Last April, we told you about the time [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band[/lastfm] opened for the [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]Beach Boys[/lastfm] — in 1973, just after the release of Greetings From Asbury Park. A year later, Springsteen was still not yet a headliner, although the gigs were getting better. In early August 1974, the band played the Schaefer Music Festival in New York’s Central Park, in support of an act you’d never associate with the Boss.
Between 1968 and 1976, the Schaefer Music Festival brought a wide array of stars out to play between mid-June and early September. The show on August 3, 1974, was scheduled to star [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]Boz Scaggs[/lastfm] and two openers: country-pop singer [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]Anne Murray[/lastfm] and folk-rockers [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]Brewer and Shipley[/lastfm]. When Scaggs pulled out of the scheduled appearance, the promoter replaced him with Springsteen.
By the summer of ’74, Springsteen’s profile was growing — The Wild, the Innocent, and the E Street Shuffle had come out the previous fall — but Anne Murray was on a hot streak, with three big singles in the last 18 months, so her managers argued that she should go on last, not Springsteen. Strictly from a commercial standpoint, this logic was persuasive, so a deal was struck — Springsteen would go on second, but would get to play a full 80-minute set. Once that set began, of course, it swiftly became clear to Anne Murray’s managers that most of the crowd was there to see Springsteen, and that following him would be impossible. They tried to get Springsteen’s manager to cut the set short — which he would not.
That night in Central Park turned out to be the last time Springsteen opened for anybody (not counting all-star charity events). He was supposed to open for [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]John Sebastian[/lastfm] of the [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]Lovin’ Spoonful[/lastfm] that fall, but Sebastian decided he’d rather go on first. Good call, John.
The setlist for the 1974 Schaefer Music Festival show is unknown, although Springsteen was already performing “Born to Run” by this time. Here’s a version from a New York City appearance a couple of weeks earlier. Note the differences in the lyrics — but also how the band’s got the arrangement down in the form we would one day know so well.