Who's the Boss? Page 5
Knowing Springsteen needs money to finance his upcoming tour, Appel tries to use the CBS advance as leverage to convince him to re-sign with Laurel Canyon. Springsteen instead receives an advance from his booking agency, William Morris. Tenenbaum’s audit reveals that Laurel Canyon has earned between one and two million dollars from Springsteen, while the singer’s total income in that four-year period was less than $100,000. In the accountant’s words, it was "a classic case of the unconscionable exploitation of an unsophisticated and unrepresented performer… for the manager’s primary economic benefit.” (Two Hearts, p.175) On July 2, Appel sends Springsteen a letter stating that he would not authorize Landau to produce his next record, as per a condition in their contract. On July 27, Springsteen fires Appel and files suit against him in a Manhattan federal courthouse for fraud and undue influence. Two days later, Appel counter-sues in New York Supreme Court. Judge Arnold L. Fein grants an injunction, effectively preventing Springsteen from entering a recording studio with his new manager Landau while the case is being pursued. The case drags on for ten months. (Racing in the Street, xxi) Beyond money, Springsteen sees the suit as a fight for his creative freedom and his depositions are rumoured to be as dramatic as any of his concerts. To earn money, Springsteen tours, including a date at the 7,500 seat Coliseum in Phoenix, AZ, and the Philadelphia Spectrum sports arena, which alter his derision of larger venues. He debuts new songs as well, such as "The Promise,” which some critics view as a metaphor for the current state of his business affairs. After further legal wrangling and emotional pronouncements from Springsteen, a settlement is reached in the early morning hours of May 28, 1977, freeing Landau and Springsteen to record together again, which they begin doing on June 1 at NYC’s Atlantic Studios. The sessions are unsatisfactory, both because of the studio and Springsteen’s desire for a more cohesive fourth record, and everything shifts back to the Record Plant. At 28, Springsteen can no longer identify with the restless innocence of Born to Run and strives for maturity instead. "I began to listen seriously to country music around this time,” he recalled. "I discovered Hank Williams. I liked the fact that country dealt with adult topics, and I wanted to write songs that would resonate down the road.” (Songs, p.66) Landau’s love of film noir also impacts Springsteen, who watches John Ford films like The Grapes of Wrath for the first time. "It was the feeling of men and women struggling against a world closing in that drew me to those films.” (Songs, p.66) He whittles 15 songs down to 10 for his leanest, most sombre record to date, Darkness on the Edge of Town. Among the casualties are "Fire” and "Because the Night,” which become hits for the Pointer Sisters and Patti Smith (who completed the lyrics) respectively.
1978 to 1979
Another key component to the Springsteen production team, Chuck Plotkin is brought onboard to assist with mixing the new album, and his appreciation of the dense rock sound Springsteen and Landau are after helps makes this process go smoothly. There’s a minor row over the cover art, but Springsteen simply wishes to assert full control of his career. Darkness on the Edge of Town is released on June 2, 1978 to a world of Born to Run pretenders (i.e. Thin Lizzy, John Cougar Mellencamp, Meatloaf, etc.), punk rockers, and disco dancers. Its working class stories ("Badlands,” "Factory”) and hard-edged rockers ("Adam Raised a Cain,” "Prove It All Night”) are praised by critics and fans pick it up in droves. Springsteen switches to the Premier Talent booking agency and the E Street Band embark on their longest tour, playing to over a million people over 150 shows. His business affairs in order, by March 1979, Springsteen begins rehearsing new songs with the band and they enter NYC’s Power Station Studio with Van Zandt joining the Landau-Springsteen production team. (Two Hearts, p.208) In mid-April, however, Springsteen suffers severe muscle damage to his leg in an off-road motorbike accident and is ordered off his feet for three weeks. Recording begins again, with Springsteen introducing new songs like "The Ties That Bind,” "Point Blank,” and a song he’d originally intended to give to the Ramones called "Hungry Heart.” The progress isn’t fast enough for some fans and bootlegging of Springsteen material — both live shows and stolen studio sketches — soon becomes an issue in the Springsteen camp. "Bruce spends a year of his life conceiving and executing an album so that it will perfectly reflect the musical statement he wants to make,” Landau told Rolling Stone. "Then these people come along and confiscate material that was never intended for release on an album, sell it and make a profit on it without ever paying anyone that’s involved. It’s just out-and-out theft.” (Two Hearts, p.211-212) In May, Springsteen meets antinuclear energy activist Tom Campbell. Deeply affected by the Three Mile Island nuclear reactor accident, Springsteen accepts Campbell’s request play two of a four-night benefit concert for MUSE (Musicians United for Safe Energy) at Madison Square Garden in September. It’s the overtly first political action Springsteen ever takes, though he never articulates his thoughts on the cause publicly. A month earlier, CBS and Springsteen file suit against five defendants in a federal district court in Los Angeles, asking for $1.75 million in damages on charges including copyright infringement and unauthorized use of name and likeness among others. (Two Hearts, p.212) For Springsteen, the suit is more about warding off further bootleggers but he is more conscious of what fans and his bandmates find so frustrating. "We’re slow — I’m slow in the studio. I take a long time,” he said. (Two Hearts, p.212)
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