The Backstreet Phantom of Rock

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Hey that's me and I want you only

Don't turn me home again

I just can't face myself alone again.

If all this effort has suddenly paid off grandly, and madly, Springsteen remains obdurately unchanged. He continues to hassle with Appel over playing large halls, and just last month refused to show up for a Maryland concert Appel had booked into a 10,000-seat auditorium. The money is starting to flow in now: Springsteen takes home $350 a week, the same as Appel and the band members. There are years of debt and back road fees to repay. Besides, Springsteen is not greatly concerned about matters of finance. Says John Hammond: "In all my years in this business, he is the only person I've met who cares absolutely nothing about money." Springsteen lives sometimes with his girl friend Karen Darvin, 20, a freckled, leggy model from Texas, in a small apartment on Manhattan's East Side. More frequently he is down on the Jersey shore, where he has just moved into more comfortable—but not lavish—quarters, and bought his first decent hi-fi rig. He remains adamantly indifferent to clothing and personal adornment, although he wears a small gold cross around his neck—a vestigial remnant of Catholicism—and, probably to challenge it, a small gold ring in his left ear, which gives him a little gypsy flash.

When he is not working, Springsteen takes life easy and does not worry about it. "I'm not a planning-type guy," he says. "You can't count on nothing in this life. I never have expectations when I get involved in things. That way, I never have disappointments." His songs, which he characterizes as being mostly about "survival, how to make it through the next day," are written in bursts. "I ain't one of those guys who feels guilty if he didn't write something today," he boasts. "That's all jive. If I didn't do nothing all day, I feel great." Under all circumstances, he spins fiction in his lyrics and iscareful to avoid writing directly about daily experience. "You do that," he cautions, "and this is what happens. First you write about struggling along. Then you write about making it professionally. Then somebody's nice to you. You write about that. It's a beautiful day, you write about that. That's about 20 songs in all. Then you're out. You got nothing to write."

Some things, however, must change. Southside Johnny recalls that after Born to Run was released, "we had a party at one of the band members' houses. It was like old times. We drank and listened to old Sam and Dave albums. Then someone said my car had a flat tire. I went outside to check, and sitting in the street were all these people waiting to get a glimpse of Brucie, just sitting under the streetlights, not saying anything. I got nervous and went back inside."

These lamppost vigilants, silent and deferential, were not teeny-boppers eager to squeal or fans looking for a fast autograph. As much as anything, they were all unofficial delegates of a generation acting on the truth of Springsteen's line from Thunder Road: "Show a little faith, there's magic in the night." Just at that doorstep, they found it. Growin' up.

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