80s - Rick Springfield (2006)
Still With A Spring In His Step
Rick Springfield started playing piano at age 9. He began playing the guitar at age 13, and writing songs at 14. In 1967, at age 16, Springfield dropped out of high school to begin his professional music career. His first appearance in a band was as a singer/guitarist in the band Rock House. In 1968, the band changed the name to MPD, Ltd, then embarked on a tour of Vietnam to entertain the troops stationed there.
In 1969, when Springfield returned to Australia, he joined a band named Wikety-Wak. Later that year, he joined the band Zoot. Zoot became one of the most popular Australian groups of the late Sixties. In May 1971, when Zoot broke up, Springfield began a solo career. He had a #1 hit single in Australia, Speak to the Sky.
Springfield relocated to Hollywood, California in 1972. Capitol Records signed him, and he recorded his first album Beginnings. Speak To The Sky was re-released as a single in the US. Exposure on American Bandstand, as well as being regularly featured in teen fan magazines like 16 magazine and Tiger Beat, sparked interest amongst teenage girls.
In 1973 he was signed by Columbia Records, who released his second album Comic Book Heroes (1974). It was hailed as a concept record, but it failed to chart. In 1976, Springfield released a third album Wait For Night under the Chelsea Records label. While Springfield was out touring to promote the album, the record company went bankrupt, and the album fell off the charts.
Although his achievements are not well recognized in his homeland, Australia, Springfield has long maintained a large and fiercely loyal fan base in the United States, Canada, and Japan. His many career achievements include a Grammy Award, four platinum albums, twenty US Top 100 singles and seventeen Top 40 hits including a US #1 and #2 single. After releasing many albums with hit singles seemingly for fun, including many on the RCA label throughout the 80s - including the album Working Class Dog; which was notable for the smash hit singles, Jessies Girl and Ive Done Everything for You (not to mention a slew through the 90s also!), he still finds time to carry on his acting career on the set of General Hospital as a recovering alcoholic and widower.
Chatting recently with Rick, I first wondered at what point had Richard Lewis Springthorpe become Rick Springfield? I was about 16 and I was in one of my first bands that was starting to work and one of the guys said that no one could understand Springthorpe. Everybody that says Springthorpe says Springfield so you are gonna be Rick Springfield from now on. So I say OK and just kept it!
Is it true that at age 13 you received a guitar for your birthday that you proceeded to saw in half and then paint bright red?! Yeah. Well I grew up loving Hank Marvin and The Shadows and he had that red strap and so it became the guitar that I wanted. But all I had was this crappy old acoustic that I played for a while. And then I had this brilliant idea that I could shape it into a red strat - and it did not really work, he laughs. So, there I was in the shed, sawing it in half and painting it red, trying to glue it together with paper mache, thinking that it would actually work!
Did it at least look cool though? It looked hideous. I do not even have a photo of it, which I sure would liked to have had.
At age 17 and in the group MPD, Ltd, you embarked on your first tour - which was of Vietnam to entertain the troops stationed there! That is quite a place to kick off your touring life! How did that come about?! Yeah, it was pretty crazy. We were driven around down to Cameroon Bay - which is deep down South - and we slept with the soldiers in their firebases. And we would get rocketed and mortared during shows! It was an experience I would never want to repeat, but one that I would never have missed for anything.
Tell us more about your days in the band Zoot and the need for dressing everything (including yourselves) in hot pink!! There was a new web site called YouTube.com where they have all these old music videos and there was quite a few Zoot videos out there. It is pretty scary, but thankfully none of them are in the pink suits! I joined the band and then told them this pink things gotta go so we dropped the pink thing, but I did wear it for a while!
Having indeed already watched some videos of yours on there, I have to say that you sported some wicked hair styles in those days! Yeah, it looks like I am wearing dead animals and trying my best to be David Cassidy for some reason. It is very scary! I definitely went through some crazy phases.
Was there ever a photo album cover of yours that in hindsight you now wished never existed? On an album, well, there has been a Best of out of Australia that had this hideous photo that I just do not know where they got it from. But, no not really. It was what it was in the day and we gave it the shot that we had, you know.
You were in many bands growing up, but had your first #1 hit single in Australia in 1971 with Speak to the Sky. Were you perhaps always aware even at that young age - that being solo was where it was destined to be for you? Actually, I thought I would always be in bands. But when I was in the Zoots back in Australia I met this writer who was very gung-ho about me going solo. And then when the band split up instead of joining another band I just started writing for myself and started putting out records. I then had a hit in Australia which got me a record deal over here and it kind of went from there.
So the chance to be in another band never arose again? Well, at one point I did think about trying out for Deep Purple! I even auditioned after Ritchie Blackmore left at some point in the early 70s and they told me they were doing auditions down at the Santa Monica Civic. So, I was gonna go down, but I chickened out in the end. I think I still did not think that the band thing was right for me.
With you music career in the 70s at a lull you turned to acting. Was it an easy trade to make? Well, certainly I was way between record deals and was just walking around, living in Hollywood without any money and met someone who suggested that I went to this acting class. I had always had it in the back of my head that I would like to try it and it just really saved my life. I started working as an actor immediately, to my great surprise and was then able to pay the light bill! So it was really actually a very positive thing and something that was meant to be for me.
And then you became a bonafide Soap Star Yeah, I did not want to do that at first. I had just recorded Working Class Dog and did not think that there was any future in Soaps. I had had three failed records before that so when they offered me this contract it was the first regular money that I had made in my life. I was 29 and never drawn a regular paycheck anywhere. So, they were offering me this money so I said I would take it and then see how the record does. And that summer that particular Soap Opera became the biggest show on TV - in kinda the golden age of Soaps - and the record hit. So, it was nothing that was ever really planned. It was just karma!
And then came Nick Knight! Oh yeah, yeah, that was a great pilot. We made a great pilot for that. But I went on to something else. That was actually scheduled to go, but apparently the head guy - after he saw it - decided that they needed to go more family. He did not want people drinking blood on his network so he dropped it!
And then when they decided to re-do it as Forever Knight you could not pick up the option? Yeah, I was doing Human Target for ABC. I have always loved vampires and I loved the whole thing about Nick Knight, but it was a whole different thing the proposed TV show than the pilot. If the pilot had gone it would have been a blast. Bram Stokers Dracula was like my bible when I was 15. I kept it by my bed and kept reading it and re-reading it!
So, have you ever bitten someone and drawn some blood there yourself, perhaps!? Er, not intentionally!
You have been quoted as saying that you have always been a bit of a whore with my acting, to be honest, but never musically. Please explain this more! I would take something for the money for the acting, knowing that it was a piece of crap. But with music, because I wrote it, it always came from a true source in me. So I have always been very true to that.
You won a Grammy in 81 for Best Male Rock Vocal Performance for Jessies Girl, a song that has since gone on to be your most recognizable track. But do you know what was it about that song that still to this day makes it as popular as it was back then?! No, I do not actually! When I wrote it I just thought it was a good album track and I certainly never thought of it as a single and neither did the record company! They released Ive Done Everything For You first and when nothing happened with that as back then if radio liked the song they had pick it up they then decided to release Jessies Girl. So, they released it and it just quickly seemed to take on a life of its own.
Was there an actual Jessie and did he have a girl you wanted?! Yeah, oh of course! His name was not Jessie as most of the time I have changed the names to protect the guilt but it was very much true what the song was about. It was unrequited sexual angst and she, of course had no idea I even existed!
Did this guy ever find out that you were singing about him?! Oh no, not at all. I actually stopped associating with him before the record even came out. Every other friend I had was sure it was him and his girlfriend, but it was not!
Which of your albums still swell you with pride to this day as your best musical accomplishment? Erm, I have a cover record out now called The Day After Yesterday, but the one before that Shock/Denial/Anger/Acceptance is the one that I am proudest of so far. And hopefully the next record that I record will be that. But, I was very proud of that and it got the best reviews of any record of my career too. Which I was very proud of. I have a soft spot for all of them. They are all from my heart and they are all part of my life. Some hit and some missed, but they all have their high points.
Are you currently working on a new album, perhaps? Yes, I am right now. We actually do one of the new tracks live so we need to get a new album done soon, he laughs.
Does it have a working title? Er, how about Sex and Diamonds.
In the early success-filled days of your career, did you ever have posters of yourself up on the walls in your house?! Oh God no! I never even put the Gold and Platinum records up and those things. I never hung anything up on my walls. The only thing I ever hung up was a Gold disc I got for Working Class Dog. Because it did not have a photo of me on the cover it had a photo of my dog on the cover! I was very proud of that. There is no single photo of me anywhere in the house.
Having suffered through life with both depression, accidents, and other such human ailments, I am wondering what the mental and physical state of Rick Springfield is like these days? Probably healthier than it has ever been. I meditate a lot. I have a great, great, great family life. I love drawing. I have my own studio. I am writing and so there is new stuff coming in the future on the horizon. I am just very excited.
Did you have any involvement with the new We Are The 80s - The Best of Rick Springfield CD? "I was not involved in that particularly, but they did ask me my opinion and things. Which is nice because in the past companies have just slung out the greatest hits under a new cover every year. And I only hear about it when a fan tells me. So, since Sony got involved it was all been pretty great.
And the wonderful Working Class Dog remaster? "After 25 years it has finally come out! I was very involved in that one. They are really great packages and really very informative and contain the kind of stuff that I like to get when I am a fan of somebody. There is always thing you read on these that are things you do not know and a lot of facts like the original lyrics to Jessies Girl and things like that. They are both really cool packages.
And, finally please tell us more about your involvement with the new 80s Hits Stripped CDs Yeah, for that one they came to me for that. They asked me if I wanted to do it. So I had this acoustic version and gave it to them to put on. And it is actually gotten some good reactions. It was recorded about two years ago.
Interviewed by Russell A. Trunk
Additional Aid by Mufi Hayes
We Are The 80s - Best of Rick Springfield CD Purchase Link
Working Class Dog: Remaster CD Purchase Link
80s Hits Stripped CD Purchase Link
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