Bruce Springsteen: The Boss Is Back

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The moment ushered in six songs from the new LP: "Sherry Darling," "I Wanna Marry You" (with a funny spoken intro turning into a beautiful vocal round by Bruce, Clarence and "Miami" Steve Van Zandt), "The Ties That Bind," "Wreck on the Highway," "Point Blank" and "Crush on You." Springsteen flung his guitar to Clarence early in the latter song, the better to launch into some sidestepping so rapid it was more an athletic feat than a dance. His tight black shirt was soaking wet as he called for "Midnight Hour," then stormed through "Ramrod" and "You Can Look (but You Better Not Touch)." "All those songs – with the exception of 'Midnight Hour' – are new songs," he announced proudly. The lights lowered for a brooding version of "Stolen Car," Garry Tallent's bass rumbling like distant, ominous thunder, and then came the spate of crowd pleasers: "Backstreets," "Rosalita," "Born to Run" and the Mitch Ryder medley. The crowd, seated and attentive for much of the show, then pressed against the stage. "I knew you were out there," said Bruce. "You're great. Thanks a lot!"

"It was a real warm crowd," Springsteen said backstage as the medicinal rub heated up under a thermal-underwear shirt. "A lot of them have seen us before. I don't think they come to the show at this point with an attitude of 'You have to win me over.' Course, a lot of people bring friends who have never seen us. They must, 'cause a lot of these places we didn't sell out before. So they must be bringing some body from some place."

His album had been in the stores for only a day, but "Hungry Heart" had already declared itself a single because of radio airplay, and ticket sales were still going through the roof. Where were all those new faces coming from?

"The last tour,"he explained, "we played 122 shows, and the band played real hard every single night, you know. Every single night in every town, the band played very hard. And people, I think they just remembered. They remembered, and this time everybody told their friends, 'You just gotta come down to the show.'"

"Where do you reach for the energy to do it?" I asked him. "You're playing nearly four hours, sometimes three nights in a row. Occasionally, you have to be tired."

"The audience brings a lot, even when you think you have nothing left within you. You know, tonight is tonight, and what you do tonight, you don't make up for tomorrow, and you don't ride on what you did last night. I always keep in my mind that you only have one chance. Some guy bought his ticket, and there's a promise made between the musician and the audience. When they support each other, that's a special thing. It goes real deep, and most people take it too lightly. If you break the pact or take it too lightly, nothing else makes sense. It's at the heart of everything; I'm not sure how.

"I've got a lot of energy just naturally. But when I get onstage and I'm running on empty. I just think of the promise to the guy or girl who's down there, a promise that's made from hundreds or thousands of miles away. It's no different than if you stood with this person and shook his hand."

This story appeared in the November 27th, 1980 issue of Rolling Stone.

To read the new issue of Rolling Stone online, plus the entire RS archive: Click Here

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Song Stories

“Try a Little Tenderness”

Otis Redding | 1966

This pop standard had been previously recorded by dozens of artists, including by Bing Crosby 33 years before Otis Redding, who usually wrote his own songs, cut it. It was actually Sam Cooke’s 1964 take, which Redding’s manager played for Otis, that inspired the initially reluctant singer to take on the song. Isaac Hayes, then working as Stax Records’ in-house producer, handled the arrangement, and Booker T. and the MG’s were the backing band. Redding’s soulful version begins quite slowly and tenderly itself before mounting into a rousing, almost religious “You’ve gotta hold her, squeeze her …” climax. “I did that damn song you told me to do,” Redding told his manager. “It’s a brand new song now.”

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