Bruce Springsteen feared fans might be seriously injured at his 1985 Slane Castle concert, the rock icon has revealed in his new autobiography.

“I thought somebody was going to get killed and it’d be my fault,” he writes in Born To Run, the greatly anticipated memoir published on Thursday by Simon & Schuster.

“The crowd closest to the stage… were deeply into their Guinness and dangerously swaying from left to right. They were opening up gaping holes amongst themselves as audience members by the dozens fell to the muddy ground, vanishing for unbearable seconds ’til righted once again by their neighbours.”

Some 95,000 attended the June 1 concert, writes Springsteen — by far the largest crowd he had yet performed to. The scale of the event overwhelmed the singer and, fearing someone might be hurt, he considered cancelling the rest of his European tour.

“I could not face what was happening in front of the stage at Slane on a nightly basis,” he explains.

Bruce Springsteen at Slane: ‘There was a sketchy but ritual orderliness to what appeared from the stage to be pure chaos.’ Pic: Rob Verhorst/Redferns
Bruce Springsteen at Slane: ‘There was a sketchy but ritual orderliness to what appeared from the stage to be pure chaos.’ Pic: Rob Verhorst/Redferns

“It was irresponsible and violated the protective instinct for my audience I prided myself on.”

However, he had a change of heart after the concert intermission as it dawned on him that fans were looking out for one another.

“The crowd settled during the second half of the Slane show and I observed there was a sketchy but ritual orderliness to what appeared from the stage to be pure chaos. The crowd protected one another. If you fell, the nearest person to your left or right reached down, grabbed an arm and pulled you upright.”

Springsteen, 67, was to return to Ireland on many further occasions and this year played to a combined audience of more than 160,000 at Croke Park in Dublin.

Born To Run had already generated interest over Springsteen’s confession that he had wrestled with depression in his early sixties. In the book, he reveals that one of the most serious attacks occurred as he and his wife, Patti Scialfa, were at dinner in Ireland (he doesn’t provide dates but, going by the timeline of the book, the incident may have occurred when he brought the Wrecking Ball tour to Cork, Limerick, and Kilkenny in summer 2013).

“One night in Ireland, Patti and I went out to dinner with a group of people,” writes Springsteen. “I was doing my best to fake that I was a sane citizen… I had to leave the table somewhat regularly to let my mind off the leash… Finally on the street I phoned my pharmacologist. I explain to him that things were condition red.”

Bruce Springsteen on stage at Slane in 1985. ‘I could not face what was happening in front of the stage at Slane on a nightly basis.’ Pic: Rob Verhorst/Redferns
Bruce Springsteen on stage at Slane in 1985. ‘I could not face what was happening in front of the stage at Slane on a nightly basis.’ Pic: Rob Verhorst/Redferns

In the end the support of his family pulled him back from the edge. It has been two years since the last depressive incident, he writes. But he will never know for sure whether the demons are gone for good.

“It’s in me, chemically, genetically, whatever you want to call it, and as I’ve said before, I’ve got to watch.”

Throughout the memoir, he is clear his Irish-American heritage defined who he is, as a person and as an artist (his father may have bequeathed a Dutch surname but the family is firmly ‘Irish’ in the American sense).

“My great-great-grandmother Ann Garrity left Ireland at 14 in 1852 with two sisters, aged 12 and 10. This was five years after the potato famine devastated much of Ireland.”

Springsteen penned the book over seven years, without the aid of a ghostwriter.

Born to Run is a riveting read in which the singer explores his troubled relationship with his father Doug and the difficulties he in turn had in opening up to his own children.

He also writes about the end of his first marriage, to Julianne Phillips, and his relationship with Scialfa, whom he wedded in 1991.

He writes: “I dealt with Julie’s and my separation abysmally, insisting it remain a private affair, so we released no press statement, causing furore, pain, and ‘scandal’ when the news leaked out. It made a tough thing more heartbreaking than necessary. I deeply cared of Julianne and her family, and my poor handling of this is something I regret to this day.”


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