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This Springsteen superfan has been to 150 shows. Now he has a movie, 'Blinded by the Light'

  • August 12, 2019

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Viveik Kalra stars as a British teenager in 1987 whose life is changed when he hears the tunes of Bruce Springsteen in “Blinded by the Light.”
USA TODAY

NEW YORK – There’s Bruce Springsteen fans, and then there’s Sarfraz Manzoor. 

The genial British journalist has seen The Boss in concert more than 150 times since he was a teenager growing up in the working-class town of Luton, England, in the mid-1980s. He wrote about his extreme devotion, and his experience as a son of Pakistani immigrants, in the 2007 memoir “Greetings from Bury Park,” which he has since adapted into joyous coming-of-age movie “Blinded by the Light” (in theaters Friday).

How did Manzoor, 48, afford that many shows? And was it tough to get Springsteen’s blessing to use so many of his biggest hits in the film? We sat down with the author-turned-screenwriter to get some answers. 

As a young fan, how did he pay for it?  

Like his character in the movie, Javed (Viveik Kalra), Manzoor was introduced to Springsteen’s music at age 16 when his friend gave him a “Born to Run” cassette and bought a ticket to his 1988 Tunnel of Love Express tour soon after. Moving back home and working in TV news after college, “I had a pretty good disposable income and I didn’t have any relationships, so this is what I’d do instead of taking a holiday or buying fancy clothes,” Manzoor says. 

From 1992 to 2005, Manzoor says he went to every single Springsteen show in Britain, and would even travel around to Spain and France for concerts with his friends.

“We’d glimpse the Eiffel Tower and then spend all day standing outside the stadium waiting to see Bruce,” he says. “It was our idea of fun and didn’t seem like that much money because we weren’t spending it on anything else.” 

Why so many concerts? 

That camaraderie with other Boss fans is part of what has kept Manzoor coming back. “You’re all together, so there’s a sense of, ‘These are my people,’ ” he says. Plus, “there’s the simple thing that from 8 to 11 o’clock, you know you will have the best, most exuberant, jubilant, powerful, moving and profound time you’ve ever had. That is guaranteed, because he changes it up every night and he doesn’t do a bad performance. (Knowing that), why would you not do it? So that’s why I do it, because there’s nothing that seems more fun than being in that room.” 

Does his family also love Bruce Springsteen? 

Manzoor’s fandom is shared somewhat by his wife, a speech therapist, who tags along to some Springsteen shows but more or less “just loves the fact that I’m passionate,” he says. He has managed to indoctrinate his 7-year-old daughter: “I sing Springsteen to her every night, that’s my lullaby for her. She loves ‘Glory Days,’ and once sang all the lyrics to ‘Dancing in the Dark’ while bouncing on a trampoline at the age of 2, but called it ‘Bouncing in the Dark.’ So that was very cute. I thought I’d done a good job.” 

How did he meet The Boss? 

Manzoor first met Springsteen in 1998, when the singer filed a lawsuit against a British record label over the unauthorized release of early recordings. Manzoor was covering the case in London as a journalist, “and so every time the court would be adjourned for 15 minutes, I’d be sitting next to Bruce and we’d chat about things,” he says. 

The Boss soon began to recognize Manzoor in the front row of his shows, and complimented him on his memoir when they spotted each other at a book event in 2010. After meeting director Gurinder Chadha years later and deciding to collaborate on a film adaptation, Manzoor wrote his idol what was essentially a 1,000-word fan latter asking for music rights. 

“I remember quoting his own lyrics, saying, ‘You’ve always talked about the broken spirits of all the ones who lost, so this film is about honoring the broken spirits of the ones who lost in my (working-class) community,’ ” Manzoor says. Three weeks later, he heard back from Springsteen’s team “and Bruce said, ‘I’m all good with this.’ “ 

Are they friends now? 

Manzoor says he’s not texting buddies with The Boss (yet), although he got to go backstage during his “Springsteen on Broadway” residency in New York last year. The singer has also endorsed “Blinded by the Light” since it debuted with glowing reviews (93% positive on Rotten Tomatoes) at Sundance Film Festival in January, even performing at the movie’s premiere last week in his adopted hometown of Asbury Park, New Jersey. 

“It’s mind-blowing, this idea that somebody whose work has meant a lot to me now recognizes my work – not just as a fan, but somebody who has their own story,” Manzoor says. “That’s kind of a crazy place to get to.” 

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Springsteen, third from left, acknowledges fans on the beach in Asbury Park, N.J., after performing at the Convention Hall with the E Street band on July 30, 2002, on NBC’s “Today.” Roy Bittan, left, Clarence Clemons, Springsteen, Patti Scialfa, Steve Van Zandt, Garry Talent, and Danny Federici. Federici, a founding member of the E Street Band, died in 2008 of melanoma. Daniel Hulshizer, APSpringsteen joined the nine-show 2004 Vote for Change concert tour of musical artists hoping to accomplish a single goal: to get people to the polls on Nov. 2 to vote for change. Stone Gossard, left, (Pearl Jam), Boyd Tinsley (Dave Matthews Band), Jackson Browne, Martie Maguire (Dixie Chicks), Steven Van Zandt (Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band), Dave Matthews (Dave Matthews Band), Springsteen, Emily Robison (Dixie Chicks), Patti Scialfa (Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band), Eddie Vedder (Pearl Jam), Bonnie Raitt, Ben Gibbard (Death Cab for Cutie), John Mellencamp, Nick Harmer (Death Cab for Cutie) and Mike Mills (R.E.M.) Danny Clinch, Vote for ChangeSpringsteen walks off the stage with, from left, his aunt Dora Kirby, 90, mother Adele Springsteen, 85, and aunt Ida Urbelis, 87, after being honored at the Ellis Island Family Heritage Awards on April 22, 2010, on Ellis Island in New York. Jason DeCrow, AP

  • It's the Boss's birthday and he's still rocking! Born1 of 58
  • Of course he can work Broadway too, he's the Boss!2 of 58
  • Bruce Springsteen performs with Jake Clemons, left,3 of 58
  • Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band performs at4 of 58
  • Bruce Springsteen, right, performs at the Count Basie5 of 58
  • Bruce Springsteen performs during a Hillary Clinton6 of 58
  • He still brings massive crowds. Bruce Springsteen performs7 of 58
  • Longtime friends, Tom Hanks and Bruce Springsteen,8 of 58
  • Bruce Springsteen waves to fans after Tribeca Talks:9 of 58
  • Springsteen often lends his supports to causes he believes10 of 58
  • Bruce keeps his family and friends close. Springsteen,11 of 58
  • Springsteen and wife Patti Scialfa take in the scene12 of 58
  • New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival -- Bruce Springsteen,13 of 58
  • On Sept. 30, Springsteen set a new record for his longest14 of 58
  • The Boss has a busy fall ahead, publishing his memoir15 of 58
  • Springsteen and his longtime saxophone player, Clarence Clemons, are captured in a concert photo that mirrors the cover of the August 1975 album Born To Run during the third stop of the tour promoting the record at Music Inn in Lenox, Mass., on July 23, 1975.16 of 58
  • Springsteen played 10 shows over five nights at The Bottom Line in New York in August 1975. The first night's opening set was aired live on WNEW-FM.17 of 58
  • Springsteen and the E Street Band in a circa 1978 photo promoting the Darkness on the Edge of Town album: Roy Bittan, left, Clarence Clemons, Garry Tallent, Max Weinberg, Springsteen, Miami Steve Van Zandt and Danny Federici.18 of 58
  • Springsteen in concert at the Montreal Forum in November 1978 during the tour supporting the release of the album Darkness on the Edge of Town.19 of 58
  • Springsteen, bottom right, participates in the Jan. 28, 1985, recording of the song We are the World, a benefit single for famine relief in Africa. Nearly four dozen music stars took part in the session. Springsteen also donated a live single, Trapped, for the album release.20 of 58
  • On June 4, 1984, Springsteen released his seventh studio album, Born in the USA. The first single, Dancing in the Dark, became his first video and featured a young Courteney Cox.21 of 58
  • Clarence Clemons and Springsteen perform with The E Street Band at Giants Stadium during the Born in the USA tour on Aug. 21, 1985 in East Rutherford, N.J. Springsteen's buffed up physique was a marked change from the skinny beach bum from 10 years prior.22 of 58
  • Springsteen played to some 300,000 East Germans thirsting for freedom on July 19, 1988, in East Berlin. Years later Springsteen would call it one of the most memorable shows of his career.23 of 58
  • pMTV Unplugged: Bruce Springsteen in Concert (Plugged) was broadcast on Nov. 11, 1992. Keyboard player Roy Bittan and Springsteen's wife Patty Scialfa (pictured) were the only familiar faces in the band. Bruce had chosen to tour with a group of studio musicians and would not play regularly with the rest of the E Street Band again until 1999./p24 of 58
  • Springsteen won the Oscar for best original song for Streets of Philadelphia from the film Philadelphia at the Academy Awards on March 21, 1994. This is the first song I ever wrote for a motion picture, so I guess it's all downhill from here, ya know? Springsteen quipped as he began his thank-you remarks. The late Whitney Houston presented Springsteen with the trophy.25 of 58
  • Springsteen won four Grammys on March 1, 1995, all for Streets of Philadelphia.26 of 58
  • Springsteen and Chuck Berry perform Berry's classic Johnny B. Goode at the opening concert for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland. The foreword to Berry's autobiography is an interview with Springsteen recounting his band backing Berry up at a single concert in the early '70s.27 of 58
  • Clemons, Nils Lofgren, Springsteen and Steve Van Zandt perform on the first night of a series of concerts in his home state of New Jersey during the band's 1999 reunion tour.28 of 58
  • Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band pause for a group photo before a 2001 show. Nils Lofgren, left, Roy Bittan, Steven Zandt, Max Weinberg, Patty Scialfa, Springsteen, Clarence Clemons, Danny Federici and Garry Tallent.29 of 58
  • On July 30, 2002, Springsteen released The Rising. His first studio album with the full E Street Band since 1987, the songs were Springsteen's response to 9/11.30 of 58
  • Springsteen, third from left,  acknowledges fans on the beach in Asbury Park, N.J., after performing at the Convention Hall with the E Street band on July 30, 2002, on NBC's Today. Roy Bittan, left, Clarence Clemons, Springsteen, Patti Scialfa, Steve Van Zandt, Garry Talent, and Danny Federici. Federici, a founding member of the E Street Band, died in 2008 of melanoma.31 of 58
  • Springsteen, Scialfa and Van Zandt perform in Rutherford, N.J., during the Rising tour.32 of 58
  • Just a couple of punks, Springsteen, left, and Elvis Costello perform during a  tribute to Joe Strummer and the Clash at the Grammy Awards on Feb. 23, 2003, in New York.33 of 58
  • Springsteen joined the nine-show 2004 Vote for Change concert tour of musical artists hoping to accomplish a single goal: to get people to the polls on Nov. 2 to vote for change. Stone Gossard, left, (Pearl Jam), Boyd Tinsley (Dave Matthews Band), Jackson Browne, Martie Maguire (Dixie Chicks), Steven Van Zandt (Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band), Dave Matthews (Dave Matthews Band), Springsteen, Emily Robison (Dixie Chicks), Patti Scialfa (Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band), Eddie Vedder (Pearl Jam), Bonnie Raitt, Ben Gibbard (Death Cab for Cutie), John Mellencamp, Nick Harmer (Death Cab for Cutie) and Mike Mills (R.E.M.)34 of 58
  • Springsteen campaigned for presidential candidate John Kerry during a rally at the Columbus campus of Ohio State University on Oct. 28, 2004.35 of 58
  • Springsteen taped a solo acoustic performance for VH1 Storytellers on April 4, 2005, at Two River Theater in Red Bank, N.J. The concert featured Springsteen telling the stories behind the writing of some of his songs.36 of 58
  • Springsteen took the Storytellers format on the road for his Devils amp; Dust tour including a stop in Goteborg, Sweden, on June 23, 2005.37 of 58
  • Springsteen gathered an eclectic assortment of musicians for the April 2006 release, We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions, a collection of traditional folk songs. Ironically, the album did not include any of Pete Seeger's own compositions.38 of 58
  • Springsteen performs with Steve Earle on the final number during an all-star tribute to his music in New York's Carnegie Hall on April 5, 2007. Funds raised from the concert were used to support music education programs.39 of 58
  • Clarence Clemons and Springsteen perform on NBC's Today in New York's Rockefeller Center. Clemons died from a stroke in Florida at age 69 on June 18, 2011.40 of 58
  • Then the Democratic presidential nominee, Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle, join Springsteen and his wife, Patti Scialfa, onstage during a campaign rally at the Cleveland Mall on Nov. 2, 2008, in Cleveland.41 of 58
  • Springsteen and Mickey Rourke pose with their Golden Globe Awards on Jan 11, 2009. Rourke won the best-actor trophy for The Wrestler and Springsteen best song for the song of the same name.42 of 58
  • Springsteen and the E Street Band  put on a 12-minute-plus show at halftime during the 2009 Super Bowl in Tampa.43 of 58
  • If Clarence Clemons was Springsteen's onstage foil, Steven Van Zant (aka Little Steven and/or Miami Steve) serves as musical consigliere. Here the two get close during the Working On A Dream tour stop in Glendale, Ariz.44 of 58
  • Joan Baez, left, Bruce Springsteen, Patti Scialfa,45 of 58
  • Kennedy Center honorees Bruce Springsteen, right, and Robert De Niro share a smile in the East Room of the White House after receiving their honors on Dec. 6, 2009.46 of 58
  • Springsteen walks off the stage with, from left, his aunt Dora Kirby, 90, mother Adele Springsteen, 85, and aunt Ida Urbelis, 87, after being honored at the Ellis Island Family Heritage Awards on April 22, 2010, on Ellis Island in New York.47 of 58
  • Springsteen joins Sting on stage during STING: 25th Anniversary/60th Birthday Concert to Benefit the Robin Hood Foundation at the Beacon Theatre on Oct. 1, 2011, in New York.48 of 58
  • Springsteen gets props from Joe Walsh, Rusty Anderson and Paul McCartney during the McCartney-led finale at the Grammy Awards in Los Angeles on Feb. 12, 2012.49 of 58
  • Springsteen delivers the keynote speech at the SXSW Music, Film + Interactive Festival on March 15, 2012, in Austin.50 of 58
  • Springsteen performs at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival on April 29, 2012. His song We Take Care of Our Own, off the 2012 release Wrecking Ball, was in part a response to the aftermath of 2005's Hurricane Katrina.51 of 58
  • Carl Beams, volunteer, and visitor Jane Murphy, from Durham, N.H., check out the Bruce Springsteen Special Collection Archive at Monmouth University in West Long Branch, N.J. The school, located near Springsteen's hometown, maintains an archive of more than 15,000 documents.52 of 58
  • Springsteen performs at the sixth annual Stand Up For Heroes benefit concert for injured service members and veterans on Nov. 8, 2012, in New York. Springsteen's support of veterans dates to the '80s when he began speaking out about Vietnam-era vets.53 of 58
  • A couple of Jersey boys, Springsteen and Jon Bon Jovi, perform at 12-12-12: The Concert for Sandy Relief in New York on Dec. 12, 2012. Proceeds from the show were distributed through the Robin Hood Foundation.54 of 58
  • Springsteen performs with Jake Clemons, nephew of the late Clarence Clemons, at the Hard Rock Calling Festival in London on June 30, 2013. Jake proved to be a popular replacement for his uncle at the band's live shows.55 of 58
  • Springsteen, left, and Jimmy Fallon perform a parody version of Springsteen's 1975 song Born to Run with lyrics that reflect on New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's involvement in the so-called Ft. Lee bridge scandal on Late Night With Jimmy Fallon on Jan. 14, 2014.56 of 58
  • On April 10, 2014, the members of The E Street Band were inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame. Springsteen was inducted as a solo artist in 1999. Several original band members including Davis Sancious, second from left, and Vini Mad Dog Lopez, were present as well as bassist Garry Tallent, second from right, the only remaining original member of the band.57 of 58
  • Bruce Springsteen performs with the E Street Band on May 17, 2014, at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn. It was the next-to-the-last show of a two-year world tour that played nearly 170 dates.58 of 58

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