The Day Bruce Springsteen Tried to Crash Graceland
Things were a lot different in 1976. For one thing, Bruce Springsteen wasn't a huge star yet. For another, Elvis Presley, one of his biggest musical heroes, was still alive. All of this came crashing together on April 29 of that year, when Springsteen tried to get into Graceland, Presley's mansion in Memphis.
As Backstreets noted, Springsteen took a late-night cab ride to the King's home following his show in town supporting Born to Run, his third album and the one that would launch him into the spotlight. Noticing a light on inside, Springsteen – along with E Street Band guitarist, longtime pal and fellow Elvis fan Steven Van Zandt – jumped the gated wall marking the entrance to the mansion and ran to the front door in hopes of meeting his lifelong idol. (Springsteen has also said onstage that he had hoped to pass on a new song he wrote specifically for Presley, "Fire," though some sources claim it was written in 1977 after Springsteen saw Presley in concert in Philadelphia that year.)
But as Elvis Australia pointed out, it didn't go as planned. Security stopped Springsteen before he had a chance to even knock on the door and asked what was going on. Springsteen inquired, "Is Elvis home?" He was told, "No, Elvis isn't home, he's in Lake Tahoe" – which apparently was true. It was also 3AM, so even if he was home, he probably wasn't going to open his door to two guys who just jumped over the wall to get some face time with him.
Springsteen then explained that he was recently on the cover of both Newsweek and Time (and – maybe, it's hard to tell since the truth has been distorted over the years – that he had a song he thought would be perfect for Presley). Security, unimpressed by the scruffy musician, escorted him and Van Zandt out to the other side of the gates.
Listen to Bruce Springsteen Perform 'Fire'
Over the years, Springsteen has told this story in concert, often serving as an introduction to one of his songs. "I couldn’t imagine anyone not wanting to be Elvis Presley," he once said, pinpointing the source of his musical obsessions and relentless drive. Look closely at the cover of Born to Run, and you'll see a button – which says "Elvis the King, King's Court, Elvis Presley, Fan Club of N.Y.C." – hanging from Springsteen's guitar strap.
Springsteen never met Presley, who died on Aug. 16, 1977. He ended up recording "Fire" on his own for Darkness on the Edge of Town (but it didn't make the final cut) and performing it during his 1978 tour. A live version of the song showed up on the Live 1975–85 box in 1986, though it wouldn't appear in a studio version until 2010's The Promise set. Both Robert Gordon and the Pointer Sisters released singles of "Fire" in 1978, with the latter taking the song all the way to No. 2.
But Presley reportedly knew of Springsteen and his music. As one of his childhood friends, George "GK" Klein, recounted on SiriusXM's Elvis Radio, "He liked Springsteen. ... [Springsteen] came on the scene real quick and hard and heavy, and Elvis liked [him] because he was a rock 'n' roller."
"I used to wonder what I would have said if I had knocked on the door and if Elvis had come to the door," Springsteen once related onstage. "Because it really wasn't Elvis I was going to see, but it was like he came along and whispered some dream in everybody's ear and somehow we all dreamed it."