"My favorite Bruce Springsteen tale is one he used to tell before singing “Growing Up.” It was about going to see God. His father had told him to become a lawyer. His mother had told him to write books. And they had both told him to get rid of that “god-damned guitar” — that, of course, was what they always called his guitar — not Fender or Gibson. Bruce went to see the priest. He asked what he should do. The priest said the question was too big. He needed to go ask God.
And this is my favorite part of the story: Bruce went to Clarence Clemons. Why? Because Clarence knew everybody. Clarence would know where to find God. Bruce showed up, and Clarence asked him if he really intended to go see God in a Nash Rambler — God, after all, had people coming to him in Cadillacs. Bruce said that the Nash was all he had. Clemons shrugged and took Bruce along a dark road, through the woods, to a little house to see God.
The story ends with God telling Springsteen that there was an 11th Commandment left off: “Let it rock.” But I don’t care much for the ending. I care only for the drive. Clarence Clemons died on Saturday. He was 69 years old. And I think of Rosalita and being young. More, though, I think of Bruce and Clarence, Bad Scooter and the Big Man, in that Nash Rambler driving through the dark to find God."
"And, as you know, as you can see, the song “The Promise” is not on Darkness. The band played it, and they knew it was great, knew that it might be the best song that Bruce Springsteen ever wrote. And it fit on the album, it was in many ways everything that Springsteen was trying to say. Only Springsteen could not let go of it. The song was too close to him. He has never been able to explain it any better than that. Some think The Promise is really about his fight with Appel for control of his own music. Some think it is about his fear of losing himself in success, his fear of losing what he thought was the best part of himself. Some think it is about his friends who got left behind.
In the end, of course, it doesn’t matter what The Promise means to Bruce Springsteen — doesn’t matter beyond trivia. Like all great songs, all great art, it only matters what it means to the person who accepts it. Springsteen did not put The Promise on Darkness, though for a while he played it at clubs. Then he stopped doing that too. By the time he released it in 1999 on 18 Tracks — the first version I first heard — it was a different song, more wistful, less bitter, more sad, less rebellious, all piano. And now, more than 30 years later, Bruce Springsteen releases an album of those songs that he recorded and left by the side of the road while making Darkness. There is the bar song “Rendezvous” and his raw version of “Because The Night” and the upbeat (if disturbing) “Fire” and a remarkable rock version of “Racing In The Streets” that sounds like it belongs on Born To Run (In this version, the car is a Ford, with a 383 — probably a Mercury Marauder Engine from the late 1950s). Springsteen is 61 now and he writes now that these songs are like old friends."
#Darkness on the Edge of Town
Joe Blogs: The Promise
Joe Posnanski, “America’s best baseball writer”, has written a fabulous piece on his blog about what The Promise and Darkness on the Edge of Town mean to him. It’s a really moving and heartwarming personal post, and it’s one of the best things I have ever read about Bruce’s music and the way it touches so many different people’s lives. Don’t miss it.