Darkness On The Edge Of Town

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Darkness On The Edge Of Town was the first Springsteen album I ever heard and I fell hard for The Boss & The E Street Band's rich Jersey wall of sound. I have a theory that your Springsteen listen is a defining moment in that you either like it or you don't. There aren't a whole lot of casual Springsteen fans.

I have, more than once, had people tell me that they hate Springsteen, mostly for the way he sings. I admit, I don't get that criticism, but like the Jersey mob, you are either in or you are out and mister, I am most definitely in.

The thing that caught me the most was the rich lyrical themes that Bruce was expressing in his songs. The Boss has often said that Darkness was a change for him, in that instead of just asking questions, it became important to him to figure out what questions to ask. I will admit that much of the content of my first Springsteen exposure was a bit over my fifteen year old head.

As I have grown older, the songs seem to resonate with me more. The opening lines of Badlands, the whole of Darkness is a meditation reflecting on what it means to grow up and being a grown up. It is equal parts acceptance and wistfulness of the need to do the right thing and how painful it can be to do it. You may not understand why you need to it, but it must be done.
Lights out tonight, trouble in the heartland.
Got a head-on collision, smashin' in my guts man.
I'm caught in a crossfire that I don't understand. - Badlands

You might conclude that Bruce is a fatalist with verses like this;
You're born with nothing,
and better off that way,
Soon as you've got something they send
someone to try and take it away,
You can ride this road 'till dawn,
without another human being in sight,
Just kids wasted on
something in the night. - Something In The Night
But you would wrong. Bruce isn't saying that you should just accept your lot in life, he also holds out hope that you can change the shape and direction of your existence;
With the eyes of one who hates for just being born
For all the shut-down strangers and hot rod angels
Rumbling through this promised land
Tonight my baby and me we're gonna ride to the sea
And wash these sins off our hands – Racing In The Street

In the end the protagonists is Bruce's songs are flawed yet hopeful characters. The glimmer hasn't quite died, whether it's Candy's special boy in Candy's Room or the boy becoming a man on The Promised Land, there is some little bit of hope. A bit redemption waiting on the end of the line.
She has men who'll give her anything she wants but they don't see
That what she wants is me, oh and I want her so
I'll never let her go no no no
She knows that I'd give all that I got to live
All that I want all that I live to make Candy mine
Tonight – Candy's Room
The dogs on Main Street howl `cause they understand
If I could take one moment into my hands
Mister I ain't a boy no I'm a man
And I believe in a promised land – The Promised Land

Darkness opened me to ideas I had never contemplated before. Like Springsteen says, Darkness is about which questions to ask. What does it mean to be a father, a brother or a friend? Somewhere in the rage of pain and suffering, there is growth. 


  1. Bruce Springsteen's Darkness on the Edge of Town broke new ground for The Boss in 1978. A counterpoint to the operatic elegance of Born to Run, the album was an angry, raw record that burst forth after a three-year hiatus.
    Because of its darker tones, some might call Darkness a difficult album, but despite this, it's a cherished gem for many. Collecting stories and photos from hundreds of fans, The Light in Darkness celebrates this classic record, allowing readers to revisit the excitement of that moment when the needle found the grooves in that first cut and the thundering power of "Badlands" shook across the hi-fi for the very first time.


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