40th anniversary of ‘fan army’ mall shutdown

Forty years ago today, a Rick Springfield appearance at record store at a shopping mall was shut down by the fire marshal after thousands of fans made their way to the Virginia mall in hopes of meeting RS, whose song “Jessie’s Girl” was a radio hit at the same time he played the role Dr. Noah Drake on the popular soap opera “General Hospital.”

I learned about this history in a Washington Post article yesterday, “Remembering the day the Rick Springfield fan army shut down Tysons Corner.”

One thing that came to mind after reading this is that it’s interesting that RS has said in interviews that in the 80s he didn’t appreciate his fans as much as he does now, which contradicts what one of the sources in this article remembers. It actually sounds like he was also appreciative at that time, as he offered to sign autographs in a limo surrounded by a mob, which doesn’t sound like a good idea, but still demonstrates that he wanted to show his appreciation for the fans that came out to see him.

Who knows, maybe he was referring to later in the 80s before he took a break from it all. I find his career so fascinating, all the highs and lows of it. I probably reflect on it much more than I should, but I find it so inspiring. For instance, taking a stained glass class in an attempt to have a second career to fall back on if his music career didn’t take off since his past few albums didn’t achieve the success he wanted. Then that led to him writing “Jessie’s Girl” about an experience of unrequited lust with his stained glass classmate’s girlfriend. Taking acting jobs to pay the bills although his first love was music and wasn’t confident that his new album “Working Class Dog” would go anywhere. Accepting the role on “General Hospital,” simply because he had bills to pay.

Then “Jessie’s Girl” becomes a No. 1 hit, “General Hospital” becomes the No. 1 soap opera and suddenly he’s recognized on the street and causing traffic jams at local malls. That must have been a surreal experience!

In the Washington Post archives, there’s an article a few days before his June 17, 1981 appearance, “Springfield’s Power Pop,”

So far, the 1981 power-pop single of the year is Rick Springfield’s “Jessie’s Girl” — a flabbergasting Frankenstein’s monster whose sum is even more powerful than its parts. Out of Springfield’s restive retirement comes this insinuating evocation of baffled sentiment and agonizing physical awareness, matched perfectly by a relentless rhythm and a melody that teeters between major and minor. Already at No. 12 with a bullet, “Jessie’s Girl” is assured of making the Top 10 and quite possibly No. 1.

Washington Post, June 12, 1981

(The rest of the article is kind of annoying and also includes a Springsteen comparison. Ugh.)

The following month, more than 6,000 teenage fans stormed the stage during his appearance in a Chicago mall, which sent two girls to the hospital according to an article in “The Daily Herald.”

The girls get so excited when they see him it’s just incredible. The audiences have been packed with more than 6,000 people at his recent performances in Cleveland and Washington, D.C. and at both of those, everybody just started going crazy.  There’s really not much you can do to prevent that type of thing, because the girls just go wild when they see Rick.

Steve Gordon, promotion manager for RCA Records, 1981

RS fans have matured a bit since then, right?

Here’s a fun blog post I found where the writer is remembering the time RS was supposed to appear at a local record store but had to escape in a police car after the Sam Goody window shattered: “Rick Springfield and me in a riot.”

Being a fan in those days is so different from what it’s like now. When I was a teenager, I got my news from the teen magazines such as Teen Beat, 16 and Bop. I’d walk over to the local drugstore to pick up the newest magazines (and then stick the RS posters up on my wall). (See the post “Where it all began” to see examples of the content in those magazines.) Besides signing up for the Rick Springfield fan club, there wasn’t really a way to “connect” with my favorite rock star except to listen to his albums over and over again and plaster my bedroom walls with his posters.

Yet by reading all the magazine articles, fans feel like they “knew” their favorite celebrities, when in reality they really didn’t. Today’s celebrity scene is so much more intensified with social media, especially those that post a lot of personal content. There’s an interesting interview with Billie Eilish in Rolling Stone that came out today as I was thinking about this, “Billie Eilish and the Pursuit of Happiness,” where she addresses her sudden fame and her reaction to it and the idea that her fans think they know her but they really don’t.

True, RS has divulged a lot of his life through his autobiography and through his songs and in interviews, which is why so many of his fans feel a connection with him. Plus since he’s had such a long career, many of his fans have traveled from their teens to their 50s with his music and trivia about his life is ingrained in their brains. (Surely it’s not just me…)

It used to be stars’ personal lives were captured in the tabloids, but now their lives are much more exposed, both by paparazzi (such as this RS trip to a Malibu grocery store with Bindi and the Corvette) and by their social media posts. Then there’s that whole cancel culture. It’s much more exhausting to follow now then it used to be in the 80s. Aw, the good ole days of being a fan, such a more innocent time (at least to me, at age 12). (Though the idea that someday fans could take a cruise and other fan trips with RS and his crew was beyond my comprehension at the time!)

Anyway, I just meant to pop on here and comment on this fun article about the Tysons Corner mall, but now I feel I’m rambling. Maybe the weather has something to do with not thinking clearly – it’s 117 degrees here today!!!!! Although concerts are popping back up on the calendar (with the first full-band show since before the pandemic on July 2!), there’s probably not much hope for an outdoor concert here anytime soon.

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