From an early age, Bruce Springsteen clearly possessed both the talent and confidence to hit it big as a musician. Years before “Born to Run” launched him to stardom, he played guitar in a local New Jersey band called The Castiles – and he sounded like he already knew what he was.
(Photo by Billy Smith via castiles.net. Bruce is on the far left.)
Springsteen’s first studio recording, at the ripe age of 16, consisted of 2 tracks with The Castiles. On May 18, 1966, the band went to Mr. Music Inc in Bricktown, New Jersey, which the New Yorker calls a “shopping-mall recording studio.”
According to Castiles.net, they had half an hour to record both songs, and Springsteen wrote them with bandmate George Theiss on the drive to the studio.
The Castiles released their first single, “That’s What You Get,” on May 22. It obviously didn’t propel the Castiles to success, but it was a sign of things to come for Springsteen.
Take a listen in the video at the top of the page, and check out the other track they recorded in that session, “Baby I,” here:
A 2004 NPR story features other rare live recordings from the Castiles’ 1967 show and interviews with former bandmates. These clips, from the Left Foot in Freehold, N.J., are believed to be the oldest live recordings of Springsteen performing.
At times you can clearly hear Springsteen’s vocals, and they are the same visceral yowls you hear at his stadium shows. You can also tell the band was legit, including Springsteen’s guitars that did an admirable, if not impressive job covering Hendrix – which is a challenge for anyone to do well. This doesn’t sound like a bunch of kids banging on their instruments; this sounds like the work of a pro.
The recordings also feature their bombastic instrumental intro, which led right into the first song. It shows that Springsteen simply knew how to put on a show and had the “it” factor necessary to hit it big as rock star, even as a 17-year-old high school kid.
(Left to right: George Theiss, Vinny Maniello, Bruce Springsteen, Paul Popkin, Curt Fluhr. Photo via castiles.net.)
Sometimes you can just tell someone’s legit by simply watching and listening. Listen below for a clip of the band performing Jimi Hendrix’s “Purple Haze” at a N.J. club on September 16, 1967, just one week shy of Springsteen’s 18th birthday.
(A rare copy of the Castiles’ only recorded single: “Baby I” / “That’s What You Get,” signed by Bruce Springsteen for Billy Smith. His signature reads: “For Billy. Here’s the first!” Photo via castiles.net.)
(Photo by Billy Smith via castiles.net.)
More photos at Castiles.net.