Photographer’s notes: May 9, 1974, Harvard Square Theatre, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 10 pm show. I was sitting on a drum case on the side of the stage. As the E Street band stood in unison by my side, Springsteen took a seat at the piano, about four feet in front of me. His fingers stretched out, beginning a haunting melody. At first I didn’t recognize the song, or the gravity of the moment, or maybe it was both… but one impulse quickly took over me: reload the camera and shoot away. This shot was the result. It’s the image of the night, a young artist beginning his song and his future.
Sound-check. Music historians have commented that Springsteen knew he had a special opportunity that night, and was determined to make the most of it. As I arrived in the afternoon for sound-check, I could sense it. The way he directed the band through rehearsal and the way they responded… this was a man on a mission. A man with a purpose that the band wholeheartedly understood.
New York City Serenade. The stage was bathed in blue and Bruce was lost in the moment as David Sancious played the opening bars to this remarkable tune. The original shot has Gary Talent in the frame but this crop, with him turned and the highlights in his hair almost give him and Elvis look.
Again from New York City Serenade. The song’s melodic ebb and flow found Bruce flowing with the vibe of the song. He was in the moment always, as an artist and a performer. When Clarence passed away I revisited this shot often. I think in it we see their brotherhood.
During the show I moved around the front of the stage. Shooting from front of stage is never ideal. There’s always a mic in the face. Got away with this one.
Rosalita won’t you come out tonight! Back in 1974 this was the show stopper. If you knew, this was the moment you waited for. If you didn’t, this was one you never forgot.
The smaller venues never had great lighting. And black and white film has its limits even in the brightest of stage environments. You worked with what you had. But this one, with its soft motion and blur, for me captured an intimacy and intensity of the night.
Bruce was a storyteller on stage, often going into lengthy expositions about the backstory of a song or perhaps even what the band had for dinner that day. I remember thinking about how he used his hat that night as a prop punctuating his stories, making a point with the audience. Like “listen to me now, this is the important part.”
Ernest “Boom” Carter on drums in the back. May 9, 1974 was also towards the end of his tenure with the band.
Bruce was an acoustic act before he decided he wanted a band to back him. Many of the songs he was performing then, as well as that night, were built from his acoustic songwriter/singer days in Greenwich Village. For the amount of times he had the acoustic out that night you could see he was still in the midst of that transition.