Live 23 May 1978 version
[Spoken:] This is called "The Promise".
Well, Johnny works in a factory and Billy works downtown
Terry works in a rock and roll band lookin' for that million-dollar sound
Me, I got a little job down in Darlington, oh but some nights I don't go
Some nights I go to the drive-in, there're some nights I stay home
I followed that dream just like those guys do way up on the screen
I drove my Challenger down Route 9 through the dead ends and all the bad scenes
But when the promise was broken, I cashed in a few of my own 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
And 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 something dyin' out on the highway tonight
Well, now my daddy taught me how to walk quiet and how to make my peace with the past
I learned real good to tighten up inside and I don't say nothing unless I'm asked
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, something in your heart turns cold
Well I followed that dream through the southwestern tracks, the dead ends, and the two-bit bars
When the promise was broken I was far away from home sleepin' in the backseat of a borrowed car
Thunder Road, and when it washes away with the rain
Thunder Road, you learn to walk among the remains
Thunder Road, remember what me and Billy, we'd always say
Thunder Road, we were gonna take it all and throw it all away
The above lyrics are for the live 23 May 1978 performance of THE PROMISE at Shea's Buffalo Theatre in Buffalo, NY, during the Darkness On The Edge Of Town Tour. This was the opening night of the tour. The song was played in a full-band arrangement with the E Street Band. This arrangement was only used on this show and during the tour's rehearsals (see the live 19 May 1978 version), and not again until 2010.
In 1978, Springsteen was singing the song with a rewritten final verse: "Well, now my daddy taught me... / I learned real good...".
Thanks Jake (ol'catfishinthelake at BTX and Greasy Lake) for the lyrics help.
List of available versions of THE PROMISE on this website:THE PROMISE [Official 1977 studio version]