With the success of singles such as Human Touch and the Grammy-winning Jessie’s Girl, albums like 1983’s Living In Oz and Tao two years later, and also through his role in major US soap General Hospital, Aussie Rick Springfield was a big part of our culture during the 80s.
But his story is far from one of smooth triumph. Payola rumours threatened to derail his musical career in the 70s. He was dropped by two labels before finally getting his big breakthrough. Moreover, his heart-throb status in General Hospital made acceptance as a serious artist almost impossible. Matters weren’t helped by an ongoing battle against depression.
All of which meant that by the mid-1980s he looked to have shot his bolt as far as the rock world was concerned. Yet Springfield, who has never stopped recording and touring, seems to be enjoying a resurrection. New album Venus In Overdrive is his best in years, he’s back in General Hospital, albeit in a more developed role, and his private life has stabilised.
Does it irritate you that you weren’t taken seriously in the 1980s?
It depends on your viewpoint. I guess being in _General Hospital _didn’t help my credibility with some. But then an album like Living In Oz picked me up quite a big following in colleges.
Was it tough to see your musical career almost drift away after about 1984?
Did it drift away? That’s not the way I recall things. The problem was that when I made the Tao album it was a bit of a flop in America, although it sold well in Europe. And there were those who saw me as losing focus. In reality I’ve always reacted to my own heartbeat. I’m the only one who knows whether I’ve been drifting.
You went through severe depression while having your massive success. How did you cope?
Through my music. Around the time of Tao it became cathartic. I found it tough to cope with everything, even the fact that I was making so much money when there were so many poor people around. I was really lost spiritually, finding a way through my music to get a foothold back in reality. Music led to therapy, and to dealing with the problem. The music was vital.
Do you see yourself these days as an actor who plays music, or vice versa?
It would always be a musician who also acts. I take a guitar with me on set, and I live for my music 24 hours a day.
Venus In Overdrive seems a more positive record than anything you’ve done in years. Is Rick Springfield happy these days?
Well I’m still the loner who sits in a corner at parties and wants to keep myself to myself. It’s on stage where I party. But I am very happy in the greater scheme of things. There are a few songs on _Venus In Overdrive, _which are dark and talking about negative things in my life, but for the most part I’m done with moping through my music. It’s time to move on.
Do you embrace modern technology?
I know why you’re asking: on the song_ Human Touch_ [from Living In Oz] I warned of computers taking over everything, and said that we should be wary of technology. However, that never meant I was against technology. In fact I’ve always loved it. All I was saying – and still do – is that we shouldn’t let technology overwhelm us.
Finally, does Rick Springfield like meeting fans?
I’m always aware that people say you should never meet your heroes, because they’ll always let you down. So I try to be as polite as I can to everyone. However, all I’d say is that my music represents the best part of me. If you want to know Rick Springfield, just listen to my albums. That’s the man you want to know.
This was published in Classic Rock issue 124
Rick Springfield’s birthday is on August 23
Read a full feature on Springfield’s career here