On Tuesday, before the Toronto Film Festival’s world premiere of The Promise: The Making of Darkness On The Edge of Town, Bruce Springsteen sat down with his friend, actor Ed Norton, for a one-hour interview. The two discussed the movie — which shows remarkable footage of Springsteen recording the seminal album Darkness On The Edge of Town — the singer’s upbringing and influences, and his state of mind as he wrote and recorded.
When Springsteen joined him, the two joked about the fact that they were identically dressed (in dark jeans, black shirt and boots). Norton quickly moved on to more serious topics, asking about the “darkness” in Springsteen’s lyrics — and “our country.” Springsteen cited Bob Dylan’s Highway 61 as a major influence when he was 15 years old, calling it “the first true picture of how my country felt.” He explained that he and the E Street Band were “provincial guys with no money,” no acquaintances with record deals, and a feeling that New York was “a million miles away.”
All that changed, of course, with the phenomenal success of 1975’s Born to Run. Springsteen said he suddenly felt like a “mutant” in his own neighborhood, and experienced “survivor’s guilt.” This compelled him, he explained, to chronicle his childhood and create a “conversation” with his audience. “I was in search of a purposeful work life,” he told Norton.
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The fruits of that purpose were the focus yesterday at a small listening session, where Springsteen and wife Patti Scialfa were joined by Springsteen’s long-time manager, Jon Landau, who played eight previously unreleased songs and five video clips from the forthcoming The Darkness On The Edge of Town box set. (In addition to the remastered album, it includes the documentary and 21 unused songs from the sessions.)
Landau called the session a “64-minute version of a seven hour production.” Four songs stood out for having love and relationships as their topics — one theme you won’t find on the Darkness album. On the light, rollicking “Gotta Get That Feeling,” Springsteen sings, “Hey girl, won’t you come out tonight?” There’s also “Ain’t Good Enough For You” (“you criticize about me endlessly/Logic defies how you got stuck with me”); “Someday (We’ll Be Together),” which is a romantic ballad with a bit of a ’50s feel; and “Talk To Me,” about a guy pining for a girl whose “dad won’t ever let me in.” As the documentary makes evident, Springsteen ruthlessly discarded songs from the extensive recording sessions for Darkness. In the film, Springsteen says, “I felt like I didn’t know how to write [love] songs at that time.” Fans will soon be able to judge.