A lot of people like this man, not only because of his music, but also because of his positive human interaction and his way of talking to the ordinary blue-collar workers around the world. That deserves some respect from this blog, so I give you this early article with one of Americas most beloved artists.
Shuffling with Springsteen
Martin Kirkup reports from America
The first couple of songs that Bruce Springsteen ever performed in public were things like “I Sold My Heart To The Junkman” and “Twist & Shout”. And even now, nearly ten years later, when the mood and the crowd are right, and the band have played through the two hours of original songs that Bruce has recorded, then maybe they`ll blow into a few roots tunes like that.
And Bruce will lean his small body up against Clarence Clemmons tall black frame, and Clarence will blow his sax hard, and Bruce will thrash the guitar, and out it comes – “well shake it up baybee, ah twist and shout!” – and it`s got all the feeling that young Johnny Lennon could put in it back then, and it`s just as primal and real as it ever was, because young Bruce Springsteen`s just as real and compelling a presence as any rock `n` roller we`ve seen.
People from the New Jersey shore say that Bruce has been a legend there ever since he could pull a guitar round his narrow shoulders. But it was only three years ago, when he`d gone through maybe ten bands in four years, that he began to really attract attention through performing his own songs in the Village clubs of New York City.
Many of his audience were the people who`d regularly seen Bob Dylan in the same situation a few years earlier, and one of them tagged Bruce as “the new Dylan” which was a heavy enough mill-stone to nearly sink the first album when Columbia chose to promote it with the same tag. A year later and critics began comparing his second album to Van Morrison and Lou Reed. But underneath all the tired, lame, old comparisons those two albums also give the news, if we`ll hear it, that one of the strongest and most original talents in America is now Mr. B. Springsteen.
The guy has absorbed Dylan, Morrison, Reed, and all the other comparisons, and can throw out a lyric as if he`d chewed his way through whole dictionaries and encyclopaedias:
“I had skin like leather
and the diamond-
hard look of a cobra
I was born blue and
weathered but I
burst just like a
I could walk like
Brando right into the
sun and then dance
just like Casa-
– one of his best songs starts, before slipping into a manic sequence of rhymes and rhythms which still come across as pure colloquial street-talk.
And it`s real and believable because Springsteen knows, and is from, the streets. Both he and Lou Reed write about New York City, so there seems to be some rational comparison until you suss that Bruce is talking about what happens outside of Max`s Kansas City bar and the apartments where Reed`s characters shoot-up and cut-up each other.
Maybe he`s got that wider range simply because he`s not quite from old Noo Yawk itself. Bruce comes from nearby New Jersey, from Asbury Park, N.J. to be precise. And Asbury Park is the seaside place with candy-floss, a boardwalk, and amusement arcades, that the city people go to if they haven`t much money but want a good time. If you really want to know just what it`s like to live in a place like that then listen to “Sandy” on Springsteen`s “The Wild, The Innocent & The E-Street Shuffle” album.
“People used to tell me that to be a success I should say I was from New York City”, Bruce recalls easily now, “Oh yeah, and that I`d better change my name! Even my mother, when I told her I had a recording contract, said `What`ll you call yourself now?`. But you are who you are, it`s obvious isn`t it?, the one thing I learned is be real”, and his voice goes into italics, “be you, and be real. Just make what you are okay. Because New Jersey is a place, and it`s a funny place, and I`m not Lou Reed. He has some good stuff, and there are some of the same subjects, but we take them at different angles.”
And so Bruce`s songs come through from the point of view of a clever young guy growing up in a tough area. The guy who`s standing on the streetcorners watching the bike gangs roll through town, who at weekends rides down to 57th Street and sees the smalltime gangsters making their moves, and hanging out with funky Puerto Rican and Black dudes.
But somehow no matter how drunk or intimate he gets with them there`s still the part of him that`s on the edge just observing it all, and writing it into songs for his band to play. And so each song becomes a story, and on each album the stories link together into a whole world.
Both Springsteen albums are wonderful. They`re the things I used to play when friends asked what was new and good in rock music; and nobody ever disliked them. But they`re still only touching the surface of his talent, because his live performances are the most impressive and riveting experiences I`ve had during the past year in America. No blague, no bullshit, and yes I`m including seeing Mr. Dylan.
Bob Johnston, who produced Dylan`s best albums, wants to produce Springsteen, and he says he`d just get Bruce to perform and then let the tapes roll and catch it all. And maybe that`s the way to do it, because there`s a maniacal intensity about the way he performs now, a feeling that he`s telling these stories to you alone in some tiny bar.
I once saw him go into a ten minute monologue between songs, all about the trouble his band used to have with the mafiosos in Jersey, and then say to an audience of six hundred “now hey, that`s in confidence, I wouldn`t want that to go outside this room” and the spell was strong enough that nobody laughed.
Springsteen`s learned how to hold an audience by dropping every instrument, picking up a hat and dancing and acting out the story of “Spirits In The Night:
“Well now Wild Billy
was a crazy cat and
he shook some dust
outa his coonskin
He said `Trust some of
this it`ll show you
where you`re at, or
at least it`ll help you
really feel it`.”
The songs themselves have changed hugely from the recorded versions, whole verses have vanished or appeared in them, and a formerly fast tune like “For You” can now be performed as a heart-rendingly slow piano solo by Bruce, who brings out all the latent pain of lines like “they`re waiting for you at Bellevue with their oxygen masks”. Night by night he twists the lines in different direction and adds new meanings.
Everything the band plays is tightly arranged, and yet there`s still a stunning feeling of pure freedom and energy in the way they play, which was only hinted at on the albums. “The songs are now played the way they`re meant to be heard”, is all Bruce will say, though he`ll freely discuss the way his band is put together. “The band`s built to be flexible. That way if everybody leaves tomorrow or everybody stays it`ll work out. You can get mediocre guys and if you have the right arrangements and know what to do with them you`ll still have a good band.
“You see, I`m lucky, I know how to put together a good band, plus I have great musicians right now, especially a great piano player in Davey Sancious and a great saxplayer in Clarence Clemmons. Clarence and I are like that”, and he crosses his fingers tightly, “his music and my music are ideally suited, we breathe the same thing.”
For the last six months or so, Springsteen`s been occupied with the songs for his third album, and frustrated because he can`t get into the studios to record it until September. “It`s the record company, man!”, he bitches, “they want me to put out a new single before they let me do the album. And maybe they mean well, but I doubt it. I`m a pain in the ass to them now after doing two albums that didn`t sell millions for them, and they want to make someone else famous this month or next month.”
He begins to get very serious for the first time in a long conversation, “they should treat me with more respect, that`s all. I`m signed to them, and I work hard. I can put a good band together from nothing, and I`m not going to quit on them, I`m going to be making music for the rest of my life! there`s nothing else I want to do…”, and dropping his voice a little, “there`s nothing else I can do. And now they want a single instead of my album! Did they ask Michaelangelo to paint them a picture of his parents before he could do the Sistine Chapel?”
I begin to say that well yes, they did give Michaelangelo a hard time too, but Bruce runs on, “The next album`s going to be good too. It`s not actually a concept type thing, but it`s like you get a jigsaw-puzzle and you put it down on the floor and it slowly comes together. I`ve been getting batches of songs, many different melodies and lyrics, and putting them all together. Not on the first two albums so much, but this is the way the new one is manifesting itself. Songs around a feeling, a mood. It`s going to need more instruments than the other albums to get that feel, but it can be done.”
Then he leans back looking suddenly more tired, “but I guess I`ll have to give them their single first. There are a couple of things that might fit. I thought that `Rosalita` could be a good single though, and nothing happened there. So I`ll record a few things for a single, and I`ll keep on touring, and I`ll do the album in September or October, and then I want to get to England to play. I`m told that I sold a couple of thousand there. Not bad. I just want to play to people who are involved in what`s going on, because it feels good then.”
But whatever the frustration, tiredness, or depression that hits him when he thinks about the implications of his business, when he`s up on stage on a good night he`s just setting himself and his audience free. “Mama always told me not to look into the sights of the sun”, he shouts as the band get hot, “Ooh! but Mama that`s where the fun is”.
And for the time that he`s singing you`re quite prepared to believe that Bruce Springsteen really did find the key to the universe in the engine of an old parked car.
I have personally transcribed this from the original paper. Any errors in the text from the original magazine may not have been corrected for the sake of accuracy. If you have a music-related web-page where this fits – please make a link to the article. With credits to the original writer of the article from all of us music fans!
This number of Sounds also contains articles/interviews with these people: Rod Stewart, Jim Capaldi, Ray Davies, Lowell George, Grand Funk, Sweet, H. B. Barnum, Mike Flood Page, Denny Laine, Roy Orbison, Rufus Thomas, Badfinger, Strider, The Neutrons.
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