Back in 1981, Rick Springfield was known to many daytime television viewers as the hunky playboy Dr. Noah Drake on General Hospital.
But for the bulk of Americans and certainly pop music fans, Springfield seemingly sprung from nowhere to become an instant pop star on the back of his debut single "Jessie's Girl," a ridiculously catchy power-pop song written by the singer/actor detailing the real-life coveting of Springfield's good buddy's girlfriend.
The song had all the elements of a 1980s pop-rock hit— a quiet guitar-driven intro that exploded into a rousing memorable fist-pumping, chantable chorus, a synth-laced bridge, a groovy melodic guitar solo and more of that earworm chorus that earned Springfield the Grammy for best male rock vocal performance. Add the bit of cosmic serendipity that found "Jessie's Girl" at the top of the Billboard charts the moment MTV (back when it was Music Television) hit the cable airwaves and Springfield quickly found himself in the eye of a perfect pop storm.
Now, having turned 62 last week, Springfield has landed in that veteran artist sweet spot where the critical drubbings that labeled him a purveyor of catchy bubble gum pop 30 years ago are gathering dust in those critics' archives. But the love and loyalty Springfield engendered in his largely female fan base is still very much alive.
In the last several years, Springfield's profile has risen with a well received 2008 album, "Venus in Overdrive," which debuted at No. 28 on the Billboard 200 charts, a successful annual "Rick Springfield & Friends Cruise" and a best-selling autobiography, Late Late at Night, that gets him appearances on "Good Morning America," ''The View," CNN and other media outlets. He also has done some acting including on the revamped "Hawaii 5-0" and the Showtime series "Californication." He also has played a series of sold-out shows throughout Japan.
"There definitely has (been an upturn in his profile) and it's just me committing to working more and also there being more things that I'm doing and different projects," he said from his home in Malibu, Calif., during a break from the road. "I guess there must be some kind of interest for them to want me on the shows, so it's a combination of a lot of things."
Back in the 1980s, Springfield released an album a year for five years and would tour relentlessly. These days, Springfield says he and his band hit the road for a few days each time they go out.
"It's a great way to tour, because the shows stay fresh, we don't get bored and we still like each other and we all have family lives, so it's really the best of both worlds," he said.
"There's a lot of traveling, but I like flying and I have a computer and I get to work and write on the plane, so it's a great way to do it. I'll never get on another bus ever again in this life. It's like being a submariner from the second World War and never being able to get on a submarine again," he said laughing.
Jessie's Girl may have been America's introduction to Springfield but he was already a decade into a music career in his native Australia as lead singer and guitarist of the popular band Zoot in the early 1970s. Springfield moved to the United States in 1972, released four solo albums and began his acting career before "Jessie's Girl" and "Working Class Dog" made him a star in 1981.
He managed several Top 10 hits in three years — the paranoid "Don't Talk to Strangers," the Sammy Hagar-written "I've Done Everything for You," the lightly funky "Calling All Girls" from his platinum "Success Hasn't Spoiled Me Yet" (1983), "Human Touch and Affair of the Heart" from "Living in Oz" (1983) and "Love Somebody" from the soundtrack to his star vehicle "Hard to Hold" (1984). His next album, "Tao" in 1985 had a few minor hits and afterward he took a break from recording and performing, but it appeared his time as a major pop star was coming to a close.
Throughout the late '80s and '90s, Springfield popped up occasionally in short-lived series such as Human Target and High Tide. He also appeared in the original Broadway cast of the successful jukebox musical Smokey Joe's Cafe. He spent a few years at the turn of the century in Vegas as one of the rotating stars of the MGM Grand Hotel & Casino's massive EFX LIVE show.
He also experienced depression that had him contemplating suicide, sex addiction and the birth of his two sons, Liam and Joshua. All the good and bad years are covered in "Late, Late at Night," a surprisingly open and honest look at his life leavened with considerable humor, which Springfield said was no accident.
"There's a lot of dark stuff in my life, but I didn't want it to be a deep dark thing," he said. "I wanted it to be infused with some humor, so there's some ups and downs — and it's a journey. There are tears and heartache and people dying and me almost dying (he broke his collarbone in an ATV accident in 1988) and career highs.
"I knew I had an interesting story. I've been to Vietnam (in 1968 his band MPB, Ltd. played for soldiers), lived all around the world . . . had to deal with depression and had a successful life despite that, so I knew there was a lot to tell, but I wanted it to have a sense of humor because that's where I operate from, it's what I'm drawn to first."
In addition to the book, Springfield and his fans are also the subject of a new documentary, "Affair of the Heart," that chronicles a year in the life of Springfield as he tours and interacts with his special brand of fans. The film, initiated and co-produced by a fan and directed by Emmy Award-winning documentary director Sylvia Caminer, chronicles a year on the road with Springfield and the intense devotion he garners from his longtime fan base (including more men than one might expect). It follows several fans who detail what Springfield's music has meant to them.
"When they first came to me, I thought it was going to be some concert footage and some fans saying, 'Oh, he's so great,' " he said. "But they went real deep and there are some scenes that are pretty amazing. I'm actually proud to be a part of it. ...There are some amazing stories I'd never heard before and some of these fans have been with me for 30 years and I'm so intertwined in their lives and that's the crux of the film."
This year also marks the 30th anniversary of "Working Class Dog," and for someone who has had the rare experience of achieving superstardom, riding high and then surviving the seemingly inevitable career downturn, 62-year-old Springfield said if he could go back and warn his 32-year-old self about the amazing journey upon which he was about to embark, he'd keep it simple.
"I'd say stay away from this lawyer and stay away from that certified public accountant," he said with a chuckle.
"I think I handled it as well as anyone I know who's been through that. It's an unreal thing and there's no way you can be prepared for it. You get caught up in it and it's a whirlwind and you navigate it the best you can and hope you land on your feet on the other side and I think I have but it's been a tumultuous journey.
"Besides, I know I wouldn't have listened to some 62-year-old guy, I wouldn't know what (the heck) he was talking about."