Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band are about to hit New Jersey again. When that happens these days the whole state knows it and a couple of percent of the population are present (all right, that would require no repeat customers and no out-of-staters, but still...) . Of course, it wasn't always so. Guest writer and photographer James Shives takes us back to a time when things were very different: the September 22, 1974 gig at Kean College and shows us some of his famous and not quite so famous images.
It was the first day of autumn in New Jersey - September 22, 1974 – but the weather hinted of an Indian summer that afternoon at Kean College, Union. When these now infamous photographs of Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band were created, I was obviously unaware of their future historical value or that right across the river, some 15 miles away in New York City, “Born to Run” was in its final struggle of being recorded. Now, as I hold that film in my hands, it’s plain to me – and it seems to a lot of others - that the Rock Gods blessed me that day as I photographed Bruce and the Band on the very eve of their very meteoric rise.
Max and Roy, the E Street Band’s two newest members, were just beginning to find their footing. I, too, was just starting my own journey as a rising rock photographer. I was only 18 years old. Bruce was 24; Clarence would have been about 30. Today, I can still recall small flashbacks from that day. In particular, the one song that stood out to me through all these years was "Spirit in the Night" - Bruce opened the show with it. I also remember seeing “someone” shortly before the show with an electric guitar sitting on an old couch. He was wearing an open shirt with the image of a peacock on the front in bold colors, a cross dangling down his chest, and a flat cap on his head. If he hadn’t had the electric guitar, he could have been a student in a scruffy beard and black jeans, but he wasn’t – he was “The Boss.”
Now, 38 years later – and almost to the day – after all the concerts that I have had the privilege of photographing Bruce and the Band; after all the publications and appearances my photos have been shared among, Bruce will take to the stage again in New Jersey, this time at outdoor arena holding tens of thousands of fans.
The below images from the show 38 years ago stand out among my most-prized possessions. It was a unique time and place back then, as unique as Bruce and the Band. In fact, it was in 1974 that Jon Landau made that prophetic statement, "I saw rock and roll future and its name is Bruce Springsteen."
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