Darkness on the Edge of Town – Bruce Springsteen in the Reflecting Pool

Bruce Springsteen – Darkness on the Edge of Town – 1978

How do you market Bruce Springsteen? I guess part of the mission is “get that mug on the cover!”
It doesn’t seem to matter that he looks like someone just caught him as he is getting over a cold and is surprised to discover he owns a leather jacket.
Can you guess that I hate this photo?

Darkness came 3 years after Born to Run. In 70’s terms that’s a lifetime. Today, Pearl Jam takes 4 years to release a record and it’s part of the cycle. But music was coming a lot faster in those days. Bruce’s first two records were released in the same year. Everyone was spitting out music by the ton.

After legal woes and production concerns, Darkness came out. I listen to it today and I can’t quite get past the studio feel of songs that I have come to love in concert like “Badlands” and “Candy’s Room” and “Adam Raised a Cain” and yes, oh, yes, “The Promised Land”. That’s not really fair, though. Bruce got the sound he was looking for. and his Orbisonian obsessions come true on the echo of his vocals.  Just imagine how deep and harrowing “Adam Raised a Cain” would’ve been if Brendan O’Brien or Bob Rock or any of those early 90s producers had gotten their hand on it.
Damn, I wanna hear Temple of the Dog cover that right now. Or Soundgarden. Right now, dammit.

The album is wetter and danker than Born to Run. It’s not as buoyant. It’s not supposed to be, though. These aren’t “Let’s blow this town” stuff. It’s heavy. And, if you can just get past Bruce’s awful lead soloing, it’s majestic.

“Poor men wanna be rich. Rich men wanna be king. And a king ain’t satisfied til he rules everything.”
Just hearing that lyric makes me wanna stand in a room with 30,000 other people and sing at the top of my lungs.

Darkness is a dark record. It’s a bleak record. Bruce seems to really get his juices flowing when either he’s unhappy or he’s singing about people whose lives could use a little pick me up. He’s a shaman for the working class and it’s all over DotEoT. What’s not on Darkness? The calliope, street vagabond busker feel of Wild, Innocent. Even the hopeful, soulful belief of the narrator in “The Promised Land” is rife with hopelessness. And, boy oh boy, if I never wanted to work in a factory, “Factory” sealed that.

Howzabout this? If The Wild and the Innocent and the E Street Shuffle is Bruce’s Unforgettable Fire and Born to Run is his Joshua Tree, then Darkness is his Achtung Baby.

Except that he was doing it more than a decade before, so flip all that shit.

Grade: A+
ASide: Badlands, Candy’s Room, The Promised Land, Prove it All Night, Darkness on the Edge of Town
BlindSide: Adam Raised a Cain, Racing in the Street, Street’s of Fire
DownSide: Bruce’s guitar solos. 😉

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