Bruce Springsteen, Darkness on the Edge of Town, and the promises we make ourselves

November 20, 2010

Bruce Springsteen – “The Promise: The Making of ‘Darkness on the Edge of Town'” Sneak Peek from Columbia Records on Vimeo.

I was 19 years old when Darkness on the Edge of Town was released, just back in the U.S. after nearly a year abroad. I thought I was a songwriter.

I’m not sure any record ever affected me more profoundly; to this day I feel this record in everything I write, Once I get my head around that, I’ll write about it. either here, or for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. But for now, I’m just listening to the new box set, thinking about the foreclosure of possibilities, and the liberation that sometimes brings.


  • Comment by bbbaldie — Nov 20,2010 at 12:03 pm

    It looks like Darkness is going to enter near the top of the charts, that’s a great thing, the 1978 release was underwhelming. It couldn’t dislodge the Foreigner, Styx, and other formula crap that were the major sellers back then (and that nobody cares about 30 years later).

  • Comment by Philip Martin — Nov 20,2010 at 12:05 pm

    “Prove It All Night” was the only sort-of hit.

  • Comment by DLindsay — Nov 21,2010 at 3:19 am

    I’ve always had mixed feelings about Springsteen. I think he can be incredible, profound…pick a positive adjective, that’s Bruce. I also think he can be a little pretentious and self-righteous, and when he talks or sings about politics, he’s just like the rest of us, right on the mark sometimes, full of sheep dip at others.

    But I know two things: As preposterous as it sounds, the first time I heard “Born To Run” was on a little transistor radio, and when it was over I felt like I felt like my 13 year old brain was going to explode, and I just kept thinking Wow!

    And, like PM, in another life I wrote songs, and while I had lots of influences, Darkness… was always sort of there. somehow, anytime I tried to create music and lyrics. I write prose now, and it’s still there, the characters, the sounds, the words. In most ways, it is, to me, Springsteen’s most powerful album.

  • Comment by Philip Martin — Nov 21,2010 at 8:28 am

    I’ve always had more problems with Springsteen fans than the man himself, but then maybe I’m not always listening to the words. I didn’t much like The Rising, which seemed to me a kind of facile reaction to 9/11 and boy did I hear about it. From all over the world.

  • Comment by mrearl — Nov 22,2010 at 4:14 pm

    It’s always struck me that the best song on the album is the one that doesn’t fit, “Racin’ In The Streets.” Everything else seems inspired by something pent up that wants to get out, Now. From the bubblegum (albeit steroid bubblegum) of “Candy’s Room” through the overwrought “Adam Raised A Cain,” the bombastic title track, and indeed the marching band/land numbers “Promised Land” and “Badlands,” there’s anger, and it’s a young man’s anger, still a bit immature. Even the potboiler “Prove It All Night” is played for edgy.

    But “Racin” is a grown-up song. And it’s sublime.

    Oh well. It ain’t no sin to be glad you’re alive.

  • Comment by Philip Martin — Nov 22,2010 at 4:24 pm

    I’d agree that “Racin’ in the Street” is the best track; I’ve actually been playing it myself these past couple of days. But it doesn’t strike me as out of place on the album (I don’t think that’s exactly what you meant.) It does have a little bit of the Born to Run uplift at the end, but the verse that starts “there are wrinkles around my baby’s eyes” kills me every time. I think in Emmylou Harris’s version, there’s a slight tweak to the lyric — insyead of asking him if he’s all right, the woman tells him he needs to make it right.

  • Comment by mrearl — Nov 22,2010 at 4:45 pm

    Yeah, Emmy Lou couldn’t go with “I met her on the strip three years ago,” so she changed to “He met . . .”, but I think I’d have stuck with that voice and switched the questioner, so that he asks her if she’s alright, rather than make the sharper turn you noticed.

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