The phone rings. It’s Mick Jagger on the line. He wants you to join the band.
For one song, for one night only.
Obviously you say yes immediately, but is that the end of it? Can you cut it with the greatest rock ‘n’ roll band in the world?
When Bruce Springsteen got the call in 2012 he was fairly confident he could hold his own.
It’s late in the story, but the life that brought him to this moment is stunningly laid bare in Springsteen’s remarkably well-written autobiography, Born To Run.
For decades I’ve regarded Springsteen as one of the truly great men of rock, because the man has worked so long and hard to give us his all, both onstage and on record. My view hasn’t always been this unerringly positive, but over the decades he has assuredly shown himself to be rock royalty, a cut above the rest. His songs have always been about things that matter to all of us, never just fluff and fairy floss with a catchy beat.
I’m almost ashamed to say I waited until the man was in his 60s to see him perform live with the E Street Band. In that 2014 show he gave more to the audience than any performer I’ve ever seen. And I’ve seen a few. By the end of it, he could barely walk.
Which is why it’s so extraordinary to learn Springsteen’s greatest fear has always been that he is no more than a poser, a pretender to the everyman throne. Even more incredibly, one of his greatest disappointments is that he feels his greatest works remain to this day misunderstood.
I know what he means, because I completely missed the point of Born In The USA, the song and the album that made him a worldwide megastar in the 1980s. I was a music reviewer at the time, so I should have known better, yet I paid scant attention, dismissing the record as a sellout — a yawping jingoistic nod to the true patriots.
It was, of course, anything but.
I was far from alone in my misinterpretation, although for most the wrongly perceived “hell-yeah” triumphalism was something they loved.
Back then, in pursuit of a pretty girl, I would hit the floor in nightclubs to Springsteen’s Dancing In The Dark even as it cemented my view he’d crossed too far into the commercial zone and the accompanying MTV-era video proved the boy sure couldn’t dance.
It might surprise you to learn Springsteen himself once believed he couldn’t sing. Even now he sees himself as a journeyman singer, something he felt he had to overcome through superlative guitar playing and songwriting. He strove to overcome vocal limitation with passionate expression.
I’d say he’s managed to pull that off.
To read all this in the man’s own words was to find myself beside him on the therapist’s couch, a party to the revelation that Bruce really is just like me, complete with fears, anxieties, egocentric follies, darkness and failure aplenty.
There is an honesty in these pages that is surely a result of the years of therapy he actually did receive as he sought to face down his demons.
In the final pages he says he strove to to show the reader his mind. That promise is admirably fulfilled here.
Seek this book. It’s not hard to find.