Weekly Webb: Springfield still trying to shed that shiny pop image

2014-04-25T00:15:00Z 2014-04-25T13:48:04Z Weekly Webb: Springfield still trying to shed that shiny pop image The Billings Gazette

The ‘80s brought us many new and exciting things: MTV, shoulder pads, the Rubik’s cube and a handsome Australian with an impressive mullet — Rick Springfield.

His good looks helped earn him the role of Dr. Noah Drake on “General Hospital.” But it was his pop music, notably his breakout single, “Jessie’s Girl,” that made Springfield a household name in the 1980s. He won a Grammy Award for “Jessie’s Girl” in 1981 and the video was among the first to air on MTV when it began broadcasting in August 1981.

Now Springfield is touring as a solo act, telling the stories behind the songs. His 2010 autobiography, “Late, Late at Night: A Memoir,” topped out at No. 15 on the New York Times Best Seller list and was named No. 23 on Rolling Stone magazine’s “Top 25

Great Rock Memoirs of All Time.”

Springfield is playing his “Stripped Down” show at the Alberta Bair Theater starting at 8 p.m. on Sunday, April 27.

When we spoke last week over the phone, Springfield wasn’t sure where he was, just somewhere on the road. He also did not want to reveal any details about his stories. Instead, Springfield advised me to buy a ticket to his show because he doesn’t give stories away for free.

Looking back, I realize I should have offered him $27, the price of the least expensive ticket for his Billings show, for a couple of stories. Other tickets are priced at $47 and $77, with a $182 VIP option that includes a photo with Springfield.

Springfield did say that most of his stories ended up in songs, so writing his memoir came easy to him. It is widely known that one of his songs, “Bruce,” was written about his frustration with continually being confused for Bruce Springsteen. I’ve caught myself a time or two starting to call him Rick Springsteen. I wonder if the Boss has ever written a song about mixing up their names.

Springfield might have avoided the confusion if he had kept his birth name, which was Richard Springthorpe. It’s obviously not as catchy, though.

In publicity photos, Springfield looks remarkably fit at age 64. He’s even written a new song for the tour, which he was willing to share.

“It’s called ‘If Wishes Were Fishes’ and it’s about if I had a million wishes, what would I wish for?” Springfield said. “I’ve always been like that. I always wished for stuff.”

That’s why the song, “Jessie’s Girl,” is still relevant today, he said.

“I still lust after other people’s women,” Springfield said. “It doesn’t stop. If it does, you’re dead.”

Springfield has also penned a novel, which is due out next month. Writing has become his favorite form of expression.

“I can do it at home, in a hotel or on an airplane. It’s just me. I’m not relying on an audience.”

The novel, “Magnificent Vibration,” is a bit rude, Springfield said. The story begins with a 32-year-old man who has gone through a brutal divorce and steals a self-help book to help him through. It also works in what we are doing to our planet.

Springfield created the drawings used to illustrate scenes from the book. He signs and sells the limited edition lithographs from the book at his shows.

This guy knows how to market himself.

Even in the early days when he performed with the pop rock group Zoot, he had a shtick. They dressed in pink satin to promote their single, “Hey Pinky,” in the early 1970s. It worked, but it made it impossible to shed that lightweight pop image. In some ways, Springfield is still trying. When he tours with his band, they project scenes from popular TV shows and movies that have used Springfield’s music. His favorite use of “Jessie’s Girl” is from the movie, “Boogie Nights,” because it’s got attitude.

“It’s got a lot of anger in the song,” Springfield said. “A lot of people miss that because of the shiny pop image and my character on ‘General Hospital.’”

Copyright 2014 The Billings Gazette. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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