Hard-Core Fans Line Up For Springsteen's Tracks

Boss' box of rarities draws dozens to record stores from California to the Big Apple for midnight release Monday.

CHICAGO -- Like any self-respecting, die-hard Bruce

Springsteen fan, Matt Springer knows to plan ahead.

As soon as he found out last month that the Boss' career-spanning,

four-CD box set, Tracks, was set for release Tuesday (Nov. 10),

he called his own boss and requested the day off.

"I'm going to stay up all night listening to it," Springer, 22, a

journalist, said as he waited in line at Tower Records on Clark

Street here just after midnight Monday.

Whether he would actually hear all of Tracks' 66 rare and

unreleased cuts when he got home was another story. "I'm going to

listen as far as I can make it before dozing off," he said. He

planned to start all over again when he woke up Tuesday.

Springer was one of about 40 people who showed up at the Clark Street

Tower at midnight to pick up the New Jersey-bred, blue-collar rocker's

much-anticipated release, which, as expected, sold briskly in its

first few hours on store shelves around the country. The Windy City

store moved 18 copies of Tracks at $49.99 each before closing

about 15 minutes later. (It also sold seven copies of R&B singer R.

Kelly's two-CD R. and six copies of pop singer Cher's new

release, Believe.)

Meanwhile, stores in New York and Los Angeles reported slightly

higher numbers. The Virgin Megastore in New York's Times Square

moved 35 sets at $52, according to an employee who asked not to be

named; about 40 blocks away, Tower Records on Broadway sold 25,

supervisor Eric Hogan said.

Bob Rossetti wore his Boss obsession on his sleeve. "Bruce Springsteen is my god," said Rossetti, an 18-year-old film student at New York University who came to the Tower Records sale with friend Joe Leonard, also a film student. "His lyrics are my bible. We'll stay up all night to listen to the album."

On the opposite coast, the Tower on Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles also moved about 35 copies, according to manager Mario Cruz.

Avid fans of the singer/songwriter have been waiting for the rarities collection for years. While several of its songs -- including the early sing-along "Bishop Danced" (RealAudio excerpt) and the desperate plea "Loose Ends" (RealAudio excerpt) -- have been bootlegged over the years, many fans are eager to replace their hissy boot tapes with newly mastered CDs.

Others, such as Chicago's Brad Kaplus, were most excited to hear new songs, such as "Gave It A Name" and "Happy," which were never leaked onto bootlegs. Kaplus' sole disappointment early Tuesday morning was that Tower wasn't stocking the cassette version of Tracks. So the 28-year-old will have to complement his CD version with tape and vinyl issues from mail-order houses.

Despite the devotion of supporters such as Kaplus, Tower-staffer

Jim Bornzin said he was disappointed at the turnout at the Chicago

store. By comparison, he said 150 people showed up at midnight

the week before to buy a limited-edition, two-disc version of U2's

Best Of 1980-1990. He blamed the comparatively small

Springsteen crowd on what he termed Columbia Records' lack of

promotion for Tracks.

"The U2 album had lots of ads -- everybody wants this collection,"

Bornzin said. "Tracks is a better album, but there hasn't been a lot of publicity. It's unfortunate, because Bruce Springsteen is such a great American rock 'n' roll artist."

Hard-core fans, such as Steven Cohen, were counting the days until

Tracks' release long before Columbia officially announced the album Oct. 6. Cohen, a 36-year-old L.A. transplant from London, said he's been following the Boss for two decades.

"My girlfriend and I have been living very safe lives so we wouldn't die before Tracks came out," he said. Now that Tracks is out, Springsteen's fans are already looking forward to his next records.

In an interview in the current issue of Time magazine, the rocker is quoted as saying he's nearly finished with two albums -- one acoustic and one electric -- and he has two more in the can: a country-influenced record and a hip-hop-influenced one.

"He says he wants to get them out," 28-year-old Jason Chart of Chicago said. "Hopefully it won't take 25 years, like some of Tracks did."

(Contributing editors Teri vanHorn and Dakota Smith and Editorial Director Michael Goldberg contributed to this report.)