Alternative History
Bruce Springsteen
Bruce Springsteen
Born Bruce Frederick Joseph Springsteen
September 23, 1949
Long Branch, New Jersey, USA
Other names "The Boss"
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Bruce Frederick Joseph Springsteen (born September 23, 1949), nicknamed "The Boss", is an American singer-songwriter. He records and tours with the E Street Band. Springsteen is widely known for his brand of heartland rock infused with pop hooks, poetic lyrics, and Americana sentiments centered on his native New Jersey.

Early Life[]

Springsteen was born in Long Branch, New Jersey, and spent his childhood and high school years in Freehold Borough. He lived off South Street in Freehold Borough and attended Freehold Borough High School, graduating in 1967 but feeling so alienated that he skipped his graduation ceremony.

Pre-Doomsday Career: Bruce Sprinsteen and the E Street Band[]

Springsteen signed a record deal with Columbia Records in 1972, with the help of John Hammond, who had signed Bob Dylan to the same label a decade earlier. Springsteen brought many of his New Jersey–based colleagues into the studio with him, thus forming the E Street Band (although it would not be formally named as such for a couple more years). His debut album, Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J., released in January 1973, established him as a critical favorite, though sales were slow. Because of Springsteen's lyrical poeticism and folk rock–rooted music exemplified on tracks like "Blinded by the Light" and "For You", as well as the Columbia and Hammond connections, critics initially compared Springsteen to Bob Dylan. "He sings with a freshness and urgency I haven't heard since I was rocked by 'Like a Rolling Stone'," wrote Crawdaddy magazine editor Peter Knobler in Springsteen's first interview/profile, in March 1973. Crawdaddy claimed to have "discovered" Springsteen in the rock press and was his earliest champion. However, on March 9, 1973, a favorable review of "Greetings from Asbury Park" by Kris DiLorenzo had been published in The Stony Brook Statesman. (Springsteen and the E Street Band acknowledged by giving a private performance at the Crawdaddy 10th Anniversary Party in New York City in June 1976.) Music critic Lester Bangs wrote in Creem, 1975, that when Springsteen's first album was released....."many of us dismissed it: he wrote like Bob Dylan and Van Morrison, sang like Van Morrison and Robbie Robertson, and led a band that sounded like Van Morrison's."[21] The track "Spirit in the Night" especially showed Morrison's influence, while "Lost in the Flood" was the first of many portraits of Vietnam veterans and "Growin' Up" his first take on the recurring theme of adolescence. In September 1973 his second album, The Wild, the Innocent & the E Street Shuffle, was released, again to critical acclaim but no commercial success. Springsteen's songs became grander in form and scope, with the E Street Band providing a less folky, more R&B vibe and the lyrics often romanticizing teenage street life. "4th of July, Asbury Park (Sandy)" and "Incident on 57th Street" would become fan favorites, and the long, rousing "Rosalita (Come Out Tonight)" continues to rank among Springsteen's most beloved concert numbers.

In the May 22, 1974, issue of Boston's The Real Paper, music critic Jon Landau wrote after seeing a performance at the Harvard Square Theater, "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."[22] Landau subsequently became Springsteen's manager and producer, helping to finish the epic new album, Born to Run. Given an enormous budget in a last-ditch effort at a commercially viable record, Springsteen became bogged down in the recording process while striving for a wall of sound production. But, fed by the release of an early mix of "Born to Run" to progressive rock radio, anticipation built toward the album's release. All in all the album took more than 14 months to record, with six months alone spent on the song "Born To Run." During this time Springsteen battled with anger and frustration over the album, saying he heard "sounds in [his] head" that he could not explain to the others in the studio. It was during these recording sessions that "Miami" Steve Van Zandt would stumble into the studio just in time to help Springsteen organize the horn section on "Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out" (it is his only written contribution to the album), and eventually led to his joining the E Street Band.Van Zandt had been a long-time friend of Springsteen, as well as a collaborator on earlier musical projects, and understood where he was coming from, which helped him to translate some of the sounds Springsteen was hearing. Still, by the end of the grueling recording sessions, Springsteen was not satisfied, and, upon first hearing the finished album, threw the record into the alley and told Jon Landau he would rather just cut the album live at The Bottom Line, a place he often played.

On August 13, 1975, Springsteen and the E Street Band began a five-night, 10-show stand at New York's Bottom Line club. The engagement attracted major media attention, was broadcast live on WNEW-FM, and convinced many skeptics that Springsteen was for real. With the release of Born to Run on August 25, 1975, Springsteen finally found success. The album peaked at number 3 on the Billboard 200, and while there were no hit singles, "Born to Run" (Billboard #23), "Thunder Road", "Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out" (Billboard #83), and "Jungleland" all received massive album-oriented rock airplay and remain perennial favorites on many classic rock stations. The songwriting and recording was more disciplined than before, while still maintaining an epic feel. With its panoramic imagery, thundering production and desperate optimism, Born to Run is considered by some fans to be among the best rock and roll albums of all time and Springsteen's finest work. It established him as a sincere and dynamic rock and roll personality who spoke for and in the voice of a large part of the rock audience. To cap off the triumph, Springsteen appeared on the covers of both Time and Newsweek in the same week, on October 27 of that year. So great did the wave of publicity become that Springsteen eventually rebelled against it during his first venture overseas, tearing down promotional posters before a concert appearance in London.

A legal battle with former manager Mike Appel kept Springsteen out of the studio for nearly a year, during which time he kept the E Street Band together through extensive touring across the U.S. Despite the optimistic fervor with which he often performed, the new songs he was writing and often debuting on stage had taken a more somber tone than much of his previous work. Reaching settlement with Appel in 1977, Springsteen finally returned to the studio, and the subsequent sessions produced Darkness on the Edge of Town (1978). Musically, this album was a turning point in Springsteen's career. Gone were the raw, rapid-fire lyrics, outsized characters and long, multi-part musical compositions of the first two albums; now the songs were leaner and more carefully drawn and began to reflect Springsteen's growing intellectual and political awareness. Some fans consider Darkness Springsteen's best and most consistent record; tracks such as "Badlands" and "The Promised Land" became concert staples for decades to come, while the track "Prove It All Night" received a significant amount of album rock radio airplay. Other fans would prefer the work of the adventurous early Springsteen. The cross-country 1978 tour to promote the album would become legendary for the intensity and length of its shows.

By the late 1970s, Springsteen had earned a reputation in the pop world as a songwriter whose material could provide hits for other bands. Manfred Mann's Earth Band had achieved a U.S. number one pop hit with a heavily rearranged version of Greetings' "Blinded by the Light" in early 1977. Patti Smith reached number 13 with her take on Springsteen's unreleased "Because the Night" (with revised lyrics by Smith) in 1978, while The Pointer Sisters hit number two in 1979 with Springsteen's also unreleased "Fire".

In September 1979, Springsteen and the E Street Band joined the Musicians United for Safe Energy anti-nuclear power collective at Madison Square Garden for two nights, playing an abbreviated set while premiering two songs from his upcoming album. The subsequent No Nukes live album, as well as the following summer's No Nukes documentary film, represented the first official recordings and footage of Springsteen's fabled live act, as well as Springsteen's first tentative dip into political involvement. Springsteen continued to consolidate his thematic focus on working-class life with the 20-song double album The River in 1980, which included an intentionally paradoxical range of material from good-time party rockers to emotionally intense ballads, and finally yielded his first hit Top Ten single as a performer, "Hungry Heart". This album marked a shift in Springsteen's music toward a pop-rock sound that was all but missing from any of his earlier work. This is apparent in the stylistic adoption of certain eighties pop-rock hallmarks like the reverberating-tenor drums, very basic percussion/guitar and repetitive lyrics apparent in many of the tracks. The title song pointed to Springsteen's intellectual direction, while a couple of the lesser-known tracks presaged his musical direction. The album sold well, becoming his first topper on the Billboard Pop Albums chart, and a long tour in 1980 and 1981 followed, featuring Springsteen's first extended playing of Europe and ending with a series of multi-night arena stands in major cities in the U.S.

The River was followed in 1982 by the stark solo acoustic Nebraska. According to the Marsh biographies, Springsteen was in a depressed state when he wrote this material, and the result is a brutal depiction of American life. The title track is about the murder spree of Charles Starkweather. According to Marsh, the album started as a demo tape for new work to be played with the E Street Band, but during the recording process Springsteen and producer Landau realized the songs worked better as solo acoustic numbers. Several studio sessions with the E Street Band led them to realize that the original recording, made in Springsteen's home on a simple, low-tech four-track tape deck, were the best versions they were going to get. However, those sessions were not all for naught, as the band recorded several new songs that Springsteen had written in addition to the Nebraska material, including "Born in the U.S.A." and "Glory Days". These new songs would not be released until two years later, when they formed the basis of Springsteen's next album.

While Nebraska did not sell well, it garnered widespread critical praise (including being named "Album of the Year" by Rolling Stone magazine's critics) and influenced later significant works by other major artists, including U2's album The Joshua Tree. It helped inspire the musical genre known as lo-fi music, becoming a cult favorite among indie-rockers. Springsteen did not tour in conjunction with Nebraska's release.

"Is there anybody alive out there?": Bruce Springsteen and Doomsday[]

Springsteen was at his recently-acquired home in Rumson, New Jersey with his wife at the time of Doomsday seeking inspiration for his new album tentatively called "Born In the U.S.A". When word of the attacks first came across the television mass panic ensued. Springsteen and his family sheltered in place at the mansion for the next few weeks before boarding a small convoy of boats that were leaving Asbury's harbor. Asbury Park was not hit but due to its close proximity to New York City the decision was hastily made to head south in search of safe haven. Setting off down the coast of New Jersey hoping to find a safe place come a shore. The boats reached the relatively unaffected Atlantic City.

Springsteen, having grown a beard, covered up his identity so he did not draw attention to himself or get preferential treatment as he believed he was just the same as the rest of the refugees no matter how famous he was. Springsteen's family were able to find a home to live in temporarily while the situation was accessed. The Mayor of Atlantic City had no contact with the state or federal government but did reach survivor groups in southern New Jersey and Delaware. The Atlantic City area soon be came a part of the newly formed nation "Delmarva".

Just as it appeared life had began to become more stable his wife was gunned down by a gang member while taking a walk one evening. Springsteen entered a state of deep depression over the death of his wife and later admitted in an interview that he contemplated suicide but decided against it because he believed it would make his wife's death in vain.

Springsteen had initially decided to retire from music but in 1989 he was reunited with his former band member and close friend Clarence Clemons gave him second thoughts. With the rest of the E Street band member presumed dead. Springsteen and Clemons quietly began seeking new members to fill the void left by the attacks.

Post-Doomsday Career: Bruce Springsteen and the Boardwalk Band[]

Not knowing what else to do, Springsteen and Clemons began writing songs together from the little apartment they shared in Atlantic City. The songs they produced were searing anthems full of pain and loss but also energetic determination to rise from the ashes of Doomsday. Springsteen and Clemons began performing these songs as lowly buskers on the Atlantic City Boardwalk. As the economy gradually picked up during Atlantic City's transition to a trade hub, nightclubs reopened and the pair began performing in these venues, gradually attracting other local musicians to join them to form a new band, called the Boardwalk Band. Eventually, an Atlantic City radio station invited Bruce Springsteen and the Boardwalk Bank to formally record the album in their studio.

The resulting album was called "The Rising," which would later be remembered by critics as Springsteen's post-Doomsday remembrance album. The different tracks on the album represent the wide spectrum of emotions felt by American survivors of Doomsday. One major track was "My City of Ruins," dedicated to everyone who had escaped from the cities targeted on Doomsday. The title track "The Rising" represents the phoenix-like rise of survivors to try to rebuild their lives and society after the devastation of the nuclear exchange.

More To Come...