Ahead of the E Street Band’s long-awaited return to Saturday Night Live this weekend, Bruce Springsteen stopped by The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon Thursday to talk The River reissue The Ties That Bind and his early rock band Steel Mill, which also boasted guitarist Steven Van Zandt. “We both had a lot more hair,” Springsteen told Fallon after the host showed him a photo of Steel Mill onstage.
“We had a very heavy blues band. I was about 19,” Springsteen said of his early band, which eventually evolved into the E Street Band in the early Seventies. “I played very heavy music for a long time before I moved into more soul-influenced rock, but I wouldn’t mind having that hair back.” Fallon noted that, with the long hair, Springsteen resembled Pearl Jam singer Eddie Vedder.
As for The River, Springsteen admitted the album was significant to him for two reasons: It rescued him from going into debt, and it greatly expanded his audience. “This was the record where women started coming to the show. Previously we played to a lot of young men, due to the homosexual undercurrents in my music,” Springsteen told Fallon. “But we had a hit record, and when we have a hit record [“Hungry Heart”], that means it’s date night – Women listen to Top 40 radio, that’s what my daughter does – and so finally people came, brought their dates, girls came, it was a much nicer scene for us.”
Also in the interview, Springsteen elaborated on the story that he originally penned “Hungry Heart” for the Ramones. “I wrote it in about the time it took me to sing it, and I brought it in, and we either went to make a demo of it or I played it for Jon [Landau, Springsteen’s manager] and he said, ‘No, you better keep that one,'” Springsteen said. “So he was right about that. I think it did pretty well.”
The Roots then delivered a snippet of what “Hungry Heart” would have sounded like if it wound up in the hands of the Ramones.