Search

SPEAK TO THE (DARK) SKY: RICK SPRINGFIELD’S TRUTH IN WIND BACK WEDNESDAY


There was already plenty to Rick Springfield: solo star, actor, father, and guitarist in a band who made one of the great Beatles covers – Zoot’s version of Eleanor Rigby is a corker.

That’s a full board already.


But as I discovered one evening in 2007, there was plenty more besides in a life that was cast with shadows even in the brightest light of Los Angeles.


With a Zoot reformation tour announced for later this year (see dates at the bottom, and note that Russell Morris will be stepping into the shoes of the late Darryl Cotton), it’s time to visit Springfield again.

Rick Springfield is still a very good-looking fellow. The kind who Jessie's girl, or her mother, wouldn't ignore any more. The man is nearing 60 but looks 15 years younger. He's hooded of eye and darkish of hair, obviously fit and while quite polite and gentlemanly, has not lost either his Australian accent or the ability to take the piss.


"I don't think that sense of humour ever goes, does it?" smiles the Sydney-born Springfield. "And the accent. Still, I got my fair share of beatings [over the accent] in England when I was a kid. [Springfield's father, Norman Springthorpe, was in the military and was posted to the UK in the late 1950s for several years].


“Being an Australian in England at that time wasn't the most popular person to be."


And then later in Australia he wore a pink suit in the band Zoot when around him sideburns and beards were being grown and denim was de rigueur in any rock band. Clearly this was a man asking to be beaten up.

"And we were," he laughs. "We got into a couple of fights backstage, one with Billy Thorpe and his band. I met Billy Thorpe when I came over here and I was telling him how I was always scared of him because his fans were always trying to beat us up."


Springfield laughs easily but his laugh is not a full bodied one. Like his eyes there's always a shadow behind it. Nothing dramatic these days - the man has been married for 23 years, has two adult sons he clearly adores and declares himself blissfully happy - but it doesn't take much to see or hear the touches of something darker not far beneath the surface.

We're upstairs in a seriously trendy Los Angeles restaurant where tourists slow down their cars outside and take photos of the front door. While Springfield will be in Australia soon for the nostalgia-fest of the Countdown tour, Los Angeles has been his home for 35 years, seen him score a Grammy Award, four platinum albums and a US number 1 single with Jessie's Girl.


It's watched him become a daytime soap star as Dr Noah Drake in General Hospital (a role he landed in 1979 and recently reprised to much viewer delight) and then a TV and film actor. It also nearly crushed him back in the early '70s when the Australian was a floundering little fish in a very very big pond despite a hit with his first solo single Speak To The Sky.


"In those first three years there was a lot of stuff going on with teen magazines picking me up," explains Springfield. "I found out what it meant and the problems it was causing me when teen magazines started calling my manager and saying 'we're giving him all this press and he's writing songs about suicide and families breaking up."

Springfield split from his managers but rather than freedom it brought him "a really dark time".


"All my friends, who were their friends, disappeared so I was truly on my own in Hollywood at that time, 1974," he says. "I was really getting suicidal. At one point I thought I can't go home beaten so the next best thing is to shoot myself. I was really starting to think thoughts like that sitting alone in my apartment. It got really really bad."


A friend talked him into acting classes - "it saved my life," Springfield says plainly. Better yet, he met another friend who took Springfield into his family, something the family oriented Springfield desperately needed as back home his father had become ill as Zoot were peaking (he would die in 1980 just as Jessie's Girl became a hit) and alone in LA, Springfield was without any roots or support.

"I don't know if that is drive or prescience or blind idiocy, but I knew something was going to happen and that was the rock I clung to," he says now, adding with a chuckle "But one of the great things about being depressed or having dark times is you write a lot of music.


“All my stuff is like that. Jessie's Girl is about a [real] unrequited relationship, Don't Talk To Strangers is about sexual paranoia. They are all on the darker side. I always was a very dark kid. They used to call me moody in the Zoot. I had this image as the happy-go-lucky popstar but it's never been the case really."


You never got that kind of talk on Countdown did you?

Zoot (Beeb Birtles, Rick Springfield, Rick Brewer and Russell Morris) play: The Fortitude, Brisbane, November 12; Thebarton Theatre, Adelaide, November 13; Enmore Theatre, Sydney, November 20; Palais Theatre, Melbourne, November 21

This website and its content is subject to copyright - © Bernard Zuel 2020. All rights reserved. Except as permitted by the copyright law applicable to you, you may not reproduce or communicate any of the content on this website without the permission of the copyright owner.