Growin’ Up

Growin’ Up (Bruce Springsteen, demo, 1972).
Growin’ Up (Springsteen, live, 1972).
Growin’ Up (Springsteen, Greetings From Asbury Park).
Growin’ Up (Bowie.)

By late ’73 Bowie had discovered Bruce Springsteen’s debut album Greetings From Asbury Park N.J. and soon covered two songs from it. The tracks didn’t make the grade, though: Bowie’s Springsteen covers were shelved for nearly 15 years until they appeared on various CD reissues. (Bowie likely first heard the songs as demos or acetates, as Springsteen was being pushed in the UK throughout 1973 by Adrian Rudge, a colleague of the Beatles’ former music publisher Dick James.)

Early Springsteen and Bowie had much in common. Springsteen was as much a self-mythologist as Bowie was, and, like Bowie, his core instincts were theatrical (there’s a very thin line between Born to Run and Bat Out of Hell). Bowie also recognized in Springsteen a fellow latecomer. Though they had lived (and recorded, in Bowie’s case) through the ’60s, each knew they were fated to be judged in its shadow: they would be curators and inheritors as much as they were creators.

Of course Bowie also likely enjoyed Springsteen’s “Growin’ Up” as a piece of American blue-collar exotica: Springsteen rewriting his adolescence into a goofball autobiography, a cross of Mad magazine strip and misheard Dylan lyric. Bowie’s version of “Growin’ Up” is quite faithful to the original, with Mike Garson slowing the tempo of David Sancious’ piano line, while Bowie does a fairly credible American-sounding vocal (until he squawks out “she couldn’t SAYL” in the second verse). It’s a curio, interesting mainly in that it seems, like the Astronettes material Bowie was working up in late ’73, to be an initial sketch of Young Americans, and suggesting that Diamond Dogs was something of a detour.

Recorded in November 1973 (lead guitar by Ron Wood, who seemed to turn up on every UK record cut from ’73 to ’75); it was eventually released on the Ryko reissue of Pin Ups and, later, on the 30th anniversary reissue of Diamond Dogs.

Top: Edie Steiner, “Father and Son,” 1973.

2 Responses to Growin’ Up

  1. willem says:

    This interview, partially dealing with Springsteen coming over (by public transport!) to meet Bowie at Sigma Sound studios, suggests Bowie probably heard early versions of those songs live as he saw Springsteen perform on his first professional gig at Max’s Kansas City in ’72. The accompanying photo is something to behold, god Bowie looks drained…

  2. giospurs says:

    Christgau has noted also the link between Springsteen and Meat Loaf’s Bat Out Of Hell: “…the basic effect is grotesquely grandiose. Bruce Springsteen, beware–this is what you’ve wrought, and it could happen to you”

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