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A Conversation with Bruce Springsteen at Monmouth University Becomes a Love Fest

Billed as “A Conversation With Bruce Springsteen” it turned out to be so much more than that. Call it a love-fest at Monmouth University if you will.

On Tuesday night (1/10) at the campus’ Pollack Theatre, one of the school’s most distinguished alums, Robert Santelli sat with Springsteen for well over an hour and as they talked their way through the bulk of his career. Santelli, currently the executive director of the Grammy Museum has been watching Springsteen perform with various bands since the late 1960’s. He edited Springsteen’s book “Songs” and is the author of “Greetings From E Street.” He is a bona fide Jersey Shore Music scene legend as well as observer.

In a room filled with family, friends and fans, including his wife Patti Scialfa and managers Jon Landau and Barbara Carr lots of sacred ground was covered.

The night was kicked off on a very special note, with Monmouth University president Paul Brown announcing that the university was unveiling a new collaborative partnership to establish The Bruce Springsteen Archives and Center for American Music on the school’s campus. The school has been home to the Bruce Springsteen Special Collection since 2011.

Santelli began the discussion keeping things in the neighborhood, noting that Bruce had played the then Monmouth College 9 times in his early career. Springsteen had fond memories of those shows, at a point drawing a couple of thousand lucky souls to the shows and keeping food on the table “for a couple of weeks.”

That led to a very rich discussion about the legendary Upstage Club in Asbury Park–long noted as both a safe haven and proving ground for up and coming Shore musicians. Both Springsteen and Santelli paid particular attention to the abilities of David Sancious, who broke in at the tender age of 16, and whose home on E Street in Belmar led to the naming of The E Street Band.

This was intimate conversation, rich in detail and background.

Unlike other conversations related to the release of Bruce’s best selling book “Born To Run,” Santelli got great insight about the first two albums, and really went deep on album number three, the iconic “Born To Run.” Since the songs were written literally a stone’s throw from where we were sitting, the night took on an even more special significance.

Santelli struck gold asking about the run of 10 shows at the Bottom Line in Manhattan in the summer of ’75, to which Springsteen acknowledged were a big boost moving the career of he and The E Street Band forward, where “folks had to now take us more seriously.”

Answering a question about being on the covers of Time and Newsweek simultaneously that fall, Springsteen reminded the students in the room that “these were things called MAGAZINES.” Classic stuff. In a very blunt reflection he said that “outside forces could never put more pressure on me than I did myself.”

Some quick notes:

*Springsteen called both the “Nebraska” and “Born In The U.S.A” albums “happy accidents” for different reasons.

*He cited “Nebraska” as an album that still means a lot to him, same goes for “Tunnel Of Love.”

*Many of the songs that ended up on “Devils & Dust” were written in hotel rooms following shows on “The Ghost Of Tom Joad” tour.

*He was not all that upset that “American Skin (41 Shots)” managed to “piss some people off.”

*In answer to a question from the audience, he noted that the song “Darkness On Edge Of Town” was only cut once and that is a song that is a bedrock of his career, and the last song cut for the album.

*Answering another question from the audience, he called he and the band’s performance at the Super Bowl in 2009 “the most terrifying and exhilarating 12 minutes of my work life.”

*Patti Scialfa is hard at work on her fourth album.

*He basically dodged the question abut having a new album ready for release

Kudos to Robert Santelli and big props to Bruce Springsteen for going deep and making this a conversation to remember.

Tom Cunningham is host of the Bruce Brunch Sunday mornings  at 9 a.m. on 105.7 The Hawk

NEXT: Springsteen Album Art Photographer 

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