Bruce Springsteen's called himself a prisoner of rock 'n' roll, but on his wages I'd be a prisoner any day of the week. While some might argue that Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger, John Ford, his manager and Rolling Stone magazine are the man's main influences, we'll stick here with his musical ones. After all, you can't hum a manifesto. Well, you can, but it'll suck.
Van Morrison: Morrison's music taught Bruce how to sing, how to stretch out and how to mingle R&B and soul with his own white bread tendencies. While Bruce eventually abandoned the difficult song structures of his early work for three chords and a paycheck, he never lost that guttural moan that says "I left my heart in the bathroom on the right."
Phil Spector: OK, kids, Phil Spector wasn't always a creepy old guy in a bad wig being investigated for murder, taking up all that time on Court TV. Once upon a time, he was a creepy young guy who forced women to sing in the recording studio with a "Wall of Sound" behind them. Bruce takes that wall on tour, with four guitar players and two keyboard men and that guy on tambourine and shiny horn.
West Side Story: Bruce eventually shied away from his melodramatic tendencies, though those Seeger Sessions seemed to be something straight out of Oklahoma! But anyone who's sat through the hour that is "Jungleland" knows that Maria's heart is all but won by the end and that someday Broadway and Twyla Tharp will bring true Darkness to the Edge of self-respecting Bruce Springsteen fans the world over.
Bob Dylan: His Bobness taught everyone that if you mumble a lot of words, look like you mean it, and sing like a cow with his leg caught in a fence, the world will admire your profundity. Bruce started off as another in a long line of "New Dylans" and for awhile it looked like he might not lose the rhyming dictionary. But eventually someone in management misplaced it and Bruce was forced to rhyme on his own. Which is how we ended up such rousing choruses as "This is my hometown, my hometown, my hometown...." "Born in the USA, Born in the USA, I was Born in the USA"
Nuggets: Before he became Patti Smith's guitar player, Lenny Kaye assembled a collection of garage rock tunes that are now considered classic because they're on this double album that rescued them from permanent obscurity. Springsteen happened to be of the age that he heard these songs the first time out. And just like today, they sound so junky, you can't help but admire just how junky they sound.
- Bruce Springsteen
- Rolling Stone magazine