Monday, 27 January 2014

November 1978
Broooced and battered

Photographer Chris Gabrin and I are invited to the CBS offices in Manhattan by executive Perri Chasin to watch a video of Bruce Springsteen in concert, singing ‘Rosalita’. I’ve loved him with a passion since first hearing the Born To Run album. This guy was serious shit.

‘Would you like to see him play?’ asks Perri.

Would I like to live for ever?

‘We’re flying you and Chris down to Washington tonight to catch the show in Maryland,’ says Perri, ‘and we’re trying to arrange an interview, but it’s proving to be a little difficult. See what you guys can do when you get there.’

We can do a lot as it turns out.

Christ it’s hot in here.

The guy behind me is pawing my neck with his heavy on the onions hot dog breath. The fulsome closed circuit system above my head revels in zoom-a-loom close-ups. You can almost see the microbes getting it on in each sweat droplet racing down Bruce’s face.

It's a 15,000 humanwatt heat, fulminating on stage, unleashing microwaves that permeate the cavernous Capitol Center in Largo, leaving the snow covered outside untouched but burning the shit outta them pumping organs grinding away inside.

A smile has been super glued on each and every face. No matter how hard you try it won't peel off. You're stuck with it for three hours. Then you realise there's something wrong with your legs. You know you should sit down because the stewards keep telling you, but they won't respond. It's a three hour clockwork wind up and if you force them they'll snap.

Your eyes refuse to leave his face. The lids won't close because you'll miss something if they do. You're waiting, just waiting to respond. The song climbs to its climax. You're straining to shout. Not yet. Not yet...

"I am a prisoner of rock 'n' roll," he screams.


A Springsteen show is a joyous celebration of rock ’n’ roll the way it should always be played, with huge dollops of elation and passion. Its extravagant length is the fulcrum, its black magic secret the E Street Band, especially saxophonist Clem Clemons, a veritable Empire State of a man dressed in one those fer-lashie white pimp-pusher suits found in Dirty Harry movies.

But when he pumps up that sultry sax swing, it's like you've caught a glimpse of heaven.

The songs mean so much more when you see them performed live. Like you've spent all your life with only one eye and they've just given you another for Christmas wrapped up in starry paper. If they told me I was dying, I'd spend the rest of my life watching Bruce Springsteen.

Thirty minutes after the fourth and obviously final encore hardly anyone has left. That Pythonesque sheep shearing Christian name chant continues long after the show has finished, ‘Broooce Broooce, Broooce,’ and even an announcement over the tannoy that there will be no further encores fails to quieten them.

I’m hanging out with the ‘Broooce’ brigade on the off-chance of grabbing an interview, though it looks a pretty remote possibility. I’d be surprised if the man is still standing, such was the intensity of his performance.

Fourteen-year-old girls queue up at the backstage door armed with photos of their idol and handkerchiefs soaked with tears.

It seems strange that a twenty-nine-year-old New Jersey urban cowboy who talks of love and death and streets of fire should attract the hordes who’ve been playing Andy Gibb records at home before the show.

But it’s the kids who Bruce sings about. It’s their town that rips the bones from their backs, their town that’s a death trap. When he pleads, ‘Get out while you’re young,’ you know he really means it. Suddenly Chris grabs my arm. ‘I think we’re in.’

I follow him to a backstage door, which a mean-looking dude lets us pass through. Chris is one helluva blagger. Three floors up we’re led into a room. We sit down and I frantically write down some questions as we wait for the man to appear…

Next: The interview

Adapted from the book Tell Me When by Barry Cain
© Barry Cain 2013

Check out Barry’s new novel, Wet Dreams Dry Lives:




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