Byline: Gavin Allen
WHEN super-fan Paul Lawrence was quoted in Rolling Stone magazine as saying he loved Bruce Springsteen more than his wife, you would have expected Mandy to be angry.
But Mandy is so used to Paul's globe-trotting devotion to The Boss that when Paul told her what he had said to the American magazine, she replied "I wouldn't have expected anything else."
Springsteen performs his first Welsh date at Cardiff's Millennium Stadium tomorrow and Paul and Mandy will be in attendance - but then again, they usually are.
By the time The Boss finishes his current European tour Paul will have racked up an amazing 76 dates with the New Jersey guitar-slinger.
On this tour alone Paul has spent pounds 1,500 on tickets for 19 dates across Europe but he has previously seen Springsteen much further afield with a tick-list of major US cities on the back of his tour T-shirt.
And it was on one of those trips in July 2003 that provided Paul, from Aberaman in Aberdare, with his defining moment of fandom.
Paul was milling around Giants Stadium in New Jersey when he was approached by a journalist who had been attracted by Paul's T-shirt, a souvenir from Springsteen's 10-night stand at Madison Square Garden in 2000, of which Paul attended five nights.
"This lady asked if she could interview me for Rolling Stone magazine," recalls Paul, "and when she asked how much Bruce means to me I said: 'Bruce means everything to me, more than my wife'.
"She looked at me for a minute and then said, 'I might want to print that.' "A few weeks later the Springsteen fan club called, saying 'You really need to buy Rolling Stone but you might not want to show Mandy."
Fortunately Paul had already explained himself to Mandy, who says: "He had made the comment very tongue in cheek but the Americans have a different sense of humour and she took it literally. Paul has stuck around for 23 years so I know he loves me more - or at least I think he does!"
To commemorate that incident Paul has printed a special T-shirt (pictured here) to wear to the Millennium Stadium tomorrow but Springsteen has always been a constant in their marriage.
The Lawrences were married on May 11, 1985, and Paul saw his first Springsteen gig on July 7 that year at Leeds Roundhay Park on the Born In The USA tour. "I got back from that gig at 5.30am on Mandy's 21st birthday and my eyes were popping out of my head," remembers Paul. "It was like a drug."
A year later he took Mandy to her first Springsteen gig and their mutual passion grew from there but Mandy admits that she cannot match Paul for conviction.
"I love Bruce too but not quite as much as Paul does," says Mandy, who has seen Springsteen live upwards of 40 times." Occasionally I feel like I am sharing Paul with Bruce. …