Review 2017-01-10 Pollak Theatre, West Long Branch, NJ

A review from Monmouth University

I'm so glad that Thom Zimny was there filming the Bruce Springsteen talk at Monmouth University tonight because it will be a must see for all fans.
A fabulous job done by Bob Santelli of interviewing Bruce. This interview really stood out from all the others I've heard because Bob touched on different subjects and had Bruce talk so much about Asbury Park and the Jersey Shore music scene, .
I filled up a notebook worth of items from this conversation.

The evening began at 7:55 p.m. when the President of Monmouth University, Paul R. Brown, came out to announce that the school will become the “official archival repository for Springsteen’s written works, photographs, periodicals, and artifacts".
The university will be in charge, for many generations to come, of preserving Springsteen’s personal writings and other memorabilia, and making them available to the general public.
Big news and nice to see this will be happening at a place right at the Jersey Shore.

Bob and Bruce then came out together, sat down at a table and for the next 90 minutes had an enlightening and fascinating conversation.
Bob first mentioned my friend Jean Mikle of the Asbury Park Press for her recent article covering Bruce's history with the then Monmouth College. Bruce had played nine shows there with different early bands including Steel Mill.
"We played in the gym here and pulled in a couple thousand people. We could live for a long time on the money we made at a buck a head," Bruce said.
Bruce said he remembered seeing shows at Monmouth too, including Leslie West with Mountain.

Bruce then mentioned how he lived only about a mile from the school on West End Court in Long Branch. "I wrote some good songs while living there. 'Born to Run,' 'Thunder Road,' 'Jungleland.' Plus we would go eat at the Inkwell (still there today , although at a different location in Long Branch) and I always loved to get their strawberry shortcacke."
Bruce talked about the Steel Mill ("we played long extended songs) days and how it could be difficult to find a paying job. He and Steel Mill were in Seal Rock in San Francisco and played at the Family Dog where they were trying out for a gig. He thought they blew all the other bands away "we blew the roof off the place" but then another band came on and they were more polished than Steel Mill and they got the gig. "We came 3,000 for that? No job?"
But he said that inspired him to get better.

The conversation then turned to his 10-piece Bruce Springsteen Band "but my audience went from 2,000 to two," Bruce said.
Santelli then asked about the Upstage Club in Asbury Park.

"It was an unusual space to jam," Bruce said. "It was open from 8 to 12 then 1 a.m. to 5 a.m . From 3 to 5 every musician at the Jersey Shore would be lined up outside to play in that place. There was nothing like it in the country. A fantastic place to jam with other musicians. Davey (Sancious) came over from Belmar. He was a phenom who lived on E Street where the name of the band came from. He floored the place."
Santelli taked about how New Jersey wasn't the place to be discovered but the music scene brought people in. Bruce said how he just read an article in the newspaper where New Jersey is the No. 1 state where people are moving out of!
"After all my hard work!" he said to laughs from the audience. "I had always been writing about moving away from New Jersey..
"I played many nights in Asbury Park and no one came to see you of any importance. But we learned our craft from 1000 nights of playing in a club," he said.
Santelli asked about why his first album was called "Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J.?
"They were calling me the new Bob Dylan and connecting me to New York City. My first photo shoot was done in New York City. I was walking down the Asbury Park boardwalk and saw the postcard in the store and I wanted that to be the album cover.
"I'm from New Jersey. Who's from New Jersey? No one.
"My early records are about the local characters and the local scene."

The conversation turned to Bruce playing at the Student Prince in Asbury Park.
"I went from Steel Mill to the Bruce Springsteen Band to a five-piece band at the Student Prince. We made $90 a week and we could live on that."
On Greetings from Asbury Park Bruce said "I was going to be a poet influenced by Bob Dylan and Tim Buckley.
"On Greetings I wrote the lyrics first than the music, I don't do that now."

He talked about living in the abandoned beauty parlor in Asbury Park and writing "Blinded by the Light" with a rhyming dictionary and it was written on a spinet piano on the second floor.
:"I knew my voice was okay, my guitar play was pretty good so I knew my songs would have to be fireworks," he said. "I wrote on the guitar and the piano."
Bruce's band Dr Zoom and the Sonic Boom was mentioned and Bruce said "We saw Joe Cocker's 'Mad Dogs and Englishmen' and wanted to do something like that."
Santelli mentioned the Sunshine In in Asbury Park (an old concert hall that was on Kingsley Street just behind the current location of the Stone Pony Summer stage).
Bruce said how he opened for some bands there including the Allman Brothers and Humble Pie and that he saw Black Sabbath play there and the J. Geils Band.
"Asbury Park had a lot of national acts coming through it." he said.
Bruce mentioned how he once opened for Grand Funk Railroad (in Brick, N.J.) and we "blew them off the stage."

He talked about seeing The Who at Asbury Park's Convention Hall, that was his first real rock show (he did say his mother took him to see Chubby Checker at the Steel Pier in Atlantic City) and how The Who smashed their guitars and amps and they were the opening act for the Blues Magoos and Herman's Hermits. He said he saw the Doors at Convention Hall and the place had terrible sound but it was a thrill to be in the same room as them.
They talked about how Asbury Park had it's down years but Bruce said "When Asbury Park went down the tubes, it made room for some things, One of the things was that it was an open city. There were gay bars there, the Upstage was still there, and you had a little more elbow room than you had in other neighboring towns. So the musicians, many musicians, were still there at the Student Prince or the Upstage."
Santelli asked Bruce about having his picture on the cover of Time and Newsweek Bruce said "for those young people in the audience, Time and Newsweek were magazines. It was a big deal to be on the cover. I've outlived them!"
The conversation turned to the Bottom Line shows in 1975. "That made our band, Those shows changed the way the band thought about itself. We came out on the other side. it was earth shattering. Those were shows that people really paid attention to."
Bruce said things changed after that and he was excited to open the newspapers to see reviews of his shows, but they were still panned in some places. "There was so much hype of Born to Run and people were gunning for you. You would read 'these guys suck' so I stopped reading the reviews.
Santelli mentioned how there were places where the band was always popular: "Houston, Philadelphia, Arizona, Cleveland and Boston.":
"There were dedicated fans there. They sustained us," Bruce said.

Santelli said, what many fans would agree with, that the lawsuit period from 1976-77 were some of the best shows the band has ever played.
"Glad you had a good time. I was suffering!" Bruce said. "We got through that period by playing very hard each night.
Santelli said how the E Street Band was like a family that people could relate to.

"I found that out when i broke up the E Street Band," Bruce said. "I thought of James Brown and the Famous Flames, Buddy Holly and the Crickets.
"I wanted people to see that we are friends. I wanted a broader sense of community."

Bruce was then talking a bit and said "I forgot what we were talking about!" Santelli said "The E Street Band" as the crowd laughed.:
The Born in the U.S.A. album was then discussed.

Santelli said Bruce had a lot of muscles back then, and Bruce said "I still have them."
He said the song "Born in the U.S.A." took off on the second tape and the subject was interpreted and misinterpreted so it appeals to everyone."
As far as the success of the album he said "We got to ride that wave and you have to know where you want to go with it. It opens up the flood gates to everything."
Bruce said he likes playing the Born int he U.S.A. album live. "It's a barrel of laughs, one fun song after another."

Santelli asked "which record strikes you as your most impressive?" "Nebraska," said Bruce. "It was a happy accident. I had been spending all this money in the studio and decided to do this on a small tape player. I recorded it over two to three days to about a week. I tried to make it better (in the studio) but I only made it worse.
Bruce said he is still impressed by "Tunnel of Love."

"There's good writing there," he said. "It's focused and directly addresses what I was trying to address at the time. I listen to it now and I like the writing. That record is still very important to me."
Although he said one fan came up to him and said "I liked it better when you wrote about cars."

Santelli asked Bruce if he ever though about being in movies and Bruce said no, that it's not the same business and you need different skills.
Next he asked about his creative process now and Bruce said "once you have children, you have to work differently. You learn to work around the people. When I lived on Telegraph Hill Road in Holmdel I could be up at 5 a.m. and find things that mean something to you.
"Now, I can write always anywhere. Last week Patti was on the couch and I was sitting by the fire strumming some progressive chords on the guitar and a song came out of it." (Ooooohhh, new music!)
He said how he still likes to write while he's on the road and work on songs in his hotel room after shows.

He said Patti, who was in the audience, was working on a new record right now and he likes that because "I get to play bass or keyboards."
He said her work has been overlooked and he hopes that changes.

Bruce talked about his children and how he "wants them to be happy and to find something they are passionate about." That it might not be music but he did have his son (Evan) onstage in front of 70,000 people and he did pretty good.
Santelli asked what many of us are always asking "How much stuff is still in the can, that we haven't heard?"
Bruce said: "I have a lot of stuff in the vaults. Maybe something for a Tracks 2."
Santelli asked about a new record and Bruce said he has a bunch of things he's been working on," but was no more revealing than that.
Next they took some questions from the audience. The first question the woman said she did her research but then was all over the map and Bruce really wasn't sure what she asked, neither did she or the audience. I think it had something to do with his faith,.
I asked the next question, just something I was always curious about. We know the E Street Band was named for E Street in Belmar where David Sancious lived, but why? I said to Bruce I had never heard his version of the story, that Clarence in his book wrote that they used to sit and wait for David all the time there since he was always late.
Bruce said "I can't really remember anything specific. It was just something we were kicking around on the tour bus one night. Bruce Springsteen and….. The E Street Band seemed to have a nice fit. I don't recall David being tardy."
There were about five other questions from the audience. One guy just said how much Born to Run meant to him. There was another convoluted question about Bruce's activism. "Bruce said songs can inspire people and stir the pot. They can create a dialogue and argument.
Someone asked about how there's not many outtake versions of the song "Darkness on the Edge of Town" and Bruce said he had the name of the song, but not the words yet, but when he did record it, he knew he had it from that start.
"It's still one of my favorite songs I've written."

The final question was about Bruce playing the Super Bowl and he said they had been asking him to play it for about 10 years and he felt the TV people finally mastered the 12 minutes they could play.
"It was one of the most terrifying and thrilling12 minutes of my work life," he said. "It gave the E Street Band the opportunity to play for everyone in America for free and to reach the total audience I always wanted to."
That then wrapped up a great evening and great conversation by Bob Santelli and Bruce Springsteen. It ended at 9:25 p.m.
I've seen and read a lot of interviews with Bruce Springsteen over the past 35-plus years. For me, this was the best of them all.
Spotted in the audience: Patti Scialfa, Jon Landau, Vini Lopez, Carl "Tinker" West, Obie, Bruce's pal Matt Delia, Frank Caruso (the illustrator of the book Outlaw Pete),Dave Marsh and Jim Rotolo.
If you made it this far, thank you for reading.

Compiled by Stan Goldstein.
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