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Ed Norton Interviews Bruce Springsteen On 'Darkness'

In 1975, the album Born to Run catapulted Bruce Springsteen from a regional critical favorite to a worldwide megastar.

But after Born to Run's release, a legal battle with his former manager, Mike Appel, kept Springsteen from making a follow-up album for nearly two years. Springsteen spent his time touring extensively across the U.S. with the E Street Band. When he returned to the studio, in 1977, he brought with him dozens of songs that he had written during his exile.

Those studio sessions produced Springsteen's fourth album, 1978's Darkness on the Edge of Town. It was musically very different from Born to Run -- and drew thematically from the punk-rock movement, the Vietnam War and Springsteen's own reflections about wanting to stay connected to his roots.

But many of the songs Springsteen wrote for that album were never released.

"Darkness on the Edge of Town came out of a huge body of work that had tons of very happy songs," Springsteen told actor Ed Norton at the Toronto International Film Festival in September. "It was all music that we recorded, we wrote and made a very distinct decision to not use."

Twenty-one songs Springsteen originally recorded for Darkness on the Edge of Town are now being released for the first time as part of a collection called The Promise. Here, we feature some of Springsteen's conversation with Norton at the Toronto International Film Festival, where the two men talked about the making of Darkness, as well as a new documentary about the album, titled The Promise: The Making of 'Darkness on the Edge of Town.'

Many of the songs cut from Darkness on the Edge of Town are being released in the box set The Promise, which comes out tomorrow.  The box set also includes a remastered version of Darkness, 2 CDs of songs that were recorded but not used for the album, along with the documentary, The Promise, and DVDs of other live performances.

Interview Highlights

On Darkness In Music

"Some of the greatest blues music is some of the darkest music you've ever heard. And I had maps. Obviously, Dylan had come when I was 15, and obviously I listened to his music first, and his music contained a lot -- I used to say when I heard 'Highway 61,' I was hearing the first true picture of how I felt and how my country felt. And that was exhilarating. Because I think 1960s small-town America was very Lynchian. Everything was there, but underneath, everything was rumbling. ... I think what Dylan did, was he took all that dark stuff that was rumbling underneath, and I think he pushed it to the surface with irony and humor, but also tremendous courage to go places where people hadn't gone previously. So when I heard that, I knew I liked that, and I was very ambitious, also.

On The Timing Of Darkness’ Release

"I think Darkness came out of a place where I was afraid of losing myself. I had the first taste of success [with Born to Run], so you realize it's possible for your talent to be co-opted and for your identity to be moved and shifted in ways that you may not have been prepared for. I was the only person I'd ever met who had a record contract. None of the E Street Band, as far as I know, had been on an airplane until Columbia sent us to Los Angeles. ... It was a smaller, smaller world. And we were provincial guys with no money. So there was this whole little street life in Asbury Park, and New York was a million miles away. Localism, as a movement, hadn't occurred yet in music. So there was nobody saying, 'I need to see what those bands in New Jersey are doing.' It was a very different time. But the good part about it was you were very, very connected to place and you had a real sense of place. And it was unique, the place where you lived and where you grew up."

On Where The Tracks On Darkness Originated

"No one knows anyone else who has any money. They only know you. And at the time, even though we're making a lot of records, we're not making much money, because we didn't know how to make records, or because I signed a lot of bad deals and it all went away. My desire to not get disconnected from my parents and their history and a lot of the people I cared about; I said, 'These things aren't being written about that much. I'm not sure. And those were the topics I decided to take on for that particular record, not so much out of any social consciousness, but as a way of survival of my own inner life and soul."

On Musical Influences

"I don't know if I know anyone, with the exception of the early inventors of rock music [who wasn't influenced by something]. And even then, the kind of study that had to go on -- like the gospel background in Jerry Lee Lewis' piano playing, and it's completely informed with church and honky-tonk -- and you have to study that stuff. I don't mean study in the sense of literal schooling, but you're drawn to things that make you seek out what they're about. That's studying. And whether you're drawn to gospel music or church music or honky-tonk music, it informs your character and it informs your talent."

On Great New Music

"If you're good, you're always looking over your shoulder. I mean, that's the life -- that's the gun-slinging life. It's like, 'Yes, you are very fast, my friend, but there's some kid in his garage tonight, and just about 10 minutes from now...' You can't make any mistake about it. The record and documentary show that [that album] was carved meticulously and consciously out of a big chunk of stone over a long period of time, with a huge amount of ego and ambition and hunger, hopefully for the right things."

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