February 24 – Springsteen Helped Pointers Get Hot

For the second time in two years, Bruce Springsteen saw one of his songs jump high into the Billboard top 10 on this day in 1979. And like the first time, it wasn’t recorded by him! Almost two years to the day since Manfred Mann hit the top with “Blinded by the Light”, the Pointer Sisters scored the biggest hit of their career to that point with their take on Bruce’s song “Fire”. It hit #2 on this day 40 years ago.

Springsteen had written the song after seeing an Elvis concert and recorded it with Darkness on the Edge of Town. He liked it well enough but felt it didn’t fit into that album, so shelved it. Somehow producer Richard Perry (of Nilsson’s “Without You” fame) heard it and showed it to Oakland girl group the Pointer Sisters.

The Pointers had been around all decade long, starting as a duo of Bonnie and June, then known as Pointers a Pair, who’d sung backup for the likes of Boz Scaggs and Grace Slick. They added in two more sisters, Anita and Ruth, changed to their current moniker and got signed onto Atlantic Records. Although they had some decent success on R&B charts in the ’70s, they’d not done a whole lot on mainstream radio. They decided to change that with their late-’78 album Pure Energy. They brought in Perry to produce it, musicians including Randy Bachman, Waddy Wachtel, Toto’s David Paich (who plays keyboards on this single) and Jeff Porcaro, Elton John’s guitarist Davey Johnstone among others to work on it and covered songs like Steely Dan’s “Dirty Work”, Loggins & Messina’s “Angry Eyes”, Fleetwood Mac’s “Hypnotized”… and the Springsteen one.

It worked well. The album became their third to go gold at home, and broke through to the north in Canada, going platinum, but the real difference was this hit. The smoldering single that critic Christine Arnold notes “might well have been done by the Ronettes in the ’60s” got to #2 in the U.S., #3 in Canada (where they’d not been in the top 30 before) and topped New Zealand charts. As Anita says, it “became our first gold single…one song is played over and over all over the world. It really became a major hit for us and made a total difference in our careers.”

Indeed it did. they’d go on to notch six more top 10 singles in the ’80s with songs like “Slow Hand” and “I’m So Excited”, although that #1 rank remained elusive to them.

The Pointers continue on to this day as a multi-generational act with Ruth and Anita plus Ruth’s daughter Issa and granddaughter Sadako. As for Springsteen, he’s done not too badly himself since then! And oh, the public finally did get to hear him do it himself – after being a staple of his live show for years, he released a live version of it as a single in 1987, although it only got to #46 on the charts.

11 thoughts on “February 24 – Springsteen Helped Pointers Get Hot

    1. Yeah, I’d agree too, but two things to remember – one, the Pointers was the hit we heard thousands of times back then so it sounds “right’, and two, Bruce’s is live from stage…maybe if he was in studio and had better production on it it might have sounded more spot-on. But could just be that the Sisters were the right group for that tune.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. badfinger20 (Max)

    I would have loved to hear Elvis do it…I think…he did try to get it to him but he died before he could. I like both versions but I tend to go with the Springsteen live version….

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I hadn’t either, and frankly it’s not great to my ears – the Steely Dan version is very fine, and there was a Canadian act (I’m gonna say Chilliwack but I’m not 100% sure) who did a very good version too that was a Canadian AM hit.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. I like their version of the song which they do just right. I also love their song, “Yes we Can Can” (I think that’s what it’s called. I sing it like a mantra and get into the groove. Didn’t The Boss give a song to Patti Smith also? I like Bruce’s live version of this one also.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. No question about that…. there would have been a ton of artists lining up to record his stuff in the 80s even if he had not put out any himself. “Pink Cadillac” is another that was a big hit for someone else in the ’80s after being a virtual throwaway of his.

      Liked by 2 people

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