Unsung Heroes No.5 – Rick Springfield

11 11 2008
Rick Springfield - Misunderstood?

Rick Springfield - Misunderstood?

This guy, along with the next 2 artists I plan to feature here, suffered greatly from what I like to call “public misperception”. Finding the very worst sort of fame in the vacuous U.S. daytime soap opera “General Hospital”, one could almost hear the banging of the coffin nails drowning out the lame dialogue!

Springfield travelled a long hard road from Australia to the U.S. to achieve “overnight success”. He eventually hit Grammy-winning gold with the 1981 single “Jessie’s girl” which went to No.1 on the Billboard chart and 43 in the UK. Strangely, his other big single “The Human touch” did better in the UK than the US as Springfield never really enjoyed much chart success in the UK, despite having a sizeable following. The AOR style in which he was so proficient was not considered de rigeur in a country under the thrall of Ska and New romanticism in the early 80’s. It was simply a case of bad timing.

By 1983, Springfield was in danger of being perceived as one -hit wonder, but with the Release of “Living in Oz“, he began to develop a harder edge to his sound. This trend continued, culminating in the excellent 1985 release “Tao” where Springfield really came of age as a writer and performer. After a two year break, he re-emerged with the equally proficient “Rock of Life” where he further refined his now-trademark crystal clear cutting edge production style. Springfield’s voice is an oft-ignored gem, a great range, a wonderfully commercial rasp capable of delivering a great ballad or a storming rocker.

However, just as he was hitting his stride a serious ATV accident culminated in an abandoned tour, a serious shoulder injury that kept him from playing guitar for six months, and a massive 10 year layoff.

He returned with a vengeance to the studio to record the albums Sahara Snow (1997) and Karma (1999) The former a collaboration in band format with Tim Pierce and Bob Marlette, the latter taking over where “Rock of life” left off. the quality of performing and writing was still very much in evidence. The next few years saw him tour North America regularly, eventually returning to the studio in 2004 to record “Shock/Denial/Anger/Acceptance” – a darker but no less brilliant offering. A DVD, “Live in Rockford” was released showcasing the tour that supported the album. Since then he has released two further albums, The Day After Yesterday” (2005) – a collection of his favourite covers, and “Venus in Overdrive” (2008) – which charted on Billboard at No.28.

Ironically, in 2005 he returned to the soap he began in, and remains there at the time of writing. his musical life and his acting life intertwined when he performed a medley of his hits at a daytime TV awards show, and when he performed his song “What’s Victoria’s secret” on the soap as Eli Love.

Make no mistake, Rick Springfield is a serious musical talent. check him out.

Recommended:

Tao

Rock of Life

Karma

Sahara Snow

Shock/Denial/Anger/Acceptance

Kev Moore

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12 responses

11 11 2008
ALLAN CLARKE

I would agree 100% that Rick Springfield has been vastly underestimated over the years . I have been a fan since way back when I heard the a B-Side titled ” Souls ” .
My wife found out Rick was touring again and in 2001 she gave me a ticket to a concert in Phoenix . I am from Scotland and it was a long trip by myself spending one night only before flying back . The fans were great , the music was brilliant and when Rick took time out to meet me it was a real dream come true . I found out just what a genuine nice guy he is . Inow try every year to see him and the band perform in Milwaukee . When I arrive [ kilt and all ] I am treated like a family member by all the fans . I have also been lucky enough to meet up again with Rick several times . The guy is a awesome talent and is a REAL star and this far travelled Scot will always be a fan !

11 11 2008
kevmoore

Allan, I’m overjoyed that your personal account of the man and his music is the first comment on this post! It’s always nice to hear that meeting the musician is a great experience. Personally, I loved playing “Jessie’s girl” live in my own band many years ago, and now, as a 30 years-long pro I am continually impressed with the quality of Rick’s output. Current regular listening in the car as i drive around the south of Spain is S/D/A/A and Sahara Snow!

12 11 2008
Monique Leigh

I was pointed here by a fellow Rick-fan. Cool blog! I’ll have to poke around a bit.

Btw, Rick’s injury was to his shoulder, not his hand. The basic problem was that he couldn’t hang the guitar from that shoulder. Considering how low he carries the guitar, that makes playing rather difficult. 🙂 I wouldn’t be surprised if it had prevented much acoustic playing as well, especially after noticing how he holds the guitar even while seated.

12 11 2008
kevmoore

Welcome Monique – my bad -I’ve amended the post accordingly! A shoulder injury is a nightmare if you’re a guitarist in fact. Our guitarist suffered a broken shoulder after a fall, and had his plaster cast set in such a way that he could still play – he couldn’t do much else, but at least he could gig! 🙂 P.S. It’s nice to discover fellow appreciators of Rick’s music out there. It’s one of the great things about my Unsung Heroes series -discovering I’m not alone in realising how great these guys are.

12 11 2008
Michelle P

I whole-heartedly agree with you Mr. Moore that Rick Springfield is definitely an unsung hero! Thanks for the wonderful tribute to the man whose career and music I have followed for over 25 years….and still counting.

You didn’t mention Rick’s turn in the Las Vegas show EFXAlive in the early years of the decade. That show was not only revamped to feature Rick’s existing music, but he also penned some new tunes and played several years in hundreds of sold out performances.

His humanitarian efforts should also be lauded. This man tirelessly supports several children and animal charities and gives graciously of his time whenever asked.

13 11 2008
kevmoore

Thanks Michelle, I wasn’t aware of the Las Vegas, show -I’d be interested to hear more about it – and what’s nice is discovering through this piece what a genuine guy he seems to be, in a profession that’s often all too shallow.

16 11 2008
Karos

Hallelujah, always glad to find somebody give this talented artist due credit. His musicianship and work ethic are amazing, and his generosity to his fans is legendary. Traveled from Canada to Boston to see him just last month, and truly enjoyed a behind-the-scenes peek at soundcheck, where I met Rick, who is a humble, friendly guy — and later on, enjoyed a stellar show. He’s a consummate showman backed by a fantastic band.

If you are a fan I highly recommend the book A Year in The Life of a Working Class Dog (www.ricksmerch.com) — written by rock journalist Ken Sharp. It’s an in depth glimpse at the making of the record Working Class Dog, loaded with song-by-song notes, interviews with Rick, all of the musicians that worked on the album or with the ensuing tour, the producer, marketing people, radio and media types, and on it goes. Expensive but worth it, and there are only a limited number left. Very creatively packaged and designed, too. (unfortunately I get no kickbacks here!)

Rick’s pretty face and the aforementioned TV work did help create an image that worked somewhat to discredit if you were shallow enough to fall for that sort of thing (and many were and still do) , but he is and always was a serious musician first, from early bands including one called Zoot in his native Australia.

I love how his songs are so intricately descriptive of the human condition in all its gritty or soaring incarnations.

From a fan in Canada, thanks for the great blog!

17 11 2008
kevmoore

Karos, you are most welcome, and thanks for sharing your experience in your well-written comment, that’s what helps make this a great blog! thanks for the heads-up on the book, I’ll definitely seek it out!

18 11 2008
Kimberly

Kudos to you Kev!!! I just came from his 4 day cruise in the Gulf. He played some old favs and some new too. You are so right that he is an unsung hero. People only hear what’s on the air. If they would hear the stuff that doesn’t go on air they would be pleasantly suprised. He is a very talented writer/musician. He has a loyal fan base and that is what counts. Some artist if you can call them that have fly by night fans. Willing to switch to the next newbie on air. I myself have a wide range of music I listen too. Rick is the main though because he is the music unlike most others he writes his own stuff. Excluding his lastest release that he co-wrote with his bass player Matt Bissonette. “Venus in Overdrive” thanks for the props to the MAN!!
Kimberly in Ohio

18 11 2008
kevmoore

Hi Kimberley, thanks! That sounds like a cool cruise. I did some shows myself out in the Caribbean a few years back. You’re so right that radio lets such a small amount of stuff hrough to the public. I’ve always hated the playlist system in the UK for example -much, much worse than the U.S.!

28 04 2011
Reverend Flash

Sorry, Allan Clarke, but ‘Souls’ was its own hit, not a flipside.

28 10 2011
kevmoore

Perhaps not in the UK Reverend, Record companies notoriously decided what was and what was not fit for the listening public, and it may have been relegated to a ‘b’ side in other territories by the powers that be.

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