Thoughts On: The Promise: The Making Of Darkness On The Edge Of Town, And Being A "Music Guy"

 Actually, you'll find the words below.

If you'll take a glance over to the right margin of my blog you may notice that there is no post label for "music".  There's one for movies, one for TV, one for books, and another for video games.  Heck, there's even one for comics as movies.  But nothing about music.

That's cause I'm not really a music guy. 


I grew up with a couple of "music guys" as friends and I was envious of them.  They felt about songs the way I felt (at the time) about movies.  Their passion seemed, I dunno, hipper and more adult, and it was related to girls and sex and poetry and all the things that Star Wars and  Spider-man--and me--definitely weren't. 

The trick to finding this image is not using the search term: "vinyl fetish"

Watching The Promise: The Making Of Darkness On The Edge Of Town recently on my satellite cable reminded me that at one time, for a brief, raw period, I really, really was a "music guy".

I got into Bruce Springsteen during my last year in high school.  At the time, I wasn't listening to the radio (not that I ever really have) and had no idea what was going on with the popular music scene.  I had maybe twenty albums on cassette tape, and most of them were oldies: Sam Cooke, Creedence Clearwater Revival, that sort of thing.  Two tapes I had were Bruce's Nebraska and his Live '75 to '85 albums, both copied from LPs my father owned.

About the time I was listening to the live album more and more, I made a new friend at school.   He told me about the other albums, so I tried them.  Some I liked, some I didn't.  He told me about these strange things called "bootlegs", and he gave me copies of a few to listen to.  Some were made up of quirky, unreleased songs.  Some were entire concerts.  And for really the only time in my life, somebody's music really began talking to me.

The Promise: The Making Of Darkness On The Edge Of Town details a period of music-making in Bruce Springsteen's career that essentially provided the soundtrack to my university life (some fifteen years after the fact). 

In the late seventies, Bruce Springsteen was a song-writin' machine, churning out ditties both  anthemic and amusing, raucous and reflective.  And that was just in the studio.  In concert, he was a demi-god; a literally peerless combination of showmanship, youthful raw energy, silliness, profundity, mature artistry, and a complete lack of pretension.

Watching The Promise, which is made up of video grabbed during three years of studio recording, I saw Bruce not only younger than he is now, not only younger than I am now, but almost as young as I was in university.  In the footage he is obviously a lonely, roughly unfinished, lost and very passionate fellow: a New Jersey born and working class carbon copy of the young middle class Canadian he'd be reaching fifteen years later.

That conversation we had--those bootlegs playing deep into my psyche as I walked through endless and countless neighbourhoods late at night, either from or to work or school--meant everything to me.  It was restorative and probably did more than little bit of the emotional heavy-lifting for me during a pretty depressed part of my life. 

The music was so freaking heartfelt that it feels like an intimate two-way conversation even as it roared bombastically through a late seventies era arena.  It still does.  Though I no longer hunt up new concerts to listen to--or even listen to the old ones much--it's nice to know they still exist in my iPod, eternal, and for the most part secretly great in a way that nobody else seems to know, and most of all there for me if I need them.

I'm pretty sure non-Bruce fans would be bored by The Promise, and more than a little lost as to what the big deal is, since it meanders and is without narration and context at any point.  It's a gift to the already initiated, and it made me remember how much that intimate two-way conversation meant to me, when I was a lonely young man walking through the darkness on the edge of town.

If you can find a way to be "a music guy", even for a little while, I highly recommend it.