Bruce Springsteen was something of a slave driver during the recording of 1978’s Darkness On The Edge Of Town. The follow-up to his Born To Run “superstar album” would be three years in the making, three of the most painful years in his career due to a lawsuit with his ex-manager Mike Apell. Darkness would prove to be a stark, honest, visceral punch to the gut, filled with alienation and despair, a crying-out over the vicissitudes of growing up.
The songs left off the album are in many ways as important as the 10 that made it. The artist now admits that probably he should have included “The Promise.” Also, the only two songs even remotely close to what could be construed as hit singles—“Fire” and “Because The Night”—were given away to The Pointer Sisters and Patti Smith.
“More than being rich, more than being famous, I wanted to be great,” Bruce has said.
He had notebooks filled with lyrics, alternate lyrics, ideas for yet another song, and another and he drove his bandmates crazy with his scientific exactitude. The amazing thing is that the songs he didn’t use, much like the songs he didn’t use for other albums collected in the Tracks box, are just as good as the songs he did use. They just didn’t fit the concept. In the 1970s on into the 1980s, Bruce was reaching out in all directions: from Brill Building pop to 1950s icons to Dylanesque profundity to rhythm ‘n’ blues. Ultimately, he would find his inner Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger and Hank Williams and learn how to incorporate it all.
This expanded version of one of his greatest albums now includes 21 more songs that never made the original release, a three-hour 1978 concert, a “making-of” documentary, rehearsal footage and, of course, Darkness as it came out. Three CDs, three DVDs. Even the packaging is incredible. It comes in a spiral notebook with pages and pages of those same notes, alternate lyrics and new song ideas as if Bruce himself gave it to you and only you. It just looks so damn real! “How did you get that?” My wife was astounded.
To have these songs 32 years later is like going back in time to hear a brand new album by, let’s say, Otis Redding in 1967, the year he died. You can’t. And that’s just it. With The Promise, that’s what we have. New Bruce, the Bruce we remember from back in the day. He’s 29 again. And so are we.
In A Word: Bruuuuuuuce!