Official 1999 studio version

Johnny works in a factory, Billy works downtown
Terry works in a rock and roll band lookin' for that million-dollar sound
I got a job down in Darlington but some nights I don't go
Some nights I go to the drive-in and some nights I stay home
I followed that dream just like those guys do up on the screen
I drove my Challenger down Route 9 through the dead ends and all the bad scenes
And 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 that fight, a fight that you can never win
Every day it just gets harder to live a dream you're believing in
Thunder Road, oh baby you were so right
Thunder Road, there's something dyin' down on the highway tonight

Well I won big once and I hit the coast, hey but I paid the big cost
Inside I felt like I was carryin' 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, something in your heart runs cold
I followed that dream through the southwestern tracks, that dead ends in two-bit bars
When the promise was broken I was far away from home sleepin' in the backseat of a borrowed car
Thunder Road, here's for the lost lovers and all the fixed games
Thunder Road, here's for the tires rushing by in the rain
Thunder Road, remember Billy what we'd always say
Thunder Road, we were gonna take it all then throw it all away


The above lyrics are for a studio version of THE PROMISE that was recorded in 1999. It was released on the 18 Tracks collection in 1999.

Studio Recording

According to interview comments made by engineer Toby Scott (Springsteen's audio archivist and recording engineer), it was in February 1998 during solo sessions being conducted at Thrill Hill Recording (Springsteen's home studio) in Colts Neck, NJ, that Springsteen told Scott that the time was right to proceed with the long-anticipated box set of archived, unreleased studio takes. THE PROMISE was going to be included on the Tracks box set in 1998, but Springsteen said that he didn't have a version that he liked enough to release. He rejected it opting to record a new version in 1999 that would be issued on 18 Tracks. Apparently, it is the unofficial studio version 3 that Springsteen rejected for the box set, though he later released it in an edited form on The Promise in 2010 (see official 1977 studio version for more details).

The lyrics on the 18 Tracks booklet reflect the unofficial studio version 3 much more than those of this official 1999 studio version. This supports the claim that it is that particular 1977 studio take (unofficial studio version 3) that was first considered to be included on the Tracks box set before Springsteen rejecting it and re-recording a solo piano version in 1999.

Although the Tracks project dominated activities during the remainder of 1998, Springsteen also recorded numerous new songs at his home studio during the period between February 1998 and February 1999, although little has been released. According to the 18 Tracks liner notes, THE FEVER was recorded on 12 Feb 1999 at Thrill Hill Recording in Colts Neck, NJ. The song features Bruce Springsteen solo on piano and vocals. It was recorded and mixed by Toby Scott and produced by Bruce Springsteen. THE PROMISE was specifically recorded for the 18 Tracks collection; it's one of three tracks on 18 Tracks that were not originally included on the Tracks box set.

18 Tracks

18 Tracks is a Bruce Springsteen compilation album released on Columbia Records in 1999. The album compiles 15 tracks from the Tracks box set, plus 3 previously unreleased recordings. The collection release was intended for the more casual fans who didn't purchase the pricey 4-disc box set. It also served the purpose as a promotional tie-in for the E Street Band's The Reunion Tour that was announced at the same time of the sampler's release.

Bruce Springsteen -- 18 Tracks
Bruce Springsteen -- 18 Tracks

18 Tracks was released on 13 Apr 1999 on Columbia Records. It features 18 Springsteen compositions and clocks at 71:12. The album was released on CD, cassette tape, MiniDisc, and vinyl.

1.GROWIN' UPRecorded on 03 May 1972 at CBS Studios, New York City, NY
2.SEASIDE BAR SONGRecorded on 28 Jun 1973 at 914 Sound Studios, Blauvelt, NY
3.RENDEZVOUSRecorded live on 31 Dec 1980 at Nassau Coliseum, Uniondale, NY
4.HEARTS OF STONERecorded on 14 Oct 1977 at Record Plant, New York City, NY
5.WHERE THE BANDS ARERecorded on 09 Oct 1979 at The Power Station, New York City, NY
6.LOOSE ENDSRecorded on 18 Jul 1979 at The Power Station, New York City, NY
7.I WANNA BE WITH YOURecorded on 31 May 1979at The Power Station, New York City, NY
8.BORN IN THE U.S.A.Recorded in January 1982 at Thrill Hill Recording, Colts Neck, NJ
9.MY LOVE WILL NOT LET YOU DOWNRecorded on 05 May 1982 at The Hit Factory, New York City, NY
10.LION'S DENRecorded on 25 Jan 1982 at The Power Station, New York City, NY
11.PINK CADILLACRecorded on 31 May 1983 at The Hit Factory, New York City, NY
12.JANEY, DON'T YOU LOSE HEARTRecorded on 16 Jun 1983 at The Hit Factory, New York City, NY
13.SAD EYESRecorded on 25 Jan 1990 at Soundworks West, Los Angeles, CA
14.PART MAN, PART MONKEYRecorded in January 1990 at Soundworks West, Los Angeles, CA
15.TROUBLE RIVERRecorded on 06 Apr 1990 at Soundworks West, Los Angeles, CA
16.BROTHERS UNDER THE BRIDGERecorded on 22 May 1995 at Thrill Hill Recording, Beverly Hills, CA
17.THE FEVERRecorded on 16 May 1973 at 914 Sound Studios, Blauvelt, NY
18.THE PROMISERecorded on 12 Feb 1999 at Thrill Hill Recording, Colts Neck, NJ

Other Official Releases

Besides its release on 18 Tracks, the official 1999 studio version of THE PROMISE was also included on one promotional single.

Bruce Springsteen -- Del Álbum "18 Tracks"
Bruce Springsteen -- Del Álbum "18 Tracks"

CD EP - Columbia (2-000510) - Argentina, 1999

Argentina-only promotional single tying with the release of 18 Tracks, reportedly limited to 100 copies. The disc comes in a plain PVC sleeve.



THE PROMISE [official 1999 studio version] was nominated for two 1999 Grammy Awards, Best Rock Song and Best Male Rock Vocal Performance. It lost for the Red Hot Chili Peppers' SCAR TISSUE and Lenny Kravitz's AMERICAN WOMAN respectively. Bruce Springsteen did not attend the award ceremonies which took place on 23 Feb 2000 at Staples Center in Los Angeles, CA.

Appearance in Movies

Bruce Springsteen's official 1999 studio version of THE PROMISE appears in one movie.

Promotional poster for the film "Prozac Nation"
It was used in the 2001 film Prozac Nation, directed by Erik Skjoldbjærg and starring Christina Ricci. No soundtrack album was released for this film.

At the beginning of the movie, Christina Ricci's character Elizabeth remembers when she was sitting on the floor in her school's lockers room, holding a cassette player to her ear and listening to Springsteen's THE PROMISE. Elizabeth obviously is a Springsteen fan. A little later in the movie she goes to Harvard and says to herself, "[...] Harvard, a place where I would finally be surrounded by people I had something in common with. I'm not gonna ask for much – they don't have to be a Springsteen fan." When she gets to her new dorm room, she starts unpacking and Springsteen's Dancing In The Dark 12-inch single and Darkness On The Edge Of Town and The River LPs are among the records she's holding on her lap. The Tunnel Of Love LP is seen later on the wall behind her bed. THE PROMISE appears again in the movie, playing in the background while Elizabeth is writing a novel. She writes, "Springsteen's like this garage mechanic poet. You can feel the sweat in his voice, the grime in his guitar. I see steamy streets, lovers groping hands, busted Fenders, the dirt is under his nails and the clairvoyance in his eyes..." Strangely, the Born To Run album is seen turning on a record player during the montage.

The film is set in 1985 when Elizabeth is 19 and goes to Harvard, but Tunnel Of Love wasn't released until two years later. It was no later than the late seventies when she was in school listening to THE PROMISE. The song hadn't been released until 1999, and it couldn't have been a bootleg recording of one of the 1977 studio takes because she was listening to the version that was re-recorded in 1999.


Some of the above info about the studio sessions is taken from Brucebase. Scans and info for the above Argentina promo single are taken from Lost In The Flood.

Available Versions

List of available versions of THE PROMISE on this website:

THE PROMISE [Official 1977 studio version]
THE PROMISE [Official 1978 studio version]
THE PROMISE [Official 1999 studio version]
THE PROMISE [Unofficial studio version 1]
THE PROMISE [Unofficial studio version 2]
THE PROMISE [Unofficial studio version 3]
THE PROMISE [Live 03 Aug 1976 version]
THE PROMISE [Live 29 Sep 1976 version]
THE PROMISE [Live 30 Oct 1976 version]
THE PROMISE [Live 19 May 1978 version]
THE PROMISE [Live 23 May 1978 version]
THE PROMISE [Live 01 Jul 2000 version]
THE PROMISE [Live 20 Jul 2005 version]
THE PROMISE [Live 07 Dec 2010 version]
THE PROMISE [Live 08 Feb 2014 version]
THE PROMISE [Live 22 Apr 2014 version]
THE PROMISE [Graziano Romani's cover version]

Page last updated: 16 Nov 2015