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Bruce Springsteen – Born To Run (Part Two) & Darkness On The Edge Of Town

October 18, 2016

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From my perspective Darkness is the first great Springsteen album and reading his autobiography it sounds like he agrees.  He found his voice and the E Street Band found its sound.  It has the rock fury of The Clash and the lyrical power of Dylan. Bruce had finally figured it all out.  In his autobiography he states:

“By 1977, in true American fashion, I’d escaped the shackles of birth, personal history and, finally, place, but something wasn’t right.  Rather than exhilaration, I felt unease.  I sensed there was a great difference between unfettered personal license and real freedom.  Many of the groups that had come before us, many of my heroes, had mistaken one for the other and it’d ended in poor form.  I felt personal license was to freedom was masturbation was to sex.  It’s not bad, but it’s not the real deal.  Such were the circumstances that led the lovers I’d envisioned in “Born to Run,” so determined to head out and away, to turn their car around and head back to town.  That’s where the deal was going down, amongst the brethren.  I’d begun to ask myself some new questions.  I felt accountable to the people I’d grown up alongside of and I need to address that feeling.”

And thus he made Darkness on the Edge of Town (1978).  Springsteen was addressing “that feeling:” dead-end jobs, love, bad luck and trying to do the right thing.

“Some guys they just give up living

And start dying little by little, piece by piece,

Some guys come home from work and wash up,

And go racin’ in the street.”

The album is tighter and less busy than what had come before it.  It rocks, it has anthems, it seeks to understand and it is joyful, yet it has moments of longing, anger and sadness.

The album has the classic E Street Band: Clarence Clemons (sax), Danny Federici (organ), Roy Brittan (piano), Garry Tallent (bass), Steve Van Zandt (guitar), Max Wienberg (drums) and of course Bruce (vocals, guitar and harmonica).  The songs on this album would be in the Springsteen set list for the rest of his career.

This is the Springsteen that would influence a batch of artful rockers: The Hold Steady, Titus Andronicus and Arcade Fire to name a few.

The book continues to reveal how deliberate Springsteen’s art is – there are no accidents – every note, every beat and every word are carefully placed.  Even when he gets sloppy, like on The River, it is on purpose.  He had a grand plan and he was working it. He was in the star making machine, but he was his own man – he was not about to be the pawn – he was going to be king.

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5 Comments
  1. Hmm, interesting thoughts. I feel the production on Darkness is a bit too AC as opposed to Born to Run’s Spector-influenced cinematic-ness. Also the songs are a bit uneven, with masterpieces like Streets of Fire (one of the most intense vocal performances ever) and Adam Raised a Cain on one hand, but also others which are good lyrically, but don’t have much going on melody-wise.

  2. My all time favourite Springsteen album. I have to hear it at least once a week. Nice work.

  3. I’m working my takes up to this record. It was a long wait after ‘Run’. I knew he was in legal bullshit but i didn’t get it at the time. All I knew was I wanted a new record by this guy. When it came out I was blown away again . Right from the opening drums on ‘Badlands’ it was great. I seen him for the first time when he was touring this record. The best rock n roll show i ever seen. Loud, and like he was letting go of all that court bullshit. Back doing his thing with a vengeance. Great stuff Axl. I’ve probably listened to The music of Springsteen and the Band the most over the years. I can’t help myself. (I’m getting closer).

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