Thursday 8 December 2016

Totally Bruce: 20 Springsteen nuggets

Published 26/05/2016 | 02:30

Symbol of American steadfastness: Bruce Springsteen
Symbol of American steadfastness: Bruce Springsteen
Bruce Springsteen holds his Golden Globe award for best song "The Wrestler" with his wife Patti Scialfa at the 66th annual Golden Globe awards in 2009.
Springsteen said his saxophonist Clarence Clemons was indispensable.
Bruce Springsteen and Julianne Phillips.
Bruce Springsteen, left, and Bono perform together during the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony in 2005.
A poster for Robert Mitchum's Thunder Road

Bruce Springsteen is more than a rock star. He is a symbol of American steadfastness and blue-collar grit, a songwriter who for 40-plus years has articulated the hopes and fears of ordinary people with passion and firebrand integrity. But he is also a man of hidden depths, far more complex that his hard-toiling image might suggest. As excitement grows ahead of his Croke Park double-header this weekend, here are 20 Springsteen nuggets that may surprise even his biggest fans.

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1 Springsteen's nickname of 'The Boss' was bestowed early in his career when bandmates decided he should be the one to approach club owners after a gig, demanding payment. The title stuck, though Springsteen is said to hate it.

2 The E Street Band took its name from a real-life E Street running through the town of Belmar, New Jersey. Original drummer David Sancious lived on E Street and his mother allowed the musicians to rehearse in their basement. His association with the outfit didn't run much deeper as he had departed the ranks by 1974.

3 The young Springsteen was obsessed with the Beatles. The first song he learned to play was 'Twist and Shout'. He would later become firm friends with Paul McCartney. The pair were bashing out 'I Saw Her Standing There' at the end of a 2012 Springsteen gig in Hyde Park, London when the plug was pulled because the show had gone over curfew. Performing at Dublin's RDS several nights later, Springsteen opened with the final verses of 'I Saw Her Standing There'. His first words to the audience were: "Before we were rudely interrupted…"

4 He is also a huge Elvis fan and, after a concert in Memphis in 1976, attempted to break into Graceland and meet Presley. At 3am, 26-year-old Springsteen scaled the walls of the estate and had reached the front door by the time security intervened. It was all in vain as Elvis was singing hundreds of miles away in California. Springsteen subsequently sent a demo of his song 'Fire' to Presley, hoping his idol would record it. Alas, Elvis died before he could listen to the track.

5 In 1989, Springsteen broke up the E Street band, apparently for good. Just so there were no hard feelings, he paid each member $2m as redundancy. They were allowed keep the cash when he reconvened the line-up a decade later.

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6 In the mid-Eighties, Springsteen separated from his actress wife Julianne Phillips (above) and later began a relationship with backing singer Patti Scialfa (below), whom he married in 1991. As a memento of that halcyon epoch, both appeared in the video to 1984's 'Glory Days'.

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7 It was Bono (below) who inducted Springsteen into the Rock 'n Roll Hall of Fame in 1999. "Credibility - you couldn't have more, unless you were dead," said the U2 singer by way of introduction.

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8 Though part of the American rock landscape, Springsteen has never had a number one single in the US. However, in 1976 Manfred Mann did reach the top with a cover of his song 'Blinded by the Light'.

9 The future rock god was a bit of an outsider as a student at Ocean County College on the Jersey Shore. Class-mates were said to have petitioned for his expulsion on the grounds of his "unacceptable weirdness". Once, as punishment for his chattiness in class, a nun insisted that he sit in a rubbish bin under her desk. It was, she said, "where he belonged".

10 In the mid-Seventies, Springsteen's British record label noisily hailed him "the future of rock". Springsteen was aghast and, upon arriving in Britain for a tour, went around London, removing the promotional posters. He would not play again in Europe for another six years.

11 Springsteen did a very Springsteen-esque thing with his royalty cheque from 'Born To Run' - he bought a 1950 Corvette. Today, it has pride of place in the Rock 'n Roll Hall of Fame.

12 With his 1973 debut album, 'Greetings From Asbury Park', NJ, Springsteen was on the road to icon-hood. Yet the cash wasn't rolling in quite yet and to help make rent he agreed to a last-minute offer to play in Chuck Berry's backing band. To this day, Springsteen says he was never paid for his time.

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13 Springsteen is famed for his larger-than-life shows. But he stripped things down for touring 1995's largely acoustic album 'The Ghost of Tom Joad'. He asked audiences respectfully to keep schtum throughout and would typically add: "Don't make me come down there and smack you around - it'll mess with my man-of-the-people image."

14 Springsteen has a comet AND a planet named after him. Beat that, Bono.

15 'Thunder Road', Springsteen's first great anthem, was originally called 'Wings For Wheels'. He decided on a name change after spying a poster for the Robert Mitchum movie 'Thunder Road' (above) at the cinema. At that point, he had never actually seen the film.

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16 Springsteen has had a strict 'no drugs' policy from the start of his career. When he caught two band members taking cocaine in the late Seventies, he warned them that any repeat would result in their immediate dismissal. The only indispensable player in the E Street Band, he declared, was saxophonist Clarence Clemons (above).

17 The bouncy Natalie Cole smash 'Pink Cadillac' was actually written by Springsteen for the 'Born In The USA' album but rejected on the understandable basis that it was about a Cadillac that was pink. Cole retrieved it from the bin and had a top-five hit in America.

18 Springsteen has his eccentricities, like any superstar. Through the Eighties, he is said to have found fame difficult to deal with and acted out in unusual ways, such as threatening to dock roadies' pay if his soup wasn't delivered on time. Rest assured it was just a phase and his assistants are nowadays permitted to deliver soup at a moment of their choosing.

19 Fans of the Boss can be obsessive. In 2014, two uber-devotees stumped up $300,000 a piece to eat a home-cooked meal of lasagne with Springsteen at his New Jersey mansion. The cash went to a charity for injured US soldiers.

20 Springsteen is Dutch-Irish on his father's side and proud of his Celtic heritage. He has stated that he appeared "Irish" as a child before growing into the Italian looks inherited from his mother. However, with age he has started to feel more Irish again. When he gazes in a mirror he sees an "Irish" person staring back. Lucky you, Bruce. Lucky you.

Irish Independent

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