I’ve been fortunate enough to go on many tours during my travels but one stands out as my favorite tour ever. It’s not my tour of London, Paris, or Rome. It’s not my tour of San Francisco, Chicago, or Washington, DC either. It’s the Rock and Roll Tour of the Jersey Shore. Yes, a tour in the Garden State ranks number one in my book.
A few weeks ago, I had the privilege of touring the Rock and Roll landmarks down the shore with Jersey native, Stan Goldstein. Stan is a fellow journalist and Bruce Buddy. And, he’s without a doubt, a Springsteen expert. He has such an enormous wealth of knowledge for all things Bruce. Along with writer, Jean Mikle, he co-authored a map and guide book titled, “Rock and Roll Tour of the Jersey Shore.” The latest edition is due out later this summer. It’s a must have for all Springsteen fanatics!
With the help of social media, I found Stan on Twitter and Facebook. He easily related to my insanity for Bruce and we instantly shared a special bond and understanding. It’s a passion that only the die hard fans can comprehend and fully process. Thanks to our conversations on Facebook, Stan granted my request and must have… a private tour plus a signed copy of his book.
I still can’t believe I spent an entire afternoon touring the so-called Promised Land. I was definitely in Heaven while driving around the communities that Bruce put on the map….Long Branch, Asbury Park, Holmdel, and of course, Freehold.
My so- called tour date with Stan took place on May 5th. The same day…conveniently for me…that my husband Tom ran the 2013 New Jersey Marathon through the streets of Long Branch and Asbury Park. For any Bruce fan, that’s an ideal race route. Of course, I influenced my husband to love the Boss too. So he thoroughly enjoyed the race. In the early morning hours of May 5th, I watched Tom run along the Jersey Shore but later that afternoon… while Tom recovered from running 26.2 miles, I walked along the boardwalk and enjoyed a terrific view of the ocean.
Before I embark on the fabulous details of my tour…a bit more back story about Stan is in order. Stan is a super busy guy. Giving tours is just a side business. His real job is a rather stressful one. He’s a copy editor at the Newark Star Ledger Newspaper. Stan has worked in media since his senior year of high school. He started his career at the Asbury Park Press recording sports scores. He left print journalism and spent a few years working for the New York Knicks Basketball Organization. But since 1988, he’s been back in the newspaper business. Stan has always had a love of news and claims he’s “always been a tourist.” As for his obsession with Bruce, he received his “calling” into E Street nation back in the late 70s and credits his sister for igniting his passion for the Boss. His first Bruce concert was back in 1976 at the Monmouth Arts Center in Red Bank, NJ.
Fans find out about Stan’s tours primarily by word of mouth. He’s been offering guides of all the Springsteen sites (as well sites linked to Jon Bon Jovi and Southside Johnny) since 1999. Private tours are available but Stan can also accommodate bus loads of fans. When Bruce plays several nites in the Meadowlands, Stan is booked with tours for hundreds of people. His tours have even captured a mention in USA Today.
My Special Tour of the Jersey Shore:
It was a gorgeous day and the ocean looked so inviting. Stan and I met outside the Stone Pony in Asbury Park. First of all, what a meeting place. For any Bruce fan, the Stone Pony is sacred. It’s the venue that Bruce has played more than any other. Some 90 plus times. Most rock critics and historians consider the Stone Pony one of the great rock clubs of all time.
Stan pulls up his car outside the Pony and from that initial moment… I just felt it in my gut …I just knew he was a genuine and incredibly wonderful person. We automatically formed a Bruce Bond.
Stan realized rather quickly that I was so psyched. In fact, he commented, “You’re very enthusiastic. The more enthusiastic the fan, the better the tour.” I was truly on cloud 9. And about to elevate even higher.
The first landmark was the bar (now a restaurant) where legend has it…Bruce met the Big Man in the Winter of 1971. The story is true…embellished a bit…but true. Clarence was playing at the Wonder Bar in Asbury Park and was told to check out this guy…Bruce Springsteen. Bruce was playing three blocks away. Clarence walked to Bruce’s venue and made a grand entrance. As he opened the door, it blew off its hinges. Clarence certainly grabbed everyone’s attention with his entrance and saxophone. He asked Bruce, “Can I play with you?” This legendary story is how my tour kicked off. Needless to say, I was screaming with joy and loving life.
We continued to drive through Asbury Park while listening to Bruce tunes. We suddenly stopped in front of a church and Stan decided to share the unwritten rule known by all Shore residents with respect to their local hero. “If you just happen to bump into Bruce, you don’t create a scene and you leave him alone.”
Now to the significance of the church…it’s a story that reveals great insight into Bruce’s true character. One Saturday afternoon, the church was hosting a panel discussion on the history of Asbury Park. Stan was in attendance along with only 50 other locals. All of sudden, Bruce walked in, placed money into the donation jar, and listened to the discussions. He then decided to contribute to the panel. Bruce talked about Asbury Park’s history and the music scene. He stayed for an hour and a half. He was sincere, down to earth, and deflected all attention. That’s Bruce! He never forgets his roots.
While driving away from the church in Asbury Park, Stan looks over at me and announces, “Now we’re going to head towards Belmar. I’m going to show you E Street.” Once again, I bark out screams of excitement. While driving along the shoreline, it was hard not to notice all of the restoration underway due to the damage caused by Hurricane Sandy. I was extremely comforted to see the significant progress. Jersey is strong and definitely “restoring the shore.”
We turn onto E Street…
I’ve often wondered why the band was named E Street but I never really knew why. What a feeling to hear the real story while standing on the actual street. It’s an incredible and amazing story! According to Clarence’s book, “Big Man,” the band would pick up Bruce’s original keyboardist, David Sancious, at his home on E Street before every gig. David was the final pick-up and never ready. He always signaled out to the guys waiting in the car with his finger ( in other words…one more minute guys). The band members gave a different finger back to him! And, Bruce famously shouted out, “We’re on this street so much, we might as well be known as the fucking E Street Band.” As Stan finished this fascinating story, I reacted with, “There you go.” Suddenly, Stan gave me a shocking look and laughed saying, “That’s exactly how Clarence answered Bruce! ‘There you go!’ Lisa, that’s crazy!” I had chills and screamed, “What!?! Seriously, OMG! Those exact words???”
After a few snapshots next to the E Street sign at the crossroads of E and 10th Avenue in Belmar, we continued our tour to Bruce’s hometown of Freehold. I was almost in tears when I saw signs for the “famous” Highway 9 from “Born to Run” and Main Street’s windows and railroad tracks from “My Hometown.” We drove past Bruce’s Catholic grammar school- St. Rose of Lima, the church, high school, and his three childhood homes/sites. Bruce’s first home on Randolph Street has been since torn down to make room for the St. Rose of Lima Church parking lot.
I found myself channeling Bruce at his second childhood home on Institute Street. Bruce did a photo shoot outside of the house back in 1984 for the “Born in the USA” tour program book. He leaned up against the tree outside the back of the house and well, I had to do the same exact thing! Before stopping for pizza at Bruce’s favorite pizza shop in Freehold, Federici’s, we drove past his third home on South Street. Bruce lived there during his high school years.
After devouring some of the most delicious pizza that I’ve ever had, we left Freehold and continued our tour of the Promised Land. The next towns and destinations? Holmdel, Red Bank, and Rumson. Stan showed me the farmhouse where Bruce wrote “Darkness on the Edge of Town”, the property where Bruce home-recorded the “Nebraska” album, the theater where Bruce kicked off his tradition of playing full albums during a live show, and the pond where Bruce laced up ice skates to shoot a cover for Rolling Stone Magazine in 1980. While capturing all of these landmarks on camera, I asked Stan which album was his favorite. Not surprisingly, we share that selection in common too. Stan’s answer: “Born to Run…the signature song and the entire album are just perfect.” I couldn’t agree more!
Towards the end of the tour, we passed Holy Cross Roman Catholic Church in Rumson and then drove over a bridge into Sea Bright. These two sites had sorrowful ties to the Jersey Shore and September 11th. Monmouth County lost 158 people in the attacks on the World Trade Center. Holy Cross held numerous funerals during that dark moment in American history. As for the bridge, Bruce was driving over it when a man screamed out to him on September 11, 2001…”We need you NOW!” It’s a well known fact that several songs on The Rising are a reflection and reaction by Bruce to the terrorist attacks.
My Rock and Roll tour of the Jersey Shore with Stan Goldstein was a treat and an experience I will treasure and remember always. I gained not only a wealth of knowledge about the shore and Bruce (that I can’t believe I didn’t already know) but more importantly, I gained a Bruce Bud and a friend.
Stan, I had the best time! I will never drive around the Promised Land without thinking of our fabulous tour! Bravo Stan! And thanks a million!
Best wishes to you and Jean with your new edition of
“Rock and Roll Tour of the Jersey Shore”