Keep pushing ‘til it’s understood
by: Pat Healy
November 15, 2010 1:50 PM
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. You wanted to play his songs so well for him.”
The new DVD is part of a deluxe package from Springsteen, which comes out tomorrow. Also included is a two-CD set with 21 unreleased songs from the late ‘70s. Weinberg says revisiting these songs earlier this year was a revelation.
“We had a little bit of a listening session at Bruce’s house,” he recalls. “I’d say 50 percent of the songs that are on the two CDs I don’t remember at all.”
SOMEDAY WE’LL LOOK BACK ON THIS AND IT WILL ALL SEEM FUNNY
For Springsteen and company, 1975 was a year where life imitated the most triumphant aspects of his art. With his third album, “Born to Run,” he and his Jersey buddies in the E Street Band were pulling out of there to win.
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. This proved quite difficult for Springsteen to go into the studio.
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, which made him re-think his entire approach.
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 and his re-thinking had cleared, 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. And each one could have been on there. You could take any group of them and make up an album out of them.”
And that’s exactly what they have done.
And if you’re in the Boston area, Tuesday night promises additional Springsteen fun. A group of local musicians (including Metro’s resident Boss expert) are covering Springsteen songs Tuesday night at T.T. the Bear’s (10 Brookline St., Cambridge). Which of the 11 performers works for Metro? You’ll have to attend to see for yourself.