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Springsteen on Springsteen: Interviews, Speeches, and Encounters
     

Springsteen on Springsteen: Interviews, Speeches, and Encounters

by Jeff Burger
 

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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

Overview

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.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Journalist Burger sticks to the primary source in this engaging collection of interviews and speeches, and an interesting new kind of biography of singer-songwriter Bruce Springsteen emerges. Materials from every stage of the Boss's career, from his early successes of the '70s to his much more recent status as an elder statesman of pop music, allow the book to show the reader something that a more traditional biography could not typically accomplish: capturing Springsteen's hopes, worries, artistic processes, and state of mind at the precise moments of certain life changes— including the sudden, unimaginable success of Born to Run and the death of his friend and bandmate Clarence Clemons—in a way that cannot be colored by our 40 years of hindsight. Fortunately, Burger, having picked such an articulate subject, offers just the right amount of context to open each piece, and for the most part lets the multiple past versions of Springsteen do the talking. This book functions as a fun and light read, but is still a boon to any serious Springsteen scholar. It is especially recommended to any aspiring and casual fans too young to remember the impact the Boss had on the 1970s. (Apr.)
From the Publisher
“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

“…This collection—which compiles an extensive number of interviews and encounters with Springsteen dating back to 1973—is a great illustration of how, when the appropriate subject is chosen, no one on earth can say it better than [than Bruce] himself. … Impressively thorough … and highly recommended.”—Rolling Stone

"This book is a must for any Springsteen lover as it has so much – not only a wide range of interviews in all media , here and overseas, but a collection of beautiful speeches written and delivered by the Boss over the years. Journalist-author Jeff Burger’s love of the subject comes across in this vast profusion of unexpected material he’s discovered, allowing the reader to view Springsteen from many angles, and over the decades."—Paul Zollo for American Songwriter

"Don't get me wrong, Springsteen on Springsteen is definitely geared toward someone who already knows the finer points of the life and music of Bruce Springsteen. But it is definitely worth making room for on the Boss Bookshelf."—Bob Ruggiero for the Houston Press

"Not many books go this in-depth when it comes to collecting the words said off the stage by a major celebrity musician.  Burger does just that.  He has collected a treasure trove of Springsteen in the public eye, speaking his mind and, as usual with Bruce, he bares his soul, putting it all out there for all too see.  This is a good read."—Classic Rock Revisited

"But what overall makes Springsteen on Springsteen a fun read despite its potentially academic or historical air is the focus Burger spent on selecting pieces where Springsteen does the talking. This offers the reader an opportunity to see forty years of Springsteen through his voice, though this time the speaking one rather than the singing."—Guitar Digest

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781613744345
Publisher:
Chicago Review Press, Incorporated
Publication date:
04/01/2013
Series:
Musicians in Their Own Words Series
Pages:
432
Sales rank:
939,088
Product dimensions:
6.10(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.30(d)

Read an Excerpt

Springsteen on Springsteen

Interviews, Speeches, and Encounters


By Jeff Burger

Chicago Review Press Incorporated

Copyright © 2013 Jeff Burger
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-61374-437-6



CHAPTER 1

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.


(Continues...)

Excerpted from Springsteen on Springsteen by Jeff Burger. Copyright © 2013 Jeff Burger. Excerpted by permission of Chicago Review Press Incorporated.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

“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

Meet 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.

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