Bruce Springsteen and E Street Band guitarist Steven Van Zandt may seem like the ultimate rock BFFs.
But shortly before the Boss’ career was about to be catapulted to the pop stratosphere with 1984’s “Born in the U.S.A.” album, Van Zandt quit the E Street Band after having a falling out with Springsteen.
“I just felt I was not being appreciated anymore ’cause I was always his main adviser in a way just from being his best friend, and then a new manager had come in and become his main adviser,” Van Zandt, 70, told The Post about the conflict with Springsteen that he recounts in his new book “Unrequited Infatuations.”
“I thought he’s not really paying as much attention to my advice as much as he used to. I felt like I should be part of the official management team, and he just disagreed with that ’cause I was his little brother in his eyes. So I thought, to preserve the friendship, I think the best thing to do is to leave, so that’s when I split.”
The repercussions of that life-changing decision were severe for Van Zandt.
“It was career suicide. It was more than just changing jobs — it was the end of my life,” he said. “I mean, my life ended at that moment, and I had to start all over again. So it was heavy, it got very intense. It slowly dawned on me what I had done acting out of passion … We just made it, we just had our first success, and I walk away. I really felt like I’d blown my life.”
And it wasn’t the first time that Van Zandt had quit the E Street Band either, previously leaving right as “The River” sessions were beginning in 1979 “because of the torture of the previous two albums,” he said.
“It was no fun, you know, and I was like, ‘Man, I can’t do it again. I can’t do it.’ Bruce was going through a big transformation trying to find his own identity, and so there were endless conversations between him and his manager Jon [Landau] that we didn’t really understand at the time … He was going through a huge transformation to the persona and identity that he has been ever since, which was completely different than the persona that existed on ‘Born to Run.’ ”
That shift saw Springsteen transform from rebel to working-class hero.
But Van Zandt ended up staying after Springsteen gave him a chance to co-produce “The River.” “So I said then I’ll stick around because I’m gonna make sure that this thing is fun, ’cause I’m a journey not the destination guy.’ ”
After the 1984 split with the E Street Band, Van Zandt would rebuild his life, furthering his solo career — his “Voice of America” album was released the month before “Born in the U.S.A.” — while branching out into politics with his anti-apartheid “Sun City” project and then acting on “The Sopranos.” And he would ultimately rejoin Springsteen’s troupe in 1999.
And Van Zandt is ready to rock with the E Street Band when duty calls again. “Well, we’ll see. We’ll see what this virus brings ’cause it’s hard to plan with this thing,” he said.
“But I will be doing one of three things next year: I will either be doing a new TV show, or I will be doing [his solo project] Disciples of Soul, or I will be going out with the E Street Band. I give Bruce first priority so if that’s what he wants to do, then that’s what I’m gonna do. We’re all hoping to get back out there.”