Bruce Springsteen’s Darkness On The Edge Of Town – Studio Sessions

BruceBase

Darkness On The Edge of Town
* Clarence Clemons
* Danny Federici
* Garry Tallent
* Max Weinberg
* Roy Bittan
* Steve Van Zandt

Commercial Release: June 2, 1978
Produced by Bruce Springsteen and Jon Landau
Recorded at Atlantic Studios (New York, June-August 1977) and The Record Plant, New York, July 1977-January 1978)
Recorded by Jimmy Iovine

Part One – Darkness On The Edge Of Town Sessions Overview
Springsteen reached a final settlement in his year-long litigation with Mike Appel on May 28, 1977. Effectively this meant that for the first time in a year Springsteen was able to go into a studio and record. He wasted no time. The “Darkness Sessions” began in early June 1977 at Atlantic Studios in New York City. Springsteen had a considerable amount of new material – but the songs were in various stages of writing completion. Consequently many of the songs were shaped over the course of numerous sessions spanning several months.

The sessions at Atlantic Studios were only two or three weeks old when problems surfaced. Bruce didn’t like the sound he was getting from the studio (particularly the drums). On top of that Atlantic did not offer a particularly comfortable or livable environment for the musicians. So there was a decision taken to shift operations to the nearby Record Plant (where most of the Born To Run album had been recorded). However they’d already made financial commitments to Atlantic Studios, plus on such short notice they were unable to find much un-booked studio time at the popular Record Plant. Consequently the period July and August 1977 saw Springsteen and the band recording at both studios – but mostly Atlantic. However from September thru late December all recording seems to have taken place at The Record Plant – where all the recordings issued on the original album emanate from.

The actual recording sessions for Darkness On The Edge Of Town were completed by early January 1978. The mixing sessions began in early January 1978 and dragged on until late March – there were a tremendous amount of different mixes considered, with Springsteen changing his mind on the mix of one song (“The Promised Land”) as late as early April. From March 1978 to the start of the Darkness tour in late May Steve Van Zandt and Max Weinberg were very busy at nearby Secret Sound Studios with Southside Johnny’s Hearts Of Stone album (released early October 1978). Springsteen donated two non short-listed songs from the Darkness sessions to the Southside LP project.

According to comments by Darkness sessions recording engineer Jimmy Iovine about 30 songs were recorded to a completed state and available for inclusion on the Darkness album. There were an unknown number of additional songs not fully completed. What “not fully completed” means is uncertain. At this stage 33 songs have been officially released (the 10 on the original album, 5 on Tracks and 18 on The Promise) but several of these have modern vocal takes, and their 1978 state remains unknown. There is also an unknown amount of not fully finished recordings. The list below contains 52 songs from the period that likely encompass all or nearly all of the 30 songs Jimmy Iovine was alluding to, as well as most of the ones never completed.

The audio from the Darkness sessions that has surfaced unofficially over the years has been of rather disappointing quality. During the late 1970s and 1980s most of it was of very weak quality. However over the past 15 years lower generation audio specimens have emerged and the CD-era boots of this audio have been a noticeable improvement over their vinyl era counterparts. Yet in many cases it has become apparent that there were flaws in the way the original source individuals taped these studio sessions. There certainly appears to have been some hidden “fly-on-the-wall” type tapings. The other problem is that much of the leaked audio is of early studio workouts of these songs, rather than later, fully realized renditions. Most of the leaked studio material emanates from the June-October 1977 period, so the later November 77-January 78 sessions may include several other songs that remain undocumented, even after the release of The Promise.

The 2010 release of The Promise is somewhat of a double-edged sword. We now have a slightly better understanding of the Darkness sessions, as well as access to several tracks that were previously unknown to us such as “Save My Love” and “Breakaway”. However, the wonderful notebook facsimile included in the box set lists titles of many songs that are totally new to us. It is unknown how many of these songs were actually recorded. Many may not be songs at all – just titles. Jimmy Iovine mentions in the making of documentary that Springsteen wrote 70 songs for potential use on “Album IV”. It remains a possibility that even the 70 songs mentioned by Iovine is a conservative estimate of Springsteen’s true output at this time. A case of three steps forward, two steps back?

BADLANDS 4:01

SOMETHING IN THE NIGHT 5:08

RACING IN THE STREET 6:51

STREETS OF FIRE 4:02

PROVE IT ALL NIGHT 3:54

FACTORY 2:15

ADAM RAISED A CAIN 4:31

CANDY’S ROOM 2:43

THE PROMISED LAND 4:25

DARKNESS ON THE EDGE OF TOWN 4:23

DON’T LOOK BACK 2:56
TRACKS
HEARTS OF STONE 4:27
TRACKS
ICEMAN 3:13
TRACKS
SO YOUNG AND IN LOVE 3.47
TRACKS
GIVE THE GIRL A KISS 3:47
TRACKS
GOTTA GET THAT FEELING 3:15
PROMISE
OUTSIDE LOOKING IN 2:16
PROMISE
SOMEDAY (WE’LL BE TOGETHER) 5:32
PROMISE
ONE WAY STREET 4:16
PROMISE
BECAUSE THE NIGHT 3:22
PROMISE
WRONG SIDE OF THE STREET 3:31
PROMISE
THE BROKENHEARTED 5:16
PROMISE
RENDEZVOUS 2:35
PROMISE
AIN’T GOOD ENOUGH FOR YOU 3:59
PROMISE
FIRE 4:05
PROMISE
SPANISH EYES 3:47
PROMISE
IT’S A SHAME 3:12
PROMISE
TALK TO ME 4:17
PROMISE
THE LITTLE THINGS (MY BABY DOES) 3:15
PROMISE
BREAKAWAY 5:26
PROMISE
THE PROMISE 5:47
PROMISE
CITY OF NIGHT 2:56
PROMISE
THE WAY 3:40
PROMISE

Bruce Springsteen’s Darkness on the Edge of Town broke new ground for The Boss in 1978. A counterpoint to the operatic elegance of Born to Run, the album was an angry, raw record that burst forth after a three-year hiatus.

Because of its darker tones, some might call Darkness a difficult album, but despite this, it’s a cherished gem for many.
Collecting stories and photos from hundreds of fans, The Light in Darkness celebrates this classic record, allowing readers to revisit the excitement of that moment when the needle found the grooves in that first cut and the thundering power of “Badlands” shook across the hi-fi for the very first time. Or the uninitiated, but soon-to-be-converted teenager, brought along by friends and finding salvation at one of the legendary three-plus hour concerts – shows that embodied all the manic fury of a revival meeting.

The book is also for those more recent converts to The Boss who may have stumbled across a dusty bootleg in a used record store – discovering the magic of the Agora or the Winterland shows.

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