Monthly Archives: August 2012

Darkness on the Edge of Town- This album is raw, painful and grim.

Aaron Gillie

The more realistic, less optimistic side of Born to Run, this album is raw, painful and grim. It’s stark honesty and brutality is what makes it so powerful. Between ’75 and ’78 Springsteen had disappeared and music fans began to ask what had happened. In the space of those years he had grown up and his views were more mature and certainly more bleak than before. The album:

Album Rating: 4/5.

Track 1. BADLANDS.

The title was taken from the Martin Sheen movie of the same name which was inspired by the Charles Starkweather homicide (also an influence on his ’82 song Nebraska). This song, however, is not about Starweather or murder or death. Despite it’s somewhat bleak title this is perhaps one of the most hopeful songs on the album. Essentially, Springsteen says this is the world we’re in. This is it in all its ugliness. What will we do about it? It’s such an ominous song and begins just so. “Lights out tonight, trouble in the heartland.” Like Thunder Road, it opens like directions in a movie script and sets the song up beautifully. There is no real story and no real character. The singer is describing things to us and in an excellently defiant way. He is confused and battered by his world, claiming to be “caught in a crossfire I don’t understand.” In spite of this, he remains defiant and adds with a wail heard best in his ’78 live shows: “But there’s one thing I know for sure, girl, I don’t give a damn”. The first verse introduces the setting of the song (a desolate world) and builds up brilliantly to the chorus. The way he sings with such calm tension and the way the drums build and build until the final release of the chorus is fantastic. This is the very first Springsteen song I ever heard and as soon as I heard him scream “Badlands” I was instantly transformed. It’s the best chorus he has written I believe and easily one of his best songs overall. In the second verse he begins to impart some knowledge and wisdom about the slavery that the averge working man goes through and how he understands it. “Working in the fields, that’ll get your back burned, working ‘neath the wheel, that’ll get your facts learned, baby I got my facts learned real good right now.” The hope in the song comes through in his rebellious cries in lines such as “I believe in the love that you gave me, I believe in the faith that could save me, I believe in the hope”, “I wanna find one face that ain’t looking through me, I wanna find one place, I wanna spit in the face of these badlands”. He even takes a stab at the richer classes with a line taken and altered from his unreleased song Rockaway the Days (Tracks): “Poor men wanna be rich, rich men wanna be kings and a king ain’t satisfied ’til he rules everything.” As the song ends, Springsteen reminds us that “It ain’t no sin to be glad you’re alive” and it fades out with the breathless repetition of “badlands”. Rating: 5/5. Best Lyric: ”Don’t waste your time waiting.”

Track 2. ADAM RAISED A CAIN.

Springsteen gets biblical here, opening the song with his (or his characters’) baptism. His vocals have the same raw and gruff strain that they had in Backstreets but this time he explores the sins of the father and parental relationships. Unlike his previous album which used the theme of escape as it’s moodboard, this song is all about how love can trap you, especially unconditional and unbreakable love. The cruel poetry in the first verse declares that he and his father were “prisoners of love, a love in chains”, showing that their bond was inescapable. They would be forever connected through their blood, thorugh their feelings and through their obligations to one another, even though they may not see eye-to-eye. They have “the same hot blood burning in [their] veins”. The chorus bellows out “Adam raised a cain” repeatedly to emphasize properly the fact that the worlds first murderer came from the worlds first sinner. As he explains in the last verse “you’re born into this life paying for the sins of somebody else’s past.” The song is about how evil runs in your blood and in your family and explores, on a subtle level, how the thing you may hate and disagree with (his father) is the same thing you grow up to become. This is put forward in the line “You inherit the sins, you inherit the flames”. The musical arrangement is on top form here. The electric guitar really is fantastic and sounds so dangerous and so tense that the song’s message is with you even before the lyrics start. Springsteen sounds like a man posessed on this track and his closest song to the metal genre, although with more sophistication. The song is summed up in the title: Adam raised a Cain. The sinner gave birth to sin. Haunting. Rating: 4/5. Best Lyric: “Well Daddy worked his whole life for nothing but the pain,/ Now he walks these empty rooms looking for someone to blame.”

Track 3. SOMETHING IN THE NIGHT.

This is very, very similar to Adam Raised a Cain, in themes at least. It’s about being brought into the world with nothing and starting at the bottom, having to work to move up a level. Many of Springsteen’s songs deal with the sociological theory of status frustration and this is one of them. Like so many songs he’s written, the protagonist is using his car as a means of escape, this time from his head, not his town. “I’m riding down Kingsley, figuring I’ll get a drink, turn the radio up loud so I don’t have to think.” Even though the music is very strong on this track (in particular, Max Weinberg’s restrained drumming) it is Springsteen’s own ghostly wails at the start that gives this song its etheral and frightening feeling. It’s a warning, even before any words are sung. The second verse is comprised of his most defeatest mind-set and almost sounds like he’s sulking. “You’re born with nothing and better off that way, soon as you got something they send someone to try to take it away.” This is most likely a reference to the ruling class or the government and could be an allusion to taxes or the economy. It depends on your viewpoint. The bridge to this is lyrically very similar to lines on the song Darkness on the Edge of Town in the way it talks about shame and not being able to run from your past. “Nothing is forgotten or forgiven” he warns, and then to confirm he is talking from personal experience adds, “I got stuff running ’round my head that I just can’t live down.” Enter more hauntingly eerie wailing. A slow song that’s half way between Adam Raised a Cain and Darkness on the Edge of Town. Rating: 3.5/5. Best Lyric: “When we found the things we loved they were crushed and dying in the dirt/ We tried to pick up the pieces and get away without getting hurt.”

Track 4. CANDY’S ROOM.

Who is Candy? A lover? A prostitute? A girlfriend? A cheater? It’s never made explicitly clear. She’s definitely beautiful though and definitely knows it. Springsteen admits that “Strangers from the city call my baby’s number and they bring her toys” and we are led to believe that he is her boyfriend and she loves him despite her other offers. It’s more likely, however, that the protagonist is merely another admirer who refuses to believe he means nothing more to her than any of the others. He could be deluded when he whispers to the listener “When I come knocking she smiles pretty, she knows I wanna be Candy’s boy.” She could have the same mythic power that the woman from She’s the One posessed as she certainly has control over him and her other “boys”. He does know her though, and observes “There’s a sadness hidden in that pretty face, a sadness all her own” which indicates she does not open up to him or anyone else. This, to me, is evidence that they are not in a serious relationship, perhaps only a sexual one. The lyrics go on to describe how when they kiss “Blood rushes through my veins, fire rushes towards the sky”. He continues to say how he gets lost in her eyes and how he understands everything when he’s with her, using the hyperbole “When I hold Candy close she makes those hidden worlds mine”. Although he is fully aware of his large male competition he seems delieriously confident that she loves him completely and has this to offer: “She has fancy clothes and diamond rings, she has men who’ll give her anything she wants but they don’t see what she wants is me.” He adds he’ll “never let her go”. Once again, it’s Max Weinberg’s drums that stand out on this track, beginning incredibly controlled and quiet and building up into an explosion of sound that is matched only be Sprignsteen’s vocals which are perfetly tuned in to rock and roll here. Rating: 5/5. Best Lyric: “She says ‘Baby, if you wanna be wild, you got a lot to learn/ Close your eyes let them melt, let them fire, let them burn’.”

 Track 5. RACING IN THE STREET.

Along with the title track and Something in the Night, this is one of the slower songs as well as one of the bleakest. It contains all of Springsteen’s famous themes: cars, girls, friendship, rejection and escape (or the failure to do so). The first verse is driven only by Springsteen’s vocals and Roy Bittan’s expertly precise piano. It is also the most typically masculine verse all about how he and his partner Sonny built a car “straight outta scratch”. The opening lines are also semi-autobiographical. “I got a ’69 Chevy with 396/Fuelie heads and a Hurst on the floor”. In real life, his first car was a ’57 Chevy with dual, four-barrel carbs, a Hurst on the floor and orange flames. The piano is then invaded by other instruments that keep the song’s steady pace while adding to its volume and excitement. Though not my favourite of his songs, probably the worst on the album in my opinion, it does boast an excellent use of imagery, particularly when describing his girlfriend (who he ‘won’ in a race) sitting on the front porch “with the eyes of one who hates for just being born”. Such imagery gives this song strength but ultimately, to me, it is bland and most suitable for background listening. Most of the time, Springsteen elevates his female love interests to unreachable heights, portraying them as beaming angels of happiness who exude control and power and beauty. The nameless girl in this song however is desperate and miserable and “cries herself to sleep at night”. It’s no wonder she’s miserable, after being taken away by the protagonist she loses her youthful optimism and realizes that “All her pretty dreams are torn”.  His writing boarders on sexist and he has been accused of writing 2D female characters but, of course, he has never claimed to be able to write for them. On the whole, the song is very good and I haven’t particularly gone into much detail about it because it’s not a specialty of mine, not like others on the album. Also, the fact that the title is taken from the song Dancing in the Street bothers me somewhat, not because of theft, but because I just don’t know why. There is never reference made to it by any critics or pundits or experts. Anyway, the tune is mellow but the themes are dark and crushing. Perhaps more suited to the Nebraska album. Rating: 3/5. Best Lyric: “Tonight my baby and me we’re gonna ride to the sea/And wash these sins off our hands.”

Tack 6. THE PROMISED LAND.

When I went to see Springsteen perform in Hyde Park a few months ago (14th July, 2012) this song was a real highlight. He played it towards the end of the first half of his set and brought on John Fogerty to join him. They took a verse each and the sheer power and magnitude of the song was brought out by the two American icons and global idols. Even Springsteen and McCartney’s rendition of Twist and Shout wasn’t as good as The Boss and Fogerty. This is the most defiant, optimistic and poignant songs on the album. Just as Badlands does, this opens up with a bleak view of a “Rattlesnake speedway in the Utah desert” although this is more obviously bleak than Springsteen’s previous song. In classic Springsteen tradition it uses the idea of automotive transport as escaping a glum town. He works in a garage all day and then at night goes off “chasing some mirage”. When the night hits he becomes a confident and powerful man stating “Pretty soon, little girl, I’m gonna take charge”. Like Thunder Road this song seems romantically linked with a woman but isn’t. The little girl he refers to, although possibly a lover like Thunder Road’s Mary, is an incidental part of the story, not it’s focus. It is primarily about leaving, achieving something, doing important things and being relevant. The chorus is Springsteen’s most hopeful when he roars out “Mister, I ain’t a boy, no I’m a man” at the top of his lungs. To witness it in concert is certainly a mind-blowing thing. The second verse describes how he did his “best to live the right way”, how he got “up every morning and [went] to work each day”. But he notes how the monotony of a working life in a small town can make your “eyes go blind and your blood run cold” and sometimes he “feels so weak” he wants to explode. The explosion is not suicidal but ambition born out of frustration. He wants his explosion to spread across the world; to spread him across the world. He wants to do things, see things, experience things but he can only do it once he accepts that he’s not a boy but a man. Which he does. This is so hopeful because we know he is on his way to do something great. Three lines which really relay the song’s defiant and jubilant message are: “Blow away the dreams that tear you apart/ Blow away the dreams that break your heart/ Blow away the lies that leave you nothing but lost and broken-hearted”.  The real heroes of this track are Springsteen’s vocals, Clarence Clemons’ sax and Gary Tallant’s base with an always steady and impressive performance by max Weinberg’s drums. Rating: 5/5. Best Lyric: “Explode and tear this whole town apart/ Take a knife and cut this pain from my heart/ Find somebody itching for something to start.”

Track 7. FACTORY.

There’s not a great deal to say about this song apart from the fact that it’s very, very good. The song is what it is. From one listen alone one can determine it’s themes, it’s back story and it’s purpose. But I’m not somebody who’s listened to it once. I’ve listened to it god knows how many times, almost everyday for the past year and I still enjoy it every time. It’s simply a song strongly based on his father’s job (one job of many) as a factory worker. The song details the monotony of factory life, how it demoralizes people and how it can break a man. The tune alone is very slow and keeps a purposely dull beat to it while the chorus repeats the word “working” three times in one line, all to hammer home the tiresome routine of factory life. He even gives the man in the song no name so as to allow all worker’s to identify with him but also to represent that he is just one anonymous face among thousands in Jersey alone. The second verse has one of the most bitter-sweet lines of any Springsteen song and easily one of the most moving. “Factory takes his hearing, factory gives him life”. The man’s work place is mentally destroying him but also very physically. Despite the fact that the factory may one day kill him, the man knows that he relies on it everyday to keep himself and his family alive and well. In a poignant, bleak and upsetting final verse Springsteen explains how at the “end of the day, factory whistle blows” and the workers “walk through these gates with death in their eyes” as they all have the same problems. Then, with an eerie sense of foreboding, he ends the verse and almost the song with the line “You just better believe, boy, somebody’s gonna get hurt tonight”. It paints a depressing picture but also a realistic and moving one and is a great song for the album. Rating: 4/5. Best Lyric: “Through the mansions of fear, through the mansions of pain/ See my daddy walking through them factory gates in the rain.”

Track 8. STREETS OF FIRE.

Now, the album as a whole is bleak. Some of the songs are bleak. Most of the songs contain bleak undertones. But this… this bleak beyond belief. It’s a great rock song and is vocally very similar to Adam Raised A Cain in that it is powerful and strained. The song begins with an eerie and suspense-filled organ that carries on through the entire first verse, never letting up. The tempo of both the tune and the words begins slow to build up the dreary and dark story and then it literally explodes into the chorus. Springsteen immediately takes us to presumably late night/ early morning, a time when, as Tom Waits points out in his song I Hope That Don’t Fall In Love With You, men grow anxious, angry and brooding. Or, as he puts it, The night does funny things inside a man/ These old tom-cat feelings you can’t understand”. Springsteen brings us into this twilight by opening the song with “When the night’s quiet and you don’t care anymore/ And your eyes are tired and there’s someone at your door”. He talks about how his character is clearly depressed and given up on life, especially as he want’s “to let go”. He hates his environment, stating that the “Cold walls you embrace eat at your insides”. All he can see around him are streets of fire which he is trapped in, he even says he’s stranded in them. He can’t leave the house because of these “streets of fire” ergo he can’t go anywhere in life. The guitar and the drums burst in for the chorus and continue through the remaining verses, though a little more subdued. By verse two he is wondering “a loser down the tracks” and says how he “can’t go back”. By this point I think he’s done something bad, perhaps illegal and he is ridden with guilt, as suggested by the line “‘Cause in the darkness I hear somebody call my name”, as if shouting after him, trying to catch him. It continues in an excellently dark fashion, the saddest part coming in the end when he declares “I live now, only with strangers/ I talk to only strangers”. He has no friends in the world. he is sick of life and totally alone, imprisoned by his streets of fire. Rating: 4/5. Best Lyric: “I walk with angel’s that have no place/ And don’t look at my face.”

Track 9. PROVE IT ALL NIGHT.

Springsteen brings a much needed sense of happiness and fun with the penultimate track. Having said that, this is not a totally light song. It’s played out like classic rock with powerful instruments, which heavily include drums and guitars, and is a somewhat fast-paced powerhouse. It opens with a declaration that the singer is “working real hard to get [his] hands clean” and that he’ll drive his girl as far as he needs to to get her “a gold ring and a pretty dress of blue”. He then adds that “for just one kiss” he’ll get these things for her. When the chorus hits he repeats that he’ll “prove it all night” for her and her love. By the second verse he wistfully states that “if dreams came true, oh, wouldn’t that be nice” but then grounds the song back into reality (and the album) by adding “But this ain’t no dream we’re living through tonight”. The song is a mixture of hope and despair, of love and hate but ultimately is about determination, hence the chorus. Despite his surroundings and his difficult life, the protagonist promises to prove his love to his girl, no matter what. He clearly gives the listener the image of a hard life when he accuses “them” of not knowing “What it means to steal, to cheat, to lie” or “What it’s like to live and die to prove it all night”. It’s not the best song on the album and sounds pleasantly bland, but upon further listening it becomes much more significant and another important part of the album. There is no alternative interpretation, no deeper message. Like Factory this song is what it is. Rating: 3.5/5. Best Lyric: “Everybody’s got a hunger, a hunger they can’t resist/ There’s so much that you want, you deserve much more than this.”

Track 10. DARKNESS ON THE EDGE OF TOWN.

The title really sums up the song. Darkness represents all things bad; hopelessness, loneliness, being lost, being isolated, being feared, feeling fear. The edge of town represents unfamiliar territory, somewhere elusive and hostile, a baron land where nothing moves but the wind. It tells the carefully and skillfully crafted story of a man who’s wife left him and took everything with her. “I lost my money when I lost my wife” he says very matter-of-factly. It is suggested that he has no home when he says with unreasonable but admirable pride “If she wants to see me you can tell her I’m easily found/ Tell her there’s a spot out neath Abram’s bridge”. Darkness on the Edge of Town is a song about what happens when everything goes wrong. His finances, his love, his home, his self-worth. Everything vanishes when his woman leaves him. At the start of the second verse he declares that “Everybody’s got a secret/ Something that they just can’t face” which suggests that perhaps he’s done something he’s deeply ashamed of which could have been the reason his wife left. Did he hit her? Did he cheat on her? We don’t know. But he follows this line up with “Some folks spend their whole lives trying to keep it/ They carry it with them every step that they take” so maybe he’s been dragging this mysterious secret with him? “Till someday they just cut it loose” he says, “Cut it loose or let it drag ‘em down”. Clearly, his secret, whatever it may be, has dragged him down. As far down as he can go. Now he’s a ghost, haunting the darkness on the edge of town, a place “Where no one asks any questions or looks too long in your face”. There’s a small glimmer of hope or at least defiance when he boldly cries “Tonight I’ll be on that hill, ’cause I can’t stop/ I’ll be on that hill ’cause I just can’t stop”. We also get the message that his descent is partly his fault when he faces up to the fact he’ll have “to pay the cost/ For wanting things that can only be found in the darkness on the edge of town”. His vocal performance is outstanding on this track and nearing perfection. From the low and eerily calm verses to the strained and powerful chorus’, Springsteen displays a level of previously unseen maturity and reflects a grim but truthful view of adulthood. 

Rating: 5/5 Best Lyric: “Lives on the line where dreams are found and lost.”

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Bruce Springsteen Breaks Loose at Notre Dame -Darkness Tour 1978

When I went to see Bruce Springsteen in concert at Notre Dame on September 9, 1978, I knew almost nothing about him. The only song that I had heard was “Born to Run”. I was totally unfamiliar with his albums. But tickets were cheap—$8—so I thought, “Why not?”

Contrary to what is written in the 1979 ND yearbook, he did not start 30 minutes late. He started on time—8:30 PM, which really impressed me. A guy who believes in starting work on time. I was also impressed that he used no warm-up act. That took guts. He and his band hit the stage like a freight train, and they didn’t let up all night long.

Of course, after 34 years, memory becomes a bit spotty. I don’t remember too much about individual songs. I remember the fierce energy of “Rosalita” and “Backstreets”. I remember the sombre mood of “Factory”. And of course, who could forget singing “Born to Run” with a couple thousand of your closest friends?

What I remember clearly is the absolute joy with which Bruce and the E Streeters played. You could see it in their faces. It practically radiated from them. They loved every second of what they were doing, and they never wanted to stop. They fed off the emotion of the audience, and the audience fed off the wonder of their musicianship. Bruce was almost manic—bouncing around stage like a pinball, but always in control of the music. At one point, he climbed a huge stack of amps and crouched there for a few seconds like a tiger ready to pounce. At another point, he leaped into the audience. He stopped a song in mid-note and shouted, “Will the young lady who has her teeth buried in my leg…please…DON’T STOP!” And the audience screamed with laughter!

Of course, I have to include the famous story of “Double Shot of My Baby’s Love”.

There were actually three famous Springsteen concerts at Notre Dame—1976, 1978 and 1981. As I recall from the 1978 show, Bruce told the following story:

At the 1976 show, in the course of that one concert, Bruce and the E Streeters played their entire catalog. But Bruce wanted to keep playing. So he shouted out to the audience, “Anybody got any requests?”

Some guy in the front row yelled, “Do you guys know ‘Double Shot of My Baby’s Love’?”

Now, any other famous musician probably would have said, “Screw you, pal” and gone on to do his own stuff. Instead, Bruce turned to his band and said, “What do you think? You guys want to try it?” So they huddled up onstage, figured out a rudimentary chord progression, and then crashed through the song like a good garage band. And the audience loved it!

Back to the 1978 show. Bruce concluded his story with the famous line, “This is the only place in the known universe where we play this song.” He then added, “So when we heard we were coming back here…We Rehearsed!”

And they swung into “Double Shot”, complete with fairly decent doo-wop choreography. And the Notre Dame audience roared with delight. It was nice to know that Bruce and the boys didn’t take themselves too seriously.

Near the end of the concert, Bruce again stopped a song in mid-note and screamed like a repentant sinner, “I’m just a prisoner…of rock & roll!” When the song ended, he collapsed on stage, flat on his back. Two of his roadies came onstage, wearing doctors’ lab coats. One put a stethoscope in his ears, listened to Bruce’s heartbeat, and shook his head in sorrow. Then the two roadies loaded the limp Bruce onto a stretcher and started to cart him offstage. The audience growled its disapproval. Clarence Clemons grabbed one of the roadies by his coat and dragged the whole lot of them back onstage. Of course, Bruce sprang up from the stretcher, resurrected, and the band thundered into yet another encore. When the show was finally over, the entire band literally had to drag Bruce offstage.

As I left the ACC, I wondered what time it was. I guessed it was a little after 11 PM. When I looked at my watch, however, I was stunned to see that it was almost 1 AM! Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band had put on a 4 hour show! For me, the show had flown by in a heartbeat.

Maybe it was Springsteen’s blue-collar, “give ‘em their money’s worth” work ethic. Maybe it was the ferocious energy of the music and the crowd. Maybe it was Springsteen’s story-telling ability. Maybe it was Clarence Clemon’s saxophone, thundering like the Voice of God Himself. Maybe it was losing myself in the ecstasy of singing “Born to Run” with thousands of other Domers. Whatever the reason, it was the best damn concert I have ever attended. No other experience even comes close. The “90 minutes and done” pop stars of today should learn a lesson from The Boss. Play like there’s no tomorrow.

Jack Connolly

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Bruce Springsteen South Burlington, Vermont and Montreal 1978 Darkness Tour – Rock and Roll Memories

Jym Wilson

Bruce_Springsteen_vermont3Bruce_Springsteen_Vermont6Bruce_springsteen_vermont8

Bruce_Springsteen_Vermont2I’ve been listening to Bruce Springsteen’s music since the fall of 1975 when I joined a group of friends huddled around an AV department record player in the waiting room outside the high school guidance dept. offices to listen to Born to Run. To this day I can remember how his songs spoke to me and told me that there was a world outside of South Burlington, Vermont that I needed to get to ASAP.

Fast-forward to 1978. I had been listening to Springsteen closely for three years. A friend from New Jersey had introduced me to the first two records. Then Darkness came out and finally, he was coming to town.

Nov. 4, 1978 changed the way I knew music could be performed live. I was a 20-year-old part-time lab tech for The Burlington (Vt.) Free Press who liked to take photos, especially of rock concerts. I had been to a few shows at the University of Vermont’s Patrick Gymnasium but this one had the biggest anticipatory buzz that I’d ever encountered. I went to the side door the press was supposed to enter through, entirely certain that the prerequisite phone calls I had made and my press pass would get me in. But no. Someone at the door told us “No photos tonight. We can give you handout, (photos).” But our tickets would still be good. So one lens went down one boot, another in the other boot and the camera goes around the back and under the jacket. Through the door and to my seat. While waiting for the show to begin, a friend from high school appeared at my side. “I’m sitting with you,” she announced, dropping into my lap. Did I mention that mine was a fourth row seat?

Bruce_Springsteen_vermont7Bruce_Springsteen_Vermont5Bruce_Springsteen_vermont1Bruce_Springsteen_VermontIn most ways the show was a blur. I’d shot rock ‘n’ roll before but never anything like this. Bruce seemed to never stop moving. This was more like shooting a basketball game. This was way before auto-focus cameras, let alone digital cards with the capacity of hundreds of photos. At the same time, especially from such a close vantage point, it was as intimate as a small club. The guy was playing right at us. And then he jumped into the crowd and was carried hand-over-hand past me. Total mayhem. I’ve looked at the negatives. Nothing is sharp.

The band played on. Bruce took us down Thunder Road. Told stories about Growing Up. Sent us out into the Night. Danced until Quarter ‘till Three.

12_BRUCE-SPRINGSTEEN-Montreal-1
Four nights later I would have an entirely different Bruce experience at the Montreal Forum. This time I was going with four friends packed into a Mazda GLC. No credentials but still carrying a camera and this time color slide film. This one was for me. Bull shit my way past security about not having a press pass. Up, up, up to the seats known as the oxygen section. Lights down. Show starts. Work the color aspect of the show. One friend, actually a pretty crazy casual acquaintance, nudges me, chin tilts towards the stage and says,”let’s go.” And we’re off. Like Bruce jumping the gates at Graceland we will not be denied. Jumping barricades, pushing past security guards, making our way to the front. And then, there we are. Front row. Standing on chairs with dozens of screaming fans. This won’t last. I start shooting fast. Bruce is sitting on top of Roy’s piano. Bang. Danny, Steve and Clarence share a mike. Bang.  Bruce is climbing on top of the speakers and Clarence is tilting his horn up at him. Bang. Security is trying to clear out people who don’t belong, (me,) so it’s finish the roll and scoot so I don’t have to worry about getting tossed from the venue.

15_BRUCE-SPRINGSTEEN-Montreal-4Back to my seat. Enjoy the show.  Make a few more frames, taking advantage of the distance from the stage and the light.

Bruce_springsteen_montreal_78Since the ’78 tour I’ve photographed Bruce in concert one time, in 1999 in DC where I live now. The reunion tour. Great show, good photos. I’ve seen him without my cameras on quite a few other occasions and have a ticket to see him this September, 2012. He always sets a high bar. It’s always fun. Sometimes great. Sometimes transporting. But those ’78 shows changed the way I think about a lot of things. There’s a reason it’s called work. Success takes a lot of it. But if you love what you do sometimes you get to call it playing.

21_BRUCE-SPRINGSTEEN-Montreal

Jym Wilson is the senior photo editor for the Life section at USA TODAY. He lives in Washington DC and is very glad that one of Bruce’s 1978 concerts is available on DVD.

Limited Edition Bruce Springsteen book, The Light in Darkness.
IF you have ever considered buying this book, Now is the time.
The book focuses on Darkness on the Edge of Town, Springsteen’s iconic 4th album
and 1978 concert tour. Read about the live concerts from fans who were there:
- the Agora, Winterland, Roxy, MSG, Capitol Theatre, Boston Music Hall, The Spectrum
and over seventy more, this book is a must have.
With less than 30 copies left, now is the time to order this collectible book.
We are offering savings on Shipping anywhere in the world.
Save Now- Order Here: The Light in Darkness

* The Light in Darkness is not available in stores

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American Madness Becomes Darkness on The Edge of Town, And More.

Peter Watts, 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die.

Thanks to a legal dispute with former manager Mike Appel, Springsteen had three years to bask in the stellar success of Born To Run, and to contemplate its follow-up. The resulting album, Darkness On The Edge Of Town, is a very different beast from its predecessor.

Springsteen_Clarence_.jpgLike Dylan before him, Springsteen withdrew from fame, moving to a farm in New Jersey so he could refocus on “life in the close confines of the small towns I grew up in.” He wanted to “write about the stress and tension of my father’s and mother’s life that came with the difficulties of trying to make ends meet.” (The album was originally to be called “American Madness,” after a Frank Capra movie about the Depression.) Fatherhood is one of the album’s themes (“Adam Raised A Cain”); struggle another (“Streets Of Fire,” “Factory”). These are songs about small-town frustration, sometimes sexual (“Candy’s Room”), sometimes social (“The Promised Land”).

Being Bruce, the angst is tempered with romance, particularly for the road — many songs involve driving, either for escape, for thrills, or both — but musically, this is a much more subdued affair than Born To Run. Clarence Clemons’ sax is rarely heard. Instead, Springsteen’s guitar and Roy Bittan’s measured, melancholic piano set the tone.

Uplifting, downbeat, bleak, and mad as hell, Darkness… is a spellbinding B-movie epic to follow the blockbuster of Born To Run.

Billboard, 1978.

On this long awaited effort, Springsteen eschews the tight dense sound of his acclaimed “Born To Run” to put the emphasis on his unique throaty singing style. While more sparse, the music is equally powerful, with the seven-man band behind Springsteen aided by the studio prowess of the producers along with Steve Van Zandt, Jimmy Iovine and Charles Plotkin. Springsteen’s lyrics continue their exploration of doom and adolescent angst as perceived is small New Jersey towns. This is the type of album that grows with each listening. Best cuts: “Adam Raised Cain,” “Factory,” “Prove It All Night,” “Darkness On The Edge Of Town.”

Paul Gambaccini, The Top 100 Rock ‘n’ Roll Albums of All Time, Harmony Books, 1987.

The delayed release of this album served notice that Springsteen, like Stevie Wonder, would not churn out product by any set schedule. Three years had passed since his previous work, Born to Run. In truth, the gap would have been shorter had he not been absorbed for the better part of the year in a legal scuffle with his former manager.

Also like Stevie Wonder, Springsteen did not merely record enough tracks to fill an album, but wrote many songs and selected numbers that would work together to produce the effect he desired. As with Stevie, some numbers were given to other artists, some retained for future albums, and several consigned to seemingly interminable limbo.

The effect Bruce and his producers did create with this album was intense and powerful, too strong for AM radio. Though several tracks were outstanding, none emerged as hit singles, “Prove It All Night” and “Badlands” peaking in the mid-third of the Hot 100. In 1987, Darkness on the Edge of Town was chosen by a panel of rock critics and music broadcasters as the #59 rock album of all time.

Bill Shapiro, Rock & Roll Review: A Guide to Good Rock on CD, 1991. 

Springsteen_Phoenix78_.jpgFrom the cover photos to the contents, it’s clear that this is the statement of a changed man; the boyish beliefs have been supplanted by hard won knowledge of the “real” world. (Obviously, reflection of two years of court battles with his first opportunistic manager which kept him out of the recording studio where he might have capitalized on the resounding acclamation accorded Born to Run.) Darkness on the Edge of Town echoes with the honed down gritiness of material that reflects more the reality than the romance of his beloved road. Highlighted by Bruce’s painfully potent vocal outpourings and his slashing guitar, it includes some of his strongest material, “Promised Land,” “Badlands,” “Adam Raised a Cain” and the title cut.

John Floyd, The All-Music Guide to Rock, 1995.

On this, the flip side of Born to Run, the idealism of those characters turns into stark terror once they hit adulthood. This is where Springsteen’s reputation as a working-class mouthpiece is based, but there’s much more here than that.

Gary Graff, Musichound Rock: The Essential Album Guide, 1996.

Coming after a long legal battle to extricate himself from a management deal, Darkness on the Edge of Town is indeed darker than Born to Run but not without redemptive hope in songs such as “Badlands” and “The Promised Land.” This may well be Springsteen’s best batch of songs, though the production is criminally flat.

Zagat Survey Music Guide – 1,000 Top Albums of All Time, 2003.

After a three-year absence imposed by legal battles with his former manager, Bruce returned with a blistering tour de force that really showed off his band. Though the production is a little rough, this cathartic record is tight and direct with some of his most resonant songs. Turning to the troubles of adulthood, it offered a brooding, stark version of life for his characters and yet hope shines through — “I believe in the promised land,” indeed.

Nevin Martell, VH1′s 100 Greatest Albums, 2003.

For anyone who might have thought Bruce Springsteen couldn’t sustain the creative arc and evolutionary path attained on his breakthrough album, Born to Run, Darkness on the Edge of Town proved them soundly wrong. With this astounding album, the New Jersey native took his bar-band boogie from the boardwalk to sold-out shows across the States and let everyone know that he would forever be “The Boss.”

Springsteen_capitol_.jpgWith a title that hints at the invisible corners in life that some can’t see into and others choose not to see at all, Darkness‘s lyrics represent a streetwise poeticism that is lofty without being highbrow and straightforward without being simplistic. From the badlands to the Promised Land with the wastelands and the heartland in between, Springsteen travels across the American dream as his cast of outsiders, dreamers, and quiet failures yearn for redemption, wisdom, and escape. On “Prove It All Night” he sings “Everybody’s got a hunger, a hunger they can’t resist / There’s so much that you want, you deserve much more than this,” epitomizing that basic sense of hope that his song writing of this period captured so eloquently. You got the sense when you listened to Springsteen that he wanted the same things as his tortured characters. So, when he sang “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” in “Racing in the Street,” you knew that he too was gonna drive to the sea if it was the last thing he did. And you loved him for it.

Kicking up a notch the wall-of-sound aesthetic he had so successfully employed on his previous LP, Darkness on the Edge of Town takes out all the exuberance and joy from the mix and leaves the listener to contemplate the music’s sombre underbelly. This set of material ranks as one of the great examples American song writing and helped place Bruce Springsteen in the pantheon alongside the likes of Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash. And that is where he remains decades later, still standing as one of the most vital and influential rock ‘n’ roll artists of all time.

Darkness on the Edge of Town was voted the 68th greatest album of all time in a VH1 poll of over 700 musicians, songwriters, disc jockeys, radio programmers, and critics in 2003.

Springsteen Summer Tour 2012 Book Sale
Discover the Limited Edition Bruce Springsteen book, The Light in Darkness.
The Light In Darkness is a collector’s edition, we are almost sold out. Less than 225 copies remain. A great companion piece to The Promise box set, it focuses on the 1978 Darkness on The Edge of Town album and tour.
Read about the iconic concerts from fans who were there- the Agora, Winterland, Roxy, MSG, Capitol Theatre, Boston Music Hall, The Spectrum and over seventy more!

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The Follow Up To Born to Run- Darkness On The Edge Of Town

Springsteen_badlands_.jpgThomas Nassiff: Absolute Punk

Following up Born To Run is something that seems like a monumental task, but given the pressure Bruce Springsteen experienced in earlier parts of his career, it probably didn’t seem like such a tall mountain to climb. When Springsteen released Born To Run, Columbia Records basically treated it as the 25-year-old’s last chance to write something that could make them some money. Luckily, Springsteen churned out one of the most fantastic records of all time, launching himself into stardom as a household name and a worldwide presence. Need further evidence as to his importance other than his extensive world touring after the record? On Oct. 27, 1975, both Time and Newsweek put Springsteen on their respective covers, with Time calling him “Rock’s New Sensation.”

The 1978 follow-up to Born To Run was Darkness On The Edge Of Town, a hard-hitting, ten-track album that showed Springsteen’s progression as a musician. This time, Springsteen had a different kind of pressure, and following up a phenomenal record might have been a relief compared to the negative energy associated with the Born To Run sessions when he was essentially writing to save his career. Springsteen and The E Street Band kick off Darkness in killer fashion, with the dominating “Badlands.” Springsteen has always made his mark on opening songs, and “Badlands” proves to still be a phenomenal live song. Clarence Clemons’ saxophone parts in the track are some of his E Street Band highlights, and the lyricism is predictably incredible: Poor men wanna be rich, rich men wanna be kings, And a king aint satisfied till he rules everything, I wanna go out tonight And show them what I’ve got.”

“Candy’s Room” gave fans something different from The Boss. Whereas most of Springsteen’s early work is full of weaving storytelling and drawn-out musicianship, “Candy’s Room” is an under-three-minute track that was one of Springsteen’s catchiest at the time – second to probably only “She’s The One.” The guitar solo in the bridge is to-the-point, and it’s about as rock’n'roll is anything can be. “Candy’s Room” also kicks off the most important chunk of Darkness, as it is followed by “Racing In The Street” and “The Promised Land.”

Springsteen_Prove_It_.jpg“Racing In The Street” is a piano-led ballad that got a good amount of attention in live shows following the release of Darkness but was put on the shelf by Springsteen until more recent tours. While alternate versions are better than the album version, the song still has great imagery to it and is one of the best low-key Springsteen tracks. Meanwhile, “The Promised Land” made its way to become one of the more celebrated tracks in The Boss’ catalog, as many diehards I’ve met proclaim it as their favorite song. The lyrics here are worth noting as well, as Springsteen smoothly delivers, “I’ve done my best to live the right way / I get up every morning and go to work each day / But your eyes go blind, and your blood runs cold / Sometimes I feel so weak I just wanna explode / Explode and tear this whole town apart / Take a knife and cut this pain from my heart / Find somebody itching for something to start.” Later in the song, we’re hit with another great pre chorus: “Gonna be a twister to blow everything down / That ain’t got the faith to stand its ground / Blow away the dreams that tear you apart / Blow away the dreams that break your heart / Blow away the lies that leave you nothing but lost and brokenhearted.”

In typical Springsteen fashion, the last two songs on the record deliver a shock as well, and the one-two punch of “Prove It All Night” and the title track just make you want to flip your record over and start again from the beginning. Springsteen’s flailing vocals in the title track provide one of my personal favorite moments from The Boss, and the guitar line in the track is tough to beat.

Springsteen_Cobo_Detroit_.jpgAs interesting as Darkness is as a whole, it’s also extremely interesting to look back at the material that didn’t end up being used for the record. In order to keep the theme of the album intact, Springsteen scratched some songs that actually went on to become well-known singles for other artists – “Because The Night” for Patti Smith, “Fire” for Robert Gordon, and “This Little Girl” for Gary U.S. Bonds are a few examples. Still other songs would wind up on the double-disc release of The River.

Darkness On The Edge Of Town would be the best record for a lot of artists, but not for Bruce Springsteen. While the record isn’t as good as Born To Run, it was extremely important for the group that the record wasn’t overlooked. It certainly led to some different times with double-disc release of The River, which is why the first four Springsteen records are where I’d recommend any prospective fan to begin their journey into The Boss’ life work.

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Darkness on the Edge of Town at 30+

Springsteen_Badlands_.jpgJeff Vaca

“Occasionally, a record appears that changes fundamentally the way we hear rock & roll, the way it’s recorded, the way it’s played. Such records – Jimi Hendrix’ Are You Experienced, Bob Dylan’s “Like a Rolling Stone,” Van Morrison’s Astral Weeks, Who’s Next, The Band – force response, both from the musical community and the audience. To me, these are the records justifiably called classics, and I have no doubt that Bruce Springsteen’s Darkness on the Edge of Town will someday fit as naturally within that list as the Rolling Stones’ “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” or Sly and the Family Stone’s “Dance to the Music.”

So began Dave Marsh’s Rolling Stone magazine review of Darkness on the Edge of Town, published in July of 1978. Thirty years later, we are armed with the knowledge that Marsh has been Springsteen’s greatest critical champion, his biographer, and his friend. But does that necessarily render his 1978 opinion invalid? Even then, Marsh had to know the gamble he was taking. In 1978 he was already known as a close friend of Jon Landau, the rock critic turned producer who, over time, would become Springsteen’s manager and advisor, and in all likelihood the single most important person to the development of his career. In fact, Marsh and Landau had been together at the 1974 Springsteen show which became legendary because of what Landau wrote about it: “I saw rock and roll future, and its name is Bruce Springsteen.” In effect, Marsh was placing every ounce of his credibility on the chopping block – had the album proven to be a stiff, few people would have taken him seriously again.

springsteen_fox_theatre_atlanta_.jpgMarsh needn’t have worried. In 2008, the relevant question is not “Is Darkness on the Edge of Town a great album?,” but rather “How great an album is Darkness on the Edge of Town?” And the answer is that Marsh was correct – Darkness today stands as a landmark of rock history, as well as the most important album that Bruce Springsteen has made. And here’s where I take a deep breath, gaze over the precipice, and jump – it is his best album.

There’s a Pete Townshend quote about Darkness that I remember, because it is a pretty good summation of what the album is about. If I remember correctly, it went something along the lines of “what Bruce Springsteen is singing about on his new album, that’s not fun – that’s f*cking triumph, man.” But what Townshend said is only partly true, because while triumph is a part of the story, it’s not the only part. When the last notes of the last song are played out, you’re still not certain how things are going to end– the protagonist is defiant, but could very well be trapped at the same time, with a final chapter left to be written at some point in the future.

The tone is set at the very beginning, in the first words of “Badlands”:

Lights out tonight
trouble in the heartland
Got a head-on collision
smashin’ in my guts, man
I’m caught in a cross fire
that I don’t understand
But there’s one thing I know for sure girl
I don’t give a damn
For the same old played out scenes
I don’t give a damn
For just the in betweens
Honey, I want the heart, I want the soul
I want control right now

“I want the heart, I want the soul, I want control right now.” And there you have it, in a nutshell. From that point on, the album depicts a life’s journey, and the battles – simple or otherwise – which must be fought, sometimes on a daily basis, to keep from “dying little by little, piece by piece,” as he later sings in “Racing in the Street.” As the album progresses, each individual song raises the ante, making clear just how high the stakes are. The music’s intensity is like nothing Springsteen had previously recorded (even Born to Run, great as that album was), and the lyrics match that intensity, verse by verse and word for word:

In the darkness of your room
your mother calls you by your true name
You remember the faces, the places, the names
You know it’s never over it’s relentless as the rain

Adam Raised A Cain

Nothing is forgotten or forgiven,
when it’s your last time around,
I got stuff running ’round my head
That I just can’t live down

“Something in the Night” (a particular favorite of mine, for what should be obvious reasons)

I’ve done my best to live the right way
I get up every morning and go to work each day
But your eyes go blind and your blood runs cold
Sometimes I feel so weak I just want to explode
Explode and tear this whole town apart
Take a knife and cut this pain from my heart
Find somebody itching for something to start

The Promised Land

I’m wandering, a loser down these tracks
I’m dying, but girl I can’t go back
‘Cause in the darkness I hear somebody call my name
And when you realize how they tricked you this time
And it’s all lies but I’m strung out on the wire
In these streets of fire

Streets of Fire

Everybody’s got a hunger, a hunger they can’t resist,
There’s so much that you want, you deserve much more than this,
But if dreams came true, oh, wouldn’t that be nice,
But this ain’t no dream we’re living through tonight,
Girl, you want it, you take it, you pay the price

“Prove It All Night”

And, finally:

Tonight I’ll be on that hill ’cause I can’t stop
I’ll be on that hill with everything I got
Lives on the line where dreams are found and lost
I’ll be there on time and I’ll pay the cost
For wanting things that can only be found
In the darkness on the edge of town

Darkness on the Edge of Town

Springsteen_New_Haven1_.jpgBy this point, it should be clear that the journey is not over. But there is hope, there is faith, and there is the drive to sustain both through the long days and nights yet to come – in the battle against what critic Greil Marcus would later call “a long, uncertain fight against cynicism.”

It would be criminal to praise Springsteen’s songwriting on this album without also giving due praise to the band which gives the songs their life. Simply put, the band is amazing. There are enough great musical moments on Darkness to last most bands a lifetime, whether it be the late Danny Federici’s heartbreaking organ on “Racing in the Street,” Roy Bittan’s beautiful piano introduction to “Something in the Night,” or the general brilliance of the rhythm section throughout. Though the Big Man is featured less on this album than on others, when his time comes on “The Promised Land” and “Prove It All Night,” he is there to deliver. And while the production by Springsteen, Landau and Steve Van Zandt has been criticized by some over the years for being too muddy, I think that’s unfair – the instrumentation throughout is clear as a bell, and the album has a sound that is entirely appropriate to the depth and gravitas of the material.

But in the end, what takes Darkness from being simply outstanding to that rare level of greatness which few albums reach are the four songs that serve as the album’s bookends – on Side 1, “Badlands” and “Racing in the Street;” on Side 2, “The Promised Land” and “Darkness on the Edge of Town.” All four are among the best songs Springsteen has written, and it is no accident that two of them – “Badlands” and “The Promised Land” – remain, thirty years later, the moral and emotional centerpiece of his live concerts.

Dave Marsh wrote that the promise of Bruce Springsteen was “That someday, Bruce Springsteen would make rock & roll that would shake men’s souls and make them question the direction of their lives. That would do, in short, all the marvelous things rock had always promised to do.” Since 1978, Springsteen has made good records, he has made excellent records, and he has made great records. But in terms of the impact that Marsh described, Springsteen has never topped Darkness on the Edge of Town. And for that reason, it is his best album.


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Greetings From Asbury Park – 2009

Steven B. Rogers

I am presently sitting on a bench in front of Madam Marie’s small shop on the Asbury Park boardwalk from which she has for years dispensed Tarot readings, fortunes and advice. It is a Sunday afternoon. The place is closed; I guess she is taking the day off. Bruce Springsteen, who got his start in this “city by the sea,” turned 60 years old this past week! Who would have thought it possible? And the guy keeps rocking! So I guess there is hope for all of us who are quickly approaching that benchmark in our own lives.

springsteen_cover_.jpgI discovered Springsteen in the summer of 1978, when I was working in a record store in College Park, Maryland; a second job while I was teaching and completing my doctoral program at the University of Maryland. Darkness on the Edge of Town, his fourth album, had just been released and each afternoon, after punching the time-clock, I slid the black vinyl disk (remember them?) out of its cardboard sleeve, put it on the turntable behind the cash register, and set the needle down on the last track on the A side – “Racing in the Streets.” This song in particular, but the entire album really, captured my imagination. Who was this thin, scruffy rocker from the Jersey Shore, and why did his music and lyrics resonate with a guy who had grown up in the white bread suburbs of Chicago? But then again, in the late 60s and early 70s, my generation, even those of us who had led relatively sheltered lives, had begun to question that which we always assumed to be true. What was this so-called “American dream,” and why was it out of reach to a growing number of Americans? I recognized these very same questions in many of Springsteen’s lyrics and I began to look to his songs for the answers I had not yet discovered for myself.

Springsteen_Promised-Land_.jpgAlthough Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band had already been on the music scene for a few years, it was Darkness on the Edge of Town that caught my ear . . . my attention . . . my imagination. It would be years before I would more fully appreciate his earlier songs. Darkness on the Edge of Town eclipsed all that went before. Not even Born to Run, recorded three years earlier, had resonated with me as it had others who saw Springsteen as “the new Dylan,” the new poet of blue collar America. But now I listened to his music and his lyrics . . . stories about real people . . . people I might have met somewhere along the way. Springsteen and the band were searching for a way out . . . a last chance power drive to find the promised land. I was not quite there yet, I guess, but Darkness on the Edge of Town changed all of that. “Occasionally a record appears that changes fundamentally the way we hear rock and roll, the way it’s recorded, the way it’s played,” wrote Dave Marsh in a review of the album appearing in a July 1978 issue of Rolling Stone. “One ought to be wary of making such claims, but in this case, they’re justified at every level.” Marsh hit the nail squarely on the head. This record was nothing less than a commentary on the veracity of the American dream. It clicked with me . . . finally!
Now, over thirty years later, I have spent this weekend on the Jersey Shore where I have been participating in a symposium co-sponsored by Virginia Tech and Penn State at which over 200 educators, journalists, historians, musicians and musicologists from more than thirty states and nine foreign countries have assembled to celebrate Springsteen’s life and music on the occasion of his having reached geezerdom. This is a follow-up to the original symposium held back in September 2005. Having spoken on the subject of Woody Guthrie and John Steinbeck and their influences on Springsteen’s social conscience, this time around I was invited to participate in a panel where I spoke to the influences of Jack Kerouac on Springsteen as a narrative poet while also chairing another session exploring Springsteen’s sense of place; a fascinating topic given the fact that we were meeting at the epicenter of his life and music.

Springsteen_Streets_.jpg
It was not all academic exchange, however. There was a tribute to Danny Federici, the former E Street Band organist, led by Bob Santelli of the Grammy Museum and featuring Vini Lopez, Springsteen’s original drummer, and Tinker West, a former Springsteen manager and sound engineer. And how could there be any celebration of, or tribute to Springsteen, without music? Lots of music, played where he emerged as a dominant voice of the Jersey Shore Sound . . . an interesting synthesis of early rock & roll and rhythm and blues with not a little doo wop thrown in for good measure. Although the Boss did not materialize in our midst – he was up the road in New York City talking with Elvis Costello at the Apollo Theater and preparing for a series of stadium dates at the Meadowlands – several musicians who have played with Springsteen over the years were there: Joe Grushecky and the House Rockers out of Pittsburgh; Lisa Lowell, who sings with the Seeger Sessions Band; Joe d’Urso and Joe Rapolla, who co-host the “Songwriters by the Sea” series, Jen Chapin (the late Harry Chapin’s daughter) with her bassist husband Stefan Crump, and Scott Kempner of Del-Lords and Dictators fame, all of whom covered some of Springsteen’s songs. There were thoughtful and meditative acoustic performances, including one featuring Grushecky, who discussed his collaboration with Springsteen over the years while premiering an acoustic version of “Code of Silence,” as well as loud, hell-bent rock and blues performed by Grushecky, Gary “U.S.” Bonds, gasoline rocker Willie Nile, and others at the Stone Pony, that seminal Jersey Shore club just a couple of blocks south of where I am sitting here on the boardwalk and where Springsteen played early in his career and where he still shows up from time to time to jam with his friends. We were also treated to an evening reception at a gallery here on the Asbury Park boardwalk featuring a photo exhibit by Danny Clinch, Springsteen’s photographer. Later that evening Danny showed up at The Stone Pony where Joe Grushecky coaxed him to the stage to belt out a couple of tunes on the harmonica with the Houserockers.

asbury_park_.jpgAsbury Park has changed a great deal since I first came here 45 years ago. It was the summer of the New York World’s Fair on Flushing Meadow and my family and I spent a couple of days at the shore before heading home to Wisconsin. Back then it was a thriving beach resort with its boardwalk anchored on either end by the Convention Center and the Casino and its brightly lit amusement rides, concession stands and arcades. All this changed on July 4, 1970 when racial tensions culminated in riots that left much of the area destroyed or abandoned, and to this day it has not regained its glory days of the past. The Convention Center has managed to rise from the ashes, the linchpin for efforts to revitalized the area. The Casino, or what is left of it, remains a skeletal reminder that there is still much work to do.

This weekend I have wandered around the places and among the people Springsteen has been writing and singing about since his earliest recordings; the Jersey Shore is very much his native ground. A few miles up the shore from Asbury Park is Long Branch. In 1974, when Springsteen was on the cusp of success, he left his hometown of Freehold, west of here, and settled into a small cottage at 7½ West End Court, just a short walk from the beach. Here, from May 1974 until late 1975, Springsteen lived and wrote the eight songs that would be his breakout album, Born to Run. I was able to find the place and counted myself lucky. Back in July, Bob Dylan, who was also looking for the Springsteen cottage, was stopped by two very young Long Branch police officers and briefly detained because he could not provide any identification. When success finally came, Springsteen was able to move out of this tiny cottage and it would have been easy to never look back. Yet regardless of the fame and fortune attendant his career over the past four decades, Springsteen has never lost sight of his roots and the family, friends and places who made him what he is today. In his song “Youngstown,” he chides those who have grown “rich enough to forget my name.” Springsteen has never forgotten his native ground and the people who inhabit it. Walk around Asbury Park. You will hear his songs everywhere you look.


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Darkness on the Edge of Town: Wikipedia

Wikipedia

Springsteen_Clarence_.jpgDarkness on the Edge of Town est un album de Bruce Springsteen sortie en 1978 et produit par Jon Landau, Bruce Springsteen et Steven van Zandt.

Springsteen_Darkness_1978_.jpgSuite à Born to Run le Boss dédie cet album à certains de ses proches souffrant pour mener une vie décente et productive. L’ambiance est sombre, le ton est percutant et saisissant dès la pochette, les textes marquants et travaillés, Springsteen n’hésitant pas à crier comme pour exprimer son désir de révolte et de soutien. Le Boss est très heureux de cet album, peut-il en être autrement quand on veut rendre hommage à ceux qu’on aime et qu’on découvre en situation difficile ? Toutefois, il est erroné de penser que ce disque induit la déprime : bien que contrastant légèrement avec l’air enlevé de Born to Run, il se dégage de cette introspection, de cette quête de vérité spirituelle, un héroïsme, une bravoure. Certains disent que c’est l’album dont Springsteen peut être le plus fier même si ce n’est pas le plus connu comparé à Born to Run et à Born in the U.S.A. On retrouve aussi des références à ses valeurs catholiques, à l’amour ; dans l’ensemble Bruce Springsteen tente d’insuffler une énergie dans un contexte délicat, un moyen de gérer l’espoir même si cela n’est pas facile : c’est là l’effort à faire. On sent qu’il veut servir de porte-parole, et faciliter l’identification des gens qui l’écoutent en quête de réconfort.

Springsteen_leather_jacket_.jpgMusicalement, les cuivres sont plus rares, la guitare est plus présente, le son des compositions rend le son plus proche du rock  et le tempo plus lent, méditatif et nostalgique, en harmonie avec le thème abordé.

C’est à cette période que Steve Van Zandt rejoint définitivement le E Street Band.

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