Heartland hero Bruce Springsteen has never shied away from his fandom towards The Rolling Stones. When discussing his initial days with The E Street Band to Rolling Stone in 1984, Springsteen claimed that, “Mainly, we planned to be just like the Rolling Stones. They were the band we liked the best at the time.”
There were some unmistakable elements of the Stones’ sound that obviously connected with Springsteen and his group: the rootsy Americana originated in the blues, the unwavering belief in the power of rock and roll, the integration of R&B influences to make their respective live shows more like a soul revue. But more than anything else, the Stones and Springsteen shared an inexhaustible desire to entertain.
During the E Street Band’s 1984 tour in support of Born in the U.S.A., Springsteen added the Stones’ track ‘Street Fighting Man’ to the band’s setlist. The song is a vintage piece of Stones iconography. If there was one guitarist ready to kick out against the establishment in 1968 it was Keith Richards and on Beggars Banquet he was a regular Karate Kid. ‘Street Fighting Man’ sees Richards at his most gnarly, embodying the gruff and ready to rock protagonists in the tune.
At the time of writing, The Rolling Stones were at the peak of their powers and songs like this, churned with the intensity of direct danger and filled with the blood, sweat and years of its bandmates, were what separated the Stones from the rest of the pop groups who were circling the clubs at the time — the song connected with Springsteen.
For The Boss, 1984 was a time where hi’s personal politics were being (falsely) conflated with the reign of the Republicans in America, but Springsteen connected with the song because of one non-political line. “That one line, ‘What can a poor boy do but sing in a rock and roll band?’ is one of the greatest rock and roll lines of all time,” Springsteen told writer David Marsh. “It has that edge-of-the-cliff thing when you hit it. And it’s funny; it’s got humour to it.”
‘Street Fighting Man’ became one of Springsteen’s go-to encore tracks, but it wasn’t the only Stone song that Springsteen would break out over the years. During his time away from the E Street Band in the mid-1990s, Springsteen expanded his palate by playing songs like ‘Honky Tonk Women’, ‘Jumpin’ Jack Flash’, and ‘Gimme Shelter’ with his new backing band.
Of course, the E Street Band would eventually reunite, and ‘(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction’ would find occasional spots within the band’s shows. If you bring a sign with the song as a request to one of Springsteen’s concerts, he might just bust it out again. There are also the times when Springsteen would jump on stage with the Stones in recent years, where his duet of choice was ‘Tumbling Dice’.
Listen to Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band play ‘Street Fighting Man’ back in 1984 down below.