The Friday Morning Listen: Bruce Springsteen – Darkness on the Edge of Town (1978)

By Mark Saleski

Clearly I have been spending an awful lot of time with Darkness on the Edge of Town this week. Too much time maybe? What does that mean?

It’s an interesting question and, as it turns out, it doesn’t have meaning…at least not for me.

Last weekend, me and TheWife™ were out running our usual errands with Darkness playing on the car stereo. We were talking about how strange it was to hear the not-quite-finished versions of some of the songs. Just then the CD made it into “Something In The Night,” which contains my favorite moment on the album: it’s right after those last two lines — “And left us running burned and blind/Chasing something in the night” — when Bruce plays a short circular riff on a single chord before launching back into those tortured vocals. It has always given me the chills.

TheWife™ commented that it sounded like I had listened to the album quite a few times.

Yes, quite a few times. When it was first released, I listened at least once a day…for the first six months or so. Its “newness” never seemed to diminish. Part of that was that I was so young that the stories of those characters took a while to digest. That was a minor element next to the music itself, which was something of a departure from my usual diet of ham-fisted 70’s classic rock. Loud guitars had been the staple ingredient in my listening diet and yet here I found myself absorbing piano, glockenspiel, harmonica, and saxophone on top of the guitars.

At some point other albums found their way back in, but I never put Darkness away on the shelf. At least not long enough to collect much dust. It has been with me through many central Maine dorm room evenings, crazy drives on the Acadia Park Loop Road, hand-wringing family episodes, dissolutions of relationships (and arrivals of others), drunken porch parties in Cleveland, camping trips, listening sessions with friends, and many a late-night deep think. It’s my go-to record when I’m trying to figure out just what the hell I’m going to do when I grow up (which, it seems, most problems boil down to).

You might think that all of this leads to mere nostalgia (a concept that I can’t get behind, nostalgia never being “mere” in my book) but here’s where we return to the idea of spending too much time with an album. I say that it’s not possible. At some point the music becomes a part of you, blurring the line between self and art. You can’t let it go or walk away from it anymore than you can change your eye color.

So when I hear that guitar riff as “Something In The Night” comes to a close, the music (as it always does) combines with the person I am in the present, a person who at one time listened to that same part and thought, “What am I going to do?”

Thanks Bruce.

Mark Saleski

Mark Saleski is a writer and music obsessive based out of the woods of central New Hampshire. A past contributor to Jazz.com, Blogcritics.org and Salon, he writes several weekly features including the Friday Morning Listen, (Cross the) Heartland, WTF! Wednesday, and Sparks Fly on E Street. Follow him on Twitter: @msaleski. Contact Something Else! at reviews@somethingelsereviews.com.