Two stories from ‘The Wild, the Innocent & the E Street Shuffle’ symposium



Robert Santelli interviews Bruce Springsteen at Monmouth University in West Long Branch, Oct. 28.

I covered a symposium devoted to the 50th anniversary of the Bruce Springsteen album, The Wild, the Innocent & the E Street Shuffle; you can read all about it HERE, and also watch some videos from the event. But in this post, I just wanted to share two stories told at the symposium.

The first, from Springsteen himself, has to do with his high school graduation. He had been talking about his “romanticized visions of New York City,” which figure in The Wild, the Innocent & the E Street Shuffle songs such as “Incident on 57th Street” and “New York City Serenade.”

I used to go up there when I was 16, to get out of Freehold, to keep from being beat up and stuff. … We (Springsteen and Steven Van Zandt) went up starting when I was 16, into the Village, where they have all the coffeehouses, and there were a lot of young bands playing. Amazingly, we got The Castiles into Cafe Wha? around 1967, maybe … Stevie, you know, we’d go up on the Lincoln Transit bus, out of the bus stop in Freehold. … That holds a lot of powerful memories for Stevie and I, that little stretch of the Village that was Fourth Street, MacDougal Street, Bleecker Street. … it really let you feel free, because it was very hostile in your local hometowns in those days. And so we just went to New York to be able to walk down the street and feel good. …

I bailed on my graduation. The morning of my graduation, I woke up, I said ‘Nope.’ And around 6:30, I snuck out of the house, went down to the bus station, hopped on the first bus to New York, spent the day in the Village. With everybody looking for me. All my relatives were at the house for the big party. And I’m not there. I don’t go to the graduation. … My parents finally found me at the Cafe Wha? and begged me to come home. They said everything was ok. It was not.

I came back. And I brought a girl with me that I had met in the Village … I don’t know what possessed me to do it. And my father made me take her to the bus station and send her back to New York. Then I came home, and he made me go to my room and took all the lightbulbs out, so I had to sit in the dark.


Mike Appel, far right, at Monmouth University, with Richard Blackwell, left, and Mike’s brother Steve Appel.

And here is another great story, written and read by Springsteen’s manager at the time, Mike Appel:

One of the funniest things I ever witnessed was when the late, great Danny Federici decided that he was going to pretend he was in fact a musician in David Bowie’s band and not the E Street Band, and therefore altered his stage wardrobe and facial makeup to support that look. When Danny showed up for soundcheck one afternoon in the summer of 1974, he looked like he should have been on his way to Truman Capote’s 1966 White and Black Masquerade Ball, and not on his way to the Red Bank Theatre in Jersey to rehearse with Bruce and his bandmates in the E Street Band. Danny showed up looking like David Bowie during his “Aladdin Sane” period.

Bruce and the band were about to start their soundcheck when Danny takes the stage. Danny was wearing this pronounced eye makeup, rouge, mascara and sparkles on his face, and he totally blindsided everyone. I mean, you just don’t expect this, okay. And he’s a quiet kind of guy, too. He never says much to anybody. Nobody says too much to him, either. He just does what he’s supposed to do, and so nobody cares. He was also sporting an antique baseball shirt and short pants, with red sneakers. To boot, Danny wore his hair long, at the time, in what they called a pageboy in the 1940s. Imagine this! We’re all looking at him with our jaws hanging wide open. He looked like a page from King Arthur’s court, he had been drinking with Babe Ruth in the Yankees dugout and after, in all probability, was abducted by Alice Cooper’s makeup people as he made his way to the batter’s box. It was absolutely hysterical to see. My brother and I could hardly keep from laughing out loud.

When Bruce saw him, he deadpanned, “Danny, take off the clothes and the makeup.” That was it. Danny obliged Bruce, and my brother and I went down to the dressing rooms below the stage and laughed our asses off … It was that funny. It was priceless. Danny is one of the nicest guys in the world, and a very talented musician, to boot. Don’t think he’s not a great musician. He is. He’d been a staple of Bruce’s band from Day One, and he should have known better. Then again, he never let it happen again.

Bruce never broke character, or got upset about it, or even amused by it. He just went about the business of the soundcheck, and that was it. If I had been Bruce, I could have never kept a straight face. … I would have cracked up, for sure. Then again, I’m not Bruce. Bruce instilled a respect in Danny, by not losing his composure. Even though it was absolutely hysterical to see.

Discipline, my friend. Bruce has it in spades. He’s always focused on the goal.


Since launching in September 2014,, 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 any amount to via PayPal, or by sending a check made out to to 11 Skytop Terrace, Montclair, NJ 07043.


Custom Amount

Personal Info

Donation Total: $20.00

Explore more articles:

Leave a Comment

Sign up for our Newsletter