Classic Album covers : Born To Run - Bruce Springsteen

Born to Run is the third album by Bruce Springsteen. It was released on August 25, 1975 through Columbia Records

The shot of Bruce Springsteen leaning into Clarence Clemons on the cover of Born To Run - one with a guitar, the other, seen fully on the back cover, blowing his saxophone - is one of rock’s archetypal poses. Photographer Eric Meola caught the moment at his New York studio during a day of sessions in which he tried all kinds of things: outside shots of Springsteen in the shadows of a fire escape, inside shots of him listening to a radio and playing around with the guitar. “Other things happened,” says Meola, “but when we saw the contact sheets, that one just sort of popped. Instantly, we knew that was the shot”

The session very nearly didn’t happen at all. Meola, who got to know Springsteen, Clemons and Springsteen’s manager at the time, Mike Appel, back around 1973, got the call from Appel to shoot some pictures. But Springsteen’s marathon work on Born To Run caused him to cancel out on Meola so many times that the lensman very nearly cancelled the project

“One day I got really upset,” he says. “I called up Mike and said, ‘Hey, it’s either going to be next time or never.'” Springsteen kept the next appointment, bringing Clemons with him. “He wanted Clarence on the cover from the beginning,” says Meola, “and the whole thing of isolating them against a white background just worked”

“Around 10 or 11AM on June 20th, 1975, Bruce and Clarence walked into my studio on the fourth floor at 134 Fifth Avenue, carrying their instruments and a few changes of clothing.  I had the Rolling Stones album December’s Children playing.  The strobe lights were set up.  It was just us -no stylist, no hair and makeup, no assistant.  There was a six to seven inch difference in their height, depending on what statistics you reference, and Clarence wore a tall black fedora during much of the shoot.  I kept several wooden boxes around the studio to adjust for height discrepancies, though for much of the shooting I did not use them.  As Clarence riffed on several sequences of notes, I began shooting.  We made quick changes of clothing and in the space of an hour and a half I shot almost 600 images (I shot another few rolls under the aforementioned fire escape.) As we walked back to the studio, I glanced at my watch.  It had been just two hours

I did not have an assistant and because I processed the film immediately after the shoot, the sequence in which the rolls were shot has been lost; the sequence within a roll still remains, however, and from that it is obvious that the interaction between Bruce and Clarence which resulted in the cover image lasted for about half a roll, or 18 frames. Of these, there are only two where his face is turned to Clarence and he is grinning in only one of them.  Clearly, it was an instinctual moment, and one which was brought on as much by practicality, as intent.  Standing on a box, he was suddenly several inches taller; Clarence’s crouch hides this and makes the height difference disappear

When I delivered a large stack of prints and contacts to (art director) John Berg at Columbia, I did not envision what he saw instantly—in Berg’s eyes, the most important part of the image was the space between their two faces, because it provided the perfect place to split the image.  Folded open so that both the front and back show, Clarence becomes the center of a riveting line of body movement along with the line-of-sight of Bruce’s magnetic gaze.  Yes, Clarence was right, he is on the back; but for Berg he provided the link to the album’s front.  He then extended the white space to the left to accommodate the long list of credits.  In its original incarnation, as 288 square inches of area, it is as much a greeting card as an announcement, as much a billboard as an album cover”

The Springsteen and Clemons cover pose has been imitated often, from Cheap Trick on the album Next Position Please, to Bert and the Cookie Monster on the cover of the Sesame Street album Born to Add

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