Bruce Springsteen believes his first three albums, including the classic Born To Run, were a prequel to the rest of his career.
The singer started to find a purposeful working life with his fourth record, 1978's Darkness On The Edge Of Town, while struggling to preserve a connection with his working class New Jersey roots amid his good fortune.
"I decided that the key to that was maintaining a sense of myself, understanding that a part of my life had been mutated by my success," he said.
Springsteen, in a conversation with actor Edward Norton at the Toronto International Film Festival, said: "There was a thrust of self-preservation more than anything else, more than a political conscience or a social conscience."
The Promise: The Making of Darkness On The Edge Of Town, a documentary about the making of the Darkness album 32 years ago, has premiered at Toronto.
After the enormous success of Born To Run three years earlier, Springsteen had been kept out of the studio because of a legal dispute with his former manager.
When he finally began recording again with the E Street Band, a deluge of songs poured out, stories of anguish and doubt in an America mired in hard times and disillusioned after the Vietnam War.
Directed by Thom Zimny, The Promise blends new interviews with Springsteen and his band mates with archive footage of the rehearsal and recording sessions for Darkness On The Edge Of Town.
"I'd work the band for three days on a piece of music, throw it out," then repeat the process, Springsteen said in the session with Norton, who became friends with the rocker after they met at a concert 11 years ago.
"It was an angry record. I took the 10 toughest songs I had," Springsteen said.