He’s the Boss

You might say Bruce Spring­steen em­bod­ies rock’s Amer­ic­an Dream. His memen­tos, keep­sakes and a few trap­pings of fame now com­pose a pop cul­ture ex­hib­it at the Na­tion­al Con­sti­tu­tion Cen­ter that is de­voted to everything Bruce.

From As­bury Park to the Prom­ised Land, the Bruce Spring­steen ex­hib­it at the Na­tion­al Con­sti­tu­tion Cen­ter cel­eb­rates the First Amend­ment’s right of Free­dom of Ex­pres­sion and runs from Feb. 17 to Sept. 3.


Dav­id Eis­ner, the pres­id­ent and CEO of the Na­tion­al Con­sti­tu­tion Cen­ter, con­siders Phil­adelphia to be “Bruce coun­try.”

Bruce, as in Bruce Spring­steen, the Free­hold, N.J.-born rock-and-roll le­gend known as “The Boss.”

Eis­ner was giddy last week dur­ing a pre­view of From As­bury Park to the Prom­ised Land: The Life and Mu­sic of Bruce Spring­steen.

And why not?

Be­fore the ex­hib­it opened, some 6,000 ad­vance tick­ets were sold.

The Feb. 15 launch drew a sel­lout crowd of more than 1,100, in­clud­ing As­bury Park, N.J., May­or Ed John­son, in­vited in re­cog­ni­tion of Spring­steen’s Janu­ary 1973 de­but al­bum, Greet­ings from As­bury Park. The launch was the biggest since the cen­ter opened in 2003.

“We’re ex­pect­ing to draw tens of thou­sands of new vis­it­ors to the cen­ter,” Eis­ner said.

Spring­steen has been in the news quite a bit of late. He kicked off the re­cent Grammy Awards with his new hit song, We Take Care of Our Own. He’ll be re­leas­ing his new al­bum, Wreck­ing Ball, on March 6. He’ll be in con­cert at the Wells Fargo Cen­ter on March 28-29. And the ex­hib­it will be run­ning through Sept. 3.

“Bruce Spring­steen has re­turned to the ‘Streets of Phil­adelphia,’” said Eis­ner, ref­er­en­cing the 1993 Academy Award for Best Ori­gin­al Song he won for the movie Phil­adelphia. “This, for Bruce, is home.”

The 5,000-square-foot ex­hib­it, which fea­tures more than 150 ar­ti­facts, is at the Na­tion­al Con­sti­tu­tion Cen­ter thanks to an agree­ment with the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Mu­seum in Clev­e­land.

Jim Hen­ke, former mu­sic ed­it­or of Rolling Stone magazine and now vice pres­id­ent of ex­hib­i­tions and cur­at­ori­al af­fairs at the mu­seum, ex­plained that Spring­steen saved all kinds of great mem­or­ab­il­ia over the years.

Thus, fans will be able to fol­low him from his days in bands such as Child, the Castiles, Steel Mill, Dr. Zoom and the Son­ic Boom and the Bruce Spring­steen Band through his work with the E Street Band and as a solo artist. There are also items from the Stone Pony, the le­gendary As­bury Park rock club where Spring­steen per­formed.

The su­per­star’s first ap­pear­ance came at a swim club in 1965. He’s gone on to play at packed sta­di­ums around the world.

One high­light of the ex­hib­it is Spring­steen’s 1960 Chev­ro­let Cor­vette, which he bought in 1975 after the suc­cess of the al­bum Born to Run. The al­bum and title song were so pop­u­lar that, when the tour ended with four shows at the 3,000-seat Tower Theatre in Up­per Darby, there were 90,000 tick­et re­quests.

Vis­it­ors can also see Spring­steen on the cov­ers of Time and New­s­week from that spe­cial year of 1975.

There’s also the Har­ley-Dav­id­son mo­tor­cycle he rode in 1989 through the south­west­ern United States.

The ex­hib­it fea­tures listen­ing and view­ing sta­tions that in­clude in­ter­views with Spring­steen, pre­vi­ously un­re­leased songs from some of his early mu­sic­al groups and foot­age of some of his most fam­ous per­form­ances.

In ad­di­tion, there are per­son­al ar­ti­facts, in­clud­ing fam­ily pho­to­graphs, note­books filled with song lyr­ics, a surf­board and his Se­lect­ive Ser­vice card. He avoided be­ing draf­ted and sent to Vi­et­nam be­cause of a con­cus­sion and leg in­jury suffered in a mo­tor­cycle ac­ci­dent.

There’s the mo­tor­cycle jack­et he wore on the cov­er of Born to Run and the icon­ic jeans, T-shirt and hat he wore on the cov­er of Born in the U.S.A.

In the lobby, there are large re­pro­duc­tions of pho­to­graphs of Spring­steen and the E Street Band taken by Frank Stefanko and Danny Clinch.

Stefanko, whose shots served as the al­bum cov­er art for Dark­ness on the Edge of Town and The River, at­ten­ded last week’s pre­view and presen­ted a slide show. He grew up in South Jer­sey and re­called listen­ing to Ed Sciaky play the mu­sic of a new artist on his WM­MR ra­dio show. He called his friend, sing­er-song­writer Patti Smith, whom he met at the old Glass­boro State Col­lege.

“You’ve got to look out for this guy Bruce Spring­steen,” he told her.

Smith, who later be­came a Spring­steen pro­tege, mailed Stefanko a copy of Greet­ings from As­bury Park. Spring­steen in­cluded a note that read, “To Frank, my biggest fan, Patti says.”

Mu­sic crit­ics loved the al­bum, but it was not a com­mer­cial hit. Two years later, his fan base grew with Born to Run.

Spring­steen, 62, began mak­ing mu­sic when he was 14. He and a group of Free­hold teen­agers formed the Castiles, named after a brand of soap.

The ex­hib­it in­cludes a bar of Castile soap and a pe­ti­tion to ra­dio sta­tions and re­cord com­pan­ies to give the “fant­ast­ic boys” a chance, that they could someday be as great as the Beatles. The band, which played Brit­ish In­va­sion mu­sic, ex­is­ted from 1965-68.

Fans will get to see the Fend­er Es­quire elec­tric gui­tar that was pic­tured on the cov­er of Born to Run and that he used dur­ing a half­time per­form­ance at Su­per Bowl XLIII.

Oth­er not­ables in­clude news­pa­per clip­pings, hand­bills, set lists, busi­ness cards, con­cert posters, Columbia Re­cords au­di­tion tapes, a mi­cro­phone used by pop­u­lar sax­o­phon­ist Clar­ence Clem­ons, a mini-gift shop and all oth­er things Spring­steen. The ex­hib­it is geared to cas­u­al and de­voted fans of “The Boss.”

“I think it’s a pretty thor­ough look at Bruce’s life and ca­reer,” said Hen­ke, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame ex­ec­ut­ive. ••


The dirt on The Boss …



Ad­mis­sion to the ex­hib­it is $24.50 for adults, $23 for seni­or cit­izens and stu­dents and $12 for chil­dren ages 4 to 12. Group rates are also avail­able. Ad­mis­sion to the cen­ter’s main ex­hib­i­tion is in­cluded.

As part of the “Hungry Heart” food drive, which runs dur­ing March, guests will re­ceive a $2 dis­count for donat­ing a canned good to Phil­abund­ance.

The Na­tion­al Con­sti­tu­tion Cen­ter is loc­ated at 525 Arch St. Call 215-409-6700 or vis­it www.con­sti­tu­tion­cen­ter.org

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You can reach at twaring@bsmphilly.com.

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