Born to Run turned 40 years old yesterday and I am somehow surprised, even though I am well aware of time passing. Maybe because it remains so in the present for me to this day. Actually, my first artistic foray involved selling Bruce t-shirts out of the want ads in the back of Circus magazine. They were a little crude, screen-printed with a logo for the E Street Band that I had designed on the front and a verse from Born to Run on the back. Sold a few, mainly to fans in Europe including one in Northern Ireland who remains a friend to this very day, but not enough to call it a success or even break even.
But Springsteen, and Born to Run in particular, had a huge influence on my life as well, well beyond that failed attempt at marketing. I was knocked out by his commitment to his passion, his need to keep true to his own vision for his work and his need to do all he could to get that vision across to his audience. It may not always be your style or taste, but his work is as true to his vision as any artist in any medium.
Here’s a blog entry from back in 2009 where I documented my first encounter with Bruce:
When I was seventeen years old I left high school early, in January. I guess I graduated. I had enough credits, had fulfilled all the requirements. Never went to a ceremony, never received a diploma. I had had enough school at that point. I was adrift in my life. No real goals to speak of. Oh, I had desires and dreams but no direction, no guidance.
At some point, I decided i would move to Syracuse and work for my brother, putting in above-ground swimming pools, but that wouldn’t start until April so I had several months to kill. Free time. I spent most of my time reading or watching TV or just driving around. One day in February, I stopped in at the local OTB (that’s off-track betting, by the way) and bet my last eight dollars on the ponies at Aqueduct.
Good fortune was with me that day and I won, hitting the daily double and walking away with a couple of hundred dollars. I called Cheri, my girlfriend (and now my wife) and asked if she would be interested in going out. There was a guy playing tonight at the Arena in Binghamton who I had heard a little about. I had his first two LPs and they were alright. Might be interesting and I had money burning a hole in my pocket. His name was Bruce Springstone, Springstein- something like that.
So we went to Binghamton. We got there about an hour before the show and it seemed so different than other shows we’d been to at that time, the mid-70’s. It was so quiet. People were lined up but it was almost silent, like there was this heavy air of anticipation stifling all sound. We still needed tickets so we headed to the box office. I asked the lady behind the glass for the best seats she had and after a moment she slid me two tickets. I looked at them then asked if she had anything better. She laughed and said no, these were pretty good.
They were in the third row, just left of centerstage.
I did say that I was seventeen, right?
Inside, there was a quiet stillness as we took out seats. There weren’t the screams of drunk kids nor the pungent clouds of pot smoke. No beach balls bouncing through crowd–just that heavy air of anticipation. As we waited, the people around us kept nervously looking at the stage, which was close enough to touch, as a well dressed older man tuned a grand piano. We had no idea what to expect but our interest was being piqued. Finally, the roadies cleared the stage and the arena went black. The first Bruuuces filled the air.
The lights came up and there they were, only feet away. Bruce was in a white collarless shirt buttoned at the neck and a vest with a woolen sport jacket. Miami Steve ( Silvio for those of you who know him from the Sopranos) was dressed in a hot pink suit with a white fedora. And directly in front of us, resplendent in a white suit that seemed to glow in the lights was the Big Man himself, Clarence Clemons, his sax glinting gold.
It was overwhelming for someone not knowing what to expect, like mistakenly walking into a revival meeting and coming out converted. It was unlike anything I had ever seen to that time. It was pure sonic nirvana with the thump of Mighty Max’s bass drum rattling my sternum and the Big Man’s sax flowing high over jangly guitar and tinkling piano lines.
But more than that was the sheer effort that was put out by Springsteen. It was the first time I had seen someone so committed to what they did. It seemed that all that mattered at that moment for him was to get across that space to the people in that arena. He dove across the stage. He clambered onto speakers. He gave everything. By the end of the show, some three and a half hours later, he appeared to have been dragged from a river. He was soaked from the top of his boots to the top of head and when he played his Telecaster, his hand on the neck of the guitar would fill with a pool of sweat.
His desire and commitment to please us was something I carried with me.
Several years later I ran into a person who had been at that show and when I told him my luck at getting such great seats he turned green with envy. His seats were much further back in the hockey arena. We then both agreed that our favorite moment was when they did a cover of It’s My Life from the Animals. We didn’t really know one another but we both gushed about how that song had moved us, had changed our lives in some small way. I still carry that image and when I hear that song I am suddenly 17 years old again. And ten feet tall with the world at my feet because it was my life and I’d do what I want…
That’s my first Bruce story.
Here’s She’s the One from the year before the show I was at. Enjoy.
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