God and how to find
him and then I call up the Big Man Clarence, ’cause he knows everybody. ‘Clarence,’ I
say, ‘listen, I got to talk to God about my life. You know where I can find him?’ ‘Sure,’
he said to me, ‘I spoke to him last night. He’ll be up on the hill by the cemetery
tonight.’ Great.
“That night I go over to the hill by the cemetery and it’s real dark and I’m climbin’ the
hill and climbin’ until I’m almost at the top and I stop and I’m lookin’ all around.
Then I look up at the sky and I say, ‘God?’ “
Perfectly timed, right on the mark out of the cavernous rapture of the audience a New
Orleans kid yells in resnonse: “What?” And Springsteen cracks up.Still laughing, he
tosses back, “God’s in the cheap seats tonight. . . Listen, God, if l’d’ve known I
could’ve at least gotten pass or something.’The crowd whoops. The shaman is back in
control.Springsteen says, “God?You there? At which point Danny Federici hits an
eerie, piercing electronic note that ricochets around his speakers like a bolt from
heaven . Springsteen crouches in the spotlight in awe and in alarm. ” ‘God, ya gotta
help me. My mother wants me to be an author, and my father wants me to be a
lawyer and they told me to go to the priest and he told me to come to you and all I
want to do’ “—he pauses reverentially—” ‘is play my guitar . . .!’ ” He pauses again.
The music swells slightly but otherwise, there’s complete silence. The audience sits
breathless, waiting to see: Can this Yankee rock ‘n’ roller conjure too? Springsteen
resumes in a harsh, rushed whisper. “All of a sudden, there’s this light in the sky
above me and a great big voice booms out and says . . .” Beat. The music drops down.
” ‘Let it rock!’ ” And the band hits it, Springsteen singing, “I stood stone-like at
midnight . . .” The audience is on their feet cheering. It works!
After the show a group of European journalists is ushered backstage for an informal
press conference with Bruce. While the rest of the band members casually make their
way to the postconcert party on the other side of town. Springsteen, who is as
uplifting and inspiring a performer as there is, becomes almost vehement denying an
English reporter’s suggestion that rock ‘n’ roll is about nihilism. Two days later I
remind Bruce of the exchange. He makes small boxlike gestures with his hands to try
and contain this belief he feels is too big to contain.
“Sometimes people ask,” he tells me, “who are your favorites? My favorites change.
Sometimes it’s Elvis. Sometime it’s Buddy Holly. Different personalities. For me, the
idea of rock ‘n’ roll is sort of my favorite. The feeling. It’s a certain thing . . . Like,
rock ‘n’ roll came to my house”—again, rock ‘n’ roll becomes palpable, become
flesh—”where there seemed to be no way out. It just seemed like a dead end street,
nothing I like to do, nothing I wanted to do except roll over and go to sleep or
something. And it came into my house—snuck in ya know, and opened up a whole
world of possibilities. Rock ‘n’ roll. The Beatles opened doors. Ideally, if any stuff I do
could ever do that for somebody, that’s the best. Can’t do anything better than
that. Rock ‘n’ roll motivates. It’s the big gigantic motivator, at least it was for me.
“There’s a whole lot of things involved, but that’s what I think you gotta remain true
to. That idea, that feeling. That’s the real spirit of the music. You have to give to the
audience and try to click that little trigger, that little mechanism. It’s different things
to different people. I got in a cab with a guy down South, and we’re riding arourd the
he says, ‘Hey, you know what I like about your shows is I go see a concert and I’m
fixed all day for the next day, and when I go to your shows I feel good for a week.’ “
Springsteen wheezes a laugh. “This is what it is. I thought that was a good review.”
Another good review; During the show the night before in New Orleans a primitively
dressed fortyish woman leans oer the stage and hands Bruce a tiny object. At the end
of the song, I see him lean back down to her, trying to return the gift, but she won’t
budge. Finally, there is nothing he can do but pocket the gift and get on with the
show. “It was a ring. And I looked at it, and it looked like the real thing, you know,
with stones in it. So I tell her—I can’t keep this. And she tells me it was her
grandmother’s engagement ring, and she wants me to have it! That’s gonna make me
keep it? Maybe if she’d told me she’d just bought it at Woolworth’s for 39 cents . . .
but her grandmother’s engagement ring??? Wow, what’s that?”
That, I tell him, must be True Love. He leaves the ring with the hall manager with
instructions to return it to the lady should she come around looking, having had a
change of heart. That is caring.
Bruce heads back to the hotel after the press conference, and I’m over at the party at
Acy’s Pool Hall & Restaurant on Sophie Wright Place. Situated in a poor black and
whUe neighborhood outside the French Quarter, Acy’s is a windowless cement floor
dump where the only light is from the abrasive fluorescent lamps swinging over the
six fully occupied pool tables. Something right out of the movie Fat City (there is in
fact a city outside of New Orleans called Fat City) .
By the time I arrived, the crew and band had decimated the Dixie beer, leaving only
Miller and Pabst Blue Ribbon, and Ernie K. Doe and his pick-up band playing off in the
corner have decimated the band and crew. Ernie K. Doe had his one and only hit
record with “Mother-ln-Law” in the early 60’s and until an intrepid advance scout
from the Springsteen party unearthed him, had been living in relative obscurity like
so many other greats of his era in New Orleans. As I walk in Ernie K. Doe, dapper in a
beige multivented suit over a dark open-neck silk shirt, every hair carefully pomaded
into place, has run out of words to the song. But he doesn’t want the folks to stop
dancing, and is repeating “Well, all right” endlessly over the solid locomotive beat.
When after a good five minutes Ernie K. Doe has run out of “Well, all right” ‘s, he
brings the music down and introduces the band—but not by name . “Let’s have a hand
for the man on the bass!” he shouts, and there’s a round of applause. “Let’s have a
hand for the man on the drums!” and so on, until he gets to Clarence Clemons, who is
sitting in discreetly with his sax. I wonder. For all Ernie K. Doe knows, Clarence is just
another guy who sauntered in off the street. Like I say, music is at least second nature
to New Orleans. I listen carefully to his introductions. Without missing a beat, with
not the slightest emphasis, Ernie K. Doe calls out, “Let’s have a hand for the man on
tenor sax!” The locomotive beat continues. Ernie K. Doe falls silent (these party gigs
get tired after a while) and then while the steady semi-drunk dance floor continues to
bop, Ernie K. Doe goes through the introductions (one more time!) for want of
something better. “Let’s have another hand . . .” Clarence Clemons plays on discreetly,
diligently, strictly “the man on the tenor sax” playing for the love of rock ‘n’ roll.
As much as you can take any of the Confederacy at face value (you can’t really), you
can say that Jackson, Mississippi looks like a simple, sleepy town, and that it is. After
a day off in New Orleans, the Springsteen/E Street juggernaut is of’l to Jackson, a
couple hundred miles up the Delta. The auditorium there is probably the newest and
largest structure in town, and two different times, as I’m standing in front of it, cars
full of kids pull up to ask where they can find it. I tell them and assume they do,
because the hall in Jackson is full later.
Bruce Springsteen says that playing new halls like this makes him nervous. He much
prefers a place that’s been “broken into rock ‘n’ roll.” I understand his point. The
crowd here is relatively subdued, almost indifferent to the carpeting and new
chandeliers. But belying his statement, the show is about as loose as Bruce and the
band get.
“Let’s get some lights on ya. I got a pimple on my face and you probably look better
than I do,” Springsteen says to the crowd at one point in the show. By intermission, of
course, caution has been cast to the wind and everyone’s clapping and bopping, and
crowding the front of the stage as much as the older security guards will allow.
One underfed blond boy is particularly excited. Oblivious to the exhortations of the
guards, he is dancing wildly at the edge of the stage, eyes riveted on his favorite rock
‘n’ roller. At one point, between songs, he tosses a Bruce Springsteen belt buckle
onstage, a present. Bruce picks it up, admires it, thanks the boy, and without thinking
asks jokingly, “So where’s the belt?” Need I say more? In a second, the fan has ripped
off his belt and tosses it up, too. Next comes his shirt. The guards make their move. “I
had my eyes closed to sing a verse,” says Bruce
“and the next time I looked, the kid’s shirt is on the stage. I’m looking around for his
pants, when I see the guard grab him .”
There is a slight scuffle (slight compared to the heavy head-busting tactics of most of
the sadisto New York security goons), and the boy disappears into the crowd. Bruce
tramps the edge of the stage looking for the boy; implicit in his action is a warning to
the guard to cool it. Then he runs back to Miami Steve who relays the message to one
of the road crew. ” ‘Find him. Find the kid,’ is what I said,” says Bruce. ” ‘Cause I don’t
want him going out.’ What happens is that a lot of the security in a lot of places don’t
understand. Kids get real excited, but they’re not mean, they’re just excited. I always
watch out. Like in San Diego, I had to jump down and get this kid out. One of the
security guards had the kid by the head. I’d seen the kid at a couple of shows and I’d
talked to him outside. This kid’s not looking for trouble. What happens is the kids
have a reaction to security, which is if the security guard grabs ’em, they think
they’re gonna get thrown out and they try to get away. People just don’t wanna get
thrown out of the show. Anyway, this kid in San Diego’s real excited. He runs up to
the stage. They grab him and try to pull him back and he tries to get away. So I went
down and I pulled the kid away and the security guards are trying not to let go ’cause
they’re afraid he’s gonna do something. Finally, we sent him up onstage and let him
sit on the side. You gotta watch. You gotta do that. I can’t watch kids getting knocked
down in the front row because that’s me. That’s a part of me.”
Did someone say something about a fisher of men?
Maybe the times are too complicated for miracles. Maybe, as Springsteen says, “The
enemy’s more complicated, much more subtle now.” Maybe it’s just hard to be a saint
in America. Too much dirt. Too many faces.
The underfed blond kid without his shirt has brought one more present to the
backstage entrance after the show
where he’s waited an hour and a half for Springsteen to make his customary
appearance (I have detained Bruce with this interview). Springsteen picks the kid out
of the small crowd around the door, asks him how he is, laughs and then carefully
autographs the boy’s pro-offered frisbee. “Thanks!” the kid says feverishly. “Thanks
for comin’!” says Springsteen.
As Bruce turns his attention to the other fans, the hungry boy looks at his back with
intense hungry eyes, hesitates for a second, his jaw hanging open, his tongue secretly
wrapping itself around a pronunciation he wants to get right. Then as the crowd flows
between the boy and his idol, the boy decides to do it and then blurts at Bruce’s back.
It’s a word he’s been working on for days, weeks, maybe months or years: it’s his last
and dearest gift to this Yankee guy who means so much to him. “Shalom!” he shouts.
That his final, extra special gift goes unheard in the hubbub doesn’t matter. The boy
dashes off, happy to be saved again (at least for the week), happier that he has tried
something for Bruce Springstein.
t t t
“Where you all from?”
.”New York City,” my companion and I respond.
“I was producing shows at the Fox and the Paramount and then Alan came up and was
producing shows at the Fox and Paramount, too. We were both doing shows, but you
might say I created New York City!!!” The white man in the oldies shop goes on and on.
We’re not allowed to leave.
“And that Hank Williams story, that movie, ya know I Your Cheating Heart 19561.
There he is Iying in the back of the car all dead on booze and pills and where was he
headed for? Canton, Ohio! Did you read that? Did you see that in that movie? There I
am backstage, cussing him all up and down, saying that when I get my hands on that
son-of-a-bitch I’m gonna tear him limb from limb. I’m out 750 bucks! I was producin’
a Hank Williams show that night and I’m out 750 bucks! 750 bucks I don’t have!
Wouldn’t that’ve made a much better ending for that movie? Me standing backstage
pulling out my hair and cussing him out ’cause I’m out 750 bucks! Did you ever hear
about that???
“Huey Smith, the same Huey ‘Piano’ Smith right here on this record. (He’s a preacher
now. Don’t make no money. Nooo! Huey ‘Piano’ Smith mows lawns for two bucks an
hour!) So Huey says to me he just wants to make enough money so he can sue that
producer of his. I say, ‘You got it all wrong, Huey. That’s not the way to approach it. ‘
I say, ‘Huey, I got an idea. You and me are gonna put on a show with all the old New
Orleans people and were gonna do it right over there in that Superdome! The
Superdome! And then you know what? Huey? We are gonna laugh all the way to the
bank!’ “
But he isn’t laughing. And as we edge out the door he’s talking again. Half a block
away as we round the corner, I’m sure he’s talking still . Weeks later, I’m sure he’s
still talking and almost weeping. I’m sure that somewhere in the murky city of New
Orleans a white man is detaining rock ‘n’ roll fans with his past. And somewhere out
in the heartland, Bruce Springsteen is digging after him.

Blue Collar Troubadour

Spero che questo articolo del 1984 sia di vostro interesse.

Che ne pensate?



At 34, Bruce Springsteen has never been better, as his barnstorming road showrollsacrosstheU.S.A by Chet Flippo
Groaning and sweating cannonballs, Bruce Springsteen jounces along in the passenger seat of a packed-to-the-gunwales van barreling out of downtown Detroit at 4 in the a.m. He radiates waves of locker-room Ben-Gay powerful enough to knock down a charging rhino at 30 yards. And he s happy. Happy as only a certifiablyfanaticalrock n rollercan be when he has just strapped on his Fender Telecaster guitar and blown away 24,039 also certifiable rock fans in the very heart of Motor City. Home of the Cadillac and of the Motown Sound. A tough audience. Bruce had just brought them to their knees with three and a half hours of no-mercy, flat-out rock n roll played the way God intended, and now he issuffering for it. Even after a half-hour rubdown by his trainer, Bruce aches from the grueling marathon of singing, dancing and screaming.
Man, he rasps in that familiar Jersey Shore staccato, this was a four and a half tonight. A visitor crammed up against a guitar case behind him asks what he means. I usually lose between three and five pounds during a show, he says. This felt like a four point five. He laughs a contented laugh, and the van sails on through the night.After laying out for three years, the Boss is back with a vengeance. Back with no flash, no lasers, no glitter, no glove. Back with his highly personal brand of straight-ahead, gJoves-off rock overlaid with a deceptively folksy vox populi that has made him the poet of the blue-collar baby boomers, for whom his carefully wrought songs sound like letters ftom home. Just as Hank Williams and Woody Guthrie did before him, Springsteen articulates the thoughts of an entire class of people. And right now nobody does it better. In Detroit Springsteen learned that his new album, Born in the U.S.A., was No. 1 on the charts, the LP s first single release, Dancing in the Dark, was No. 2, and the tour was steaming along at such a pace that he had sold 202,027 tickets—that s 10 nights—at Brendan Byrne Arena in home state New Jersey in just two days. And the tour (this week Bruce is in Washington, D.C.) is going to continue for at least a year, with forays to Canada, the Far East and Europe.
Given all that, the trappings of rock superstardom were astonishingly absent backstage at Detroit s Joe Louis Arena earlier on the balmy summer evening. The fans milling around outside were so well-mannered that even the cops were yawning. No stretch limos for the rock stars; just unobtrusive vans. No stiletto-heeled, slit-skirted, glossy groupies stalking their turf. In the dressing rooms and the tunnels backstage, there were no drugs and nothing stronger to drink than beer.
Welcome to the Hardy Boys on the Road, laughs a management associate. She s kidding, of course, but there s a hearty, all-American air to the proceedings that one doesn t usually find at this sort of event. Sit down, comes a holler from a man with a familiar rock face. He s assistant road manager Chris Chappel, for many years in The Who s organization. Chappel explains he s happy to be here for many reasons. For one: Sanity, no drugs. For another, he s a fan: When I first saw Bruce at Hammersmith Odeon [in London] in 1975, I knew immediately that the rock n roll torch had been passed from the Beatles and the Stones and The Who to him. I had never seen such a great show. And I still haven’t.”
Meanwhile, Bruce is winding up his usual exhaustive sound check in a cavernous hall. He is one of the few rockers who bothers to do a walk-through, listening carefully from every area of the hall while his band is playing. Then he disappears into his dressing room,to remain alone until the show starts. This is a typically exuberant Bruce crowd, screaming Brr—uuu—ce chants that sound like “boos” to the uninitiated. They
hold up lighted matches and those 99-cent discount lighters and scream for Br—uuce some more. Then they stomp and shake the floor and do the Wave and cheer each other. When Bruce finally gains the stage at 8:35 p.m., the spontaneous roar from 24,039 throats is seismic, physically felt, unsettling in its Intensity. Most performers never get thls klnd of ovation when their concerts end. Bruce is clearly among friends In Detroit. He’s a folk hero in his biker boots, tight jeans, kerchief headband and short-sleeved sport shirt with Its sleeves rolled up to display his newly pumped-up biceps. And he’s sporting a proud attitude that proves to be contagious when he rips into Born in the US.A., a blue-collar anthem of the ’80s If ever there was one (kid gets drafted, sent to Vletnam, then prison and every other raw deal possible, but remains a “cool rocking Daddy In the U.S.A.”). The applause is, of course, thunderous. Some of the blue collars in the $14
seats behind the stage (all tickets are $14 or $15) unfurl American flags.


From blacks brownbagging it on a New York subway to Ronald Reagan in Washington, 
everyone has jumped on Bruce Springsteen’s bandwagon. But his patriotic call’s not of the 
jingoistic variety so close to the hearts of  American conservatives. Rather, the 
message from the man from New Jersey is simple. The American dream may be in t
atters,but it’s not beyond repair.

Since the release of Bom in the USA, just about everybody has tried to grab hold
of that red kerchief in Bruce Springsteen’s back pocket and ride with him to the
top. Attempting to bask in the light of the Boss’s glory days, even Ronald Reagan
mentioned him in campaign speeches last fall in Springsteen’s home state of New
Perhaps Reagan had read his favorite columnist. George Will, a staunch
conservative and arguably the most powerful columnist in America, had gushed
over a Springsteen concert he had seen in Washington, D.C. “If all Americans—in
labor and management, who make steel or cars or shoes or textiles made their
products with as much energy and confidence as Springsteen and his merry
band make music, there would be no need for Congress to be thinking about
protectionism. No “domestic content” legislation is needed in the music industry.
The British and other invasions have been met and matched.”
One can imagine Ronnie settling down with some milk and cookies to watch
Dynasty with Nancy before his impending trip to New Jersey, a critical state in
the upcoming election, and saying to her: “You know, Mommy (believe it: that’s
what the leader of the most powerful country in the world calls his wife), this
young guy Springsteen is awfully popular with the kids and George Will likes
him. Why don’t I mention him on my campaign trip—might pick up a few votes
with the young people.”
Obviously Reagan and his toadies didn’t go any farther than Will’s column,
though Will admitted to having cotton in his ears and to having “not a clue
about Springsteen’s politics.”
It’s simple to interpret an album cover with “Born in the USA” emblazened
across a giant American flag as a call to the brand of old-fashioned
patriotism—read “call to arms/us against them”—that’s been the staple of
Reagan’s political career. Springsteen himself admitted as much when he said:
“The flag is a powerful image, and when you set that stuff loose, you don’t know
what’s gonna be done.”
The release of Born in the USA its huge success and that of
thetourtosupportithadcatapauitedSpringsteenfromrock’n’ roll star to media
megastar. He was in the midst of a tour that would eventually gross $30 million
from ticket sales alone and had a number one record that would sell more than
five million copies, earning him another $8 million. But Springsteen didn’t want
to be invited to the White House a la Michael Jackson for the requisite
handshake, medal and photo session . In concerts following Reagan’s attempt to
bring him into his fold, the Boss would joke that ” Mr. President obviously isn’t
listening to what I’m singing about.” Then he’d launch into a song like
“Downbound Train:”
I had a job, I had a girl
I had something going mister in this world I got laid off down at the lumberyard
Our love wen tbad, times got hard
Now I work down at the car wash, where an it ever does is rain
Don ‘t you feel like you’re a rider on a downbound train?
In an interview a couple of weeks before the election, Springsteen responded to
Reagan’s attempt to co-opt him.
“You see the Regan re-election ads on TV—you know: ‘It’s morning in America.’
And you say, well, it’s not morning in Pittsburgh. It’s not morning above 125th
Street (Harlem) in New York. It’s midnight and, like, there’s a bad moon risin’.
And that’s why when Reagan mentioned my name in New Jersey, I felt it was
another manipulation, and I had to disassociate myself from the president’s
kind words.”
Working class young people and yuppies from
America’s big cityheart, Vietnam vets and
grown-up war protesters, moms and dads with
MTV junkie kids in two—they were all part of
the Springsteen audiences.
In a way, you can’t blame Reagan for trying, even if it’s a little like Herbert
Hoover, the president who led America into the Great Depression, evoking
Woodie Guthrie. Springsteen has built a constituency that would be any
politician’s wet dream. To go to a Springsteen concert is to see America at close
to its polyglot best. Working class young people and yuppies from America’s bigcity
heart, Vietnam vets and grown-up war protesters, moms and dads
approaching middle age with MTV junkie kids in tow—they are all part of the
audiences that go to see Springsteen’s four-hour-plus concerts.
Even the one group that has never been part of Springsteen’s crowd is starting to
tune him in. Despite his strong rhythm and blues roots, he’s never had much of a
black following. But now there are signs that he’s making inroads with that
audience too.
The other night, waiting for a subway, at the end of the platform two middleaged
black men were wailing the Iyrics of “Born in the USA,” as they shared a
brown bag of wine. While that’s no litmus test, remixes of “Dancing in the Dark”
and “Born in the USA,” by Arthur Baker, who cut his funky teeth with rap master
Afrika Bambaataa, coupled with Springsteen’s show-stopping performance on
“We Are the World,” are turning his audience into a true rainbow coalition.
“The first day I can remember looking in a
mirrorand being able to stand what I saw was
the day I had a guihrin my hand. Music was a
reason to live. “
The breadth of Springsteen’s reach can be traced back to his New Jersey days. A
working class kid and lapsed Catholic, he found his salvation—his truth—early
and that was in rock ‘n’ roll.Springsteen traces his first dose of rock’n’roll
fevertoseeing Elvis Presley on The Ed Sullivan Show. “Man, when I was nine, I
couldn’t imagine anyone not wanting to be Elvis Presley,” Springsteen told Dave
Marsh in his bio, Born to Fun. Four years later, when Bruce put down $18 at the
local pawnshop for a guitar, his life changed for good. “Rock and roll has been
ever,vthing to me. The first day I can remember looking in a mirror and being
able to stand what I saw was the day I had a guitar in my hand… Music gave me
something. It was never just a hobby—it was a reason to live.”
His uncanny ability to convey that feeling in his music is key to his decade of
mushrooming success.
Springsteen’s rock ‘n’ roll obsession found outlet in a number of bands that
played the beach circuit from Asbury Park to Virginia Beach. Sucking in
disparate influences, including Chuck Berry, Bob Dylan, the Rolling Stones, Eric
Burden and the Animals, along with nuggets from the Motown and StaxNolt
rosters, he distilled a uniquely American sound. Instrumentally his music was the
perfect foil—sometimes raucous and raunchy,other times sweet and sentimental
— strong on pathos, but always shot through with hope.
John Hammond, the legendary record producer responsible for the signing of,
among others, Billie Holiday, Bob Dylan and Aretha Franklin, first heard
Springsteen in 1972 and was blown away. On Hammond’s recommendation, the
Boss was signed by Columbia Records. Soon Springsteen was being pushed by
Columbia as the “next Dylan.” The Dylan hype hurt and his first record,
Greetings From Asbury Park, flopped.
But it left little doubt where Springsteen was coming from. Songs from that
album, like “Spirits in the Night,” “Growing Up” and ” Blinded by the Light, “
were loaded with the juice of a rebel spirit, searching, albeit naively, for truth. A
year later Springsteen released The Wild, the Innocent, and the E Street Shuffle. It
contained more tales of the characters from the Boardwalk in Asbury Park and
streets of New York—all looking for salvation.
Meanwhile, if anyone was wanting of a little of that salvation, Bruce Springsteen
and the E Street Band, now a tight enough unit to rival the best in rock, were
ready to offer it. In certain parts of the States, people were getting the word on
the Boss. Playing the Eastern seaboard, Springsteen and the E Street Band were
achieving cult status, buoyed by fans who sung their praises with religious fervor.
It was during that period that Springsteen’s manager, John Landau, then a rock
critic, penned his famous review of a concert by the Boss in Boston, with the
prophetic statement: “I have seen the future of rock and roll, and it’s name is
Bruce Springsteen.”
I remember running into Bob Seger back then and he gave an equally ecstatic
report of a Springsteen show. “I caught Springsteen’s act in a small club in
Atlanta,” Seger said. “It was a place where nobody ever dances, and he had
everybody on their feet and shaking it. The way the guy works a crowd is
With 1 975’s Bom to Run, Springsteen began to reach a mass audience. When his
picture was plastered in the same week on the covers of Time and Newsweek,
there were those who thought he’d succumb, like so many before him, to all the
“The next thing you know there’ll be pictures of him in the tabloids with Britt
Eckland’s hands in his blue jeans as they tumble out of Studio 54,” said an
ardent Springsteen fan from the early days. “Then he’ll record some crummy
record about being too rich, too famous and too high.”
But the Springsteen records that followed, Darkness on the Edge of Town, The
River, and Nebraska, were a leaner, harderedged commitment to the concerns
always central to his music. Then in “No Surrender” on Born in the USA, he
summed it all up:
We busted out of class to get away from all those fools
We learned more from a three-minute record than we ever learned from school
Tonight I hear the neighborhood drummer sound
I hear my heart begin to pound
You say you ‘re tired and you just want to close your eyes and follow your dreams
We made a promise we swore we’d always remember no retreat no surrender. . .
Part of Springsteen’s allure, perhaps more than any other performer in rock ‘n’
roll, is that he packs a visceral hit. He taps an audience’s hidden rock ‘n’ roll
soul; if they had rock dreams for themselves, Springsteen’s the embodiment of
them. There’s a comfortable familiarity about his presence. He still lives in New
Jersey and shows up at the local bars to jam with whichever garage band is
playing that night. But there’s also a certain energy and intelligence that’s larger
than life.
“When you first meet him, you think, ‘Oh, another nice regular guy from New
Jersey.’ Then you listen to him for a while— he’s a great storyteller—and you
realize nothing much gets by him,” says John Tintori, who met Springsteen when
he was editing several of the Boss’s videos with director John Sayles. “We’ll
explain why we technically can’t do something he wants done in a video and he
immediately grasps the concept. You get the sense the guy has the kind of genius
where he could’ve excelled in any art form he were to choose.”
With Bruce there’s none of the removed other worldliness of a megastar like Michael
Jackson or the lascivious preening of a Mick Jaggerora Prince.
Fortunately, the form Springsteen chose was rock ‘n’ roll. The for-everyman spirit
he brings to it is still refreshing, especially when compared to the other
superstars who inhabit that terrain. With Bruce there’s none of the removed
otherworldliness of a megastar like Michael Jackson or the lascivious preening of
a Mick Jagger or a Prince. There’s no pretense, no posturing to stand between the
Boss and his audience.
Sure the Boss may strut and swagger once in awhile, like the young Elvis who got
him revved up when he was a kid. Hey, the best rock ‘n’ roll has always been
rebel music. But there’s no sign of degenerating, like Elvis, into the Las Vegas
shtick of coming on stage every night to tell the audience “I really mean
it—you’re beautiful.” Decadent materialism and nihilism, so often a part of the
rock ‘n’ roll star stance, get no play from Springsteen.
It is patriotism manifest in Springsteen desire
to give hope to people whose lives seem out of
What does get play is the plight of the common man and his search for respect.
You see there is something patriotic about Springsteen. His is not the fierce
nationalism of a Reaganite, but simple love and devotion to his country, to his
working class roots. It is patriotism manifest in Springsteen’s desire to give hope
to people whose lives seem out of control. It’s that spirit that led Springsteen to
play disarmament rallies a couple fo years back. It’s knowing what it means to
squeeze some bucks from the paycheck to catch your favorite act—the Boss, the
guy who kept a lid on ticke tprices a t$16 for four hours when the Jacksons were
charging $30 for a 75 minutes. During that tour Springsteen voiced his support
on stage for local food banks and other community action groups, as well as
digging into his own pockets, discreetly, to help them out.
The year of Born in the USA has also been the year of the rehabilitation of the
Vietnam vet. Long-overdue tribute is finally being paid to the men who fought
and died in the politicians’ dirtiest war. Although he managed to avoid the draft
by getting classified 4F, Springsteen knows it was guys from his background who
largely did the fighting and dying in Vietnam, including the drummer from his
firs tband. It’s that knowledge, no doubt, that’s made him a champion of
Vietnam vets.
Springsteen has done benefits and reportedly has contributed large sums of
money to vet counseling and rehab groups. When the memorial to New York’s
Vietnam vets was dedicated last May, it was “Born in the USA” that played at the
Shortly after the dedication of that monument, word got out that Springsteen
was about to get married. In fact it was frontpage news in newspapers across the
country and on People magazine, which had the tasteful cover “Who’s the Boss
Now?” Something about the media circus surrounding his impending nuptials to
actress-model Julianne Phillips seemed more absurd than these things usually do.
Here was Springsteen getting the media treatment afforded a Jackie Kennedy
Onnasis or Elizabeth Taylor. Days after the wedding, Clarence Clemmons,
Bruce’s close friend and sax player, showed up on The David Letterman Show
and worked as a flak catcher for his buddy. ” Now you girls out there who are
upset about this don’t be, ” he said. “Bruce is very happy and you should be
happy for him.”
A week later Springsteen is in New Jersey to shoot a video before leaving on his
European tour. He has his band assembled across the Hudson River from
Manhattan, inside Maxwell’s bar in Hoboken, a working class town, the birth
place of Frank Sinatra. Maxwell’s is the rock afficionado’s dream club —even for
name acts like Huster Du and the Minute Men, the cover never climbs past five
bucks. Outside, despite every effort at secrecy, a crowd is gathered, joined by TV
crews from every station in New York, anxious to grab a peak at the Boss. Inside,
the band is weary from a long day of shooting, but one more take is needed
before they wrap.
Even though he has sung the song about one hundred times that day, Bruce
attacks it with all his awesome vocal force. It’s a song about people getting caught
up in thinking their best is past—all those faded scrap book achievements of
youth. And here’s the Boss at 35, still screaming like an oversexed teenager on
stage in a dive in New Jersey.
“Yes,” he sings, “faded youth don’t have to mean the end of Glory Days.”
(J. Max Robirls is a New York writer.)