SPOILER ALERT: 10 things I learned about Springsteen from ‘Bruce’
One anecdote that’s gotten a lot of press since the book came out is the story about a young Springsteen being pursued (unsuccessfully) by Janis Joplin — just think, if that had come to pass he could have written a song about her like Leonard Cohen did. But it’s far from the only surprise to be found in Bruce — below (SPOILER ALERT!) are 10 that I found particularly fascinating:
1) Springsteen almost played at Woodstock: Carlin quotes his manager, Carl “Tinker” West: “If I could have had Springsteen at Woodstock, it would have been all over. Years of bulls**t totally avoided. But the band was booked, we needed the money, and that was that.” On the plus side, wherever they did play was probably much less muddy.
2) Bruce was the Pied Piper of Freehold: Carlin tells a story about Springsteen playing a rented spinet piano on the back of a truck as he and his manager brought it home from the music store, the sound of the music drawing all the kids in the neighborhood out to chase the truck down the street. At which point Mike Appel threw rocks at them and yelled at them to get off the lawn. OK, I made up that last part.
3) In 1971, Bruce dreamed of fronting an “R&B style rock ‘n’ roll orchestra.” If you’ve seen any shows on the Wrecking Ball tour, you know that dream finally came true, a mere 41 years later.
4) Adele Springsteen was amazed that her son didn’t plan to change his name when he got a record contract. Whether she was concerned that people would mistake him for Rick Springfield is not revealed.
5) Columbia may have pushed retailers to trade in their copies of The Wild, The Innocent and the E Street Shuffle in exchange for Billy Joel’s Piano Man, which they felt had more commercial potential. (And they were right, of course … I dare you to try to find one song on The Wild … that contains a reference to an “instant pleasure dome.”)
6) After the release of Born to Run, Garry Tallent was still making less than the bass player in a Bruce Springsteen tribute band. (Who was presumably already making less than all the other people in the Bruce Springsteen tribute band, because, let’s face it — he was the bass player.)
7) Not only was Nebraska recorded on a home tape player, it was a home tape player that had been completely waterlogged during a boat trip with Garry up the Navesink River. This was not good for poor Chuck Plotkin, who recalls “sitting around in a hotel room crying” out of frustration while trying to mix the album. I swear I did NOT make up that last part.
8) CBS honcho Walter Yentikoff may have literally wet himself out of excitement upon hearing Born in the USA for the first time. (Come on, like you didn’t.)
9) Sting is the E Street Band’s Yoko Ono — Carlin writes that seeing Sting’s post-Police success helped prompt Springsteen to seek out new collaborators in the ’90s. Fortunately he didn’t follow Sting’s other post-Police career arc, the one involving lutes and being pompous.
10) Prior to recording Wrecking Ball, Springsteen recorded 30 or 40 tracks that were “like nothing Bruce had ever done,” Carlin writes. “It’s stunning, really. Like Aaron Copland, the American landscape style,” Ron Aniello told him. Wait, the Police’s drummer?? Oh, sorry, that’s Stewart Copeland.
And those are just a small sampling — you’re missing out if you don’t read the whole thing. Just be careful not to wet yourself.