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The Rolling Stone Interview: Bruce Springsteen Leaves E Street

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On the one hand there seems to be a tremendous sense of disillusionment in this country. Yet on the other hand, it seems like George Bush could be reelected.
I think so, too – but not on my vote. People have been flirting with the outside candidates, but that's all I think it is. When they go put their money down, though, it always winds up being with someone in the mainstream. And the frustrating thing is, you know it's not going to work.

Do any of the candidates appeal to you?
What Jerry Brown is saying is true – all that stuff is true. And I liked Jesse Jackson when he ran last time around. But I guess there hasn't really been anyone who can bring these ideas to life, who can make people believe that there's some other way.

America is a conservative country, it really is. I think that's one thing the past ten years have shown. But I don't know if people are really organized, and I don't think there's a figure out there who's been able to embody the things that are eating away at the soul of the nation at large.

I mean, the political system has really broken down. We've abandoned a gigantic part of the population – we've just left them for dead. But we're gonna have to pay the piper some day. But you worry about the life of your own children, and people live in such a state of dread that it affects the overall spiritual life of the nation as a whole. I mean, I live great, and plenty of people do, but it affects you internally in some fashion, and it just eats away at whatever sort of spirituality you pursue.

Do you see any cause for optimism?
Well, somebody's going to have to address these issues. I don't think they can go unaddressed forever. I believe that the people won't stand for it, ultimately. Maybe we're not at that point yet. But at some point, the cost of not addressing these things is just going to be too high.

A lot of people have pointed out that rappers have addressed a lot of these issues. What kind of music do you listen to?
I like Sir Mix-a-Lot. I like Queen Latifah; I like her a lot. I also like Social Distortion. I think Somewhere Between Heaven and Hell is a great record, a great rock & roll album. "Born to Lose" is great stuff. I like Faith No More. I like Live; I think that guy [Edward Kowalczyk] is a really good singer. I like a song on the Peter Case record, "Beyond the Blues." Really good song.

How do you keep up with what's happening musically?
Every three or four months I'll just wander through Tower Records and buy, like, fifty things, and I get in my car and just pop things in and out. I'm a big curiosity buyer. Sometimes I get something just because of the cover. And then I also watch TV. On Sundays, I'll flick on 120 Minutes and just see who's doing what.

Mike Appel, your former manager, has contributed to a new book (Down Thunder Road: The Making of Bruce Springsteen) that essentially claims that your current manager, Jon Landau, stole you out from under him.
Well, that's a shame, you know, because what happened was Mike and I had kind of reached a place where our relationship had kind of bumped up against its limitations. We were a dead-end street. And Jon came in, and he had a pretty sophisticated point of view, and he had an idea how to solve some very fundamental problems, like how to record and where to record.

But Mike kind of turned Jon into his monster, maybe as a way of not turning me into one. It's a classic thing: Who wants to blame themselves for something that went wrong? Nobody does. It's tough to say, "Maybe I fucked it up." But the truth is, if it hadn't been Jon, it would have been somebody else – or nobody else, but I would have gone my own way. Jon didn't say, "Hey, let's do what I want to do." He said, "I'm here to help you do what you're going to do." And that's what he's done since the day we met.

Two other people who used to work with you, ex-roadies, sued a few years ago, charging that you hadn't paid them overtime, among other things. What was your reaction to that?
It was disappointing. I worked with these two people for a long time, and I thought I'd really done the right thing. And when they left, it was handshakes and hugs all around, you know. And then about a year later, bang!

I think that if you asked the majority of people who had worked with me how they felt about the experience, they'd say they'd been treated really well. But it only takes one disgruntled or unhappy person, and that's what everyone wants to hear; the drum starts getting beat. But outside of all that – the bullshit aspect of it – if you spend a long time with someone and there's a very fundamental misunderstanding, well, you feel bad about it.

You recently appeared on Saturday Night Live. It was the first time you ever performed on TV. How did you like it?

It felt very intense. You rehearse two or three times before you go on, but when we actually did it, it was like "Okay, you've got three songs, you got to give it up." It was different, but I really enjoyed it. I mean, I must not have been on TV for all this time for some reason, but now that I've done it, it's like "Gee, why didn't I do this before?" There must have been some reason. And I certainly think that I'm going to begin using television more in some fashion. I think it's in the cards for me at this point, to find a way to reach people who might be interested in what I'm saying, what I'm singing about.

I believe in this music as much as anything I've ever written. I think it's the real deal. I feel like I'm at the peak of my creative powers right now. I think that in my work I'm presenting a complexity of ideas that I've been struggling to get to in the past. And it took me ten years of hard work outside of the music to get to this place. Real hard work. But when I got here, I didn't find bitterness and disillusionment. I found friendship and hope and faith in myself and a sense of purpose and passion. And it feels good. I feel like that great Sam and Dave song "Born Again." I feel like a new man.

This story is from the August 6, 1992 issue of Rolling Stone. 


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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.”

More Song Stories entries »
 
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