Lynn Goldsmith entered the life of Bruce Springsteen when he recorded Darkness on the Edge of Town with the E Street Band. It was in New York in the late 1970s that Springsteen was making his fourth studio album. He was still „ambitious, young, wild and innocent,” but after three years without a record — he released Born to Run in 1975 — the press, he says, considered him a „hyped-up one-hit wonder.”
So when he hit the road to promote his new songs, he „came out on stage every night with everything to prove”. And Goldsmith — „a handsome New York look, who appeared at the studio one evening to take photos of the band” — was to capture it on camera.
The result was Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band: Darkness on the Edge of Town, a deluxe book of photographs he took as he moved from small-town theater to small-town theater during a tour that helped build the singer and his band. The fact that they’re selling out stadiums is even more telling – as they did this month, tickets for two of their four Irish dates next year were gone within 90 minutes.
Goldsmith says their success is „a lot about how hard they work, not just their God-given talents.”
Some of the photographs in the book show the band on stage; Others were studio sketches, which Goldsmith hoped would help gain publicity for the album. „Bruce was clear that he didn’t need 'smiley’ photos because they didn’t reflect the tone of the album,” he writes in his introduction. „He knew what he was comfortable wearing. He knew his hair and it was good to shoot when it was dirty.
He allowed Goldsmith to be photographed in what is now a studded leather jacket Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. „The little gold bronze marker on it said it was Bruce Springsteen’s. It made me laugh,” Goldsmith says. „First, it was my jacket. But that jacket wasn’t very Bruce. He wasn’t a studs kind of guy—he was more like a funky leather jacket that got run over by a truck. Bruce just put it on because I asked.
When photographing a band at work, „People forget you’re there because they’re used to you being there, and they’re always taking pictures of you because that’s what you’re doing,” says Goldsmith. , he has also recorded Patti Smith, Bob Dylan, The Rolling Stones and The Police during his award-winning career. (He also composed music, including the 1980s hit Kissing With Confidence, featuring Will Powers.)
It wasn’t always easy to be a fly on the wall, though: Goldsmith could see the highs and lows. „Bruce could hear things in his head that might have been really hard to explain to the engineers or the band,” he says. „So there were times that were very frustrating because everyone wanted to do their best, but they weren’t sure what Bruce wanted.” Springsteen „pushes until the song feels complete.”
But, Goldsmith adds, “They all had a good sense of humor; They all looked out for each other. You know, you get through it, you’re a family. They were a band of brothers, and it wasn’t personal: it was really a matter of each of them stretching themselves to be the best they could be.
„They might think they did a great job at one point, but they might be pushed further — and that’s fine,” she says. „You know, Bruce yelled and yelled at people. It’s all respectable: it’s just frustration.
For Springsteen, that includes making sure his audience sees a good show. „Bruce is very different from any artist I’ve ever toured with,” says the photographer. “He spent a lot of time and a lot of attention, not only with sound check, but making sure that every place, every seat had a clear view of the stage – he would climb up into the balconies.
„There are scenes in the book of him walking all over the place and standing in the seats. With Bruce, there was a three- to four-hour sound check, and then the show was at least three hours because Bruce didn’t want to open, so the band and Bruce worked harder than I’ve ever experienced. .
“After the show, when we got on the bus, Bruce would listen back — because every show was taped — make notes, go through parts, and then call some of the band members in the back of the bus and talk about where they were. We can change some things or do some things,” he says.
„Bruce was very different because no two shows were the same because, even with a set list, the band knew, Bruce could change songs and put in a song they hadn’t rehearsed,” she says. „It was really exciting.”
He says he will also talk to his fans. „He’s someone who can relate to stories about songs, so if you’re in the audience, you’re more likely to say, 'Do you want to party? Let’s hear it in Detroit!’ Bruce didn’t do that, most artists did.
Photographing Springsteen was easier for Goldsmith than it would have been for anyone else. „Any photographer who has a friendship, much less a romantic relationship with their subject, it’s a lot easier than someone who’s never met anyone before, because you have confidence,” he says.
But there are also photographs that he kept personally. „The pictures I made, just for fun, the way you would make them with your boyfriend, really personal pictures, they’re not in the book.”
Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band: Darkness on the Edge of Town by Lynn Goldsmith, Dashen
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