July 23, 2012


10 Things We Learned from Bruce Springsteen's Massive "New Yorker" Profile

Michael Ochs Archives
Michael Ochs Archives

Just in case you didn't have time to read a nearly book-length profile about the Boss today, we did it for you. New Yorker editor-in-chief David Remnick spills 15,000 words about the Boss—whom he never even calls the Boss!—at age 62. Here, the 10 things that piqued our interest, thrilled our American rock-loving hearts, and otherwise educated us.

His origins: Bruce's first band, the Castiles, was named after his favorite soap brand.

The New Yorker-christened Most Famous Review in the History of Rock Criticism was about Springsteen: "Last Thursday, at the Harvard Square Theatre, I saw my rock 'n’ roll past flash before my eyes," wrote critic Jon Landau in 1974. Landau would go on to become Springsteen's manager and confidante. "And I saw something else: I saw rock and roll future and its name is Bruce Springsteen. And on a night when I needed to feel young, he made me feel like I was hearing music for the very first time."

How does Bruce walk? "With a rolling rodeo gait," Remnick writes.

Bruce still loves hearing himself on the radio: "That never gets old. I’m still excited hearing the music on the radio! I remember the first time I ever saw someone hearing me on the radio. We were in Connecticut playing at some college. A guy was in his car, a warm summer night, and his window was rolled down, and ‘Spirit in the Night’ was coming out of the car. Wow. I remember thinking, That’s it, I’ve realized at least a part of my rock-and-roll dreams. It still feels the same to me. To hear it come out of the radio—it’s an all-points bulletin."

Music's purpose, according to the Boss: “For an adult, the world is constantly trying to clamp down on itself. Routine, responsibility, decay of institutions, corruption: this is all the world closing in. Music, when it’s really great, pries that shit back open and lets people back in, it lets light in, and air in, and energy in, and sends people home with that and sends me back to the hotel with it. People carry that with them sometimes for a very long period of time.”

Setlist-making objectives, per Remnick: "To air the new work and his latest themes; to play the expected hits for the casual fans; to work up enough surprises and rarities for fans who have seen him hundreds of times; and, especially, to pace the show from frenzy to calm and back again."

Touring is serious work: “Remember, we’re also running a business here, so there is a commercial exchange, and that ticket is my handshake," Springsteen says. "That ticket is me promising you that it’s gonna be all the way every chance I get. That’s my contract. And ever since I was a young guy I took that seriously.”

Remembering saxophonist Clarence Clemons, who died last June at age 69: “Standing next to Clarence was like standing next to the baddest ass on the planet. You felt like no matter what the day or the night brought, nothing was going to touch you," Springsteen says.

Bruce's mother's name? Adele. Just sayin'. During his current tour, Springsteen invited his 87-year-old mother onstage to dance during "Dancing in the Dark."

Insecurity and therapy are essential to Bruce: "I’m 30 years in analysis! Look, you cannot underestimate the fine power of self-loathing in all of this. You think, I don’t like anything I’m seeing, I don’t like anything I’m doing, but I need to change myself, I need to transform myself. I do not know a single artist who does not run on that fuel. If you are extremely pleased with yourself, nobody would be fucking doing it! Brando would not have acted. Dylan wouldn’t have written 'Like a Rolling Stone.' James Brown wouldn’t have gone 'Unh!'"

Bonus bullet: The all-time best description of Steve Van Zandt: "Piratical."

New Yorker subscribers can read the full feature here; non-subscribers can read a bit, or find the issue on newsstands.