By Joe Passero
Carl West and Mike Appel, two people responsible for shaping singer-songwriter Bruce Springsteen’s career, spoke before students on Oct. 2 and 9 in the MUS 495 “Unpacking Bruce Springsteen” class about their experiences and stories working alongside “the Boss.”
West worked with Springsteen before achieving widespread fame in the late ‘60s into the early ‘70s and visited during the class’ most recent session.
Appel was the New Jersey native’s first manager after reaching the big-time and worked with him on his first three albums: “Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J.,” “The Wild, the Innocent & the E Street Shuffle” and “Born to Run.”
During his time as a student at UCLA, West made visits to the Jersey shore to surf with friends and began making surfboards in California after graduating.
When a majority of his sales started coming from the northeastern shore, West equipped his 1950 Chevrolet with 12 of his surfboards and traveled across the country to New Jersey, where he opened a surfboard company.
As his company grew, West moved from warehouse to warehouse. When he finally settled into a larger factory with some extra room, he offered a group of young men rehearsal space for free in his factory.
The band was called Steel Mill and, after seeing Springsteen perform at the Upstage Club located in Asbury Park N.J., West got Springsteen to join Steel Mill as well.
As the market for surfboards began to fall, West began engineering sound systems for Steel Mill and acted as a promoter on their behalf, securing gigs throughout the country. West also taped almost every concert Steel Mill played and, when one of those tapes landed in Appel’s hands, they knew that Springsteen was something big.
“He could read the audience,” said West. “If they didn’t like a song, he changed it.”
Appel’s hour-and-a-half visit consisted of stories from the early years of Springsteen’s record-making, everything from the first time he met the young artist to when they parted ways after the release of “Born to Run.”
Some of those stories included coming under new management at Columbia Records, as well as how “Born to Run” was released as a single before it was decided an album would follow.
“[Appel] personally released ‘Born to Run’ as a single without an album to his DJ community built up through their college and radio relationships and he got Springsteen on the cover of ‘Time’ and ‘Newsweek’ in the same week—both totally unprecedented actions,” said Allen.
Appel and West not only spoke about what Springsteen’s early career was like, but they also touched on what the industry was like.
“Learning the history from Appel and West gave you a first-hand experience of what the music industry was like,” said Kory Koch, a junior popular music studies major in the class.
Koch also stated that learning the history from direct sources helps him appreciate the experiences even more.