LITTLE STEVEN PAYS TRIBUTE TO BILL WYMAN IN LONDON
No sooner had Bruce Springsteen left London, following several days promoting his autobiography, than Little Steven took up temporary residence. Following on from a week of rehearsals at home, Steven was in town for another week of rehearsals prior to the first Little Steven and the Disciples of Soul gig in over a quarter of a century. It had in fact been 33 years since the original (and best, in this writer’s humble opinion) version of the Disciples, featuring that all-important horn section, last trod the boards in the UK.
The announcement of the October 29 show at the 2,350-capacity IndigO2 venue came on the same day as Waterstones tweeted that Bruce would be making a personal appearance at their flagship bookstore in London’s Piccadilly on October 17, giving UK fans two reasons for celebration. The one-off Disciples gig was due to take place during Bluesfest, an annual event held in several different-sized venues at the O2 entertainment centre in southeast London, and came about as the direct result of a personal invitation from Bluesfest supremo Leo Green. While rehearsing the 14-piece band (which included musicians from both sides of the Atlantic) for this unique performance, Steven undertook radio interviews for Talk Sport and BBC6 Music.
On Friday, October 28, Little Steven took part in Bill Wyman’s 80th Birthday Gala at the IndigO2, a three-hour tribute to the ex-Rolling Stone bassist, during which his regular touring band, The Rhythm Kings, backed a revolving series of guest musicians and vocalists, including Mark Knopfler, Van Morrison, Robert Plant, Andy Fairweather-Low, Mick Hucknall and others. Appearing after the interval, Steven gave a speech in which he acknowledged the profound influence of the Rolling Stones (who sent a congratulatory video message but did not appear in person) during his formative years and presented Bill Wyman with the Bluesfest Lifetime Achievement Award. Dispensing with his formal silver-grey jacket, Steven then picked up a guitar and joined the band for versions of "Little Red Rooster "and "Route 66" (each with lead vocals by Bob Geldof, above), returning an hour later for the all-star finale.
The following evening, Little Steven attended the Bluesfest gig by Richie Sambora (whom he joined for a version of "Livin' on a Prayer") and Bad Company at the O2 Arena, before returning to the adjacent IndigO2 for his 11pm appearance with the new Disciples of Soul. Watch this space for a full report on what was the gig of the year, perhaps even the decade, for all those who attended. - October 31, 2016 - report and photographs by Mike Saunders
BOOK OF SCREAMS
From Haddonfield, IL '78 to Haddonfield, NJ '78, Michael "The Shape" Myers always finds his prey. Watch out, Bruce (and Frank)!
For your All Hallows' Eve reading (or re-reading) pleasure, you just might want to enjoy these spooky, kooky sections of Booooooooooce Springsteen’s Born to Run:
"The Flying Purple People Eater" (Book One, Chapter 8, "Radio Days") - Bruce makes an early reference to his childhood love of Sheb Wooley’s 1958 Halloween-mix favorite. (Fittingly, it's in the chapter immediately following Springsteen’s description of the first time he ever strapped on a guitar and attempted a performance in front of some neighborhood kids, when he "sang voodoo nonsense" and "smelled blood.") Even before his "Purple People Eater" fame, the late, great Sheb Wooley already made his mark in the annals of great screams, as the person credited for the Wilhelm scream.
"Haunted Castle" (Book One, Chapter 12, "Where the Bands Are") - Okay, so you want a scary story for Halloween? Listen, if you’re part of a ragtag group of young, aspiring musicians called The Rogues, it just doesn’t get any scarier than this: You're the opening act for the local "instrumental kingpins" The Chevelles at the high school dance, and you end up sounding just horrible in front of them and all your peers. The Kingsmen's "Haunted Castle," the B-side of "Louie, Louie," is among the instrumentals listed by Springsteen that constituted "a typical local band's [like The Chevelles'] set list."
"Terror with Tinker" (Book One, Chapter 18, "Steel Mill") - Bruce gives Stephen King's Christine a run for its money; his account of learning to drive the hard way, with former manager Carl "Tinker" West along for the ride, offers plenty of white-knuckle moments, for sure. Bruce even describes one such moment as a “Halloween horror show of a night.”
"Children of the Born..." (Book Two, Chapter 46, "Born in the USA") - “For years after the release of my biggest-selling album, come Halloween, I had little kids in red bandanas knocking at my door with their trick-or-treat bags singing, 'I was born in the USA.'" - October 31, 2016 - report and collage by Shawn Poole - special thanks to Dawn Leinberger
I'M COMING BACK: SATURDAY'S DISCIPLES OF SOUL SET AT THE O2
Last night in London, Little Steven Van Zandt played his first Disciples of Soul show in Forever — or a quarter-century, at least. Richie Sambora guested. Full report to come... in the meantime, can we get a witness to this setlist??
- October 30, 2016 - photograph by Geoff Robinson - setlist courtesy of Royston Deitch
SPRINGSTEEN IN TORONTO, 10/27
The Born to Run book tour comes to the Great White (Rainy) North
When it was announced that Bruce would do some promotional appearances for the release of his autobiography, I was cautiously optimistic that Toronto would get a stop. Cautious because we've missed out before — the Tunnel of Love and Seeger Sessions tours come to mind. Despite this, still optimistic. I had this feeling it would happen. I became a bit deflated after the initial U.S. appearances were announced but then rebounded when word came out he was making his way across the pond for an appearance or two. If he was going to those lengths, surely he would visit his friendly and enthusiastic fan base north of the 49.
Fast forward to the on-sale. Official reports had the event selling out in six seconds. But I guess years of training for Bruce on-sales paid off in the end, and my streak continues of not missing a Toronto Springsteen appearance since 1985: I was lucky enough to snag one of the 600 golden tickets at 1:01pm, according to my receipt.
I've met my fair share of celebrities over my 48 years, even a few E Streeters, but I knew meeting Bruce would be way different, brief though it may be. The enormity of it all started to hit me about 24 hours out. I began to formalize my plan for the day. Everything from what I would wear, to what I would say given the opportunity, to the time I thought I needed to leave my house an hour outside of Canada’s largest city on what turned out to be a very cold and rainy day.
We were told to be at the Indigo Bay & Bloor bookstore by 10am for the scheduled start time of 1pm. I arrived just after 7am, expecting to see a large number of people gathered and surprised to find only five fans ahead of me. I'm guessing the weather was keeping people away. The six of us started to discuss all things Bruce, including all our anxieties of how the day would turn out. Big shout out to #1 in line, a cop from Ottawa named Franco who made the five-hour drive into Toronto overnight and arrived at 5am.
The line started to grow behind us as the rain and wind continued. It was miserable, but it brought me back to waiting for a ticket drop in front of Massey Hall in January for the Tom Joad tour. I was in my element, as it were.
Eventually we were queued up at the front entrance and escorted inside — thank goodness. Our wet tickets scanned, we were brought to the lower level of the store, the line snaking through the aisles and shelves. The front of the line landed in the Religion section where I was pleased to find out, via a book title, that God is indeed not dead!
After more waiting, press started to come in and reps from the bookstore and the publisher began buzzing around. The excitement was building as tracks from Chapter & Verse played in the background. When the music started to get louder, we knew the time had come. After a few minutes an announcement was made that Bruce was in the building, and seemingly like magic, he appeared — to his usual chorus of Brooooce!
For us at the front of the line, time moved swiftly. We were brought to the edge of the stage, asked numerous times if our cell phones were on the camera mode, and then boom.... it was our turn. I handed my phone off (nicely asking the young lady who was going to document what will likely be the first and last time I meet the man, to please make it a good shot), and next thing you know, I was face to face with the Boss.
Bruce looked great; what struck me the most was how soft-spoken he was. I showed him my "If I should fall behind" tattoo, explaining my new wife has a matching one and its meaning to us. He said that it was great, and nicely done... he genuinely seemed to like it. The picture was snapped. I said, "Thanks, Bruce," and he said "God Bless, man." I returned a "God Bless you, Bruce," then went and collected my coat and my autographed copy of Born to Run.
As I exited the store, I was stopped for an interview with CTV, where the reality of what just happened sunk in for me, and I admittedly was a bit emotional — it's all there in living colour for those who want to see. The pic turned out great, thank the still-living God. I spoke to my wife on the phone and made my way back home. What a day! Pass the tequila! - October 30, 2016 - Joe Cormier reporting - photographs by George Pimentel (1,2) and Joe Cormier (3,4)
"FRIENDS OF BACKSTREETS" REVIEW ROUNDUP
Two weeks ago we ran our Backstreets review of Born to Run, by Jonathan Pont. Several more of our friends and contributors have weighed in — here's some weekend reading from around the internets.
Backstreets founder and associate editor Charles R. Cross, still a crucial part of our crew, has also gone on to write bestselling biographies of Kurt Cobain and Jimi Hendrix. He still lives in Seattle, where he started Backstreets 36 years ago this month and has reviewed Born to Run for the Seattle Times.
Read:Springsteen applies his trademark lyricism to his autobiography
HAPPY BIRTHDAY GARRY, LONG MAY YOU PLAY Wishing a happy 67 today to the Tennessee Terror, Mr. Garry W. Tallent!
As we've all learned, Garry doesn't just sit around during break time... check out some of his most recent studio work on Valley of Days, the new album by his "pal from Hoboken, now Nashville," Bob Delevante. Bob is also a designer, illustrator, and photographer — he took the portrait of Garry above, as well as the Break Time album cover.
Valley of Days is out now on Relay Records; you can pick up the CD at bobdelevante.com or download from the usual online sources.
"I am playing a little bass on there," Garry tells us (he's on eight of the album's eleven tracks), "but give it a listen anyway." - October 27, 2016 - photograph by Bob Delevante
SPRINGSTEEN GOES MEMOIR-HOPPING
Just weeks after Born to Run, Bruce turns up in I Am Brian Wilson
Bruce Springsteen makes a surprise cameo appearance in Brian Wilson's new memoir, I Am Brian Wilson (Da Capo), just as he did when the two songwriting legends teamed up to perform a couple of Wilson hits at a charity concert in 2007.
As Wilson remembers, "I was playing a benefit show at the Count Basie Theatre in Red Bank, New Jersey. The whole time we were playing our show, there was a guy sitting in a folding chair on the side of the stage."
It turns out this "guy," who was "so quiet there on the side of the stage.... [i]t was almost like he was taking notes," was Springsteen himself. To Wilson's surprise and joy, Springsteen jumped on stage with the head Beach Boy and his band to play guitar on "Barbara Ann" and sing harmonies on "Love and Mercy."
When the two legends "hung out for a little while" after the concert, Springsteen told Wilson that his songs "were American masterworks."
The ever humble Wilson writes, "It was nice of him to say. He has written some himself." - October 27, 2016 - Paul Gleason reporting - read Paul's full review of I Am Brian Wilson at stereoembersmagazine.com
O CANADA... SPRINGSTEEN IS COMING!
After meet-and-greets in the U.S. and England (and a press stop in Frankfurt, too), the Born to Run book tour will be heading to Toronto this week. Bruce Springsteen
will appear at Indigo Bay & Bloor this Thursday afternoon, October 27, to meet and have his picture taken with 600 fans. Event info is here; tickets go onsale today at 1pm Eastern via Eventbrite. - October 25, 2016
GREETINGS FROM ASBURY PARK: LIGHT OF DAY TICKET ALERT
Time to start booking those hotel rooms — it's Light of Day announcement time! Organizers Jean Mikle and Tony Pallagrosi visited Tom Cunningham's Bruce Brunch yesterday morning (as they do every year) loaded with tantalizing tidbits about January's annual Light of Day (LOD) Winterfest. As always, the festivities benefit Parkinson's research, though at this early stage some logistics have yet to be ironed out. There are lineup details — headliners in particular — that cannot yet be announced. But with themed shows ranging from pop standards to tribute nights to the annual Asbury Angels induction, LOD Winterfest 2017 includes something for everyone, and it's shaping up to be another essential event for Jersey Shore music fans.
Those who have been following closely will note that, as in prior years, there have already been Light of Day "Winter Shows" in 2016 down in Australia, this year with saxophonist extraordinaire Eddie Manion at the helm. And, as has also been the case for the last few years, Europe and then Canada have shows some weeks prior to the Asbury Park extravaganza, with familiar faces like James Maddock, Joe D'Urso, and Joe Grushecky in the core lineup. But the "main event" is always in Asbury Park, and once again, those same artists will appear at multiple venues at the January Winterfest. Other notable artists announced yesterday include Dramarama, dynamic soul singer Remember Jones, and the ever-popular Bobby Bandiera and band. Long a fixture as both bandleader and sideman (Asbury Jukes, Bon Jovi), guitarist/vocalist Bandiera has been rocking New Jersey since his teens in cover bands like Holme and Cats on a Smooth Surface, and while he has stopped by to sit in a couple times in prior years, it's nice to see him in the official lineup this time out.
The Winterfest begins on Friday, January 6, 2017 and runs through Monday January 16, and includes venues in the Philadelphia area and New York City as well as Asbury Park. D.J. Cunningham, who has emceed at the Saturday night "Birthday Bash" show for some time, will have expanded duties this time out, too, with a live Bruce Brunch broadcast set for the 15th at Convention Hall.
Tickets for January's festivities go on sale this coming Saturday the 29th at noon via Ticketmaster. And, as always, stay tuned to the Light of Day website for announcements and up-to-date venue and lineup information. - October 24, 2016 - Lisa Iannucci reporting
BORN TO RUN TOUR QUIETLY COMES TO GERMANY
Last week, the Frankfurt Book Fair was bustling with rumors. With Bruce Springsteen having made the trip to Europe, would he come to the world's biggest such fair to present his autobiography? It happened Thursday — not at the fair itself, but in a nearby hotel to which his German publisher had rather secretly invited about 150 journalists from Germany and neighbouring countries. They were instructed not to mention the name of the hotel, even after the event.
Bruce was asked questions about his book and his life by German radio journalist Thomas Steinberg. The author also read portions from his autobiography ranging from his teenage dream of replacing Mick Jagger to the moving story of Doug Springsteen admitting that he hadn't been very good to his family. And that kind of acknowledgement was all he needed, said his son in Frankfurt.
Springsteen talked about Bob Dylan’s Nobel Prize ("I'm sure he is very happy") and, when asked whether he himself wouldn't like to be running for President, said he had no political talent whatsoever. When asked what his mother (who had always wanted him to be an author) thought about Born to Run, Bruce responded that she suffers from Alzheimer's disease now but would have liked the book for sure. Time passed quickly, leaving many press questions unanswered — but that surely would have taken all night.
When Bruce stood up, many rushed to the stage asking for autographs. Although this was apparently not wanted by the organizers, he did sign quite a few books before he went on to the bar for a glass of beer and quick individual chats with the journalists. It was announced again that people were — bitte! — not supposed to take photographs or ask for signatures. But Bruce did sign, and he did smile for pictures. And then time was up. Springsteen left the building and was ushered into a car at the front door where two or three fans were waiting for him and got their autographs as well. And then he was gone.
- October 23, 2016 - report and photograph by Olaf Dellit
FOR YOUR KEY TO THE UNIVERSE
Our friends at Print Mafia keep tramping the streets. Following their series of enamel pins featuring Springsteen-inspired street signs, they've produced an E Street keychain, nickel-plated solid iron. Shuffle on over and get yours here. - October 21, 2016
TICKETS ON SALE TODAY FOR 5th ANNUAL BIG MAN B'DAY BASH It’s time to think about next year already, and what better way to kick off 2017 than to come "down the Shore" to celebrate Clarence Clemons at his 5th Annual Birthday Bash? The day-long benefit event returns to Bar Anticipation in Lake Como, NJ on Saturday, January 7, 2017 with a stellar lineup starring Gary U.S. Bonds, John Eddie, John Cafferty (Beaver Brown Band) and the Nick Clemons Band. Other performers include Jersey Shore stalwarts J.T. Bowen, JoBonanno and guitarist Ricky Byrd (Joan Jett & the Blackhearts).
This year's show, besides being a festive birthday celebration for the Big Man, benefits drug addiction support charities CFC Loud N Clear and TOPAC (The Overdose Prevention Agency Corp.). "My father always taught me to 'give back' and remember the less fortunate," said Nick Clemons in a press release.
ONLINE NOW: SIMON MAYO'S SPRINGSTEEN INTERVIEW FROM RADIO 2
The interviews from the UK keep coming, with Bruce Springsteen in London this week for book press. Don't overlook the Channel 4 interview we embedded below... and today, there's the new one with Simon Mayo on BBC Radio 2. As promised, Springsteen answers fan questions after a discussion of the memoir; he goes on the record about the elusive "I'll Stand By You Always," the song he wrote for a Harry Potter film, "but they didn't use it!" Listen to the full Simon Mayo Drivetime interview online now at bbc.co.uk. - October 20, 2016
ANOTHER SHOT AT SONGS OF SPRINGSTEEN: TEST PRESSING AUCTION Back in April when the limited edition Songs of Springsteen: A Covers Collection From 105.7 The Hawk’s Bruce Brunch was released on Record Store Day, it sold out in less than two weeks. A pet project of Bruce Brunch host Tom Cunningham, the ten-inch record was a benefit effort for Ocean of Love, with all profits going to the charity.
Tom isn't done yet: Up for bids right now is a test pressing of the rare EP, a one-of-a-kind item, with the sleeve signed by all of the artists (both musicians and photographers) involved:
Bobby Bandiera, Danny Clinch, Joe Grushecky, James Maddock, Willie Nile, Passenger, and Frank Stefanko.
SPRINGSTEEN BOOK TOUR MOVES TO LONDON
When details of Bruce Springsteen's book promotion tour of the U.S. became known, European fans began to speculate whether he would make any appearances on the other side of the Atlantic. Given the massive audience he has in that part of the world, it seemed extremely unlikely that Bruce would restrict his activities to his home country. As the tour progressed from coast to coast, anticipation grew higher. The tension was broken on October 10, when it was announced that prominent retailer Waterstones would be hosting a Born to Run event, featuring a guest appearance by its author, at an unspecified location in "central London" on October 17. Limited to one per person and priced £22, e-tickets went on sale at 8pm the following day, via the Ticketscript website, and predictably sold out faster than you could read the book's shortest chapter.
The price of admission gave buyers the opportunity to have their picture taken with Bruce (one group or individual, no selfies) and to obtain a copy of Born to Run "with a pre-signed book plate." The venue was disclosed to ticketholders only by e-mail on October 16, together with a list of 23 terms and conditions of attendance. "For safety and security reasons" they were discouraged from revealing the location to anyone else, in order to stem the inevitable flood of hopeful, ticketless fans the following day.
It was no big surprise to discover that Bruce was scheduled to appear at the six-story Piccadilly branch of Waterstones, a short distance from the rumbling traffic and bright neon signs of Piccadilly Circus. Notable for being the largest bookstore in Europe, this was the only branch in the city with the floorspace necessary to accommodate a large crowd of Springsteen fans. The air of secrecy was maintained on the day when the store, devoid of any Born to Run window displays or other promotional paraphernalia, closed at 2pm "for a private event," giving no indication of what was about to happen inside.
Ticketholders had been warned not to begin lining up until after 2pm, but also to ensure they did not arrive later than 4pm, because "the exact time at which the event ends will be determined by the promoters" and late arrivals "may not have the opportunity to meet Bruce Springsteen." In reality, given the fact that the guest of honor was accustomed to giving regular four-hour performances, it was very unlikely that the plug would have been pulled before the last fan had left the building.
It was also made clear that Bruce would not be autographing anything, but attendees were encouraged to bring gifts, which could be deposited with a member of the Waterstones team prior to meeting the man himself. "Please be assured," said an explanatory e-mail, "that all gifts will be passed on to Bruce Springsteen, except pitches, demos and scripts."
When I arrived at 2:45, there was already a line of several hundred fans stretching along Piccadilly, down the alley at the side of the store and around the corner. As ticket bar codes were read and wristbands were fitted, it felt like we were waiting to enter the pit at a Springsteen concert. Soon afterwards, stewards began moving the crowd into the building, in large groups at regular intervals. First stop was the basement, where attendees were required to leave their belongings (they'd been encouraged to bring along as little as possible in order to streamline the process) at a bag drop. They were then escorted up to a holding area on the third floor, where regular updates were given. It soon became apparent that Bruce was in the building and had begun his duties much earlier than the official start time of 5:30pm.
From a second holding area on the first floor, it was possible to see Bruce in the background, looking tanned and fit, and wearing his regulation uniform of leather jacket and jeans. The line snaked back and forth several times until it reached the Crime section, which was effectively the home straight. By that point, this 58-year-old Backstreets contributor was locked in a titanic battle with his inner teenager. My objectivity was being gradually eroded by nervous excitement and heightened levels of eager anticipation. By this stage in my life, I thought I'd been there, done that, and bought the t-shirt, but I'm happy to report that the adrenalin was flowing and my heart was pumping. Is there anybody alive out there? Oh yeah!
Once they'd entered the inner sanctum, ticketholders handed cellphones and cameras to a member of staff (professional cameras were in evidence, but they were not utilized for fan photographs), stood beside Bruce on a red patterned carpet in front of a Waterstones backdrop, posed for their photo, and gave way to the next person. Back at the ground floor entrance they were given the aforementioned signed version of the Born to Run autobiography (plus a promotional paper bag displaying the Frank Stefanko cover shot) and were politely but firmly directed out of the building and back into the real world, where (in keeping with previous advice to dress for all weathers) it was now raining.
Kudos goes to Waterstones and publishers Simon and Schuster for organizing this unique event, to everyone involved in the impressively swift and efficient handling of the crowd control process, and to Bruce himself, for agreeing to do it in the first place. He could have stayed at home while Born to Run topped the bestseller lists, but he chose to commit to a gruelling (try meeting hundreds of people in one afternoon and see how you feel afterwards) tour that allowed a small but significant percentage of his worldwide fanbase to get up close and personal and obtain photographic evidence. Opportunities such as this, where a meeting with a musical hero is part of the package and not the result of random luck, are extremely rare. For that reason, those lucky enough to attend this London date will be eternally grateful.
Bruce's UK promotional schedule included pre-recorded TV interviews for Channel Four News [above] and the BBCTen O'clock News (both aired on October 18) and for the Andrew Marr Show on BBC Two (due for broadcast on October 23). He also undertook one radio interview, airing on the Simon Mayo Show on BBC Radio Two on October 20, but his only public appearance was at Waterstones. Although it took place in a bookstore, this was not a book signing, a book reading, or a book-related interview. It was a plain-and-simple meet-and-greet. Specifically, it was a blink-and-you'll-miss-it photo opportunity. Given the number of people (reportedly 500) that had to be ushered past Bruce in less time than he would spend onstage at an average concert, this gave each one a personal slot of roughly ten seconds. Click, flash, thank you, and goodnight, this way please, be careful on the stairs on your way out. Nevertheless, this was all that those in the long and winding queue required. They knew this was not going to be the one-on-one conversation with Bruce over a couple of beers that existed in their wildest dreams; it was simply, as the Waterstones blurb stated, a "once in a lifetime opportunity" to move within his orbit for a brief but unforgettable moment.
Throughout his career, Bruce has been connecting with his international audience through his lyrics, music and marathon concerts. Here in the heart of London, a representative sample of that global following got the chance to make a much more tangible connection, to shake the hand that scribbled the lyrics, played the guitar and wrote the book, to look into the eyes of the man they'd probably most recently seen on a giant screen in a stadium and, yes, to hug him. Beyond the expected handshakes, there was more physical contact than would normally be on display at a literary event. There was little time for a mumbled "Hello," let alone a complete sentence, but words weren't really necessary. There was mutual understanding. Fans expressed thanks and admiration and Bruce acknowledged their enduring support with heartfelt man-hugs, emotional embraces and backslaps, the most basic of human communication methods. The room was aglow with beaming smiles and (to quote from the book that had brought us all together on this October afternoon in London's West End) it felt "a lot like love." And when we touched, sparks flew on E Street. - October 19, 2016 - report and photographs by Mike Saunders
WANT TO MEET BARBARA PYLE? THE POWER IS YOURS!
If you missed photographer Barbara Pyle's gallery appearances earlier this year, she's having one more party at Carmine Galleries in NYC before she returns to the islands.... Catch her tomorrow night, Thursday, October 20, at 7pm. You'll be able to see some of her stunning Born to Run-era images of Bruce
Springsteen and the E Street Band, and she'll have prints for sale as well as copies of her beautiful hardcover book. (She's also selling her private collection of all things Captain Planet, with all proceeds going to her Planeteer Charity). For more on Barbara — and where Captain Planet fits in — read the recent Backstreets interview with her, conducted by Eric Meola.
Barbara Pyle's Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band 1975 is also available signed from Backstreets Records. - October 18, 2016
OUT ON THE CUTTING ROOM FLOOR As most Springsteen fans will agree, sometimes the outtakes are the best parts. Witness Rolling Stone's latest interview with Springsteen, published in RS 1272 and online here; today, they've published "the rest of the interview," in an exclusive online follow-up. Interviewer Brian Hiatt calls it "fan-friendly bonus Q&A" on Twitter, and that says it — good stuff here:
How do you see Human Touch and Lucky Town now?
I like those records, myself. There's great songs on those records. Of course, Steve [Van Zandt]'s comment at the time, was you should do these again and cut them with the E Street Band. You know? I just finished the record! The first thing he says to me, "You ought to make it again." That explains our relationship in a nutshell, having that kind of immediate interaction. And then when I played him Lucky Town, he said, "That's more like it." There was something correct about what he was saying, in a lot of ways. I think that while I loved the experience of playing with the musicians that I played with on that record and I learned a great deal from doing so, it might have gotten in the way of people hearing both of those records. And there are still plenty of songs on them that that we play. We played "Better Days" and we played "Living Proof." I love "Living Proof."
And "Lucky Town." These are songs that we should play more of.
It feels like the stripped-down rock of "Living Proof" and "Lucky Town" is still a direction you could explore more at some point.
Springsteen also talks Tom Joad, Prince ("one of the greatest showmen to come along"), and more. Read it here. And as for Stevie's idea... we firmly believe, it's never too late! - October 17, 2016
BORN TO RUN by Bruce Springsteen
The Backstreets Review by Jonathan Pont By now the rock autobiography has become for the older musician a lot like autotune was a few years back for the younger one: ubiquitous and de rigueur for the sheen of 21st-century commercial appeal. No matter the number of five-star reviews Rolling Stone keeps in cold storage, new music for the so-called "heritage" artist often meets with equally chilly sales, or worse, public indifference. Even the archival project seems almost spent: witness the price point of the upcoming Bob Dylan box set. Shelf space and buyers seem locked in a foot race to the vanishing point.
That was true when Bruce Springsteen announced his foray into the genre, seemingly a lifetime ago (it was February), long enough for it to seem far off into some autumnal future, long enough to recall names like Tinker West, road trips to the Pacific Coast in 1969 and 1982, venues from the Upstage to Hammersmith Odeon to the L.A. Coliseum, Mad Dog, Boom, Max, Zack, and all the way back. Danny. Clarence. Pins on a map — some leapt out, smaller ones we couldn't quite see. Dave Marsh connected some, and Peter Ames Carlin did, too. Patrick Humphries, Chris Hunt, Clinton Heylin, Charles R. Cross, Erik Flannigan, Jim Cullen, Caryn Rose, Chris Phillips — many have weighed in over the years, chronicling shows, records, parts of the entirety, or offering astute analysis.
But as Springsteen remarked when introducing "Born in the U.S.A." on the Ghost of Tom Joad tour, the writer always gets the last shot. That's what he takes with Born to Run, a 508-page entry in the rock autobiography genre, earning a new place in the bookshop long before he writes about having sung a note for John Hammond. It's a chance, Springsteen writes in the foreword, to explain what he calls his "magic trick," itself the sum of his talents, work, and personae. Just how much is illusory? That's part of the act, something the musician and listener will have to agree on (or not). What began as a diary entry about his halftime performance at the 2009 Super Bowl has morphed into something greater: a memoir that gives both casual readers and longtime fans a detailed and insightful account of Springsteen's life and work, unparalleled in its scope and magnitude.
Born to Run is divided into dozens of chapters over three larger sections, and it's modular in style, which makes picking it up and finding a favorite instance in Springsteen's career somewhat tempting. But that would dull the book's cumulative effect, like listening to a record out of sequence. Three decades on, note the unprecedented candor as he recounts the mid-to-late-'80s. One chapter tells of a fishing trip to Mexico, a gift from his father. Springsteen lovingly recalls a reasonably good time, a nerve-wracking boat ride, and his father's frailty. And then the next chapter is Tunnel of Love, where Springsteen's composure wavers but his music takes off, and in a new direction. After the glare and distortion of Born in the U.S.A., the record makes for a daring, introspective pivot. Such complexity abounds in Born to Run, with the good times and not-so-good times never having much space between.
Codify and contextualize disparate elements, add new stories, and make room for confession. This formula carries the memoirs of Springsteen's predecessors and contemporaries as well, whether Patti Smith's M Train, Bob Dylan's Chronicles, or Keith Richards' Life — perhaps the one that people buy, remember, and talk about most. It's Keef, after all, and rock's archetype must have more stories than there is ink. But Born to Run had a runway longer than either the song or the album; moreover, its release coincided with a cresting of social media (in an election year, no less), spawning thousands of "And then this happened" memes with photos of a smiling Springsteen next to faithful fans. Then it landed at the top of the New York Times Best Sellers list. Seven years in the making and seven-and-a-half months after announcing it, we have arrived at peak rock memoir.
A work like this may render a future Springsteen biography an unenviable if not downright impossible task. Could any subsequent account convey authority the way the primary one does? Maybe. Pete Townshend's Who I Am only devoted a few pages to "I Can See for Miles," the band's most interesting single on its most coherent '60s LP. And Chrissie Hynde's autobiography took lumps for too little attention paid to the Pretenders — maybe part two is coming? No memoirist is the best teller of all the parts, except when they're all in one place.
In some cases, Springsteen's compression of events feels like a smart choice, skimming over oft-told tales to make room for greater revelations. Take 1975's towering shifts of landscape: the breakthrough album emerges, cover stories in Time and Newsweek appear, and Springsteen questions the soundness of his contractual relationship with manager Mike Appel. There are worlds in a smaller detail about "Born to Run" that appears casually along the way, as if it were a well-known part of the song's construction and history; once caught, it will certainly add some new dimension. But the book doesn't linger on the Born to Run era the way one might expect. Really, in 2016 how much more is there to learn about the make-or-break record? Springsteen made a documentary film about it, after all. A similar economy extends itself to Darkness on the Edge of Town: it, too, is stripped down to fundamentals. But some readers will flip through a time or two and wonder where they missed a recounting of the 1976 walk up the driveway at Graceland to meet Elvis Presley, or the eleven months the E Street Band spent on the road afterward. Minor omissions in a now-67-year timeline, but they're curious nevertheless: one event became legendary, and another is an era that remains one of Springsteen's lesser known.
Springsteen devotes roughly the same number of pages to the 1981 tour of Europe as Townshend did to "I Can See For Miles." That's a pivotal moment where Springsteen pushed the boundaries of his music, engaged other cultures, and bonded with an overseas audience. It's a short chapter, but there's density in what he chooses to write about: limbering up a German audience on opening night, experiencing the passion of the Spanish crowd, and returning to the stage in London far more prepared than he had been in 1975. Springsteen doesn't treat the tour as a fan or scholar might — there's no mention of the Stockholm tapes, or "Run Through the Jungle," "Follow That Dream," or "Trapped." On the one hand, it's hard to imagine that none of these occurred to the performer as they might to the fan. On the other hand, he lets the reader in way past where audience recordings and inspired additions to the set list leave off, recounting a retreat back to his hotel from a Hamburg sex market (after having searched a bit for an old Beatles haunt). Episodes like this reveal a frame of mind, how Springsteen conducted himself, and ultimately, his depth of character. And they're places where Born to Run works best. If celebrity tends to obscure humanity, credit the author with numerous passes to show more the latter.
Handling the curves with grace, Springsteen doesn't just coast through the straightaways. The finished work contains what Fresh Air host Terry Gross called "a rhythm and music in it even though it's not a song" — almost as if one could hear Springsteen telling the story (he wrote in longhand and revised several drafts). Occasionally, however, that constitutes one of the book's flaws: his gift for writing as if he were speaking can lead to passages that ramble. And a few events don't fall in the correct time or order ("Roulette," the first track Springsteen cut for The River, was recorded five months before the No Nukes shows, not after). Nevertheless, the totality shows Springsteen to be a gifted long-form writer, corralling a bevy of issues in one place (as he does in the chapter on Jon Landau, for example), or finishing a thought with career advice for a young musician. And even when Springsteen repeats himself, it's likely to emphasize a point, like his decision to make his way as a solo artist, unencumbered by the democratic requirements of being a band member. When a reader encounters a favorite era, or Springsteen reveals a deeper, more complete narrative about a past event — see Steve Van Zandt's 1984 departure from the E Street Band — it reads like a thriller.
Of course, Bruce Springsteen had a life before 1984, before 1981, before 1975, sometimes rewarding, sometimes troubled. While Springsteen's landmark third record marks a major turning point, he doesn't rush to 1975, where section two begins. Pay no mind, for a moment, to the mythology that began taking shape then before solidifying in the mid-'80s. Reaching before "year zero" poses a challenge for anyone who ever carved a public image, but this book gives his early years the attention and care they deserve. Springsteen writes at length about his family, his town, and the culture that shaped him, and it's a moving first-person account, where he shows not only his own history, but also that of his parents.
Springsteen explores The Castiles and Steel Mill in similar detail, and the treatment of both bands is magnificent. Their chapters are among the longer ones, coming in at 18 pages each. He reminds us (and likely informs the more casual fan) that he had years of experience playing in bands with various styles long before he was "rock and roll future," certainly before "Dancing in the Dark" fell into heavy rotation on MTV. By that time, he had cultivated his craft, eked out a living, and grounded a part of himself.
That grounding, and the others he had to work harder to achieve, constitute the book's nexus and prove valuable in looking closer at what Springsteen calls his magic trick. They're cause to put the book down, and then pick it up again: all of life's heart and heartbreak, from his mother's will and composure to his father's silent ways and mental illness, and the musician's struggles with isolation, a failed marriage, and depression. His obvious love for his three children and attempts to be a good father. His relationships with Jon Landau, members of the E Street Band, Patti Scialfa, and losing the rain. It is, to borrow a word from Keith Richards, life, and the proof lives in many passages in the last third of the book. It's where Springsteen dismantles his popular image, builds a more durable life, and finds, one might argue, a more authentic self.
By the mid-'90s, Springsteen was well into a major transformation, encompassing where he lived, the kinds of music he'd write and perform, and most important, his marriage to Patti Scialfa and the family they'd start together. Taking on the "post-" is where Born to Run meets its biggest challenge: showing how Springsteen strove to adjust and overcome, accommodate and accept. Writing about marriage and fatherhood is something the memoir demands, but book three elicits empathy. There's a lot of struggle, a lot of loss, and a lot of figuring out to do. It's also the place where Springsteen does great service in fixing the discussion about mental illness and depression.
Concluding that Born to Run is about music is a testament to the power of Springsteen's magic trick. Life and career overlap, though, and in places one might not expect. That's the case when Springsteen reveals that he wasn't always "completely fair" to his father in his songs, "universalizing" their relationship for the sake of the art. That admission not only adds depth to, say, "Adam Raised a Cain," but also comes so early on it gives Springsteen ample room to return to his father. He seizes those opportunities, making space to give Douglas Springsteen a fuller and more nuanced portrait than any song has. He's a central character, and the son's compassionate treatment — unflinching, like "My Father's House" — will stand as one of the book's great achievements.
Born to Run is really about terrain, geography, people, and time. Guitars, cars, and motorcycles are important, as are factories, midtown Manhattan office buildings, and of course, magnetic tape and the odd mastering lathe. But the image that appears first and last will also endure: that of a copper beech tree in front of Springsteen's boyhood home in Freehold. It's the one he climbed as a child — higher, he writes, than any other child at the time, a place where he could escape (is it the one he leans against on the Born in the U.S.A. lyric sheet?). By book's end, the tree is no more, leaving him to imagine and remember on a street that will never appear the same way again.
Born to Run
by Bruce Springsteen
508 pages. Simon & Schuster. $32.50.
- October 14, 2016 - photographs by Alan Chitlik
LONDON CALLING FOR QUESTIONS, FOR BRUCE INTERVIEW NEXT WEEK
While in London for next week's Waterstones meet-and-greet, Bruce Springsteen will be doing some press as well, with an interview set to air on BBC Radio 2
next Thursday, October 20, at 5pm. Springsteen will be appearing on Simon Mayo Drivetime, and Mayo is looking for suggestions: "To make the chat extra special, we want you to send us your questions for him and who knows, it may get asked!" Click here for details. - October 14, 2016
INSIDE THE ESQUIRE
Bruce Springsteen has largely retired his most famous guitar — the guitar — from performance. But the Esquire/Telecaster "mutt" will always loom large in his career, as he writes in Born to Run ("With its wood body worn in like the piece of the cross that it was, it became the guitar that I'd play for the next 40 years") and as Allen St. John writes for Men's Journal:
Unlike most rock stars who go through instruments as quickly as they do groupies, Springsteen has been a monogamist in this area. He bought the guitar in 1973, around the time he released his debut album, Greetings From Asbury Park. That same guitar was featured prominently the cover of Born to Run in 1975 (during Bruce’s street poet phase) on Live 1975–1985 (held by a clean-shaven pumped-up Born in the USA-era Boss) and on 2012’s Wrecking Ball (as the high-mileage instrument of rock’s elder statesman).
The Esquire also makes cover appearances on 1992's Human Touch and 1995's Greatest Hits. Speaking with luthiers including the late Phil Petillo, who sold Bruce the guitar and kept it running for decades, St. John takes an up-close tour of the instrument Bruce has called "an integral part of me" in "The Story of Springsteen's #1 Guitar." - October 14, 2016
BRUCE IN ROLLING STONE: PODCAST AND PRINT The new Rolling Stone interview with Bruce Springsteen, conducted by Brian Hiatt just a few weeks ago in Colts Neck, NJ, is highlighted in a new podcast, the premiere installment of Rolling Stone Music Now. The magazine's first podcast features Hiatt chatting about Born to Run and Springsteen a bit, as well as some talk of other new music, but the bulk of it is exclusive audio from the interview. Click here to listen.
The interview, "True Bruce," can be read online here; it's also the eight-page cover story of the October 20, 2016 issue of Rolling Stone, which is now stock at Backstreet Records. - October 13, 2016
CONGRATS TO BOB DYLAN: FATHER OF OUR COUNTRY, NOBEL LAUREATE In 1988, Bruce Springsteen inducted Bob Dylan into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, saying, "Dylan was a revolutionary — the way that Elvis freed your body, Bob freed your mind. He showed us that just because the music was innately physical, it did not mean that it was anti-intellect. He broke through the limitations of what a recording artist could achieve."
Update: At brucespringsteen.net, read Springsteen on Dylan from the pages of Born to Run, posted today with congratulations on the Nobel. - Updated October 13, 2016
"HE ALREADY KNOWS ME. HE SANG TO ME ALL THOSE SONGS."
Read "Dear Bruce: The Thing We Wanted to Say" and meet five-year-old Juniper "Junebug" French, daughter of journalists Kelley and Tom French. The couple flew with their kindergartner — born a micro preemie — from Indiana to Boston earlier this week to meet Bruce Springsteen, "in a sea of people who, I'm certain, were bursting with things they couldn't say. All our worst moments, and our best, are tied up in your lyrics. Our story is tangled in yours." In the French family, that's particularly true.
RADIO WAVES: BRUCE'S CITY ARTS INTERVIEW TO AIR SUNDAY
Bruce Springsteen’s San Francisco City Arts & Lectures interview, recorded last week, will be broadcast on Sunday, October 16, at 1pm PT on KQED, SF's public radio station. Repeat airings will be on Tuesday 10/18 at 8 pm PT and Wednesday morning (10/19) at 2 am PT. You can listen online at kqed.org. The show is syndicated to more than 130 stations in the U.S. that may air it at other times; see cityarts.net for a list of stations. - October 12, 2016 - Jon Greer reporting
Boston's CBS channel WBZ-TV reports from yesterday at the Coop, spotlighting our own reporter/photographer on the scene [see below], Barry Schneier. - October 11, 2016
BRUCE IN CAMBRIDGE: THE MAGIC STILL EXISTS
Google Maps says it's 200 yards from the Harvard Coop to the Harvard Square Theatre. In another sense, as 1,000 fans lined up yesterday for their autographed copy of Born to Run and a photo op with Bruce Springsteen, there's 42 years between these two Cambridge landmarks. Springsteen's U.S. book tour ended on the same block where, in 1974, he earned a major shot in the arm for his burgeoning career and deepened a connection with future manager Jon Landau.
The Harvard Coop clearly saw the significance and made the connection, displaying photos from Bruce's famous "rock and roll future" performance on May 9, 1974; fans queuing for the Coop event stood right below Harvard Square Theatre marquee.
The Coop event, like previous stops on the book tour, brought out a mix of the young and old: from children who danced onstage with Bruce just a matter of months ago, to fans that been following him since he played in bars down the street in 1974.
Ellen Rothman has been a devoted fan since early 1974, when Bruce was playing local bars in Cambridge, and like many fans has never let up in her appreciation and devotion to his music. Ellen even enjoyed her 15 minutes of fame as a local news outlet, New England Cable News, spent time with her to learn more of her story.
And then there was ten-year-old Michaela, proudly wearing a t-shirt emblazoned with her moment of glory when Bruce called her up to dance at Boston’s TD Garden River Tour show. Now her t-shirt sports the signature of the man himself.
Fans arrived as early as 5am, and it was just after 8 when they were escorted in. Wrapped in and around the Harvard Coop interior, they made their way up and down antique staircases and bookshelves. Like the institution that bears its name, the Coop has its own rich history. Founded as the Harvard Cooperative in 1882, its function was to supply books, school supplies, and wood and coal for students' winter heating. Today it was there to offer another brand of warmth to its patrons.
Though scheduled for a noon beginning, Bruce arrived just after 10:30 and greeted his fans with a hearty hello. One can truly admire Springsteen, who, after entertaining tens of thousands nightly on a nine-month tour, is able to meet and greet his fans warmly one by one. There wasn't a soul leaving today who didn't feel a little more love than when they went in.
So that does it for U.S. dates. But Europe, are you ready? He's coming your way. Next week: Waterstones in London. Tickets on sale tonight at 8pm. - October 11, 2016 - report and photographs by Barry Schneier
LITTLE STEVEN: NOW, WHERE WERE WE?
Disciples of Soul announce UK gig
Didn't see this one coming? Neither did we. After a break lasting just over a quarter century, Steven Van Zandt will reform the Disciples of Soul, performing October 29 as part of the three-day BluesFest. That's a transatlantic festival of blues, soul, and roots music and will feature musicians like Van Morrison, Maxwell, and Mary J. Blige. For this October surprise, Steve and his band will take the stage at indigo at The O2 in London.
Van Zandt released four Disciples of Soul LPs between 1982 and 1989, exploring everything from R&B to rock to electronica. It's hard to imagine that Van Zandt would organize a one-off gig and fold the tent back up. But right now, this is all we have to go on. No word of who's in the band, whether new music will make its way across the Atlantic, or any U.S. dates. But it is encouraging that the stateside venue for BluesFest is Brooklyn Bowl. Maybe they can somehow convince Steven to consider a gig or two a little closer to home. Along with a new album. And some more gigs.
Tickets for the October 29 concert in London go on sale at 9 am this coming Friday, October 14 — visit theo2.co.uk for details. - October 10, 2016 - photograph by Geoffrey Robinson
SPRINGSTEEN AT THE NEW YORKER NEW JERSEY FESTIVAL
Even before Friday night's New Yorker Festival event, it was clear that the audience would be in good hands with David Remnick. A Pulitzer Prize-winner and the magazine's editor since 1998, Remnick had penned a Bruce Springsteen profile for The New Yorker in 2012 that presaged the Born to Run book in many ways (in retrospect, we know that Springsteen was midway through writing the memoir). "We Are Alive" touched on Bruce's clinical depression before that subject made headlines last month; Springsteen also told Remnick at a Wrecking Ball Tour rehearsal: "My parents' struggles, it's the subject of my life. It's the thing that eats at me and always will." For that piece Remnick spoke at length with not only Springsteen, but also Jon Landau, Patti Scialfa, and Steve Van Zandt. Along the way he wrote of seeing Springsteen and the E Street Band at Madison Square Garden in 1973 and the Palladium in 1976, making it plain that he's no casual admirer. That level of experience, insight, and history paid off in a wide-ranging, free-flowing onstage interview with Springsteen at Town Hall that stands as the best of the bunch on this recent book tour.
"Welcome to an event that sold out in six seconds," Remnick addressed the crowd at the top, in an introduction met with applause and cheers even before the man of the hour took the stage: "At least for tonight, we have rebranded The New Yorker Festival in his honor as The New Jersey Festival." He had the crowd from the beginning, not only with that classic state name pandering but with his recollection of seeing Springsteen for the first time in '73, opening for Chicago. Bona fides established.
"Bruce Springsteen has written the book of his life," Remnick stated. "He's written a terrific, supple, funny, honest, and self-revelatory book that is as vivid and as pedal-to-the-floor as the voice on the records, as the guy on the stage. It casts a spell, and it tells its truth. October 2016 finds us at an unnerving and dangerous moment in our history. It needs great Americans to help sustain what's best in us. One such guy is here with us tonight." Springsteen walked out in jeans, a sweater, and a light leather jacket, and we got right to it. In good spirits and fully engaged, Springsteen cast a spell here, too, reading portions of his book (reading glasses on — "put those cameras down!") and conversing comfortably despite the lack of a guitar in his hands.
They began by talking about the creation of the book itself — now a number one bestseller, as Remnick noted. "With a bullet," Bruce added. "I wrote it all out longhand — I had no computer facility," he said, describing the process of writing, dictating, printing it out, editing, and dictating all over again. And again. Throughout the conversation, Springsteen was forthcoming, expanding on what he'd written in the book, rather than retelling it — but only to a point. When Remnick asked what Bruce couldn't bring himself to write about in the book, we got a big uh-uh, and one of the biggest laughs of the night: "If we could talk about it, I would have written it!"
Of the subjects he did write about in the book, Springsteen said it took him "thirty-five... forty... fifty years, and two psychiatrists — one died on me already" to get enough of a handle on them.
As "Baby I" played over the P.A., Bruce looked reflective, smiling and nodding along a little, but he held up his hand as the crowd applauded: "It's not necessary, folks... it was our first shot." Music was "something that obsessed me when I was young," he said, "but I didn't have any idea where it was going to take me. I mean, you looked at the covers of those records, and you dreamed and dreamed... but it was a million miles away." For a while, at least. Soon enough: "You're young, you're a sponge, and you're obsessively determined."
"We played all over," Bruce said. As Remnick pointed out, a young, constantly gigging Springsteen even played the Marlboro Psychiatric Hospital, where he covered The Animals' "We Gotta Get Out of This Place." Springsteen's main recollection of that one: "The guy got up on stage, gave a long introduction of the band; he went on, went on, went on, we were waiting to go on... and then someone went up and took him away."
But the discussion didn't just center on the early days; Springsteen touched on his work as recent as the River Tour shows in September: "It was very interesting playing some of the earliest records at those ten shows that we did. We started to play some one afternoon at soundcheck, and we said, 'Oh, we should do a whole show where we pull from the early records,' because it was just something we hadn't done for so long... and it was just a lot of fun, it was fun revisting all that music. You know, you share your own history with your fans. And if the songs are good, they gather the years in, and they become more resonant as time passes. And if you're present, and your heart is right there in it, it comes back to life."
Part of Remnick's strength as an interviewer is his own ability to be present: listening actively, reacting quickly. ("You're that person for three hours on stage," Bruce begins; "Four, Bruce," Remnick interjects.) He notes, "You keep saying 'we,' but this is not a democracy; this is not the Beatles, where everyone gets a vote. It's you."
Springsteen doesn't argue. "I spent myself on democracy very early on. I actually had bands — the Castiles, Steel Mill, Earth, Child — and at some point it just became too complicated and too hard to keep together. And also I was doing all the writing and all the singing, so I was taking on a big part of the burden of the work.... I had such a long experience in bars, I was a band musician. Because I'd learned everything you needed to know about leading a band, arranging a band, putting the music together, putting the set together, making an exciting evening or a show, But by nature, I had a vision that I thought was my own, and I was interested in exploring that. So I was a combination of these two things that came somewhat uncomfortably together. So I created something that wasn't quite fish or fowl — Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band — so I kind of have it both ways."
Another nice catch from Remnick came during a discussion of "Born to Run," the book's "title track":
Springsteen: I wanted to make a sound that would feel completely cathartic, over the top. I was trying to make one of the greatest records I'd ever heard.... You're looking for the things that... make you feel unbearably alive. That's what you're always in search of. So ["Born to Run"] was one of the few records that I ever came home and put on a few days later and said, "That sounds exactly the way I want it to sound."
Remnick: Though when the record was finished, and you released it, you threw it into a swimming pool, because you didn't think it was ready yet.
Springsteen: Well, I had second thoughts.
Bruce spoke of playing music as a purification ritual. "I would simply go out and play until I was burned up or felt incandescent inside." When Remnick marveled at the lengthening shows in the mid-to-late '70s, "as if you were trying to lose yourself on stage," Springsteen agreed and then some:
"Losing myself was something I was shooting for. I'd had enough of myself! To want to lose myself. I went on stage to do exactly that. Playing is orgiastic. It's a moment of both self-realization and self-erasure at the same time. You disappear and blend into all the other people that are out there, and into the notes and the chords and the music that you've written — you kind of rise up and vanish into it. And that is something I was pursuing. I was pursuing intoxication. Why have people gotten intoxicated since the beginning of time? Why will the war on drugs never be successful? Because people need to lose themselves. We can only stand so much of ourselves."
They talked about Asbury Park ("it was a Jersey Shore Fort Lauderdale"); his Columbia Records audition ("The single greatest thing Mike Appel ever did... that was when John Hammond was seeing idiots off the street"); self-flagellation ("one of my lifetime specialties"), and throwing a guitar at Jon Landau ("the Takamine sailed past Mr. Landau's head, making the sound of death in the night in the House of 1,000 Guitars, smashed itself on the wall").
Toward the end of the evening, on the subject of politics, Remnick brought up Donald Trump — "You knew we were going there," he said as the audience laughed.
Springsteen: When he was just a big, bloviating New York billionaire, he could be highly entertaining, and funny — he's not funny as a presidential candidate. I predict he will not win, but I do believe he's done a lot of damage already. I believe that he's let loose some forces from the alt-right movement that he's brought into the mainstream that are not going to go away when he goes away... and he's not going to go gently into that good night....
Remnick: Are you planning to help Hillary defeat him?
Springsteen: Hmmmmmmm.... Sure!
While this was greeted with some of the loudest cheers of the night, Bruce quickly added, "But I haven't come up with anything I'm going to particularly do."
Referencing a recent New York Times piece ("In Bruce Springsteen's America, Many Turn Toward Donald Trump") Remnick asked for Bruce's own take on the article's subject. "It went through various landscapes in your songs — Youngstown; Badlands, South Dakota; Johnstown, Pennsylvania; Darlington, South Carolina — these are all Trump-voting areas, and white working class areas have changed dramatically since the days of Bobby Kennedy. What do you make of that, and do you feel you have as key a hold on some of these landscapes as you once might have?"
Springsteen: Well, I think if you look at the history of Youngstown or any of the places you mentioned, you see that basically I've written about the last 40 years of deindustrialization and globalization that hit a lot of people very, very, very hard. And their concerns and their problems and their issues were never addressed, by either party. So there's this sea of people out there who are waiting and hoping and looking for something that's going to bring some meaning back into their lives. So it's not a surprise, someone comes along and says, "You want your jobs back? I'm gonna bring them back. You're uncomfortable with the browning of America? I'm gonna build a wall, keep all those folks out." You want to hear these kinds of solutions to your problems. Unfortunately, it's fallacious. It's a con job. But I completely understand why a voice like that would be appealing.
Remnick observed that two women in Springsteen's life provided some "framing" for Born to Run: "If the hero of the first part of the book was in some ways your mother Adele, there's a royal presence in the latter part of the book: your wife Patti." (Big cheers for Patti Scialfa, who was in the Town Hall audience along with Patti Smith, Elliott Murphy, and Charlie Rose.) Springsteen talked about meeting her in 1974: "Before the Born to Run tour she came in and auditioned. We were going to take a singer out at the time, which we didn't end up doing. But we sat at the piano together, and she played me some of her songs... and then we saw each other regularly after that. I always kid Patti, I say, 'Before you were you... you were me.' She was a musician; she was independent; she was very single-minded in pursuit of her work. We just had a lot in common... and needless to say, when I've had my rough times, she's been there and continues to be there."
Just as any show needs a good encore, this night came to a close with Bruce slipping his reading glasses back on to read one of the last passages in his autobiography — its final words before the epilogue. "On a November evening during the writing of this book, I drove once again back to my hometown, back to my neighborhood," Bruce began. "The streets were quiet. My corner church was silent and unchanged..." No book spoilers here, but it was a moving, hushed moment with a literal benediction on a night that proved to be yet another one of Springsteen's magic tricks. - October 10, 2016 - Christopher Phillips reporting
SIT TIGHT, TAKE HOLD, NEW PIN
Our friends at Print Mafia are back at it, back on the streets, with a third street sign in their enamel pin series. After E Street and and 10th Avenue, here's the new Thunder Road pin, hot off the press. Collect 'em all! - October 7, 2016
SEARCHING FOR A GROOVE AT CITY ARTS
For the final west coast stop of Bruce Springsteen's Born to Run book tour — after bookstore signings in Seattle, Los Angeles, and Portland — the author appeared in San Francisco for a City Arts & Lectures evening discussion on Wednesday night. With an interview handled by Dan Stone, editor in chief of Radio Silence, the event at the Nourse Theater lasted an hour and 15 minutes, for a crowd of approximately 1,700 — and the air was crackling with energy. The audience must have interrupted Bruce more than 20 times with applause. It continues to amaze how much emotion and energy the man brings out in his fans, even at a non-music event like this. Orchestra seats came with signed copies of the book, but boxes of signed books were also available for sale, and some attendees came away with three or four copies in their arms. Not a bad holiday present.
Unfortunately, the rather ordinary interview was less of a gift. Maybe you can chalk that up to an embarrassment of riches lately, but after taking in that day's fine Fresh Air broadcast — as well as the Late Show and Apple store interviews, and some compelling print pieces in Vanity Fair and Rolling Stone — this one felt like a missed opportunity. Stone seemed to know very little about Springsteen beyond the obvious — for instance, he revealed that he had only just learned through the book about the connection between Nebraska and Born in the U.S.A.
For a similarly casual, general audience, I imagine this was a great event, particularly entertaining when Bruce read three passages from the book (the "radio man" story about his grandfather, the section about his kids' musical taste, and the story about smashing a vase at a St. Rose of Lima Castiles show, a la Pete Townshend). Bruce is always fun to listen to, and if you hadn’t heard or read a lot of what he'd said before, I’m sure much of it sounded fresh and interesting. But Stone's questions weren't terribly incisive and included yawners about Bruce's musical inspiration and what it felt like to be described as a "voice of a generation." It felt like the guy who got to interview Bruce was the least-rabid Bruce fan in the house.
Still, Springsteen held up his end. On the subject of Nebraska/Born in the U.S.A.: "I might have not even recorded Born in the U.S.A., except we had cut the track 'Born in the U.S.A.,' and I knew this thing was lightning in a bottle. When it came on it just electrified you. So I’ve got to make a record to go with this, I’ve got to put this out. But I was always dissatisfied with it. Nebraska, I was deeply, deeply invested in, and I knew it was the best that I could do. When I made Born in the U.S.A., I felt like it was the best I could do right now."
As to being the voice of a generation: "Being the voice of anything, there's an obligation. Most artists run from obligation. That was the whole point."
After reading the passage about his kids' musical taste, Bruce added that he wasn't really interested in immersing them in his music because "I wasn't looking for three more fans."
Pre-submitted questions from the audience gave us some interesting tidbits about his literary life. Asked about what books he reads, Springsteen said the most recent was Moby Dick, "which everyone said was going to be hard, but it was quite easy to read — except for the fact that you’re going to find out a lot more about whales than you ever wanted to know." He also said that he recently read "all the Russian guys — Chekhov, Tolstoy, Dostoevsky," and Mr. S: My Life with Frank Sinatra, by former valet George Jacobs, which he called "fantastic."
As a child, it was The Wizard of Oz exclusively. As Bruce told it, he would sit in a rocking chair on the porch and read a little of that book everyday. His parents didn't read to him, and "I didn’t really read until I was well into my twenties; then I became enamored of the noir writers like Jim Thompson and Flannery O'Connor. The psychology in them is incredible, and it resonated with my soul."
Stone asked if Springsteen had any thoughts about writing fiction himself. "I don't think I have the slightest interest," Bruce replied. "I think this is my swan song. I can’t imagine writing another one."
So then, Stone asked, what unmet ambitions do you have? Bruce: "Do you mean, what am I going to do with myself?... Same old thing." Works for us. - October 7, 2016 - Jon Greer reporting - photographs by PJay Plutzer
SPRINGSTEEN TO RS: "I'M STILL FIRING ON ALL EIGHTS"
Springsteen's first Rolling Stone cover in four years, since Jon Stewart interviewed him for the magazine in 2012, is next up. For the October 20, 2016 issue (#1272), RS senior writer Brian Hiatt visited Springsteen's Colts Neck, NJ farm just after the end of the 2016 River Tour for a lengthy talk — published online today — about the Born to Run autobiography. Along the way, they touch on such subjects as depression, masculinity, the current presidential election, Black Lives Matter, and Springsteen's future plans. "I'm still firing on all eights," Springsteen says of his professional activities, looking ahead. "I'm completely committed like I was when I was 16 or 21 years old."
The next few years and beyond: Is the idea to just move between the different modes you have – E Street, solo, archival releases?
Yeah. All of the above, you know. At this point, my plan is to do everything that I do and at different intervals. I'd love to tour solo again. I look forward to playing with the band again. We're going to play in Australia this winter. And whatever else comes my way, whatever projects come my way. I don't have any five- or six-year plan, outside of having whatever music I'm making now and getting out and just continuing my work life.
You've said you have an album done that's influenced by Glen Campbell and Jimmy Webb's collaborations.
I don't want to overemphasize the influences too much, because people may hear it and go, "What's that got to do with that?" But it was sort of a place where I found some inspiration.
Is that a different record than the one you almost finished before Wrecking Ball?
It's the record I wrote before Wrecking Ball but could not finish, and in attempting to finish it, I wrote Wrecking Ball. So the roots of the record go back quite a ways. Sometimes you have to wait for these puzzles to sort themselves out, and it can take years. I mean, I have a record that I've been working on that's 20 years old. That's just the way the process is working at the moment.
FRESH FRESH AIR WITH BRUCE A new Fresh Air interview with Bruce Springsteen debuts today, October 5. Check your local NPR station for airtimes or listen below, with a transcript npr.org. Fresh Air host Terry Gross conducted the interview with Springsteen at his home studio last week.
Gross' excellent 2005 interview with Springsteen was conducted backstage in Philadelphia during his Devils & Dust Tour; it is archived for online listening here. - Updated October 5, 2016 - Shawn Poole reporting - photograph courtesy of WHYY/Fresh Air
SPRINGSTEEN IN SEATTLE
It's no surprise to see long lines of fans waiting to see Bruce Springsteen... but at 10am? Outside of a bookstore? Perhaps the circumstances were a bit unusual, but here in the birthplace of Backstreets the same giddy sense of anticipation filled the air as if it were the evening of an epic four-hour show.
Approximately 1,200 Bruce fans in Seattle got up early on Saturday, October 1, and withstood some morning rain to get in line outside venerable independent bookstore Elliott Bay Book Company for the chance to take home a signed copy of Born to Run and shake Bruce's hand. As with previous events on the book tour, there was no reading, no signing (books were pre-signed for advance ticket holders), no Q&A. But this was a chance for these fans to finally get face to face with a man they idolized.
And Bruce made it worth their while. Despite the fact that the guest of honor may have felt a little out of place — he made a self-conscious joke before the crowds poured in about being "on stage" without his usual trusty guitar — he made his fans feel right at home. Displaying his signature (and always remarkable) warmth and open connection with his followers, he welcomed excited fan after fan up into the stage. Even though the greeting was brief, the photo op fast, and the whole interaction lasting barely 60 seconds, each fan experienced the moment for what it was: a genuine, personal interaction with a man who is simultaneously a rock legend and, based on his demeanor at Elliott Bay, a grounded man of the people.
Springsteen clearly knew what this once-in-a-lifetime moment meant to these gathered masses, and he made the effort to make sure it lived up to the promise.
He spontaneously pecked one 40-something woman on the cheek, and she burst out with a Beatlemania squeal. He admired a Boss tattoo proffered by another female fan. And he graciously posed for photo after photo — for two continuous hours — making the line around the block (three blocks, actually) more than worth the wait.
- October 3, 2016 - Dan Johnson reporting - photographs by Alan Chitlik
"WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE?"
Mary J. Blige and "American Skin (41 Shots)" Mary J. Blige recently interviewed Hillary Clinton for Blige's Apple Music series The 411 with Mary J. Blige (click here to watch the entire interview free of charge). At the 17:40 mark, Blige sings a portion of Bruce Springsteen's "American Skin (41 Shots)" to the presidential candidate and asks her, "Where do we go from here?" Backstreets is honored to have Danny Alexander, author of Real Love, No Drama: The Music of Mary J. Blige, write about this important moment for us.
After this election's first Presidential debate on September 26, Twitter erupted over a 16-year-old Bruce Springsteen song — not that most of the comments had anything to do with Springsteen. The controversy stemmed from a promo for Mary J. Blige’s new Apple Music show, The 411, featuring guest Hillary Clinton. In that clip, Blige sang the key verse of Springsteen's "American Skin (41 Shots)," the song's mother pleading with her son: "If an officer stops you, promise you’ll always be polite.... promise Mama you'll keep your hands in sight."
Blige was roundly attacked for everything from the glasses she was wearing to her choice to sing to Secretary Clinton during the interview. The most damning headline read, "We Lost Her: Mary J. Blige Thinks Being 'Polite' Will Keep Police from Killing Us." More subtly dismissive was a meme showing Blige asking Clinton how to stop the "hateration in this dancerie," referencing Blige's 15-year-old party jam "Family Affair."
Springsteen fans might be reminded of the "shut-up-and-play-yer-guitar" controversy that surrounded his debut of the song in 2000. Springsteen first performed the multifaceted song in Atlanta a few months after the acquittal of four New York police officers who killed 23-year-old immigrant Amadou Diallo because he reached for his wallet. Within days, hundreds of police protested Springsteen, the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association called for a boycott of Springsteen's music, and the head of New York's Fraternal Order of Police called Springsteen both a "dirtbag" and the bizarre, homophobic epithet "floating fag." Mayor Giuliani condemned Springsteen, and New York Senator Clinton said nothing.
When the Blige show finally aired on Friday, September 30, viewers saw Clinton at least partially redress that grievance. A longtime Obama supporter, Blige approached Clinton as a fan, but more importantly she focused her interview on their common ground as women, particularly their knowledge of the abuse women suffer asserting themselves in traditionally male territory. Interviewer and interviewee held hands after Blige sang the Springsteen verse, and Clinton stated, "I particularly want white people to understand what that's like, and to feel that they must be part of the solution.... We need to work with our police and do better training so they don’t immediately draw the wrong conclusions, like the song said: a gun, a knife or a wallet?" At the interview's end, she repeatedly told Blige, "That was so emotional," and it was. In that sense, Blige's interview did what the artist does best, reach for the heart with a call for humanity.
In these polarized times, big tent artists like Mary J. Blige (the Queen of Hip Hop Soul) and Bruce Springsteen (the classic rocker with an ear to hip hop and soul) seem, at once, politically out of step and uniquely important. Both Blige and Springsteen assert some level of class consciousness into everything they do, meaning they run against the grain of the star-making machinery that surrounds them. At the same time, they navigate that machinery cautiously, leaving Springsteen in particular always too liberal for some, too conservative for others. What matters here is the fact of their broad-based audiences intersecting. After 16 years, Springsteen's call for justice has been taken up by Blige, tied by the times to the Black Lives Matter movement and carried to the mainstage of a one-of-a-kind Presidential race. - October 2, 2016 - Danny Alexander reporting
OCTOBER 1 IS BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN "BORN TO RUN" DAY IN KING COUNTY
In honor of Bruce's appearance today at Seattle's Elliott Bay Books during his Born to Run book tour, King County Executive Dow Constantine has issued a Proclamation declaring October 1 as "Bruce Springsteen 'Born to Run' Day in King County." The Proclamation extolls many of Bruce's significant accomplishments and contributions, and ends with:
"I encourage all residents to join me in honoring Bruce Springsteen for his artistry, his activism, and his many contributions to the American songbook," Constantine urges.
ROCK AND ROLL FUTURE IS HERE Barry Schneier's new coffee table book from Backstreets Publishing is a deep dive into a legendary Springsteen show in 1974.
Backstreet Records is the mailorder division of Backstreets, delivering Springsteen merchandise to fans for more than 25 years. We carry numerous collectibles, tour shirts, books, magazines, and imported CDs and records.
The world's best selection of Springsteen collectibles, all available by mail.
We also post all known concert dates for some of our favorite Jersey Shore (and Shore-adopted) musicians:
Joe D'Urso... and more.
For more information on upcoming shows such as these, check out our Concert Calendar.
Many from the Springsteen community banded together to preserve this Asbury Park landmark.... and Tillie has now been saved!
Check our Save Tillie page for the latest developments.
THE SPRINGSTEEN SPECIAL COLLECTION
Organized by Backstreets in 2001, this storehouse of Boss books and magazines is the largest such collection outside of Bruce's mother's basement. Thanks to the generosity of fans around the world, total holdings are now well over 11,000. But the collection is by no means complete.