Friday, July 17, 2009

Bruce Springsteen: Darkness On The Edge Of Town

SONG Darkness on the Edge of Town

WRITTEN BY Bruce Springsteen

PERFORMED BY Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band

APPEARS ON Darkness on the Edge of Town (1978); Live 1975-1985 (1986)

Ask most Bruce Springsteen fans what their favorite song of his is and they'll answer "Thunder Road." I'm no exception. So, the question becomes, what is your second favorite Springsteen song. For me, that's "Darkness on the Edge of Town."

"Darkness" contrasts the lives of two former lovers, one of whom eschewed risk ("that blood it never burned in her veins" in favor of the safety of "a house up in Fairview" while the other continued to frequent at the "spot out 'neath Abram's bridge". In "Darkness"' Springsteen examines the costs of both material comfort and discontent. To him, it's too easy to sneer at the person who chooses the nice home at the expense of self-examination, for that too forces a price ("I lost my money and I lost my wife").

To Springsteen, life comes at a pychic cost ("everybody's got a secret") that one must be willing to pay because existence will exact it anyway ("'Til some day they just cut it loose"). He must be "on that hill with everything I got," but at the same time he grasps that that may not be possible for everyone. In fact, he's not even there by choice: He's there because he must be. Whatever the costs exacted by the darkness on the edge of town, he'll pay them in order to remain true to himself. This may not be the easiest path, but it's his.

They're still racing out at the Trestles
But that blood it never burned in her veins
I hear she's got a house up in Fairview
And house she's trying to maintain
Well if she wants to see me
You can tell her that I'm easily found
Tell her there's a spot out 'neath Abram's Bridge
And tell her there's a darkness on the edge of town

Everybody's got a secret, Sonny
Something that they just can't face
Some folks spend their whole lives trying to keep it
They carry it with them every step that they take
'Til some day they just cut it loose
Cut it loose or let it drag 'em down
Where no one asks any questions
Or looks too long at your face
In the darkness on the edge of town

Some folks are born into a good life
Other folks get it any way anyhow
I lost my money and I lost my wife
Them things don't seem to matter much to me now
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

From the Capitol Theatre in Passaic, New Jersey, 9/19/78:


  1. It was songs like this that got Springsteen dubbed "the new Dylan" in the music press of the time, and he used to hate it. Heh, heh! Loudon Wainwright III was another one who got hit with that label, and he does this hilarious monologue about it; I'll have to see if I can find that; it's a hoot!

    And why is The Big Man beating a tambourine, fer pete's sake? I had a sax line running in my head during the song, and it wasn't until I saw Clarence with that thing in his hand that I realized that it was in my head and not him playing! Obviously that song needed a sax, not a tambourine.

  2. Bruce had a good idea of what he wanted back then. On the album, "Darkness" follows "The Promised Land," which features guitar, sax, and harmonica solos. I think he wanted something stripped down to heavy guitar chords to follow it. Even the solo favors the low, more chord-like notes.

    I wish he'd do more arrangements like this today instead of the overproduced nonsense Brendan O'Brien has saddled him with.

  3. Listening to it again, I'm struck by how important the keyboards are to the texture of the song. They really convey a aura of an impending conflict. And talk about a Wall of Sound!

  4. My favourite song is actually The River, which is a big hit for him kind of, but I really do like it. I love this track too. I first heard it on the live 75-85 album though, but I started listening to this album on grooveshark so now I know a lot of the songs on that album. He's a great artist. I don't study music or why the music is so good like the person above and the texture of the song. I just know what I like

  5. I guess I'm the aberrant one. My favorite Bruce song is "4th of July, Asbury Park (Sandy)"
    Peter Tibbles

  6. Luc, Peter: Thanks for commenting. Those are great favorite songs!

    Luc, you will really grow to love The River. It is a superb album full of wonderful songs. It's no accident that "The Ties That Bind" is the first song: That's the underlying theme of the album whether in fun rockers like "Sherry Darling" or the poignant "Independence Day." Be sure to check out "Point Blank."

    Peter, I remember sitting in my dorm room in early 1975 trying to figure out all of the words to "Sandy." It took me a long time to get "the aurora is rising behind us." I wish I could remember what I thought it was -- probably something like "the car door is riding behind us"!

  7. Must take a more literal view. "Abram"

  8. Getting closer to that time as the references close in but the spot remains hidden in the mainstream.