Behind The Scenes of Darkness on the Edge of Town with Dick Wingate (2)

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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What Happened to the Phoenix Girls Who Tackled Bruce Springsteen on Stage in 1978?

Jun. 6 2013

Have you seen this Bruce Springsteen fan?
It could be the dance moves, or the tight pants, or the man-of-the-people lyrics. It could be that video with Courtney Cox in it. Whatever it is, people — ordinary, otherwise law-abiding people — cannot resist rushing the stage at Bruce Springsteen concerts.

It’s a phenomenon that’s led journalist and Springsteen fan Julian Garcia all the way to Phoenix, the site of a stage-rush immortalized in the “Rosalita (Come Out Tonight)” video. He’s working on a documentary about the phenomenon — I Could Use Just a Little Help — and he’s got one last target for interviews: The girls who manhandled the Boss at the Coliseum in Phoenix on July 8, 1978.

We talked to him last week about the documentary, the allure of dancing with Bruce, and his “Rosalita” manhunt. If you have any information on these most-wanted Bruce fans, send him an e-mail or tweet @JulianG922. (We’re probably past the period mandated by the FBI’s statute of limitations.)

The urge to touch Bruce Springsteen is as old as “Blinded by the Light,” but Garcia’s documentary didn’t take shape until a year ago, during the Wrecking Ball tour. “A friend of mine went to see Bruce,” he says. “He was in the front row and he ended up in a video — like someone’s YouTube video, shot from behind the stage.”

They got to talking about what it takes to get that close — to end up in the pit. “He told me it was a really grueling process, [that] you had to really stand around for a long time. So I just said to him, ‘That would be a pretty interesting documentary,’ not really thinking anything of it.

“It sort of evolved into, ‘Maybe I’ll try to talk to people who have actually done that.’” Since then, he’s been on a social media crusade for Springsteen stage-jumpers, peppering Twitter, LinkedIn, and Bruce Springsteen message boards to track down as many dancers in the dark as he could.

At this point, getting up on stage with Bruce Springsteen is more about careful planning than spontaneous overflows of affection. “He brings up people for basically two songs, nowadays,” Garcia says. For “Waitin’ on a Sunny Day,” off The Rising, some children from the pit are brought up to sing along; for “Dancing in the Dark,” of course, a young woman is brought in to play the role of Courtney Cox Surrogate in the dance that informed white-guy dancing for a generation.

That was not the case in 1978. If the girls rushing the stage in “Rosalita (Come Out Tonight)” are ringers, they were playing a long game; the video wasn’t produced until 1984, when a song that predated MTV suddenly needed one.

They look, at least, like fans who were so enthusiastic (or so into Bruce’s period-appropriate open-shirt look) that they had no choice but to leap onto the stage and tackle him during the never-ending saxophone outro. Which is exactly why Julian Garcia wants to find them.

The ’70s were filled with fan interaction that seems impossibly dangerous in hindsight; “Rosalita” in Phoenix is kind of the musical equivalent of Hank Aaron rounding the bases accompanied by a phalanx of sketchy-looking fans.

But even for its time, there’s something special about it — something that points to something special about Bruce Springsteen. “I think Bruce almost gives his fans the invitation [to rush the stage],” Garcia says, “just by the way he behaves.

“He’s so open, and so accessible to his fans, that when you go to a show you’re like, ‘Hey, tonight might be the night that I get invited up there by one of the biggest rock stars that has ever walked the planet.’

“It’s not like, ‘You stand over there and let me do my thing, and I’m going to put these security guards between us so you can’t get close to me . . .’ It’s made very clear, like, ‘Hey, we’re in this together.’”

Limited Time Offer!
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Focusing on Springsteen’s Darkness on The Edge of Town 1978 album and tour.
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Rock Star Guitars from Eric Clapton, Bruce Springsteen, Jimmy Page, Keith Richards, Jack White and More Featured in New Coffee Table Book 108 Rock Star Guitars

LOS ANGELES-June, 2013

108 Rock Star Guitars by photographer/author Lisa S. Johnson is a collection of stunningly personal and intimate portraits of the cherished guitars owned by the gods of rock. It is a music and fine-art photography aficionado’s backstage pass to witness up-close these six-stringed works of art belonging to Les Paul, Eric Clapton, Keith Richards, Jimmy Page, Lou Reed, Carlos Santana, Bruce Springsteen, Nancy Wilson, Bonnie Raitt, Rick Nielsen, Slash, Billy Gibbons, Ace Frehley and others. The book, to be published by Glitterati Incorporated, is offered for pre-order now at and will be available at booksellers and online everywhere September 16, 2013. (108 Rock Star Guitars SRP: $108, ISBN: 978-0-9832702-5-6). A portion of the proceeds will benefit The Les Paul Foundation.

108 Rock Star Guitars by photographer/author Lisa S. Johnson features 300 images over 396 pages, bound in embossed red leatherette. (Photo: Business Wire)

This exquisite, 396-page art book, bound in embossed red leatherette, features 300 images that reveal–through Johnson’s signature macrophotography style–the intimate details, etchings, totems, and personal touches that embody the true spirit of the musician and that few–save for their stage crew–have seen from this perspective. Alongside these images, Johnson provides personal anecdotes describing her long quest to photograph these iconic instruments and documents her travels from the backstage hallways of some the world’s most famous concert venues, to the artists’ private homes.

“The first black-and-white pictures Lisa took of my guitars…were wonderfully evocative,” writes the late legendary musician and inventor Les Paul in the book’s foreword. “I never could have guessed she would one day produce the impressive collection of photographs presented here–images unlike any I have ever seen. Lisa’s passion for her subject is evident on every page of this magnificent book.”

In addition, Glitterati will issue a deluxe, limited edition of 540 signed and numbered copies, packaged in a die-cut collector’s box. (SRP: $540, ISBN: 978-0-9891704-0-6). Those books will include a hand-woven, deep purple, silk chiffon scarf, featuring the book cover design. Both editions include a 16-page booklet, “The Inspiration Behind 108 Rock Star Guitars,” with additional behind-the-scenes photos and stories, plus a guitar pick printed with a custom holographic foil design.

108 Rock Star Guitars is the culmination of Johnson’s 17-year journey that began when she photographed Les Paul’s guitar during one of his regular Monday night sets at New York’s famed Iridium Club.

As a former technical sales rep for Kodak, Johnson shot extensively, experimenting with processes and every type of film she had in her inventory. In 108 Rock Star Guitars, she showcases a variety of the last film stock ever manufactured for Kodak Professional and the transition to digital, in her gorgeous homage to image and music.

Limited Time Offer!
Limited edition Springsteen book, The Light in Darkness, less than 200 copies left.
Focusing on Springsteen’s Darkness on The Edge of Town 1978 album and tour.
Save on Shipping When You Order June 3 – August 1, 2013
CLICK HERE TO SAVE NOW- The Light in Darkness
*The Light in Darkness book is not sold in stores.

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BADLAND Review: Something In The Night (iOS) Game

In the spring of 1978, a twenty-eight year old Bruce Springsteen released Darkness On The Edge of Town,an album that reimagined the liberating, escapist fantasy of his career-founding Born To Run as a gritty, realist take on the promise of the America dream. The album crafted a murky, distorted lens with which to view hope and progress. To quote Pitchfork, it was a work of “grim acceptance and pressing on in the face of doubt,” a work best compared to Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath. The twin developers at Frogmind Games, despite arriving thirty-five years later, have provided us with a similar lens. Their latest title, released in the spring of 2013 by twenty-seven year old programmer Johannes Vuorinen, is called BADLAND. It’s a gloomy, cruel, and explorative journey through a strange world, and more importantly, it’s a game with enough depth to satisfy both casual and hardcore players.

Lights out tonight, trouble in the heartland //
Got a head-on collision, smashin’ in my guts, man //
I’m caught in a crossfire that I don’t understand

Printed above are the opening lines of Springsteen’s Darkness On The Edge Of Town. They’re words expressed to portray the angst and uncertainty of a young man staring into the future, yet they do just as well to describe the violently cryptic cycles of Frogmind’s most recent creation. BADLAND is an iOS sidescroller, but not one to be taken at face value. The title envisions a puzzling synthesis of Pikmin-brand survival mechanics and Limbo-style art direction, a fusion held tightly together by the glue of an almost Jetpack Joyride-esque control scheme, one that allows for weighty acrobatics and nuanced movement. It’s a synthesis that allows the game to exist on two dichotomous levels: For the casual subway-surfer, it’s an artful, level-based gem best consumed in small bites. For the veteran Cannabalt-er, it’s a puzzling amalgam of visual storytelling and challenging replayability.

While the App Store provides an overly crowded sea of similarly side scrolling experiences, BADLAND succeeds in staying afloat on a raft of ambiance and nixed frustration. Succinctly, the game’s sound design and graphic arts come together to create what becomes a beautifully desolate landscape. It’s a scenic, alien locale smeared with Super Meat Boy’s portfolio of meat grinders and rotary blades. Yet, at closer inspection, the rich, expository detail of the backdrop is brought to attention. It’s hard to focus on the scenery while you’re busy guiding your lemming-blob through an increasingly perilous gauntlet of death traps, but this ultimately proves to reinforce the title’s subtle messages regarding progress and perseverance. As Springsteen belts on Born To Run, “Beyond the Palace, hemi-powered drones scream down the boulevard, Girls comb their hair in rearview mirrors, and the boys try to look so hard.” You may not get a great view of the shore speeding eighty down highway nine, but there’s a sense of place that’s reinforced by this blurred, vibrant backdrop.

Moving forward, one unfortunate hallmark of any level-based sidescroller seems to be the innate frustration associated with failing miserably at the end of a long level. For once, this roadblock has been cleverly avoided. Frogmind clearly understands that repetition should never come as a punishment. To this end, failing a challenge plops you right back in front of the offending obstacle, sans game over screen, so you won’t have time to hulk-smash your precious iDevice into the nearest sewage grate. As the critic Mark Richardson elucidates, Springsteen’s characters, like the protagonists of BADLAND, are “cursed with the burden of survival.” This is something that’s strongly communicated with such a rapid-fire respawn rate, and it conveys similar feelings of cyclical trial-and-error. Interestingly enough, it also makes for some pretty convenient subway sessions.

One slight pothole in the formula, however, is the sense that BADLAND features exceptionally strong narrative delivery, but little explicative detail. This semblance of story helps distinguish the work from its more soulless counterparts, but the game seems to expend a disproportionate amount of energy delineating the setting while forgetting just about every other aspect of storytelling. Springsteen’s ballads have always found way of using Asbury Park (or the United States, full stop) as a foundation for the crafting of developed characters and poignant conflicts. Frogmind, however, leaves plenty of room for the addition of essential plot devices like character and motivation, which are glaringly absent from the title. If you can muster even the slightest sliver of concentration, you’ll likely observe the many demonic rabbits in the background, the origins of which are left entirely unsubstantiated. Even more exasperating is the absence of detail regarding the plight of the game’s hedgehog-like protagonists. You’ll spend your hours guiding them along on some sort of buoyant, forced pilgrimage, but beyond that skeletal framework? Nothing. It seems that Juhana Myllys and Johannes Vuorinen aren’t storytellers in the traditional Springsteen-ian sense, but they’re headed in the right direction.

Ultimately, what Frogmind has created isn’t your standard office time-waster, it’s instead a work that explores hope, failure, and determination in some of the same pragmatically hopeful ways that Springsteen managed while simultaneously cruising the coastal highways of his native state. Just as Bruce croons in the opening lines of Darkness, Frogmind’s title envisions a silhouetted, troubled “heartland” full of environmental hazards and “head-on collisions.” That being said, it’s a strange alien world, and in this way, the setting stands in stark contrast to the homey Americana of coastal New Jersey. The strongest parallels, then, lie in the shared themes, the attempts to explain—through setting and atmosphere (and respectively, lyrics and mechanics), what it means to be both dogged and perseverant. The lemmings of BADLAND are trapped in an inescapable cycle of trial and retrial, a cage that’s all too familiar to the cash-starved characters of Springsteen’s work. Richardson says it best, as he encapsulates the album in one short sentence: “With no chance of escape, you have to figure out how to deal with what’s in front of you.”

Truly, the grungy, outlandish realm of BADLAND stands as a vicious neo-New Jersey, a province with rules seemingly dictated by the undying optimism of an ever-rising generation of sanguine, energetic recruits. Frogmind has a focal design mentality: that a player should learn from their individual mistakes and sacrifices, and when the time comes, solider on in the face of adversity. It’s an expansive philosophy, and one that mirrors the struggles of a young man facing the angst and uncertainty of an indomitable future. “We’ll keep pushing ‘til it’s understood,” shouts Springsteen on the album’s opening chorus, “And these badlands start treating us good.”

Limited Time Offer!
Limited edition book, The Light in Darkness, less than 200 copies left.
Focusing on Springsteen’s Darkness on The Edge of Town 1978 album and tour.
Save on Shipping When You Order June 3 – August 1, 2013
CLICK HERE TO SAVE NOW- The Light in Darkness
*The Light in Darkness book is not sold in stores.

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Queuing in Europe : A Smart Guide To Bruce Springsteen Wrecking Ball Towns

A smart, quick guide to those European towns Bruce Springsteen and the E-Street Band are going to play in, in the next Spring and Summer (Rome, Paris, London and other gems like Turku, Padua, Leipzig and many others). In this book, you’ll find essential, practical information about each “Wrecking Ball Tour” city, including how to reach it, a brief history and the list of tourist attractions you must see between a roll call and another (if time allows you to!). Read it to chose in which towns you prefer to attend Bruce’s concerts, or to decide how long to stay in the city where the show you already have tickets for takes place. And, if you are not a Springsteen’s fan (how dare you?), you can make a virtual sightseeing through main European towns and some unsuspected gems, and chose which to visit.

The book is for sale here:

Springsteen Tour Book 2013

A Smart Guide To Bruce Springsteen Wrecking Ball Towns

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