Couldn't sleep the other night and watched, for the second time, The Promise: The Making of Darkness on the Edge of Town, which airs again on HBO over the weekend. That's my favorite Springsteen record -- beautifully overwrought Jersey pop-opera tinged with the exposed-nerve punk of which Springsteen had become enamored during those laborious sessions. Though, certainly, you could make the compelling case that Born to Run or Born in the U.S.A. or even Nebraska are better from start to finish. One can only imagine what Darkness might have been like had Springsteen not left off "Because the Night," "Save My Love" or any of the other excised tracks given a second shot on the Promise collection due next month, the deluxe edition of which comes with an entire Houston show from '78.
Darkness was where I discovered Springsteen -- drawn to the tousled, bare-bones cover, I borrowed my cousin's copy and wore it through -- but Born in the U.S.A. was where he became inescapable. Rightfully so. Saw him twice on that neverending tour: at Reunion Arena in November '84 (don't recall -- was it the show on the 25th or 26th?), then again at the Cotton Bowl on September 13, 1985, the first of two back-to-backs at Fair Park. I was talking to a Fair Park official about that show just the other night: The Attack of the Crickets. (Said Springsteen, thanks to one fan's transcription of that night, "Is that a Texas grasshopper? Are they, uh, are they homicidal or anything?")
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The sound ain't perfect on this recording made in Reunion on November 25, 1984; there's some murk there, some haze. But it all drops away a few notes into "Born in the U.S.A.," the first of 29 songs (!) played that night, one mere marathon amongst the many. One random highlight amongst the many, many: the crowd's contribution to the chorus of "Jungleland." Chills, still.