Saturday, 21 May 2011

7. Bruce Springsteen - Darkness On The Edge Of Town

The first single I bought was Bruce Springsteen's Born in the USA. My dad took me and my sister to Woolworths and we were allowed a single each. She wanted Like A Virgin, but that was considered too risky and she was persuaded to choose Take On Me instead. Both ace singles so it didn't matter. It was Bruce for me and it was because of those drums. Drums that sounded like some fucker was kicking the door in. Back then, like Ronald Reagan, I assumed Born to be a patriotic song about Bruce's birthplace, but at least I had the excuse of being 7 years old. In my teens Springsteen was massively uncool and I often neglected to mention my Bruce love (even Prefab Sprout had the gall to point out his naffness in Cars and Girls), and as I grew my hair and devoured the latest NME and Melody Maker indie darlings, I fell out of love with his big songs, saxophones solos and earnestness. The fact that various members of his band would often wear a bandana didn't help matters. But then, as these things often go, it became ok to admit you liked Bruce and he became (almost) cool again. I remember feeling surprised when an indie mate proudly announced he had tickets for the Boss at a huge outdoor gig. Surprised and jealous.

Born and Nebraska were the Bruce albums I loved. Big and brash and hushed and stripped back in turn, and somehow I always neglected Darkness, but after seeing the recent Thom Zimny documentary about the making of the album I had to dig it out. As the film makes clear Springsteen worked on this album. He recorded song after song (many of them recently released on the double album The Promise) and rejected songs considered to be sure-fire hits because they didn't fit his vision for the album.

Darkness deals with what would become a classic Bruce theme: the frustration of the everyman stuck in a provincial, declining town, trying to do his best, trying to get by. And whilst there are big songs on here the tone throughout is a sombre one, a million miles away from the pomp and triumph of Born To Run where he sang, 'Together we could break this trap, We'll run till we drop, baby we'll never go back'. In Darkness there is nowhere left to run, his characters are trapped by circumstance, stuck in a rut and learning to live there. If all that sounds a little dour, well, it is, but it's done deliberately, done with care and compassion. And Bruce, being Bruce, there are still the big tunes. Badlands kicks off the album with pounding drums and a chorus thousands of people can shout back at the band, but the heart of this album is found in songs such as Something In The Night, Factory and the title track, where there is no redemption, nowhere left to run. Darkness is not combatative Bruce; it's resigned and weary Bruce, but a more interesting record because of that.

7 comments:

  1. superb examination of the Darkness on the Edge of Town album and tour in the limited edition book, The Light in Darkness http://www.thelightinDarkness.com

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  2. It wasn't the crappy virgin song it was the far superior Get into the Groove. According to the House Rules it was filth. And it wasnt Aha either, it was Opus - Life is life.

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  3. I will give you Get into the Groove, but it WAS Aha. I remember it vividly. And I remember that I wanted it after I got bored with Born in the USA. Take on Me was so pop and BITU sounded a bit lumpy after a while.

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  4. You are talking albums arent you. I am talking singles. I'll give you that one. House Rules dictate we have to remove all these from the loft VERY SOON.

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  5. I am talking singles. You just need to admit you are wrong. Again.
    Anyway, you live in a mansion, I live in a shed. If you hire a van, drive down, fill the van with everything, take it home and catalogue it in your attic I will make you a brew. xx

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  6. On the dogs life, I am right. We will find out when we empty the loft. And what with you being the time rich one and me being the one who works for a living, you drive the van. Or would that interrupt your cat stroking? Huggles xxx

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  7. It should have been Opus Life is Life. That's a great song.
    Simon.

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