The moment Bruce Springsteen busked on the streets of Copenhagen back in 1988
We’re digging into the Far Out Magazine vault to bring you one of our favourite rock stories of all time featuring none other than Bruce Springsteen.
There’s a lot of great stories that are attributed to the living legend and the affectionately known as ‘The Boss’. But when looking through the wealth of tales about Springsteen, one particular theme came up time and time again, helping out the little guy. The truth is, he was and will always be a man of the people.
One particular story that caught our attention among the volume of the folkloric tales that see Springsteen assimilate with his fans was the time he took to the streets of Copenhagen back in 1988 to try and make some passing people smile, and perhaps even a little extra change. It’s a classic tale which sees a global superstar on the smallest stage and deserves repeating, so we will do just that.
It was the summer of 1988 and Bruce Springsteen was in the Danish capital as part of his Tunnel of Love tour. The previous decade had been kind to The Boss and he was still reeling from the success of ‘Born in the U.S.A’ when he descended on Europe. He found himself strolling down Nygade Street in Copenhagen with time to kill as he enjoyed the city’s sights and the quiet leafy streets near the University of Copenhagen.
While moseying down the road and enjoying the views he happened upon busker John Magnusson who, like all buskers, was doing his best work hoping for some change from passersby but struggling to gain any real attention. We don’t exactly know how what happened actually transpired, whether Springsteen reached out to the musician or Magnusson spotted him in the crowd and plucked up the courage to ask. What we do know is Magnusson had a spare guitar and Springsteen ended up picking up the instrument and entertaining the masses. The Boss, being quite the socio-opposite of his moniker, started his mini street-set by asking for requests from the gathering crowd. He gently strummed through some requests as he clearly began to loosen up and enjoy himself.
The idea of letting the crowd picks his songs was thrown a curveball when a gentleman in the crowd called out ‘Down By The River’, either mistaking Bruce for Neil Young or mispronouncing ‘The River’—either way, Springsteen couldn’t bring himself to cover Young and instead waited patiently for another bellowed number from his back catalogue.
A lady in attendance duly obliged as she shouted “‘Born In The U.S.A’!” before weirdly withdrawing her request. Let’s just put that into context, a global rock star is busking, you then ask for his biggest hit and he readies himself, you then withdraw the request and do a 1988 version of the Homer Simpson gif. Disappearing into the mass of people that had now formed around Springsteen.
Luckily, the next request came from a member of the crowd with a little more confidence as they asked for ‘I’m on Fire’ and Springsteen, smiling, dutifully performed it for the crowd with the kind of charm that had seen him rise from the beer-soaked floors of bar-adjacent stages to global megastar.
The set continued with performances of ‘The River’ and that classic dad-dance anthem ‘Dancing in the Dark’. With video cameras not nearly as readily available as today, we feel very privileged to have the (very grainy) footage to look back on, otherwise, we may not have believed it.
The impromptu performance wrapped up as quickly as it had begun. Perhaps as the ultimate contrast to the mini-street show, just two days later, Springsteen would play the 52,000-seat Idrætsparken Stadium to a wealth of acclaim. All three of the songs that had their Danish debut on the streets of Copenhagen found themselves getting a repeat performance to the mammoth crowd.
If we’re honest, and we’re sure you’ll agree, it could never be as cool as seeing him play them spontaneously on the streets of your hometown. Watch the rare video of Bruce Springsteen busking in the streets of Copenhagen back in 1988, below.
It’s also not the only time that Bruce has found himself singing on the streets for change. So, if you’re ever in town to see a Bruce Springsteen performance the day before, just do a quick run around the local busking spots as The Boss may well be holding court.