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Music

When Joey Ramone asked Bruce Springsteen to write him a song

@TylerGolsen

Walking around the shores of Asbury Park, New Jersey during the late 1970s could have brought you face to face with some of the biggest stars in music. Despite being two of the most recognisable faces in rock, one late-’70s day saw Bruce Springsteen and Joey Ramone meet by complete happenstance.

Springsteen wasn’t a punk, but he came up while the New York CBGB scene was beginning to hit its apex. A few miles south in Jersey, Springsteen could revel in a bit of detachment from the wild sprawl of New York City. It seems somewhat ludicrous that someone as famous as Springsteen could just casually walk along the Asbury Park boardwalk, but even more ludicrous was the fact that he could randomly stumble upon an even more identifiable singer.

Joey Ramone was never going to blend into a crowd. Standing an imposing six foot six, Ramone rocked long, stringy hair and was almost always decked out in leather and coloured glasses. Since the Ramones toured like crazy, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see them hopping into a club like Springsteen’s beloved Stone Pony during their tours along the Garden State. On this particular day, worlds collided as Springsteen and Ramone wound up on the same boardwalk at the same time.

Not wanting to miss a golden opportunity, Ramone asked Springsteen if he would be willing to write him a song for the Ramones to play. Springsteen was no stranger to writing for others: he had already given away ‘Fire’ to the Pointer Sisters and helped write ‘Because the Night’ with the Ramones’ CBGB compatriot Patti Smith. Springsteen agreed, and when he decided to write with the Ramones’ pile-driving punk rock in mind, he ended up with ‘Hungry Heart’.

One person who also know about Springsteen’s penchant for giving songs away was his manager, Jon Landau. Having sat on the sidelines as ‘Because the Night’ hit number 13 and ‘Fire’ hit number two in America, Landau implored Springsteen not to let his catchiest songs slip away. Springsteen had yet to get his own top 20 hit, with ‘Born to Run’ being his closest by topping out at number 23. Landau knew Springsteen could write great pop songs, and when he heard ‘Hungry Heart’, he was aghast when Springsteen explained that he was giving it to the Ramones.

Instead, Landau vetoed Springsteen and insisted that he record it with the E Street Band. Landau knew what he was doing: ‘Hungry Heart’ was released as the first single from 1980’s The River and landed Springsteen his first top ten hit of his career, peaking at number five. It wouldn’t be until Born in the U.S.A.‘s ‘Dancing in the Dark’ that Springsteen truly flirted with a number one single, but unfortunately ‘Dancing in the Dark’ stalled at number two and kept Springsteen from getting his elusive number one.