This piece was originally published on August 13, 2007 to commemorate Bruce's historic stand at The Bottom Line. It got some nice reviews and was later used by my favorite Springsteen cover band, Tramps Like Us, to promote their recreation of the August 15th show.
The Week That Made Bruce SpringsteenIn the Summer of 1975, Bruce Springsteen was backed against the ropes. His first two albums, Greetings From Asbury Park, N.J., and The Wild, The Innocent, and the E Street Shuffle, had been critically but not commercially successful. Jon Landau of Rolling Stone, who famously wrote in 1974 that Springsteen was “rock and roll future,” had taken leave from his job to help him finish his third record. The album, to be named Born to Run, had kept Springsteen in the studio for over a year, and he knew it was his last shot at a breakthrough. But if it was to be his defining statement, he needed an audience to validate it. He got that audience with an electrifying ten-show stand at a 400-seat club in Greenwich Village called the Bottom Line. It would propel him onto the October 27 covers of Time and Newsweek simultaneously and mark a turning point both for his career and for rock music.
Having been “discovered” by John Hammond, who a decade earlier had brought a young Bob Dylan to Columbia Records, Bruce was predictably hailed as “the next Dylan” in 1972. Even though his first two albums didn’t really sell, his incendiary live shows made him a cult favorite. Columbia executives hoped to use this magic to build a buzz for Born to Run. His official manager, Mike Appel (who would soon embark on a bitter power struggle with Landau), was so convinced that Springsteen was ready for the big time that he originally tried to book him into Madison Square Garden, but he wasn’t popular enough--yet. So his 10 shows took place over five nights at the Bottom Line, from August 13 to 17.