Growin’ Up… with Bruce Springsteen

Growing up, I remember the wall of records in the living room of my house. There was this glass shelving that stretched the whole length of the wall bursting with my mom’s records – all her favorites from childhood that she had seen as a young teen at Alan Freed’s “Rock and Roll” shows in the city; Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Buddy Holly, Jerry Lee Lewis, Bo Diddley, The Everly Brothers. She also had a love of Broadway, country music and folk so I would hear Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Dolly Parton, Merle Haggard, David Allan Coe, The Oak Ridge Boys and every show tune you can imagine. Of course there was her collection of Elvis 45′s – he was her absolute favorite. And I can’t forget Tom Jones…

She also kept up with new records of the day so when she walked through the front door in June 1984 with a new record, it was nothing special. My big sister, Lauren, asked her, “Does daddy know you have that?!”, because of the picture of a man’s butt on the cover. When that album hit the turntable, this 7-year old tomboy stood transfixed over it, like I had never heard sound before. What I had never heard, though, was a voice like that. He sounded like your buddy next door’s cool older brother who would throw the ball around with you and sneak you rides on his motorcycle. Nothing fake, nothing fancy, nothing contrived. Just truth and passion. When the last song, My Hometown played, I was hooked for good. You see, my dad would sit me on his lap and let me steer the car, too (not a big old Buick but rather a big old Chevy station wagon… bright orange no less) I guess at the most basic level, it was connection. It was something special. I played that record so much that my parents bought me my own cassette tape of it so they wouldn’t have to hear it blaring through the house constantly.

Not long after that, my brother, sister and I were sent to rural Minnesota for the summer to stay with relatives. It was an unpleasant time for Josh, Lauren and me. I remember sitting on the floor between the bed and the wall, shutting my eyes, listening to Born In The USA on my Fisher-Price tape player and getting to be somewhere else….

Now we went walking in the rain, talkin’ about the pain that from the world we hid
Now there ain’t nobody nowhere no how gonna ever understand me the way you did

Yeah, Bruce.

I truly believe that when you are a kid there are pivotal moments in your life, whether you are conscious of it or not, when you are deciding what kind of person you are going to be. If you are feeling hurt, anger, pain that you internalize, you can decide to spew the same thing back out at the world. Or you can decide that it doesn’t feel so good and that you will do your best to never treat anyone else like that. Bruce taught me that there is a right way and a wrong way to treat people and no matter what, I should try to be a good person that begins with how I treat others. It might end there, too. You are going to fail, fall short, fuck up – as everyone does, everyday – and you are always going to encounter meanness or apathy but the best you can do is be who you are regardless. Let those stars burning bright guiding you on your journey be the sanctity of treating others right and let that light shine through all that you do…like some mystery
uncovered, indeed.

Bruce has taught me the importance and beauty of having ideals – ideals for your own behavior, for your community, for your country and for your world. Bruce’s ideals are front and center in his music as are his faults. He is honest and real about his failures which make his ideals the same. He shows us that just because we cannot live up to our ideals does not mean that we should not hold them high. In fact, falling short of our ideals is the exact reason to have them; so we pick ourselves up, learn from mistakes and have something inspiring to work toward. And although we never fully get there – it’s always just cutting a half in half – there is excitement in there always being something new to learn, to grow from and into a better person, a better community, a better country and a better world.

Seeing him play live, more than a time or two, has also taught me an important life lesson: Be in THIS moment! Like two lines from Darkness, an album I went steady with as a teenager:

Everybody’s got a secret sonny/Everybody’s got something that they just can’t face/Some folks spend their lives trying to keep it/They carry it with ‘em every step that they take/Till some day they just cut it loose/Cut it loose or let it drag ‘em down/Where no one asks any questions or looks too long in your face/In the darkness on the edge of town

and…

You talk about a dream/Try to make it real/You wake up in the night with a fear so real/You spend your life waiting for a moment that just don’t come/Well don’t waste your time waiting

Don’t let pain from your past or promise of a future prevent you from living this moment right now. And I have never felt more alive or in the moment than at Bruce’s show (maybe just while making love). Learning to bring that feeling of living in and embracing this moment into my everyday was a revelation.

What has his music, his integrity, his insight, his courage of conviction and disdain of indifference brought to me? As if helping to raise me weren’t enough, it’s as if Bruce has paid me for my love of his music in intangible riches; a treasure in connection, a bounty of pure joy, a wealth of experiences and a king’s ransom in friendships. If it is true that you reap what you sow, what Bruce has sown in his respect for this community has been reaped in the kindness, compassion, generosity, dedication, empathy, passion and humor of the people I have gotten to know and share life – not just concerts – with, and am lucky enough to call my friends.

I could have recounted amazing concerts or a few cool times having met him but what stands out to me the most are these gifts from Bruce that form the essence of who I am eternally moving toward becoming.

And then there’s Red Headed Woman…

Ruth Barohn
August 2013
New York

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Thank you, Bruce: A reaction to ‘Springsteen & I’

July, 2013
Pete Chianca

Watching Springsteen & I at the Showcase Cinemas in Revere, Mass. last night, I couldn’t help but think of Lawrence Kirsch’s fabulous 2007 collection of Springsteen fan stories, For You. That volume, with its long-form essays from fans about their Springsteen experiences and inspirations, packs more of an emotional wallop than the filmed snippets in Baillie Walsh’s new fan-sourced documentary. But when it’s said and done, the film leaves the same overall impression as Kirsch’s book: That we’re not crazy, or at least we’re not alone.

The “we” in that sentence is of course Springsteen fans, and not the casual, “won’t change the station when ‘Glory Days’ comes on” kind of fans. We know who we are: The ones for whom Springsteen’s music has been the soundtrack of our lives for decades, the prism through which we tend to filter our greatest successes and most dismal failures. Those are the people Springsteen & I is about, and for. You won’t love every fan who turns up in the doc, but it’s a pretty safe bet you will relate to them all. (Well, except for Dave, the long-suffering husband who wishes Bruce would just shorten his concerts already.)

It’s amazing how many of the clips, all fan-submitted, tap so resonantly into what Springsteen’s music means to his most ardent followers, and how many of the contributors are just downright likable. Not that a few don’t go over the top: The mother who trots her 10-year-old son out to extol the virtues of Bruce seems a tad 0ff-kilter, and the guy who starts crying in his car while trying to explain what Springsteen’s music means to him just made me nervous. (I kept wanting to yell “Pull over, you’re going to kill somebody!”)

And the less said the better about the woman who pops up continually, in extreme close up, to talk in faux-poetic prose about her up-close concert experience with Bruce as a high school freshman — by the time she was waxing rapturously about being scooped up in the talons of a firebird, or something, I just felt like backing away slooooowly.

But most of the subjects — the young truck driver with a master’s degree, the stadium employee who became a convert at age 9, the factory worker who got “upgraded” from his last-row seats — seem like old friends the moment they open their mouths. They’re able to explain with amazing precision how Springsteen’s music — its honesty and heart — can be such an empowering force. And how the man himself, with his unflagging devotion to his work and his audience, can inspire you to at least try to be, well, a better version of yourself.

I have trouble imagining what a non-fan would think of this film — I’d like to think they wouldn’t find Springsteen fans to be complete loons, and would at least seek out more of his music to try to better understand what the fuss was about. At the very least, the concert clips in the film — from almost every era of his career — are enough to grab even the most casual observer by the throat. You’ve probably seen many of them on YouTube, but it’s hard to overstate just how thrilling they are on a big screen, with booming all-around sound taking the place of tinny computer speakers.

The producers haven’t made much of a secret of the post-credits concert clips from Springsteen’s 2012 Hyde Park show — the famous pulled-plug concert with Paul McCartney — and they’re stunning, particularly his solo “Thunder Road” and a sweeping, raucous version of “Shackled and Drawn.” But the real reason to stay to the very end is the final “epilogue” footage tacked on after the concert clips, of Springsteen meeting with some of the film’s fan contributors backstage.

Throughout the film, and in a memorable closing sequence, fans line up to say “Thank you, Bruce,” and in that final segment, Springsteen gets to say thank you back. He’s natural, friendly, funny and moving, and lives up to every story you’ve heard about his encounters with the public.

“Where we want to go, we can’t get there by ourselves — we need you!” Bruce tells a concert crowd at the start of the film. And in that last segment, you can tell how much he means it.

The film gets one more theatrical showing, next Tuesday, July 30, and if you missed it last night I’d suggest you get to the theater rather than wait for the DVD. At the showing in Revere, fans clapped and hooted to the concert footage as if Bruce were really there, and at the very end, when the lights finally came up, something extraordinary happened: A voice from the crowd yelled out, “We should sing something together!”

Laughter, then another voice: “The screen door slams, Mary’s dress waves …”

A few more voices: “Like a vision she dances across the floor as the radio plays …”

The rest of the crowd, tentatively at first, and then stronger as we headed into the lobby: “Roy Orbison’s singin’ for the lonely, hey that’s me and I want you only, don’t turn me home again, I just can’t face myself alone again …”

And in a way, that too is the message of Springsteen & I: Thanks to the man and his music, and an incredible community of fans, we really don’t have to face ourselves alone again. And that in itself is a cause to celebrate.

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A Father, Son, and Independence Day

This is the first story from the book For You, Original Stories and Photograph’s by Bruce Springsteen’s Legendary Fans. Originally written in 2007, it was chosen to lead off this “love letter” to Bruce because it accurately and more importantly emotionally sets the tone for the rest of the book. It is posted here in its entirety for you. Enjoy.


springsteen_photo

It was early 1973. I was on my way out the door, my hand reaching for the radio’s off button, when “Madman drummers bummers and Indians in the summer…” boomed out of my top-of-the-line Radio Shack Nova 9 speakers.

springsteen_photoWhat? Who is that? My FM station had been feeding me a steady diet of Jackson Browne, Eagles and Elton John. It sure wasn’t any of them. The DJ never did say who it was. And I was going out the door. But that moment marked the beginning of my journey. I can hear those five minutes and two seconds just as clearly today as I did then. I still have those speakers. I wonder sometimes if anything that important will ever come out of them again.

After that brief initial introduction, the following years were spent forming a bond to the man and his music that without knowing him, I wouldn’t have thought possible. When I first heard about this book, I wondered what I could possibly say that anyone would be interested in. I don’t have an amazing story that will make me the envy of Bruce fans worldwide. All I’ve ever had is this guy that lived just up the New Jersey Turnpike from me writing songs about my life. I knew Crazy Janie and Wild Billy. Greasy Lake was right down the street. I chased the factory girls underneath the boardwalk and I slept in that old abandoned beach house getting wasted in the heat.

I’ve spent the last 33 years catching every area show and some not-so-local shows. I didn’t have the luxury of following him around the country catching all the shows. I was busy raising future fans.

During the Born in the U.S.A. tour my son begged me to take him to a show. It was against my better judgment; he had school and couldn’t sit still for three minutes. He was six. But I stuffed cotton in his ears and away we went. Our seats were lower level, but for a six-year-old, they might as well have been on the moon. As the show started he was standing on his seat bobbing back and forth trying to catch a glimpse of whatever he could. It wasn’t long before all the people around us were pointing at this little kid trying to see.

Then something happened. The two people in front of him made a space between them and tapped the people in front of them to do the same. That continued down the rows until he had a clear sightline to the stage. People were actually looking back during the show to make sure he could see. He fell asleep during the first break and I couldn’t get him up again, but that night he too began his journey.

Like most of you out there, it only took one live show and I was hooked for life. On his own, Bruce had built a connection between us. My Chevy was a 70 with a 396, and racing in the street was what we did around here. Bruce would tell stories about his father and their strained relationship: My entire teenage life was spent living the same strain. I’d stay out all night if I had to, just to avoid the never-ending battles and keep my dad from seeing my hair.

I can remember my dad moving this old tube radio around the house trying to tune in an AM station from Delaware. That thing would whistle and static and every once in a while a twangy banjo and a singer who sounded like he was holding his nose would break through the noise. I hated that twang just about as much as he hated my hair.

springsteen_photoNow my mom on the other hand would turn on Bandstand with Dick Clark every afternoon. I guess that was my introduction to rock ‘n’ roll. When we finally got our first record player I can remember begging my mom for the 69 cents to buy the latest 45. I wore the grooves off those things, but not without a visit or more a night from my father yelling to “turn down that goddamned music.”

There was nothing we could agree on and whether we avoided each other or I avoided him, there was a great distance between us for many years. There was a whole world of new things I needed to see and do. I didn’t realize then that he didn’t have any objections to me spreading my wings; he just wanted me back in one piece. As the years went by and he realized I was going to make it okay, the gap between us shrunk. We never once discussed the tension between us. No one said sorry and no one placed blame. I would still do things he didn’t agree with, but he just looked at me and shook his head. Not in disgust, but with an “I-don’t-agree-but-I-trust-you” attitude.

In 1978 Bruce played the Capitol Theater. The entire concert was broadcast live on the local FM station and of course I recorded the whole thing. It was the first time I heard Independence Day. “Papa, now I know the things you wanted that you could not say, I swear I never meant to take those things away.” No words up to that point or this one have ever touched me so deeply. I realized on my own that my father only wanted the best for me. It never once occurred to me that I may have taken something away from him.

That same year my father and I took a long trip together. I took my car and did most of the driving. I had the Capitol concert on eight-track and for the better part of 18 hours that’s what came out of the speakers. He never once complained when I cranked it up and never asked to hear anything else. He just sat there wide-awake watching the mile markers whiz by. I don’t know if I brainwashed him or what, but after I said something to him about a song on the tape he looked at me and said, “He really does make some beautiful music.” I’ll never know if he ever got the point of Independence Day, but from that point on, we were able to share our views on music. I made him a Springsteen tape that he actually listened to.

Many years later I watched my life replayed for me. Remember that six-year-old who fell asleep at the Springsteen concert? I got to watch him grow up as a die-hard Bruce fan and then take it on to another level. It was scary how much of me I could see in him.

His grandmother gave him an acoustic guitar when he was about eight. He got discouraged because his hand was too small to fit around the neck. When he was about 12, I bought a used electric guitar and amp from a friend. It only took a few lessons and next thing we knew there was actually music coming from his room. Of course the next step for any 12-year-old guitar player who knew three notes was to form a band. I wouldn’t have traded the next 10 years for anything in the world. Anyone who ever thought of being in a band eventually ended up in my basement putting their own personal touch on the noise that was knocking the plaster off the walls.

springsteen_photo

The two constants in the band were my son, who was determined to make real music come out of that guitar, and the drummer, who had been taking lessons since he was old enough to sit in one place. The bass slot was filled by a friend of theirs whose sole qualification was that he had heard music before. And when they asked their future singer if he could sing, he said, “I don’t know, I think I can.” The short version of the story is that over the next ten years the noise became music and the music became magic.

Their local-hero status was unprecedented. They were a kick-ass bar band before they could even drive and I hauled them over half the state to every party, beef and beer bar, and fundraiser there was. My son, who was so shy he couldn’t stand in front of the class and do a book report, was on stage holding a guitar like a warrior leading the band to the battle of Murder Inc.

The band was far beyond good, I knew it, they knew it and everyone who ever heard them knew it. They reached a dead end here. I didn’t even see it coming. They told me they planned to move to south Florida and in less than two months they were packed and on their way. I never thought far enough ahead to realize there was another line from that very same song that I was going to have to come to terms with: “All men must make their way come Independence Day.” I was all in favor of that: Young men making their way out in the real world. Yep, I thought, it was a great idea. Right up till the minute he pulled out of the driveway. He was gone for two years and I missed him terribly. I missed them all.

They ended up doing pretty much the same thing they were doing here on a slightly larger scale. For two years they tore up the Miami/Lauderdale bar scene. The eating, sleeping and playing together eventually took their toll and the band broke up. He’s back in NJ now and even though his Independence Day was different than mine, I guess in some ways it felt the same.

I’ve lived the passion and heartfelt delivery of every word in that song and for some time after my father died I just couldn’t bring myself to listen to those final lines. To my son, just in case you ever thought it, you never took anything away. “I caught your very first tear on my fingertip.” You’ve brought me what’s best about life every day since then.

There are hundreds of little things I could tell about how Bruce has affected my life. He touched part of my father’s life, most of mine and all of my son’s. He helped me become a man, a husband and a father, yet this is someone I only know through his songs and stories. I often wondered what I would say if I did meet him. If I tried to tell him how much he has meant to both me and my family, I would just sound like a babbling idiot. The best I could ever do is just say thank you and he’d never even have a clue as to what that really meant.

©Bob Baker
Minotola, New Jersey
For You

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What Happened to these Bruce Springsteen Fans?

It could be the dance moves, or the tight pants, or the man-of-the-people lyrics. It could be that video with Courteney Cox in it. Whatever it is, people — ordinary, otherwise law-abiding people — cannot resist rushing the stage at Bruce Springsteen concerts.
It’s a phenomenon that’s led journalist and Springsteen fan Julian Garcia all the way to Phoenix, the site of a stage-rush immortalized in the “Rosalita (Come Out Tonight)” video. He’s working on a documentary about the phenomenon — I Could Use Just a Little Help — and he’s got one last target for interviews: the girls who manhandled the Boss at the Coliseum on July 8, 1978.
Manhandle is an almost unnervingly perfect word for what happens. “Rosalita” closed Springsteen’s sets, in those days, and in the punch-drunk last minutes before the encore, a series of increasingly brazen female fans rushed the stage to get a piece of their 20-something hero.
Not a big piece, at first: “One woman just sort of touches him,” Garcia says, “like he’s a statue of Jesus or something like that.” The girls slip in behind the band and dart toward him as if they’re in a spy movie, and then they slip back into the crowd like people who’ve just gotten away with something a little risky.
But “Rosalita” is a long song, and things escalate quickly. Another fan kisses him on the cheek; he doesn’t seem to mind. After that they start leaping onto the stage in pairs, sprinting ahead of the security guards.
And as the song erupts into unbridled Springsteen-character joy — “the record company, Rosie, just gave me! a big! advance!” — the barrier between the crowd and the band disappears entirely.
Springsteen, still playing his guitar, wades into the crowd; the crowd, not especially interested in letting Springsteen play his guitar, collapses around him; and while a very frustrated-looking member of the security staff looks on, Bruce Springsteen is briefly at the bottom of a powderpuff football pile, being kissed from all angles.
Finally the security guard, who appears to be the only person in the frame not having a lovely time, manages to pry the ringleader free, whereupon Springsteen returns to the stage looking oddly refreshed and closes out the show.
The urge to touch Bruce Springsteen is as old as “Blinded by the Light,” but Garcia’s documentary didn’t take shape until a year ago, during the Wrecking Ball tour. “A friend of mine went to see Bruce,” he says. “He was in the front row and he ended up in a video — like someone’s YouTube video, shot from behind the stage.”
They got to talking about what it takes to get that close — to end up in the pit. “He told me it was a really grueling process, [that] you had to really stand around for a long time. So I just said to him, ‘That would be a pretty interesting documentary,’ not really thinking anything of it.
“It sort of evolved into, ‘Maybe I’ll try to talk to people who have actually done that.’” Since then he’s been on a social media crusade for Springsteen stage-jumpers, peppering Twitter, LinkedIn, and Bruce Springsteen message boards to track down as many dancers in the dark as he could.
He’s done pretty well so far, especially with fans who’ve been on stage in the last decade. One reason: At this point, getting up on stage with Bruce Springsteen is more about careful planning than spontaneous overflows of affection.
“He brings up people for basically two songs, nowadays,” Garcia says. For “Waitin’ on a Sunny Day,” off The Rising, some children from the pit are brought up to sing along; for “Dancing in the Dark,” of course, a young woman is brought in to play the role of Courteney Cox Surrogate in the sequence that informed white-guy dancing for a generation. You’ve got to get into the pit; you’ve got to get lucky; you’ve got to know when he brings people up on stage.
That was not the case in 1978. If the girls rushing the stage in “Rosalita (Come Out Tonight)” are ringers, they were playing a long game; the video wasn’t produced until 1984, when a song that predated MTV suddenly needed one.
They look, at least, like fans who were so enthusiastic (or so into Bruce’s period-appropriate open-shirt look) that they had no choice but to leap onto the stage and tackle him during the never-ending saxophone outro. They look as though they understand intuitively the real reason that people connect with the song and the artist.
Which is exactly why Julian Garcia wants to find them.
The ’70s were filled with fan interaction that seems impossibly dangerous in hindsight; “Rosalita” in Phoenix is kind of the musical equivalent of Hank Aaron rounding the bases accompanied by a phalanx of sketchy-looking fans.
But even for its time, there’s something special about it — something that points to something special about Bruce Springsteen. “I think Bruce almost gives his fans the invitation [to rush the stage],” Garcia says, “just by the way he behaves.”
What’s odd about the moment is just how natural it all feels; if it had happened to somebody else, any number of other rock heroes through history, you’d be able to hear the faint sound of writers preparing think-pieces about one party or the other being oppressed. Getting that close to Axl Rose seems dangerous and/or unclean; getting so forward with one of your folkier indie rock stars could inspire a series of social justice Tumblr posts about sexual harassment.
But Springsteen and these girls seem, with all their goofy passion, like nothing so much as two characters in a Bruce Springsteen song.
“They’ve gotta be out there somewhere,” Garcia tells me. “Let’s say they were between the ages of 16 and 22, or something like that . . . My hope is that they’re in the Phoenix area still, and maybe they read this and they can get in touch with me. I’d like to just tell the story of that day and how it all went down. If they’re still Bruce fans, if they’ve ever had any contact with him after that.”
It’s easy to imagine they might have, because that’s how Bruce Springsteen is. “He’s so open, and so accessible to his fans, that when you go to a show you’re like, ‘Hey, tonight might be the night that I get invited up there by one of the biggest rock stars that has ever walked the planet.’
“It’s not like, ‘You stand over there and let me do my thing, and I’m going to put these security guards between us so you can’t get close to me . . .’ It’s made very clear, like, ‘Hey, we’re in this together.’”

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Behind The Scenes of Darkness on the Edge of Town with Dick Wingate (2)

With the much-anticipated release of the commemorative box set for Darkness on the Edge of Town slated for this November, Bruce Springsteen’s classic record is getting renewed attention in the music world.Fans are surely hungry for all the historic material they can get from the 1978 recording sessions and subsequent tour.For our own preview of what’s to come, we contacted Dick Wingate, who was intimately involved in the launch and marketing of the album and tour. He offers an insider’s view of what the Darkness era meant to Bruce and the band, while painting an often-humorous behind-the-scenes account of some of the tour’s highlights.

Enjoy, and be certain to check out the book The Light in Darkness, which one fan said, “… would make a great companion piece to the commemorative Darkness box set…”

I first met Bruce right after Greetings From Asbury Park, N.J. was released. Columbia Records brought him to WBRU-FM in Providence, R.I., where I was music director, and later program director, and we were one of the first stations in the country to play Bruce.

He was very shy and clearly not used these sorts of situations. This was shortly after the first album had come out and he looked just like he did on the cover of The Wild, The Innocent & The E Street Shuffle cover, rail thin, wearing a T-shirt, jeans and sneakers. It was mostly a quick meet and greet and we didn’t go on the air.

I’ve always wished I’d seen him play before I had met him. Later that night he played a gig at Brown University with the original lineup of the E Street Band and I was hooked for life.

Bruce’s performance at Brown was so incredibly dynamic compared to every other new act I’d seen at the time, and he really fed off his interactions with the band. He also made eye contact with many of the several hundred students in the crowd while performing, which made it feel so personal and powerful.

I fondly remember Suki Lahav coming out to play violin on “New York City Serenade” and it just floored me that this was the same group that had been playing bar band songs and David Sancious’ jazzy licks.

Two years later I became Bruce’s product manager at Columbia Records, a job which entailed coordinating all the marketing, packaging and advertising efforts and eventually, in 1978, writing the original marketing plan, which I still have, for Darkness on the Edge of Town.

Click on image to enlarge.Original marketing plan for Darkness on The Edge of Town album, with Picture Disc (top right) and In-store poster display (bottom right).

Bruce and Steve outside New York recording studio The Record Plant, October 1977. Notice Bruce is holding a cassette tape of the Darkness demos.Ross Gadye©

The album was held up because of the legal dispute between Bruce and his former manager, creating a three-year wait between Born to Run and Darkness on the Edge of Town. Everyone at Columbia believed that no matter how many years between albums, Bruce Springsteen was one of the most important artists on the label. Evidence of this was shown when the label continued to support the pre-Darkness tours after sales of Born to Run had settled down, even when no new album was scheduled.

In the months leading up to its release I met with Bruce and Jon Landau several times to discuss the marketing approach. Jon was involved with nearly every detail and he instantly made me feel part of a special team. By this point of course nothing happened without Bruce’s ultimate approval. Bruce said to me that if it were up to him he would just have the album appear in the stores one day without any notice. He was adamant about not hyping it. He consciously moved away from the Born to Run album hysteria. No “future of rock and roll” type headlines. No hype, no beard, no earring, no sneakers. This was Bruce’s first album about adult themes.

I was not at any of the recording sessions. However, I was asked to come to the Record Plant to hear the album in its entirety upon its completion by Jon Landau. The only other people in the room besides Jon and myself were Jimmy Iovine and Mickey Eichner from Columbia A&R. At that point I don’t think any other people at Columbia had heard the album and I was thrilled to be invited.
It was obviously darker and that framed our approach to the advertising. So we agreed that the copy in all print, radio and TV advertising would be simply: “Bruce Springsteen. The new album: Darkness on the Edge of Town. In stores June 2nd.”

Bruce’s TV spot ran on Saturday Night Live the Saturday before and after release of the album. The TV spot was very simple, as this was the way Bruce wanted it. The Darkness tour was the key to generating the excitement with the press, the media and fans and that is why we did broadcasts on leading FM stations, which allowed millions of fans to hear Bruce live for the first time. AM radio was not supporting the album very much. We did a lot of local and national print advertising as well, and he did cover stories in Rolling Stone, Crawdaddy, Musician, Creem and all the major publications of the day.

While we would have hoped for more top 40 radio airplay, everyone was extremely pleased with the results. We were very proud to have Bruce’s first double platinum album.

The original album cover, an extraordinary sepia-tone photo by Born to Run photographer Eric Meola, showed Bruce driving straight toward the viewer in the badlands under threatening skies in a convertible; but this was scrapped in favor of a simple portrait taken by Frank Stefanko in Bruce’s house.

Unfortunately the original image did not reproduce as well as we would have liked, and slight color differences in the proofs would alternately make Bruce either look sunburned or jaundiced! So Bruce requested to actually go to the printing press when the first covers were being printed to approve it. No artist had ever gone to the printer before, and this indicates the level of attention Bruce gave to absolutely everything.

Doug Yule©

The photo taken of Bruce and I at the printer, which appeared in Dave Marsh’s book Born to Run, was taken by Doug Yule, a former member of The Velvet Underground who was working at the printer at that time and just happened to have a camera!

As part of the marketing plan we purchased a billboard on LA’s Sunset Strip, and wouldn’t you know it, Bruce and the band actually defaced their own billboard one night with spray paint. I have to agree it wasn’t the best looking billboard.

Before and after photos of the infamous Los Angeles Sunset Strip billboard. Bottom billboard: Robert Landau ©

This was in July 1978 when Bruce did an unforgettable performance at The Roxy, where he debuted “Point Blank” and “Independence Day” on the same night. It was one of only a handful of clubs he did that tour and was broadcast live on KMET in Los Angeles.

A few days later we went to Phoenix to shoot Bruce’s first ever music video, live performances of “Badlands,” “Prove it All Night”, “Born to Run” and “Rosalita.” Only “Rosie” was seen fit for release by Bruce, and I was able to have it debut on ABC as the closing video in a two-hour special on the history of rock and roll. The girls who jumped on stage in Phoenix during “Rosie” and knocked him down were not scripted or encouraged, it was real, and the video helped expose the

Dave Marsh and Dick Wingate on the set of the Phoenix video shoot, July 1978

Springsteen aura to the many who had never seen him play. But we didn’t get a video to help promote the Darkness album itself. I think Bruce felt the other performances were good but not great, and in looking at them again now, 30-plus years later, “Badlands” and “Prove it All Night” didn’t feature the other band members all that much in the editing. Still, I hope they are released as part of the Darkness box set.

I accompanied Bruce and the band on many key dates on the Darkness tour and have many great memories. I was at opening night in Buffalo, Philly, Boston, Nassau Coliseum (where Bruce asked me to intro the band on stage!), Los Angeles (The Forum and Roxy), Phoenix, Miami, New York’s Madison Square Garden, New Haven, New Jersey’s Capitol Theater, Cleveland’s Agora, Princeton (where I brought Elvis Costello with me), and New York’s Palladium.

Dick, Bruce and Mike Pillot, backstage at Madison Garden, New York, August 1978

In Miami, we took the band to Joe’s Stone Crab, one of the most famous seafood restaurants in the city. We had to wait like everyone else because they didn’t take reservations. After a long time we sat down at the table, looked at the enormous menu of seafood and Bruce simply asked, “Do you think I could get a hamburger?” It just seemed funny after the extended wait and everyone had a good laugh.

Shortly before the tour, Bruce’s agent Barry Bell and I brought Robin Williams and his wife to Bruce’s house one afternoon, while Robin was in New York recording his first album at the Copacabana. Robin had not met Bruce and was really looking forward to it. Barry hired a limo for the four of us, and when we arrived Bruce was on a three-wheel ATV far away in the yard. He caught his leg between the bike and a tree and when he came back to the house he was limping. As the day went on, Robin and Bruce naturally got along great — after all they were the best performers in their respective fields — and I remember we had a meal cooked for us. Bruce kept his leg raised as much as possible to reduce the swelling, but he must have been in more pain than any of us realized or he admitted. The next day Jon Landau told me that as soon as we left he went to the local hospital for treatment and if I remember correctly he had to stay off his feet for a few days.


One of my favorite memories was a trip to Yankee Stadium with Bruce and Little Steven prior to the release of the new album. Bruce had been out of the public eye for a long time and had recently shaved his beard. We took the subway to Yankee Stadium and not a single person recognized him, or Steven for that matter. During the game a guy behind us walked over and asked, “Is that Bruce Springsteen?” And that was it for the whole day. It was quite astounding, and I realized that the images from Born to Run — the sneakers, the beard, the earring, the cap — were gone now and the image of Bruce we were forming for the Darkness campaign would be tougher, cleaner and more adult. Incidentally, even though Bruce and Steven ate just about every kind of junk food you could get at the stadium, they still wanted to stop for pizza on the way out.

Having seen Bruce play for nearly 40 years, I am convinced that the 1978 tour was the tightest, most aggressive and emotional tour that Bruce and the E Street Band ever did. It was the young adult becoming a man, just as the album was. It was the bar band taking arena-size stages for the first time and conquering America. We attended a party at Bill Graham’s house after the Winterland show, my last on that tour — a concert so good I had tears in my eyes.

Dick Wingate
February 23, 2010

Dick Wingate was the product manager at Columbia Records from 1976 to 1978 and was instrumental in launching Bruce Springsteen’s fourth album, Darkness on The Edge of Town. He was a pioneer indigital music while head of content at Liquid Audio, and is currently a digital entertainment consultant with TAG Strategic.

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