JAM Magazine Main Features

Bruce Springsteen

The Boss: Part Two

A Blue Collar Hero

The very name evokes some sort of a mystical spell on people that is hard to explain. Mention Springs-teen's name and people automatically raise their eyebrows and smile. They know The Boss' even if he doesn't know them. He is, in every sense of the word, the essence of rock and roll, and they will tell you so. To offer an explanation of why is hard to do. Springsteen just is.

Bruce was born on Sept. 23, 1949 to Douglas and Adele Springsteen. His early childhood years were not fond ones, and it's those painful memories that would shape the destiny and the life of this performer.

"When I was growing up," recalled Bruce, "the only thing that never let me down was rock and roll. Like rock and roll came to my house when there seemed to be no way out. It just seemed like a dead end street.

“I was like nowhere, on the outs. I had no choice. That's where I was, that's where I got put, that was my place in life all the years I was growing up. I did a lot of running away and a lot of being brought back. It was always very terrible."

Childhood, especially Catholic school, had a tremendous impact on Springsteen and the shaping of his world.

"I lived half of my first thirteen years in a trance or something," said Bruce. "People thought I was weird because I always went around with this look on my face. I was thinking of things, but I was always on the outside looking in.”

"I didn't even make it to class clown in school. I had nowhere near that amount of notoriety. I didn't have like the flair to be the complete jerk. It was like I didn't exist. It was the wall then me."

Springsteen purchased his first guitar for $18. It was his guitar which Springsteen says allowed him to escape from a world he felt at times he didn't belong to.

"A lot of rock and roll people," explained Bruce, "that's where they came from, this solitary existence. If you’re gonna be good at something, you gotta be alone a lot to practice. That's exactly what I did.”

"Music saved me. From the beginning, my guitar was something I could go to. If I hadn't found music, I don't know what I would have done. When I was growing up, the only thing that never let me down was rock and roll. Like rock and roll came to my house where there seemed to be no way out. It just seemed like a dead end street. It reached down into all those homes where there was no music or books or any kind of creative sense, and it infiltrated the whole thing. That's what happened in my house."

One of the most intriguing elements about Springsteen is the mystique that surrounds him. He is worshipped by his audiences, yet everyone can relate to him in their own way. Springsteen is someone to be in awe of, but he is just like you or me, and that's what's hard to believe.

"When I was a kid," said Bruce, "what mattered to me more than the performance was the power of the music. People emphasize the personal too much. Being a rock star, that's the booby prize. Me, I set out to be a rock and roller.”

"Rock stars are just people who wanna crawl back in the womb, people who have built their own reality and are afraid of reality. They let all the other things become more important than playing. Playing is the important thing. Once you forget that, you've had it.”

"Rock and roll is never giving up. For me, for a lot of kids, it was a totally positive force not optimistic all the time, but positive. It was never, never, about surrender."

The rapport, the sense of belonging that in itself can explain partially the incredible magnetism Springs-teen has with a crowd. Springsteen is real, you can almost feel it. When he sings his songs with that incredible intensity, people feel what Springsteen feels, they go through the motions Springsteen goes through, and their energy flows as Springsteen's flows.

"Whenever a song's got that life, that ability to move you, that's important," noted Bruce. "These songs are different, and it's obvious by the reaction they get. It's great today, it’s great now, and if somebody plays it and people hear it, they'll still love it.”

"Camaraderie and friendship play an important part in being a musician. When there's a guy you've known a lot .of years there and he knows what you you've been through and you know what he's been through, and you've both been through a lot of those same things together, you've sat in them bars wondering where it was gonna go down and then he's there and it's coming down then, you know, there's nothing that can replace that kind of stuff.”

"It's never easy performing. It may look easy, but it ain't. It can be a lot of fun, which it is most of the time, because if it wasn't I would probably do something else. Sometimes it ain't fun, but it's still good. It is never easy though and I don't think it should be."

The most difficult time in Springsteen's life was the legal battles he got into with his former manager, Mike Appel. Appel, who brought Springsteen to the attention of the CBS brass, was the driving force behind Springsteen in his early career. When the two parted their ways in 1975 after the Born to Run album, Springsteen would not produce another album for three years.

The controversy centered around the business side of Springsteen's career in which he didn't give much thought to. When Bruce first signed with Appel, he didn't see the future implications of his original contract with him that granted all of the publishing rights to Appel.

"I didn't know what publishing was," said Springs-teen. "You're gonna think it's what happens to books. It's one of those words. I knew no one who had ever made a record before. I knew absolutely no one who had ever had any contact whatsoever with the music business.”

"The only really frustrating thing which did cause me grief was the fact that my songs weren't my own. I didn't own my songs. That hurt. You know, when you go into one of these things (court) that you're gonna fight someone for a year, every day is toe to toe, face to face combat. You're gonna wanna kill him and he's gonna wanna kill you. That's what it's all about—depositions. It takes its toll, but on the other hand, it's still a guy that you kinda like and you know he kinda likes you.”

"He worked hard for a long time. We all worked hard. He sacrificed and okay, he deserved something for it. But what I wanted was the thing itself—my songs. It got so where if I wrote a book, I couldn't even quote "Bom To Run." That whole period of my life just seemed to be out of my hands. That's why I started playing music in the first place, to control my life. No way was I gonna let that get away."

One thing that Columbia had to get used to with Springsteen is that he takes his own sweet time to record and produce an album. They got a taste of Springsteen's persistence when he recorded Born to Run, and they learned their lesson on Darkness on the Edge of Town. As for The River, rumors persisted on when the album would eventually surface, and the guessing game confused CBS as well as the listening public.

"I can't be pressured," emphasized Springsteen. "When it's ready, it'll be there. I decided a long time ago that I know who I am and where I came from. I know what it is to get caught up in that pressure. You start thinking that you're something else and you become a product of the entertainment business. I try to keep my perspective on the thing. It's even for the good of the record company that I do that, because I'll give them my best, and it'll work out for the best in the end.”

"You owe your best, and I can't understand why people would rush to get out an album by a particular date and then regret it afterward. You see what matters is the kids. They want to have the stuff, but if it's not the best you can do, it's not worth doing. Not for me at least."

He's most definitely, 'The Boss’.