Stan Goldstein isn’t afraid to admit it.
When his 12-year-old self was perusing the album collection at the old Two Guys department store in Neptune City on a January day in 1973, he likely was looking for the latest release from … the Partridge Family.
“Or maybe the Osmonds,” he said with a laugh.
Then, he saw it.
An album cover that said, “Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J.”
“I was like, ‘Who did an album about Asbury Park?’’’ Goldstein recalled. “I had no idea who Bruce Springsteen was. I just saw a picture of a postcard and I said, ‘I know that boardwalk.’”
Everyone knows that boardwalk today. Just as everyone knows the artist.
On Thursday, the 50th anniversary of the release of Springsteen’s debut album and its famed cover, we thought we’d check in with the man we think knows as much about Bruce and Asbury Park as anyone.
It’s not just that Goldstein is a lifelong Shore resident. Or that he estimates he has seen Bruce perform — either with big crowds on concert tours or at smaller Shore venues such as the Stone Pony or the Wonder Bar — approximately 400 times.
Most of us know a few superfans who can make similar claims.
No one can match this: For nearly 25 years, Goldstein and his business partner, Jean Mikle, have given more than a thousand personal tours showing off the musical hot spots of Asbury Park and the Jersey Shore.
Want to take the Bruce tour?
The Rock & Roll Tour of the Jersey Shore, run by Stan Goldstein and Jean Mikle, is a private tour for 1-4 people, lasting two or four hours. The tour, which makes up to three dozen stops in the Asbury Park area, is a salute to Bruce Springsteen’s life in music and connection to the area.
It’s by appointment only and costs $150 (for two hours) or $250 (for four hours). Click here for more information.
The Rock & Roll Tour of the Jersey Shore has enthralled fans near and far, including from more than two dozen countries around the world.
The tour makes mention of Southside Johnny, Bon Jovi and a few others. But the two- or four-hour trips through music history are mostly a tribute to Springsteen and the area that helped propel him to stardom.
Goldstein tells tourgoers that Bruce’s love of the area is what sparked the famous cover.
“After Bruce got signed by Columbia Records in 1972, he saw the postcard in a store on the Asbury Park boardwalk,” Goldstein said. “He took it to Columbia Records and said, ‘This is what I want the album cover to be.’
“Bruce was proud he was from New Jersey. That’s why he put it out there.”
Goldstein said the cover always brings the same questions from tourgoers:
Can I get the postcard? Yes, they still sell them.
Is there a billboard that has it? No, but there is a sign inside the Stone Pony where you can take a picture of it.
Believe it or not, it’s not the most sought-after picture location.
Goldstein and Mikle, journalists and Bruce fans who met in the 1980s when they both were working at the Asbury Park Press, take tourgoers to up to three dozen places. Three stand out the most:
The corner of E Street and 10th Avenue in Belmar: This is the most popular photo spot. Goldstein calls it the Abbey Road shot for Bruce fans. E Street obviously is the impetus for Springsteen’s band — but don’t jump to the conclusion that this 10th Avenue is the site of the “Freeze-Out.” Goldstein said he and Mikle still don’t know for sure (there’s a location in New York City that also lays claim) and, as journalists, they insist their tour be fact-based.
The Stone Pony in Asbury Park: There’s no argument that it is one of the most famous bars in the world, Goldstein said. Tourgoers will take pictures inside and out and buy souvenirs. “There’s a sign outside that says Stone Pony Asbury Park, New Jersey, USA, and sometimes I’ll just watch it to see how people just take one picture after another in front. It’s sort of like the Cavern Club with the Beatles in Liverpool.” Goldstein said the club owners are friendly to fans. “Unless there’s a band rehearsing, they always are very welcoming,” he said.
The Transparent Clinch Gallery in Asbury Park: The famed rock-and-roll photographer, Danny Clinch, has a gallery that’s open to the public. In addition to shots of many clients (Foo Fighters and Pearl Jam, among others), there is lots of Bruce art, including old covers and a wall mural that fans can stand in front of to get a picture of themselves with Springsteen. Goldstein salutes the gallery, too. “They’re incredibly welcoming,” he said. “They know that people come from all over the world just to see things connected to Bruce.”
There are plenty of other highlights, including:
Convention Hall in Asbury Park: A frequent stop of Springsteen’s, but also where tourgoers learn that Led Zeppelin played there on Aug. 16, 1969 — a Saturday on which seemingly all other big acts of the day were in upstate New York playing at something called the Woodstock Music and Art Fair.
Porta in Asbury Park: It’s an Italian restaurant on Kingsley Street now, but in the early ’70s, it was a bar called the Student Prince — the place where Clarence Clemons walked in and heard a young Bruce (before he had a record deal) play for the first time.
Stan’s ‘Best of Bruce’
We asked Stan Goldstein to name his favorite efforts by Bruce Springsteen:
Song: ‘Meeting Across the River’ from the ‘Born to Run’ album. A somewhat obscure and simple song, great lyric: ‘Change your shirt, ’cause tonight we got style.’
Album: ‘Born to Run.’ Only eight songs on there; each one of them is superb: ‘Thunder Road,’ ‘Born to Run,’ ‘Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out,’ etc.
Tour: Tough one. I’m going to go back to 1984-85 — the ‘Born in the U.S.A.’ tour. We were all a lot younger. Bruce and the band were on top of the world and so were his fans. The energy at the shows was off the charts.
The Asbury Park Casino and Carousel House: A landmark that is used in the photo (taken by Clinch) that serves as the tour poster for Springsteen’s upcoming tour.
Madame Marie’s Temple of Knowledge: The fortune teller referenced in the song “4th of July, Asbury Park (Sandy)” on Springsteen’s second album. Yes, it’s still open — run by the granddaughter of the fortune teller Bruce originally wrote about.
The Wonder Bar in Asbury Park: It’s where Bruce is known to hang out when he’s in town. “He’s always glad to take pictures with fans when he is there,” Goldstein said.
The Born to Run house in Long Branch: It’s a little house where Bruce lived when he wrote the entire “Born to Run” album.
Goldstein doesn’t have to think twice when asked what is the No. 1 question he gets from tourgoers. There are two:
Do you know Bruce — and are we going to see him on the tour?
The answers: Yes (a little) and maybe (it’s happened a handful of times before).
Goldstein is not going to pretend he and Springsteen are great friends. They are not close like that. But Springsteen certainly knows of Goldstein and the tour — and, like so many of his super fans, Goldstein has seen him up close (on tour and at bars) over the years.
A few years back, Goldstein said Springsteen was kind enough to sit with him and answer questions about his music and his connection to Asbury Park. It’s another reason why Goldstein is proud the tour is fact-based.
As for seeing him when he’s out?
“It’s happened about a half-dozen times,” he said. “We go to the places that Bruce goes, so we’ll see him there, or just passing him when he’s walking down the street. But we never stop and bother him.”
The tours cost $250 (four hours) or $150 (two hours) and serve up to four people. (The cost is the same regardless of the number of people).
There’s also a book (in its fourth edition) that fans can buy.
Goldstein said he and Mikle know they could make more money (“We see what other private tours in other cities charge,” he said).
But, it’s never been about that. It’s a labor of love. And it’s not a full-time job.
“We both have day jobs, so, we mostly give tours on the weekend,” Goldstein said.
The two occasionally do tours together (if there’s only one or two people), but they usually operate separately. They have rented out a bus to do larger tours. It’s just one of the ways they always aim to be accommodating.
“A lot of people come from New York City, so we’ll pick them up and then drop them back off at the train station,” he said.
A lot come from overseas, too. Aside from Canada, Great Britain would have the most tourgoers. And there are plenty from Europe, South America, Oceania and the Far East.
“We have a group of six people coming from Japan in April,” he said. “We’re really looking forward to that.”
As they are for Bruce’s upcoming tour.
Goldstein said he’ll be in Tampa, Florida, for opening night Feb. 1. And then, he’ll be at almost all of the local shows: Madison Square Garden, the UBS Arena on Long Island, Mohegan Sun Arena in Connecticut and, of course, the Prudential Center on April 14.
Yes, we asked, and he had some thoughts on the ticket price fiasco.
“I don’t mind the prices — get what you can,” Goldstein said. “But I was bothered that the prices kept changing in the queue. When Bruce played Broadway, the best seats were $850, and you had to decide whether that was worth it. But the price never changed.”
Goldstein has a simple answer when asked why he’s done the Jersey Shore tour for so long.
“I’ve always been a tourist myself,” he said. “I love seeing new places — and I love showing people the Jersey Shore.
“I love sharing my knowledge of Bruce, showing them the sites in the area that are associated with him and seeing their enthusiasm.
“There’s nothing greater than when we let people out of the car to take photos and then watch them share them instantly. It’s just so cool.”
It takes Goldstein back to his childhood and his fandom.
No, not that visit to Two Guys (he didn’t buy the album that day). Or even his first Bruce concert at the Monmouth Arts Center (think Count Basie Theatre) in August 1976.
It wasn’t until May 1977 that Goldstein got hooked. And it was quite by accident.
“Southside Johnny was playing some shows at the Monmouth Arts Center, but he got sick,” he said. “So, Bruce and Steve Van Zandt took over for Southside and were the lead singers for the show. That, I always say, was officially when I got my calling.
“You could just see the magnetism that Bruce had over the audience. It was like, ‘This guy is just head and shoulders above everybody else.’”
For Goldstein, the 50th anniversary of the release of “Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J.” will bring back a lot of those memories.
It also will serve as another reminder that, like Bruce, he’s no longer a young punk hanging out on the Jersey Shore boardwalk.
Of course, that revelation has been tied more and more to Bruce events lately.
The huge group of Bruce superfans that Goldstein is a part of — a group with members from all over the world — is not the same as it was. Unfortunately, the group photos are smaller.
“When I look at some photos now from old shows, I start saying, ‘He’s gone, she’s gone,’” he said. “That makes me appreciate this more and more.”
Bruce, of course, sums it up better, Goldstein said. Always has.
Stan’s favorite Bruce moment
In January 1980, when Stan Goldstein was in college, he went to the Fast Lane, a bar on 4th Avenue in Asbury Park that’s no longer there. A cover band from Sayreville, the Atlantic City Expressway, was doing Bruce Springsteen and Southside Johnny cover songs. When they started playing “The Promised Land,” Bruce himself jumped on stage and performed with the energic lead singer in front of a crowd of about 150, Goldstein estimates. Years later, Goldstein learned how special that moment was. The lead singer was Jon Bon Jovi, then in his senior year at Sayreville High School.
It’s no longer about, “Getting out while we’re young.”
“I’m 62 now,” he said. “I’m reminded of Bruce’s album, ‘Letter to You,’ where he was thinking about mortality.”
It doesn’t take long for Goldstein to snap back to the present day — and the opportunities it presents.
Bruce’s spring tour already is bringing a flood of requests for the Rock & Roll Tour of the Jersey Shore. And Goldstein is hopeful, even confident, that Bruce will add more shows later in the year, perhaps a stadium show or three at MetLife Stadium.
You can bet he’ll be there, finding new tidbits that he can tell customers as they drive around Asbury Park. The conversation, he notes, goes both ways.
“Everybody has their own Springsteen stories,” he said. “And I love listening to them as much as I love telling them.”