Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The Promise of Bruce Springsteen

Okay, I promise we'll get back to publishing tomorrow. However, today I want to talk about an interview that the actor Edward Norton conducted with Bruce Springsteen in September at a Canadian film festival in Toronto.

The interview was part of the premiere of the film The Promise: The Darkness on the Edge of Town Story.

The story behind the documentary began with the release of Springsteen's breakthrough album Born to Run in the summer of 1975.

Springsteen had hit it big, but found himself sidelined for the next three years by a legal tussle with his former manager. Unable to return to a studio, he spent his time touring (trying to keep the E Street Band together) and writing songs. He produced more than 70 songs during this period. He and the band selected ten of the darkest songs for the album that became 1978's Darkness on the Edge of Town.

Among the sixty+ discarded songs were the following:
  • Because the Night recorded by Patti Smith
  • Fire recorded by The Pointer Sisters
  • This Little Girl recorded by Gary U.S. Bonds

Today, a double CD titled The Promise was released. It includes a lot of the discarded music from Darkness. A deluxe box version which also includes the film The Promise: The Darkness on the Edge of Town Story is available, too. The film includes rehearsals in a barn in New Jersey and studio sessions.

Some of the interesting parts of the interview for me included comments about the history of rock:
You forget, the Beatles made all their records in about eight years. You know, I think it was '63 to '72 ... and also the oldest rock musicians ... say, when "Darkness" came out were 32 or 34. Those were the old guys. You know, ... people were looking for a new Bob Dylan when Bob himself was only about 30 years old.
But I was also interested in his observations on writing:

I was interested now in writing music that felt ... I wanted to bring in the landscape of the whole country ... but the writing ... and the imagining of a world, that's a particular thing, you know, that's, that's a single fingerprint ... all the filmmakers we love, all the writers we love, all the songwriters we love ... they have ... they put their fingerprint on your imagination, and on your heart and on your soul.

And, of course, his family influences:
My own history. I was interested in my parents' lives. I was interested in a sense of place ... I felt that my own identity was rooted in that sense of place and that there was a narrative there. And I was interested in having a narrative. In other words, I had a story and wanted to tell it. And I knew it was caught up in my childhood, and my parent's lives and my own young life, but I had no real clue as to the broader picture.
I highly recommend listening to the interview, which you can find on NPR Music. Go here and scroll down to the photo of Springsteen to listen.

After you finish the interview, go here to NPR Music First Listen and scroll down until you see the Springsteen songs. There's 15 songs from Promise, including Because the Night and Fire.

I hope you'll enjoy the experience half as much as I did.

As I write this, I'm listening to Springsteen perform Because the Night on the Jimmy Fallon show and listening to a line I've always loved: "Desire and hunger is the fire I breathe."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Behind the scenes of Darkness on The Edge of Town, companion book to the Darkness box set: