Looking through the lens of history at the phenomenal success of Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band it's hard to imagine that they could have failed to make their mark. The now classic "Born to Run," an anthem for the working class for the past 40 years, since its release in 1975, was a make or break album for "The Boss" and The E Street Band.
In the crowd for an afternoon concert in New York's Central Park on Aug. 3, 1974 when the E Street Band played, photographer Barbara Pyle encountered their music for the first time. She became an instant fan traveling to every one of their concerts in the New York City area and becoming the band's "official unofficial photographer." Pyle was such a presence that when Max Weinberg joined the group he joked that he just assumed she was part of the band. She was a fixture, a good luck charm, and the band had an expectation she would be there every night in the recording studio.
Pyle's, mostly unseen, intimate images of the making of the epic album and the subsequent tour has been published in a new book "Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band 1975," this fall by Reel Art Press.
In her book, Pyle describes the moment in time: "For Bruce, this was the album. It was his major statement and it needed to be a hit because Columbia Records had really turned up the heat on him to deliver commercial success."
Publisher Tony Nourmand was drawn to Pyle's photos because they were "of those on the cusp of becoming superstars and showed just how normal they were." It is the journalistic nature of the photography that is compelling. He didn't want to produce "just a fan book." The photos "gives you a feel of what the atmosphere was like... what they were going through. Some point you see him [Springsteen] going really nuts on stage and really happy... then in a studio really depressed."
"Quite a few publishers chased her over the years," according to Nourmand, but Pyle wanted to publish a book about the band and not just Springsteen. It wasn't until Nourmand and Pyle met early this year that Pyle felt she found the right person to collaborate with. Nourmand understood her vision. "As a photographer with full access, I considered it my duty to document what was happening. I knew it was big. I am grateful to finally tell that story. "
The record company planned to dump Springsteen if his third album -- following "Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J." and "The Wild, The Innocent, and the E Street Shuffle" -- wasn't a hit. The pressure was intense and took its toll on the musicians. It can be seen in one particular photo of the band's recording session in the book titled "Dawn Rehearsal." Springsteen describes the moment in the photo, "You ain't never seen faces like that in your life. We were there for four days, and every single minute is on everybody's face." He said no one would have believed the exhaustion if it weren't for the photo by "this girl Barbara."
Pyle may be best known to the band's fans for the 1975 Time magazine cover of Springsteen. She had worked a lot for the magazine, but when she initially suggested a story on Springsteen and the band they said, "Bruce who?" It was only after Newsweek called her for a cover story that Time changed their tune. The only photos from her days with the band that were published were those in Time.
Springsteen called the "Born to Run" album the "dividing line" in his career. It catapulted him from his small town, gritty New Jersey roots to the front lines of rock and international stardom. The band's clear working-class affinity resonated amid the tumult of the early 70s; steel plants and factories were closing amid a nationwide industrial decline and the Vietnam War continued to grip the country's psyche. Their music still resonates 40 years later. "Born to Run" remains a dark anthem of youth, of escape, of a "runaway American dream."