Movie: Springsteen & I

Last night TS1 and I saw this new Ridley Scott-produced Springsteen fan documentary and I was blown away. Maybe my expectations were on the low side, I was sort of expecting repetitive yammering, but director Baillie Walsh did a superb job of mixing up touching home videos and career-spanning concert videos.

If you haven’t heard about Springsteen & I, this is the basic story: A bit more than a year ago the call was put out for Springsteen fans to make short videos talking about what Bruce meant to them, with the best submissions to be used in this film. Phone cams, web cams, whatever, the important thing was what the person said.

I wanted to make one but nerves got the better of me and I punked out 😦 Who’s sorry now, right?

If there was one negative about the choices Walsh and the producers made it was the almost complete lack of mention of any of the E Street band members. I find it hard to believe no one sent in a video that included a sentimental bit about Clarence, for instance.

Some of the stories were great, more than one had me tearing up, a bunch were funny (Philly Elvis, I’m looking at you, dude!), and only one or two were mawkish (e.g., the couple dancing).

There was even one from a long-suffering husband of a huge Bruce fan whose main request to Springsteen manager Jon Landau when the couple met him and Bruce was could he maybe shorten the epic shows. As if! I empathized with that guy since I think TS1, who probably enjoys Bruce and the band somewhat more than him, generally puts up with my devotion.

What I would have said

In three words: power, connection, endurance. (Fans were asked to include this)

Bruce came into my life in 1975 when Mike Appel, his first manager/producer, snuck an early release of Born to Run out of the studio to a few key radio stations with DJs who were already supporters. One of them was WNEW-FM, the main rock radio station in the New York City area in the ’70s, and they played the heck out of it. For me it was a revelation, even after 40 years I’m hard put to say just why. When the album was finally released and Bruce was on the cover of Time, Newsweek and Rolling Stone the same week I was already ruining the vinyl by playing it constantly. For three months nothing else was on my turntable!

The second event, the one I think sealed my fandom, was a radio concert (also broadcast on WNEW-FM) from the beginning of the 1978 Darkness on the Edge of Town tour. In those days three years between releases was an eternity but Bruce lost two years to a brutal court case to get free from Appel and then, well, he never thinks a record is done.

Anyway I remember sleeping over a buddy’s house to listen to the concert together, was a big deal since this was a Wednesday night during the school year. Springsteen still told long stories as part of the intro to songs–which I wish he still did–and the way he drew me in to his world with the stories in top of the band’s amazing rock and roll and soul music was just what my 17 year old self wanted.

Or needed. Suburban New Jersey teenage life was privileged and easy, to be sure, but not necessarily filled with excitement. The closest I guess I got was an episode three months before the concert in Asbury Park of all places.

That was it. Bill was hooked, then and forever. I remember bugging the guys at the off-campus record store two years later every week after the posters announcing The River went up. Is it here? Do you have it yet? 52 year old me remembers the excitement and passion, and seeing five of the 10 concerts they played in LA at the start and end of the tour.

That’s my story, I guess. And no mention of any E Streeters, so I guess that explains why the film was the same.

Thanks Bruce, Danny, Clarence, Roy, Steve, Garry, Max, Nils, Soozy, Patti, Vinny, David, Boom and Jon!