The Promise

Johnny works in a factory and Billy works downtown
Terry works in a rock and roll band
Lookin' 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
When the promise was broken, I cashed in a few of my dreams

Well now I built that Challenger by myself
But I needed money and so I sold it
I lived a secret I should'a kept to myself
But I got drunk one night and I told it
All my life I fought this fight
The fight that no man can ever win
Every day it just gets harder to live
This dream I'm believing in Thunder Road, oh baby you were so right Thunder Road, there's somethin' dyin' on the highway tonight

I won big once and I hit the coast
But somehow I paid the big cost
Inside I felt like I was carryin' the broken spirits
Of all the other ones who lost
When the promise is broken you go on living
But it steals something from down in your soul
Like when the truth is spoken and it don't make no difference
Somethin' in your heart goes cold
I followed that dream through the southwestern flats
That dead ends in two-bit bars
And when the promise was broken I was far away from home
Sleepin' in the backseat of a borrowed car

Thunder Road, for the lost lovers and all the fixed games
Thunder Road, for the tires rushing by in the rain Thunder Road, Billy and me we'd always say Thunder Road, we were gonna take it all and throw it all away


Originally recorded for Darkness on the Edge of Town, but not released on that album because Bruce was afraid people would think it was about the lawsuit against Mike Appel, which he claimed it wasn't.

The song was mysteriously left off Tracks, allegedly because Bruce wasn't satisfied with any of the studio takes he'd recorded. Fan pressure then made him rerecord it in April 1999 and include it on 18 Tracks as a bonus.

In 2010 the song was finally paid its dues when it became the title song for the Darkness on the Edge of Town, which included a more original band version.

Live history

"The Promise" has been performed live a total of 64 times.
First known performance:
1976-08-03, Red Bank, NJ
1976-77 Tour
Last known performance:
2016-06-25, Gothenburg, Sweden
The River Tour 2016

Release history

Total releases: 5
Bruce Springsteen, 18 Tracks, compilation, 1999-04-13
Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band, Live in New York City, movie, 2001-11-06
Bruce Springsteen, The Promise: The Darkness on the Edge of Town Story, rerelease, 2010-11-16
Bruce Springsteen, The Promise, compilation, 2010-11-16
Bruce Springsteen, The Promise: The Making of Darkness on the Edge of Town, movie, 2011-05-03