Interview by:  John Wisniewski

(L) Bruce Springsteen (R) Mike Appel

(L) Bruce Springsteen (R) Mike Appel

Mike Appel produced Bruce Springsteen’s first two albums Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J. and The Wild, the Innocent & the E Street Shuffle, both released in 1973. He also co-produced Springsteen’s third and breakthrough album, Born to Run.  He became involved in a bitter dispute with Springsteen after the release of Born To Run, which prevented Springsteen from returning to the studio for 12 months.  Appel wrote a book called “Down Thunder Road” (1992)  which chronicled much of this journey.  A prolific singer, writer, and producer,  Appel’s first project was The Balloon Farm who had a Billboard Top 40 hit called “Question Of Temperature.”  He also wrote several hits for David Cassidy and The Partridge Family, including  “Doesn’t Somebody Want To Be Wanted,” which went to number one and sold well over a million copies.

 What were your first impressions of artist Bruce Springsteen when you met him?

My first impressions of Bruce Springsteen were that he didn’t have any songs I thought worthy of recording. He only played two songs on piano and they were less than stellar.  However, he sung them with great intensity.  A few lyrics from one of the two songs went like this:  ‘we danced all night to a silent band’.  He was and or she was deaf as they danced all night to some silent band.

I told him that if he wanted and album deal, he’d have to have more songs than two.  He agreed and said he was going home to San Mateo in California where his parents were living for the Christmas Holidays and that he’d come back some time after that with more songs.  I said OK and that was it.

Did you expect Bruce Springsteen to become as popular as he was to become in later years? 

There are about 20 ingredients that go into  making a superstar.  Bruce possessed all of them in spades from the very beginning.

The most important ingredient that Bruce possesses even beyond his talents is his discipline.  Without that, everything caves in.  No artist I ever met had his discipline.

What were the early Springsteen recording sessions like, Michael, say around the time of “Greetings from Asbury Park”? 

They were very pure.  That is, the vocals were up front because there were so many words and the words were original, colorful and spectacular.  Davey Sancious was the only real musical standout.  He was this very talented musician trapped by Bruce Springsteen’s simplistic songs and it forced him to play very colorful lines that stood out in a very delightful way.  They were just perfect for the type of tunes that Bruce wrote at that time.

The sessions were always quiet because Bruce was not a talkative personality.  However, even then; Bruce was the boss and had final creative say on everything.

These were truly ‘Band’ like sessions as opposed to what I call ‘professional’ recording sessions.  Each of the band members had certain personality traits that you had to get used to.  They had certain abilities and many of them couldn’t go beyond those somewhat limited abilities.  Clarence for instance, played so much better when the entire band was playing.  When it came time for his solos, he some times froze if you can believe that.  Of course, as the years went on he became much more comfortable.

We did bring in ringers from time to time to add color and better musicianship to the productions. However, it was just a little icing on the cake rather than altering the ‘band like’ sound which had its own integrity.  Bruce was growing up as an artist during all these sessions.

Any favorite Springsteen tracks, Michael?

There were many but I’ve always loved “Thunder Road”.

What was Patti Smith’s reaction when Bruce Springsteen recorded “Because the Night”?

I don’t know what Patti Smith’s reaction was to Bruce’s version of “Because the Night”.

What may have inspired Bruce Springsteen to write music?

The same that got all of us to write music.  Elvis and the Beatles!

What album did Springsteen consider his best effort?

Some people think his most artistic album is the Wild, the Innocent and the E Street Shuffle.

Most people, however, feel that Born to Run is his greatest work.  I would think in the end it would be that album.

How did Springsteen feel about being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame? 

If you had put 40 years of your life into playing the kind of shows he does and all the songs he’s had to learn and the mileage he’s put under his belt, you’d have to feel that you’ve earned every bit of that accolade.

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