“Born in the USA changed my life, gave me my largest audience, forced me to think harder about the way I presented my music and set me briefly at the center of the pop world,” Bruce Springsteen wrote in his 2016 autobiography “Born to Run.” “The aftermath of the Born in the USA tour was a strange time. It was the peak of something. I would never be here, this high, in the mainstream pop firmament again.”
Filmmaker Dennis Laverty takes a deep, deep look at this unique era in Springsteen’s career in his new seven-hour documentary, “The Complete Story of Born in the USA Album and World Tour,” which is available for free in two parts on Vimeo, and is embedded below as well. The film is being released today because it is the 37th anniversary of the release of Born in the USA, on June 4, 1984.
Over the last five years, Laverty has carved out a niche for himself with documentaries on subjects such as the Asbury Jukes’ early years, Elvis Presley’s influence on Springsteen, and John Cafferty & the Beaver Brown Band. He works independently from the artists, and does not release the films commercially. He uses previously available but often rare film and video footage, photos, newspaper clips and posters, drawing on his own and other fans’ collections.
It’s hard to imagine any Springsteen fan not finding much in the new film that he or she has never seen before.
The film is less about the making of the album than the tour that followed, and everything else that happened in Springsteen’s world during this time period (basically the summer of ’84 to late ’85): Nils Lofgren and Patti Scialfa joining the E Street Band … the group playing stadiums for the first time … Springsteen’s embrace of MTV, and MTV’s embrace of him … his marriage to Julianne Phillips … his participation in the “We Are the World” and “Sun City” charity singles … him becoming richer than he ever dreamed of becoming, and donating to local food banks and other causes at each tour stop.
Springsteen’s mention above of being “at the center of the pop world” is not an exaggeration. You can’t overstate how huge a star Springsteen was at this moment, not just releasing hit singles and instantly selling out stadiums all over the world, but attaining almost mythical status as the flag-bearer for “real” rock ‘n’ roll. The performance clips in Laverty’s film are a revelation, showing Springsteen and the band, encouraged by their fans’ adoration — as well as their own mastery of their craft and their magical interband chemistry — just bursting with energy and personality.
Over the film’s seven hours, Laverty is able to include not just the signature Born in the USA songs, but lesser known material from this tour, including “Stand On It,” “Man At the Top,” “Sugarland,” “Janey Don’t You Lose Heart” and an absolutely ferocious “Detroit Medley” (seguing into the Creedence Clearwater Revival song “Travelin’ Band”).
Springsteen was such big news in these days that when he came to town, local TV stations would do segments about Brucemania. There are a lot of these segments in Laverty’s film, full of fans being interviewed in the parking lot, or on line as they wait for tickets.
Laverty says in an email that he has been working on the third part of his series of films on the Asbury Jukes “but got inspired by Springsteen’s last two albums,” which “took me down memory lane to when I first saw him live in August 1984 at the Meadowlands. … I also was transferring my old VHS tapes and found an unedited MTV interview with Mark Goodman from 1984 (quality not perfect), but you get to hear Bruce give complete thoughts to questions. MTV used parts of the interview for its specials but did not play full question and answers. I also had in my collection an Entertainment Tonight unedited interview. Both of these are not on YouTube.”
He says an old friend, Stephen Bumball, provided a lot of the material. Bumball receives “special thanks” in the film, which is dedicated to the memory of his late wife Kathleen.
Here are the film’s two parts. Enjoy!
CONTRIBUTE TO NJARTS.NET
Since launching in September 2014, NJArts.net, a 501(c)(3) organization, has become one of the most important media outlets for the Garden State arts scene. And it has always offered its content without a subscription fee, or a paywall. Its continued existence depends on support from members of that scene, and the state’s arts lovers. Please consider making a contribution of $20, or any other amount, to NJArts.net via PayPal, or by sending a check made out to NJArts.net to 11 Skytop Terrace, Montclair, NJ 07043.