Bruce Springsteen is set to release one of the most ambitious reissue packages in the history of rock music with The Promise: The Darkness on the Edge of Town Story. It has been 32 years since The Boss followed up his break out record Born to Run with an introspective hard driving rock album that stripped away the romanticism and idealism of his youth and turned the focus squarely on the prospects of adulthood on the fringe of American life.
The Promise is an all-in, nothing-left-out bombshell for Springsteen fans. Included in this package is a remastered version of the original release which many fans and critics argue was needed. Two additional CDs are packed with 21 previously unreleased outtakes from the Darkness sessions. This alone would be enough, but the real fireworks come in the form of three, count ’em THREE, DVD’s.
DVD 2 includes a full performance of the album by Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band from 2009 as well as various ’76 thru ’78 live clips from the Thrill Hill vaults. DVD 3, a Springsteen collector holy grail, is a full concert from the 1978 Darkness tour considered in many circles to be the greatest rock tour in history. Bootlegs from the Darkness tour have circulated for years but the idea that there will be an official release with dynamic sound almost seems too good to be true.
The first DVD is entitled The Promise: The Making of Darkness on the Edge of Town which is a documentary pieced together of footage from the studio and recollections by many involved on the recording of the album. The documentary premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival and the man himself sat down with Edward Norton to discuss the film and his music as it relates to the American cinematic landscape.
Here is a preview from the film and then we’ll move on to some great photos of Bruce’s appearance in Toronto as well as excerpts from his interview with Edward Norton:
Via TIFF’s page here is what it had to say about Springsteen’s involvement this year:
Bruce Springsteen visits the Festival for the world premiere of The Promise: The Making of Darkness on the Edge of Town – playing separately as a Gala. The documentary explores the creative process of his pivotal 1978 album, where his focus shifts from youth to adulthood. Interviewed in the film, Springsteen often reaches for cinematic comparisons to describe his songs. That sparked the idea to invite him for a longer conversation about the interplay between music and film. Springsteen graciously accepted our invitation to be interviewed on stage by the actor Ed Norton for this Mavericks dialogue.
Though The Promise will not be available for purchase until the box set is released on November 16, fans got their first glimpse at the Toronto International Film Festival tonight as the film had its gala world premiere! In attendance at the event was Grammy- and Emmy-winning filmmaker Thom Zimny, Bruce’s manager Jon Landau and Bruce himself, who participated in an interview session with actor Edward Norton!
According to people reporting live from the scene it appears as though Bruce skipped out on the red carpet, but was fantastic during his talk with Norton. I’ve compiled some excerpts from the discussion cobbled together from tweeters at the event. (A special thanks goes out to @chrisvognar and @octoberman for their diligent new age reporting!) (And kudos to you if you picked up on the obscure Bruce/Wilburys “Tweeter” reference!)
The discussion began a little behind schedule because Bruce was running late. Ed and Bruce were wearing matching black button-down shirts, jeans and black leather shoes (“We should explain to them how long it took us to figure these outfits out,” Bruce joked.)
Here are Springsteen quotes (and Norton’s when necessary), though they are not necessarily in order:
Bruce’s goal when making Darkness: “Honoring my parents and their history and the people I knew. These things weren’t being written about.”
“We all carry our landscapes within us.”
Director Martin Scorsese arranged for a screening of Mean Streets for Bruce when it was released and Bruce gives props to the darkness of ’70s American film influencing Darkness On The Edge Of Town
On early Bruce: “Those records were cinematic. I was always aware of that element in the music I was writing.” He also says he is a big fan of noir.
Bruce says Flannery O’Connor was “revelatory.” (He’s often talked about Flannery’s influence on his songwriting and world view just prior to recording Nebraska.)
“People were looking for a new Bob Dylan when Bob was only 30.”
Bruce says that the great artists leave a fingerprint on our souls and that “The writing and the imagining of a world: that’s a single fingerprint.”
“All the writers we love, they put their finger prints on your imagination, and on your heart and your soul, and I thought, ‘I want to do that.’
On Elvis: “The scale of his impact and the story he told was just vast.”
Bruce says he only read Ginsberg after comparisons were made between the poet and his songs: “If I was bohemian it was by only by circumstance.”
“I was interested in my sense of place and there was a narrative there. I wanted to tell that narrative.”
On early material: “The world gobbles you up very quickly. I went to what I knew. It was an act of self-preservation.”
A great fan video from the red carpet:
On politics: “I don’t feel like it has to be a part of your art or your work… It’s just part of what you’re doing.”
Norton brings up fellow Jersey boy Walt Whitman.
Norton: “You’ve got the advantage of…” (Pause) Bruce: “Age.” (Both laugh) Norton: “Seniority.”
“There are people who have been in this recession for the past 30 years.”
“Darkness was an angry record. I took the ten toughest songs I had. I didn’t want to cut that feeling.”
Bruce quotes Scorsese: “The artist’s job is to get the audience to care about your obsessions.”
“I was in search of a purposeful work life. I wanted to entertain. I wanted the pink Cadillac. I wanted the girls. And I also wanted what I needed most, which was a purposeful work life. That’s what we were in pursuit of.”
Bruce: “How did they get you to do this?” Norton: “You’re still The Boss with a capital B.”
“Bob always said he liked the singers who you didn’t know what they were thinking.”
“If you’re good, you’re always looking over your shoulder for the next one coming up. That’s the life of the gunslinger. It’s like: ‘Yes, you are very fast my friend.'”
Ed mentioned how Bruce has given him great romantic advice over the years. Bruce then offered the audience free advice backstage.
Bruce’s advice to younger people was not to worry too much about life. But worry a lot about your work.
^ Jon Landau and Thom Zimny at the TIFF screening of The Promise
“We wanted to be important,” Springsteen said of him and his band’s beginnings. “We came out of a little town and we wanted people to hear our voices.” “There was no modesty involved.”
“I had my first taste of success and I think you realize it’s possible for your identity to get co-opted. I decided that the key to that was maintaining a sense of myself, understanding a part of myself had been mutated. … The world gobbles you up very quickly.”
On making Darkness: “The way we did it was so hard we often thought we were doing it wrong. But I look back and I think we weren’t doing it wrong, but we were just doing it the only way we knew how.”
On Darkness: “It was the beginning of a long narrative … a long conversation I’ve had with my fans that’s been one of the most valuable things in my life”