HBO has announced plans to show The Promise: The Making of ‘Darkness on the Edge of Town, a documentary that follows the making of Bruce Springsteen’s fourth album, Variety reported. Directed by Thom Zimney, The Promise chronicles Mr. Springsteen’s work on Darkness from 1975, after the release of his pivotal album Born to Run, until 1978, a time when he was prohibited from recording any music because of a pending lawsuit with Mike Appel, his former manager. The film mixes footage from rehearsals during that time with recent commentary from Mr. Springsteen and the band. “The fact that this footage has been sitting in a vault, and no one has seen it for more than 30 years is just extraordinary,” said HBO exec Richard L. Plepler. The documentary will be shown on the network in October, after a premiere on Sept. 14, as the opening film of the Toronto Film Festival.I happened to see a couple of stops on Bruce's 76 tour, during the period he was fighting that lawsuit (and apparently working in the studio -- in secret -- on the album that became Darkness). He opened those shows with the song that, for me anyway, is his greatest claim to relevance to the theme of the blog you are currently reading.
I refer, of course, to the sublime "Rendezvous," and here it is -- via a bootleg that became legendary amongst Bruce fans -- from one of those shows I attended.
I should add that the song, of course, was at the time unknown to Bruce's audience, and it became, literally, an instant classic; Springsteen devotees talked about it in hushed tones for years. It was covered by other artists later (Gary US Bonds, Greg Kihn) but an official Bruce version wasn't released until the Tracks box set in '98; typically, it was a live rendition from the same stand of shows in '76 but a different, less exciting one (and doctored after the fact, I think).
Now, of course, I've discovered that there was indeed a studio version all along, and here it is in rough but otherwise transplendent condition. Yes, it's not really mixed, and yes, Bruce's voice doesn't come in until the middle of the first verse, but jeebus -- this is gorgeous (and you can easily imagine how great it might have sounded had it ever been finished). And of course, it got left off the Darkness album, most likely because that asshole Jon Landau didn't think it was thematic enough.
In case anybody's wondering, BTW, I fricking hate Jon Landau, whose influence on Bruce has been by and large pernicious, I think, and whose "production" on the Darkness album has irked me for years. Seriously -- after the sonic boom that was Born to Run, what did the little creep opt for? A sterile sounding LA singer/songwriter record, with most of the rock-and-roll spirit leeched out of it. I mean, thank god the songs are strong by and large, because otherwise the damn thing would be an unlistenable period relic. IMHO.
Of course, I haven't forgiven Jon Landau since he dissed Roy Blumenfeld's drumming in a Crawdaddy review of the Blues Project's Projections. And don't even get me started on the way he neutered the MC5's Back in the USA.
Have I mentioned that I hate Jon Landau?