Darkness On The Edge Of Town - Overview

Overview

Springsteen reached a final settlement in his year-long litigation with Mike Appel on May 28, 1977. Effectively this meant that for the first time in a year Springsteen was able to go into a studio and record. He wasted no time. Recording sessions for the fourth album began just four days later, on June 1, 1977 at Atlantic Studios in New York City. That first night Springsteen laid down at least eight songs, including a take of "Something In The Night" that actually made the final album. Springsteen had a considerable amount of new material – but the songs were in various stages of writing completion. Consequently, many of the songs were shaped over the course of numerous sessions spanning several months.

The sessions at Atlantic Studios were only two or three weeks old when problems surfaced. Bruce didn't like the sound he was getting from the studio (particularly the drums). On top of that, Atlantic did not offer a particularly comfortable or livable environment for the musicians. So there was a decision taken to shift operations to the nearby Record Plant (where most of the Born To Run album had been recorded). However, they’d already made financial commitments to Atlantic Studios, plus on such short notice they were unable to find much un-booked studio time at the popular Record Plant. Consequently, the period through August into September 1977 saw Springsteen and the band recording at both studios – but mostly Atlantic. However, from mid-September thru late December all recording seems to have taken place at The Record Plant – where all but one the recordings issued on the original album emanate from.

The actual recording sessions for Darkness On The Edge Of Town were completed by early January 1978. The mixing sessions began in early January 1978 and dragged on until late March – there were a tremendous amount of different mixes considered, with Springsteen changing his mind on the mix of one song (“The Promised Land”) as late as early April. Candy's Room was mixed from March 3-5, 1978, with take 42 selected for Darkness on March 5, 1978. Factory mix take 28 from April 3, 1978, was pressed to a metal acetate with the title "Factory Song" on April 12, 1978. Badlands V4a, recorded February 22, 1978, was pressed to metal acetate the day after final mix 23 on April 11, 1978, though another recording from February 24 or 25 was released on the Darkness album. More information can be found in the detail records of the tracks that made the album.

The final recording for Darkness was the title track, which Bruce worked on in June 1977, then set aside for the duration of the sessions. On March 8, 1978, he suddenly called his forces together, and over three days, they re-recorded Darkness from scratch and completed the album take on March 10. The Record Plant was undergoing some construction, so work was done in a studio with bare concrete walls, after the room was gutted prior to renovation. This suited Bruce fine. Final work on The Factory Song also took place on March 10, and it is possible the band recorded additional parts that day. Bruce completed it on March 14. From March 1978 to the start of the Darkness Tour in late May Steve Van Zandt and Max Weinberg were very busy at nearby Secret Sound Studios with Southside Johnny’s Hearts Of Stone album (released early October 1978). Springsteen donated two non short-listed songs from the Darkness sessions to the Southside LP project.

According to comments by Darkness sessions recording engineer Jimmy Iovine, about thirty songs were recorded to a completed state and available for inclusion on the Darkness album. There were an unknown number of additional songs not fully completed. What “not fully completed” means is uncertain. At this stage, 32 songs have been officially released (the ten on the original album, four on Tracks and eighteen on The Promise), but several of these have modern vocal takes, and their 1978 state remains unknown. There is also an unknown amount of not fully finished recordings. The list below contains 56 songs from the period that likely encompass all or nearly all of the thirty songs Jimmy Iovine was alluding to, as well as most of the ones never completed. 24 remain unreleased.

The audio from the Darkness sessions that has surfaced unofficially over the years has been of rather disappointing quality. During the late 1970s and 1980s most of it was of very weak quality. However, over the past twenty years lower generation audio specimens have emerged and the CD-era boots of this audio have been a noticeable improvement over their vinyl era counterparts. Yet in many cases it has become apparent that there were flaws in the way the original source individuals taped these studio sessions. There certainly appears to have been some hidden “fly-on-the-wall” type tapings. The other problem is that much of the leaked audio is of early studio workouts of these songs, rather than later, fully realized renditions. Most of the leaked studio material emanates from the June-October 1977 period, so the later November 77-January 78 sessions may include several other songs that remain undocumented, even after the release of The Promise.

The 2010 release of The Promise gives us a slightly better understanding of the Darkness sessions, as well as access to several tracks that were previously unknown to us such as "Save My Love". However, the wonderful notebook facsimile included in the box lists titles of many songs (see Part Four below) that are totally new to us. It is unknown how many of these songs actually exist; many may not be songs at all - just titles. Jimmy Iovine mentions in the making-of documentary that Springsteen wrote seventy songs for potential use on "Album IV".

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