Many years ago, back when I was still a puppy, my friend Susan Dalton called me with some news. She was like a mentor to me back then, always showing me the ropes. She knew stuff. She told me this guy called Bruce Springsteen is holding auditions for a tour, and that I should most definitely audition. I hadn't heard of him, so she brought over her album, and we had a listen. I loved what I heard. I guess I should mention, I still have to return that album to her.
I believe the audition was an ad in the Village Voice, the paper you went to for just about everything back in the day. Be it a job, or an apartment, looking for a new band, or the love (or lust) of your life... the VV had a listing for just about everything you could imagine in the back pages. The NYC Bible. I rang the number and spoke to a man called Mike Appel. I said "I'm calling about the audition for Bruce Springsteen". He told me they had all the girls they needed. I remember feeling this wave of disappointment wash over me, and thought to myself... this is not how this day is gonna turn out. So I said to Mike, "well, you haven't heard me!!!" I don't know where this diva attitude came from, but I literally blurted that out of my mouth. I remember thinking, oh no, that was sooooo bad! I also didn't realize that I was talking to Springsteen's manager, I thought, he was just some assistant. My bad. But, to my surprise, this manager said to me, "well, you're a bit cocky, why don't you come up to the office, and let's hear what you can do" So I did. I sang with an acoustic guitar for Mr. Appel, and he informed me that I made the cut. I WAS 'IN'! A few days later I got the call with instructions where to go in New Jersey for my audition.
I begged my buddy Richard Lewis to get his parent's car and drive me out to Asbury Park for the audition with Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band. I didn't have a car. I didn't have a license. I hadn't travelled beyond Queens, Manhattan and Bklyn. at that point of my life (with the exception of going to Canada with my parents every summer). Asbury Park might very well have been LA, that's how far away it felt. But, Richard came through with a car, and I still owe him big time. The night before the audition, I didn't sleep. I kept rehearsing the songs I was to do in my head. I remember, one of the songs was 'Baby It's You', and I was gonna do the version by Smith which was pretty rocking. I hadn't heard the original Shirelles version (which is awesome, but wasn't on my radar yet). There was this really high note that was at the breaking point of my range, and it terrified me. I wasn't at the level of musicianship where I could stylize things to my fitting just yet, and get around that note. It was an important note, or so I thought. I just wanted to duplicate what I heard on the record. I wanted to get the song perfect. I remember my boyfriend at the time saying to me, "stop wiggling round the bed, no matter how long or tall you make your body, it' ain't gonna make you hit that high note!" I figured, if I couldn't sleep, why should he! Oddly, Justin was a killer singer and HE could hit that damn note!
Richard and I headed outta Manhattan for our day trip adventure the next morning, me totally sleep deprived. We drove up to the Jersey store front where the auditions were held, and I took a deep breath. We entered the room, and the vibe inside was cozy, and welcoming. Everyone introduced themselves and made me feel at home. And Bruce, well, he has gotta be one of the nicest human beings I've ever met. No joke. That is who he is.
Bruce and I sang duets, I sang solo, all taped on an old reel to reel tape recorder in the corner of the room. I'd love to hear those tapes now, but then again, perhaps some things in life are better left to memories. As comfortable as the band made me feel, I was still a nervous wreck. This was my first professional audition. Bruce wasn't 'the boss' quite yet, but still I recognized something special. This guy, well, he was gonna travel large.
At one point after I sang a few songs for this audition, Bruce said, "take the band and do a song, anything you want. Jam". So I sang Bonnie Rait's 'Love Me Like A Man', but it was more of a rock vibe than her acoustic version. I did it in the key of E. Funny how I remember details like what key I sang a song in, and I still can't remember where I put my keys. But this was my moment, and, I had never sang a blues song with a band before, let alone 'jam'! Actually, I had never sang with a band before this day if memory serves me well. I was a solo gal (or occasional duo) with an acoustic guitar up until this point. But this amazing band was so incredible, I was inspired. After it all was over, Bruce told me that I should have my own band and do my thing, and that I should be a lead singer. The Boss gave me some really good advice that day, and I took it. I remember, after singing all these 'woah oh ooohs' like Ronnie Spector at the audition, I mentioned to him... you might wanna give Ronnie a call. If I wasn't gonna have this gig, who better to lose it to than Ronnie Spector! He didn't take my advice, but I do believe they joined forces years later!
While I never got really famous as a rockstar in this lifetime, doing my thing my way has brought me the greatest joy over the years. Getting to create and perform is a blessing, and I'm so not done... lots to do. I exhaust myself sometimes trying to keep up with myself. Art never sleeps.
Many years later, I went to see Bruce play on what I believe was his 60th birthday, and my buddy Jesse Malin took me backstage and told him that I had auditioned for him many years ago. Bruce gave me the biggest smile. He told me, he wondered what happened to the girls that had auditioned that day (I believe there were 4 of us that were chosen to go out to Asbury Park). I couldn't believe he even remembered the audition! He also told me that he met his wife that day. Anyway, he asked me "what did I tell you?" I mentioned he told me that I should form my own band. He then asked me, "so what did you do?" I replied "I have my own band, I'm doing my own thing" to which he replied "hug me". I remember feeling a little stunned, but in a good way. He lifted me up and spun me around in a bear hug. It was delightful, and I wish I had a photo of that moment in time. But instead it's a forever memory. Just like those reel to reel tapes. Bruce gave me a lovely present on his birthday, positive energy, & joy. He's one hell of a guy. Happy Birthday Bruce!
Here's a few photographs I took at his birthday show, and at a party at Sardi's after opening night of The Rascals show 'Once Upon A Dream' on Broadway. Last photo w/ Stevie Van Zandt and Eddie Brigati.