Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Growing Up ... in Asbury Park

See my note of corrections at the end of this story.

I helped teach a class on Springsteen's lyrics as literature earlier this semester. A great experience, but I only mention it here as background for another story. I've known about Springsteen since I was in high school in Pittsburgh. Have studied his songs. Thought about his work.

My son came home from school today, idly talking about his day. Bunch of kids absent. No homework because they had extra time in class to do it. Blah-blah-blah. Oh yeah, and they watched Bruce Springsteen today.

"What was he singing?" I said, curious. What video would his teachers be showing a group of elementary kids?

"Christmas songs," he said. "Can I play a game on your phone?"

My daughter, sitting in the room, piped up.

"Yeh, I heard Springsteen was at the Carousel building today."

"Oh, really?" I said, curious. "I hadn't heard about that."

"But that's what I just said!" my son yelled, irritated that clearly we hadn't been listening.

Silence. My daughter and I looked at each other. Two plus two were beginning to add up.

"Um," I said. "You saw Bruce Springsteen--live--performing--at the Carousel building?"


Well, a little investigation and we find out Springsteen was filming a video on the boardwalk in Asbury Park, to be broadcast on the Web at some future date. A lottery was held for tickets to attract a small audience, advertised through Backstreets Magazine. Somehow, my son's school got tickets. The plan was to have the whole E-Street Band there ...

"You saw Clarence Clemons?!" I asked my son. Blank stare. "Was there a big, black guy, playing saxophone?"

"Yes," he said. I had to explain to him how expensive tickets to a Springsteen show are. How the E-Street Band doesn't play together much any more ....

Mind you, one gaping hole in my Springsteen knowledge is I have never seen him live. Never. Ever. I've seen him in person, but not performing. It goes without saying, I've never seen the E-Street Band.

To my son, all this is just funny. Not even funny, just a cool distraction from the school day. An interesting, unplanned field trip. Otherwise, no big deal. Some old guy playing Christmas songs. Let's get on with the video games.

On Facebook

NOTE: Spoke with the teacher this morning and it turns out we got some big details wrong. First, my son's class didn't actually get inside the Carousel building. They were among the 150 people standing in the cold outside. Second, he didn't actually see the band, as anything more than shadowy figures behind the glass and plastic sheeting. He thinks Clemons was there but he wasn't sure. Third, the band wasn't playing "Christmas songs." They were playing classic Bruce tunes, mostly from the newly released box set, The Promise. His teacher had said specifically that the class could tell people they "heard" Bruce Springsteen play live. It was so cold standing there that they stayed for only a few songs, so when Springsteen came out to shake hands with a few people, they had already left.

8:10 a.m. 12/8/10

Apparently, Bruce
did play some Christmas songs after all. And Clarence Clemons was there. My son's report turns out to be more accurate than I was giving him credit for.

8:28 p.m. 12/12/10


  1. I know you've "heard" Bruce live, because he was playing really loud during your rehearsal dinner.

  2. Yes, a whole 'nother Bruce story. That is probably the only time I saw him in person--although I didn't see him playing. He came out onto the Convention Hall balcony to wave at the crowd. Those were his rehearsals for "The Rising" tour. While I was rehearsing for my wedding on 5th Avneue beach. So I can say I rehearsed with Bruce Springsteen.

    I thought for sure the fans would leave the beach a complete mess for our wedding the next day. But the city got folks over there and had it all cleaned up in time.

    And a damn fine "best man" speech.