When Bruce Springsteen released his first album, Greetings From Asbury Park, N.J., in 1972, he was a 23-year-old musician and songwriter who was already a veteran of the local New Jersey music scene, playing in various bands there since 1965. But while his debut album brought him critical acclaim — with some even branding him a “new Bob Dylan” for his lengthy, evocative lyrics — Springsteen failed to make any impression on the wider music audience.
But three years later Springsteen, who was born on September 23, 1949, would land a five-night, 10-show engagement at what was then a relatively new New York City nightclub known as “The Bottom Line.” And with those shows, Springsteen became a superstar almost literally overnight. He played the first of those historic shows exactly 42 years ago, on August 13, 1975.
Of course, Springsteen’s sudden ascension to the stratosphere of rock stardom was no accident. Springsteen’s record label, Columbia Records, purchased more than 100 tickets to the shows, doling them out to influential journalists and music business luminaries, in hopes that they would go on to spread the word about Springsteen — already known as a riveting live performer despite his lack of commercial success leading up the Bottom Line shows.
The 10 shows — two per night, at 7:30 and 10:30 p.m. — were part of Springsteen’s promotional tour for his third album, Born To Run, which would go on to become recognized as one of the greatest rock albums ever recorded.
While no recording is known to exist of Springsteen’s early show on August 13, 1975, his 10:30 performance was recorded by an unknown audience member. Hear two songs — Springsteen’s breakout hit “Born to Run,” and another classic from the album, “Thunder Road” — by clicking on the videos below.
To listen to the complete August 13, 1975 Springsteen concert at The Bottom Line, click on this link. The show lasts approximately two hours and five minutes, and includes performances of 16 songs.
One week after Springsteen concluded his 10-show run at The Bottom Line — which had opened its doors at 15 West 4th Street in New York City’s Greenwich Village on February 12, 1974 — Columbia released the Born To Run album. Two months later the rising star’s manager at the time, Mike Appel, scored a major publicity coup, persuading both Time and Newsweek — arguably the country’s two most influential magazines of that era — to feature Springsteen on their covers on the same day, October 27.
While Springsteen went on to become one of the most successful and acclaimed performers in rock history, and Born To Run was ranked at Number 21 on the Rolling Stone list of rock’s all-time greatest songs, The Bottom Line nightclub itself went on to serve as a must-play venue not only for up-and-comers like Springsteen, but for established rock stars as well.
The greats who performed on the 400-seat club’s notoriously cramped stage ranged from rock legends Eric Clapton, The Police and Prince, to jazz icon Miles Davis and seminal New York punk rockers The Ramones and Patti Smith. Springsteen himself had earlier played a three-night, six-show run at The Bottom Line in July of 1974.
Unfortunately, The Bottom Line — located in Manhattan not far from the site of the former World Trade Center — saw a sharp drop-off in business following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. The historic club went out of business in January of 2004, just a few weeks shy of its 30th anniversary, after failing to keep up with its rent to New York University, which owned the property where the club was located.
[Featured Image by Monty Fresco/Getty Images]