Michael Crane doesn’t claim to be Bruce Springsteen’s number-one fan — but when you’ve amassed enough of the Boss’ original, handwritten lyric sheets to create your very own Bruce Springsteen typeface, you’ve earned the title fair and square.
On Monday Crane launched an online museum at Blinded By the Light, featuring hundreds of Bruce Springsteen artifacts and memorabilia items he’s collected throughout his 30-plus years of being a fan. Crane was hooked on Springsteen’s music after hearing “Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out” as a 7-year-old, but he didn’t become a serious collector until 2006, when he bought a sheet with early “Thunder Road” lyrics at an auction for around $2,000 and met another collector looking to sell some items of his that were in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum.
“I wasn’t an expert at the time, I wasn’t familiar with his handwriting,” Crane says. “I would only buy things that were in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame because I knew it was real.”
Now, Crane is a Springsteen authority. His crowning purchase was Springsteen’s old 1957 Chevy Bel Air, which is referenced in the lyrics of early versions of “Born to Run.” When the car appeared on eBay, Crane jumped at the opportunity to check the car out in person, and the owner was happy to oblige — for years, he couldn’t find a buyer, because no one believed it had belonged to Springsteen.
The car turned out to be a good luck charm — Crane met Springsteen for the first time within a year of buying the car. He tried to catch Springsteen outside of a show one time and, to get his attention, mentioned the car. When Springsteen turned around to look, his jaw dropped in disbelief. Springsteen chatted with Crane and his young son about the car, and the two have run into each other a couple times since then (at a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame event and, of all places, the gym).
“He’s a human being,” Crane says. “I’ve seen him be the nicest guy in the world, and I’ve seen him be nasty. He’s a moody guy. Nobody can tell him what to do. People who have met him all said the same thing: you don’t go to Bruce, Bruce comes to you.”
Because Springsteen’s official site is just “a PR site to sell records and coffee mugs,” Crane wants to turn his digital museum into an encyclopedic resource, a destination for accurate information about the music and its history, although not Springsteen’s personal life or celebrity — you won’t see pictures of Springsteen’s kids, though Crane has happened upon some while expanding his collection.
“I don’t expect him to support what I’m doing, but I hope he has some satisfaction that someone is immortalizing his career and his amazing ability as a songwriter,” Crane says.
Fans can view the collection of thousands of items for $9.99 a month (dozens of new items will be added monthly), but Crane is also hoping to create a Springsteen community with chat rooms and message boards to talk shop, exchange tickets and trade with other Bruce collectors.
“When you’re in a regular museum, no doubt it’s cooler to see the stuff live, but you don’t have the ability to do the kind of research people might use this for,” he says. “People are always discussing how technology is destroying the arts, and this is one instance I believe is actually making a more amazing experience.”