June 9 – The Boss Needs To Circle Day Twice On Calendar

It should be a big day on Bruce Springsteen‘s calendar, for it represents two big anniversaries for him. Fifty years ago to the day, he signed his first recording contract, with Columbia Records. And then 31 years back he married Patti Scialfa, his backup singer who’s proven herself to be much more than that.

Springsteen drew comparisons to Bob Dylan early on (more on that later) but it was really the even bigger icons of the ’60s who inspired him – The Beatles. “Four guys, playing and singing, writing their own material…rock’n’roll came to my house when there seemed to be no way out!”

His live sets around New Jersey drew a following early on, and eventually led him to Columbia Records in New York, where John Hammond (an exec and scout largely responsible for getting Bob Dylan to sign there) had an interest. However, Springsteen’s first manager Mike Appel, nearly blew it. Columbia boss Clive Davis recalls Appel “insisted that Bruce, who had not played a note yet, was ‘better than Dylan’”. This didn’t amuse Hammond nor Davis, but after listening to a demo of acoustic tracks and seeing a club performance by him, Clive said “I love Bruce Springsteen. He’s an original in every way.” They signed him to Columbia “immediately”; remarkably he’s still with that label five decades later.

Springsteen went to work right away, with his first album Greetings From Asbury Park coming out a mere six months later, to good reviews but poor sales. Davis notes “the ‘New Dylan’ curse descended on Bruce, often at the hands of his greatest admirers. In trying to compliment Bruce, they were limiting him, setting him up to fail.”

Eventually of course, he succeeded in ways Bob Dylan could only dream of. That was more true than ever in 1984, with Born in the U.S.A., his 20-million+ seller that elevated him to a stadium-selling superstar. He decided to add a few faces to the E Street Band for the lengthy tour for it, including Patti Scialfa as a backing singer and occasional keyboardist.

Scialfa was a struggling New Jersey singer/songwriter at the time, playing clubs she sometimes waitressed at, despite her songwriting talent and degree in music. She toured with Bruce and they got along OK, but it took awhile for sparks to fly it seems. She dated Tom Cruise briefly and he fell for model Julianne Phillips, who appeared on his “Glory Days” video. They soon married. However, their age difference (she being 11 years younger than him) and the amount of time he spent away from home wore on the relationship and in 1988 they filed for divorce because of “irreconcilable differences.” Scialfa had rejoined Bruce for some backing vocals on Tunnel of Love (heard most clearly on “One Step Up”) and again toured with him; this time they hit it off. She moved in with him as soon as the divorce to Phillips went through, and soon had their first child, son Evan. This caused some amount of criticism, to which Springsteen notes “it’s a strange society that assumes it has the right to tell people whom they should love and shouldn’t.”

The pair married in a small, private ceremony at his L.A. house. They’re still together and have had a couple more kids since. Patti still often works with his E Street Band (she’s played guitar and keyboards at various times besides singing) and has put out three solo records. They’ve been well-received, but commercial failures. Her debut, Rumble Doll in 1993, won kudos from critics like allmusic which said it proved “Patti Scialfa is more than just a beautiful redhead with good connections,” calling the record “low-key” but adding “there’s not a bad song in the bunch.” Despite that, and being co-produced by The Boss and Mike Campbell of Tom Petty’s Heartbreakers (who brought in Belmont Trench of that band and John Mellencamp’s drummer Kenny Aronoff to work on it) it failed to catch on at all. Perhaps someone compared her to the ‘next Aretha!”


9 thoughts on “June 9 – The Boss Needs To Circle Day Twice On Calendar

  1. Badfinger (Max)

    His debut album is still my favorite of his…I just love the wordplay he had at that time…he toned it down after the 2nd album.
    I didn’t know Campbell produced her album…that is cool. On a side note…a Springsteen – Petty collaboration would have been interesting.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I’d never heard any of Scialfa’s stuff before… the title track of the one album sounds decent and it got great reviews. Yes, a Springsteen and Petty collaboration would have been good and seems like, sooner or later was inevitable had tom lived!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Badfinger (Max)

        I have never seen a picture of them even together…so I looked it up and they were friends…I had no clue…when you mentioned Mike Campbell I had to check it out.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I think I have seen pix of the two of them together but it just seemed like a thing that would have been a natural, with their ages, musical tastes, common friends . I mean Bruce has done a few songs with Mellencamp now, and Petty seemed to like working with anyone.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Same reaction here on the song, it sounded pretty decent, first time through. i’d never heard anything by her (outside of backing Bruce) before. Seem like a nice success story in rock, put them down with the couples from New Order and from Talking Heads as couples who manage to work together and stay together.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Yes, his early wordplay was a change from his later stuff; I love ‘My Hometown’ and ‘Brilliant disguise’ but they are written in his simpler blue collar style. Which works very well too.
    I also think there is a problem with being child/partner of a heavy hitter. Julian Lennon? Jakob Dylan? Roseanne Cash? Patti? Big shadows to be in. Who even knows Tabitha King writes, like her all but unknown husband Stevie?


    1. agreed… like you said, hard for anyone to stick together that long, let alone stars . Same thought on ‘Rumble Doll’ too… didn’t know (until prepping the piece) she had solo work but that one sounds OK and the reviews were quite good.

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s