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Ed Norton Interviews Bruce Springsteen On 'Darkness'

Twenty-one songs Springsteen recorded for his 1978 album Darkness on the Edge of Town are now being released for the first time. Springsteen spoke to actor Ed Norton at the Toronto Film Festival about the making of Darkness.



Fresh Air
11:00-12:00 PM
Ed Norton Interviews Bruce Springsteen On 'Darkness'

(Soundbite of song, "Prove It All Night"


This FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross.

(Soundbite of song, "Badlands")

GROSS: Before the premiere of the documentary about the making of Bruce
Springsteen's album, "Darkness at the Edge of Town," he was interviewed by
actor Edward Norton at the Toronto International Film Festival. We're going to
hear their conversation.

(Soundbite of song, "Badlands")

Mr. BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN (Musician, Singer, Songwriter): (Singing) Lights out
tonight, trouble in the heartland. Got a head on collision smashing in my guts,
man. I'm caught in a crossfire that I don't understand. But there's one thing I
know for sure, girl. I don't give a damn for the same old played out scenes, I
don't give a damn for just the in-betweens. Honey, I want the heart, I want the
soul, I want control right now. You better listen to me, baby. Talk about a
dream, try to make it real, you wake up in the night with a fear that's so
real. You spend your life waiting for a moment that just don't come. Well don't
waste your time waiting. Badlands, you've got to live them every day, let the
broken hearts stand as the price you've got to pay. Keep pushing 'til it's
understood and these badlands start treating us good. Working in the fields,
how you get your back burned...

GROSS: Springsteen's album, "Darkness at the Edge of Town" was released in
1978. A reviewer for Rolling Stone wrote: Occasionally a record appears that
changes, fundamentally, the way we hear rock and roll, the way it's recorded,
the way it is played. I have no doubt that Springsteen's "Darkness on the Edge
of Town" will some day fit within that list.

There was a three-year gap between the release of Springsteen's hit 1975 album,
"Born to Run" and the release of "Darkness at the Edge of Town." That's because
a lawsuit with a former manager prevented Springsteen and the E Street Band
from recording for a couple of years. During that time Springsteen toured and
wrote a lot of songs, working on them with the band on a farm in New Jersey. He
chose from those songs for the "Darkness" album.

The making of the album is chronicled in the documentary, "The Promise" which
premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival earlier this fall. In this
scene from the film, long-time manager and producer Jon Landau along with
members of the E Street Band describe the mood that Springsteen was trying to
achieve in the record.

(Soundbite of film, "The Promise")

JON LANDAU (Manager and Producer): I remember him telling me he really wanted
to downsize the scale, that big sound of "Born to Run."

(Soundbite of song, "The Promised Land")

Mr. SPRINGSTEEN: (Singing) And the dogs on this street howl...

Mr. LANDAU: Suddenly everything got very sparse. Where the "Born to Run" album
had this sort of, you know, our take on the quote, unquote, "wall of sound,"
Now you had this vast cinematic landscape.

(Soundbite of song, "The Promised Land")

(Soundbite of song, "Something In The Night")

Unidentified Female #1: I love the wily, lonewolf image that I get when I hear
that record.

Mr. LANDAU: The record maintains that kind of ominous potentially hopeful feel
throughout. It doesn't break that focus.

You know one phrase that we would use to discuss the sound of the record as it
evolved was the sound picture. What kind of picture was the sound of the record
suggesting? We did want a certain feeling of loneliness, a certain un-
glamourized, to mix languages, you know, a sound. There was no sweetening, you
know a lot of overdubbed, especially strings and horns. We didn't want any
sweetening. We wanted, you know, coffee black.

(Soundbite of song, "Something In The Night")

GROSS: Songs that didn't fit this mood were cut from the album. Many of those
cut songs are included in the box set, "The Promise" which will be released
tomorrow. The box includes a re-mastered version of "Darkness", two CDs of
songs that were recorded but not used for the album along with the documentary,
"The Promise" and DVDs of other live performances.

So here's Edward Norton interviewing Bruce Springsteen at the Toronto
International Film Festival in September. They've been friends for about ten
years. Norton asked Springsteen about "Darkness", his influences and his
creative process.

EDWARD NORTON (Actor): I was thinking about the record, "Darkness on the Edge
of Town" and those songs have become so - I don't even know if they're yours
anymore. I think people own them. They've become part of the tapestry of their
lives. And it occurred to me that it, sort of deeper than even the specific
songs themselves, is just the theme of darkness. Darkness as a theme, as an
approach to creative work, and that a lot of artists, in all different forms,
shy away often from darkness as a theme.

And by that I mean, they just don't really bother to look at the dark side of
things. And if they do, sometimes they get kind of pigeon-holed into that. But
you have somehow managed to look at darkness, dark corners in yourself. You've
looked, even, at the darker side of our country. What gave you the confidence
to believe that rock music could go that deep and what made you first have the
impulse that you could take your music from rock and the fun of rock into being
an actual exploration of darker themes?

Mr. SPRINGSTEEN: Well a lot of people would, had come before with that. I mean
some of the greatest blues music is some of the darkest music you've ever
heard. And also you know you had you had maps. You had, obviously Dylan had
come you know when I was 15 and I listened to his music first. And his music
contained a lot of - I always used to say when I heard "Highway 61" I think I
felt, as a teenager, that I was hearing the first true picture of how I felt
and how my country felt, you know. And that was exhilarating. It was
exhilarating because it's like it's, I think, 1960's small-town America was
very Lynchian(ph), you know.

And, I mean, everything was there, but underneath everything was rumbling, and
particularly if you grew up in the mid and late 60s. And so, suddenly, I think
what Dylan did, was he took all that dark stuff that was rumbling underneath
and pushed it to the surface with a lot of - with irony and humor and - 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. And
"Darkness on the Edge of Town" came out of a huge body of work that had tons of
very happy songs. You know, bar band music, soul music, and it was all music
that we recorded, we wrote and made a very distinct decision to not use, you
know. The reason we didn't use it was for - there were a myriad of reasons.

One was, I'd sort of come off of three years being waylaid by a lawsuit I'd
been in, and it was sort of a record where I felt I had to really create an
identity for myself. Also what people forget sometimes, is that "Darkness" was
recorded right at the moment of the punk explosion. And while I was musically
set on sort of my path, thematically there were a lot of very tough and there
was a lot of very tough and hard music coming out of England.

Also, we were in what was known as the Carter Recession at the time which was
late 70s America. Also, these records were recorded four years, three years
after the end of the Vietnam War. So that feeling, that the country had changed
dramatically, you know, lost its innocence. And the other music that I'd
written for "Darkness" still contained, it was - a lot of it was more, real
building-based, genre-based. It was great, and it was exciting to go back and
put it together for the project, but it didn't feel completely reflective of
its times.

Mr. NORTON: Do you think - do you think, I mean, "Asbury Park" and "Born to
Run" and "Wild, the Innocent, and the E Street Shuffle," these - it's not that
these records don't have flickers of that on them.


MR. NORTON: They do, but even "Born to Run," which I think is full of struggle
and full of longing, its aspiration to leave and to go to a wider world and...
Do you think that it took a measure of success for you to feel that you had
courage enough to put out that kind of work?

Mr. SPRINGSTEEN: No because you're, you're usually motivated by fear, I mean –
you know, rather than bravery. So I think I was, I think "Darkness" came out of
a place I was afraid of losing myself. I'd had the first taste of success so
you're, you know, you've realized it's possible for your talent to sort of 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'd had a record
contract. I'd never met anybody else who'd ever had one, you know. None of the
E Street Band, as far as I know, had been on an airplane until Columbia sent us
to Los Angeles.

We'd heard about them. We'd seen them pass over, but we hadn't been on any, you
know. You couldn't, you know. And so it was a smaller, smaller world, you know,
and we were provincial guys with no money, you know. And so it was this whole
little street life in Ashbury Park and people - New York was a million miles
away. You rarely met someone else who'd made a record.

I think it was a very different, different time. But the good part about it was
you were very, very connected to place. And it was unique, the place where you
lived and you grew up, and the people you grew up with were very singular. And
so when I went to make that record I knew that I'd felt confused by - the irony
of any kind of success is, you're a mutant in your neighborhood and it does
make you unusual and it also leaves you with a good deal of survivor guilt.

In other words, no one knows anyone else who has any money. And so they only
know you. And at the time, even though we're making a lot of records, you know,
we weren't making very much money because we were - didn't know how to make
records and we spent it on either, on making the records or I'd signed a lot of
bad deals and it all went away, you know.

But still, you were a guy that - you were very, very unusual and so my desire
to sort of not get disconnected from my - it was a way of honoring my parents'
experience and their history - a lot of the people I cared about, I said well
these things don't seem to be - they aren't really being written about that
much. I'm not sure if, you know... 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, and...

Mr. NORTON: What's interesting about that to me, though, is at the same time
you're talking about you know that intense connection to a locale, to a place
and a culture of people in your area; but in that - when you toured with the
"Darkness" record, even and in that period, you referenced things like Terrence
Malik's film, "Badlands" or...


Mr. NORTON: ...or Flannery O'Connor. You were starting to talk about the way
that other things were affecting you. And I think I even saw, in an old
interview, that you talked about how literally going out to some of those
Western landscapes opened up your sense of the country.

Mr. SPRINGSTEEN: Well you're choosing a geography. And I think one of the
things music does is it, you know, we all carry a landscape within us you know.
And also Mr. Landau was a film critic when I met him, if I'm correct, you know.
And I was just getting at a place in my life where I mean hadn't read. I hadn't
watched anything. It was all top 40 records, or it was all - we were all
creatures of the radio, and blues and soul and... So it was an interesting
moment, because once again, if think about the late 70s when that record came
out, top films of the day were like, "Taxi Driver". You know "Mean Streets" had
come out. You know, we were in L.A. for - on the Born to Run tour, I met Marty
Scorcese and Bobby De Niro and he set up a screening of "Mean Streets" for us
in Los Angeles, you know, and so... You know, these things were kind of
happening a little simultaneously. And you know, popular pictures were very,
you know, were dark, bloody pictures that dealt with the inner, with the flip
side of the American experience.

And in a funny way, you know, "Darkness" which was 1978 slipped out of that
cultural moment, you know, and really, in a way, connects up to some of those
film influences. Also, there was - we traveled into the Southwest, me and Steve
van Zandt. We flew to Reno and we bought a $2,000 – I think it was a Ford - and
we drove it for 1,000 or so miles through the Southwest and we took some
photos. And I passed a place called the Rattlesnake Speedway in like, it was in
Utah, you know. So I go - that's just such a great name. And all those things
started to seep into - I was interested, now, in writing music that felt not
just New Jersey or Boardwalk-based, which is kind of like where we'd come from,
but I wanted to sort of bring in the full landscape of the whole country.

GROSS: We're listening to Bruce Springsteen talking with actor Edward Norton,
recorded earlier this fall as part of the Toronto International Film Festival's
Mavericks Program. We'll hear more after a break. This is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of song, "The Promise")

GROSS: Let's get back to the interview Bruce Springsteen recorded with his
friend actor, Edward Norton in September at the Toronto International Film
Festival before the premiere of the documentary, "The Promise" which is about
the making of Springsteen's 1978 album, "Darkness on the Edge of Town." The new
"Darkness" boxed set "The Promise" which includes the documentary, will be
released tomorrow.

Mr. NORTON: There's a certain romance that we all project onto artists that we
love and who speak to us. We want to believe, somehow, that their work just
bursts out of them fully formed. That it came in an...

Mr. SPRINGSTEEN: ...oh if it could be so.

Mr. NORTON: Yeah, yeah exactly. And the older I've gotten and the more of an
opportunity that I've had to work on my own but also to learn more about how
some of the work that really hit be hard actually got made, like this film
about "Darkness," the more I've started to think that that's really not the
case, and that a lot of artists use their right brain, too, a lot. They put
their nose in the wind. They look at the landscape of what's going on around
them, and they - and they use their references and they construct and craft
things very carefully.

I just, I've come to feel that a lot of them just hide how literate they are,
because it looks more arty and rock starry. But we were talking about Dylan
just now, and I think Dylan always gave the impression of being the ultimate
savant, you know. But the truth is I think as we've learned through Scorcese's
documentary I think. You know that guy was a craftsman. He was very, very
conscious of what was going on around him. He was conscious of Woody Guthrie's
idiom and he just wouldn't talk about it.

But that gets me, you know, around to you, because I look at these tapes in
this film, on "Darkness on the Edge of Town" and you know on stage and in your
work, you cut this figure of kind of this hairy-headed hipster who was this
poet and everything. But I think, you know, that you knew what you were up to.

Mr. SPRINGSTEEN: Oh, please.

Mr. NORTON: You had, you had... And so, I know you feel it, but I'm wondering
what you think about that the mix of the intuitive, but then the right brain
and the way that the ambition to say something big.

Mr. SPRINGSTEEN: It works a lot of different ways. Bob said he always like the
singers who, you couldn't tell what they were thinking, you know. I don't know
if I know anyone, with perhaps the exception of the inventors - the early
inventors of rock music who - and even that the kind of study that had to go
on, say, if the kind, let's say the gospel background in Jerry Lee Lewis' piano
playing. And it's completely informed with church and honky-tonk and, you know,
you have to study that stuff. And even... And I don't mean study, necessarily,
in the sense of literal schooling, but you're drawn to things that make you
seek out what they're about. You know, that's studying, you know. And whether
it's you're drawn to gospel music, or to church music, or to honky-tonk music,
or to - and it informs your character and it informs your talent.

The difference is, I think, that initially rock music was - you were only going
to be a rock musician for three years or so, and then you were going to be
done. And even in the late 70s or mid 70s, you know, you forget the Beatles
made all the records in about eight years. I think it was '63 to '72 - so very,
very... And also, the oldest rock musicians say when "Darkness" came out were
32 or 34. Those were the old guys. You know, the Stones... Like people were
looking for a new Bob Dylan when Bob himself was only about 30 years old, you
know. I mean the old one was still a kid. And so it was a different moment. It
was a very different moment.

GROSS: We'll hear more of Bruce Springsteen in conversation with actor, Edward
Norton in the second half of the show. Their interview was recorded in
September as part of the Toronto International Film Festival's Mavericks
Program. The boxed set, "The Promise" which will be released tomorrow includes
the documentary, a re-mastered recording of "Darkness" and previously
unreleased songs that were cut from the album. I'm Terry Gross and this FRESH

(Soundbite of "The Promised Land")

Mr. SPRINGSTEEN: (Singing) On a rattlesnake speedway in the Utah desert, I pick
up my money and head back into town. Drivin' cross the Waynesboro county line,
I got the radio on and I'm just killing time. Working all day in my daddy's
garage, driving all night chasing some mirage, pretty soon little girl, I'm
gonna take charge.

The dogs on Main Street howl 'cause they understand, if I could take one moment
into my hands. Mister I ain't a boy, no I'm a man, nd I believe in a promised

I've done my best to live the right way, I get up every morning and go to work
each day, But your eyes go blind and your blood runs cold...

(Soundbite of song, "Something In The Night")

GROSS: Bruce Springsteen says he wanted the girls and the Cadillacs, but more
than anything, when he was making “Darkness on the Edge of Town,” he wanted, as
he put it, a purposeful work life.

Coming up, we continue the interview that Edward Norton recorded with Bruce
Springsteen, on stage, at the Toronto International Film Festival.

(Soundbite of song, “Something in the Night”)

Mr. SPRINGSTEEN: (Singing) so I don't have to think at all. And I take her to
the floor, looking for a moment when the world seems right. And I tear into the
guts mmmm, of something in the night.

Well, when you’re born with nothing, and better off that way, soon as you’ve
got something the send someone to try and take it away.

GROSS: This is FRESH AIR. I’m Terry Gross. We’re listening to a conversation
Bruce Springsteen recorded with his friend, actor Edward Norton, last September
at the Toronto International Film Festival as part of the Mavericks program.
The interview was recorded before the festival premiered the documentary “The
Promise” about the making of Springsteen's 1978 album, “Darkness on the Edge of
Town.” The box set “The Promise” will be released tomorrow. It features the
documentary, a re-mastered version of “Darkness,” and two CDs of previously
unreleased songs that were cut from the album.

Here's another clip from the documentary. Jimmy Iovine, who recorded the album,
speaks first, followed by members of the E Street band.

Mr. JIMMY IOVINE (Music producer; Chairman, Interscope-Geffen-A&M): We recorded
a lot of music, you know, reels and reels and reels of tapes and songs and it
went on for days and days and days, and just recording songs. Anyway, he was
very prolific; it was like he exploded. “Born to Run,” there were only like
nine songs. Eight made the album. On “Darkness,” they were like 70 songs. That
was a big difference. If you think about that, somebody sculpting eight songs,
and then all of a sudden, the next album they're writing 70 songs.

Unidentified Man #1: You’re basically, the first good 10 songs you write you
put I on. That’s your record. Well, that’s a, this, that process would end.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Unidentified Man #1: Forever. Never came back.

Mr. CLARENCE CLEMONS (Saxophonist, The E Street Band): I would say Bruce would
write five songs to get one song.

Mr. SPRINGSTEEN: There was a lot of multi-versions of all kinds of things.

We were always pulling things apart. I had like a big junkyard of stuff as the
year went by.

If something wasn't complete, I just pulled out the parts I liked. It’s like
pulling the parts you need from one car, put them in the other car so that car

GROSS: Let’s get back to the conversation between Bruce Springsteen and Edward

Mr. NORTON: Was there a moment or a period or a certain age in your life where
you remember it transitioning from I'd like to write a good song to I want to -
I am going to paint on a big canvas, about all of, you know...


Mr. NORTON: ...where I'm going go at that?

Mr. SPRINGSTEEN: I felt like that before I made my first record because I'd had
a pretty successful local band. I mean we sometimes played to a couple of
thousand people, which was no record or anything. It was, you know, and you'd
charge a dollar and had $2,000 and you split amongst five guys, you know, how
long you going to live on that at 20 years old? You live forever on $300 in
your drawer, you know.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. SPRINGSTEEN: You just lived forever, you know. And, so that - we were sort
of successful in that sense. And when it came time to record, I knew that that
wasn't going to be enough, you know. And I said man, there’s other guys that
play guitar well. There's other guys that really front well. There’s others –
there’s rocking bands out there. But the writing and the imagining of a world,
that's a particular thing, you know, that's a single fingerprint. All the
filmmakers we love, all the writers we love, all the songwriters we love, they
have – they put their fingerprint on your imagination and then on - in your
heart and on your soul. That was something that I'd felt, you know, felt
touched by. And I said well, I want to do that. And...

Mr. NORTON: Were you affected by the Beats? Was it Kerouac and, you know, Allen
Ginsberg? Did that penetrate to you?

Mr. SPRINGSTEEN: No. No. I was – if I was ever a bohemian it was by
circumstance, you know, it...

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. SPRINGSTEEN: was, I mean I, it was sort of, you know, I don't, you
know, I really, none of the guys, us guys locally, came out of an actual
bohemian lifestyle. It wasn't - that was not what was in as Asbury Park. Asbury
Park was your working-class musicians who came from those kinds of homes, who
fell into a bohemian lifestyle because it was all they could afford at a
moment. And you were sort of on the outs but you didn't have the self-awareness
about it, you know. And I didn't really read - I read Allen Ginsberg after I
saw people comparing my first record to some of his poetry, you know. And so I
was a late comer to the whole Beat thing and, you know, we were influenced by
records, you know, records.

Mr. NORTON: Were you paying attention, at that time, to the political reality
in the country? Like you started singing “This Land is Your Land” around the
time of those “Darkness” tours and or maybe it was on “The River,” I, and
having commentaries, sort of, about, you know, dispossessed people and stuff
like that. When do you think you actually started drawing connections between
the landscapes and the struggles of people that you were describing in songs
and writing about and the actual effect of political leadership on those
conditions? Like what did you - when did that start crystallizing for you?

Mr. SPRINGSTEEN: I guess it was around that time, maybe a little later, “The
River.” I know “The River” album, for sure. But it was - the only sense is if
you grew up, if you’re a teenager in the ‘60s you fell down on one side or the
other. Like my brother-in-law was - never had a ‘60s experience. He was a 1950s
man, you know. And his life was very patterned, patterned... Him and my
sister’s life were patterned after my parents, and it was very hard and it was
a lot of struggle, and they were married young and had children very young; and
there was that and then there were the people who, you know, who drunk the
Kool-Aid, I guess, you know.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. SPRINGSTEEN: And, but I have a poster of us playing for George McGovern.
You know, I was 22. We did a benefit for - and so politics was just there
during the Vietnam War and it was just there. As far as the connection later, I
did, I guess I did begin to say, okay well, you know, my own history was
interested in my parents lives. I was interested in a sense of place. I was - I
felt that my own identity was rooted in that sense of place and that there was
a narrative there. And I was interested in having a narrative. In other words,
I had a story and I wanted to tell it. And I knew it was caught up in my
childhood and my parents lives and my own young life, and - but I had no real
clue as to the broader picture, you know. And slowly, and I believe in
“Darkness,” and remember Mr. Landau and I, we have a lot of conversations at
that time, where I was trying to sort out what I felt was true, you know, like
what, you know, what was sort of the - what where the larger forces that was at
work on my parents lives.

And that's when I went back into the Woody Guthrie and some of the earlier
political writers, and even really my experiences. So it was, and I was
interested in the, in sort of working-class pop music, which at the time would
be The Animals or something. The Animals had so many great records but they
were very well rooted in sort of blue-collar experience. And I was just
interested in it as trying to figure out who I was, because when you have some
success, you know, it's you have a variety of choices and I think I looked at
some of the maps, some of the people who’d come before had drawn and I saw
where they'd gone off to where, you know, here there be dragons, you know.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. NORTON: Where like there was a flat, you know, the world was flat to them
and they fell off the edge. And I said well, you know, that's something I'd
rather not do. You know, I'd rather not have that happen. And I decided that
the key to that was maintaining a sense of myself, understanding that a part of
my life had been mutated by some of my success and experiences, but also
holding on to a sense of myself that came out of the, where I grew up and the
people I grew up with and my parents’ history in my own history. There was a
thrust of self-preservation more than anything else, more than a political
conscience, more than a social consciousness. It was an act of self-
preservation and then also anger and some revenge from, you know, seeing some
wasted life and, you know, my homelife and it just led me down - I just
followed that. But, yeah, you start telling people who they should vote for

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. SPRINGSTEEN: That happens as you go along.

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: We're listening to Bruce Springsteen along with actor Edward Norton
recorded earlier this fall as part of the Toronto International Film Festival’s
Mavericks program.

We'll hear more after a break.

This is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of music)

GROSS: We're listening to the interview Bruce Springsteen recorded with his
friend actor Edward Norton in September at the Toronto International Film
Festival before the premiere of the documentary “The Promise” about the making
of Springsteen's 1978 album “Darkness on the Edge of Town.” The “Darkness’ box
set “The Promise,” which includes the documentary and previously unreleased
tracks from the time, will be released tomorrow.

Here’s one of the tracks that was recorded while Springsteen was making
“Darkness” but wasn't included on it. Springsteen's version of his song
“Because the Night.” The song was a hit for Patti Smith.

(Soundbite of song, “Because the Night”)

Mr. SPRINGSTEEN: (Singing) Take me now baby here as I am. Pull me close, try
and understand. Desire is hunger is the fire I breathe, love is a banquet on
which we feed.

Come on now try and understand. The way I feel when I'm in your hands. Take my
hand come undercover. They can't hurt you now. They can't hurt you now. They
can't hurt you now.

Because the night belongs to lovers. Because the night belongs to lust. Because
the night belongs to lovers. Because the night belongs to us.

Have I doubt when I'm alone. And love is a ring, the telephone. Love is an

GROSS: Let’s get back to Bruce Springsteen in conversation with actor Edward

Mr. NORTON: I kind of think that every, maybe every generation thinks that when
they become parents they're going to be the first cool parents, you know, that

Mr. SPRINGSTEEN: No, that doesn't work out.

Mr. NORTON: Yeah.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. NORTON: You know, you know, my parents...

Mr. SPRINGSTEEN: That’s not your place, you know.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. SPRINGSTEEN: If you are, you're doing it wrong. Nobody, I always say, your
kids coming to see the show? I say well why would any kids want to come and see
thousands cheer their parents?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. SPRINGSTEEN: I mean who – they want then, we can see thousands boo their

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. NORTON: Yeah.

Mr. SPRINGSTEEN: That would be fun. But who wants to see, I want to cheer your
mom and dad? There's no fun in that.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. NORTON: But you told me you try to keep up with, you know, what your kids
are listening to and stay in touch with what matters to them with the, you
know, the new (unintelligible) that’s happening.

Mr. SPRINGSTEEN: Well, they, yeah, they share their musical taste and I've
heard a lot of great music through my kids. But...

Mr. NORTON: You have?

Mr. SPRINGSTEEN: But, yeah. But it’s funny. And I have to say Mr. Thom's - I
got to bring, Thom directed the documentary and one of the things is, as we
were talking backstage, we were lucky to come in on a lot footage that was
taken from when we were 27. I had a buddy who had a – Barry Rebo. I don’t know
if he's here tonight, but he came into the studio and he had a little camera
that he sort of rigged up so it didn't need any lights and shot us recording
“Darkness” at the time. And so there's a lot of footage of us at almost my
son's age, or a little bit older, and I've been informed by my kids that we
simply look ridiculous, you know.

(Soundbite of laughter)


(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. SPRINGSTEEN: So there’s no, you can't win. You're not going to win.

Mr. NORTON: And yet your boys looked an awfully lot like you at that age.

Mr. SPRINGSTEEN: Yeah. Yeah. So it’s like, you know....

Mr. NORTON: They’re getting a little shaggy.

Mr. SPRINGSTEEN: It’s one of those things. Oh, yeah, they, yeah.

Mr. NORTON: Yeah. But are they - I mean I remember thinking it was really, it
made me love Neil Young even more, son of Ontario, but...

(Soundbite of applause) (Soundbite of cheering)

Mr. NORTON: I remember feeling that, thinking how great it was that I saw some
interview with Neil Young where he said when he heard Nirvana for the first
time, he went out in his garage and played all night because it kicked his ass
so bad.


Mr. NORTON: And I was curious, you've been doing it a long time. You, you know,
do you still bump into...

Mr. SPRINGSTEEN: Oh, if you’re good.

Mr. NORTON: that kicks your ass and...

Mr. SPRINGSTEEN: If you’re good, you're always looking over your shoulder, you

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. SPRINGSTEEN: I mean it's a part of, that's the life. That's the gun
slinging life.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. SPRINGSTEEN: You know, it’s like, yes, you are very fast my friend.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. SPRINGSTEEN: But, there’s some kid in his garage tonight, right?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. SPRINGSTEEN: And just about 10 minutes from now.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. SPRINGSTEEN: So, there's always a lot of inspiration out there to keep
running, you know. But to go back to earlier question, I think at that time,
you know, you can't make any mistake about it, like the record and those -
documentary shows that was carved meticulously, thoughtfully, very consciously
for out of a big chunk of stone over a long time with very, with a huge amount
of ego and ambition and hunger, you know, to - hopefully for the right things.
Maybe for some of the wrong things too. That's all right.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. NORTON: Well, talk, focus in on that. I mean...


Mr. NORTON: hit mile markers like when that record came out 30 years
ago, so that's a convenient, you know, way to sort of prod revisiting it.

But talk about your impulse to go back and look at the stuff that you, when you
are trying to shape that sculpture out of a big stone. You know, you cast off
certain things but now, you know, because there's songs I know from you, like
“The Promise,” that were not left off because they weren't deep. They were
almost too deep for you. And so, how does it feel to you to shake the dust off
those and let them be seen now?

Mr. SPRINGSTEEN: That I left out because it felt too self-referential and I was
uncomfortable with it, you know. Maybe it was too close to the story I was
actually living in some way at the moment, and I just didn't feel, I didn't
feel comfortable with it. I didn't have enough distance from it and so that
probably was one that could have went on but – gotten on. But also, I was
interested - “Darkness” was, it was meant, it was an angry record and I took
the 10 toughest songs I had. I didn't want to cut that feeling. I didn't want
something that had a more broader, somewhat compassionate overview. You know,
I, that didn't feel like the moment for that for me, you know. So that was
very, very, very particular, you know. Okay, so there was a lot of other good
music but - and maybe a few things that might have fit, you know, but...

Mr. NORTON: When you go back and look at it now does any of it, you know, does
it surprise you? Does it, you find yourself surprised by how good something is
or you had oh, I like that one? You know, I mean, do you – I mean...

Mr. SPRINGSTEEN: Yeah. For a long time...

Mr. NORTON: It’s a lot of material but...

Mr. SPRINGSTEEN: Yeah, I mean now you're sort of, you’ve had such a long, you
know, there is a large body of work, so every piece of it you're less self-
conscious about. At that time I had, I only had three records out, you know, so
you are going to be defined by - so that’s you were going to put out was 25
percent of all your work was about to come out, you know.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. SPRINGSTEEN: And that really changed the way you thought about thing, you
know. Now it’s very different. Now I can go back and, you know, we made a lot
of - put a lot of music on this project we've been working on. And it’s just,
oh, it’s just music you made at the time. You know, and you want people to
enjoy it and I still function a little bit like that with the current records I
make, you know. But you're a lot less uptight and you're a lot less self-
conscious, which is good. There's, I think there's an age to be that way, to be
very, very controlling and extremely intense and focused and a good deal
insane, also. There’s - I think that if you look at the people who we care
about are people who cared about something enough to get crazy with it, you

I think when you look at the actors we love, you know, it’s like Martin
Scorsese said the artist's job is you're trying to get the audience to care
about your obsessions. And there is a time and there is a place to get and be
that way. And there's a, that's why there’s a place for that intensity. But it,
I was in search of a purposeful work life. So, in other words, I want to
entertain, you know, hey, you know, I wanted the pink Cadillac and I wanted the
girls and... But more than those things, I felt I wanted what I needed and I
felt that was a purposeful work life.

GROSS: We're listening to Bruce Springsteen talking with actor Edward Norton,
recorded last September as part of the Toronto international Film Festival’s
Mavericks program.

We’ll hear more after a break.

This is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of music)

GROSS: Let’s get back to the interview Bruce Springsteen recorded with his
friend actor Edward Norton in September at the Toronto International Film
Festival before the premiere of the documentary “The Promise,” about the making
of Springsteen's 1978 album “Darkness on the Edge of Town.” The new “Darkness”
boxed set “The Promise,” which includes the documentary, will be released

Mr. NORTON: If you could see a film like this one, about the making of the
record of someone who was giant for you, if you had to say, if someone said oh,
you can get cameras on inside of a record that meant a lot to you what - you
know, who would you like to see?


Mr. NORTON: Grunting it out.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. SPRINGSTEEN: Well, there’s a lot of stuff. I'd probably - some “Pet Sounds”
or “Highway 61” or, you know, some of the great - you know, I think would have
been interesting. Oh, you'd had “Let It Be” so you got a sense of how The
Beatles worked in the studio. It's interesting to see how other people approach
their jobs because everybody does it a little bit different and also because
the way we did it was so hard we often felt like we were doing it wrong, you
know. It was like, it went on forever, you know, it went on for a year. We made
records that lasted years. I'd have musicians who come in and on their next
record and hey man, I'm still hacking out what I'm doing.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. SPRINGSTEEN: And I said well, we've got to be doing this wrong because, you
know, there's something there’s just - but I look back and we realize well, no,
we weren't doing it wrong, we were just doing it the only way we knew how, you

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. NORTON: If you could step in, you know, now you, and to that 27-year-old
guy who’s pulling his hair out in the videos people are going to see later,
what would you tell him?

Mr. SPRINGSTEEN: I don’t know, you know, I look back what I might tell him from
this perspective would - I don’t necessarily - would be right for the moment he
was living in at that time. I mean here's a, it's like, you know, I remember I
was turning 40, I was in a, going up in an elevator and I'd gotten to know the
doorman really well and he was like 60. And I said hey, I'm done turned 40. Do
you have any advice? And he said, just don't worry. I worry too much. Don't
worry about all those things. And that was pretty good advice for living. I'm
not sure it was such good price for working, you know.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. SPRINGSTEEN: And so I think, you know, the normal thing you'd say no man,
worry your ass off about that (bleep).

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. SPRINGSTEEN: Because it matters if you, you know, it makes...

Mr. NORTON: Most everybody (bleep) until they hate you.

Mr. SPRINGSTEEN: It’s like hey, it matter, you know. It’s like, so I look back
now and I wish it been a lot easier, but if it was easier, you know, maybe it
wouldn’t have been as hard, you know? And there was something about hardness of
it, that young naked desire to, like I said, we wanted to, we wanted to be
important, you know. That was, we were, came out of the little town and we
wanted people to hear our voices about, you know, and we set our sights big.
You know, we were not, there was no modesty involved, you know. At 27, you
know, the life we were living, it was around the clock. And so yeah, you got to
torturing, not just yourself, but everyone else along with you.

Mr. NORTON: So maybe you would just tell him keep doing what you're doing and
apologize later.

Mr. SPRINGSTEEN: Just, yeah, just you got put your head down and go, you know,
and hope that, you know, you hope that your inner guidance is good. We were in
staked if it was just - we’d play, I'd worked with the band for three days on a
piece of music and I would throw it out. I'd work the band for three days on
another piece of music and I would throw it out. And then we would do the same
thing with the cover, you know, we shot the cover three, four, five and throw
them all and, I mean it was, you know, we were, I decided, you know, I was just
going to, we were going to sort of role for all of it or miss, you know, and it
was a good experience.

You know, I don't make records the same way now, because I don’t have to, but I
do try to make them with the same level of intensity and sense of a
conversation that I want to continue. And I think “Darkness” was important
because it was the beginning, in a funny way of, the first three records were a
little bit of prequels. It was the beginning of a long narrative that went
through “Nebraska” and into “The Rising” and even “Magic.” Just a long
conversation that I've had with my fans that has been one of the most valuable
experiences of my life, you know. So that was, it was a record that really
started, in some ways, started that conversation and it's been a - so all you
folks that have been a long, it’s been something I've enjoyed tremendously. And
I appreciate your buying...

(Soundbite of applause) (Soundbite of cheering)

Mr. NORTON: Good note to end on.

Mr. SPRINGSTEEN: You know?

(Soundbite of applause) (Soundbite of cheering)


GROSS: Bruce Springsteen and Edward Norton recorded last September at the
Toronto International Film Festival. Our thanks to Springsteen, Edward Norton
and the Toronto International Film Festival for their permission to broadcast
the interview.

The Springsteen box set “The Promise” will be released tomorrow. It includes
the documentary about the making of ”Darkness on the Edge of Town,” a re-
mastered version of “Darkness,” and previously unreleased tracks. You can hear
15 of those unreleased tracks but only through tomorrow on

I'm Terry Gross.

(Soundbite of song, “The Promise”)

Mr. SPRINGSTEEN: (Singing) Johnny works in a factory and Billy works downtown.
Terry works in a rock 'n' roll band, looking for that million-dollar sound. I
got a little job down in Darlington, but some nights I don't go. Some nights I
go to the drive-in, or some nights I stay home. I followed that dream just like
those guys do up on the screen. And I drive a Challenger down Route 9 through
the dead ends and all the bad scenes.

Transcripts are created on a rush deadline, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of Fresh Air interviews and reviews are the audio recordings of each segment.

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