There are certain things that those of us who came of age in the '80s can recall with certainty about Rick Springfield, who has sold 18 million albums worldwide and won a Grammy in his 30-year career. He wished that he had Jessie's girl. He was a working-class dog. And let's be honest - as Dr. Noah Drake on General Hospital, he was television's original Dr. McDreamy.
But there's stuff that folks of that era may not know about Mr. Springfield. He was born Richard Lewis Springthorpe in 1949 in Sydney, Australia. He is a fan of all things Titanic. And with an infectious energy, solid musical roots and the ability to not take himself too seriously, he is still rocking after all these years.
On Sunday night, Springfield joins tourmates Eddie Money and Patty Smyth and Scandal at Gilford's Meadowbrook.
We spoke with Springfield recently as he negotiated his way through an airport somewhere in the Midwest.
Monitor: Rick, I have to tell you I met you in 1981 at a record-signing you did in Manhattan. You probably don't remember . . .
Springfield: Did I do anything rude?
I wish! Anyway. You've been at this a long time - you had success with "Speak to the Sky" in the 1970s and then hit big in the '80s with that long string of hits, from "Jessie's Girl" to "Don't Talk To Strangers" to "Hard to Hold." What is it that still draws you to take the stage?
Springfield: There is still nothing in the world like playing live. The audience charges me up, they keep me fresh. And now there's multi-generations out there. They used "Jessie" in the movie 13 Going On 30 and that has brought a new audience. I take writing seriously, but I take being on stage as being the time to really have fun!
You recently took a break from writing songs and released an album of cover songs - including kind of moody, melancholy versions of "Life in a Northern Town," "Imagine," and "Under The Milky Way." What led you to decide to do a cover album?
Springfield: Well, those are all songs I love. But honestly, recording other people's songs gives me a break from what is often a very traumatic process of trying to record my own stuff. Some people might say I have certain anal retentive features.
You've written some introspective, some dark, some spiritual and very personal lyrics, going back to your early song "April 24, 1981" about your father's death. Yet there's that perception out there that you are the pop, "Jessie's Girl" guy. At what point does that get on your nerves?
I don't get offended by that stuff. Really, at some point, I realized that it isn't all about me.
Springfield: Though of course it is! But you know you accept a little ego sting because we all do that. We are comfortable putting everybody into a box. I do it too. What you hope for, of course, is that if people like that first one or two songs then they delve in a little more. It's interesting you mention my father. I've had so many people mention to me over the years how they found comfort in my song "My Father's Chair" when they have experienced the loss of somebody very close.
Your music career and acting career took off simultaneously as "Jessie's Girl" got big at about the same time you joined the cast of General Hospital, but you were and are clearly a musician first. What is it that draws musicians to want to act and actors to want to be singers?
Springfield: Well, both are similar but not the same, but they are close enough to promote a sort of envy - an actor looking at a musician on stage and thinking, "Oh man! I want to be a god-like rock star too!" It doesn't always work out well, though. It's easier to go from music to acting than the other way around. There is an authenticity, a truthfulness you develop as a working musician, and only with that do you really connect with the audience. It's almost antithetical to acting because if you're playing a role it doesn't really go well in the long term. I look at American Idol. These folks can sing and they are given these contracts, but do they have the authenticity? That visceral connection?
Is the ego different in musicians and in actors?
Springfield: Let me tell ya! I had the privilege of meeting both Elvis Presley and Paul McCartney. And you know, they were decent guys. They didn't feel the need to remind anybody how important and talented they are. They were not jerks. And I think, then, of some actors on the soaps who are so, so the opposite of that.
Your mom bought you your first guitar when you were 13. Where would you be today if you'd been given, say, a hula hoop instead?
Springfield: A robot! It was almost a robot and not a guitar. I know I was the kid lip syncing along to the radio, pretending to play guitar with a very cool backwards tennis racket. So my mom decided to get me a guitar, but then right before my birthday she asked me what I wanted and I said I wanted a robot because I was really really into robots. And she goes . . . "Uh- oh. Wouldn't you rather have a guitar?" I figured out the guitar had already been purchased. So I graciously said I wanted a guitar. Which turned out okay.
Yes, it seems to have worked out. One last question: What do you think the audience doesn't expect when you take the stage at Meadowbrook?
Springfield: They probably don't expect that they're going to get all hot and sweaty. But they are. We have a powerful band and we put on a rock-and-roll show. And as the audience, they will participate. There is no choice! That's why I love this.
article appeared on the Concord Monitor website on 6/28/07 and was authored by Victoria Shouldis.