Offering fans an extensive look at the artist’s own words throughout the past four decades, Springsteen on Springsteen brings together Q&A–formatted articles, speeches, and features that incorporate significant interview material. No one is better qualified to talk about Springsteen than the man himself, and he’s often as articulate and provocative in interviews and speeches as he is emotive onstage and in recordings. While many rock artists seem to suffer through interviews, Springsteen has welcomed them as an opportunity to speak openly, thoughtfully, and in great detail about his music and life. This volume starts with his humble beginnings in 1973 as a struggling artist and follows him up to the present, as Springsteen has achieved almost unimaginable wealth and worldwide fame. Included are feature interviews with well-known media figures, including Charlie Rose, Ted Koppel, Brian Williams, Nick Hornby, and Ed Norton. Fans will also discover hidden gems from small and international outlets, in addition to radio and TV interviews that have not previously appeared in print. This collection is a must-have for any Springsteen fan.
About the Author
Jeff Burger is the author of published articles in more than 75 magazines and newspapers, including Barron’s, Family Circle, Gentlemen’s Quarterly, Golfweek, High Fidelity, the Los Angeles Times, and Reader’s Digest. He has also edited several major professional and financial magazines.
Read an Excerpt
Springsteen on Springsteen
Interviews, Speeches, and Encounters
By Jeff Burger
Chicago Review Press IncorporatedCopyright © 2013 Jeff Burger
All rights reserved.
BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN — LIVE!
BRUCE POLLOCK | March 1973, Rock (US)
Bruce Pollock was one of the very first journalists to interview Springsteen for a national magazine. Much later in this book, the singer speaks with the authority of a college professor when discussing his literary and political influences. But at the time of his conversation with Pollock, that degree of articulation was many years away. Now Springsteen was just twenty-three, his debut album had been out for all of twenty-six days, and he said things like, "I'm not really a literary type of cat." As he told Pollock, "I'm at a point where this is all very new to me."
But the Springsteen spark was already glowing, at least in concert performances. "I'd played the first side of the album," Pollock recalled to me, "and although I liked it, I wasn't totally astounded. Not even astounded enough to play the second side. Until I saw him live. And then when I got home and played the album it was a major revelation. This guy wasn't just another word freak — he was the whole package, the Spectorian teenage symphony of dreams and agony incarnate, with a staunch R&B backbone and a huge side of self-deprecating humor.
"Not since Dylan had I seen a guy who moved me so much," Pollock continued. "Moved me to attend almost every concert in the area for probably seven years after that, many of them at Max's Kansas City, where I'd sit at a table in the back with his manager, Mike Appel. When I asked him if Bruce would like to be included in the book on songwriting I was finishing up for Macmillan, In Their Own Words, he declined, stating that Bruce should have his own book. Unfortunately, fourteen other scribes beat me to writing that book. But I'm not sure he would have been his own best interpreter when it came to parsing his style and working habits. At that point, and for many years after, he was running on fumes and instinct, the way the best rock and roll always does." — Ed.
On the night of January 31, 1973, we were present at a little bit of rock-and-roll history.
The "we" I refer to are a few dozen of the New York City pop culture cognoscenti who were urged, cajoled, tipped, hipped, or otherwise hyped into joining the paying customers who saw Columbia recording artist Bruce Springsteen open up a five-day stint at Max's Kansas City — one of the last remaining oases of good music in a city of deserted singles bars, beat-up coffeehouses, and broken-down concert halls.
Already something of a word-of-mouth, trade press, and underground instant legend, Springsteen seems about to leap into the daylight of mass acceptance, household status, and Bandstand furor via the resounding clatter of praise issuing forth from some of your favorite magazines. The crowd at Max's was prepared then — somewhat — for his set, armed and waiting to fling the hype back into his face like a custard pie.
"It's strange, it's very strange. Let me tell you, Max's was the first gig where people came to see the band. Before that, it was like we were playing at football games, you know ... really terrible. People just didn't relate. And I figured it would be that kind of scene. But then people started to get interested. In a way it's good. I've met a lot of nice people who honestly like the music and are really excited about the band. But just the same, you get the other people who come on with attitudes toward us. I just get up and play every night — if somebody runs around saying it's good or it's bad, I don't have a whole lot of control."
Clad in dungarees, baseball cap, and shirt, Springsteen — twenty-four [Twenty-three, actually. — Ed.] — ascended to the spotlight with acoustic guitar in hand, accompanied only by an accordion player. He dedicated his set to John Hammond Sr. — Columbia's musical tastemaker supreme — who hasn't been this high on a discovery since he flipped his superlatives at Folk City some eleven years or so ago over Bob Dylan. Dylan advanced from Folk City to the Gaslight, where Sam Hood put him to work. Eventually Bobby departed for the western skies of New Jersey. Bruce is from Asbury Park. Sam Hood now takes care of business at Max's. And John Hammond Sr. came down early in the evening just to shake Springsteen's hand.
"The [New York] Times compared me to El Topo. They said, 'If you like El Topo, you'll like Bruce Springsteen.' I think they compared me to Allen Ginsberg, Rod Stewart, and El Topo in the same article. There's a cat with an original point of view. My songs have been compared to Ginsberg's poem "Howl" — but I just write what comes out of me ... because of some things I've seen. The kind of stuff I write might not be the kind of stuff I'd read. I'm not really a literary type of cat. A lot of people ask me what I read — what poets. I never read any, hardly. One time I tried to make a conscious effort because I was starting to get involved in it and I went down to the library and picked out a few books and I read 'em — I can't even remember the books. Rather than pick up a book that has poems, I'd rather pick up anything else ... any magazine ... whatever is around. I was never a heavy, serious reader. I went through a year and a half of college, which I don't remember a darn thing from. All I remember was getting hassled to no end. I've been playing music since I was about fourteen. I was really terrible at everything else."
After his opening number, a dirge called "Mary, Queen of Arkansas," which is one of the nine songs on his debut album, Greetings from Asbury Park, the pace picked up with a rocker about Indians and flapjacks made 'em fat and bishops and James Garner's one-eyed bride. Following this was a piece on the big top, complete with flute and tuba (provided by the adept members of his band) chilling the air just enough to set the stage for some electricity.
With the band joining him now in full blast, Springsteen put down his guitar for piano and began to show this crowd what he was really all about. Before he was through with "Spirit in the Night," the halfway laid-back, still somewhat unconvinced and cynical New York audience came to life. He did a song about a bus ride (now playing electric guitar) before slamming into his epic opus, "Her Brains They Rattle and Her Bones They Shake," and while this stomping, romping gut-rocker was going on the realization came upon you that the kid and his band were only warming up, getting loose. This was but the first set of three tonight, of five days here, of other days and weeks, present glory ... future fame.
"I was into messing around with words when I was eighteen, nineteen ... but I quit and did something else. I got into R&B. It wasn't until now that I figured out a way to fuse the two. It didn't come together easy for me then. I've been playing for ten years, which isn't real long but it's a little bit of a while. I was out there by myself for about five ... that's how I made my living ... by playing hard and sometimes getting groups. I played down South a whole lot, Tennessee, Carolina ... went out to California when I was about twenty with a band. We played the old Matrix ... second billing to Boz Scaggs.
"But it got to a point where things got tough. In 1966, '67, '68 ... it was easier, kids wanted to go to concerts and it was very exciting. But times changed and it got increasingly more difficult to get by. It got to a point where we had no way to get the equipment around. We had no PA system and no manager and no nothing so I said, well maybe I'll try it myself for a while. The only club I really played by myself was Max's. Sam would give me some jobs. If he had an open space, he'd put me in there, you know, give me some money. It seems kind of funny now. In a way, I don't know if I dig all this commotion, you know?"
Part of the magic is the relationship between Springsteen and his group. More than organ, drums, bass, guitar, and sax, more than just a bunch of good musicians, they are a greaseball, dancehall jazz band five, who relate like they've been playing together for years, like they grew up together in the Jersey flats, shared the same vision forever, and are just now getting around to laying it on the unsuspecting public. They seem to be having a ball, too. Especially Clarence Clemons on the big fat black sax — he's too funky — much!
"There used to be a little club around town in Asbury, a joint called the Upstage — three floors of solid black light. I would go down there quite a bit. This was four or five years ago. That's where I met Vini [Lopez, the drummer] and that's where I also met the organ player, Danny [Federici]. I met the bass player there too. Well, me and Vini's been playing together about four years. Me and Danny played together about three years, then we used another cat for a while ... and now Danny's come back again to this band ... all of them are local cats from Asbury. And Clarence ... last year sometime ... wandered into this club where I was playing, a place called the Student Prince, and he said, 'Hey, man, can I sit in?' He sat in and we got something going ... and that's the band.
"Now we've got tubas, accordions — the accordion used to be Danny's main axe. They've each at one time played some ridiculous little thing they can still vaguely play. All the guy's gotta do is be able to hit a note, put that note in the right place ... and it's all right! We're going to add bagpipes pretty soon ... and a bugle.
"I love to play and the band is the greatest. They're great guys and they push. They work as hard as I do. It's the kind of scene where we're all in the same boat. If it happens, it happens for everybody."
Bruce Springsteen's intensity and humor onstage is contagious. You can bet he won't be playing second billings for long. After leaving Max's he starts on the winding uphill route of roadside dives, college gyms, and noisy after-dinner clubs. Watch for him soon in your town. After a return to Asbury Park and a tour of the East Coast, the Springsteen Five will be like a basketball team playing fourteen games in twelve days, covering Denver, L.A., San Francisco, Seattle, and Portland. They will need more Wheaties to keep up.
"Lately you know what I do when I'm not playing — I sleep, period. I go home and go to sleep, get up, and play again. Run to Baltimore to play, run back. Believe it or not, at one time I used to be a real 'solitaire' freak, but I haven't been lately. This week I've got three days off, which is a really big vacation."
If Springsteen's crew of managers, press agents, publicists, grooms, and groupies can keep his head and his band together, can disregard the frantic hype that's bound to trail him, can manage to avoid falling prey to the nitpicker vultures who like to snipe at any moving target, they might bring him home again to the metropolitan area a winner. But it will be no easy road.
"All I want to do is write some good songs. It's my trade, you know? It's how I get my satisfaction. The main problem is not to lose sight of what is actually going on. All the ads and the hype ... anyone with any sense just ignores them. It's just one of the unpleasant things you have to do so you can make a record. I've never been a door-knocker. I don't try to push myself on anybody. I think it's the wrong way to do anything. I just don't believe in it. I mean, if people want what you've got, that's good. I'm at a point where this is all very new to me."
America is not the best place to make a run at becoming a superstar. James Taylor started in England, as did Jimi Hendrix. Janis Joplin and Jim Morrison did not survive it. Dylan did, in a way, but where is he now? And now Bruce Springsteen, who's been compared to Dylan, the Band, Van Morrison, Leon Russell, Rod Stewart, El Topo, and Allen Ginsberg, throws his chips in the game. And the wheel goes around.CHAPTER 2
WAS BOB DYLAN THE PREVIOUS BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN?
STEVE TURNER | October 6, 1973, New Musical Express (UK)
"I think I was the first British journalist to see him," said London-based Steve Turner, who talked with Springsteen in Philadelphia in June 1973 for an article that appeared about four months later.
While Springsteen had already spent years performing in clubs in New York City and New Jersey, this was still quite early in the game. Bruce was just twenty-three at the time of the interview, and his debut album, the Dylan-influenced Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J., had been out for only six months. Sales had been unimpressive and while many reviews overflowed with praise, others mixed plaudits with putdowns. In Rolling Stone, for example, Lester Bangs called Springsteen "a bold new talent" but also described the singer's vocals as "a disgruntled mushmouth sorta like Robbie Robertson on Quaaludes with Dylan barfing down the back of his neck" and implied that while the lyrics seemed clever, many of them "don't even pretend to" make sense.
Turner wasn't too impressed, either. Prior to his meeting with Springsteen, he told me, he was in New York, where he saw the recently released film Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid, which starred Dylan and featured his music. "I was disappointed that Dylan wasn't doing what I thought he should be doing," Turner said. "There hadn't been a really good album from him since 1967 and I thought we'd lost him. A friend of mine, Mike O'Mahoney, was handling international publicity for CBS and he tried to sell me on the idea of Bruce Springsteen, who was apparently the 'new Bob Dylan.'
"I didn't want a new one, I wanted the old one, and I have to admit that the songs on Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J., irritated me because they seemed to self-consciously emulate Dylan's technique of rubbing nouns together ('ragamuffin drummers,' etc.). You didn't get a new Dylan, I reasoned, by copying the old one.
Excerpted from Springsteen on Springsteen by Jeff Burger. Copyright © 2013 Jeff Burger. Excerpted by permission of Chicago Review Press Incorporated.
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Table of Contents
Foreword: Murphy on Springsteen Elliott Murphy xi
Preface Jeff Burger xv
Part I "From Small Things (Big Things One Day Come)": Springsteen struggles for success-and rent money.
Bruce Springsteen-Live! Bruce Pollock
March 1973 | Rock (US) 3
Was Bob Dylan the Previous Bruce Springsteen? Sieve Turner
October 6, 1973 | New Musical Express (UK) 8
Bruce Springsteen: Say Hello to Last Year's Genius Jeff Burger
March 14, 1974 | Zoo World (US)
Bruce Springsteen: It's Hard to Be a Saint in the City Jerry Gilbert 13
August 1974 | Zigzag (UK) 19
Lost in the Flood Paul Williams
October 13, 1974 | Long Branch, New Jersey 29
Part II "Light of Day": Born to Run, Darkness, and The River turn Springsteen into a household name.
Bruce Springsteen and the Wall of Faith Andrew Tyler
November 15, 1975 | New Musical Express (UK) 41
Radio Interview Dave Herman
July 9, 1978 | King Biscuit Flower Hour, D.I.R. Radio Network (US) 54
Radio Interview Ed Sciaky
August 19, 1978 | WIOQ-FM (Philadelphia) 69
Lawdamercy, Springsteen Saves! Robert Duncan
October 1978 | Creem (US) 81
Bruce Springsteen: The Return of the Native Mike Greenblatt
October 11, 1978 | The Aquarian (New Jersey) 97
Bruce Springsteen Takes It to the River Dave Dimartino
January 1981 | Creem (US) 107
Bruce Springsteen: A Responsible Rocker Richard Williams
May 31, 19811 Sunday Times (London) 122
Part III "Glory Days": Born in the U.S.A. produces megafame as Springsteen undergoes changes on the home front and splits with the E Street Band.
The Bruce Springsteen Interview Don McLeese
October 1984 | International Musician and Recording World (UK) 131
American Heartbeat Roger Scott Patrick Humphries
November 2, 1984 | Hot Press (Dublin, Ireland) 141
The "Boss" Has Spoken
January 5, 1986 | Sydney Morning Herald (Sydney, Australia) 155
Bob Dylan Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction Speech Bruce Springsteen
January 20, 1988 | New York 158
The Q Interview: Bruce Springsteen David Hepworth
August 1992 | Q Magazine (UK) 161
Live Again, Springsteen Still Has Mettle Gary Graff
August 9, 1992 | Detroit Free Press (Detroit, Michigan) 178
Radio Interview Ian Dempsey
May 14, 1993 | RTE 2FM (Ireland) 184
Part IV "Rockaway The Days": Springsteen issues The Ghost of Tom Joad and looks back with Greatest Hits and Tracks.
Human Touch Neil Strauss
September 1995 | Guitar World (US) 191
Don't Yell Broooce Gary Graff
January 12, 1996 | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania) 209
Bruce Springsteen Tells the Story of the Secret America David Corn
March/April 1996 | Mother Jones (US) 213
Hey Joad, Don't Make It Sad… (Oh, Go On Then) Gavin Martin
March 9, 1996 | New Musical Express (UK) 218
Bruce Springsteen: The Advocate Interview Judy Wieder
April 2, 1996 The Advocate (US) 234
Rock and Read Will Percy
Spring 1998 | Double Take (US) 246
TV Interview Charlie Rose
November 20, 1998 | The Charlie Rose Show, PBS Network (US) 262
Part V "Better Days": Springsteen enters the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and reunites the E Street Band as politics moves to the fore.
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction Acceptance Speech Bruce Springsteen
March 15, 1999 | New York 283
New Glory Days Gary Graff
April 1, 2001 | Oakland Press (Pontiac, Michigan) 288
Springsteen… The Boss Is Back Vernell Hackett
March/April 2003 | American Songwriter (US) 293
TV Interview Ted Koppel
August 4, 2004 | Nightline, ABC Network (US) 298
John Kerry Campaign Rally Speech Bruce Springsteen
October 28, 2004 | Madison, Wisconsin 304
U2 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction Speech Bruce Springsteen
March 17, 2005 | New York 306
A Fan's Eye View Nick Hornby
July 16, 2005 | Observer Music Monthly (UK) 312
The Feeling's Mutual Steve Kandell
December 2007 | Spin (US) 320
New Jersey Hall of Fame Induction Acceptance Speech Bruce Springsteen
May 4, 2008 | Newark, New Jersey 330
Barack Obama Campaign Rally Speech Bruce Springsteen
November 2, 2008 | Cleveland, Ohio 333
Part VI "Kingdom of Days": Springsteen and the E Street Band remain a powerful force, but they lose their star sax player.
Brucie Bonus Steve Turner
June 27, 2009 | Radio Times (London) 339
Interview Ed Norton
September 14, 2010 | Toronto International Film Festival (Toronto) 345
TV Interview Brian Williams
October 7, 2010 | NBC Network (US) 357
TV Interview Ian "Molly" Meldrum
November 20, 2010 | Sunday Night, Seven Network (Australia) 367
Eulogy for Clarence Clemons Bruce Springsteen
June 21, 2011 | Palm Beach, Florida 379
Keynote Speech Bruce Springsteen
March 15, 2012 | South by Southwest Music Festival (Austin, Texas) 384
About the Contributors 399
About the Editor 405
What People are Saying About This
“A remarkable journey across the arc of a singular career—sometimes harrowing, ultimately heroic, revealing a tremendous strength of character as the Boss stayed true to his ideals, even in the face of what he calls ‘catastrophic success.’ A great read about a genuine American hero. If you’re hungry to learn about the true soul of this remarkable man, look no further: it’s all here.” —Paul Zollo, author of Songwriters on Songwriting
“Bruce Springsteen has been interviewed around the world on radio and television and by newspapers, fanzines, and general-interest and music magazines. Many of his most engrossing conversations are housed in this book. Fans should welcome this valuable collection. I know I do.” —Harvey Kubernik, author of Canyon of Dreams: The Magic and Music of Laurel Canyon
“A great collection. The only other way to experience this much of Springsteen’s ‘voice’ is to see him in concert.” —Patrick Harbron, longtime Springsteen photographer