AFTER YEARS OF RUMORS, Bruce Springsteen is releasing a massive Darkness on the Edge of Town box set on November 16th. The package features a remastered version of the 1978 album, plus 21 unreleased songs from the Darkness sessions — many of which have never been bootlegged. “Darkness was my samurai record — stripped to the frame and ready to rumble,” Springsteen writes in an essay that accompanies the collection. “But the music that got left behind was substantial.”
The Darkness era was a particularly fertile one for Springsteen. Ensnarled in a lawsuit with his former manager Mike Appel following 1975’s Born to Run, Springsteen was unable to release new material for three years. But he continued to record, amassing many more songs than could ever fit on a single album.
Five outtakes from this period were released on Springsteen’s 1998 box set, Tracks. Then, said guitarist Steve Van Zandt earlier this year, “We found 10 more, and I just got a call from Bruce’s engineer saying he found 10 more. We’ll go back, and he might finish a lyric on one or two or sing a harmony on one or two, but we’ll keep them intact, pretty much.”
The new tunes include an uptempo version of “Racing in the Street,” unreleased studio takes of “Because the Night” and “Fire,” as well as the never released or bootlegged “Save My Love” and “Ain’t Good Enough for You.” The package also features three DVDs, which include a new documentary, The Promise: The Making of “Darkness on the Edge of Town“; a complete performance of the album that Springsteen and the E Street Band filmed at Asbury Park Convention Hall last year; 12 songs filmed at various tour stops between 1976 and 1978; and an epic show from a Houston stop on the Darkness tour.
Cameras were rolling during many of the Darkness sessions, and this footage forms the basis of the documentary. “As the film begins, you see this black-and-white footage of Bruce Springsteen in the studio, and immediately I got goose bumps,” says Thorn Powers, director of the Toronto International Film Festival, where the film will premiere on September 14th. (It airs on HBO on October 7th.) In a snippet of the doc released online, Springsteen and Van Zandt perform an early version of 198O’s “Sherry Darling” on the piano. Afterward, Springsteen turns to the camera, smiles broadly and says, “The one and only performance of this phenomenal song you have captured on tape.”