A Love Letter in a Time Capsule from Rock and Roll

Forewarning: Bruce Springsteen and The E-Street Band is my favorite musical act of all-time. If you don’t like the Boss, Professor Roy and Clarence, here’s hoping you understand the sentiment behind this piece. If not… tough nuggets. Follow me on Twitter and Facebook.

(WECK 1230) — Nine times out of 10, any effort to replicate the emote of pivotal moments in life are in vain. Wedding videos are nice, but they can’t carry the smell of your partner’s hair, the brilliance of your loved ones’ well wishes or the joy and optimism of a future together.

Bruce Springsteen’s “Darkness On the Edge of Town” married me to rock and roll music forever the first time I listened to it, and my love affair with pounding drums and guitars carried just like switchblades has only become more important over time.

I’d be foolish, however, to say I’ve been able to recapture the wonder of the enkindling of that relationship. There are other bands and other songs, but there isn’t another “Darkness.” If your favorite movie is “The Godfather”, do you truly believe a collection of deleted scenes is going to make you relive the feeling in the pit of your stomach when Michael Corleone is taking a bit too long to find the gun hidden in the bathroom at Louis’ resaurant?

That’s what so positively incredible about “The Promise”, a collection of 21 songs that didn’t make the cut for “Darkness”: they are trimmed from the same cloth as the original and were skipped over mostly for thematic reasons. Springsteen didn’t lose these songs because they didn’t live up to the standards of “Badlands” or “Prove It All Night.” They just didn’t form an album.

Thirty-two years later comes an album of rock and roll songs culled from a pure run of songwriting that is almost unfathomable in the duration of its creativity. Yes, some of these songs were retooled with different lyrics or parts to make their way onto other albums, or even “Darkness”, but there’s no way to replicate a bygone era the way “The Promise” does. Ask one-off style hacks whose recent albums bring nothing to rock and roll other than a wistful longing for better music.

Heck, ask Springsteen. The single “Save My Love” sounds like a song the Boss has tried to rewrite two or three thousand times and jam unsuccessfully onto lesser albums since 1978. “Ain’t Good Enough For You” is a nod to everything that was wonderful about Chuck Berry, while “Outside Looking In” is a long distance high-five to The Kinks.

As Springsteen says in the liner notes, he was a man trying to channel every one of his influences while defying those who thought “Born To Run” was already his legacy. These aren’t b-sides or a strict money grab. Instead, what “The Promise” delivers is a bonafide album that isn’t a wedding video: it’s your wife lying next to you in bed on your best nights, carrying with her all the meaning of every year in-between.

I love you, rock and roll.

Email: nickonweck@gmail.com

4 Responses to A Love Letter in a Time Capsule from Rock and Roll

  1. Wholeheartedly agree. Usually, there is a good reason why something doesn’t make a record, but this isn’t lost filler. I’ve been enjoyed sifting through the Promise. Seeing him on the Darkness tour at Shea’s shifted my musical universe and I never looked back. It’s awesome stuff and fun to see collaborations with the Roots to show it off

  2. Brad says:

    “Well if she wants to see me, you can tell her that I’m easily found….”

    As simple as it is, it’s genius. As much as I love “Badlands” and “Prove it all night,” I’d say “Adam Raised a Cain” and “Darkness on the Edge of Town” make this album classic.

    Regardless…Springsteen’s genius is in capturing the EMOTION of rock ‘n’ roll like few others. Chuck Berry, Albert King…I don’t know who else belongs on that list – other old masters of the craft…but it’s an exclusive list, and Springsteen’s on it. To be able to go from “Born to Run” to “Nebraska” to “Born in the USA” to “Ghost of Tom Joad” is practically unfathomable today. And then to put out “The Rising” amidst the worst tragedy in any of our lives is uncomparable. He deserves no less than unmitigated praise for that, because nobody else was “healing” with music like Bruce. Several other singers were selling albums based on anger and revenge at the time…not him. Springsteen was able to rise above the clamor and make relevant music with a therapuetic message. That’s special.

  3. John says:

    Excellent review Nick. FYI, Pitchfork music site gave the albums 9.5 and 8.5 out of 10. Here’s a link to their review if you’re interested:
    http://pitchfork.com/reviews/albums/14869-the-promise-the-darkness-on-the-edge-of-town-story-the-promise/