Dave Speaks at the Authors Series

The Friends of the Bruce Springsteen Special Collection

Chris Phillips, Dave Marsh, Eric Meola and Daniel Wolff converse during the second event of the Friends' Author Series at the Asbury Park Public Library. Photo by Mike Black

Special thanks to Bob Crane and Anne Noss for this article – from ‘The Friends of the Bruce Springsteen Collection.’

Put yourself, for a second, behind the lens of Eric Meola’s camera.

For weeks, you’ve given serious thought to the look you wanted to capture during the critical Born To Run photo shoot with Bruce Springsteen and Clarence Clemons. Knowing that Springsteen’s entire career is on the line with this record, you decide to forego color for the contrasts and midtones of black and white, hoping for something that is at the same time classic yet modern, innocent and street smart.

Then, for 180 minutes, you shoot. And shoot. And shoot–more than 700 images in all, and as you work, you realize that Bruce and Clarence have given even more thought than you’d realized to what they wanted out of the session. They’ve come dressed in black and white to match the film; they’ve brought props, right down to the Elvis button on Bruce’s jacket, and a transistor radio that, according to Meola, Bruce still has. And as the session unfolds, you, the photographer, come to realize that Bruce, the subject, understands that record cover albums are “heard” even before the music.

That’s the way Meola recalled his 1975 Born To Run photo session for an enthralled audience at the Asbury Park Public Library Oct. 14, capping the final session in the Friends of the Bruce Springsteen Collection’s fall author series that also featured authors Dave Marsh (“Bruce Springsteen on Tour: 1968-2005”) and Daniel Wolff, who wrote both the introduction to Meola’s photo book “Born To Run: The Unseen Photos,” and his own history masterpiece “Fourth of July, Asbury Park.”

After writing trail-blazing Springsteen classics “Born to Run: The Bruce Springsteen Story” and “Glory Days: Bruce Springsteen in the 1980s,” Marsh told the Oct. 14 audience he hadn’t intended to add a third book to the series, but was challenged to capture the on-stage legacy of “the greatest live performer of our lifetime.”

According to Wolff, Springsteen’s rise from the Asbury clubs to international super-stardom was in part the result of conditions within Asbury Park, especially low rents during the late 1960s and early 1970s, which enabled musicians and club owners to flourish. Also factored in was Asbury’s troubled racial history: the Born to Run cover, Wolff said, served to demonstrate that whites and blacks could get along, be friends, and help bring about a better world.

Meola added significant chapters to the Springsteen story, above and beyond the details of the 1975 Born To Run session. The photographer said he first proposed Springsteen for the cover of Time magazine more than a year before the famous Oct. 27, 1975 issue, but was vetoed by a Time editor put off by repetitive lyrics in Springsteen’s “New York City Serenade.” Furthermore, he said the eventual photo used on the cover of Born To Run wasn’t Springsteen’s first choice; Springsteen favored a photo with dramatic shadows cast by a fire escape.

More than 170 visitors attended the book discussions and signings at the Library, furthering the goal of Backstreets and the Friends to provide a year-around destination in Asbury Park for fans, researchers, journalists and scholars interested in Springsteen’s cultural legacy.