This was Rolling Stone’s cover story with Bruce Springsteen from 35 years ago, reported during the week that Darkness at the Edge of Town was released. It’s long and amazing and well worth the long read.
But especially this part:
Sunday night, driving up the Strip on the way to see The Buddy Holly Story, Bruce had first noticed the billboard looming above a seven-story building just west of the Continental Hyatt House. Billboards are a Hollywood institution–they’re put up for every significant album and concert appearance–and this one uses the Darkness cover photo, poorly cropped, to promote both the new record and the group’s Forum appearance tomorrow night. As we passed this enormous monument, which rears up forty feet above the building, Bruce had groaned and slumped in his seat. “That is the ughiest thing I’ve ever seen in my life,” he said.
The billboard is only a few blocks up the street. According to all accounts, Springsteen, Clemons, bass guitarist Garry Tallent and several crew members approached with some stealth the office building on which the billboard is perched. Much to their surprise, the building was wide open, and the elevator quickly took them to the roof. There, McHale, perhaps figuring that cleverness is better than a bust, quickly organized them. There were twenty cans of black spray paint, quickly distributed, and Bruce, Garry and Clarence quickly took positions on the paperhangers’ ledge. Bell was positioned across the street to watch for cops. At a signal from McHale, the painting began: Prove It All Night spread across the billboard from edge to edge, the middle words nearly lost in the dark photo of Bruce. Then Bruce stood on Clemons’ shoulders and painted another legend above Night: E Street, it said. As they were clambering down, a signal came–the cops. Some headed back for the elevator, but Bruce, Clarence and McHale left Cagney-style, down the outside fire escape. It was a false alarm anyway.
In the hotel lobby at a quarter to three, Bruce is exhilarated. “You shoulda been there,” he says, running over the event like a successful general fresh from battle. Was he worried about getting caught? “Naw,” he says. “I figured if they caught us, that was great, and if we got away with it, that was even better.” He looks down at himself, hands black with paint, boots ruinously dusty from the beach, and laughs. “There it is,” he says. “Physical evidence.… The only thing is, I wanted to get to my face, and paint on a mustache. But it was just too damn high.” He terms the paint job “an artistic improvement.”
Also highly recommended: the documentary about making this album that came out a few years ago. (Looks like it’s on YouTube in 3 parts here.)