Artist: Bruce Springsteen
Bruce Frederick Joseph Springsteen (born September 23, 1949 in Freehold, New Jersey, United States) is an American songwriter, singer, and guitarist. With a recording career stretching back to 1966 that continues to this day, he's recorded multiple award-winning studio albums and toured constantly, inspiring generations of pop and rock musicians. He's often known as "The Boss".
He has frequently played as Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band. Most widely known for his brand of heartland rock infused with pop hooks, poetic lyrics, and Americana sentiments, he often sings songs centered around his native New Jersey. Initially inspired by the tuneful songwriting of British invasion music as well as the vocal swagger of Elvis Presley, his eloquence in expressing ordinary, everyday problems has earned him numerous awards, including twenty Grammy Awards and an Academy Award, along with a notoriously dedicated and devoted global fan base. He has sold over 70 million releases in the U.S. alone.
Springsteen's lyrics often concern men and women struggling to make ends meet. In this sense he was sometimes compared to Woody Guthrie and other popular folk artists. He has gradually become more and more identified with progressive politics, particularly working-class pride. Springsteen is also noted for his support of various relief and rebuilding efforts in New Jersey and elsewhere, and for his response to the September 11, 2001 attacks, on which his album The Rising reflects.
Springsteen's recordings have tended to alternate between commercially accessible rock and roll albums, often inspired by contemporary pop rock, and somber folk-oriented works. Much of his iconic status stems from the concerts and marathon shows in which he and the E Street Band present intense ballads, rousing anthems, and party rock and roll songs, among which Springsteen intersperses long, whimsical tales or deeply emotional stories alongside numerous jokes and asides.
Springsteen has long had the nickname "The Boss," a term which he was initially reported to dislike but now seems to have come to terms with, as he sometimes jokingly refers to himself as such on stage. The nickname originated when a young Springsteen, playing club gigs with a band in the 1960s, took on the task of collecting the band's nightly pay an
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Bruce Springsteen, High Hopes - Album Review - Contact Music (Reviews)
Bruce Springsteen - High Hopes - Exclaim! (Reviews)
This is not a Bruce Springsteen album proper, and so it can't really be judged against any of his previous efforts, except for possibly the equally mixed bag that was 2009's Working on a Dream. That record, too, was a self-acknowledged hodgepodge of reheated leftovers, outtakes, and miscellaneous debris (primarily from the previous, masterpiece-esque Magic), which was a curious dispatch from the normally stringent quality control-conscious Springsteen camp. In his first two decades as a professional rock star, Springsteen was known for being finicky and deliberating over the...Read More
Bruce Springsteen: Talking To The Boss Vox, Sep 1992
For a man of the people, Bruce Springsteen is difficult to engage in conversation...
"I try to tell the story I've been in the process of telling for a long time"
FOLKLORE TELLS us there was a time, about 25 years ago, when meeting the stars was a simple matter. You just had to hang out at The Mar-quee, and before long you'd find yourself propping up a bar with Jimi Hendrix, or sharing a spliff with a Beatle. If you were really lucky and you bought them enough drinks (stars never have any money), they'd invite you to pop down to the studios to hear a rough mix of a work in progress Sergeant Pepper or somesuch and you might even end up shaking a maracca or sing-ing "ooooh" on the chorus.
Today, you'd have more chance of shooting pool with the Pope. It's para-doxical that Bruce Springsteen, the supposed 'Blue Col-lar Hero', should have become one of the least accessible. While it's no joke living up to the de-mands and expecta-tions of stardom at the highest level, the extent to which the Springsteen organisation has cush-ioned the Boss in his own mythology is remarkable.
Springsteen's recent European tour incorporated one media-wise innova-tion: the mini-press conference at soundchecks. In London it took two goes to get it right. Thanks to a bit of action directe by the French lorry driv-ers, the Boss's entourage and equipment had been delayed on their trek from Barcelona, and a frustrated posse of hacks wasted a scorching Monday after-noon outside Wembley Arena, waiting in vain to probe the soul of New Jersey's finest. A message eventually revealed that an apologetic Boss would do the meet-and-greet business on Thursday.
Come Thursday, everything ran like rusty clockwork. A Thora Hird-clone from Columbia International fluttered about making everything as difficult as possible. After hanging around for an hour we met Barbara Carr, from the star's management. Then we watched Springsteen rehearse bits of 'Prove It All Night' and 'Soul Driver'. Then (eek) Bruce addressed us. "You have survived the raw excitement that is a sound check," he declared, giving one of his distinctive Muttley wheezes. At six o'clock, the great man finally put down his Fender, clambered with some diffi-culty over the barrier in front of the stage, and invited us to gather around.
Face to face at last, Bruce put on a winning display of charm and hesitant articulacy, bearing out the view of him as a down-to-earth bloke with rare writ-ing and performing gifts. How (we won-dered) had the public at large reacted to the lack of the E Street Band?
"There was a big banner in Spain that said 'Where Is The E Street Band?'," muttleyed Bruce, "so you have to sa-lute the kids, and say, hey, that's a good question! But I believe that the press has been very good so far in other countries, and peo-ple have been very flexible with the whole thing."
What was it like touring again? "I was shocked at how much energy it took," the Boss confessed. "I hadn't done it for so long that I think you do forget. I re-member it always made me tired. It's the only place where you're using all your mental and physical energy."
Springsteen has his own little boy now, Evan James, and inklings of born-again-ness in songs like 'Roll Of The Dice' stem from the warm glow of par-enthood. "That's what the show is about," beams Broooce. "My relationship with Patti and the children brought an enormous amount of faith and hope. There's little babies! You can't afford de-spair, you gotta find faith someplace."
Very true. But as he chatted away about his new band, show and family, was that the ghost of manager John Landau looming over his left shoulder? Ever since the publication of Born To Run (the book by Landau's old buddy from Rolling Stone, Dave Marsh), there's been a sense that Springsteen's career has at least partly run to script. It's there in all that stuff about Bruce creating characters who develop and mature, from the romantic escapees of Born To Run to the embittered veteran of Born In The USA. Now, with Bruce a happy fam-ily man, the story has moved onto love, faith and parenthood. One of the shrewdest insights of Springsteen's man-agement set-up has been to recognise that the idea of a rock star involved in his own developing human drama, not only entrances audiences, it also exerts an irresistible pull on journalists. The theme has become a guiding principle.
"I try to do a lot of things during the course of the night," said Bruce. "I try to tell the story I've been in the process of telling for a long time, and then I also try to give people their money's worth and let 'em hear the songs they wanna hear. I'm trying to find an audience that is interested in that story. It's just a human story."
It's only when Bruce starts using words like "recontextualise" (eg, "the old music, you have to re-contextualise it to make it feel alive") that you get the sense of ex-journalist Landau giving him a firm nudge in the right direction and surreptitiously slipping him a few extra syllables. This isn't to say that Springsteen isn't his own man, nor that he's been diverted into avenues which might otherwise have remained foreign to him. It's more that the powers-that-be have exerted an editing and shaping influence, encouraging brevity in Bruce's writing, and sculpting his music to move it into the mainstream.
Screening the media and feeding it with judiciously-measured morsels of Bruce is part of Landau's job. So is maintaining the illusion that Springsteen is just a regular Jersey guy, a humble working megastar who can, nonetheless, magically spin out a carefully considered career overview if a passing journalist happens God knows how to buttonhole him. Any similarities between rock stars and political candidates are not at all coincidental.
Bruce Springsteen Sounds, Mar 1974
BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN was confined to the boardwalk life on New Jersey. He lived over a drug store "in all the craziness of downtown", prayed for summer, sought sanctuary on the beach at Asbury.
Greetings From Asbury Park, N.J. his picture postcard intro to city life is like a holiday ad for Blackpool. On the way it put Springsteen on the road to stardom along with his mates from N.J. He came on like Bob Dylan, all the hip imagery and he a frail city urchin with a scrubby beard and tousled hair and clothes that he might have been living in for the past six months. Springsteen doesn't talk, he mumbles, he don't walk, he shuffles.
He spent a few years quenching his insatiable thirst for the city by commuting between Asbury Park and downtown New York mostly at the Café Wha in the Village; spent his CBS advance by putting a band together.
New Jersey, cowering under the burgeoning weight of New York, could never be credited with any character and Springsteen was hardly likely to become a significant so long as he stuck to the Jersey bars. The Greetings album put 'em both on the map.
"Jersey's a dumpy joint," Springsteen opined. "I mean it's OK, it's home, but every place is a dump. I guess it just took a long time for someone to think of something to write about it but Asbury Park had a lot to do with the tone of the first album."
He was hailed as a rising genius inevitably the new Dylan, but as the pressure has been removed so he has tended to get better.
But right now it's 4.30 in the morning and Springsteen has just completed his second show at Georgetown University. Washington, scenario for The Exorcist. He's been ill coughing up blood, causing the cancellation of the two preceding gigs. He's still coughing profusely and draws on a bottle of prescribed cough medicine which the doctor provided along with the statutory shot. What was the matter, Bruce? A futile question when you're on the road ninety per cent of the time. "The doctor knows I only go and see him when there's something wrong," he says, and calculates that he's played over two hundred gigs this past year. He puts on his old black jacket, check shirt tails showing out underneath. At 4.30 in the morning he shuffles over to the piano in the dressing room to play a new song on request, and at five he decides we should go and eat. The cops direct us to a subway café which says "Open for breakfast" but the doors are closed and we drive back along "M" street to Georgetown and the last remaining hamburger joint. Springsteen bemoans the lack of good food with a tacit gesture on behalf of his sick body and prays for summer and watersports.
Six o'clock. Springsteen decides the hamburger will be sufficient to induce a good day's sleep before catching the train down to New Orleans. At his hotel Mike O'Mahony of CBS informs Bruce that I've traveled 18,000 miles to see the band twice in Los Angeles last year and in Washington tonight. "Sure 'preciate it," he says proffering his hand, and disappears to bed.
Twelve hours earlier we had arrived at the Jesuit college, found the hall and walked right in on the soundcheck... "Spirits in the night, all night, in the night, all night..." CUT. Back to that bluesy, Discordant into, start again, great song that.
Like most of Bruce's songs, it's improved with age. I mean there's cuts on the new album which you'd only just about recognize if you heard 'em onstage now 'New York City Serenade', for instance, whilst 'Kitty's Back', an outstanding cut, is stretched across a marathon piano intro from David Sancious which is horribly over-embellished but a guaranteed winner with audiences.
"I've never heard him play a song the same way twice," exclaims a Springsteen fan who has been following him on the road. And as we survey the assembly of instruments and the incongruous bunch of bar musicians who are about to play them you wonder how the hell Springsteen can induce a discipline that would invite comparisons with Van Morrison.
Anyhow he's onstage and he's given a pop star's welcome the crowd are screaming for him but they cut off instantly in order to decipher the mumble of his opening rap which is a pretty funny monologue punctuated by the occasional laugh and the odd decipherable word. He picks up acoustic guitar. Danny Federici has accordion and Garry Tallent hauls the tuba up into playing position by which time the audience have already predicted 'Wild Billy's Circus Story'.
Gradually he works his way through the new songs 'Incident On 57th Street' which he refers to as 'Spanish Johnny', 'New York City Serenade', Then 'Spirit In The Night' which he now intros himself on harmonica in unison with Clarence Clemons' sax.
As the show builds Springsteen eventually picks up his Strat and the band rock straight into the 'E Street Shuffle', the highlight of his new album, slow the pace for his beautiful love song '4th Of July. Asbury Park (Sandy)' which I've never heard referred to as anything other than 'Sandy'. It's Springsteen at his most evocative, more relaxed and for once Springsteen resists the temptations of incorporating as much as three different musical themes intertwined in one composition. It's a carnival type song with Federici on accordion and Bruce going crazy on boardwalk assimilations.
But he's still in the mood for rocking and attacks 'Blinded By The Light', the song that started it all happening for him, with such gusto, that he was into the third verse before I'd recognised the song.
He called for a handkerchief from the audience and went into a new comedy routine, the bar entertainer's legacy, and in this instance his cold was definitely giving way to what has become a regular feature of his act.
Then he came on with that masterful guitar intro to 'Kitty's Back' which smacks of authority like it was the theme tune to some movie epic. Anyway this is where the band really starts cooking, organ and sax in a swirling mass of sound, Springsteen's guitar rising in sympathetic harmony and new drummer Ernest Boon Carter attacking a great solo only four gigs after the departure of Bruce's long time sideman Vini Lopez.
The crowd went wild and demanded an encore. Bruce obliged with 'Rosalita', one of his own favourites from the new album, and the only song remaining for him to play. Sancious and Federici swopped keyboard instruments as the ninety minute show reached its conclusion.
It was after the second show, well over two hours long and featuring old standards like 'Let The Four Winds Blow' and 'Walking The Dog', that I settled down to talk to Bruce in the desolate dressing room. The band had split as had Bruce's manager/producer Mike Appel, and Bruce himself was bemoaning the fact that in spite of his marathon stage stint it had been impossible to play everything that people wanted to hear. "We're doing largely recorded material at the moment because the drummer's only been with us for four dates." As to the departure of Vini Lopez, Bruce was deliberately vague. "He'd been with me four years," he said "There were various pressures it was a difficult decision to make."
He broke into another fit of coughing and cursed his ill luck at having to cancel those two gigs. "We never do that unless we really have to," he qualified and besides they were New Jersey gigs where he's most popular. "I mean you play all the time half sick but it got to the point where I couldn't play piano, I was spitting blood. I don't get sick a whole lot but this year we have been. I mean we've done so many gigs this past year that it just starts to collect...the fatigue...that's why it's good to be working on new songs and whenever I have the discipline to make myself write, I write. I used to write everyday, on the buses, on the streets...but I tend to be more critical now, that's why I haven't written much recently."
He's pleased with the outcome of his new album The Wild, The Innocent And The 'E' Street Shuffle but like CBS he's wondering why the album sales haven't lived up to the critics' expectations since he's received rave notices everywhere. "The new album was a little more what I wanted to do there was more of the band in there and the songs were written more in the way that I wanted to write. But I tend to change the arrangements all the time in order to present the material best, although it's often to suit the style of the band. I just try to update things a little bit to keep everybody interested, for instance 'Sandy'. I like the way it is on the record but it was entirely different up until the night I recorded it and then I changed it."
Bruce claims that generally his favourite songs were those that were written over a short period of time. "'For You' was written really fast and 'The Angel' was written in ten of fifteen minutes and that's one of my favourites because it's one of the most sophisticated things I've written. 'Hey Bus Driver (Does This Bus Stop At 82nd Street)' was done real quick and 'Blinded By The Light' I wrote partly in the morning and partly in the afternoon, in fact the only thing that took time on the first album was 'Spirit In The Night'."
He recognizes that his writing environment is different now he misses that boardwalk existence and maybe the road is no place for a man of Springsteen's caliber to be writing. But just how much of the confusion he writes about is a true reflection of Asbury life? "I see these situations happening when I sing them," he admits, "and I know the characters well. I use them in different songs and see them in shadows they're probably based on people I know or else they're just there. There's a lot of activity in my songs, a whole mess of people. It's like if you're walking down the street, that's what you see, but a lot of the songs were written without any music at all it's just that I do like to sing the words!"
He proceeded to play a piece he is in the throes of completing and then outlined his future plans. "I want to get girls into the band for the next album because I've got some good ideas which add up to more than just background vocals. But right now I don't have the money to do it."
Springsteen's songs are an often alarming reflection of city streetlife. "They're written to be bigger than life," he says, but at the same time he admits that he really doesn't have any more insight than anyone else.
"I really didn't spend a lot of time in the city Jersey was so intense, you couldn't even walk down the street so I went to New York and used to hand out mostly in the village but also uptown a little bit. I was mostly by myself with no particular place to go but sometimes I'd hang out with this other guy."
Yet essentially he was a band musician and only a few months earlier he had been hanging out in bars playing blues and rock and roll. "Then I wrote my first batch of songs and if nothing had come of it I'd probably have been back in the bars by now."
He quickly overcame his early ego problems realising the self-destructive influence he was having on himself. "The mistake is when you start thinking that you are your songs," he says. "To me a song is a vision, a flash, and what I see is characters and situations. I mean I've stood around carnivals at midnight when they're clearing up ('Wild Billy's Circus Story') and I was scared, I met some dangerous people. As for Spanish Johnny's situation well I'd never get into that situation but I know people who have lived that life."
Right now Bruce is working with a pretty regular band "a real spacey bunch of guys" with a desire to come to Europe, but not much hope. "It just goes on forever here, on and on."
Quite how long he can continue at this rate up on stage every night playing to ever-increasing crowds obsessed by the idea "that the singer is the song" is anyone's guess.
But if I traveled 18,000 miles to see the Springsteen band twice, then he probably gets through that inside a month mostly by train!
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