Columbia Records will release Bruce Springsteen’s “The Promise: The Making of Darkness On The Edge of Town”


Columbia Records will release Bruce Springsteen’s “The Promise: The Making of Darkness On The Edge of Town” documentary on DVD and Blu-Ray May 3. The award-winning film will be accompanied by the bonus features “Songs From the Promise,” a five-song concert event filmed in Asbury Park, NJ, and “A Conversation With His Fans,” an intimate question-and-answer session.

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New York, New York 1978

Darkness on the Edge of Town: A Concert Revisited

Bruce Springsteen, Madison Square Garden, New York 1978

Your admission to this story is a ticket to a time machine. If you're a latter-day Bruce Springsteen fan who became an aficionado of the man's music and live shows in the decades following the 'Darkness' tour and you think you have an idea of what one of his live shows is like, sit back: you're about to discover the exciting truth. If you were there in '78, you are about to be transported back to a brief moment in time.The 'Darkness on the Edge of Town' Tour: "History is Made at Night"… That was then. This is now. Sound engineer Bruce Jackson during sound check.

SOUNDCHECK – Do you hear what I hear?

Much has been made on recent tours about the varying quality of sound at Springsteen concerts from venue to venue, and sometimes within the same venue in different locations. The ‘Darkness’ tour was distinguished for the now-legendary two-plus hour sound checks, where Springsteen himself would tour the arena while the E Street Band played in order to judge the sound. Much of this practice was no doubt a vestige of his initial reluctance to play hockey arena-sized venues in light of his audience intimacy and sound concerns, but in truth, the sound on that tour was great – it had to be, as the spoken song intros and stories played a major role in that tour’s message. You had to be able to understand what was being said.

OPENING ACT – Getting in the Door.

We all know the progression of ticket acquisition. Some of us remember Ticketron, sleeping out on the sidewalk the night before an on sale date, box office lines, then the advent of jammed phone lines, onsite venue scalper transactions, and, ultimately, internet sales. In 1978, you found out about a Springsteen appearance through your local FM radio station. You had no idea where the tour was the week before, or the week after your show. Tickets for the August 1978 shows at Madison Square Garden were made available via lottery by clipping a coupon in an ad that appeared in the New York Times Arts and Leisure section in late June. The coupon was mailed and you crossed your fingers that you would win the jackpot. Three weeks later two tickets arrived in the 8th row, Clarence’s side of the stage, for night two of the three show stand. Yes, things were different back then.


Bruce Springsteen, Madison Square Garden, New York 1978

THE FANS - Same cast, different demographic.A stateside Springsteen show these days probably has a median age of about 38, with half the audience above, and half below that age. In 1978, the median age was about half that. Looking around a Springsteen concert in 1978, you saw an audience of people ranging from about 16, to about 28 years of age. There were the "veterans", and by "veterans", you're talking about people who went back as far as the Upstage Club, and instant converts, in many cases people who had been dragged to the show by someone who had already seen the light. The conversation in that era used to go something like this: "Do you like Bruce Springsteen?" "No, not really." "Have you ever seen him live?" Nowadays you'll hear someone at a show wax poetic about the 'River' tour, and it's a true oracle moment for a younger fan. I'll never forget a conversation I heard during intermission at the Garden in '78. It was between two guys who were comparing notes from the Upstage Club and the Student Prince in Asbury Park, back when Springsteen was essentially a guitar slinger sitting in with jam bands. To put it in perspective, ten summers ago we were all at the Meadowlands for the reunion tour shows. "Ten summers ago" in 1978 put you on the Jersey shore in 1968 in the era of the Bruce Springsteen Band, Dr. Zoom and the Sonic Boom, and Steel Mill.

THE FIRST SET – Just waitin’ to get blown away.

The best way to describe what you felt when the band walked out onto the boards and ripped into the opening number (whether it was ‘Good Rockin’ Tonight’, ‘Summertime Blues’, ‘High School Confidential’, or ‘Badlands’) is to harken back to the old Maxell tape ads, where the guy puts a Maxell tape into his stereo and the sound that comes out of the speakers blows his hair and his scarf back, and sends his drink skidding across the table through the sheer force and power of its volume and energy. Much has been written and said over the years about the sense of desperation and emotion driving Springsteen on that tour – it’s all true, and then some. Trying to explain it can sometimes seem as daunting a prospect as the challenge put forth by John Sebastian in the Lovin’ Spoonful’s “Do You Believe in Magic?” in that “It’s like trying to tell a stranger about rock and roll.” Bruce and the E Street Band, compared to now, played fast. And they played loud. Not “The Who loud”, but loud enough to trash your ears for a day after the show, regardless of your rock show-going experience. The opening set was heavy on ‘Darkness’ album material, and the songs were augmented, enhanced, and accessorized in a way that doesn’t happen these days. The organ/piano intro to the title track, the extended harmonica/piano intro to ‘Promised Land’, the now-legendary piano/guitar intro to ‘Prove It All Night’, the extended piano coda to ‘Racing in the Street’, the ‘Not Fade Away’/’Mona’/’Gloria’ lead-in to ‘She’s the One’, along with the instrumental break in the middle of it – these flourishes made the songs even more special, and these types of reworkings are not seen much anymore. By the time ‘Jungleland’ closed the first set, some first-timers in the crowd thought the show was over, such was the quality and quantity of what was delivered in the opening set.


Bruce Springsteen, Madison Square Garden, New York 1978

THE SECOND SET - Are you ready for round two?About ten songs long, the second set usually included "story time" in the midst of 'Growin' Up', where we would learn that Springsteen was once a teenage werewolf, had contact with aliens, and as the product of a Catholic school upbringing, got to meet God himself in choosing a vocation, where he was told to "Let it Rock!" by the Big Skipper on a Clarence-organized trip to heaven. Second sets often opened with the unreleased instrumental gem 'Paradise by the C', and, later in the tour, with another as-yet unreleased song, 'The Ties that Bind'. This, in and of itself, is illustrative, that Springsteen would play songs with which the audience was unfamiliar, including Springsteen-penned songs like 'Fire' and 'Because the Night', which became show staples and highlights even though they were associated with other artists. By the time 'Rosalita' closed the second set, and you'd screamed yourself hoarse during the band intros, you were wondering if you had anything left for the encores.

THE ENCORES – Don’t make me have to hurt you!

The encores are really the third set, and by the time the show proper ended with ‘Rosalita’, it was hard to imagine that the energy could be taken to another level. It was, of course…the usual midsummer encore was ‘Born to Run’ (with a heartfelt “thank you to the fans for sticking with the band during the tough times”), ‘Because the Night’, and ‘Quarter to Three’ (those were the three encore songs for the three night stand at Madison Square Garden). The ‘Detroit Medley’ would work its way into the rotation for the fall, along with an occasional ‘Raise Your Hand’ or ‘Twist and Shout’. The feeling as you left the building was one of utter exhaustion. You had nothing left as a fan, and it almost seemed as if Springsteen was on a mission to outlast you, to prove that he had more energy than the collective reservoir of the assembled mass. If the first set was your apps and the second set was your main course, the encores were dessert. The arc of the show was no accident, and by its end it had peaked, leaving people high-fiving each other on the way out, “Broocing” themselves in the street, and literally sharing in a communal celebration of what they had just witnessed.



Bruce Springsteen, Madison Square Garden, New York 1978

THE RIDE HOME – Can you believe that leap he made from the speakers?

The ‘Darkness’ era had no online chat rooms, instantaneous set list dissemination, or Internet vehicles upon which to discuss Springsteen’s music or career. Your ride home was your debrief, and in that ride home, one of the major topics of discussion was the physicality of a Springsteen show. He was on top of the piano during the ‘Thunder Road’ outro before stage-sliding into Clarence. He was ten rows deep into the audience during ‘Spirit in the Night’. He was on top of the speakers, on top of the drum kit, and careening across the stage during the encore ‘Quarter to Three’ or ‘Detroit Medley’. His leaps at the end of songs could be measured by their verticality. In short, he was a force of nature, with energy emanating from his very being as if he were supercharged by lightning. Springsteen had been away for three years, and in that primitive media era, he may as well have been on the dark side of the moon. The sense of desperation, release, exhilaration, and resurrection engendered by the album’s release and its subsequent tour were once-in-a-lifetime occurrences for the man and his fans, and comprised a 7-plus month moment in time never to be repeated.

Anthony Fischetti, New York

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Photographer Patrick Harbron on Shooting Bruce Springsteen

Bruce Springsteen Toronto 1978

Toronto, November 1978

I have photographed hundreds of concerts and it’s difficult to recall some individually but Bruce Springsteen’s concert at Maple leaf Gardens in November 1978 during the Darkness On The Edge of Town tour was unforgettable.

Bruce Springsteen Toronto 1978

It wasn’t the full Gardens but a configuration called The Concert Bowl, created by putting the stage on the west side of the building instead of the south end, turning an 18,000 seat arena into a space half the size. Of course, Springsteen’s subsequent visits to the Gardens were always in the full size hall and sold out.

I knew Springsteen’s music well but this was my first opportunity to see him and the E Street band perform. They were tight and polished without being glossy.

Bruce Springsteen Toronto 1978

The music was grand but not arrogant. Springsteen and his band were a force. It was refreshing to hear something so true to heart and organic at a time in music when ‘new wave’ was getting most of the attention.

There was little color on the stage so shooting the concert in black and white was an obvious choice. I have favorite photographs from that evening but my first choice is one taken when he jumped into the audience which he did in each concert until the second half of the ‘Born In The USA’ tour.

Bruce Springsteen Toronto 1978

It is, for me, the embodiment of the ultimate people’s musician with his fans. Getting close to the people who support an artist’s music takes more than just jumping into the crowd but there is a unique connection that has always been a part of Springsteen’s success.

Bruce Springsteen Toronto 1984

Toronto CNE Stadium, 1984

I had numerous assignments to photograph Springsteen and his band over a 14 year period and I always looked for that moment when he would join the audience. It provided me with some of my favorite and most telling photographs of Bruce.

Patrick Harbron

Bruce Springsteen Toronto 1984

Toronto CNE Stadium, 1984

Biography 2011

Patrick Harbron started his career in music, photographing the major names of rock and roll. His photography of Bruce Springsteen, Elvis Costello, Rush, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Lyle Lovett, The Police, The Rolling Stones, Bon Jovi, and many others has been featured as album and DVD covers and in books and magazines.

He has two JUNO Award nominations for album cover photography and his album work is included in the book ‘1000 Record Covers.

Patrick’s work grew beyond music and his work now appears in magazines, advertising, annual reports and books. His clients include Rolling Stone, Time, People, and Business Week among others.

His style of photography, well suited to advertising and design led to photographing ads for Apple Computer, IBM, American Express, AT&T, PepsiCo, Nabisco and others.

Patrick’s work includes photography for television network programs such as Damages, Ugly Betty, Rescue Me, Boardwalk Empire. His clients include HBO, ABC, Sony, NBC, FX Network and Warner Brothers.

Recognition for Patrick’s work includes numerous awards.

He is a faculty member of the International Center of Photography.

His work has been exhibited in various group and solo shows, including, ‘Desert Sea Shores- Views Of The Salton Sea’ at Gallery FCB in New York City,

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From Asbury Park to the Promised Land

Rock Hall Springsteen Exhibit

The Life and Music of Bruce Springsteen

Bruce Springsteen Rock and Roll memorabilia

I recently visited the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, ostensibly to tour the Bruce Springsteen exhibit, From Asbury Park to the Promised Land, but also to check out the permanent exhibit of the Rock Hall as well.

The Springsteen exhibit is interesting to say the least, and with the incredible media attention Bruce is receiving now due to the release of the Darkness box set, it’s cool and informative to see the artifacts dating back to his childhood and the last four decades that either influenced or played a big part in his career.

I know most fans seem to focus on his Esquire (Born to Run) guitar, as ever an iconic piece of rock and roll there has been, and his hand written lyrics and notes to his prolific inventory of songs for his many albums. I was duly impressed with original lyrics and outtakes from two of his most famous, and my favourite albums, Born to Run and Darkness on The Edge of Town. But what really caught my eye and spoke to me personally was another piece of writing. Not by Bruce, but a letter written to Bruce by a Mr. Robert J. Burns, on September 17, 1987. Robert J. Burns at the time was a Syracuse New York State Trooper, and a Vietnam War vet. He had written Bruce to say in part the following:

Bruce Springsteen lyrics

“Through the years I have collected everyone of your albums and listening to them has helped me through many a troubled time. The enclosed Stetson is one of the most coveted pieces of uniform of the NYSP (New York State Police) and I (hope) that it is close to your size.”

Bruce Springsteen Hall of Fame

This letter said it all to me. It summed up who Bruce is, and what he means to his fans. It exemplified the incredible connection Bruce has with those fans, a connection that lasts until today, one that may even be stronger now.

Lawrence Kirsch

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Poster Story: From the Laundry Room and Beyond!

springsteen darkness lounge

I was in Music World, a really cool record store in a mall in Meriden, CT. They used to carry lots of import LPs and 45s, so I could keep up with Bowie b-sides and the like.  It’s where I got the first few Sex Pistols singles with the picture sleeves.  They also had a huge section of cutout LPs for $1.99 and $2.99.  You could take a chance on things at that price, and that’s how I discovered things like “Hokey Pokey,” by Richard & Linda Thompson, and Brian Eno’s “Taking Tiger Mountain (By Strategy).”  It was so great to have a place like that, complete with chatty well-informed hipsters behind the register just 20 minutes from my house.

Get to the point Bill.  So one day in 1978 I was leaving the store when I noticed a cart full of rolled-up posters that were waiting to be hauled off to the dumpster by the mall staff.  They were all rolled up so that the image was on the inside, so all I saw was white rolls of paper.  Except that one of them curled up at the edge, so that I could see a few inches of…a pattern that looked familiar.  A wallpaper pattern.  I walked over and took a closer look.

Yep, it was a 4-foot by 4-foot promotional poster for the then-new Darkness On the Edge of Town LP.  Over the sound of my pounding heart, I heard myself ask if that stuff was trash, and if so could I take something.  They said go ahead so I grabbed the thing and headed for the car.

When I got home, I unfurled it and found that I’d brought home TWO copies of the poster.  I got on the phone to my friend Joe, who’d turned me on to Bruce years earlier, and offered him the spare copy.  I’ve moved who knows how many times since then, but everywhere I’ve called home has featured the Darkness poster on the wall.  The corners are filled with holes from all the tacks I’ve pushed through them, but I couldn’t care less.  It’s not as if I’m ever going to part with it.  Joe and I are still good friends, and his copy has followed him to all the places he’s lived too.

Bill Conlon

Bruce Darkness Poster

I also in 1978 acquired a similar large Darkness poster, about 3′ by 4′, soon after we moved into the house we still inhabit. I had it hung up prominently, but my wife, long before she became She’s the One, was fastidious to a fault. She quickly taught me not to leave a sock out, even in the bedroom. This was the first house for both of us and she had a well developed, and quite good, sense of tasteful decorating.

I was told the poster had to be moved to a less visible spot. I put it in the laundry room. I admit it dominated the laundry room. For about a month. One day I entered that room, an act which she also was teaching me to do with increasing frequency, and something seemed not quite right. The poster was gone. And not just from the laundry room. As it turns out, from the face of the earth.

This is still a sore point that comes up every once in a while. She admits she made a mistake, claiming she didn’t understand how a “poster” could mean so much to me.

The incident did give me license to put “anything” Bruce related in my office, without sanction, for the next 32 years. I doubt if she would have done something like that before we were married, but then, I hadn’t discovered Bruce until a few months after we were married.

Bill, if you die first, can I have your poster?

John Athens

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