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To the uninitiated, the name Rick Springfield
conjures up everything 1980s: Jessie’s Girl, General Hospital ,
Polo shirts and Converse tennis shoes. Dig a little deeper and you’ll find
that Rick Springfield is much more than the mistakenly categorized “actor
turned musician”. A songwriter and guitar player to
rival the greats, Rick
Springfield is a musician that has stood the test of time and the decades since
his surge of fame starting in 1981.
By 1971, Rick had top hit in Australia, "Speak to the Sky". Record companies in the US were courting him. It left Rick with some difficult personal decisions: leave his homeland for the unknown of the US? His father, with whom he credits his passion for music, had recently suffered a debilitating stroke, and needed a great deal of care. Though Rick hesitated to leave him, Rick finally made the decision to try his luck in Hollywood.
Steve Binder and Robie Porter helped produce Rick's first US album, "Beginnings", which included a re-recorded version of "Speak to the Sky". Seeming success was quick quick for the newly named Rick Springfield: "Speak to the Sky" landed in the US Top Ten and "Beginnings" found it's way into the top twenty. Unfortunately, most of Rick's press was coming from teen magazines, who were selling him right along with David Cassidy and Donny Osmond. The radio stations suspected foul play: a teen sensation who had no real following. They refused to play the song and it quickly dropped off the charts.
Binder and Porter were not deterred by this, though Rick calls this time "a real heavy time." They signed Rick to a new deal at Columbia Records, and soon Rick released his second stateside album, "Comic Book Heroes". Recorded in London, this album tried to fight the critics with serious songs such as "The Photograph". Unfortunately, with most of his publicity again coming from the teen mags, the album was never taken seriously by radio. Again Rick was left without a record deal.
In 1974, Rick was asked to create music and star in an animated series called "Mission Magic". Rick was excited about the idea of showcasing his songs on a weekly TV show. The show aired on ABC's Saturday morning line up. While Rick still continued to record and write serious music of his own (much of which ended up on the never released "Springfield" LP of 1974), most of the music from Mission Magic was necessarily fluff. The show was cancelled after the second season.
Personally for Rick, a bright spot during 1974 was his live in relationship with Linda Blair ("The Exorcist"). Rick calls it his first "grown up relationship," though at the time Linda Blair was only fifteen. The relationship lasted a year, and both still recall the time fondly. "He's someone I'll always love," said Linda in VH-1's Behind the Music. Rick says that of all his former girlfriends, Linda is the only one he remains friends with.
By 1975, Rick was in "the worst time of my life," he says. He had no job and no prospects. He'd had two record deals that had fallen through. He had records that released and did poorly, he had records that never had been released. Despite fan letters that asked to see his mansion in Hollywood, Rick was scraping by on almost nothing. He felt like a failure. The depression that had haunted him since fifteen reared it's head again and Rick had thoughts of suicide.
Eventually, he dropped Binder and Porter and decided to strike out on his own. He began acting classes to support his music career. "Most guys were out there waiting tables while they waited for acting jobs. I was acting while I was waiting for a music job." He recorded his 1976 album, "Wait for Night" during this time. While the album was strong musically, recorded with Elton John's rhythm section of Nigel Olson and Dee Murray, the Chelsea label it was recorded on folded soon after the album's release.
Rick spent the next few years earning acting paychecks and writing tunes for the next album. He had a new management team which included Tom Skeeter, and they were determined to land their artist a deal. In 1980 he recorded "Working Class Dog" on a shoestring budget, recording on off hours when the studio time was cheaper. It was there that he met his future wife, Barbara Porter. She was working as a receptionist there at the time, and later people would jokingly ask her if she indeed was "Jessie's Girl." "She had a lot of energy," recalls drummer Jack White of that time.
Though his managers were negotiating a deal with RCA to release "Working Class Dog," Rick auditioned for the soap opera, "General Hospital." He was used to album deals folding, or records not doing well, and the steady paycheck of the soap was enticing. He signed to the soap as Dr. Noah Drake in early 1981, and RCA released his album very shortly after.
Almost overnight, Rick's star shone brightly: his album was being played on the radio, he was recognized from his work on TV, and Rick was suddenly famous. Rick was ready. He'd waited for ten years for this moment, and he was excited to see the faces turn when he walked by. "It was so fast," he recalls, "Just a few weeks." The soap opera made Rick's face recognizable to millions, the radio made his music so.
"I've heard that sometimes, especially from others who have experienced fame, that when what you want most is given to you, inevitably something else is taken away," Rick said on TNN's "Life and Times of Rick Springfield." Within a few months of fulfilling his dreams of success, Rick's father took a turn for the worse and passed away. For Rick, it was a cruel blow. He always felt that his father was his champion, giving him the support he needed to get through the tough times and stick to his goal of being a successful musician. His father would be right there along with him with every success and failure. The pain struck Rick deeply, though he didn't have time to indulge in his grief; with only a three day hiatus from General Hospital to fly to Australia for the funeral, Rick threw himself into making his success last. Rick can still be seen in interviews today, eighteen years later, getting choked up and shedding tears when his father is brought up. "It hits me where I live," he has said. "I still have a lot of pain about it." The musical thread his father gave him continues to be seen in his music...references to his father can be found on every album he made after his father's death.
Rick recorded his next album, "Success Hasn't Spoiled Me Yet" during his off hours on General Hospital and toured in the same way. "I have never seen anyone work that hard," recalled drummer Jack White on VH-1's Behind the Music. While critics still didn't quite trust a rocker with such a pretty face and huge teen following, many were beginning to come around to see Rick's talent as a rocker. In 1982, Rick was awarded a Grammy Award for Best Male Vocal. MTV played his videos in heavy rotation, and Showtime aired a live special, "Live and Kicking." Rick Springfield was here to stay.
But the hard work was burning Rick's candle at both ends. By 1983, he was ready to be released from his contract at General Hospital and concentrate on his music. His release that year, "Living In Oz," heralded a new Rick. His look was tougher, harder, and so were his songs. Gone were the pink suits and purple Converse; Rick wore torn leather and armbands to prove his point. Fans loved it; the album went multi platinum and spawned three top twenty songs.
With more free time on his hands, movies were the next logical step for Rick in terms of his acting. A true multimedia success story, he jumped in with both feet. While he was offered many supporting roles such as one in "A Few Good Men", Rick chose one which would showcase him. More an ego choice than anything, Rick released the movie "Hard to Hold" in which he was the sole star. "I thought I could make anything work," he said. Unfortunately, "Hard to Hold," with it's nude scenes and screaming teens, brought Rick's movie career to a screeching halt. But the soundtrack was solid and it still flew off the shelves. Rick turned back to his music.
In 1984, after years of dating, Rick and Barbara Porter decided it was time to get married. They wed in October of that year, after Rick's summer tour was completed. They were married in his family's church in Australia, and kept the marriage quite low key. Most fans did not realize until much later that Rick had in fact married. Keeping with a tradition that continues to this day, Barbara maintained a very low profile and protected the privacy of her new family. She soon became pregnant with their first son.
During Barbara's pregnancy, Rick released his eighth (counting only released solo albums) album, "Tao". Full of strife and questions about life, this album heralds a time when Rick moved away from "girl songs" and into questions about "la raison d'etre". 1985 saw Rick tour with this album, touting songs such as "Celebrate Youth" and "State of the Heart". After the tour ended, Rick returned home for the birth of his first son, Liam, in October. Most fans remember this as the time they found out about Rick's marriage: when he announced the birth of his son.
The birth of Liam brought about some huge emotional issues for Rick. Having lost his father and dealing with fatherhood without him was a difficult time. He was used to being a rock star, a musician, an actor...he wasn't sure that all that he'd worked for made one bit of a difference in terms of fatherhood. It was another difficult time for Rick as he entered psychoanalysis to find the source of his depression.
As the six month break he'd planned turned into two years of off time, Rick searched for meaning. His search is documented in his 1988 release, "Rock of Life". It tells of the difficulty of marriage, of not being ready to be a father, of finding his reason for living in being a father...heavy, deep, emotional songs. While most of Rick's fans weren't quite old enough to understand the depth of these songs, they appreciated the raw emotion shared in them. Rick looked forward to touring to promote the album, but it never happened. Rick suffered severe injuries in a motorcycle accident just prior to the start of the tour. The entire tour had to be cancelled.
For many fans, this is where they all thought the story ended. Rick dropped out of sight as he recovered from his injuries, staying at home for the birth of his second son, Joshua, in March of 1989. Rick slowly began to take on acting jobs for TV movies and shows. This allowed him to stay at home and make family a priority. Fans often remember the pilot of "Nick Knight" in which Rick played a vampire, or "Human Target" where Rick morphed into different people to solve mysteries. Several TV movies followed into the early nineties.
Rick toured a brief summer tour in 1993 to test the waters for a comeback. Touring again was a great rush for Rick as he realized that a great many fans were still out there and waiting for him to stage a comeback. He began to start writing a new album that would provide just that. Fans were teased with news of this new album, but it would turn out to be many years in the offing.
In 1994, Rick was offered a role in the syndicated show, "High Tide". The show centered around two brothers who run a surf shop but endlessly get caught up in solving mysteries that happen all around them. First shot in New Zealand, then San Diego, and finally in Santa Barbara, the steady show took up much of Rick's time for the three seasons it ran. A mixture of comedy and detective work, "High Tide" earned favorable reviews and allowed fans to see that Rick was still busy in Hollywood.
When "High Tide" was not renewed in 1997, loyal fans breathed a sigh mixed with sadness and relief. Finally now Rick was able to concentrate on his new music promised to them years ago. He teased them with the release of "Sahara Snow" in July of 1997, a collaboration between Bob Marlette, Tim Pierce and Rick. Excited fans bought up so many copies of the first new music in nine years that online outlets sold out of this import.
In 1998, Rick began to tour, promoting his new album, "Karma", which was supposed to be released later that year. Though the album was delayed until April of 1999, that didn't matter to the thousands who flocked to see him live. Stories of fans who traveled by plane great distances began to circulate as the press began to realize that Rick Springfield was back in the game. The hype around "Karma" was so great that when the Japanese Import was released prior to the US release, fans snatched it up online and created a need for a second pressing.
The Karma Tour surpassed everyone's, including Rick's, expectations, and allowed Rick to play to over 2,000,000 fans from it's beginning in June of 1998 until it's close on New Year's Eve, 2000. The success was so great that it prompted Rick to record and release his latest CD, "The Greatest Hits Alive." Now currently available in stores all over the US, this special disc was released in a special collectible limited release in September of 2000.
But the success of reconnecting with fans and releasing a new live disc weren't enough for Rick Springfield. In December of 2000 he announced that he would take over the lead role in the Vegas spectacular, EFX Alive. The show was retooled to fit Rick's style and now includes two original tunes Rick penned just for the show, "The Rhythm of the Beat" and "Forever". The show, known for it's wonderful special effects, opened on January 30, 2001, the same day "Alive" hit the stores. The reviews of both of Rick's newest projects have been favorable.
Rick spent the next several years starring in the Vegas hit, "EFX Alive" (renamed and retolled just for Rick's rockstar angle in the show). The two and a half year stint living away from his family provided just enough solitude and stress to give Rick material for a new record. The 2004 release "shock/denial/anger/acceptance" chronicles this time period of anger and struggle. The critically acclaimed disc showed a much harder edge to Springfield. Rough and raw in parts, disarmingly sad and simple in others, "shock/denial/anger/acceptance" is a highly personal romp through Rick's darker side. While the two singles from the record failed to gain Billboard chart status, the ensuing tour brought in thousands of newly minted Rick Springfield fans who gained a deeper admiration for his musical skills. The tour gained Rick popular recognition from coast to coast as his tour schedule filled with sold out venues.
2005 brought Rick new management, a live DVD recorded for high definition TV, and a new record to promote. "The Day After Yesterday" gave fans a break from Rick's angry, angst filled tunes from the previous record. The record was filled with cover tunes from the Adult Contemporary mold, and was released in July, 2005. While the record did yield lackluster sales, it got the attention of his old friends at General Hospital. Talks ensued, and in December 2005, Rick returned to his old haunts in Port Charles as an older, drunker and more disheveled Dr. Noah Drake.
Rick continues to record and appear on General Hospital, and the "Human Touch Tour" "07" seems an appropriate way to showcase Rick's unique mix of old and new, of energy and appreciation for his past. The weekend tour that began nine years ago with questions as to whether fans remembered him has turned into full blown hysteria at times, with fans flying from coast to coast to find their next "Rick Fix".
It makes one wonder what Rick's got up his sleeve next. Well into his 50s, Rick just seems to be getting better with age, and certainly more energetic.
"Youve got to be committed," Springfield says of overcoming lifes obstacles, whether its winning back your life or winning over skeptics. "Youve got to love to do it just on your own, sitting in your own room or in your own studio or playing to 30 people instead of 30,000. Youve got to get the joy out of doing that, and I do."
"My sole [and soul] point in writing is, first of all, the process," he continues, "and also to connect with people through what I write. The greatest thrill is when someone comes back to me about a song Ive written that mirrored an event in their life."
And that simplicity of what Rick
does and what he stands for,
despite all the complexities of his life, is what keeps his loyal
fan base coming back for more, every time. What goes around
truly does come around for Rick Springfield.