Bruce Springsteen: Born to Pose?

On Thursday night I viewed a press exhibition (sponsored by Macari Vineyards) at Morrison Hotel Gallery featuring the works of various photographers while showcasing only one subject: “The Boss”. As you may have heard, Bruce Springsteen is currently on tour performing his 1980 full album “The River,” (plus other favorites) as a way to mark a “watershed” moment, since this album marked a high point in his career.

Bruce Springsteen Backstreets, Frank Stefanko

The tour makes two stops at Madison Square Garden, this Sunday 1/24 and next Wednesday 1/27. Celebrating the reissue and 35th year anniversary of his two-LP, 20-song collection with a three-and-a-half hour show might faze lesser rock gods but, well — those of you who are Springsteen fans know that you really get your money’s worth. As I looked around at the many photos of a youthful Springsteen (the featured photos were taken between 1978-83) I reflected on how much he resembled a young Bob Dylan, which according to several of the lens men (and one woman), quoted through their various published efforts ie. books/interviews, was his intent.

Bruce Springsteen with Guitar, Neal Preston

Frank Stefanko, there both in the flesh and in literary form with his tome of photos, writes about how the rocker knew how to pose, select backdrops and would pore over the contact sheets with his own light enhanced loupe, selecting the ones he liked. Stefanko spent many days and nights with Springsteen, even taking a series of photos at the shutterbug’s own house to the point where Stefanko’s family treated him as one of their own. Although Stefanko’s kids were sworn to secrecy, someone’s lips were loose, resulting in a prying neighbor coming over to “borrow a cup of sugar” as well as an army of teenage girls peeking in the window trying to get a glimpse of his famous subject.

Bruce Springsteen, Haddonfield, NJ 1978 Frank Stefanko

Some of the photos on display were immediately recognizable as album covers or other popular images of the time. Others offer a view or insight into the creative side of Springsteen seated at his writing desk, or allow you to glimpse his attention to detail at sound check where he would replay “Hungry Heart” again and again as he made the rounds to each section of the theatre or arena ensuring optimum sound quality.

Bruce Springsteen on Boardwalk in Asbury Park, NJ, Joel Bernstein

One of the photographers, Lynn Goldsmith, had a distinct advantage since she was his girlfriend in the late ’70s and had, as her book title suggests “Springsteen: Access All Areas.” Unfortunately I did not see her famous shower shot of Bruce included here. Although she too was absent, both of her books (the other “bible” known as “Rock and Roll Stories” with Bruce on the cover and written about here) were in attendance. She has been quoted on the record saying that nothing committed to film was unplanned as in “Oh, he’s in quiet time now,” everything was studied with Springsteen.

Bruce Springsteen and Clarence Clemons, 1978, Lynn Goldsmith

Interestingly, since Springsteen recently began this tour, which continues through March, the world has lost two icons of his musical generation: David Bowie (age 69) and Glenn Frey (age 67). Springsteen has paid tribute to them both in his most recent shows including covers of “Rebel Rebel” and “Take It Easy.” At age 66 himself, I wonder how heavy this weighs on his head although he seems to be in great physical shape, proclaiming to have never lived the rock star life of drugging and boozing; which judging from these recent deaths, seems to come home to roost in one’s sixth decade.

Bruce Springsteen, Reservoir Dogs, Joel Bernstein

On a personal note, I would say that growing up in Philly, in close proximity to the Jersey shore (the lingo was “I’m going down-a-shore”) pretty much guaranteed that everyone in my high school was obsessed with Springsteen. If I could find my senior yearbook I would “prove it all night” (Ha!) that it was mandatory that one’s senior quote be attributed to either Bruce or Jerry (Garcia). (I quoted E.E. Cummings which gives you some idea of what a misfit I was)! When I expressed my less than glowing opinion of his music to peers I was told “Oh, you have to see him live in concert.”

 Group, 1979, David Gahr

When I actually saw Bruce and the E Street Band at Philly’s legendary Tower Theater, at what was reportedly an incendiary concert, I remained unconvinced. Yes, I could see that he was a great performer, totally devoted to his audience, very energetic and enthusiastic, but I failed to catch “the fever”. Never mind the ultimate irony; in Boston at college, the guy I ended up dating for several years hailed from Asbury Park, NJ and talked incessantly about seeing Bru-uce at the Stone Pony. Aaaargh!

L to R  Frank Stefanko, Jim Marchese, Patrick Harbon, &
Peter Blachley (Morrison Gallery Owner)

Call me old-fashioned but I just can’t get behind lyrics like “Show a little faith, there’s magic in the night. You ain’t a beauty, but hey you’re alright. And that’s alright with me.” I guess Bruce is demonstrating that “honesty is the best policy” but I wouldn’t think that IRL, a “truthful” line such as this would score you any points on the dating scene. I’ve always been more of a Fleetwood Mac fan — “tell me lies, tell me sweet little lies…” And that’s alright with me!

“Bruce Springsteen: The River Collection” is at the Morrison Hotel Gallery, 116 Prince Street through February 9. Featured photographers work include: David Gahr, Frank Stefanko, Jim Marchese, Joel Bernstein, Lynn Goldsmith, Neal Preson and Patrick Hebron.

– Laurel Marcus

Laurel Marcus

OG journo major who thought Strunk & White's "The Elements of Style" was a fashion guide. Desktop comedienne -- the world of fashion gives me no shortage of material.

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