Bruce Springsteen and Nihilistic Vase Smashing

Even the most professional and assured musicians have goofy moments from their early years. Though Bruce Springsteen is one of the most focused and driven artists in the history of rock music, teenage Bruce was still soaking it all in and trying to find his own musical identity, and sometimes…um, not quite succeeding, as he remembers in this humorous passage from his recent autobiography, Born to Run:

“I’d seen the Who demolish their equipment in a cloud of smoke in front of wide-eyed teenyboppers with Mom and Dad in tow, who were waiting to see the headlining act, Herman’s Hermits. The Who’s show sent me running in a fever out to pick up a strobe light and smoke bomb for my upcoming gig with the Castiles [his first band]. There, at the end of our last set, in the basement of St. Rose of Lima on a Saturday night, I switched on the strobe, set off the smoke bomb, climbed on a chair and smashed a vase of flowers I’d lifted from a first-grade classroom onto the floor. This didn’t quite pack the nihilistic punch of Pete Townshend bashing his guitar to bits against his smoky Vox amplifier, but limited funds and one good guitar could only take you so far.”

Chapter and Verse, the companion CD to the autobiography contains a few of Springsteen’s very old songs, including the Castiles’ “You Can’t Judge a Book By It’s Cover”:

Amazing how well and how relatively early he grew into his skin though. After the Castiles, there was the harder rock of Steel Mill which still didn’t quite have “the Bruce Springsteen sound,” but by 1972 recording under his own name, it’s there. And there in spades. Only 23 and still without an album released, he began turning out songs like the magnificent “The Ballad of Jesse James” and “Henry Boy,” a precursor to the later “Rosalita.” Stuff so unique it could be mistaken for nobody else.

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