In this candid conversation, Rick confesses. A lot. About the sort of things you'd expect to hear from a rock star, and some things you might not be prepared for. Turns out he's a rather angry man. Who knew?
Rick Springfield: I don't know her name. Actually, it was a brief relationship I had when I was making stained glass for a while. I was going to a stained glass class in Pasadena, and I met this guy and his girlfriend. I was completely turned on to his girlfriend, but she was just not interested. So I had a lot of sexual angst, and I went home and wrote a song about it. Then about 4 months later I stopped going to the class and lost contact with them. The only thing I remember is his name was Gary, so I changed the name, because "Gary" didn't sing very well. But the whole thing is absolutely what I was feeling. He was getting it and I wasn't, and it was really tearing me up. And sexual angst is an amazing motivator to write a song. Actually, Oprah's people tried to find her, and they got as far back as finding the stained glass guy. I couldn't remember his name, but I said it was late '70s; they found him, and he had died 2 years earlier, and they'd thrown all his papers out a year after that. So we missed finding out who she was by a year.
Songfacts: You've got one of the best, most sarcastic couple of lines in there that just crack me up every time I hear them: "I've been funny, I've been cool with the lines. Ain't that the way love's supposed to be?" How smartass are you?
Rick: (laughing) Yeah, again, a little bit of attitude never hurts.
Songfacts: Growing up, I think that guys really think that's the way it's supposed to be.
Rick: Of course. We're clueless. Desperately clueless. Everybody is on relationships. Truly, I remember being a jerk because I thought that's what girls wanted. You only really learn about women when you get into a long relationship, unless you got a really great dad – a really clued-in father – or a really open mom. Or sisters. I know guys that grow up with sisters have a much healthier beginning attitude to women than guys like me who just grew up with a brother and really are clueless about what girls are about. You either learn from the movies, or you learn from the guy at school that you think is getting laid. "I've been funny, I've been cool with the lines," that was a bit of a tongue-in-cheek thing where I was going, you know, what the fuck am I supposed to do here?
Songfacts: Yeah, I didn't get that until years after I'd first heard it, and then it hit me, and I thought, Okay. That was fabulous. Now, on your 2008 album Venus In Overdrive, you do have some naughty words in the lyrics. Do you think it's because you're getting a little bit looser with your writing, and it's okay to go ahead and release these things?
Rick: Well, we got a couple of naughty words slip by on Working Class Dog in the '80s, so nothing's really changed there. They just didn't catch it.
Songfacts: I didn't catch it either. What songs are they in?
Rick: "Carry Me Away," it says, "I'm so tired of all this shit that I feel." But nobody got it. And there was a coke spoon hanging off of my dog's neck in the second album. (laughing)
So we slipped a few things by. I mean, I don't throw swearing in other than when I think it really fits. Maybe I'm a little angrier as I get older, which is kind of weird. I thought you were supposed to be more peaceful as you got a little older, but I find I have much less tolerance for the dickheads.
Songfacts: That's interesting, because I'm finding I'm getting more mellow.
Rick: No, I'm not. I'm getting angrier.
Songfacts: Well, you are a Type A personality, right? You have a lot of energy and you're always in motion.
Songfacts: Maybe that's part of it. On "3 Warning Shots," I heard you wrote that because you were angry about John Lennon being shot?
Rick: Well, I was still angry. But also I was upset that the guy who shot him – there was some talk of him maybe being paroled or something. And I didn't want that. So I revisited all the anger that I felt when that happened, because I am a huge John fan, and it was just such a waste. So it was just a late reaction to him maybe getting paroled, or talking about some kind of field trip or something for the dickhead.
Rick: No, I don't mention his name. We call him Voldemort.
Songfacts: From "Harry Potter"?
Rick: Yeah. (laughing) He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named. That's the guy that shot Lennon.
Songfacts: Okay, probably my favorite song off of Venus In Overdrive is "Saint Sahara." Can you talk me through that?
Rick: I first met Sahara when she was 5 years old, and her mom had been a fan of mine when she was a little girl. And she started bringing Sahara to the shows. I love kids anyway, but I remember she stood out because there was just such an incredible spirit. I just really fell in love with her, and started hanging out with her and her mom. She charmed the whole band, and anyone who met her - her teachers were falling all over her. She was one of those kids that was game for anything, like we'd go to sushi and I'd say, "I'll give you five bucks if you eat that octopus," and she'd do it. (laughs) She used to come out to Vegas when I was working out there, and the three of us would pal around, and she was just really an amazing kid.
Stuff like this always happens. Amy was in New York about 6 months after Sahara died, and she's in a park just thinking about it, and she looked up and this guy was walking towards her with a blue t-shirt with great big white letters that said "Sahara" on it. He walked towards her, and then got about 20 feet from her, turned around and walked away. She even got a photo of it, she couldn't believe it. The night she died, you could see her front door through her kitchen side window, and all of us kept thinking someone had come up to the door. It was the weirdest thing. We kept seeing this thing out of the corner of our eyes, this shape out of the corner of our eyes walking up to the front door. So she really meant a lot to a lot of people.
And that's just one song. I wrote a bunch of words down when she died, and then wrote a melody later on, about 3 months later. I was looking for words, I found these words on the computer, and they fit so perfectly to what I'd written musically that, again, it was something from her spirit. I know it was.
Songfacts: And how old was she when she passed away?
Rick: She was 13.
Songfacts: So her mom just started bringing her to concerts… How did they get to meet you?
Rick: Well, back when we first started touring in the mid-'90s, late-'90s, I used to do a meet-and-greet, before it got too crazy. We'd pick 30 people out of the crowd and they could come back and say hi and take a photo and sign autographs. That's how I met them. She was just such a sparkling human being. It was like you couldn't forget her once you met her. She was a beautiful kid.
Songfacts: Well, you honored her with that song.
Rick: Well, I wrote it for her parents, really. And I sent it to them to make sure it was okay with them before I recorded it. I didn't want to do anything that they felt uncomfortable with. But they both loved it.
Songfacts: Beautiful. Have you heard from Victoria's Secret about "What's Victoria's Secret?"
Rick: Yeah, the bastards. They wanted to sue us.
Rick: Oh, they're jerks. Absolutely.
Songfacts: How did that end up?
Rick: We told them to go fuck themselves.
Songfacts: Did they file the suit?
Rick: No. They had nothing to stand on. It wasn't about crotchless underwear. It was about a relationship with a woman, trying to see through the whole sexual thing and get to the person. And it's a male issue that the sexual thing is wagging like a big bunch of colorful balloons. It's hard to get through that. (laughing)
Songfacts: Um, for the record, I don't think that Victoria's Secret sells crotchless panties. You need to go to Frederick's of Hollywood for that.
Rick: Okay. I got them confused. (laughing)
Songfacts: Now, you have an album out called Shock/Denial/Anger/Acceptance. You've not been through a divorce, have you?
Rick: No. But I was very close at that point.
Songfacts: That was a pretty angry time.
Rick: Yeah, it was really bad.
Songfacts: But you guys survived it?
Rick: Yep. She's the best person I've ever known. And I'm lucky that she still has a tolerance to hang with me. Because it hasn't been easy, and I've been at times a real idiot, and a real, you know, male, and just not been my best self. And through her good graces, I'm still around.
Songfacts: It's good that you recognize that.
Songfacts: "Idon'twantanythingfromyou" is one of the angrier songs that I have ever heard.
Rick: I told you I was angry. And it's getting worse. It's progressively growing.
Songfacts: The most recent one, Venus In Denial is not angry, though.
Rick: Yeah, but even when I was writing Shock/Denial/Anger/Acceptance, I wasn't angry 24/7. We'd go through periods where I'd be angry, and I'd go through periods where I'd go back. And I still do that. I've gone past that episode of those issues that created that album, but there's always other stuff. If it's not my family, it's the jerks that are running the country, or someone that cut me off on the freeway. I mean there's always reasons to be upset. (laughing) But you deal with them, and hopefully I'm learning to deal with them a little better. But honestly, the things that I write about are the heightened emotions. I go to the parts of me that have issues, and write about those.
Songfacts: One of the quotes that I read about you says that you're thought of as very light pop-y kind of music, but your music has very dark undercurrents, and there's a lot of double entendre stuff. Can you give me an example of a really great double entendre that you've created in one of your songs?
Rick: Well, I don't know how great they are, but the song "Don't Talk To Strangers" was my girlfriend who became my wife. I was screwing around on the road, and I was worried that she was doing the same thing while I was away. So it was my paranoia to her: I'm getting laid, but don't you go do the same thing, because it'll really upset me. (laughing)
Songfacts: Oh, you're a creep! You were a creep!
Rick: I know. I was. I admit it. I understood it. Musicians think it's their right to go out and spread their seed around – if I may put it bluntly. I was young, and it was just part of fame. And my wife was the one that woke me up to the fact that maybe it wasn't the best course to be taking if I wanted to have a relationship that lasted more than 3 months. So I was actually pretty innocent. She's younger than me, but I think she's older than me in a lot of ways. And she's certainly much more gifted in the relationship department than I was. But there's a lot of different things… "I Get Excited," a lot of the young fans that I had didn't know that was about what that was about. I've heard a couple of them say, "Oh my God, when I realized what that song was about, I went, Oh, God, that's so rude!"
Songfacts: Well, that one's kind of in-your-face.
Rick: Yeah, but not when you're 12. (laughing)
Songfacts: Good point. Oh, I have to tell you a friend of mine told me that you are an excellent wing man, because he said that he's been to 3 of your concerts, and in every one, there were so many women around, and he was one of like 3 guys.
Rick: Only the really smart and intelligent guys come to my shows.
Songfacts: Like only the really smart guys become ballet dancers, right?
Rick: That's right. If they can stay straight, that is. Yes.
Songfacts: I also read that you said "Will I" is one of your favorite songs to perform on stage. What is it that makes that one such a favorite?
Rick: I don't know. Just some songs really work live, like "Love Somebody" works really great live, too, and "Will I" is kind of in that vein. It breaks down to a really kind of half-time verse, and then really takes off in the chorus. And those kind of songs, when they work, they work great live. It's because you can never get dynamics on a record quite like you can live, because of the volume issue. I like what it says, too.
Songfacts: Is that another one of those angry ones?
Rick: It's not quite so much angry as it is really, really sad. Really fucked up and sad. (laughing)
Songfacts: Oh, this is a "poor me" one?
Rick: A little bit. But it's also wanting it to work. Not wanting it to end.
Songfacts: Yeah, well, that's just typical male bravado, I think. In my experience with men, anyway.
Rick: (laughs) I can't help having a male point of view.
Songfacts: Oh come on, I thought your wife would have gotten that out of you already. The only point of view that matters is hers, so just get past that.
Rick: I know. Actually, I have a big feminine side. I think most songwriters do.
Songfacts: You'd almost have to in order to be so introspective and be able to write the way that you guys do.
Rick: My muse is very feminine.
Songfacts: We're gonna put that as the headline, in big, fat letters. Okay, "Inside Sylvia." Is Sylvia a real person?
Rick: Yeah, that's actually one of the few that I left the real name in, just because it was such a great name. She was a girl I had met, and was really hot for, but nothing ever happened with her. But I also saw something in her that was really frightened. So I played with the words, how it initially seems like meaning sexually inside somebody, but that it also means inside the woman's head. So that's both the man and the woman in me writing that song.
Songfacts: There's your double entendre.
Rick: There it is.
Songfacts: You've got a lullaby album out now.
Rick: Yes. Actually, I'm writing a storybook to go with it. I wrote them for my sons when they were first born 23 years ago, and it was great to re-visit them. A lot of great memories being a new dad.
Songfacts: Are they terribly embarrassed about it?
Rick: No, they're actually totally okay with it. They're both musicians. I didn't put naked photos of them on a bearskin rug on the cover, so I think they're okay with it.
Songfacts: And speaking of naked butts…
Rick: Uh, yeah. (laughing) Yeah, it was really fun to film and great writing, great actors to work with, and it was very much against type. I think people will be surprised when they see it. It was pretty funny.
Songfacts: You sort of get naked in that.
Rick: I definitely get naked in that.
Songfacts: Are you actually walking around on set with no clothes on? How does that work?
Rick: Yeah. Pretty much. But it's okay. I'm okay with that. I think it's the actor that's nervous about whether they're naked or not, and I'm okay with that.
Songfacts: You've got to be really secure with yourself. So congratulations.
Rick: Either that, or a horrible exhibitionist.
Songfacts: That, too. Thank you so much for taking the time to talk with me today.
Rick: I always appreciate talking about songs.
Rick made his confessional to us on October 12, 2009.
To get everything Rick, visit his site: rickspringfield.com
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