Bruce Springsteen Talks and Sings about Elvis

By: Elvis Australia
Source: FECC / Mike C / Dr C
December 19, 2010

In a recent interview with Bruce Springsteen by Dave Marsh about Bruce's new 'Darkness on the Edge of Town' release, Bruce was asked by a fan how Elvis' death affected the songs on the album:

When you were recording the session here, Elvis passed away.

Did that have any effect on the recording and your choice of songs that you put on the album?

That's an interesting question.

Because people do forget that the two things that happened (during the sessions) were the punk explosion and Elvis died. Elvis died. You know, it's funny, no one has asked me that question in all the interviews I've done about this record. Elvis died. And, it was, it didn't, I don't know if it affected the record in any way.

Dave Marsh: Well, you wrote that song 'Come On (Let's Go Tonight)'.

You are absolutely correct. The song 'Come On (Let's Go Tonight)' is a song about going to Memphis for Elvis' funeral. So, I did begin to write something about it. And that song turned into 'Factory'. I don't have all the lyrics in front of me, from the uh, oh, there it is. This is it. Hold on a second. Anyway, yes, I did write about it.

Dave Marsh: You were in, I don't know if you were on a trip with Eric or you were on a trip with Steve (Van Zandt), but you were out West. Because you and I ended up talking on the phone in the middle of the night for the Rolling Stone story we did, the special issue we did about Elvis Presley. So I didn't know if that kind of tied in with some of 'The Promised Land' or some of the other songs that got written after that.

'Factory' started out as, you know (sings and plays on acoustic), 'Hey little baby put your red dress on, there's a party tonight down in factory town, I'll be going down there if you need a ride, come on, come on, let's go tonight.' And it ends up with a verse on him, (sings and plays) 'Man on the radio, says Elvis Presley died'. So, yeah, it was something I did try to write about, and that song turned into 'Factory' over the long haul.

But, uh, yeah, it had a big impact on me at the time.

Dave Marsh: And in some ways it helps with some of the material, it makes you be a lot more careful.

Well, the great quote about Elvis' death was from Lester Bangs, who was a rock critic who wrote for Creem magazine. And he wrote a piece, I think it was in the Village Voice, on Elvis. And what he says is, and it was very prescient, Elvis is the last thing we're all going to agree on. He hadn't talked to Public Enemy as of yet, you know, but (Marsh laughs), but he says Elvis is the last thing we're all going to agree on. After this you are going to have your heroes and I'm going to have mine. You're gonna like Joni Mitchell, I'm gonna like Iggy Pop. So instead of saying goodbye to Elvis, I'm going to say goodbye to you.

And it was, and that's really what happened musically after that. So it was a fascinating piece of writing. Yeah, everything shifted at that moment. Everything shifted. And, really, there was a tremendous rebirth.

Dave Marsh: And remember, also there was also that little moment before when the ('Elvis: What Happened?') scandal broke, and I remember we all got kind of fascinated. I remember coming up and playing some (Elvis) records for you and Jon (Landau) after a session at the studio one night. One of the only times we've been in the recording studio together (laughs). Um, and so he was, you know, he passed, I mean in some ways -- this Mathew Ryan calls in from Illinois on the show and he sort of halfway persuaded me that Elvis' ghost hovers over all of Darkness on the Edge of Town. (Bruce plays a bit of 'Mystery Train' on his guitar).

That's good (laughs).

Come On (Let's Go Tonight)'.

Put on your black dress baby, and put your hair up right
There's a party way down in Factory Town tonight
I'll be going down there if you need a ride
Come on, come on, let's go tonight

How many men fail, their dreams denied
They walk through these streets with death in their eyes
Now the man on the radio says "Elvis Presley died"
Come on, come on, let's go tonight

Well now some came to witness, now some came to weep
Drawn by death's strange glory, they stood in the street
Drawn together forever in the promise of an endless sleep
Come on, come on, let's go tonight
Baby, come on, come on, let's go tonight
Da da da da da da da
Da da da da da da da da
Da da da da da da da

'Come On (Let's Go Tonight)' is available on the new double CD, 'The Promise'.

Johnny Bye Bye

Well she drew out all her money from the southern trust
And put her little boy on the greyhound bus
Leaving memphis with a guitar in his hand
With a one way ticket to the promised land
Hey little girl with the red dress on
There's party tonight down in memphis down
I'll be going down there if you need a ride
The man on the radio says elvis presley's died

We drove to memphis the sky was hard and black
Up over the ridge came a white cadillac
They drawed out all his money and they laid him in the back
A woman cried from the roadside "oh he's gone, he's gone"
They found him slumped up against the drain
With a whole lotta trouble running through his veins

Bye bye johnny
Johnny bye bye
You didn't have to die
You didn't have to die

Springsteen on Elvis:

The key to survival in the line of work he [Elvis] ... invented is the replenishment of ideas. You can't really remain physically or mentally healthy without a leap of consciousness and a continuing, deeper investigation into who you are and what you're doing. Those are the things that will make sense of the many silly and weird things [he laughs] that will happen to you [when you're a star]! [But] what keeps you from maintaining that replenishment of ideas is an insecurity about who you let in close to you. To have new ideas you usually need to have new people around, people willing to challenge your ideas in some fashion, or to simply assist you in broadening them. Which means you have to be open to the fact that your thinking isn't everything, y'know?

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