Darkness At 30

Darkness At 30

Originally uploaded by Phil At Sun

On June 2, 1978 Bruce released Darkness On The Edge Of Town. Radically different from the romantic, word-drunk mini-operas of his first 3 albums, this album was lean and mean. The bittersweet nature of life was openly admitted and the music became more focused–no
jazzy experiments, no bar band by the sea funkiness. The music hinted at folk and country, while packing a sonic boom of rock guitar.

This anniversary also marks my conversion to the Church of Bruce. Thirty years ago I sliced off the cellophane wrap on my vinyl copy of Darkness and all truth was revealed. I joke, but the album did make me a diehard fan–a Tramp. (you know–Tramps like us . . .). I hadn’t bought any of the early albums, my teen ears were more attuned to Skynyrd, Aerosmith and ZZ Top. I thought Bruce was too soft. Boy, Darkness certainly buried that notion.

I may have been impressed as a youth by Darkness and its musical power, but as a Boomer rapidly approaching middle age, the power in Darkness is even more in the lyrics. My favorite Springsteen lyric still rings true:

some guys just give up living
and start dying, little by little, piece by piece
some guys get home from work and wash up
and go racing in the streets.

The power of Darkness is not the belief that everything will work out fine. Its power is in acknowledging that we may be screwed, but persevering anyway.

Before going off to play the album, check out this essay by the critic Joyce Millman, who maintains that Bruce found his adult political voice on Darkness. Also, dream about being at this recent show: the entire E Street Band, in a theatre show, playing all of Darkness (and all of Born To Run) in album order.

2 thoughts on “Darkness At 30

  1. phil,

    i’ve had springsteen on my mind, as well. a couple of good friends and devoted brucephiles, bob mccrone and john lammers, both alerted me that we’ve just passed the 30th anniversary of the opening of the “darkness” tour, a concert i happened to attend in buffalo. i have a theory of my own on why there is something extraordinary about “darkness,” and i think it carried over into “the river.” but i’ll take a little time and get that on my blog within the next couple of days.

    that summer was incredible for music; the stones released “some girls” at roughly the same time, another of my all-time favorite albums.



  2. Phil-

    I don’t have to imagine being at a show which features Darkness: I was at the original- Shea’s Performing Arts Center in Buffalo, 1978; opening night on the Darkness tour, Bruce’s first tour after the long litigation imposed hiatus due to his dispute with managers. Bruce was clad in black, Clarence in white, providing the symbolic backdrop for all that followed- opening number was Badlands and for three hours plus they rocked unlike any band I’ve ever heard. I’ve seen E-Street 5 times- this was the best ever.

    Tom Buckel


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