Born to Run (2016)
I spent some money. Quite a bit, actually. We bought a house on a canyon road near Sunset Boulevard. It was luxurious and extravagant and I was ready for some of that. I had a family now; I still drew a good deal of press attention and we needed to ensure we’d have some security and privacy. Our new digs, situated off a couple of private drives, delivered that. I bought some nice guitars. I’d never collected before. I’d always considered my instrument a tool, like a hammer: one good one and maybe a spare or two were all you really needed. Now I wanted a beautiful guitar in each room. I wanted music throughout the house.
A lot had changed. The late eighties and early nineties had proved tumultuous, upending my life. I was working on new music in a new land with a new love. At the moment I had no driving theme or sure creative point of view thundering through my head, and after the Born in the USA, Tunnel of Love and Amnesty tours, I felt a little burned out. I was unsure of where to take the band next and in ’89, I’d essentially placed them on hiatus. Over time, like all the guys, I’d developed my own set of underlying grievances. Some of the fellas making me a little too crazy, some feeling of a lack of appreciation coupled with the burden of having life issues and baggage constantly dumped at my doorstep with a little too much frequency and too many expectations that I should make it all better. All of this, along with my creative uncertainty and artistic curiosity, finally turned me around the corner. We’d all lived on E Street for a long while. During that time, many good habits were formed, things that in the long run would keep us together, but there were also some bad habits that had taken hold. I felt I’d become not just a friend and employer for some, but also banker and daddy.
As usual, I’d created a good deal of our state of affairs myself by not providing clear boundaries and by creating an emotional structure where in exchange for the band’s undying loyalty and exclusivity, I gave an unspoken and uncontracted promise to cover everyone’s back in whatever befell them. Everyone, without concrete, written clarification, will define the terms of your relationship in accordance with their own financial, emotional and psychological needs and desires, some realistic, some not. A lawsuit with some trusted employees that had turned into a rather long and nasty divorce case made me realize the importance of clarifying your, and your band members’, commitments in as reasonably undisputable a fashion as possible. That meant contracts (previously anathema to me). The Tunnel of Love tour was the first time I insisted on written contracts with the band. After all this time, to some, I suppose, it suggested mistrust, but those contracts and their future counterparts protected our future together. They clarified beyond debate our past and present relationships with one another, and in clarity lie stability, longevity, respect, understanding and confidence. Everyone knew where everyone else stood, what was given and what was asked. Once signed, those contracts left us free to just play.
On the day I called each band member to explain that after years with the same lineup, I wanted to experiment with other musicians, I’m sure it hurt, especially Clarence, but I was met to a man by the same response. The E Street Band is old-school; we are filled with gentlemen, raucous, rousing, sometimes reckless rock ’n’ roll gentlemen, but gentlemen all. Everyone was generous, gracious—yes, disappointed, but open to what I was saying. They wished me well and I did them the same.
It was painful, but in truth, we all needed a break. After sixteen years, a reconsidering was in order. I left in search of my own life and some new creative directions. Many of the guys did that as well, finding second lives and second careers as musicians, record producers, TV stars and actors. We retained our friendships and stayed in touch. When we would come back together I would find a more adult, settled, powerful group of people. Our time away from one another gave us all a new respect for the man or woman standing next to us. It opened our eyes to what we had, what we’d accomplished and might still accomplish together.