The story of how Jon Landau saw Bruce Springsteen play at Cambridge, Massachusetts’ Harvard Square Theater on May 9th, 1974 and then declared him “rock and roll future” in Boston’s Real Paper, creating a tidal wave of hype that crested with the release of Born to Run the following year, has been told many times. What’s far less known is that a young photographer named Barry Schneier was perched near the stage that night, snapping gorgeous photographs of the early show and the late show along with the soundcheck.
He was the only photographer in the house that night, but his work — the only visual record of the historic evening — sat in cardboard boxes in his basement for decades. But in 2010, the Boston Globe announced a “Your Best Shot” contest in which photographers were asked to submit their favorite concert photo from any era. Schneier dug through his archives and came across a stunning black-and-white image of Springsteen playing piano at the Harvard Square theater. He submitted it and, of course, won.
That’s how Chris Phillips, editor and publisher of the Springsteen fan publication Backstreets, became aware of his work. “The vast majority of images you’ll see of Springsteen as a performer will be from 1975 on,” says Phillips. “So this lost image from 1974 — beautiful lighting, close up, crisp, and at the piano, no less — was a mind-blower. But then to discover that the image was made on May 9, 1974 at the Harvard Square Theatre, the very show where Jon Landau saw rock and roll future… that put this photograph in a class of its own. We’d never seen any images from that night. So I had to get in touch with Barry right away.”
Once they got in touch, and Phillips learned that Schneier had a box full of photos from that night, wheels got in motion that resulted in the publication of the book Bruce Springsteen — Rock and Roll Future, which you can buy right here. “Until Barry’s images, there was no way to see what Landau saw that night,” says Phillips. “It’s like finding a cache of Dylan photographs from the Newport Folk Festival in 1965.”
The 152-page coffee table book has not just Schneier’s images from that night, but also new commentary by former E Street drummer Ernest “Boom” Carter, former E Street pianist David Sancious and E Street bassist Garry Tallent. There is also introduction by Phillips and an essay by Eileen Chapman, director of The Bruce Springsteen Archives and Center for American Music.