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Rick Springfield is back to being cool

For Journal Register Newspapers

» See more SOUND CHECK

AUSTIN, Texas -- When a someone as cool as Dave Grohl tells a crowd "I want to BE [cq] Rick Springfield," that's a pretty heady testimonial.

The Foo Fighters leader did just that -- adding a "Please Rick. Please?" to the declaration -- during last week's final show by the Sound City Players, an ad hoc supergroup put together to help promote Grohl's recording studio documentary "Sound City: Real to Reel," at the South By Southwest Music + Media Conference in Austin, Texas. This was after the crowd went nuts for Springfield's 80s hits such as "I've Done Everything For You," "Love is Alright Tonight" and, of course, Grammy Award-winning smash "Jessie's Girl."

In short order, Springfield has transitioned from popular star of yesteryear to Grohl-endorsed hipster status.

"Oh yeah, sure, it widens the audience a lot," acknowledges Springfield (nee Springthorpe), 63, who also appears in the "Sound City" film and recorded a new song, "The Man Who Never Was," with Grohl and company for its companion album. "I think people are really becoming aware of the documentary, and maybe some of them who didn't know much about me are checking me out now."

There's plenty for examination, of course. The Australian native has been putting out records since 1972 but is best known for his early 80s explosion, capitalizing on a starring role in the afternoon TV soap opera "General Hospital" (as Dr. Noah Drake) with four consecutive platinum albums and a run of seven Top 40 hits between 1981-83.

He's made plenty of music since then, including last year's "Songs For the End of the World," and has a rabid fan following extreme enough to be the subject of a documentary, "An Affair of the Heart: The Journey of Rick Springfield and His Devoted Fans." Springfield's best-selling autobiography "Late, Late at Night," meanwhile, comes clean about the dark side of his success, including depression and drug addiction -- though he notes that "I've always dealt with my depression and turned it into a positive thing."

Mostly, however, he's a guy who prefers to keep his gaze fixed on what's ahead rather than what's behind.

"I never was a guy that hung platinum records up on his walls or awards or anything like that," Springfield explains. "To me, that's weird. And, y'know, going back to any of that stuff, it seems like a completely different time to me. I see photos, especially from (the early 70s) and I don't even remember being that person."

Springfield's sections of the "Sound City" film provides a bit of insight into his most successful era. It's a deeply personal story for him, about how the late studio co-owner Joe Gottfried, who became his manager and helped elevate Springfield's somewhat moribund music career to superstar heights. "He really kind of got me started," notes Springfield, who in the film calls subsequently dismissing Gottfried a grave career mistake. "He gave me a real shot and helped me and gave me some space to write music and record it.

"He was a great guy. He'd be so proud of this whole 'Sound City' thing."

Nowadays Springfield is keeping himself busy on all fronts. His acting career -- which has also included roles in Showtime`s "Californication" and appearances on "Hawaii Five-O" and "Hot in Cleveland" -- continues with a return to "General Hospital" next month. He's also shopping around a new TV series and is writing another book, though he's keeping the details about both under wraps.

The mostly uptempo "Songs For the End of the World," meanwhile, reached No. 44 on the Billboard 200 chart, and Springfield is happy to report that there's been some correction in the gender balance of his audience in recent years.

"I've got to tell ya, we're getting a lot of guys anymore," he says. "Now that it's OK to like me, a lot of guys come up to me and say, 'Yeah, I grew up listening to your music through my older sister's bedroom wall and I love it.' It's become a date night, too; I've heard some funny stories that 'I took my girlfriend to one of your shows and I finally got into her pants.' Well, OK...

"And because of songs like 'Jessie's Girl' being on 'Glee' and in movies we get a younger crowd, too. So I'm very pleased with the cross-section of the audience now."

Rick Springfield performs at 8 p.m. Friday, March 22, at Andiamo Celebrity Showroom, 7096 E. Fourteen Mile Road, Warren. Tickets are $25-$85. Call 586-268-3200 or visit www.andiamoitalia.com.

Web Site: www.andiamoitalia.com

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