1977 Record Plant Sessions Flashback

Studio Bruce Springsteen

Studio Bruce

Hearing about the new documentary on the making of Springsteen’s Darkness on the Edge of Town album, I had a flashback:

In 1977 while Bruce was recording the record in Studio B at the Record Plant Studios in New York, I was working as director of publicity and artist relations at Hologram Records, the new label launched by the Record Plant. He was there day and night for so long that we joked about setting up a cot and renaming the room “Studio Bruce.” Yep, he’s a perfectionist. I don’t remember how long “Adam Raised a Cain” took to record, but I heard that line so many times, there’s a permanent groove of it in my brain.

This is how Bruce is: At the time, my youngest sister was in high school and my youngest brother was in grade school. Both were nuts about Springsteen. She took saxophone lessons because she wanted to be like Clarence; he memorized and played the guitar licks by ear.

One day I left a note for Bruce at the receptionist’s desk telling him the above and asked him if he could please give me autographs for them. I went upstairs to Studio A (or was it C?) where one of our acts was recording, and a while later I was paged over the P.A. system. Somebody was downstairs looking for me and wanted to meet me. I thought, who could it be? Everyone from the label is up here. I went downstairs and there’s Bruce standing alone in the lounge. He wanted to meet me and deliver the autographs personally.

Only they weren’t just autographs. He had written my brother and sister each a note: “I hear you’re a fan, thank you for your support, I’m glad you like the music,” etc. We tried to have a conversation, but that was when he was at the semi-articulate stage, and I was pretty amazed to be standing there toe-to-toe with the flash from Asbury Park (he’s not a lot taller than me, and I’m definitely not tall). So I think there were several minutes of “uh, um, er” between us. I’m sure I said “Thank You” a million times, he tried to get out a couple of sentences, but didn’t finish any, and then I think we sort of mumbled goodbye and went back to work.

A couple of odds and ends:

  • Engineer Jimmy Iovine was nicknamed “Shoes” because he always had some fabulous footwear.
  • A Bruce breakfast (not that it was morning or anything), ordered from a local deli: Rice Krispies and chocolate milk. The cute factor cracked me up.
  • The publicity photo session on the roof — I was so bummed that I was somewhere else at the time. But it shows how much time the band spent at the Record Plant; they didn’t leave even to get their pictures taken.

Kris Di Lorenzo

September 24, 2010

Kris Di Lorenzo published what was probably the first review of “Greetings from Asbury Park.” She started working in the music business as a publicist at International Media Associates, the first rock PR firm. Some of her archived articles can be found in the library at www.RocksBackPages.com, where she also maintains a music blog. Currently she is working on a one-woman show about a rock star on a farewell tour.

The Light in Darkness
Limited edition book — Order your copy here

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Bruce Springsteen at TIFF

TIFF
Toronto International Film Festival 2010


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

Bruce Springsteen the promise the making of tickets

The Short

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.

Bruce Springsteen the promise

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.

Bruce Springsteen tiff 2010 catalogue

The Feature

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.

Bruce Springsteen tiff 2010 interview

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 Springsteen Darkness on the Edge of Town

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.

Bruce Springsteen The Summit Ticket

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.

Lawrence Kirsch
September 23, 2010

Excerpt from Ed Norton’s interview with Bruce Springsteen:
TIFF September 14, 2010

The Light in Darkness
Limited edition book — Order your copy here

“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

Bruce Springsteen Bruce Springsteen

Bruce Springsteen

“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.”

Bruce Springsteen at TIFF Bruce Springsteen at TIFF Bruce Springsteen at TIFF

“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.”

Bruce Springsteen

“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.”

Bruce Springsteen News

“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

The Light in Darkness
Limited edition book — Order your copy here

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Behind The Scenes of Darkness on the Edge of Town with Dick Wingate

With the much-anticipated release of the commemorative box set for Darkness on the Edge of Town slated for this November, Bruce Springsteen’s classic record is getting renewed attention in the music world.Fans are surely hungry for all the historic material they can get from the 1978 recording sessions and subsequent tour.For our own preview of what’s to come, we contacted Dick Wingate, who was intimately involved in the launch and marketing of the album and tour. He offers an insider’s view of what the Darkness era meant to Bruce and the band, while painting an often-humorous behind-the-scenes account of some of the tour’s highlights.

Enjoy, and be certain to check out the book The Light in Darkness, which one fan said, “… would make a great companion piece to the commemorative Darkness box set…”

I first met Bruce right after Greetings From Asbury Park, N.J. was released. Columbia Records brought him to WBRU-FM in Providence, R.I., where I was music director, and later program director, and we were one of the first stations in the country to play Bruce.

He was very shy and clearly not used these sorts of situations. This was shortly after the first album had come out and he looked just like he did on the cover of The Wild, The Innocent & The E Street Shuffle cover, rail thin, wearing a T-shirt, jeans and sneakers. It was mostly a quick meet and greet and we didn’t go on the air.

I’ve always wished I’d seen him play before I had met him. Later that night he played a gig at Brown University with the original lineup of the E Street Band and I was hooked for life.

Bruce’s performance at Brown was so incredibly dynamic compared to every other new act I’d seen at the time, and he really fed off his interactions with the band. He also made eye contact with many of the several hundred students in the crowd while performing, which made it feel so personal and powerful.

I fondly remember Suki Lahav coming out to play violin on “New York City Serenade” and it just floored me that this was the same group that had been playing bar band songs and David Sancious’ jazzy licks.

Two years later I became Bruce’s product manager at Columbia Records, a job which entailed coordinating all the marketing, packaging and advertising efforts and eventually, in 1978, writing the original marketing plan, which I still have, for Darkness on the Edge of Town.

Click on image to enlarge.Original marketing plan for Darkness on The Edge of Town album, with Picture Disc (top right) and In-store poster display (bottom right).

Bruce and Steve outside New York recording studio The Record Plant, October 1977. Notice Bruce is holding a cassette tape of the Darkness demos.Ross Gadye©

The album was held up because of the legal dispute between Bruce and his former manager, creating a three-year wait between Born to Run and Darkness on the Edge of Town. Everyone at Columbia believed that no matter how many years between albums, Bruce Springsteen was one of the most important artists on the label. Evidence of this was shown when the label continued to support the pre-Darkness tours after sales of Born to Run had settled down, even when no new album was scheduled.

In the months leading up to its release I met with Bruce and Jon Landau several times to discuss the marketing approach. Jon was involved with nearly every detail and he instantly made me feel part of a special team. By this point of course nothing happened without Bruce’s ultimate approval. Bruce said to me that if it were up to him he would just have the album appear in the stores one day without any notice. He was adamant about not hyping it. He consciously moved away from the Born to Run album hysteria. No “future of rock and roll” type headlines. No hype, no beard, no earring, no sneakers. This was Bruce’s first album about adult themes.

I was not at any of the recording sessions. However, I was asked to come to the Record Plant to hear the album in its entirety upon its completion by Jon Landau. The only other people in the room besides Jon and myself were Jimmy Iovine and Mickey Eichner from Columbia A&R. At that point I don’t think any other people at Columbia had heard the album and I was thrilled to be invited.
It was obviously darker and that framed our approach to the advertising. So we agreed that the copy in all print, radio and TV advertising would be simply: “Bruce Springsteen. The new album: Darkness on the Edge of Town. In stores June 2nd.”

Bruce’s TV spot ran on Saturday Night Live the Saturday before and after release of the album. The TV spot was very simple, as this was the way Bruce wanted it. The Darkness tour was the key to generating the excitement with the press, the media and fans and that is why we did broadcasts on leading FM stations, which allowed millions of fans to hear Bruce live for the first time. AM radio was not supporting the album very much. We did a lot of local and national print advertising as well, and he did cover stories in Rolling Stone, Crawdaddy, Musician, Creem and all the major publications of the day.

While we would have hoped for more top 40 radio airplay, everyone was extremely pleased with the results. We were very proud to have Bruce’s first double platinum album.

The original album cover, an extraordinary sepia-tone photo by Born to Run photographer Eric Meola, showed Bruce driving straight toward the viewer in the badlands under threatening skies in a convertible; but this was scrapped in favor of a simple portrait taken by Frank Stefanko in Bruce’s house.

Unfortunately the original image did not reproduce as well as we would have liked, and slight color differences in the proofs would alternately make Bruce either look sunburned or jaundiced! So Bruce requested to actually go to the printing press when the first covers were being printed to approve it. No artist had ever gone to the printer before, and this indicates the level of attention Bruce gave to absolutely everything.

Doug Yule©

The photo taken of Bruce and I at the printer, which appeared in Dave Marsh’s book Born to Run, was taken by Doug Yule, a former member of The Velvet Underground who was working at the printer at that time and just happened to have a camera!

As part of the marketing plan we purchased a billboard on LA’s Sunset Strip, and wouldn’t you know it, Bruce and the band actually defaced their own billboard one night with spray paint. I have to agree it wasn’t the best looking billboard.

Before and after photos of the infamous Los Angeles Sunset Strip billboard. Bottom billboard: Robert Landau ©

This was in July 1978 when Bruce did an unforgettable performance at The Roxy, where he debuted “Point Blank” and “Independence Day” on the same night. It was one of only a handful of clubs he did that tour and was broadcast live on KMET in Los Angeles.

A few days later we went to Phoenix to shoot Bruce’s first ever music video, live performances of “Badlands,” “Prove it All Night”, “Born to Run” and “Rosalita.” Only “Rosie” was seen fit for release by Bruce, and I was able to have it debut on ABC as the closing video in a two-hour special on the history of rock and roll. The girls who jumped on stage in Phoenix during “Rosie” and knocked him down were not scripted or encouraged, it was real, and the video helped expose the

Dave Marsh and Dick Wingate on the set of the Phoenix video shoot, July 1978

Springsteen aura to the many who had never seen him play. But we didn’t get a video to help promote the Darkness album itself. I think Bruce felt the other performances were good but not great, and in looking at them again now, 30-plus years later, “Badlands” and “Prove it All Night” didn’t feature the other band members all that much in the editing. Still, I hope they are released as part of the Darkness box set.

I accompanied Bruce and the band on many key dates on the Darkness tour and have many great memories. I was at opening night in Buffalo, Philly, Boston, Nassau Coliseum (where Bruce asked me to intro the band on stage!), Los Angeles (The Forum and Roxy), Phoenix, Miami, New York’s Madison Square Garden, New Haven, New Jersey’s Capitol Theater, Cleveland’s Agora, Princeton (where I brought Elvis Costello with me), and New York’s Palladium.

Dick, Bruce and Mike Pillot, backstage at Madison Garden, New York, August 1978

In Miami, we took the band to Joe’s Stone Crab, one of the most famous seafood restaurants in the city. We had to wait like everyone else because they didn’t take reservations. After a long time we sat down at the table, looked at the enormous menu of seafood and Bruce simply asked, “Do you think I could get a hamburger?” It just seemed funny after the extended wait and everyone had a good laugh.

Shortly before the tour, Bruce’s agent Barry Bell and I brought Robin Williams and his wife to Bruce’s house one afternoon, while Robin was in New York recording his first album at the Copacabana. Robin had not met Bruce and was really looking forward to it. Barry hired a limo for the four of us, and when we arrived Bruce was on a three-wheel ATV far away in the yard. He caught his leg between the bike and a tree and when he came back to the house he was limping. As the day went on, Robin and Bruce naturally got along great — after all they were the best performers in their respective fields — and I remember we had a meal cooked for us. Bruce kept his leg raised as much as possible to reduce the swelling, but he must have been in more pain than any of us realized or he admitted. The next day Jon Landau told me that as soon as we left he went to the local hospital for treatment and if I remember correctly he had to stay off his feet for a few days.

One of my favorite memories was a trip to Yankee Stadium with Bruce and Little Steven prior to the release of the new album. Bruce had been out of the public eye for a long time and had recently shaved his beard. We took the subway to Yankee Stadium and not a single person recognized him, or Steven for that matter. During the game a guy behind us walked over and asked, “Is that Bruce Springsteen?” And that was it for the whole day. It was quite astounding, and I realized that the images from Born to Run — the sneakers, the beard, the earring, the cap — were gone now and the image of Bruce we were forming for the Darkness campaign would be tougher, cleaner and more adult. Incidentally, even though Bruce and Steven ate just about every kind of junk food you could get at the stadium, they still wanted to stop for pizza on the way out.

Having seen Bruce play for nearly 40 years, I am convinced that the 1978 tour was the tightest, most aggressive and emotional tour that Bruce and the E Street Band ever did. It was the young adult becoming a man, just as the album was. It was the bar band taking arena-size stages for the first time and conquering America. We attended a party at Bill Graham’s house after the Winterland show, my last on that tour — a concert so good I had tears in my eyes.

Dick Wingate
February 23, 2010

Dick Wingate was the product manager at Columbia Records from 1976 to 1978 and was instrumental in launching Bruce Springsteen’s fourth album, Darkness on The Edge of Town. He was a pioneer indigital music while head of content at Liquid Audio, and is currently a digital entertainment consultant with TAG Strategic.

Order your limited edition copy of The Light in Darkness.

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