Springsteen performed to a sold-out Spaulding in 1974
By Jane Cavalier And Dana Venerable, The Dartmouth Staff
Published on Monday, May 21, 2012
Editor’s Note: This is the first installment in a four-part series profiling popular music concerts at Dartmouth over the last four decades.
On the eve of the Dartmouth-Harvard football game in 1974, Dartmouth students were introduced to Bruce Springsteen, an up-and-coming artist who only attracted a small, local following in his home state of New Jersey. Well known for performing summertime concerts on the Jersey Shore, Springsteen had only released two albums, “Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J.” and “The Wild, the Innocent and the E Street Shuffle,” before his Dartmouth performance.
At the College, Springsteen performed a sold-out concert on Oct. 25, 1974 to a packed Spaulding Auditorium, according to a Hopkins Center press release about the concert. Springsteen performed with Clarence Clemons on saxophone, Ernest “Boom” Carter on drums, Danny Federici and David Sancious on keyboards and Garry Tallent on bass, according to the press release.
Mark Weld ’76, who attended the concert, said he vividly remembers the on-stage dynamic between Springsteen and Clemons, noting that their musical connection was like “a laser beam.” Pat Knight also perceived the duo’s chemistry in a 1974 article on Rolling Stone magazine.
“Most instrumental in driving the band is saxophonist Clarence Clemons,” Knight said. “Clemons and Springsteen work off each other with practiced ease.”
While some alumni struggled to recall certain specific details in the almost 38 years that have passed since the concert, Springsteen’s stage presence was “unforgettable,” Weld said.
“I could draw you a picture of Bruce playing a blond-colored guitar — it’s called a Fender Telecaster, which is fairly unique,” Weld said. “I was just blown back in my chair, couldn’t tell you who I went with, couldn’t tell you who else was there, but I can just tell you — listening to him play guitar, his attitude, and the keyboards — it was just way different from anything that I have heard before, and it was cool.”
Springsteen’s style at the time drew from a variety of influences, including rhythm and blues, rock and roll and hard rock, the press release said. He was also well-known for his “street punk Jersey style,” according to Rolling Stone.
Thad Seymour ’77 was one of many students unfamiliar with Springsteen before the event.
“I was a swimmer,” Seymour said. “From [that night] on, I would always just blast ‘Rosalita’ on my record player in my dorm room. I was in Ripley [Hall], and I would blast that, and it was sort of my inspiration for a long time after that, especially before big meets.”
The songs that stood out at the concert were “Kitty’s Back” and “Rosalita,” according to Weld and Seymour.
“The most memorable thing about the concert was ‘Rosalita,’” Seymour said. “The place just went crazy.”
While other universities at the time were bringing in big-name bands like Cream, Dartmouth stuck to its tradition of supporting artists on the rise, according to Weld.
“I was thinking I’m 20, he’s 25,” Weld said. “I’m sitting in lovely little Hanover, N.H., and this guy is just like blowing the doors off of rock and roll, and I’m going, ‘Man, I’ve done nothing with my life.’ At that time, it felt like it.”
Within a year, on Aug. 25, 1975, Springsteen released “Born to Run,” which brought him to the national stage.
“He became big and was on the cover of Time a year after that,” Kevin Gillis ’76 said. “People all over campus were playing him a year after the concert.”
Gillis said he attended the concert to complete an assignment for a music class.
“I just remember him being this real different sound,” Gills said. “We went because we had to do this concert report and decided to see who this guy is.”
Springsteen’s effect on Gillis and many other alumni was long lasting. Since the concert, Gillis has remained a huge fan, attending Springsteen shows in the late 1970s and early 1980s. He said he is still interested in attending more shows.
Weld said he has also made a point to see Springsteen live since seeing him on the Spaulding stage.
“I am a music person,” Weld said. “I’ve been to see him a couple of times after that, and when I go to see a dude like that, I pay up and I’m going to sit in the first or second row, and it’s fun, but it’s not like [the Dartmouth concert].”
Since Spaulding Auditorium can only hold 900 people, many alumni remarked on the intimacy of Springsteen’s performance.
“I remember sitting in the front lower section of the right-hand side,” Seymour said. “[I walked] out of there with such a buzz because I was so pumped up.”
From that night on for his Dartmouth spectators, Springsteen was no longer just a singer known by his New Jersey hometown.
“He just didn’t have the reputation that he had a couple years later,” Seymour said. “We discovered him.”