Born to Run, by a guy with the Jewish-sounding name of Bruce Springsteen. Turns out, Springsteen is a Dutch name, and Bruce was raised Roman Catholic. No matter. His songs, with their epic stories about the love, rebellion, and lost innocence of working class folks on the Jersey Shore resonated with this relatively privileged kid from Long Island. Throw in a great band, blistering guitar and a saxophone, and I was hooked. I bought his two earlier records, and gleefully anticipated his next release. But due to legal wrangling with his manager, the next album, Darkness on the Edge of Town, did not come out for three years, an excruciatingly long time to wait. But then came the album's eventual release and the Darkness Tour.
Madison Square Garden in the summer of 1978. I had never seen a performance like it before. There was a relentless energy and intensity throughout the marathon show. And there was the sheer joy Bruce and his E-Street Band conveyed on stage and the sincerity of the stories Bruce told in the lead-up to some of the songs. And, of course, there were the great songs themselves. When I returned to college in the fall I was a fanatic, and sought to spread the gospel of Bruce to my friends by endlessly playing the bootlegs of his concerts that I had obtained. Then I learned that the tour was coming to my school. My friend Henry and I, as well as a few other acolytes, slept out overnight for tickets. We were rewarded with third row seats, and the show remains unforgettable.
Springsteen sort of lost me with some of his later albums and I can't say I listen to his music much anymore. But it may be time to revisit the past with the release of The Promise and its 21 previously unreleased songs recorded during the period between Born to Run and Darkness. As with the excellent but very stark album Nebraska that came out as a counter to its predecessor, the over-hyped Born in the U.S.A., Bruce did not want to follow Born to Run with a huge commercially-appealing pop album. So, he stripped the obvious hits from Darkness, and gave them to other artists (e.g., Because the Night to Patti Smith and Fire to the Pointer Sisters). Now we can hear those great songs as originally cut, together with other songs from that remarkably fertile period. Three years was too long to wait for Darkness on the Edge of Town. It has been a 35-year wait for The Promise.