Bruce Springsteen recalls the moment he listened to The Beatles for the first time
Bruce Springsteen is a legendary figure of the music industry, a creative who has made the world of rock ‘n’ roll a more poetic place. His odyssey story is similar to millions of others across the world, his life path seemingly changed in an instant after he was infected by the greatest rock missionaries of all time, The Beatles. First hearing The Fab Four was a moment that has stopped plenty of us in our collective tracks, a time that has made many people want to form a band of their own but, for Bruce Springsteen, it turned a kid from Asbury Park into ‘The Boss’.
Springsteen wasn’t born with a guitar in his hand or humming a tune and, in truth, he was never the most musical of kids until The Beatles gave him a creative awakening as a teenager. It was a moment in time which turned him away from the blue-collar route he thought he was destined for. The Boss has even had the chance to live out his dream when he played live with Paul McCartney, no doubt desperately trying to silence the teenage fanboy inside himself in the pursuit of performance perfection. When Macca joined The Boss at Hyde Park in 2012 to perform a splendid rendition of ‘Twist and Shout’ to a raucous London crowd, the duo astonishingly had there microphones switched off because they ran over the curfew, a decision which robbed Springsteen of his big moment.
In truth though, sharing the stage with McCartney was likely to be enough to satisfy The Boss’ wildest dreams, a chance to stand shoulder to shoulder with one of the men who helped plot his life path. Springsteen made the revelation to Rolling Stone in 2020, a time when he took part in the publication’s First Time series and was asked when “the first time that a song changed your life?”. The answer was a straightforward one for the Jersey boy.
The question took The Boss straight back on a journey to his childhood and led to him vividly recollecting: “‘I Wanna Hold Your Hand’ came on the radio in 1964 — that was going to change my life because I was going to successfully pick the guitar up and learn how to play.
“I saw Elvis on TV and when I first saw Elvis, I was 9 but I was a little young, tried to play the guitar but it didn’t work out, I put it away,” Springsteen remembered. “The keeper was in 1964, ‘I Wanna Hold Your Hand’ on South Street with my mother driving.
“I immediately demanded that she let me out, I ran to the bowling alley, ran down a long neon-lit aisle, down the bowling alley into the bowling alley. Ran to the phone booth, got in the phone booth and immediately called my girl and asked ‘Have you heard this band called The Beatles?’ After that, it was nothing but rock ‘n’ roll and guitars.”
He also picked the same track when he appeared on BBC’s Desert Island Discs many moons ago and his love for the song hasn’t waned. He told the programme in 2016: “This was another song that changed the course of my life,” he proudly noted. “It was a very raucous sounding record when it came out of the radio. It really was the song that inspired me to play rock and roll music – to get a small band and start doing some small gigs around town. It was life-changing. It’s still a beautiful record.”
He added: “If you listen to the great Beatle records, the earliest ones where the lyrics are incredibly simple. Why are they still beautiful? Well, they’re beautifully sung, beautifully played, and the mathematics in them is elegant. They retain their elegance.”
If you told that 15-year-old kid on South Street that one day he’d get to play in front of 60,000 people in London with Paul McCartney, performing songs by The Beatles, I’m pretty confident that he wouldn’t have given a damn about the microphones being switched off by some stickler and Bruce would have bitten your hand straight off.