For musician, actor and author Rick Springfield, coming up with a list of the 10 most important records in his life proved to be no problem – until he came to the end. “I wish there were more than 10 slots,” he jokes, “because I have another 3,791 albums in mind.”
Although Springfield seems to keep adding credits and talents to his bulging resume, music was his first – and remains his most enduring – obsession. The son of an army officer, he grew up on military bases in England and Australia, spending just enough of his early teens in the UK to catch the first wave of Beatlemania firsthand. At the time, millions of parents were fighting losing battles over the influence of rock ‘n’ roll on their kids, but Springfield had it relatively easy on that front: His folks encouraged his interest in music – at first.
“They actually bought me my first guitar and helped me get others,” he says. "But when music began to interfere with my schoolwork, my mum got nervous. I started staying home from school so I could play guitar, and she started getting really scared. Eventually I was asked not to return to school, and she lost her mind.”
However, Springfield adds that when he was faced with the decision to join a band or redo 11th grade, his parents came around and told him to follow his musical dreams. “This was a revelation to me,” he says. "I’d never really thought I had an autonomous choice. They were champions from that moment on.”
Springfield’s adolescence also coincided with the emergence of the album as an art form, but the singer recalls that he was already a fan of the LP experience. “My first record had been an album,” he explains, “and then there was all the stuff my parents had, like Rodgers and Hammerstein shows, which were on albums. I grew up thinking that the single was the promo for the album.
“When The Beatles didn’t put singles on their albums in England and Australia, I couldn’t figure it out. Then I realized that they could write a hit song standing on their heads, and they didn’t need to use a successful single to have people buy their fucking unbelievably great albums.”
These days, whether he’s bouncing between tour dates and film locations or settling behind his computer (his 2010 memoir was a NY Times bestseller, and on May 6 he publishes his debut novel, Magnificent Vibration), Springfield listens to his massive music collection on his iPod. Not that he’s without a few gripes: “I hate iTunes with their controlling ‘you-can’t-play-this-song-on-this device-‘cause-you-didn’t-buy-it-from-us’ and their incredibly non-intuitive interface. Shuffle is a good feature, but most of the time I’ll put on a whole band or album.”
And as for the resurgence in vinyl, Springfield insists that he’s sitting this one out. “Frankly, I can’t be bothered with the vinyl thing, although I miss it desperately,” he says. “The whole art form was amazing, but it’s tough to go back to the farm once you’ve seen the city.” He’s also a big believer in keeping his iPhone and iPod separate: "I never put fave songs on my phone because the phone is always a call to action, and that turns the song I love into a strident ‘Answer the damn phone!’ scream.”
Springfield's debut novel, Magnificent Vibration (available May 6 from Touchstone), can be pre-ordered at this link. On the following pages, he runs down the 10 records that changed his life.