Bruce Springsteen is called The Boss for a reason. An artist who has made the world of rock ‘n’ roll a more poetic place with his heartful brand of Americana connecting with millions across the planet. While Springsteen’s journey into the world of rock ‘n’ roll initially started with The Beatles, it was actually another British band that helped make him the artist he would eventually become.
The ‘British Invasion’ was a cultural phenomenon that began with The Beatles in 1963, a time when America finally started to notice what was happening on the other side of the Atlantic. After being awestruck by The Fab Four’s magnificence, Americans now had a taste for British music and wanted more. John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr allowed their British counterparts to have access to a platform in the States which the likes of The Rolling Stones, The Kinks and The Who used to become stars. However, it was different band from Britain that was the one that meant the most to Bruce Springsteen.
In 2012, Springsteen was the keynote speaker at SXSW, where he spoke at length about his career and touched on how the British Invasion helped him become The Boss. “Then, the British Invasion,” Springsteen noted. “My first real guitar, I actually began to learn how to play, and this was different, shifted the lay of the land. Four guys, playing and singing, writing their own material. There was no longer gonna be a music producer apart from the singer, a singer who didn’t write, a writer who didn’t sing. It changed the way things were done. The Beatles were cool. They were classical, formal and created the idea of an independent unit where everything could come out of your garage.
“Then in some fanzine, I came across a picture of The Beatles in Hamburg. They had on the leather jackets and the slick-backed pompadours, they had acned faces. I said, ‘Hey, wait a minute, those are the guys I grew up with, you know, only they’re Liverpool wharf rats.’ So minus their Nehru jackets and the haircuts, these guys, they’re kids. They’re a lot cooler than me, but they’re still kids. There must be a way to get there from here. And then, for me, it was The Animals,” Springsteen passionately said.
“For some, they were just another one of the really good beat groups that came out of the ’60s. But to me, The Animals were — they were a revelation. I mean, the first records with full blown class consciousness that I had ever heard. ‘We Gotta Get Out Of This Place,’ had that great bass riff, [plays bass line of “We Gotta Get Out Of This Place”] and that was just a clock, a clock marking time.”
After delivering a fine rendition of ‘We Gotta Get Outta This Place’, The Boss divulged: “That’s every song I’ve ever written. Yeah. That’s all of them. I’m not kidding, either. That’s ‘Born to Run,’ ‘Born in the USA,’ everything I’ve done for the past 40 years, including all the new ones. But that struck me so deep. It was the first time I felt I heard something come across the radio that mirrored my home life, my childhood. And the other thing that was great about The Animals was there were no good-looking members. There were none. They were considered to be one of the ugliest groups in all of rock ‘n’ roll.
“And that was good. That was good for me because I considered myself hideous at the time. And, and they weren’t nice, you know. They didn’t curry favour. They were like aggression personified. ‘It’s my life. I’ll do what I want.’ They were cruel, which was so freeing. It was so freeing. When you saw Eric Burdon — Eric Burdon was like your shrunken daddy with a wig on. He never had a kid’s face. He always had a little man’s face.
“He couldn’t dance. He was just like — he was like this. They put him in suit, but it was like putting a gorilla in a suit. You could tell he — fuck that shit, man, he didn’t want it, you know? And then he had that voice that was, like, I don’t know, Howlin’ Wolf, or something coming out of some 17 or 18-year-old kid. I don’t know how it happened. But they were so — I found their cruelty so freeing,” Springsteen passionately concluded.
Despite The Animals being from a different side of the world, there was something in the group that made this teenager from Astbury Park feel like two of the same. The Beatles initially introduced him to this new adventurous sound that he fell in love with, it was The Animals who made music an obsession, and since then he hasn’t looked back. Whilst the band taught him what makes a great song, they also gifted him something more significant than that which was a new profound sense of belonging.