Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band had been playing regularly in Cambridge bars during the spring of 1974. Still relatively new to the scene, his following was dedicated, though sales of his two albums to date were not what his label was hoping for.
I was living just outside of Boston at the time. A friend brought Bruce’s second album, The Wild, The Innocent and the E Street Shuffle over one day saying he had heard that this guy was pretty good. He was. We liked what we heard and decided to check him out at Charlie’s Place in Harvard Square.
We took our seats in one of the club’s classic high back wooden bar booths, squeezed into one side and ordered a pitcher of beer. I looked around the room and commented on how surprised I was at how crowded the club was. A patron, sitting across from me heard my comments said, “You mean you’ve never heard him before? You just wait. I’m from Philadelphia and I’ve been following the band up and down the east coast.” I frankly had never heard of anything like that before.
What transpired next has made an indelible mark on me forever. The band came on, six of them squeezed into a corner of the bar in an area about 12 feet by 12 feet. With only a small empty dance floor separating the band and us, they launched into the most incredible set of jazz, R&B, and rock infused music I had ever heard. They had a presence and a swagger that drew the audience into their songs. When the night was over two things stayed with me: one, I had never heard music like that before, and two, I had to see them again. I called my friends at Windowpane Productions, local concert promoters that I was doing photography shoots for. I simply said, “You have to book this guy!” Ira Gold, one of the partners, came over to my apartment and I played him Bruce’s two albums. After hearing them he asked if he could borrow them to play for his production partner, Jeff Hersh, who was also part of Bonnie Raitt's management team. Jeff was equally impressed. My biggest concern then, was that I might not get my albums back!
There had been no plans for an opening act for their upcoming Bonnie Raitt show at the Harvard Square Theatre in May of 1974. Ira and Jeff’s plans were to really give the whole night to Bonnie. She had been recently delegated to mostly being an opening act and they felt this was her turn to headline. After listening to the albums I lent Ira, he and Jeff paid a visit to one of Bruce’s shows at Charlie’s Place in Cambridge. That night a short conversation with Bruce followed the last set of the night. They asked if he wanted to open up for Bonnie. Bruce said, "Sure, why not."
Jon Landau, covering the show that night for The Real Paper in Boston, would write the review that to some, lay the groundwork for Bruce’s success; penning the infamous line “I saw Rock and Roll future and it’s name is Bruce Springsteen.” And the rest, as they say, is history.
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