The strange night that saw Janis Joplin try to seduce Bruce Springsteen

In the music industry, it’s not uncommon for stars to get the hots for each other. In fact, many of them have found lifelong partners this way, and the ones that didn’t often identify a way to channel their breakup anguish into their work. Janis Joplin had eyes for Bruce Springsteen one night in Asbury Park, which saw her attempt to stake her claim on the then-19-year-old after performing a set.

After Woodstock in 1969, Joplin performed a couple of shows at the Convention Hall in New Jersey. Performing in her band, the Kozmic Blues Band, Joplin endeavoured to deliver the performance of a lifetime, adorned in her signature 1960s counterculture attire with blood and veins no doubt filled with alcohol and heroin. Joplin’s addiction was riding high at the time, a journey which would ultimately lead to her death by overdose just one year later in 1970.

That night, however, Joplin’s free-spirited ways were on show for all to see. Between gigs, she apparently had to be coerced back on stage by her manager after getting distracted by various amusement rides surrounding the venue. As Monmouth Beach resident Glen Partusch recalled, at one point, they had to “drag her off the Tilt-a-Whirl” so that she could finish her set.

At this point, a young Springsteen was already making a significant impact on the local music scene. As a native of the Shore, Springsteen was playing frequent sets at venues like Asbury Park with his band, Child. After a number of rehearsals at the surfboard factory accompanied by their manager, Carl “Tinker” West, James Cotton, who was also playing with them at the time, invited them to watch Joplin’s show from backstage.

However, long rehearsals meant that they missed most of Joplin’s set, only turning up when she was performing the encore. Still, Springsteen’s presence didn’t go unnoticed by the singer, who made it her mission to approach him as soon as she finished performing. At this point, she apparently made a direct beeline for the musician and then “grabbed Bruce and wrapped her leg around him,” according to band member Vini “Mad Dog” Lopez.

According to Lopez, she “was giving him that look, like, ‘Where have you been all my life?’” But her manager urged Joplin to go back out for an encore.” Springsteen saw this as an opportunity to plot his escape, proceeding to locate the fire exit and move swiftly out of the door. Joplin, of course, wasn’t best pleased with this turn of events, as evidenced by her follow-up questioning asking where he was.

“It was like a cartoon,” Lopez said, recalling the strange unravelling. At the time, such displays of affection went without consequence, with Joplin finding no issue in showcasing her physical appreciation and even desire for the Boss. It clearly made him uncomfortable enough to remove himself from the situation, but his dignity remained in-tact even when he told his version of events to author Peter Ames Carlin. “Some whispering attention was paid, I guess,” Bruce told Carlin. “I was 19, had hair to my shoulders, was a big local star and carried myself like that.”

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