TORONTO (Reuters) - Rock legend Bruce Springsteen has thrown light on the making of his seminal album, “Darkness on the Edge of Town,” describing it as a shift into adulthood for a small-town musician who wanted to be heard.
Interviewed by actor Edward Norton at the Toronto International Film Festival, Springsteen said he worked round the clock with his E Street Band in pursuit of perfection for the 1978 album that marked a shift in the musician’s narrative voice.
Springsteen, who turns 61 next week, was in Toronto to mark the release of Thom Zimny’s documentary “The Promise: The Making of Darkness on the Edge of Town”, which made its world premiere at the festival on Tuesday.
The documentary focuses on the writing and recording sessions ahead of the 1978 release of “Darkness” and will be shown on cable TV channel HBO on October 7. It will also be part of a box set commemorating the album that comprises more than six hours of film and over two hours of audio.
In a grueling run-up to the record’s release, Springsteen wrote 70 songs. He took only the best.
“I took the 10 toughest songs I had,” Springsteen said in the hour-long on stage interview in front of a packed audience that hung on his every word.
“The way we did it was so hard we often thought we were doing it wrong. But I look back and I think we weren’t doing it wrong, we were just doing it the only way we knew how.”
He added “There was something in that hardness of it, that young naked desire. We wanted to be important and we came from a little town and we wanted people to hear our voices.”
Springsteen was inducted to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1999. He took home an Oscar in 1994 for his song “Streets of Philadelphia” from the AIDS-themed movie “Philadelphia”.
The documentary is expected to get an enthusiastic reception among Springsteen’s legions of fans. The audience at Norton’s interview included European fans who had flown to Toronto especially to see their hero in action.
Springsteen called “Darkness” an angry record, one meant to honor his parents and their struggles, but also one that was influenced by some dark films of the time, including Martin Scorsese’s “Mean Streets” and “Taxi Driver.”
He seemed as familiar with the material as if he had walked out of the studio yesterday.
At one point, when Norton asked about the inspiration of a lyric that he said was from the album’s “Racing in the Street” track, Springsteen quickly interrupted and said: “That’s from ‘Something in the Night’.”
The film intersperses footage shot between 1976 and 1978, including home rehearsals and studio sessions, with current interviews that describe how a legal fight put Springsteen into a self-imposed studio exile for years.
“It was the beginning of a long narrative ... a long conversation I’ve had with my fans that’s been one of the most valuable things in my life,” said Springsteen.
Springsteen, dubbed “The Boss” by his fans, arrived on stage to a rousing standing ovation, and chants of “Bruuuuuce”. He and Norton were dressed identically, with black jeans and black shirts with the sleeves rolled up.
“We should explain to them how long it took us to figure these outfits out,” Springsteen joked before the two men talked about his influences, music, politics, intense work ethic, and parenthood.
Ever competitive, Springsteen said he still eyes the newest acts on stage when he’s at a concert with one of his children.
“If you’re good, you’re always looking over your shoulder,” said Springsteen. “That’s the life of the gunslinger. ‘Yes, you are very fast, my friend.’”
Reporting by Frank Pingue; editing by Janet Guttsman and Jill Serjeant