THAT RIGHT THERE . . . THAT is how it’s supposed to be played, which you really should be listening to as you read this post!
THAT right there, played like THAT is the first Bruce Springsteen song that I ever heard off The Boss’ debut album “GREETINGS FROM ASBURY PARK, N.J.”
It’s not Bruce Springsteen’s best song . . . and, apparently, he never even liked it, himself, because the only time I ever heard him perform it in concert, he turned it into a slowed-down, piano-only love ballad that I thought really sucked when I heard it played like that, but maybe that’s just because THIS original version above was the first time I’d ever heard “For You,” and THIS original version was the first time that I instantly became a Bruce Springsteen fan when I was sixteen years or seventeen years old, and THIS was a good example of why Springsteen was being hailed then as “the new Bob Dylan,” with the too-many-but-wonderfully-imaginative lyrics crammed into a three minute song, a real word fest with a fantastic rock band behind it!
And maybe it’s because the first time I heard this song, “For You,” Roark Shirley, the big Renaissance Man on campus, handsome as hell stud with Greek god good looks who was the cool stoner, very intelligent, every-girl-in-high-school-wanted-to-be-his-lover, fearless freight train of a full back on our high school football team that went all the way to the state championship, had just pulled this new album out at a high school pot party put it on the stereo, and “For You” was where he dropped the needle on the vinyl LP even though the song is actually the second one on Side B, but Roark must have loved it too, because he shushed everybody and called them out of their collective alcohol and marijuana and whatever else haze to announce, “HEY EVERYBODY . . . LISTEN TO THIS!”
And when the album finished playing, Roark gave everyone a thrilling account of having just seen “this real cool dude from Jersey play in concert last night with this really kick ass band at the Celebrity Theatre where he blew the roof off the joint . . . and, man, this dude ain’t any bigger than . . . than HESSINGER over there!”
I didn’t even know that Roark Shirley knew my name!
I never dreamed of fitting into his circle of friends! I was just content to be a fly on the wall at parties he’d attended. Sure I was the stoner, hippie, straight A editor of our high school newspaper, but who the hell ever noticed me? No one. That’s who. Not until Roark Shirley compared me . . . or at least my scrawny physique . . . TO BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN, FOR CRYIN’ OUT LOUD!
Maybe THAT might have colored my opinion of the song too.
I dunno. You tell me.
The next time that Bruce Springsteen came to town, I saw him for my first time when he was playing again at the wonderful Celebrity Theatre with its round stage that slowly revolved while the audience seats remained stationary circled around it there in Phoenix, Arizona, where just as Roark Shirley had said, Springsteen really blew the roof off the joint with his bad ass E Street Band made up of . . .
“The Big Man,” Clarence Clemons on saxophone, “The Boss,” Bruce Springsteen, writing the songs and singing vocals, David Sancious on piano, Vini “Mad Dog” Lopez on drums, Danny Federici playing keyboards and accordion, and Garry Tallent on bass.
I had never danced before that night until I saw my first Bruce Springsteen concert at the Celebrity Theatre, but I sure as hell was DANCING THAT NIGHT!
HELL, EVERYBODY WAS DANCING! EVEN THE DEAD WERE DANCING THAT NIGHT!
The only thing that wasn’t perfect THAT night was that I was there with my big sister, Suzi Q, and her girlfriend, Robin, because I couldn’t get a date, or because I had chickened out from asking one, or something like that, an all too common occurrence in my shy, lacking-all-self-confidence adolescent youth.
BUT OH HOW I LOOKED LIKE HOT STUFF that night, in my skin tight, “French Cut” black lace top, brand new bell bottom jeans, ruby red platform shoes like something Elton John might wear, and my shoulder length hair tucked under the groovy kind of floppy cap that Clarence Clemons is wearing in the picture above, sandwiched, as I was, between too really hot chicks, one who was my own sister, and the other was her roommate, neither one an actual date of mine. But to the outside world seeing us who didn’t know that, I must’ve looked like I REALLY HAD IT ALL!
Seeing Bruce Springsteen and The E Street Band play for my very first time, I vowed in my adolescent heart that this would be the LAST DAMN TIME that I went stag to a Springsteen concert.
But then The Boss didn’t even play “For You” that night. No matter how loudly and longingly or lovingly me and Suzi Q and Robin called out desperately “PLAY FOR YOOOOOOOUUUUUUUU!” when the audience was calling the band back for the several encores that Springsteen played that night . . . he didn’t play, “For You.”
“It’s sad but it sure is true,” to quote another Springsteen lyric, The Boss didn’t play “For You” . . . for me . . . THAT night.
The next time that I saw Bruce Springsteen in concert, he played at Arizona State University in the larger grand old Grady Gammage Memorial Auditorium, the beautiful concert hall there built by Frank Lloyd Wright. This was one of the steps that Springsteen took from playing in bars, to intimate venues like the Celebrity Theatre, to larger concert halls like Gammage Auditorium, to, eventually, open air stadiums to hold the hundreds of thousands of fans that his concerts attracted.
And THAT night I had a date dammit! Yes I DID.
You should click on the slow “For You” version below for background music as you read the rest of this post.
I was a freshman in college, and I had made my choice of who I was gonna work up the nerve to ask out to go see the hot “Springsteen Concert” with me.
I had a choice between a hippie chick who I think kind of liked me or the prettier, always nicely dressed young woman whom I had noticed from the first day of class in English 101.
I went with the prettier girl. I always wanted “the prettier girl.” And I also figured that if the prettier girl didn’t go out with me the hippie chick almost certainly would. That was a dumb choice on my part as it turned out.
The prettier girl didn’t even know Bruce Springsteen’s music . . . but she, like the rest of the world, had seen his face on the covers of Newsweek and Time magazines that summer. She’d heard the buzz . . . but NOT the music.
She said “Yes!” to my invitation. But she was going to see Bruce Springsteen . . . NOT necessarily on a date with ME. There’s a big difference, in case you didn’t know . . . a pretty GODDAM BIG DIFFERENCE as I would soon learn from this experience.
I picked her up at six for the seven o’clock concert. That night I was wearing the black leather blazer made from fine lamb skin that was soft as a beautiful woman’s derriere that my lady killer cousin Richard had loaned me for the evening because the late fall weather was cool then, but not as cool as me! She was beautiful in a her outfit, which I really don’t remember that well because even then I was something of a happy narcissist.
I took my date whose name I no longer remember for the same reason that I can’t remember what she was wearing that night over to my cousin Richard’s apartment where he lived with his girlfriend, Libby, who supported her handsome bum of a boyfriend to have some pre-concert drinks and smokes.
My date didn’t drink . . . and, what’s more, she didn’t smoke either. She had politely declined the glass of wine that Libby poured for all of us, as well as also the joint of marijuana after I had inhaled a hit and passed it to her. Oh well, I thought, she’s NOT COOL, but she sure is pretty!
An inauspicious beginning . . . a poet might have described it . . . to say the least.
And the least said the better, I guess, because the only thing that I remember from that big night was that The Boss DID play “For You” without me having to beg him to do so. He played it right in the middle of the concert, right after a fantastic set of wildly raucous music like only a young Bruce Springsteen and The E Street Band could play back then that had the entire audience, including those in the two dangerously swaying balconies above us all, dancing our asses off . . . even my straight-laced lady friend beside me was dancing HER pretty ass off, because, remember what I said before, when Bruce Springsteen ROCKED even the dead would dance.
Then I guess to give the audience and his band a breather, Springsteen sat down at a Steinway piano and played “For You” as a love lorn ballad like this . . . dammit.
As the audience realized that The Boss was giving us all a very rare slow number, people began to sit back down in their seats, one by one, couple by couple . . . but NOT me.
For a few moments, my good Catholic girl date stood beside me, her friend from English class who had brought her out onto something of a walk on the wild side for the night but still had also taken her to her first ever Bruce Springsteen concert.
What could she do? It was the least that she owed me . . . if it’s not too politically-incorrect, which I’m sure that it is, to say “she owed me” . . . after I’d spent my hard-earned, struggling-college-student money on the hottest tickets in town, had worked up the nerve to ask her out, and chose her over the hippie chick who I still think kind of liked me and would sure as hell have been a better choice that particular night and that’s for damned sure.
But when a dude with his own date sitting right behind us hissed, “Sit down,” and I growled back, “Fuck you!” my own date sat down too. . .
and there I stood alone in the crowd for the entirety of my favorite Bruce Springsteen song that The Boss sang waaaaaaaaaaay toooooooo sloooooooow and waaaaaaaaaaaaaay toooooooooo excruuuuuuuuuuutiatingly lonnnnnnnnnng for the one “local joker” standing alone among thousands and whose mistake of a date had already deserted him just so I could prove something . . . what I don’t know . . . other than I guess that I really LOVED that song, even all fucked up like Springsteen was playing it . . . and that no asshole was going to tell ME what to do!
I hope Bruce Springsteen saw me that night standing there “stuffed like some soldier undaunted.” I’m sure that he did. I’m sure he knew what I was saying to him. I hope so . . . the asshole!
When I walked her to her door after the concert, my date quickly said with no emotion at all the expected, “Thank you, Mark, I really had fun tonight” before she gave my cheek a perfunctory peck.
As I walked back to the car that I had borrowed that night from my big brother, I thought to myself, “I’d have gotten luckier with the hippie chick!”
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