Blinded by the Light: My Springsteen Story

When I saw the news story about Bruce Springsteen and Paul McCartney having the plug pulled on their London concert this weekend, I had to sit back and laugh. Long before he became a rock icon, I saw him perform in the Christian Brothers Academy gymnasium in New Jersey, not far from where he grew up. It was 1973, and I was a junior at St. John Vianney (ironically, I now live near a different SJV in Kailua, Hawaii) and used to hang out with the jocks in my high school. A group of us bought some beer, got a little drunk, and paid $2 apiece at the door to hear Bruce’s new group… the E Street Band.

His first album, “Greetings From Asbury Park,” was getting some air play on NYC radio stations. Most everyone in the crowd — about 200-300 kids, all standing around or sitting on the floor since there were no seats — had heard “Blinded by the Light,” but his prior bands were known for covering other rock songs, including the Beatles’ hits. The jocks I was with weren’t big fans of his, nor were they the type of guys who were likely to break out into spontaneous dance as if they were on Glee… but about half an hour into the set, we were all dancing and jumping around like fools.

I remember hearing “Rosalita” for the first time, which was about to come out on his second album, and to this day I still get a tingly thrill whenever I hear the opening notes of that number. He played for more than three hours. Me and the boys were sweating and giddy when the concert was supposed to be over. But Bruce wasn’t finished. They launched into the longest version of “Twist and Shout” that I think has ever been played. At some point someone turned on all the gym lights to signal it was time to stop the music. Yet everyone kept dancing, so Bruce and the E Street Band played even harder… until finally, they actually cut the power to the stage. Little did I realize I was witnessing the birth of a rock and roll legend right before my eyes. I thought for sure there were probably a few accounts recorded for posterity, but this link was one of the few references I could find online. If you click on the photos from the CBA yearbook, you’ll see how scrawny he was back in the day.

I wonder if that skinny kid with the big grin could have ever dreamed that some day he would actually perform the very same Beatles tune with Paul McCartney himself — or that someone would pull the plug on him again after all these years! You know what’s really cool though? That he’s still performing with the same passion as when he first started out. The article about the London gig (click here) says he had already exceeded the curfew by half an hour when Paul joined him on stage.

That’s one thing I continue to see in people who are successful in life. They find something they are passionate about, and they keep at it because it never gets old for them. For some, it’s easy to figure out what it is they love to do. Some never find it, which is a shame. Worse, they wait too long before they even ask themselves what it is they truly want to do. All I know is that night in a hot, sweaty high school gym, when I heard “Blinded by the Light” sung by this scruffy young guy from Freehold like his life depended on it, I believed my future was going to be wide open because anything was possible. And I suppose that’s why I keep writing, whether it’s these little blog posts or screenplays and books that have yet to see the light of day. For better or worse, it’s like the Boss sang:

Mama always told me not to look into the sights of the sun

Oh, but Mama, that’s where the fun is…

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