‘How did I get so lucky?’: Dick Wingate talks about working with Springsteen, Elvis Costello, others

Dick Wingate interview

COURTESY OF DICK WINGATE

Dick Wingate at the Grammy Awards in January 2020.

The spring of 1978 was an important time for Bruce Springsteen, who released his classic Darkness on the Edge of Time that May. And it was an important time for Elvis Costello, who released his also-destined-to-be-classic This Year’s Model album, that March.

And it was a really busy time for Dick Wingate, who worked closely with both artists as a Columbia Records product manager.

I recently guested with Wingate on Arlen Schumer’s Night-Light Radio internet show, and was so intrigued by his stories about working, simultaneously, on two albums that happen to be all-time favorites of mine (and, I’m sure, of a lot of people) that I asked him to do an in-depth interview for NJArts.net, and he graciously agreed.

Wingate, who grew up in the New Haven area, is still active in the worlds of music and technology through his DEV Advisors company, and lives in the Westport, Conn. area. We talked by phone last week.

Q: How old were you, and what year was it, when you joined Columbia?

A: It was January of 1976, and I was 23.

Q: 23. Wow.

A: I had already been very much involved with the music business for four or five years, as a DJ at WBRU-FM, the Brown University radio station which was run by students but was a commercially licensed, 50,000 watt radio station. We actually became the No. 1 FM station in Rhode Island while I was there, and I became the music director and then the program director, and the record companies, because of our influence in the market, were down every week, trying to pitch us on their stuff, and I was invited to every press event, every concert, whether it was in Providence or in Boston. So I was already well known by the record industry before I left college. And I received an offer from what was then Chess/Janus Records. Janus had all these progressive-rock, British bands, and they knew of me because I played the hell out of ’em.

I was a big fan of the early Al Stewart records; before they were even released in the United States, he had three or four albums. And that was (Janus’) main act, in terms of commercial viability, and so they hired me to do promotion and retail right out of college. And we broke Al Stewart. But I already had a very strong relationship with Columbia because of the Columbia college promotion department, which I had been very tight with. So they were tracking me, and would see me at all the Springsteen gigs. When Springsteen played the Bottom Line, I had already seen him probably 10 times, including with the original E Street Band, at Brown. In the last few months of the original E Street Band, they played at Brown …

COURTESY OF DICK WINGATE

Dick Wingate, left, is shown on the cover of the Brown Daily Herald in 1973.

Q: With Vini Lopez and David Sancious?

A: Yeah. [Note: The show, on April 26, 1974, actually featured Ernest “Boom” Carter and not Lopez on drums.] I’ll just never forget, when they took the stage … and they didn’t go on until almost midnight … it’s actually the famous gig where Bruce did an interview right after the show, at 2 in the morning, with a local writer in which he complained about not getting enough attention from the record company, and the son of Irwin Siegelstein, who was running CBS Records at that time, got a call from his son about this article. …

The reason they didn’t go on until midnight is because the band sometimes did two gigs in a day, in different cities. And that was one of those days. They had played a show in Connecticut in the afternoon, and then they had some problem with transport, so they didn’t get to Providence until much later than expected. The show didn’t start until almost midnight. But I’ll never forget: The show opens with Suki Lahav playing the violin intro to “New York City Serenade.” And I thought, “Whoa. This is different.” And I had met Bruce (before). As I mentioned, the labels would often bring the artist to the station, to do a meet-and-greet, and sometimes we’d go on the air with the artist. The day Columbia bought Bruce around, it was around the release of the first album (in 1973). It was either the first or the second radio station he had ever been to. … He was painfully shy and looked exactly like he did on the first album cover. So we just talked, and didn’t go on the air. And I’ve always regretted that I didn’t see the show before then. Because, my goodness, it was like there was another person onstage than the one that was brought to the radio station.

So we knew each other a bit, and that’s one of the reasons why, when I got hired by Columbia, they gave me the account. When I was hired, I was the youngest product manager that had ever been hired there, so I ended up with Bruce, Elvis Costello, Pink Floyd, Peter Tosh, Nick Lowe, Al Di Meola and Billy Cobham. I had the most extraordinary musicians that I had the sheer joy of working with. It was so incredible that I sometimes had to pinch myself. I’d go, “How did I get so lucky?”

Q: So, please explain to me, what exactly does a product manager do? What was your job description?

A: Well, the product manager was essentially the in-house manager for the artists. We were responsible for the initial marketing plan and all the follow-ups. And that included packaging, merchandising, video, TV or radio, print, billboards. All the items that would then be a marketing cost, or a packaging cost, would come through our P&L (profit and loss).

To the artist, and to the manager, we were supposed to be the guy that if they could only make one call to the record company, it would be to the product manager, because they should be knowledgeable about everything that’s going on in sales and promotions, etc.

DOUG YULE

Dick Wingate and Bruce Springsteen review the cover art for “Darkness on the Edge of Town.”

Q: Was there an A&R (artists and repertoire) person too?

A: Oh, of course. But in the case of Bruce, the original A&R people were John Hammond and Clive Davis. And they were both no longer involved by the time I got there. A&R always would come first. But as far as the actual implementation of dollars … once the record was made, the moneys that would come through the A&R department would be tour support, because that would be recoupable, and anything that’s recoupable would go through the A&R department. Today they make almost anything recoupable. Back then, the recording costs and the touring costs were the recoupables.

Q: So you got to see the transition from Mike Appel to Jon Landau (as Springsteen’s manager).

A: Appel was already out of the picture. I never worked with Mike Appel. From January of 1976, it was never Mike Appel.

Q: Even though Appel was still officially the manager.

A: Technically, yeah. It was Landau already, more and more. Probably in the earliest days, I would get some direction from the attorneys’ office. But it was Jon from the early days, and I would be talking to Jon … by the time we got to ’78, I would be on the phone with Jon every day. But during ’76, we were still spending money supporting the Born to Run album, and we’d spend money on tour marketing. And that’s pretty much all I could do for ’76 and ’77, because that’s all he could do. He couldn’t put out records. But they could tour. So of course, we would buy local radio and local print (ads) around the tour gigs.

And I got to know some of the band members pretty well, by hanging out with them on the road. I remember, they played a Jai Alai in Miami and there was a night off, and Roy (Bittan) said, “Do you want to see James Brown with me?” And I said, “Fuck, yeah!” So we went to see James Brown in some little basement-type club in a hotel. James Brown’s profile had dropped dramatically. He hadn’t had his big comeback yet, which occurred around …. what was that movie?

Q: Do you mean “Living in America” (from “Rocky IV”)?

A: Yeah, that’s it. But anyway, we saw him in a small club. And when I saw Roy for the first time in a long time, a couple of years ago, I said, ‘Do you remember when you took me to see James Brown?” And he said, “Yeah. I saw a couple of shows of James Brown during that time, when it wasn’t hard to get a ticket.”

So then, ’77 into ’78 was insane, starting with meeting Elvis and going to England, after Gregg Geller signed him, and being the next person to get to know him. I went over and I went on the first Stiff package tour.

COURTESY OF DICK WINGATE

Elvis Costello and Dick Wingate in 1977.

Q: The one they made the album out of (1978 Live Stiffs)?

A: Yes. That tour was just incredible, because it was Nick (Lowe) and Dave (Edmunds), Ian Dury & the Blockheads, and Elvis Costello, and they were all amazing. I went over in early October (1977), before we released (Costello’s) My Aim Is True. I was already working on the marketing plan. And I can’t remember what city I went to. But all three bands were amazing. It was like seeing Rockpile, Ian Dury & the Blockheads and Elvis. And I thought, “My God, this is just insane.” … I got to hear songs that were gonna end up on the second Elvis Costello album, that no one else had heard yet, ’cause they were playing them live. And I thought, ‘This is amazing. There’s even better stuff still to come.” And I still think This Year’s Model is … if I had to pick one album for the desert isle, by Elvis, it would be Model.

So I was really, really excited, and working with Stiff Records was just so creative. All of the merchandising, and videos, and everything. I had to write marketing plans for three Elvis Costello albums in 16 months. I mean, literally, one segued straight into the other. There was no break: The albums overlapped. And I still think, short of maybe The Beatles, no one made three albums that great in that short of a period of time.

Q: Well, Dylan … they were coming pretty fast for a while, in the ’60s.

A: That’s true. Yeah, with Blonde on Blonde, yeah [Note: Bringing It All Back Home, Highway 61 Revisited and Blonde on Blonde all came out within 15 months] … That’s true. I stand corrected. But it would take Bruce two or three years per album. It would take Elvis two or three months.

Q: How aware was Bruce of Elvis, and vice versa, in those early days?

A: Well, Elvis had seen Bruce at Hammersmith (Odeon, in London, in 1975). So, he understood the power. He was a fan. But not like he was of Tom Petty. I remember that he and the band, they would just always talk about Tom Petty. That was one that he was really into, and really into Gram Parsons, and John Prine.

COURTESY OF DICK WINGATE

Elvis Costello and Dick Wingate in 1978.

So, in 1978, This Year’s Model came out in March, and Darkness (on the Edge of Town) came out in May. And so, those early months of ’78, I was crazy, trying to prepare for the release of these two records.

With Bruce, I was lucky enough to be invited to the studio to hear a playback of the album at the very earliest stage. They didn’t play it for anybody at the label until it was done, basically. But when it was done, I got invited to the Record Plant, to listen to a playback with Mickey Eichner, who was Bruce’s A&R person at that point. Just the two of us, with Jon (Landau) and Jimmy (Iovine). Bruce wasn’t there. And I remember being stunned at how much more tough and dark and adult this record was, compared to Born to Run. It was just a whole new thing, much more edgy, much less joyous. And I’d already been instructed by his legal team — I still have the letter — which was quite detailed, explaining how, now that the lawsuit had been settled, exactly the limitations on what I could release, and the way that advertising, video, marketing, images … basically everything had to be approved by Bruce.

After the playback, I knew right away that I was going to have to come up with a different angle, because there was no more of the Born to Run, “Let’s run off to New York City” kind of vibe. Now Bruce is seeing the darkness around the people he grew up with, and what’s happening in the world. And so it required a different approach to marketing. There wasn’t a “Born to Run” type single on the album. But I knew it was an incredible album.

When it got closer to actually releasing — doing the packaging, and the marketing plan — I met with Bruce in Los Angeles. We went to lunch, just him and me, at Ben Frank’s, on Sunset, a classic diner. And he said, “If it were up to me, there would be no advance marketing at all. In fact, I would love it if the record just appeared in the stores one day.”

And if you think about that for a second … he said that to me in the spring of ’78. And then, two years ago, Beyoncé actually did that: Nobody knew it was coming. It was many decades before it was possible to do that. But of course I had to say to him, “Bruce, there won’t be any records in the store. We have to pump up the retailers and radio and we have to get the press going.”

And he said, “Well, yeah, I know. It’s just my dream. Just no hype along the lines of Born to Run and ‘I’ve seen the future of rock ‘n’ roll.’ No sneakers. No pictures with a beard. Nothing that I haven’t approved.” And I said, “Look, we’ll keep it really simple. All the announcements will just say that your new album is coming out: ‘Darkness on the Edge of Town, Bruce Springsteen, May 23.’ It might say something like ‘The Long Awaited Followup,’ or whatever. But nothing else.”

A 1975 Bruce Springsteen poster.

Q: The sneakers would just be kind of associated with his younger self? Why was it important that the sneakers not be there?

A: All of the Born to Run promotion had sneakers all over it. The sneakers were very prominent. And he was not a kid anymore.  I think the only time I ever saw him wear sneakers onstage was in the very early days, with the original band. He had to change his image.

And to give an example of how burned into people’s minds this image was, with the beard and the caps that he would wear often in the early days … Michael Pillot was the head of album promotion and my best friend. He was another person who was close to Bruce and Jon. He and I took Bruce and Steve (Van Zandt) to a Yankee game during that down period, when Born to Run was over and no record had been out for a while. It was probably ’77. Born to Run was probably two years old already. But Bruce had shaved. We took a subway to Yankee Stadium. No one recognized him. We sat in the stadium the whole game. Literally one person came over and said, “Is that Bruce Springsteen?” He was virtually unrecognizable without the beard, the earring, you know?

So, ’78, I was back and forth between the Costello tour and Bruce’s tour, and even Peter Tosh. I was on the road a lot. We did five big (radio) broadcasts for Bruce, and those were critical to the overall promotion strategy, because one thing that sold records was seeing or hearing him play live. Jimmy Iovine flew in to each one, to engineer.

Q: One of them was the Capitol Theatre (in Passaic), right?

A: Yeah. And those shows have slowly been remixed, now, and released. I probably saw 25 shows of the 100 they did that year. To me, that’s still the best tour. Night after night, they literally went out to prove it all night. They were like a band on an absolute fucking mission. I love Nils (Lofgren) and I love the expanded band and everything else, but that was lean and mean every night.

COURTESY OF DICK WINGATE

Dick Wingate and Elvis Costello in 2017.

Q: Now, how aware was Bruce of Elvis at this point? Did you guys ever talk about Elvis?

A: Yeah, absolutely. He was quite aware, and we would chat about him now and then. Bruce was slowly being influenced by what was going on in England. And, you know the song “Roulette” (listen below)? That was absolutely influenced by what was going on in England. The punk sound.

I went to Jon Landau’s apartment and he played me that song. And I went, “Holy shit! I’ve never heard a song by Bruce that was that punky, that hard.” You could hear the influence on that. Sadly, it didn’t get on an album until Tracks. I thought, “This is going to blow the door off when it gets released.” But it didn’t (get released then), you know. Because it was kind of a one-off, stylistically. There’s a couple of others that emerged, on the River boxed set, that have that influence. They’re a little harder, a little edgier, they’ve got a little more of a punk attitude.

Q: And it really would have fit on The River. The River goes to musical extremes so much. I don’t think it would have been out of place.

A: I agree. That’s what it was recorded for. I think — I could be wrong — but I think it might have been, if not the first, one of the first songs recorded for The River. I think that’s why Jon invited me to hear it. But my memory is a little hazy.

There’s always people who listen to the stuff that comes out after the fact and say, “This could have replaced that,” or “That could have replaced this.” And maybe if Bruce were doing it again, he might. But the songs had to hold together thematically, more than anything. And maybe — again, to conjecture — “Roulette” just didn’t fit the big picture that he was trying to do on The River.

Q: Yeah, I guess. That was inspired by Three Mile Island, right?

A: Yeah.

Q: So maybe he thought that would be bringing a political element that would be out of place, or something like that.

A: Yeah. Maybe it was too topical. I don’t know.

Q: I know you’ve mentioned before that you took Elvis to see a Bruce concert?

A: I took him to see Bruce in Princeton. That was in November, I think, of ’78, at the Jadwin Gymnasium. My guess is it was the last time he ever played in a gymnasium. But yeah, that was a lot of fun. I wish I could have taken Bruce to see Elvis.

Q: Was Elvis on tour and just had an off night or something?

A: I don’t remember. He probably was on tour.

The last (Springsteen) show I saw (that year) was at Winterland (in San Francisco, in December). It was very emotional for me because I knew I was going to be transitioning in January to Epic, in A&R. I wanted to do A&R; I wanted to stay at Columbia, but they didn’t have room for me in the A&R department, and Epic did, so it was that night, after the show at Winterland, which is one of my two or three favorite shows on that tour … there was a party back at Bill Graham’s house that went way into the morning. That’s when I told Bruce I was going to be leaving Columbia and going to Epic. He was really gracious about it. He was really happy for me, that I was going to get the opportunity to do A&R.

The cover of the British version of Elvis Costello & the Attractions’ 1979 album, “Armed Forces.”

As a quick aside on Elvis, it was at the end of ’78 that we were preparing for the release of Armed Forces. So I was still putting the marketing plan for Armed Forces together when I started talking to Epic. And I had finished it before I moved over. It was released in January, but my marketing plan was completed. And there was a lot of discussion about the packaging, because the British packaging of Armed Forces was not something that the American company was willing to replicate. They didn’t want the elephants on the cover. And I have to say that I agreed. I think the American cover is far superior. …

Elvis did a show in Toronto. They had had to cancel some shows in Canada, and come back over and do the shows. So Michael Pillot, who I mentioned, he and I went up to see the show. And they did an encore of “(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love & Understanding (watch video below), which I had never heard before. I was not familiar with the Brinsley Schwarz version. And it blew our socks off.

So we went running backstage after the show and we’re like, “Jake (Rivera, manager of Costello and Nick Lowe), Jake, that song … what’s the story with that song?” He goes, “Oh, well, that’s Nick’s song, and we actually just recorded a version of it for the B-side of Nick’s new single.” Which was called “American Squirm.” A British single. And I said, “You recorded it with Elvis?” And he said, “Yeah. It’s called Nick Lowe & His Sound, on the B-side.” And we were testifying, “This is a fucking smash. Rock radio will go crazy over this.”

And so we were running back to Gregg Geller in New York, “We’ve got to put this on the album.” Once we heard the recorded version of it, we were like, “This has to go. This is cannot-miss.” So the album was changed, at the last minute, to add “(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love & Understanding.” It would not have been on it.

An advertisement for Nick Lowe’s “American Squirm/(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love & Understanding” single.

Q: So the plan was to release it, with the Elvis vocal, as a Nick Lowe B-side?

A: Yeah, it was released as a Nick Lowe B-side. It was never on the British (Armed Forces) album. I mean, it may have been added later.

Q: So going back for a second to Princeton, did you talk to Elvis at all about what he thought about the show?

A: Oh, absolutely. He was a huge fan by that point. It’s a little hard to remember, but I think the Darkness album struck him as being, really, a fantastic record. Elvis was never afraid of darkess in his music. This Year’s Model is a pretty dark album. Then, of course, he ended up inviting Bruce onto “Spectacle,” his TV series (in 2009).

Q: On which Bruce confronted him on how he said that Born to Run was too romantic, or something, in an old interview. Remember that moment?

A: That’s what I’m saying: I think that’s why Darkness appealed to him, perhaps, more than Born to Run. He might say differently now, who knows? He might see things in a different light, many years on. But I see those two 1978 albums as being cut from a similar cloth.

Q: Moving forward in years, a bit … in one of your later jobs, you worked with Bon Jovi, early in their career, right?

A: No, I was not involved with them in their early days. I had gone to Epic, and I had had some great successes with discovering Aimee Mann. The first ‘Til Tuesday record “Voices Carry,” was Top 10, and won the MTV award that year for best new artist, which was, at the time, a very prestigious award.

COURTESY OF DICK WINGATE

Dick Wingate with Aimee Mann when she was in ‘Til Tuesday, below, and more recently.

And I had signed Garland Jeffreys, and actually brought in Roy (Bittan) and Danny (Federici) to play on (Jeffreys’) Escape Artist. And then I made a Stiff Records deal and signed Ian Dury & the Blockheads, and we released “Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick” and “Reasons to be Cheerful,” both classic new wave records. And I had a No. 1 hit with Eddy Grant’s “Electric Avenue”; I licensed that for the U.S. Also, I didn’t sign but had been working a little bit with others like Stevie Ray Vaughan.

So then I got hired to PolyGram. I was head of A&R. But Jon (Bon Jovi) had already put out two records by the time I got to PolyGram. He released Slippery When Wet shortly after I got there, but I can’t really take any credit for that.

Q: But you were there when Slippery When Wet just exploded.

A: Yeah. We had all of these rock acts blowing up, one after another. We had Def Leppard, who of course had been on the label for a long time, but just went 10 times platinum. Bon Jovi went 10 times platinum. We had Kiss, and Scorpions. Just selling a ton of rock records. But we were also signing and had great success with Robert Cray. He had the best-selling album of his career with Strong Persuader. We had British acts that were breaking with hit singles like Level 42 and Bananarama coming out of the U.K.

Q: How long were you at PolyGram?

A: Three and a half years. I left in October of ’89. Basically, everyone that was involved with the management of PolyGram was blown out by Alain Levy, who came in and put in all of his own people.

Q: So where did you go after that?

A: I took some time off, to decide what I wanted to do next. I almost signed a production deal with EMI Records, but I actually started to get interested in interactive technology. By chance, I was exposed to an extraordinary interactive kiosk that would allow you to listen to any piece of music in a record store before you bought it, by hitting a touchscreen, or searching for it … and it would also allow you to rate the song. And to operate the machine, you would get a free card on which you filled out four demographic questions, so you had a unique barcode. We were getting personal demographic information, ratings and music listening data, as far back as 1991. But the systems were very expensive to manufacture.

We created the first music preview database. Record companies didn’t have anything in digital form. We had to rip CDs and create 30-second previews by hand. And I had to license that from all the labels. I did the first ever digital license deal for the Billboard charts. That system was called the i-Station. We had ’em in HMV stores, and Wherehouse stores in California, Strawberries stores in New England, and others. But they were so expensive: It was hard to make the business model work.

So, after doing that for a couple of years, I went back into the record industry, headhunted back as the head of marketing at Arista Records, where I spent two years. We broke Sarah McLachlan and the Notorious B.I.G. and TLC and many others. But when I started going online for the first time, I really wanted to be involved with the technology, so I moved over to BMG, the parent company, and was part of the first new media department there. I did a licensing deal with AOL, where we actually put the AOL software on selected BMG artists’ CDs, and we got paid a distribution fee to do that. That made a lot of money for BMG. While I was there, my job was to meet with all these new technology companies that wanted access to BMG’s artists, kind of kick the tires on these things, and make recommendations and so on.

COURTESY OF DICK WINGATE

From left, Pink Floyd manager Steve O’Rourke (standing), Gil Colquitt of Columbia Records, Barry Taylor of Record World magazine, David Gilmour, Mike Sigman of Record World, and Dick Wingate, in 1978.

I got to meet, early on, Netscape and RealNetworks and Microsoft and Liquid Audio. And I thought Liquid Audio had, far and away, the best solution for the record industry, because it was a company that was actually run by guys from the music industry, and not by technologists. I ended up becoming an advisor to Liquid Audio, and then the head of content and artist relations. And I licensed virtually every label’s first digital distribution deal with Liquid Audio, and we went public in 1999. Universal was the last one in. It took till 2001 or 2002 to get Universal. We were distributing digital music … to Barnes and Noble, and all the dot.coms. Best Buy, CDNow, Borders, Tower. People have forgotten, there was digital music available for purchase before iTunes. That was us.

At that point, I was 100 percent committed to the transformation of the music business into a digital business. But it was like pushing a rock up the hill, because the industry was so entrenched with CDs selling by the tens of millions, which is well documented and why they resisted making any change. … I can remember meeting with many major label executives who thought the whole internet thing was a fad and it would just go away. …

So the next thing for me, after that, was … understanding as early as 2003, which is about the time the iTunes store is just going up, but already my head is in mobile. “The future is gonna be on your phone, not just on your desktop.” And again, I was involved with a company that was a leader in the early development of applications for listening to music on your phone. The company was called Nellymoser, and we built and operated the first downloadable apps that allowed you to stream music and video from Warner Music Group and MTV and ABC Television, and we did one for Sony, and we did one for Virgin Mobile. I can’t even remember all of them. But this was pre-iPhone, so downloading apps for media consumption … this was really quite early.

Since then, I’ve been involved, as an officer or an adviser or a board member, to dozens of music and technology startup companies, that range from service providers to app developers … I’ve also worked with content owners and investors, as an adviser. I just fell in love with working with young entrepreneurs and helping to build companies that would help push forward the success of music, or artists, in the same way that I fell in love with marketing and signing artists, in the early part of my career. It’s a thread that goes throughout my career, starting with radio, and as a marketer, and as an A&R guy, and then as someone who helps develop entrepreneurial talent, and products. It was always the same. I just want to expose new talent, develop new talent, and push the market forward. So I guess I’m always looking over the hill and getting involved with things, often very early. But usually, I’m pretty spot-on.

COURTESY OF DICK WINGATE

Dick Wingate with Peter Tosh, right, and Tosh’s bandmate Donald Kinsey, in 1977.

Q: So is there a main company you’re doing this with now, or a bunch of companies.

A: Well, my business is called DEV Advisors. It’s basically my consulting business. Some of my current clients are Audible Reality, Musiio and Pantheon Podcasts

We didn’t really talk about Peter Tosh, but that was a really seminal artist who I got involved with, too. Somebody I’ll write a book, and there will definitely be a chapter on Peter Tosh. He’s one of those artists that got overshadowed by Bob (Marley), but was an incredible talent, and an incredible evangelist, like Bob … his whole “Legalize It” thing was so far ahead of its time. He was murdered in 1987, and New Jersey just legalized recreational marijuana. When I read stories like that, I’m like … How joyous it would be for him to have lived to see the world come around to something that he basically became the spokesman for, as early as 1975.

I still have some of the “Legalize It” rolling papers that I made for promotion. And I have a million Elvis Costello buttons. … For My Aim Is True, we took that image of his head, just the image of his head, and put it on the tiniest little button, like the size of a dime, and it became all the rage. I have Armed Forces pen knives that we made — very limited edition. I have Pink Floyd pewter belt buckles that we made, and all kinds of stuff. My office is like a museum.

Here’s another little story. Frank Stefanko and Eric Meola were the two photographers who were most involved with Bruce, in terms of his (album) covers. I have all these old files. … when I moved a couple of years ago, I was moving stuff around and I opened up a box, and I found a file I didn’t know I had. It was in a manila envelope. And it was outtakes from Frank Stefanko, from the Darkness cover. Chromes. And some of Eric’s as well. I don’t know why I ended up with them. They presumably would have been delivered to the art department. And I’m sure the art department had them all, at one point, too. But as Frank has told me, CBS’ archives were just ravaged. People just took things. There were no digital assets. He told me that the original chrome of the cover shot of Darkness is missing. But I had a bunch of the outtakes, inadvertently, sitting in a box, for all these years, sitting in an envelope, unenlarged.

I called up Frank, and he was delirious. I mean, he was out-of-his-mind excited, because he’s been trying to retrieve these things for years. And I said, “Frank, I just want you to know, the fact that I have them was totally inadvertent. Why would I keep them in an envelope I couldn’t find? They were never intended to be mine.” He, of course, understood. So I brought them … we both spoke at a symposium at Monmouth (University), a couple of years ago. A Darkness symposium. I brought them to him, and he sat there like a kid on Christmas morning, saying, “My babies have come home!” I was so excited for him. Since then, he’s made them available for sale, etc.

COURTESY OF DICK WINGATE

Dick Wingate and Bruce Springsteen in 2018.

Q: So are you still in touch with Bruce and Elvis, to some extent?

A: I don’t have direct contact with Bruce. I got to see him at the (Kristen Ann Carr Fund) fundraiser two years ago. I got to talk to him for the first time in many, many years. I was really glad to have a chance to talk to him for five or 10 minutes and reflect on, like … going to the printer, that photo of Bruce and I (see above) at the printing press, which (Dave) Marsh put in his first book. I was really surprised that it wasn’t used in the Darkness reissue, because it shows him at work at the printing press. And the story on that is, the Stefanko cover was proofed, and when a cover proof would be signed off on by the artist and manager, it would go into production. That was standard operating procedure. Well, Bruce was so hands-on and concerned about every little thing, the image and the reproduction, that Jon Landau called and said, “We’d like to go to the printing press and approve the color.” Because nothing was digital … you’ve seen album covers from back in the day when the color changes from one run to the next. That was not unusual. So we went to the lithographer, where the first print covers were being printed, and that’s where that picture was taken, where he’s looking at it and grinning. You can see all the production guys around him.

This was not a photo op, but the reason there’s even a photograph is, a guy walked up to me, and he seemed to be only one that was awed by Springsteen. ‘Cause these older guys, they didn’t know who he was. He said, “Do you mind if I take a couple of pictures?” And I said, “No, that would be great.” His name was Doug Yule. And I went, “Are you the Doug Yule from The Velvet Underground?” He goes, “That’s me. We broke up a long time ago.” I said, “I’m so thrilled that you’re here today.” So that’s where the photograph comes from.

COURTESY OF DICK WINGATE

Dick Wingate, left, and Max Weinberg, circa 2002.

Q: How about Elvis? Are you still in touch with him at all?

A: I see Elvis every time he’s in town. I’ll always go back to say hi. I love to see Pete Thomas, and Steve Nieve, who are obviously the two original Attractions who have been there from the beginning. And as far as the E Street Band, I’m pretty close with Max. I always see Max, and we email.

When Max was doing his first go-around with his Jukebox band, they played at City Winery (in New York). He didn’t know I was coming, and I was sitting in the audience. And he would walk around the audience and take requests from different parts of the room. So he comes past my table and, basically, I go, “Hi, Max,” and he looks at me like, “What are you doing here?” I’m like, “What do you think I’m doing here?” Then he goes, “What do you want to hear?” And I say, “Yardbirds.”

So he goes back onstage and does this ridiculously over-the-top shout-out that was like, I was one of the earliest supporters, and without me the E Street Band might have been dropped from the label. It was embarrassingly effusive. And all the people that I was with, and at my table, were looking at me, like, “Holy fuck, who is this guy?” But it was very heart-warming.

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