*The story behind these photographs:
My first professional job as a photographer was to make Bruce Springsteen's first pictures at Columbia Records in February of 1973. It was just before Greetings from Asbury Park was released- I got paid $25. My job was to cover an interview by Bob Sarlin in the 12th floor conference room in "Black Rock" for an in house magazine which was formed to introduce new artists to the record company staff. Bruce was just a kid from New Jersey, he wandered in with his girlfriend Diane; later John Hammond stopped by as he often did in those days. Bruce was known to some as John's "latest folly", (Dylan had been an earlier one). Blinded by the light, some thought the kid was faking it when those stumbling tumbling rambling array of lyrics rolled off his tongue, there was even debate about whether he really was a good guitar player. But when he sat down to talk with us, there was no pretense or falseness in the room, he was noticeably good at just being himself. A month later I was lucky to photograph both Artur Rubinstein and Vladimir Horowitz for Columbia as well as Goddard Leiberson the ledgendary President of the company; all three in their different ways had a quality that I first spotted in that kid from New Jersey, an unquestionable personal presence, it's just something some people are born with. In Bruce's case, as I learned over the years, it was combined with the highest levels of loyalty as well as personal and intellectual integrity on top af a damn good sense of humor. And energy. As our careers started out together I've always compared my path with his, and despite the fact that for each of my audience members he has a couple million, I've always felt we were walking parallel paths.
Bruce liked those first pictures and invited me to come down to see a rehearsal in Red Bank, NJ before the band's first public gig at The Main Point outside of Philadelphia upon release of the album. The rehearsal was striking for how much respect the band members showed to Bruce, he didn't demand it at all, he was loose and relaxed, but he was completely in charge. I believe it was then that some had started calling him "The Boss" but it was also the time when he let it be know that he didn't really like being called by that nickname. I don't know how it drifted back into public usage.
The early Main Point gigs were amazing. A hundred people in a two hundred seat club, Bruce doing essentially the same energetic show he still does today, the best performer in the business then and now, giving giving, and giving some more. It was then that I really knew the 19 year old kid I had met was something special. I told people about it. When he came back to the Main Point about a month later - as I recall, he had a hard time getting gigs - I put my reputation on the line and dragged an old friend out of bed, forced him to come out against the wishes of his weary body. Ed Sciaky was, at the time, a leading disc jockey on WMMR in Philadelphia; he was amazed at the performance and Ed started playing Bruce on the radio, it was his first airplay. I'm told that years later Ed talked for half an hour on why I was responsible for "breaking Bruce", it's an obscure kind of fame, but I'll take it. More satisfying was the home run I hit a couple months later as the Crawdaddy softball team rolled over the boys from E-Street. Shortly after the Main Point gigs, Bruce played his first headlining show in New York at Max's Kansas City. There he was discovered by many of the people who later came to write about him with great affection and insight. Bruce was no longer a secret, but it was to be two more years before the general public came to the realization.
He kept writing and recording; his second album was recorded in Blauvelt New York with Brooks Arthur who was also recording my friend Janis Ian, so I sat in on several of the sessions, there is a picture in the collection of Bruce concentrating hard over a mandolin. In the studio, the man knew what he wanted and he took the time and care to get it right.
We would see one another backstage from time to time. I would be at a gig to make pictures but Bruce would come to see his fellow performers, I suspect he made the effort both to learn his craft and to pay his respects to those who came before; it wasn't so very easy to do because he wasn't widely famous at the time, sometimes the other performers didn't know who he was.
In the spring of '73 that Columbia sent me down again to Philly to be with the band on the occasion of their first arena show at The Spectrum, Bruce was the opening act for Chicago. I was welcomed to shoot from the stage so I stood behind Vinnie Lopez the drummer at the time and watched as a good part of the audience booed and called out for Chicago to come on stage: even the King of Rock and Roll can't sail into a hurricane. Later, when traveling in Jordan on a "listening trip" with Richard Gere and Bernie Glassman, I spied a record shop in Amman whose signage featured a color painting obviously made from one of the pictures I made that night behind the drummer.
Then the Bottom Line gigs, first the one in '74 and then the one that broke Bruce's career in '75, when he was simultaneously on the covers of Time and Newsweek. The shows those two years were substantially the same, different material but the same Bruce, the public difference was that the business management had changed, the world opened it's doors to another overnight sensation. People really loved those performances, there was joy in the air. I was the staff photographer at The Bottom Line, I had all access for those ten shows and I shot through eight of them, once cutting a hole in the soundbooth fabric above the stage to get an unusual angle. And the matured kid from New Jersey had become some kind of intellectual behind my back he could handle all comers at all the different levels, and still his manner was relaxed and open. Now performers were coming backstage to him and most everyone was beginning to admit he was a pretty damn good guitar player.