Late, Late at Night, Rick Springfield's tell-all memoir, opens with a 17-year-old Rick swinging from a noose, convinced his life is not worth living. Happily for Rick, as well as for the zillions of fans who would, in the 1980s, fall in love not only with his endlessly catchy parade of hit singles, but also with Dr. Noah Drake, the sexy character he played to perfection on the venerable soap opera General Hospital, the noose gave way just in time.
Now Springfield, who turned 61 in August, has written the story of his life — from his wild-child upbringing in Australia and hardscrabble early-band years in England and the U.S., through his sudden, massive success as musical heartthrob and daytime television icon, to the years spent grappling with promiscuity, depression and financial insecurity. Springfield was an enthusiastic — now reformed — libertine, and his surprisingly funny, irreverent autobiography leaves no stone unturned. He recently spoke with us by phone about reading, writing and rock 'n' roll.
You insist that, unlike most celebrities, you wrote the story of your life all by yourself. Honestly, you didn't use a ghost?
No, I really wrote it myself. I always wanted to be a writer. In school, essays were the only thing I ever got any positive attention for. So I always knew I had a voice; I just wasn't sure what would happen if I tried to write a whole book.
Your title — Late, Late at Night — comes from "Jessie's Girl," arguably your best-known hit. But you've often grumbled about being over-associated with that particular song.
You're the first person to get that it's from "Jessie's Girl."
Seriously? Because I have had that song stuck in my head ever since I got this assignment six weeks ago, thank you very much.
(Laughs) Sorry about that.
I thought maybe talking to you would cure me.
Just sing "It's a Small World" — that'll kill anything that's in your head.
You make it clear in the book that you have very different standards for music and acting. Where does writing fit on this continuum?
Songwriting, to me, is the most sacred. That's what I do when I commune with my muse.
But writing this book, for instance. Does that occupy the same place as songwriting?
Oh, yeah. I mean, I wrote this from my heart, and didn't leave anything out. I wanted to be truthful. I wasn't looking to polish an image, or look like a sex god or a really smart guy.
No, you're quite hard on yourself, often in a very amusing way. You write that your most autobiographical songs — the songs you composed for your father after he died, for example — are the most meaningful, and the most rewarding. Did writing the story of your life give you the same kind of rush and satisfaction?
Yeah, very much so. I looked forward to it every day.
Most writers wouldn't say that.
No, I did: I really look forward to writing. Though when I'd finished the autobiography, I actually started to get cold feet. I called up my editor and said, I don't think I want this book to be released. I don't want to hurt my wife: Even though she knows everything that's in the book, she's a very, very private person, and this is like her worst nightmare. She would have done better to marry a guy in the FBI who had to keep everything secret, but she married a guy who always writes about himself. Maybe I just don't have enough imagination to do anything else.
You must always get asked to list your musical influences; who are your literary influences?
Edgar Allen Poe, Oscar Wilde. ... As a kid, I would keep certain books by my bedside. The Picture of Dorian Gray was one, and Dracula was another. Moby Dick is one of my all-time favorites. Right now I'm reading [Justin Cronin's] The Passage. But the truth is, I've got about 50 books piled up next to my bed.
To read an uncut version of this interview — and more local book coverage — please visit Chapter 16, an online publication of Humanities Tennessee, here: www.chapter16.org/content/cool-lines.
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