I've never loved anything the way I love Bruce Springsteen. That sentence is inherently hyperbolic sounding, so bear with me while I try to explain. I first discovered his music in 2009 after reading The Book of Joe by Jonathan Tropper (to this day my all time favourite book). Springsteen's music is a recurring motif throughout the novel and, after a couple of re-reads it felt like I should probably have a listen for myself and figure out what these characters were so passionately waxing lyrical about. So 17 year old me downloaded Backstreets and that was pretty much that. When I love something I love it hard and within weeks I was working my way through Springsteen's entire discography, listening to certain songs on repeat for days on end, shrieking Dancing in the Dark and Born to Run at karaoke, regaling friends with long winded monologues about just why Springsteen was the greatest, getting lost in dark streets at night because I was listening to The River with tears rolling down my face, reading biographies and essentially burying myself completely in his entire musical output.
I've never been much of a music buff; in fact most of my life I've been laughed at for my taste. Even bands I love dearly like Green Day (there's a reason that mockery happened) I've never approached with the same fervour Springsteen brought out in me. No other artist ever made me want to hear every recording they ever made but there was something about Bruce that meant I always wanted more. And luckily he's never been shy in offering his fans exactly that. This week tickets go on sale for his next Australian tour (I'm going twice), and on the same day his 508 page autobiography Born to Run will be released along with a companion album, which means I'll be taking a break from The Wheel of Time to dive into that and spoil myself with more Springsteen, which has come along at the perfect time.
Oh yeah, did I mention I'm writing a play about him?
The only surprising thing about this is probably that I didn't do it sooner. In fact the idea came to life after one of the performances of my Beatles play We Can Work It Out when I drunkenly rambled to a group of total strangers about my love for Bruce only to have one of them ask the obvious question; "So why did you write a play about the Beatles and not Springsteen?"
While Bruce is certainly mythologised, as a character he isn't quite as defined as each of the Beatles are, and it's a little harder to get even a tenuous grasp of who he might be behind closed doors. But from his music, from interviews and biographies the image I slowly formed was of somebody driven by almost monstrous ambition and an unparalleled work ethic, someone who wanted everything and never even considered slowing down until he got there. Countless stories have been told about the cost of ambition, but what I wanted to do was go past that. What happens when you sacrifice everything you have to get everything you want only to realise that you may not have wanted it as much as you thought you did? How do you move forward from there?
Thematically I took a lot from films like The Social Network or Whiplash while blatantly ripping off the structure of Steve Jobs. In the above films about ambitious tech geniuses written by Aaron Sorkin, I love how the biopic part of the story is almost the least important; those films are unafraid to show their subjects in an unflattering light and in the process explore something a bit deeper than merely "hey this is what happened in this guy's life". If I do my job properly, the version of the script that eventually hits the stage should do something similar.
I'm hoping to have the performance tie in with his tour in early February, but as it stands the script needs a lot of work. I don't say that in a fearful or daunted way; I think I know what it needs and what will strengthen it. Considering how close I am to the subject matter, I'm especially paranoid about screwing this one up, but I'm also confident I can make it something exceptional.
I've always thought that if I ever had the chance to meet Springsteen I wouldn't really want to talk to him. Not at length. All I would have to offer was a handshake and a thank you. And while this script is more ambivalent than an unbridled celebration, in many ways it's the best possible tribute I can give the man for inspiring me more than anyone on the planet; an attempted portrait of a complex, imperfect person who used his life and experiences to create a staggering catalogue of music that is rarely less than exceptional. There isn't a much higher compliment I can give than saying "hey, I care enough about you to have written a play based on your life." Not that he'll ever know, but whatever. The great thing about being a fan is that you don't need recognition. It's enough to just express that love in whatever way you can.
Writing words about writing words.