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Last year there was a limited release of the ungrammatically titled “Springsteen and I” which was video testimonials of fans sharing their testimony of what Springsteen has meant for their lives. I didn't care to join the throngs who were sending their personal stories in for possible inclusion but I will share it with you here.

Gregg Lieberman

A childhood friend who I was associated with into my college days in the mid 1980s or my early 20s. What do I remember about him? He subsisted on orange Hi-C and one food which I remember as bagels but my mom rememembers as hamburgers lol. He looked a lot like the rock star Prince. His name was not Gregory, it was Gregg with two G's. He and I played stickball in our early teens when that was so much more common place in the streets of Brookly and Queens. We watched the Gong Show as a ritual and then we would go out and play stickball. Sometimes we would go to the local outdoor swimming pool which I think was later replaced with a parking lot. He was a year ahead of me in school and a year older so we didn't hang out in school. Oh, and he was the one who introduced me to the music of Bruce Springsteen. It was after the Darkness on the Edge of Town and before The River. I remember him playing Badlands and we thought the line “keep pushin till it's understood” was “the commissioner's understood”. I remember him playing Candy's Room and being so enraptured with how not only couldn't Bruce sing but he couldn't talk. It was a compliment. Same as the way that kids a generation earlier loved Elvis because he said “you aintgunuttin but a Hound Dog just crockin all da time” lol.

Funny thing about Gregg was that shortly after that he went and became even weirder than he was as a kid. He got into drugs and drinking. He got into heavy metal music. And when he and I went to see Bruce on July 4th of 1981 he said the show was great if you like that kind of music! haha! Ya, that show was my first Springsteen concert. The first of how many now I couldn't tell you. Let's say around 30! I remember clearly that it was on the 4th of July because someone lit a firecracker during Bruce's rendition of his “Racing In The Night” song that night and he offered that person to come down to the stage so that he could kick his ass! Bruce was unappreciative of the disruption of his song and the fellow in the audience endangering himself and the fans around him.

Springsteen and I

Just want to mention here that a big part of Bruce's endearment to me is that his lyrics and messages have paralleled my life in many instances. Also that he has puddle-ized me on many occassions and almost no other artist ever has. Aside from that is the fact that he has highly influenced my own music and it has taken me years to move out of his shadow as an artist since I can make my voice sound so much like his. One thing, I have never been able to put out anywhere near his energy level. But who can?

I didn't so much like the first album that Bruce came out with after I became his fan. I think most fans were disappointed with The River. Too much filler and very little that was as epic as anything that was on Born To Run or Darkness. Some songs like Ties That Bind and Jackson Cage have grown on me over the decades and I think they are great now. I think that in the time between Darkness and The River, Bruce learned how to best record a rock and roll band for a live sounding studio album but lost some of his ability to make the songs sound epic and impactful.

Nebraska

Was it an act of courage? Desperation? Happenstance? What would cause Bruce to come out with a trimmed down to the point of stark bleakness solo folk album recorded in his kitchen on personal recording, not professional studio equipment? Actually in 1992 Bruce had a lyric “These days I'm feelin' alright except I can't tell my courage from my desperation”. In the early 1980s with the whole world ready to be conquered Bruce was having major personal issues and they were reflected in the darkness and starkness of Nebraska. Perhaps Bruce realized that he couldn't at that time create something epic by going in the direction of big and loud as he had done on BTR and Darkness but only with something stark, haunting, personal, brave, bold and unpretentious and this was Nebraska. As he said at the time “I don't care how many people get it, I care how many people GET IT”. Well, for me, personally I GOT IT. I got that there was someone out there as disconnected as I was and this was someone who's poster was in college dormitory rooms across the country and who was selling out major venues in hours or minutes and who's voice had even changed to represent that feeling of being disconnected and lost which I was experiencing at the time. When I first heard the song “Nebraska” coming out of my speakers it was a somewhat transformational moment. I really couldn't believe what I was hearing. How could this be the same guy? And how could he understand what I was going through which I didn't have a clue about?

Elvis

This was the first time that Bruce became more than Elvis to me. If not for Elvis I never would have gotten through my teens. I can remember the first time that music affected me. I had seen Elvis on TV with my folks. Maybe it was the 1973 Hawaii concert that was satellited around the world and seen by more people that the moon walk. But what was important to me was the next day. I asked my mom if she had an Elvis record I could listen to. She did. She had an original printing of the Gold Records Vol 1 with the red cover and Elvis's face with the famous sneer transposed over a black vinyl record. You have seen this picture. The whole world has seen this picture. The cover of this record was all chewed up but the record had no scratches, hisses, pops, cracks that I can remember. Well I don't know if I ever even used that crappy old turntable that I was so thoroughly employed that memorable day. Certainly no music had ever effected me before that. I played one side of the record and then the next and then the first and then the reverse again all day into the night, however many times that adds up to. Hound Dog, Jailhouse Rock, Too Much, Treat Me Nice, Love Me Tender, Anyway You Want Me, Heartbreak Hotel, Love Me, etc. TRANSFORMATIONAL.

Bruce had his own experiences with Elvis's music transforming his life. He said “Elvis helped more people than anyone else has helped those people in their lives”. He also said the following: Springsteen quoted the late rock critic Lester Bangs by saying, 'We will never agree on anything as we agreed on Elvis.' He added that his 'genesis moment of inspiration' was in 1956 when he watched Elvis perform on 'The Ed Sullivan Show'. 'It was that evening, I realized that you didn't have to be constrained by your upbringing, by the way you looked, or by the social context that oppressed you,' and ”…it was like he came along and whispered some dream in everybody's ear, and somehow we all dreamed it.” and “Elvis is my religion. But for him, I'd be selling encyclopedias right now.” and “There have been a lotta tough guys. There have been pretenders. And there have been contenders. But there is only one king.” But while Elvis was who and what got me through my childhood by giving me one thing in the world that I loved, Bruce was the very first influence that ever gave my life any meaning or direction. So what was the message of “Nebraska”? Well, scarily enough it was primarily “I guess there's just a meanness in this world”. I had known something of that meanness as I child who was the prey, not the predator of the kids in school who survived their own pain by inflicting hurt on others. Prior to Bruce my solution was to sleep walk. I didn't think about anything until Bruce. I reacted and usually I just made myself as isolated as possible (which is where Elvis found me often). Not sure what went down last life time but this lifetime I was determined to not live it even as my heart would be beating and my lungs would be breathing.

Born In The USA

Starting to come out of my shell ever so slightly and see that there was a world around me and to have some political thoughts Bruce was right there with me front and center on my stage and the world's. “You can't start a fire without a spark” was a bold and energetic attempt to get me to wake up to live my life because “there's something happening somewhere, baby, I just know there is”. Well, it was a great effort but when I woke up I ended up in Scientology! I had had some spiritual awakening prior in a course at SUNY Albany called The Undiscovered Self in which I got a B+ on my final paper which was my report on my experience with taking magic mushrooms!

So where was Bruce when I was getting into a cult? Why didn't he warn me? Well, he did. “In 1985 blind faith in your leaders or anything will get you killed” he advised me on the concert recording of his cover version of the 1970s classic protest song “War”. But I had lessons to learn from the years of duress and manipulation I experienced in Scientology, apparently. And so I went through all those times in spite of Bruce's dire warning.

Bruce Springsteen and My Scientology Years

You won't find much online about Springsteen and Scientology, thank goodness! But the connection is via me lol. “He got dressed in the darkness and down to the highway he strode but when he got there he didn't find nothing but road” (Cautious Man 1987). He broke my heart with that one. Again, it was an effort to tell me not to believe in unseen freedom, not to try to live my life by trying to escape it, not to try to aspire for something in the future without embracing the love and joy that might be in the present if I could see what was right in front of my face. Again it rocked my universe and then I went on down the same path as before with little change because of it but at least I wasn't entirely alone.

Bruce continued with me in my years of 24/7 Scientology staff. “Human Touch” may not have been his greatest work but he definitely nailed what I was missing with the album title. “Billy had a mistress down on A and 12th” starts “The Big Muddy” off of the Lucky Town album also in 1992. At the time I was living in Scientology facilities and I was in apartment block A, apartment 12! I was touring for Scientology (not as a musician just an advance man for their events) and I even managed to make my tour coincide with his by pure miraculous happenstance and I saw Bruce in Cleveland, OH in 1992.

The Marty Rifkin Connection

1990 I had a sudden unprecedented awakening to my own self worth as an artist and song writer and I was writing several songs a week and performing them at Scientology's infamous Celebrity Center in Hollywood. This included a song called the “Merry F**kin Christmas Blues” (a satire of the commercialism in Christmas with lyrics including “Hey Mr Jesus, this ain't about you. I really love you, lord knows I do but if you remember that temple that you trashed in Galilee…” (then he would join with me in trashing the commerciality of Christmas) which had some people in the audience and on stage mortified and others laughing hysterically lol. During that time I was doing some of the best songwriting that I would do for many years to come. One of those songs was “Ridin Aboard Good Ol' Woody's Train” (about Woody Guthrie). The Bruce-Woody connection is of course well documented now, including Bruce's keynote speech at South By Southwest in Austin TX two years ago when the theme was the 100th birthday celebration for Woody.

So who is Marty and where does he fit in to all this? Marty had and still has a studio in Santa Monica and, for a fee, he recorded a killer version of Woody's Train which I deposited my vocals on. In 1995 when Bruce's “Tom Joad” album came out I was astonished to see Marty on the credits on more than half the songs playing various instruments like mandolin, dobro, etc! Of course, I contacted Marty, congratulated him and asked if he would forward my song to Bruce. Of course, he told me that it didn't work that way with Bruce… he's the BOSS!!! :) Ya, that's true but I did come that close. To what? I don't know but there I was one person removed from Bruce with something that I knew he would love. Marty went on to play in Bruce's Pete Seeger Sessions Band album and tour project. He also played with many other household name artists. He is a great talent and a great guy. I also want to thank Marty because of his participation in the Seeger Sessions stuff. That was where I made my first breakthrough in getting my mom and dad to appreciate my life long hero.

My Beautiful Reward

These are Better Days. I have found my true self (or inner Christ or divinity) through my spiritual studies and with the help of the teachings of Jesus. Well, I know where my true self is and I am in the process of getting better acquainted on a daily basis. As Bruce says in his latest, “I am a hunter of invisible game” (an amazing metaphor for the spiritual quest). And now I have two CD's with Tate Publishing in Oklahoma. Tate is a world class publishing company with over 100 staff in a corporate campus in Oklahoma City and with a A+ BBB rating and they are in the process of getting my CDs out to the masses. The release date for the first project is May 20th of this year! That project is FEAR NO LOVE

Bruce once said that much of his earlier work was the product of self loathing. Well, I am sorry for him but it seems that starting in the early 1990s he has learned to actually enjoy all his riches and blessings. And for many, many years he was a great deal of what I knew about any self love. And my life is so much richer for the soundtrack he has provided and the inspiration. In 1987 Bruce said he was just looking for connections. And here am I to say the same in 2014, thanks in no small part to Bruce.

My Autobiography

I have had some people tell me that with all the misfortune I have dodged and that which I have experienced and the uniqueness of my experiences that I should write and autobiography. In writing about Bruce I just wrote a big part of it.


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