Now I don’t know what it always was with us
We chose the words, and yeah, we drew the lines
There was just no way this house could hold the two of us
I guess that we were just too much of the same kind
Springsteen, Independence day
My Springsteen Odyssey Part 2
We left Asbury Park heading west and, just forty minutes later, were rolling down South Street in Freehold. This was a very big deal for me (and the source of great amusement for Jersey girl), we were travelling down the street where Bruce Springsteen had spent his formative musical years!
In moments the house where he lived, and which he has documented in both song and monologue, would hove into view. I already knew, thanks to the marvel of google Earth, what the house looked like and so, when I spied it, felt strangely like I’d already been there.
Google, however, could never convey the emotional impact of actually standing in a place of such cultural significance.
The first thing that strikes the visiting fan is the complete lack of any acknowledgment that the great man had ever lived there. I’d expected a small plaque at the very least. Instead, there is just a very tired and untended looking duplex. No Graceland this.
You’d think a cash-strapped borough like Freehold would have kenned that they could spin some much-needed tourism revenue by buying up the former Springsteen home and turning it into, say, a museum.
No such notion seems to have occurred to them, which I’m actually kind of glad about. There’s something unspoiled about it as it stands and it probably more accurately represents the man’s ideals that it remains someone’s home.
It was so moving to be standing where so many of the events that formed the writer and performer had transpired. Both of Springsteen’s beloved grandparents (on his father’s side) died in the house.
When Bruce was about fifteen, an unknown shooter fired a bullet through the front door narrowly missing the boy as he was walking up the stairs to practice his guitar.
The Kitchen out back was the scene of all those late-night confrontations between Bruce and his dad. And, after the family had deserted Freehold (leaving their musician son behind) for a new life in California, Bruce moved his band mates into the house to live rent free for the remainder of the lease (this would have been Steel Mill, I think).
All of these events swirled about my head there in front of the modest abode. Almost everyone who walked by as I stood there were Hispanic, so I guess the blue collar credentials of the neighbourhood remain intact.
Just up the road from the house is Saint Rose of Lima, Springsteen’s old elementary school. Again, over the years, he has spared no detail in the telling of his life under the iron rule of the Catholic nuns who ran this school.
Despite professing no love for his old school, Springsteen came back to play a charity concert in the gym many years later. There is a wonderful bootleg of the concert known as Freehold night that is well worth tracking down.
We had somewhere else to go before the day was over but, on the way out of town, I spotted the Freehold Elks Club. This has the distinction of being the first venue where Springsteen ever performed a paying gig (he earned $5 I believe). I thought it worth a photo.
Our next destination was a place outside of Freehold called Colt’s Neck. This is the area the Springsteen’s currently call home. I wasn’t sure if I should post this pic, but since I found my way there via publicly accessible information, and since the property also has a commercial recording studio attached, I figured it was probably not too big a sin to include it.
The Band is currently touring the River in Europe, so we knew that Springsteen wasn’t there, but it was nevertheless a thrill to see his house (the scene of those wonderful Seeger session recordings). I guess I’m still the same fanboy I’ve always been. It’s the one part of me that refuses to grow up but that’s not such a bad thing I suppose.
I have to thank Jersey girl for all her patience and good humour as I dragged her around New Jersey on my fool’s errand. You have to love a woman who can put up with such silliness.
Words and images are all my own.