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Thursday, 2 June 2016

Revisiting Darkness on the Edge of Town

38 years old today and I know I've a habit of spotlighting it every year but it's really such a great album that is worth listening to and exploring afresh. There are loads of links here to check out, mainly some of the songs that were left out from the original album but did finally see daylight years later. I think at some point I may do a post on some of these unused songs that are still sitting around in a vault somewhere (thankfully there are some bootlegs around that contain some of these songs otherwise we'd never hear them at all)!

Three years had passed since Bruce Springsteen had released the groundbreaking Born to Run and in case anyone was wondering, he hadn't disappeared off the face of the earth because him and the E Street Band had been out playing live. The delay in a new album being released was due to a legal dispute with then manager Mike Appel

In the meantime between live shows there was writing and preparing many songs that would ultimately be discarded in favour of the ten that were released once all the legal distractions were over and done with. More than Forty Songs were written (Jimmy Iovine reckons there were close to 70 songs written and only 52 recorded though a number were not completed). "Don't Look Back", "Hearts of Stone", "Iceman" and "Give the Girl a Kiss" would eventually see their release on the Tracks box set while 21 other outtakes would be released on The Promise album released to coincide with the Darkness at the Edge of Town Boxset in 2010. Some of the unused material became hits for other artists such as "Because the Night" for Patti Smith; "Fire" for Robert Gordon and The Pointer Sisters; "Rendezvous" for Greg Kihn; "This Little Girl" for Gary U.S. Bonds; and several tracks for Southside Johnny including 3 songs released on the Asbury Jukes album entitled Hearts of Stone (an album that Steve Van Zandt produced and wrote pretty much the majority of the songs for). Other songs such as "Independence Day", "Point Blank", "The Ties That Bind", and "Sherry Darling" would turn up on Springsteen's next album, The River, while still others became bootleg classics until surfacing on Springsteen's already mentioned compilations titled Tracks, 18 Tracks, and The Promise.

My own thoughts about the album at the time (I was 15 years old when it came out!) was that here was a bloke who knew a thing or two about life and was able to communicate something of the desolation of being stuck somewhere you didn't want to be. I always get a bit annoyed by people who assume that because Bruce is American and he's often writing from an American perspective that he has nothing in common with those outside of the USA. But the fact is alienation, struggle, relationship issues, despair and hope etc are actually very universal themes so it's quite easy I think to find yourself in his songs even if you were growing up in London in 1978.

The man couldn't get a hit single here in the UK and it's surprising because three singles that were released - Prove It All Night, Badlands, and The Promised Land - were all pretty commercial sounding. As a 15 year old back then I was listening and buying mainly Punk Records and I thought that a song like Badlands had way more of a Punk attitude than anything that The Clash were writing at the time (I know, I'll let you queue up to adminster a fatal beating later!).   

A Couple of Friends say:
 "Growing up in area which relied on heavy industry, coal and the dockyards I felt like I knew the characters on Darkness. Throw in a tempestuous father and son relationship and it was like my life laid down on vinyl. Despite the hardships and despair it's important to remember that there is always hope and something to fight for."  
- Carl Drake (USA)

 "I never really cared for Born To Run and all the hype at the time, I bought that record on the back of reading the NME and Melody Maker. I never bothered with Darkness on the Edge of Town until I had bought The River and seen the tour. Everybody's highlight will be Badlands but there are some real gems on there like Racing In The Street and Candy's Room.
I never cared for Adam Raised A Cain until I saw it played on the Tunnel of Love Tour with the horns and from that day the power of that song really hit me. It could have been a greatest hits album in a way, after all he left some incredible material off it. I will never to this day understand why he left The Promise off, it would have easily fitted the record. It's probably my favourite album now with a few out takes added."

- Mark D. Huntington (UK)

"I first got into Bruce around the River coming out, probably heard Hungry Heart. After that I went out and got the previous albums on vinyl. I definitely remember liking the songs and writing on Darkness especially Promised Land and Badlands and Racing in the Street and Prove It All night. Loved a lot of the guitar work especially. Just seemed very raw and very honest. I remember not being too keen on Candy's Room. Sounded kind of a bit poppy. Overall Classic Springsteen. More concise and to the point after Born to run."
- Simon Herdson (UK)
(Simon was a bit late with his comment as he was away camping and off the grid for a few days so I'm adding his comment now. Doug 6.22pm 2/6/16)

Many of the songs from the album still make it onto the setlist (just last night night in Glasgow he played Badlands, The Promised Land and Darkness on the Edge of Town). I still have a real love for Prove It All Night with the '78 Intro. Also I have to say that I much prefer the 1976 version of Something In The Night to the one that ended up getting released on Darkness. Racing in the Street is probably my favourite track on the album and I love hearing it done live (there's a gorgeous version from 2012 at the Meadowlands that I love a lot). I quite liked the version that ended up on The Promise album.

Darkness on the Edge of Town - Bruce Springsteen
Produced by Bruce Springsteen, Jon Landau and Steve Van Zandt
US Chart #5
UK Chart #16

The E Street Band

    Bruce Springsteen – lead vocals, lead guitar, harmonica
    Roy Bittan – piano, backing vocals
    Clarence Clemons – saxophone, backing vocals
    Danny Federici – organ, glockenspiel
    Garry Tallent – bass guitar
    Steve Van Zandt – rhythm guitar, backing vocals
    Max Weinberg – drums

Paramount Theater 2009
Included in The Darkness Boxset

Darkness at the Edge of Town
Played in Full
Allphones Arena, Sydney, Australia
19th February 2014

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