Mavericks: Interview of Bruce Springsteen by Ed Norton,
Tiff Lightbox Cinema, September 14, 6 pm
Gala World Premier: The Promise: The Making of Darkness
on the Edge of Town, Roy Thompson Hall,
September 14, 9:30 pm
Creatures Of The Radio
With the premiere of the documentary film The Promise: The Darkness on the Edge of Town Story at the Toronto International Film Festival, fans got their first taste of what will appear in the forthcoming box-set reissue of Darkness on the Edge of Town. The six-disc set will include a remastered version of the album, a DVD of the documentary The Promise, two discs of previously unheard outtakes, and a full concert performance from Houston 1978.
Believe it when you hear that this was the hardest ticket to acquire for any of the films at the festival. And the tickets to the Maverick series for the one-on-one with Ed Norton were nearly non-existent. Only 479 tickets were made available, and most of these were never accessible to the general public. I understand that about twenty or so lucky fans landed tickets by waiting in a “rush line” since the night before , including devoted fans from Germany, Italy, France, New Jersey and Toronto.
Even most of the press had to watch in an “overflow” room, without permission to record the audio, they were reduced to taking notes, covering the story the old fashioned way.
Toronto was electric and nowhere more so than in front of the new TIFF Lightbox complex. There may have been many A-listers invited to this year’s fest, but I doubt few had the hardware – 20 Grammys, two Golden Globes and one Oscar – as well as the fan and media attention that Bruce Springsteen had.
Along with everyone else, I tried to score tickets for the Sept. 14 premiere gala through the worst ticketing website I have ever dealt with. I was so frustrated, I was compelled to write the following email to the powers that be:
“I have never, and I mean never, in over 10 years of buying tickets online, and 36 years of buying tickets, including sleeping outside in Montreal winters, experienced such an outrageous mismanagement of a ticket sale. Fans of Bruce Springsteen are furious, but what about the other 99% of film fans who couldn’t give a shit about Bruce and were inconvenienced because the system went down.
“For being one of the most prestigious festivals in the world, they sure run it like amateurs. I called on three separate occasions up to two weeks in advance (after the official announcement) and no one could tell me exact information on how and where on the website to purchase tix. Plus the website has to be the most convoluted piece of garbage I have ever tried to navigate, it’s shameful.”
I would not have wanted to be one of the telephone operators or ticket sellers on September 3, the day tickets went on sale.
Ed Norton had already let it be known through the media that he was not going to concentrate on asking Bruce questions regarding the Darkness box set. Rather he was interested in finding out how American films had influenced and affected his work, and also delved into the working experience of this coming-of-age album.
Norton was extremely nervous and his questions rambled so that several times the point was lost by the time he finished asking the question. He spoke over Springsteen’s responses and there were several gaps of silence. But he did bring an intimacy to the interview only a friend could have done, and having said all of the above, I loved every minute of it.
Some of my favorite points that Bruce touched upon were details on how he had acquired the memory of so many 1960s hits and lesser-known classics. In his youth, “we were all creatures of the radio,” describing how he came by his legendary knowledge of ’60s rock and roll. As anyone that saw the last leg of the 2009 Working on a Dream tour knows, the man is human jukebox; it’s no wonder that he and the E Street Band could not be stumped when the sign requests made their appearance.
Like most of us in our fifties and sixties who started listening to music in the 1960s, Bruce was influenced by Bob Dylan as a teenager and was shown the reality of the political and social unrest that was being spearheaded by the youth of the time. Like Bruce, I also listened to Dylan and Seeger sing about the Vietnam War, and this music informed Bruce in his transition into the next decade where for the first time his eyes were opened to a “darker” side of reality, especially of the human condition.
I was happy to hear that he acknowledged his punk influences during the time period of recording the album Darkness on The Edge of Town; for my money Darkness is his “angry young man” album, much in the same vein of the restless punk movement of the time, including The Clash and Elvis Costello and The Ramones.
Bruce spoke about the manipulation of image and career, and his storytelling through his songwriting. “I said there’s other guys who play guitar well, there’s other guys who front really well, there’s other rocking bands out there. But the writing and the imagining of a world, that’s a particular thing. That’s a single fingerprint. All the filmmakers we love, all the writers we love, all the songwriters we love, they put their fingerprint on your imagination, in your heart. And on your soul. That was something that I felt touched by, and I thought, well, I wanted to do that.”
Bruce also told us of his ambition and unceasing desire to accomplish what he had set out to do, and do it the only way he knew how – through hard work. Work is the theme that is most represented in Darkness on The Edge of Town. He was going to work himself, the band and recording crew so that there was nothing left to give, no option left unexplored, lyric after lyric, song after song, take after take after take, he left nothing to chance. He wasn’t just recording these songs, he was living them.
And this reminded me of those marathon live shows I attended during the 1978 Darkness tour, those shows that seemed to go on forever, that tested our stamina and loyalty. During those shows where he screamed so hard that his body shook and we knew he was going to take no prisoners, even if it killed him, and us. He worked so hard for himself, he worked so hard for us, because this is the only way he knew how to survive. “There was a thrust of self-preservation more than anything else.”
The Darkness album established its role in presenting the most serious, mature and reflective music of his career. The music of the Darkness tour can be described as intense, emotional and sometimes dark rock ‘n’ roll, delivered no longer by the born to run boy, but by the take charge of the moment man.
Norton asked Bruce if there were any albums that he would enjoy having the opportunity to view a “making of” documentary similar to The Promise. Before Bruce answered I turned to my friend Dimo and whispered Highway 61, and Dimo’s whispered response was Sgt Peppers. Bruce responded with Let it Be and Highway 61.
After the interview session was over we hung around the side stage door waiting for a journalist friend’s digital recorder to be returned by security. Just inside that door we could see the guitar that was being strummed on stage as we entered the theater. We were told that there just wasn’t enough time for Bruce to perform that evening. While that would have been amazing, this time I was very content just to hear the Boss speaking, and leave the singing for another time.
September 23, 2010
Excerpt from Ed Norton’s interview with Bruce Springsteen:
TIFF September 14, 2010
“Lunch with Bruce Springsteen was an interesting experience, but standing in line with his fans, waiting to enter the interview between Springsteen and actor Ed Norton, was gobsmacking. Springsteen’s devoted followers.. come from all walks of life and display an oddly innocent level of enthusiasm for the guy that’s impressive. You get the feeling that, en masse, they could be a force for good, and in a big way.” — Liz Braun
“I decided that the key to that was maintaining a sense of myself, understanding that a part of my life had been mutated by my success,” Springsteen said in a conversation with actor Edward Norton in front of a festival audience a few hours before The Promise: The Making of Darkness on the Edge of Town premiered. “There was a thrust of self-preservation more than anything else, more than a political conscience or a social conscience.”
“During their conversation, Springsteen talked about earlier musical innovators, from Elvis Presley to James Brown to Bob Dylan. He described how, as “creatures of the radio,” he and the band had been steeped entirely in music, but that his influences widened in the mid-1970s to include authors such as James M. Cain, Jim Thompson and Flannery O’Connor, and filmmakers such as John Ford, Martin Scorsese and many film noir directors.”
“There was something in that hardness of it, that young naked desire. We wanted to be important and we came from a little town and we wanted people to hear our voices.”
“The juxtaposition of studio footage of the young, more impulsive musicians who are caught in the flurry of creativity with their more thoughtful and reflective current day selves also offers unique look at the artistic process.” — Chart Attack
“Lawrence, the book arrived today. I haven’t had time to peruse it thoroughly yet, but it looks like a valuable and beautiful document of a tour that has always seemed magical to me because it was the last Bruce tour I was too young to attend. Having seen everything since, for me, the ’78 tour is the one that got away. Thanks for bringing it closer.” — Cam V., Springsteen fan in line at the Toronto screening of The Promise