Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Art of Punk: Born to Run

I almost don’t know where to start when it comes to talking about Bruce Springsteen and Born to Run. The Boss is one of the most influential musicians in the world… ever. And although his music has little of the punk rock sound to it, he has certainly had a massive impact to the world of punk music. If you’re a punk fan and you don’t own a copy of Born to Run then you need to stop reading this, get off your butt and go buy it now – I recommend the vinyl version and you’re about to find out why.

As with many artists, it was Springsteen’s third album that was a bit of a make or break for his career (why is it that third album have that stigma anyway?). Born to Run, released in 1975 and featuring songs that are now classic such as Thunder Road, Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out and Jungleland as well as the title track, helped to propel the Boss into ‘the mainstream’. But it’s not just the musical content of Born to Run that has received high claim over over the last 40 years (can you believe it’s 40 years old?! Timeless!). The album cover and overall record sleeve design too is often thought of as one of the greatest of all time – it’s quite possibly my favourite record sleeve of all time anyway.

The famous photograph was taken by Eric Meola and was picked from some 600 shots that were taken in a single two hour photoshoot. Many of the images consisted of the same key elements – Bruce and his Fender Telecaster and Clarence Clemons and his saxophone, though some photographs were of solely Bruce. In a blog post, Deconstructing the Cover of Born to Run, Meola explains how the image that ended up on the cover was not set up or planned as some might think.

The final image that was chosen for the record sleeve features Clarence facing towards the camera with Bruce leaning on his friend’s shoulder and smiling at him. It’s this connection between the two musicians that really makes Born to Run such an iconic album visually, as well as musically. Plus the fact that Bruce chose to include another person (and, as some people like to point out, the fact that Clarence was black as well) on his album cover at all! But, after all, Born to Run is an album filled with saxophone solos so, race aside, it makes perfect sense.

I did not envision what [John Berg, art director] saw instantly … 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 centre 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.’ – Eric Meola

And that’s what makes Born to Run such a great album to own on vinyl. Not only is the front-on image of Bruce and his Telecaster stunning on its own but when you open the gatefold sleeve up it reveals the other side of the image – and I think that’s very clever design work. The photograph is combined with ultra light typography, which today seems very current and modern but at the time was very unusual.

If there’s just one Bruce Springsteen album that you should own, I highly recommend that it is Born to Run. (Although, I recommend having more than one – The River is my second favourite, if anyone was wondering.)