In reality, there’s not a lot of commonality between Bruce Springsteen and the Ramones. While they are both icons in their own right, creatives who delivered impassioned songs straight from their hearts, sonically speaking, they’re miles apart. The Ramones’ rousing full-throttle punk is a far cry from the brand of Americana that The Boss has been perfecting for close to half a century.
Although Springsteen had become one of the world’s ultimate talents, it was always his songwriting skills that set him apart from the rest of the pack. The stars finally aligned between The Boss and the Ramones when the punk icons played alongside the iconic Patti Smith at Astbury Park’s Convention Hall in 1978. There was no chance on earth that Springsteen would miss such a divine bill in his hometown where he was the king.
Patti Smith remains a friend of Springsteen; they famously collaborated on the stellar ‘Because The Night’ which was released a few months before the show. The song had been an astronomical hit for Smith, and Joey Ramone was impressed with the special touch that Springsteen had given to her on the track. So much so, in fact, that he cheekily asked The Boss after the show if he could write a Ramones track and Springsteen happily obliged.
“I saw the Ramones in Asbury Park,” the singer recalled on Fallon in 2015, “And we were talking for a while and I was like, ‘Man I’ve got to write the Ramones a song.’ So I went home and I sat at my table and I wrote it in about the time it took me to sing it. I brought it in and we went to make a demo for it or I played it for [Johnny Ramone], and he said, ‘Nah, you better keep that one.’ He was right about that. It did pretty well.”
Springsteen went home that night after the show and knocked up a song within a matter of hours, and the result was the triumphant ‘Hungry Heart’. Ramone was right in telling him to keep it, as it’s about as Springsteen as a song can get and could be played by only him. However, conflicting reports state that it wasn’t Ramone who made The Boss keep it and was a demand by his manager, Jon Landau, but, that doesn’t make for as much of a talk-show worthy anecdote as Joey Ramone.
Landau was right to stop Springsteen from giving away a song of such brilliance, and it would go on to become a massive hit for Astbury Park’s favourite son. The track would become one of Springsteen’s most beloved anthems and named the greatest song of the year in Rolling Stone readers’ poll in 1981.
It’s almost implausible to imagine ‘Hungry Heart’ being a Ramones track and not in Springsteen’s arsenal. The New York punks version of the song would undoubtedly have been a million miles away from The Boss’ and may have lacked some of the heartfelt emotion that Springsteen poured into the song — but it would sure as hell be an exhilarating listen.