October 4, 2014
My co-worker, a former reporter for the Asbury Park Press, says he’s seen Springsteen a few dozen times during the early years – once or twice at some converted supermarket, several times at the Sunshine Inn, even at the Stone Pony, though he recalls most of the times from the Student Prince.
He even remembers seeing Springsteen sitting on the side during a folk rock duo performance on the Port Pleasant boardwalk, the day after the swim center disaster.
“They were doing things like Simon & Garfunkel, and were apparently raising bail money for one of his band mates busted the day before at the swim center,” he said. “They often performed to raise bail for somebody.”
People, my co-worker said, were always buzzing about Springsteen, and how he was bound to be somebody big someday, not only was Springsteen a prolific song writer, but had an amazing stage presence.
But once off the stage, the dynamic Springsteen vanished and was replaced by someone completely different, a shy, almost recluse that you would not take much notice of if you didn’t know who he was and what he could do on stage.
My co-worker, a seasoned reporter, thought he knew people, but never saw anything like this before.
Of course, my co-worker being from Freehold, could not escape the awe that most people from that part of the planet had for Springsteen, similar to how people in Liverpool must have felt about The Beatles. One of their own had made it big and had done something significant, rising up out of these streets, a guitar hero, a spokesperson for the working class, a musical god of the ordinary people.
My oldest and best friend never saw Springsteen before or after he made it, but her former husband – who worked as a stage hand for bands like Pink Floyd – apparently got up close at some point. But since he’s passed on since, he cannot tell me if he was as awestruck as everybody else about meeting him or what Springsteen is really like once the lights grow dim and the amps are turned off.
I understand the need for people to have heroes, especially local people who they may have rubbed shoulders with or walked along the same boardwalk, or perhaps passed without knowing. Most of the really great are rarely appreciated in their own life time and gain status with death they lacked in life. Some even deserve it.
The fact that Springsteen has kept his place in music for 40 years suggested that he has validity that will only increase with time – perhaps because he never steps down off the stage, and so we never really get to see the wizard behind the curtain. I’m fascinated with the world out of which he rose, and the culture of the band life that allowed him to become who he is, some glimpse of the magic that took place in this place, Asbury Park.
(note 10/11/14: I learned after I wrote this that the swim center was a fundraiser for a late band mate that got busted down south. And since the swim center was a bust, Springsteen and others had to continue to seek ways to raise funds. I don't know the outcome. But it sounds like something Springsteen would do. He tends to be intensely loyal to his friends.)