Review: “The Promise: The Making of Darkness On the Edge of Town”

In The Promise: The Making of Darkness On the Edge of Town, Bruce Springsteen says “my career was not about money or fame. I wanted to be great.” However, there was a time after the release of Born To Run when he thought that “great” career he was striving for might be over. He was embroiled in a lawsuit with his former manager Mike Appel that prohibited him from recording the follow up to the album that made him a sensation, landing him on the covers of Time and Newsweek simultaneously. During the dark period, he wrote more than 70 songs and rehearsed incessantly with the E Street Band at his rented farm house in Holmdel, NJ (you get to see Bruce with what he calls his “Italian” fro and no shirt).  When the lawsuit was resolved in the summer of 1977, they finally went to work on what would become, Darkness On the Edge of Town.

The 90-minute film provides us with a behind-the-scenes look at the making of this great album and how Springsteen works. We see a very driven young man who had a specific vision for how he wanted things to sound.  The best example comes from engineer Jimmy Iovine who tells  the story of how he, Bruce and drummer Max Weinberg worked for weeks to get the perfect drum sounds (mainly because everything was carpeted causing everything to sound dead) with Springsteen repeating the word “stick” over and over again because it bothered him that he could hear the stick hitting the snare.

Springsteen also explains why he gave “Because the Night” to Patti Smith, how listening to country music and punk helped influence the album and there is a great scene with Bruce and Steven Van Zandt goofing while working out a version of “Sherry Darling,” which eventually showed up on The River. There are insights into why the song “The Promise” (apparently worked on for three months) didn’t make it on the album, there is live footage from the 1978 Darkness tour and we get to hear Van Zandt tell us how Darkness was “tragic in a way” because, in his opinion, Springsteen could have been “the greatest pop songwriter of all-time” if he chose not to make it a concept album.

The Promise is a real treat for Springsteen fans. Getting to see this guy work is fascinating and hearing the rest of the band talk about the process is fascinating. It will be included in a six-CD Darkness box set coming Nov. 16.  Can you say “Merry Christmas?”

Excerpt from “The Promise: The Making of Darkness On the Edge of Town”

Check out interview with NBC Nightly News at Bruce Springsteen’s official website

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