“Springsteen & I” Comes To Jersey

Photo Credit: Jo Lopez
Photo Credit: Jo Lopez

The documentary
Production still from "Springsteen and I"In addition to the mosaic of fan adoration, culled from more than 2,000 submitted video clips, the movie features concert footage that spans four decades. The experience elicited the usual chants of “Bruuuuce,” along with other signs of concert-going endearment from the Clifton Commons audience, but there was more to the experience than entertainment. Springsteen’s artistry is that his deeply moving music is simultaneously universally relatable and highly personal. He is both a New Jersey cultural ambassador and a global homeboy.

While some rock stars cultivate a position of untouchable, God-like status, the 20 Grammy Award®-winning musician literally walks amongst his fans. For many in Baristaville, particularly those of Bruce’s generation, part of the magic is that we have our own personal histories with Springsteen. Perhaps we saw him perform in a little club DTS back in the early 70’s. Maybe we ran into him last week shopping in Red Bank, or caught him showing up for an unexpected performance in Asbury Park. Through his music, Springsteen has poignantly been present at pivotal moments in our lives and offered guidance and comfort when we’ve needed it.

Production still from "Springsteen and I"For longtime fan and Glen Ridge resident Karen Eisen, hearing Bruce singing “My Hometown” on the radio served as a homing beacon and prompted a move back to the northeast. Straight out of law school, Eisen was agonizing about the decision to accept a good job in Miami or head home. At an impasse, she was going to flip a coin and leave it to chance. Just at that moment, the song came on and she knew where she belonged. “Bruce helped me decide,” she told Baristanet. “It worked out well for me. I have the love and life I do, because Bruce sent me a sign.”

For another Glen Ridge resident (who chooses to remain anonymous), her lifelong appreciation for Bruce’s music took on new meaning in 2002, when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. At the time, Springsteen was on national tour to promote The Rising, which culminated with a 10-show run at Giants Stadium. “I was able to see a show during each phase of my treatment, and it really helped give me something to look forward to while I was dealing with everything else,” she recalls. “I saw 2 shows after my diagnosis and before my treatment started. I went to Albany in the winter and saw a show when I was taking the really toxic chemo. I went to Atlantic Spring when I was on the milder chemo, and I managed to get to every Giants Stadium show over the summer, as my treatments were over and I began to heal.”  The Jersey native also achieved her goal to see 60 Springsteen concerts by her 60th birthday (she’s already on #65, way ahead of schedule).

Janet Dobbs from Glen Ridge recalls seeing Springsteen for the first time in Philadelphia when she was 18 years old, the night after John Lennon was killed. Instead of canceling the show, Bruce played “Twist and Shout” as a tribute to the fallen Beatle. Lyndhurst resident Pamela Martorana, who was at the movie last night, has attended every show in the NY metro area with her four best Jersey City high school friends since they were 16. They’ve been to more than 80 so far.

Do you have an opinion about Springsteen? We know you do… The producers of Springsteen & I asked fans to describe Bruce in 3 words. Tell us which words sum up your feelings and share your own personal stories in comments.

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  1. Karen, I thought the same thing! But perhaps your reference to the King and I is the key – maybe it’s a play on that? I didn’t even think of that when I first saw it though!

  2. lol…I never thought The King and I was right but figured it sounded better as a title than The King and Me!

  3. But since Springsteen is the Boss, I’m lost with the grammar here.

    It’s not like it’s a doc about ELVIS. Then the title “Elvis and I,” would be a play on “The King and I.” Here, it reads more like a mistake, even though one could construct a sentence where it is correct: “Springsteen and I went to the store.” Moreover, if I remember correctly, The King and I, featured an intimate relationship, so then the connection was two ways.

    Here though, considering the subject matter, “emotional journeys and personal reflections of Bruce Springsteen fans across the world,” it appears that this is one-way “love letter.”

    Because of this, the title left me cold the first time I saw it a while back, and continues to look and sound like poor grammar.

    STILL, Springsteen is one of the great American writers–

    “I’m tired of waitin’ for tomorrow to come
    Or that train to come roarin’ ’round the bend
    I got a new suit of clothes a pretty red rose
    And a woman I can call my friend”

  4. I’m slightly older than those interviewed for this piece but every time I hear “Spirit in the Night” it reminds me of hot summer nights down the shore. We would all drive out for a “party in the pines”, usually down a fire road off of Double Trouble Road to Cedar Creek for a night of booze, skinny dipping, and awkward teenage sex.
    It’s probably better in my mind’s eye than it was at the time.
    I said “I’m hurt”, she said “Honey, let me heal it.”

  5. @Howard, if you were old enough to party in the pines while listening to “Spirit in the Night,” you’re right in the median age group represented in this post. Glad you have such sweet memories…

  6. Erika, Although the song reminds me of those events, we weren’t listening to Bruce. That came later. We were listening more to Beach Boys, Stones and Beatles.

  7. Some random observations
    1) A gym friend’s older brother had been in a power trio with him called “Earth” and gave me a rare souvenir poster signed by all the band members; he liked Bruce personally a great deal.

    2) Once saw Julie Anne Philips (you know, the first wife, the one he committed very public adultery against), when married to Springsteen, buying a dozen donuts at Dunkin’; she had a perfect $500 haircut and wore a $2000 leather jacket, and she got into a brand new BMW.

    3) Once stood behind him and the second wife (the one he committed very public adultery with) while buying movie tickets at Monmouth Mall. She had on a $2000 non-fur coat and gleaming flats. He just looked his usual grubby. She’s also several inches taller than him, something I’d never realized.

    Basically, and I know this may provoke an outcry, I just think of his stuff as music for louts and lugs (and I do include the Governor here). Crudely played a lot of the time, too, by a not-all-that-good band. And where did he develop that hokey twang he often uses as a speaking-singing voice? Down at the feed, grain and custom tack store in Colts Neck? Or from hanging with the other private school parents in Rumson?

    It’s interesting, however, how the Springsteen fans can tie themselves up in verbal knots defending the guy. I remember, for example, that many hailed his two famously non-E Street cd’s (“Tunnel of Love” and whatever the other one’s called) as just what “the Boss” needed to jumpstart his music. Then, a few years later when he dumped those younger and seemingly better players and went back to the older aggregation, the same folks praised him for dumping them and reuniting with Little Steven et al.

    So the “record” is mixed on Springsteen. Charitable but predictably liberal politically without seemingly putting a lot of thought into his opinions. Capable of jaunty tunes but also of very dreary lyrics. His worst albums seem to come out after he’s been reported as reading something, a la “The Grapes of Wrath”and “The Ghost of Tom Joad.” (I suppose we should be happy he even reads, since so few rockers seem to). I just thank God he hasn’t apparently yet picked up either “Das Kapital” or “The Communist Manifesto” and then based an album on his interpretation of it. That old story in Esquire which so enraged his fans, “‘Saint’ Bruce,” is still the best thing I’ve ever read about the guy.

  8. Cathar, you cracked me up!

    I love Springsteen’s popular songs. Is he a lyricist? Not even close. But I think what everyone responds to, including me who went to my first concert back in the early 80’s as a staunch non-fan (they boyfriend loved him and paid for the tickets, so what the hell) is the pure energy he and that band put into their performances and songs. I was knocked out! After that show I was a more rabid fan than my former BF but sadly never got to another show until three years ago at Giants stadium. It was OK but mostly “Cowboy Pete”, “Tom Joad”, etc. Ugh. I wanted that old energy from the first show and didn’t get it. It all depends on the play list for the night it seems. My timing, as usual, was bad.

    Anyway, it’s not about the lyrics! As we used to say along with the kids on American Bandstand: It’s got a great beat! I give a 95!

  9. Oh cathar…

    C’mon. You make the mistake that folks make when discussing art, food, and well, lots of things.

    Our experience of a moment with art (or food) is just that: the experience. So because I cannot attempt to tell you what it was like being me: age 14 and hearing Springsteen coming from the older sister and her friends, of one of my friends– seeing them drink beer, laugh, kiss all to Springsteen, you will NEVER convince me that his music is not of the highest level.

    Or perhaps in 1988 when Tunnel of Love came out and I was in love with a girl from the Jersey Shore and his songs seemed to fit perfectly.

    Or after 9/11 and finding The Rising touched every emotion I was feeling.

    Or after I was recovering from a major illness and would walk into Brookdale park and listen to “Born to Run” everyday.

    This is why the Arts are everything. And why they are personal.

    And why it’s a fools game to say that one artist is better than another, has more value than another, or is more “important” than another. Because somewhere, that art means the world to someone.

    So while I don’t care for jazz, classical, or today’s pop music, I respect that for many, it means everything.

    THAT SAID: You are right on the money with Bruce’s “hokey twang” so fake when you know how he lives. I liken this to Hilary Clinton’s faux “Southern” accent. But NOTHING compares to Obama’s “Black Preacher” accent he takes on when speaking to Black folks. —– Fake. Fake. Fake.

  10. I don’t know how anyone can listen to ‘Greetings’ and have any doubt regarding Springsteen’s lyrical ability. The whole album is a frenzied rush of words that make perfect sense despite their seeming lack of coherence. He’s never matched that first work, but he did change things up very nicely with the gritty ‘Wild, Innocent..’ and the anthemic ‘Born to Run’.

    There has never been anyone from Jersey that garners the love that Bruce does. He can captivate an audience of 20,000 and create an explosion of joy with his enthusiasm for music. I just love the guy and wish him and his family well.

  11. kbanda,

    Could you please tell me, since it appears you think you know, just what a “lyricist” is?

    I was under the impression, as it appears it is defined as, someone who writes lyrics.

    And considering Springsteen’s vast body of work– forget whether you like him or not– to say he’s NOT a lyricist is about the dumbest thing I’ve seen in a while. Really Dumb.

  12. MB,

    I can understand folks not liking Springsteen. I get that. I get that for some Springsteen means nothing.

    But to not recognize his accomplishments and ability is the issue.

    Save for maybe 2 songs, Miles Davis bores me to tears. But I’m not dumb enough to transpose my personal feeling about his music to a generalization about it.

  13. Not a lyricist?

    The screen door slams
    Mary’s dress waves
    Like a vision she dances across the porch
    As the radio plays
    Roy Orbison singing 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
    Don’t run back inside
    Darling you know just what I’m here for
    So you’re scared and you’re thinking
    That maybe we ain’t that young anymore
    Show a little faith there’s magic in the night
    You ain’t a beauty but hey you’re alright
    Oh and that’s alright with me

  14. And just to follow up jerseygurl:

    And the poets down here don’t write nothin’ at all
    They just stand back and let it all be

    (Just heard that song earlier today; it’s as riveting now as it ever was.)

  15. Geez, “Prof”. Sorry I offended you. It’s my opinion. I sing all the time. I wouldn’t call myself a singer. I dance to. Doesn’t make me a dancer. Calling yourself “professor” doesn’t make you a teacher.

  16. I have to qualify this by saying that I haven’t seen or spoken to Patty Scialfa in some years. She’s a tallish gal at 5-9. But definitely NOT several inches taller than her husband. I can state this unequivocally from first-hand personal knowledge. Cathar, maybe she was in very high heels?

    That said, I have to echo most of what the Prof said. Often times Springsteen’s music spoke to me in a way that was inspiring. And sometimes simply left me cold. I’ve been to several shows over several decades. I always found them to be much more than the average rock and roll experience. So I guess I could say that I’m a fan. What I do find hard to wrap my head around is when I hear people say they’ve been to 60 shows, or 80 shows, or more. I’m not putting them down…I just don’t get it. Despite being, as I said, a fan.

  17. @kbanda,

    You are a singer IF you sing. I don’t trade in this idea that in order to be a “lyricist” one has to be Cole Porter. Nor do I believe that only singers, journalist, filmmakers, novelists, etc. are those who draw a pay check from a large media organization. In that, a youtube singer, a blogger, independent filmmaker or e-book novelist are what they are based on the activity.

    (I believe Bruce covered this in a lyric: ” I’m dying for some action I’m sick of sitting ’round here trying to write this book.” A book? But he’s a songwriter. But if you read the lyrics to one of his albums, you can see how he is no different from a short story writer.)

    You didn’t offend me. I ask you to please tell me what a lyricist is since you believe Springsteen is NOT one of them. If asking you to explain your “opinions” is offensive, that’s on you.

    @dane Springsteen is publicly listed at 5’10”, which means he might be 5’8″. Still, since he carries such a burden of detailing the lives of “the working man, living and struggling in THIS Country” on his back, along with the leather jacket, that weight MUST drop him to 5’6″ or 5’7″. Couple with with Patty at 5’9″, and you can easily see how she might TOWER over him. “Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown.”

    Eh, he’s just a Local Hero.

  18. Springsteen is definitely The Boss. If culture in New Jersey has a name, the name is Bruce Springsteen. Jerseygirl, you rock on this one. Even the prof figured this one out without needing to resort to his “library.” Howard, you are healed.

    Springsteen & I: it couldn’t be otherwise.

  19. That’s very funny, Prof. Loving this thread but still wondering what your three words are that describe Bruce. How about “He’s” “the” “Boss”

  20. If the Prof comes out with a smash hit called “Born to Run My Air Conditioner in Upper Montclair (and Obama is a wuss ) ” or, perhaps, ( even less likely ) if cathar comes out with a smash hit called “Born to Run Away from Angela Davis ( who stood me up one night and I’ll never forgive her) ” I might consider downloading their hit tunes onto my IPhone. They’d make adequate karaoke after 3 Stolichnayahas. Until then, I’ll settle for Bach, Borodin, or the Beatles. I’ll get more work done, for starters.

  21. Spiro,

    3 Stolis might not be enough. You might want to accompany each of them with an Wolaver’s India Pale Ale. That might do the trick. 😉

  22. Obama a wuss? Nah, he’s just tone deaf– he’s just now focusing on the economy and blaming Washington!!! (Can someone remind him, he’s the President, and when he calls out “Washington” he begs the question: “Ain’t you a MAJOR part of “Washington?'” No bother. No one is listening or cares about him. He needs to head off to Martha’s Vineyard till Labor Day.)

    But Spiro, your sad attempt at Dickie Goodman style parody only proves that even a song parody shouldn’t be attempted by those with no ability, or sense of humor.

  23. What I would, properly, never forgive Angela Davis for, Spiro, is her reveling in the deaths of American soldiers, cops, class enemies and “whitey” in general. You might consider doing the same, if you’re not the wuss I sometimes suspect you are.

  24. And while MellonBrush suggested some alcoholic beverages for you above, I’m not quite sure you’re emotionally old enough to handle them, Spiro. Wherever you stand (albeit creakily) chronologically.

  25. Saw Springsteen in concert in December of 1975 at Seton Hall University (about one month after he was deified on both the covers of Time and Newsweek).

    I went in as a staunch anti fan …and came out a believer. What a show.

  26. amusicfan, 1975/6 were golden years for rock, Doobies, Eagles, Bruuuce, Jefferson Starship, Gary Wright’s ‘Dream Weaver’, so many stellar efforts back then, way too many to even try to comprehend and the fact that you were at a Springsteen show back then boggles my mind. I didn’t see my first Springsteen concert until the early 80’s. I seen him about 5 times and every show was killer. Rock on dude!

  27. Mellon : The only thing more impressive than the show itself that night was the fact that this guy was playing in, of all places, Walsh Auditorium at SHU.

    Apparently, Springsteen used to play quite a few mixer type gigs at SHU before he hit the big time, and the story was that this concert was his way of saying “Thanks” to his local fans. Pretty cool.

  28. mellon – ’75 / ’76 also gave us . . .

    I’m Not in Love – 10 cc
    How Long – Ace
    Cat’s in the Cradle – Harry Chapin
    Wildfire – Michael Murphy
    Poetry Man – Pheobe Snow
    50 Ways to Leave Your Lover – Paul Simon
    Bohemian Rhapsody – Queen
    Take It To the Limit – Eagles
    Lowdown – Boz Scaggs
    Dream On – Aerosmith
    Say You Love Me – Fleetwod Mac
    I’m Easy – Keith Carradine
    Baby I Love Your Way – Peter Frampton
    Take the Money and Run – Steve Miller

    Not too shabby I’d say.

  29. PAZ : “Don’t avoid, watch Floyd” as they used to say.

    Ever see the episode with the Ramones ?

  30. I’m partial to 77/78.

    But that’s because I was 12. And that’s the age when music changes your life. 12-14 is the best time- regardless of the year. It’s the listener’s age.

    Then the college years 19-22. Again, regardless of the year, it’s the age.

    And that’s why I LOVE Wings, Stevie Wonder, The Eagles, Public Enemy, INXS, and The Smiths. Oh, and since I went straight to grad school after UG, Grunge, New Jack Swing, and early 90’s hip-hop.

    (And a WHOLE lot of disco and Barry Manilow, but I keep that to myself.)

  31. Silverleaf,

    Thanks for the great song list! Talk about memories. I was running a C22 photo-process – dip ‘n dunk machine at Phototron in Denver, Co during this era and all of the songs in your list played on the sound system in the plant, I even had a speaker in my dark room so I could listen to those sweet tunes as I hung rolls of film from hanger racks and put them on the conveyor which took them through the 7 vats of photofinishing chemicals. Don’t ask me what we had to do when we lost a roll in one of the vats. I’ll never forget what a great era that was in music.


  32. Yes, frobnitz. Sinatra was the crooner who came from the same Jersey town as La Cosa Nostra’s real fave paisan crooner, Jimmy Roselli. Whatever became of him?

  33. LCN had a love-hate relationship in extremis with Roselli, as he did with them, because he refused to play ball.

    While he sang at Junior’s wedding, both Columbo and Gyp tried to squeeze him in business matters, but the singer, for better or for worse, stood his ground. Fortunately for him Carlo kept the peace.

  34. Ah, the 70’s. Bowie, Mott the Hoople, Television, Iggy, Dolls, Squeeze, Ramones, Elvis Costello , Nick Lowe, Stevie Winwood, and Donna Summer.

  35. Man, Prof….now I see why you dislike jazz. You’re still wet behind the ears! Got some growing up to do up there in UPPER.

  36. Amusicfan…..never saw the Ramones episode. He’s a good man at the keyboards but comedy wise, I vote for Soupy Sales.

  37. Sorry, PAZ. I’m not so damn arrogant as to believe only those “sophisticates” listen to jazz. Please. I like music and art that connects with me. LYRICS are what move me. Which is why I love Cole Porter AND Vampire Weekend.

    Classical, Jazz or any “instrumental” that isn’t a Hendrix playing the National anthem leaves me cold.

    I’ve seen here and in my life that most folks cannot handle the fact that I know what I like, and what I don’t like. They (wrongly) assume I just “haven’t heard” the “right” Jazz. Sorry. It DOESN’T MOVE ME.

    I enjoy Opera- again lyrics and storytelling- And all of this is the music that was played in my house growing up.

    With that, take your arrogance, and the 25 other folks who still support Jazz and enjoy yourself. Me? I’m hoping to score tickets to Vampire Weekend in Brooklyn because I cannot stop listening to them.

    (Notice how I didn’t call you an old-stuck-in-the-mud for not listening to something new?)

  38. Springstein and I, Springstein and me… since we’re not using the phrase in a sentence, it can be anything we want.

    Using the subject pronoun “I” implies something active, as in “Springstein and I went out drinking and snorting coke and woke up the next morning lying naked in the gorilla cage at the Bronx Zoo.”

    Using the object pronoun “me” would sound more passive: “The gorilla found Springstein and me lying naked in the cage and nearly mauled us to death.”

    Grammar is so ‘citing! Springstein, though, bores me to tears…

  39. “(Notice how I didn’t call you an old-stuck-in-the-mud for not listening to something new?)”

    —but by including my parenthetical, i get to do it passive-aggressively?

    oh, prof, you are SO smart!

  40. I was never a Sinatra fun. I much preferred Dean Martin or Sammy Davis Jr…..”The Candy Man can ’cause he mixes it with love and makes the world taste good.”

  41. Jazz encompasses such a wide variety of music that I can’t imagine anyone not liking something that falls under this label.

    I believe that anyone bored by Springsteen is not being honest, they’re just pretending to be bored because they can’t face the fact that, in spite of their awesome wit and significant accomplishments in whatever it is that they actually do, the Boss has had way more trim than they ever did. Hah!

  42. I starting hearing and listening to Sinatra as an infant. My mother was a big fan. I still have some of the vinyl that belonged to her. He was genuinely enchanting, and to this day, I haven’t heard any other male singer who has combined the masculinity, vulnerability, and sense of musical style of the man.

  43. Most of my favorite music over the years has been songs with lyrics but some instrumentals slip in.
    A friend of mine who is a drummer had a recording of the 1938 Carnegie Hall Jazz Concert and I would bet that most people who can listen to this, close their eyes and imagine being there would feel an adreline rush when Benny Goodman’s band finished the night with a swing instrumental number ironically named “Sing, Sing, Sing”. With Goodman, Gene Krupa on drums, Lionel Hampton on vibes, Harry James on trumpet and a pianist whose name escapes me, the solos and the final crescendo that reminds me of the instrumental final of Frampton’s “Do You Feel Like We Do?” take you to another place.
    By the way, one of Goodman’s nicknames was “The Professor”.

  44. PAZ, I love you like a brother, but you’re wrong. I genuinely cannot interest myself in SpringSTEEN’s music. It’s possible that I haven’t given him enough time, however.

    I do thing Dylan is a genius, if it makes you feel better.

  45. MB, like others here, you are so arrogant that you believe that anyone who fails to see art the way you think they should is wrong, uncultured or unsophisticated.

    How about this: folks like what they like. And if you don’t fine, no need to make dumb comments about their taste.

    Jazz does not move me- as broad as that term is- it fails to do anything for me. But I could watch that Eagles documentary on Showtime anytime of the day.

  46. Howard – Jess Stacy on piano, I believe for BG’s “Sing, Sing, Sing.”

    PS- Brother Harry on base.

  47. Thanks, silverleaf.
    I first heard this when I was really into the Beatles and Stones and it blew me away.

  48. prof, you got me all wrong. I’m not arrogant about Jazz or whatever. I’m just mystified that someone could not like at least one or two pieces of music that fall into such broad categories as jazz or classical that’s all.

    “How about this: folks like what they like. And if you don’t fine, no need to make dumb comments about their taste. “ What dumb comment about whose taste? I have no idea what you are talking about?

  49. prof, If you were referring to my Springsteen comment, it was ‘tongue in cheek’, meant for Walleroo.

    We all know the only trim you get is at the barber shop. Hah!

  50. And yet you continue with your dumb and arrogant comment: “I’m just mystified that someone could not like at least one or two pieces of music that fall into such broad categories as jazz or classical that’s all.”

    I could say the same about those who hate Rap, Comedy, Sci-Fi, Romance, Country, Hardcore, or whatever.

    I’m “mystified” that you have such a hard time believing that someone is not moved by a genre of art.

    Shocked even.

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