I have a special treat for you. This blog post wasn’t written by myself. It was written by Boyfriend who is an amazing writer and has kindly agreed to share his thoughts on the Bruce Springsteen Tour we took in New Jersey. I hope you enjoy!
- 1 Bruce Springsteen
- 2 About The Bruce Springsteen Tour
- 3 The Tours Available
- 4 How The Tour Works
- 5 Highlights Of Our Two Hour Tour
- 6 The Unofficial Stops After The Tour
- 7 Overall Verdict
- 8 Key Information:
- 9 Plan Your US Trip
As any self-respecting Bruce Springsteen fan knows, the great man hails from – in rock and roll terms – the USA’s fabled (New) Jersey shore.
It is a part of the world that has also given us the likes of Bon Jovi and The Gaslight Anthem. Indeed, the “Jersey Shore sound” is considered a subgenre of rock and roll, and ‘the Boss’ (a moniker he is not particularly fond of, but has come to accept) is very much at the vanguard of this movement.
There is no doubt that the people and places of the Jersey shore itself have had a significant
influence on his music, especially his early work. Indeed, his debut album is entitled “Greetings from Asbury Park”, and the beachfront city which lends said album its name is the keystone of a tour that no Springsteen fan visiting New Jersey can afford to miss…
About The Bruce Springsteen Tour
The Rock & Roll Tour of the Jersey Shore is run by a pair of passionate and extremely knowledgeable Springsteen fans. They provide insightful tours for their fellow passionate, but probably-less-knowledgeable, Springsteen fans. Stan Goldstein and Jean Mikle are both New Jersey natives who have been running their self-styled, highly comprehensive tours for close to 25 years.
Claire and I were fortunate enough to enjoy a tour with them when we were in the USA in late 2022. Or more accurately, I was fortunate that Claire indulged my Springsteen obsession by agreeing to accompany me on the tour!
The Tours Available
There are two separate tours available. We took the two-hour one, which is priced at $150 and concentrates on Asbury Park and surrounding area. In addition to the stops mentioned in this post, you also get to visit a notable rock photographer’s studio shop – which features fantastic pictures of many rock stars, not just Springsteen and the E Street band. That said, you won’t want to miss the opportunity to pose for a ‘selfie picture’ alongside Bruce!
The other tour available is a four-hour tour and is priced at $250. In addition to everything discussed below, this tour also incorporates Springsteen’s hometown of Freehold, the site where he recorded his iconic Nebraska album and the bridge that he was driving over during 9/11, which proved to be the inspiration and catalyst for The Rising album (arguably, the album that is responsible for his late-career renaissance).
How The Tour Works
Up to four people can attend the tours. In both cases, the fee charged is the total and not per-person. In other words, the price is the same for four people as it is for one person.
Stan and Jean make for excellent company and are very accommodating and flexible. They are happy to pick you up from and return you to your accommodation if you are staying in the area. They are also happy to collect day trippers from New York Penn Station arriving at Long Branch station (approximately a 90-minute journey). More information can be found on their website.
They truly know their stuff, and add a lot of context to the sights (far more than I have included in this post), meaning you will get more out of it to go with them than if you tried to do the tour
Highlights Of Our Two Hour Tour
While the four hour tour was tempting, we opted for the two hour Bruce Springsteen tour instead. This still gives you plenty of time to see the main Bruce Springsteen highlights in Asbury Park.
David Sancious’ House
The first stop on the tour took us past the former house of David Sancious, original keyboardist of the (heart-stopping, pants-dropping, love-making, earth-quaking, Viagra-taking, LEGENDARY…) E Street Band.
Legend has it that Sancious would often be running late when Bruce and other band members swung by to collect him for rehearsals, gigs etc. It was via waiting so often on this street – E Street – that the moniker for Bruce’s legendary band stuck.
10th Avenue & E Street
Just a little further down the road, E Street intersects with 10th Avenue. As all but the most casual of Springsteen fans knows, “Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out” is a key track on the seminal Born To Run album, being, in essence, a song that tells the story of Bruce and the band up to that point.
Stan and Jean rightly say that having a snap here is, for Bruce fans, the equivalent of fans of The Beatles (before you ask: yes, of course I am a huge fan of The Beatles!) walking across the famous zebra crossing at Abbey Road in London. As if the sign itself isn’t enough, a large replica guitar has been installed here too. Just in case you were in any doubt as to the place’s rock’n’roll significance!
The Upstage Club
Most folks, myself included, assumed that The Stone Pony (more on that later) was where Bruce first made his name as musician, with his first band The Castiles.
It turns out that this is an urban myth, and the Upstage Club was in fact where he first played in Asbury Park. These days, the site of the club is an unremarkable upstairs set of offices, subsumed by a liquor store (somewhat ironically, if you look at the ‘No Booze’ headline on the below flier from an early 1970s gig that Stan and Jean showed us!).
Nonetheless, as Bruce himself states in his autobiography, it was a “mecca” for not only him but all his notable contemporaries – his trusty lieutenant “Little” Steven Van Zandt (better known by some for his role as Silvio Dante in The Sopranos) among them – on the Jersey Shore scene, and so its place in Springsteen folklore is assured.
The Casino Carousel Club
The rather dilapidated-looking Casino Carousel Club, just off the Asbury boardwalk, is the next stop on the tour.
There are several iconic shots of Bruce around Asbury Park. As well as for the obvious reason that it’s his musical ‘home’, the faded grandeur of its monuments – symbolic of the town’s decline from the thriving seaside resort of Springsteen’s childhood into a faded “blue collar resort”, as he puts it in his autobiography – are captured in the recurring themes of industrial decline and urban decay in many of his songs.
As far as this specific building goes, those of you who will have seen promotional material for his 2023 world tour may well recognise it!
Porta, Asbury Park
Also in the heart of Asbury Park is the Porta Italian restaurant. Claire and I had gone here for dinner the night before our Bruce Springsteen tour, and enjoyed our meal and time there, but had no idea of its Springsteen-related significance…
It turns out that this was the place that Bruce first met the “Big Man” Clarence Clemons. For those not in the know, the late Clemons – with his powerful stage presence and phenomenal Saxophone-playing – was Springsteen’s onstage foil and, in a band of great musicians, undoubtedly the most eye-catching of Bruce’s onstage comrades. He is much missed, but his talented nephew Jake has proven to be a most excellent replacement.
The ‘Born To Run’ House
Next up was, for me, the highlight of the whole tour.
A little outside of Asbury Park, in the nearby town of Long Branch, is the house where Bruce wrote his career-defining Born To Run album. In addition to the aforementioned Tenth Avenue Freeze Out, it includes the soaring romance of Thunder Road, the widescreen epic of Jungleland and, of course, the ultimate rock song that is the title track. Nearly 50 years(!) later, it remains an absolute classic.
Looking at the house today – a modest blue dwelling dwarfed by its immediate neighbours – makes it seem even more remarkable he produced one of his masterpieces here, largely on a piano located on the front porch. Be mindful that it is actually someone’s house. As such, tempting as it may be, don’t try to walk on the same boards as Springsteen did all those years ago!
Back in Asbury Park is its legendary Conventional Hall. As far as Springsteen goes, this has become his ‘go to’ venue to prepare for his upcoming tours, including special ticketed performances for lucky fans who subsequently get a sneak preview of the shape that forthcoming concerts by Bruce and the Band might take.
This venue is not just about them, though. Having been established in the 1950s, it has played host to a plethora of legendary musical names, with James Brown, Ray Charles, The Beach Boys, The Rolling Stones, The Who and Led Zeppelin some of the names from yesteryear to have performed here. Since the turn of the millennium, artists as diverse as 50 Cent and Slipknot have also played here; as, interestingly enough, has Bob Dylan; a singer-songwriter Springsteen has often been compared to!
The last ‘official’ stop on the tour was Madam Marie’s Psychic Booth on the Asbury Park boardwalk.
In his youth, even before he began playing with The Castiles, Bruce would often busk next to the titular Marie’s booth. She would tell his fortune into the bargain – unsurprisingly, his outlook was, in his words, ‘pretty good’ – and he would later pay homage to her in “4th of July, Asbury Park (Sandy)”, a song on his second album, The Wild, The Innocent and the E Street Shuffle.
Marie herself passed away in 2008, but you can still get your fortune told by her granddaughter. If you don’t want to, and simply want the photo, be aware that she will likely try to lure you in
The Unofficial Stops After The Tour
If like us you still want some more Bruce highlights, there are still places to visit in Asbury Park after the tour ends. As they are bars, they aren’t part of the tour although Stan and Jean will point them out and drop you off there afterwards.
The Wonder Bar
The first of two bars associated heavily with Bruce, but not officially visited as part of the tour, The Wonder Bar is the place where he met his (current) wife Patti Scialfa. It’s also where E Street guitar virtuoso Nils Lofgren met his wife too. Perhaps, as the slogan says on its exterior, it is indeed the “Tunnel of Love” (the title, of course, of one of his albums).
Inside is a cabinet of assorted Bruce memorabilia, including signed photos of his performances across the years in Asbury Park. Also, one of the beers available when we visited was one by the name of “Big Man’s Brew”, complete with Saxophone-shaped tap! Otherwise, it primarily serves as a live music venue for local Jersey musical talent.
However, it has an extra-special bonus on weekends (and in season) for canine lovers: namely, Yappy Hour! It’s a chance for the local doggies to meet each other – and, of course, their human owners to do likewise – in the bar’s extensive outdoor area. If you don’t have a dog of your own, you can still enjoy observing from the sidelines…Claire certainly did!
The Stone Pony
Last but far from least, we stopped into the legendary Stone Pony music venue. Upstage may be where Springsteen first played in Asbury Park, but The Stone Pony was where he really established an early reputation for being an incredible live performer, even if he did not start playing here until he already had two studio albums under his belt.
Whilst he may be today renowned for his all-conquering stadium shows, he has played at this
intimate, spit-and-sawdust venue (complete with a litany of signed guitars on its walls) more than anywhere else, chalking up over 100 live performances here.
Of course, you would have to be incredibly fortunate to catch a performance from the great man if you called in there now! But catching some live music here is a must: when we were there we
caught an all-female death metal band, a rock trio featuring a drummer on vocals, and a solo artist on ukulele; and yes, these were all as awesome as they sound!
As you can probably tell, we loved this tour and can’t recommend taking it enough. Stan and Jean were a lot of fun and so knowledgeable at all things Bruce. Their Bruce Springsteen Tour around Asbury Park is great for die hand fans and even those with just a casual interest in Bruce and his music.
- Bruce Springsteen Tours are available all year
- Stan and Jean are passionate and knowledgeable guides
- Tours are either 2 hours or 4 hours long
- Most of the tour will be driven with some walking
- The tours typically start at 11am or noon
- Up to four people can take a tour
- Group tours can sometimes be arranged in advanced
- Pick ups are available on request
- Tours cost $150 for 2 hours and $250 for 4 hours
- Prices are per tour and not per person
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Plan Your US Trip
Looking for more things to do in the States? These might help!
- Taking The Sex and The City Tour in NYC
- 40 Books Set in New York
- San Francisco’s Secret Food Tour
- Anchor Brewery Tour in San Francisco
- Exploring San Francisco by VW Bus
- Taking A Helicopter Tour Around Hawaii
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