Within the first few minutes of The Promise: The Making of Darkness on the Edge of Town, the viewer gets a strong sense of why Bruce Springsteen was nicknamed The Boss.
Springsteen sulks in a recording studio chair, listening to a playback of a song from his fourth album as the producer, sound engineer and members of the E Street Band try to figure out why he’s unhappy with the take. The band, he says, is not playing on the beat, and he huffs at the engineer to play the tape to demonstrate his point.
E Street drummer Max Weinberg says although there are tense times depicted on this new DVD, this candid moment is only a part of a bigger picture that included many ups and downs within the long days in the studio.
“We would go 12-hour days, five days a week. And you just pushed and pushed and pushed, and what that did was just taught you how to dig down deep to get that stuff out,” says Weinberg. “We’d show up at like 3 or 4 in the afternoon and go all night and sleep all day, and then you go back and do it again. Bruce would do the whole session and then he’d go back and write more songs. So I don’t know when he slept, but his energy was just impressive and infectious.”
The new DVD is part of a deluxe package from Springsteen, which came out Tuesday. Also included is a two-CD set with 21 unreleased songs.
For Springsteen, 1975 was a year where life imitated the most triumphant aspects of his art, when he released his third album, Born to Run.
But in 1976, he became embroiled in a lawsuit with Mike Appel, the manager and producer with whom he split at the end of making Born to Run. The court order stipulated that Springsteen could not record any music with a producer not pre-approved by Appel.
After the parties settled out of court twelve months later, Springsteen was in a headspace far removed from the naïve exuberance of his first three albums. He was in midst of contemplating the meaning of his commercial success.
In The Promise, Springsteen sums it up succinctly: “There were two clouds that hung over the writing and recording.”
Once the clouds of the lawsuit settled, Springsteen began a creative period that yielded too many songs to fit on his follow-up album.
“Ultimately Bruce picked the songs that became the Darkness on the Edge of Town album,” says Weinberg. “But the songs that didn’t make it are incredible in anybody’s book...You could take any group of them and make up an album out of them.”
Which is exactly what they did.