A love letter to Bruce Springsteen from Castlebar

Probably one of the most common questions i receive as a promoter in the area when i am walking around town in Castlebar is when are you bringing Bruce to Castlebar? “Sure wouldn’t Mchale Park be a grand aul spot for it”

I have being asked the same question so often now that i have begun to believe that it is true myself. I usually respond with a “Ah yeah, any day now we will be announcing it.

That usually keeps them quite and off they go on there way for another little while.

Bruce is a household name in my house, i grew up listening to Springsteen, my dad handed me a copy of “Born in the USA” when i was around 9 years old. My brother Declan, sister Caroline and my mother are also huge fans.

The boss was always on the radio at home,the soundtrack to my families early youth.I want to take a look at Bruce’s early career below and some of the images and stories you will hear go back to this moment in time. Springsteen’s early days.

Bruce checking out a vinyl copy of his first record “Greetings from Asbury Park”

I am now 39 and i still have the same love for the boss, this has never really changed.

Springsteen always told a story to me, i felt i could very much relate to his music as a kid. Growing up in Castlebar my father worked in a factory that back then was called “Travenol” (now Baxter healthcare)…who remembers that?

Springsteen would sing about the average every day Joe who fought for his place in society. Nick named The “Boss” because in the early days when him and his band (The E Street band) would play the seaside bars and clubs in Ashbury Park it was his job to pay his band members at the end of each show.

Growing up in a strict catholic background Bruce never got on with his dad and it was only in his later life that he made peace with him. It also wasn’t until late in fathers life that he was diagnosed with schizophrenia.

I found this photo very funny and had to post it here: Bruce Springsteen and the Girls, Red Bank, NJ, 1979, the expression on their faces says it all

In Springsteen’s recent biography he described his father as a hard man to live with. He grew up with his grandparents, mother and father and sisters.

In my teens i began to search further into Springsteen’s early career. Back then, if you were seen to be a fan of Springsteen around Castlebar you were noted as an outsider, a freak, a redneck to others even though i was a towny! It was uncool to like Springsteen.

While most of my friends may have being progressing onto Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin (all who are great bands might i add) but i just had this fascination with his songwriting. There was a strong connection.

I could relate, check out Born To Run,

“Baby this town rips the bones from your back
Its a death trap, it’s a suicide rap
We gotta get out while were young
cause tramps like us, baby we were born to run”

It is funny really, in the recent “Springsteen on Broadway” netflix show, Springsteen describes the lyrics to the song, he says “Im Mr Born to Run” and i only live three blocks away from my hometown”

When i was 14 i really wanted to break out of Castlebar, Mary was my imaginary girl friend and these lyrics were the soundtrack to my teens!! Check out the photo below from one Springsteen’s first band The Castiles, can you spot Springsteen?

From the exhibit: Springsteen’s first band, The Castiles, when he was in HS. They recorded two original songs at a public recording studio in Brick Township and played a variety of venues, including Cafe Wha? in Greenwich Village. (Left to right: George Theiss, Vinny Maniello, Bruce Springsteen, Paul Popkin, Curt Fluhr)

I began to check out bootleg copies of Springsteen’s first rock band who were called “Steel Mill”.

Man, Steel Mill definitely rocked and had influences from Led Zeppelin to Creedence Clearwater Revival.

Bruce on stage with his band Steel Mill in 1970

Check out the track from them below called “Going back to Georgia”, the track was composed by Danni Federici, Bruce Springsteen, Vini Lopez and Stevie Vand Zandt

Steel Mill most certainly had a lot of soul in their sound.

It wasn’t until i was about 14 or 15 i started to listen to Springsteen’s early solo stuff, first album “Greetings from Ashbury Park was released on Columbia records.

The album was released in January 1973, it had relatively poor sales at the time but i feel in love with it almost instantly.

The second track on the album “Growing up” will always bring me back to a time in my live when i was growing up around Rathbawn Drive in Castlebar.

And then came his second album, “The Wild, The Innocent, and The E Street Shuffle.

On the front cover Springsteen looks almost identical to the cover of Bob Marley’s face on his greatest hits album (except obviously he is white!) The back cover of The Wild, The Innocent and The E Street Shuffle reveals a motley crew.

Not a single E Street Band member is standing up straight, two sport provocatively unbuttoned blouses, and their footwear ranges from Cuban heeled boots to scruffy hi Tops and dusty bare feet. Oh it was definitely the smell of that sweet summer feeling in Castlebar.

The back cover as it still is today from Springsteen’s second record “The Wild, The innocent and The E Street Shuffle” released 1973

There is a pair of pasty caucasians, two beefy black guys, a lanky latino, and a scrawny, bronzed, struggling singer-songwriter that couldn’t be called The Boss without a healthy dose of irony. This was the real introduction for me to Springsteen’s early work. It was the hot summer of 1995 in Ireland and the weather was hot in Castlebar.

If i remember correctly we had sunshine almost every day for almost three months as this was very unusual for Ireland as it would almost be raining every day in the summer here.

This album was a defining moment for me in finding a strong connection with artist. Check out Rosalita from the album below,

So as i come to the close of this feature i would like to think that if you read this piece that you may have learnt something new about Springsteen’s early career. Will Springsteen ever read this piece? I doubt it but if he does….Bruce and Jim Aiken, i have a message for you,

Give me a call, there is a grand field in Castlebar in the west of Ireland that would accommodate you and the E Street band, look me up!

Anyone know who said Mass and what the sermon was about?

As you were Castlebar…

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