Bruce is making me very nostalgic this week, but not for 1978- more like 1985. (If you were not a diehard Bruce fan back in the day, stop reading now because you'll certainly find the rest of this quite boring and I can't make it short.) I jumped on the Bruce bandwagon with "Born in the U.S.A.", which I know means I was late to the party, but I'm trying not to beat myself up about it too much. It was not until high school that I blossomed into the true musical savant that I was to become; prior to that I was just a regular kid. As with pretty much everyone else in the world, I was absolutely smitten with "Born in the U.S.A." and it was my first dose of Bruce aside from the incidental radio play. After that, everything changed for young Music Teen.
I'm not going to say that I was obsessed with Bruce, not in the usual high school way at least. I didn't wallpaper my bedroom with pictures of The Boss from "Tiger Beat" (one can only hope such pictures didn't exist in that publication), and my locker was not adorned with a picture of Bruce's backside, though many others were. No, my love for Bruce was very pure, based solely on his music. I set out to acquire each of the albums that had preceded "Born in the USA", appropriately beginning with his first, "Greetings From Asbury Park, N.J.". I worked my way through each album thereafter, even struggling through "Nebraska", which I felt like I should like but couldn't. Because Bruce's albums (well, tapes really) didn't include the lyrics, I transcribed the songs so I would know all the words (a little weird in retrospect).
Into adulthood, my love waned, but I still bought Bruce's albums from time to time. I have to admit that I wasn't altogether familiar with the concept of the new album, "The Promise", although I knew it had something to do with the making of "Darkness on the Edge of Town". The album came out this past Tuesday, so I set about buying it on iTunes and was confronted with the decision to spend $17.99 for just the album or $69.99 for the box set. Um, even $17.99 seemed high, but since it contained 21 songs I didn't back down.
The first song on the album seemed familiar somehow. He was using some of his usual references. Wait- no, these were lyrics to one of his songs, but it sounded all different. I realized that the song was "Racing in the Street". Although it sounded different than the original, the lyrics and overall feel of the song took me right back to my high school obsession with Bruce, and I'm sure it will have a similar effect on many others.
Fast forward two days to the present. I am now quite knowledgeable about "The Promise" and its making, partly from reading an interview with Bruce in "Rolling Stone" and partly from watching him on "Late Night with Jimmy Fallon". In 1975, Bruce's success from "Born to Run" catapulted him to instant fame and new experiences, including making the cover of both "Time" and "Newsweek", not to mention paying income taxes (whoops). Due to a legal matter involving his manager, he was not able to put out another record immediately, so he holed himself up in a barn in New Jersey and wrote. And wrote. He wrote and recorded, to various degrees of completion, 40 songs and chose 10 for the "Darkness" album, which was finally released in 1978. What you find on "The Promise" is a collection of many that didn't make the album, although "Racing in the Street" and "Candy's Room" are on this album in very different forms than they ultimately took.
The box set will give you a very realistic replica of the notebook in which Bruce wrote his songs, a tally of the votes of his band members about which songs to include on the album and proposed set lists for his concerts. It also includes DVDs of concerts. In case you're wondering, I know all this from seeing the one Jimmy Fallon bought, presumably better equipped to spend $70 than I, although I'm sure I'm about to become quite wealthy from all this blogging.
For anyone who can remember the release of "Darkness on the Edge of Town" or even those who appreciated it a few years later, I highly encourage you to fork over the money and buy "The Promise" in its entirety (songs only- all the other stuff would be cool, though). I hesitate to recommend any given tracks because they all meet expectations, but the ones I like most are "Someday (We'll Be Together)" and "Ain't Good Enough For You", which has a bouncy beat and funny lyrics.
As an aside, Bruce was thoroughly enjoyable on "Late Night with Jimmy Fallon", his only TV appearance to promote the album. You definitely get the feeling he has not developed an irritatingly large ego despite his success. He was joined for part of the show by his buddy Steve VanZandt (possibly more familar as Silvio). Below, enjoy Jimmy as Neil Young singing with Bruce to the song "Whip My Hair". It goes to show he's not just a great musician and gifted songwriter, he's also a good sport. Enjoy!