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Darkness on the Edge of Town

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Title: Darkness on the Edge of Town  
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Subject: Bruce Springsteen, Darkness Tour, The River (Bruce Springsteen album), Steven Van Zandt, Clarence Clemons
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Darkness on the Edge of Town

Darkness on the Edge of Town
Studio album by Bruce Springsteen
Released June 2, 1978
Recorded October 12, 1977 – March 19, 1978
Record Plant Studios
(New York)
Genre Hard rock, rock and roll
Length 42:55
Label Columbia
Producer Bruce Springsteen, Jon Landau, (Assistance:) Steven Van Zandt
Bruce Springsteen chronology
Born to Run
Darkness on the Edge of Town
The River
Singles from Darkness on the Edge of Town
  1. "Prove It All Night"
    Released: May 23, 1978
  2. "Badlands"
    Released: August 1978
  3. "The Promised Land"
    Released: October 1978

Darkness on the Edge of Town is the fourth studio album by Bruce Springsteen, released in the late spring of 1978. The album marked the end of a three-year gap between albums brought on by contractual obligations and legal battling with former manager Mike Appel.[1] Although the album did not produce high-charting singles it nevertheless remained on the charts for 97 weeks.[1] A steady seller in Springsteen's catalogue, it has been certified triple-platinum by the RIAA.[2]

Although slightly less enthusiastic than those for Springsteen's previous album Born to Run, reviews for Darkness on the Edge of Town were unanimously positive. Critics notably praised the maturity of the album's themes and lyrics.[3][4] It remains one of Springsteen's most highly regarded records by both fans and critics and several of its songs have become staples of the singer's live performances.[5][6]

In September 2010 a documentary film chronicling the making of Darkness was first shown at the Toronto International Film Festival. Quoting Springsteen as saying “More than rich, more than famous, more than happy – I wanted to be great”, reviewer Stephen Whitty of the Newark Star-Ledger commented: "For many fans, that long journey pulled onto the Turnpike here."[7] In 2003, Rolling Stone Magazine ranked it at 151 on their list of the greatest albums of all time.


  • Background 1
  • Critical reception 2
  • The Promise: The Darkness on the Edge of Town Story box set 3
  • Track listing 4
  • Unreleased outtakes 5
  • Personnel 6
    • The E Street Band 6.1
    • Production 6.2
  • Chart positions 7
    • Album 7.1
    • Singles 7.2
  • References 8
  • External links 9


Recovering from legal troubles and the stress of the breakthrough success of Born to Run, Springsteen released a somewhat less commercial album in Darkness on the Edge of Town.[8] In terms of the original LP's sequencing, Springsteen continued his "four corners" approach from Born to Run, as the songs beginning each side ("Badlands" and "The Promised Land") were martial rallying cries to overcome circumstances, while the songs ending each side ("Racing in the Street", "Darkness on the Edge of Town") were sad dirges of circumstances overcoming all hope.[8] Unlike Born to Run, the songs were recorded by the full band at once, frequently soon after Springsteen had written them.[8] Steven Van Zandt received a credit for production assistance for helping Springsteen tighten the arrangements from Born to Run's epic sound.[8]

Though the album failed to generate any substantial hit singles ("Prove It All Night" made it into the Top 40 in the U.S. at number 33, and follow-up "Badlands" just missed, peaking at number 42), Darkness was critically well-received and claimed the number one slot on NME album of the year.[9] In 2003, the album was ranked number 151 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 500 greatest albums of all time.[10] The cover shot and inner sleeve photo were taken by photographer Frank Stefanko inside Stefanko's Haddonfield, New Jersey, home.[11] Springsteen says, "When I saw the picture I said, 'That's the guy in the songs.' I wanted the part of me that's still that guy to be on the cover. Frank stripped away all your celebrity and left you with your essence. That's what that record was about." [12]

A reissue box set was released in November 2010.[13][14][15] This had initially been planned for 2008, to mark the 30th anniversary of the original album's release, but was delayed, presumably due to Springsteen's numerous other 2008 projects.[16] By January 2009, Springsteen's manager, Jon Landau, was saying the project was still in the works: "When we can find six weeks to sit down and finish it I'm sure we will."[17] A documentary entitled "The Promise: The Making of Darkness on the Edge of Town" was produced for the box set. The documentary premiered at the Toronto Film Festival in the fall of 2010 and aired on HBO on October 7, 2010.[18]

During the Darkness sessions, Springsteen wrote or recorded many songs that he ended up not using on the album. This was to keep the album's thematic feel intact, even at the expense of not having hits on it.[19] According to Jimmy Iovine, Springsteen wrote at least 70 songs during the sessions and 52 of those songs were recorded with some not fully completed.[20]

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 three songs for the Asbury Jukes' Hearts of Stone album).[21] 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 compilations Tracks, 18 Tracks and The Promise.[21]

Critical reception

Professional ratings
Retrospective reviews
Review scores
Source Rating
AbsolutePunk [22]
AllMusic [23]
Chicago Tribune [24]
Christgau's Record Guide B+[25]
Pitchfork Media 9.5/10[26]
Q [27]
Rolling Stone [28]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide [29]

In a contemporary review for Rolling Stone, Dave Marsh viewed Darkness on the Edge of Town as a landmark record in rock and roll because of the clarity of its production, Springsteen's unique guitar playing, and the programming, which he said connects the characters and themes in a subtle, but cohesive manner. Marsh remarked that the subject matter of the songs fulfills the hype that previously surrounded him: "What they've always said 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."[30] Robert Christgau gave the album an "A–" in a less enthusiastic review for The Village Voice and wrote that Springsteen's versatile narratives and remarkable characters on "Badlands", "Adam Raised a Cain", and "Promised Land" showcase "how a limited genre can illuminate a mature, full-bodied philosophical insight". However, he felt that more impressionistic, overblown songs such as "Streets of Fire" and "Something in the Night" reveal Springsteen to be "an important minor artist or a very flawed and inconsistent major one".[31]

In a retrospective review for AllMusic, William Ruhlmann said that Springsteen began to fully realize his characters as working class on Darkness on the Edge of Town, whose "hard truths in hard rock settings" made for a less accessible work than Born to Run.[23] Rolling Stone later wrote that the album was the E Street Band's best performance and reflected the unrefined sound popular at the time.[28]

The Promise: The Darkness on the Edge of Town Story box set

A box set reissue, entitled The Promise: The Darkness on the Edge of Town Story, was released on November 16, 2010.[32] The six-disc set includes three CDs and three DVD or Blu-ray discs. This contains a remastered version of the Darkness on the Edge of Town album, a new two-CD album, The Promise containing 21 previously unreleased outtakes from the Darkness sessions, a documentary titled The Promise: The Making of Darkness on the Edge of Town and 2 DVDs of live performances.[33][34] The deluxe box set contains an 80-page spiral-bound reproduction of Springsteen’s original notebooks documenting the recording sessions for the album, containing alternate lyrics, song ideas, recording details and personal notes.[35]

The box set was in production for several years, and was originally expected to be released for the 30th anniversary in 2008.[35] On August 4, 2010 it was announced that Springsteen was putting the finishing touches to the box set. The documentary received its première on September 14, 2010 at the Toronto International Film Festival.[36][37] The box set was nominated for, and won, a 2012 Grammy Award for Best Boxed or Special Limited Edition Package.[38]

Track listing

All songs written by Bruce Springsteen.

Side one
No. Title Length
1. "Badlands"   4:03
2. "Adam Raised a Cain"   4:32
3. "Something in the Night"   5:11
4. "Candy's Room"   2:51
5. "Racing in the Street"   6:53
Side two
No. Title Length
1. "The Promised Land"   4:33
2. "Factory"   2:17
3. "Streets of Fire"   4:09
4. "Prove It All Night"   3:56
5. "Darkness on the Edge of Town"   4:30

Unreleased outtakes

Springsteen wrote and recorded over 40 songs during the Darkness sessions. "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. Some of songs recorded during these sessions would end up on his next The River however there still remains at least 16 songs that are still locked in the vaults, many of which have never even been released through the many circulating bootlegs.[39]

  • "Preacher's Daughter"
  • "I'm Goin' Back"
  • "Break Out"
  • Crazy Rocker"
  • "Down by the River"
  • "Don't Say No"
  • "The Fast Song"
  • "Castaway"
  • "Our Love Will Last Forever"
  • "Cheap Thrills"
  • "Triangle Song"
  • "I Got My Eye on You"
  • "After Dinner"
  • "King's Big Chance"
  • "Blue Moon"
  • "(I Love) Everything About You"


The E Street Band


Chart positions


Year Chart Position
1978 U.S. Billboard Pop Albums 5
1985 U.S. Billboard 200 167
2010 U.S. Billboard 200 16


Year Single Chart Position
1978 "Prove It All Night" U.S. Billboard Pop Singles 33
1978 "Badlands" U.S. Billboard Pop Singles 42


  1. ^ a b Clarke, Donald. "Bruce Springsteen". Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music. Retrieved 26 September 2010. 
  2. ^ "Gold & Platinum Searchable Database – February 20, 2014". RIAA. Retrieved 2014-02-21. 
  3. ^ Dave Marsh (1978-07-27). "Darkness On The Edge of Town | Album Reviews". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2014-02-21. 
  4. ^ "Album: Bruce Springsteen: Darkness on the Edge of Town". Robert Christgau. Retrieved 2014-02-21. 
  5. ^ Mendelsohn, Jason. "'"Counterbalance No. 112: Bruce Springsteen's 'Darkness on the Edge of Town. PopMatters. Retrieved 2014-02-21. 
  6. ^ Bowling, David (2008-11-05). "Music Review: Bruce Springsteen – Darkness On The Edge Of Town". Blogcritics. Retrieved 2014-02-21. 
  7. ^ Whitty, Stephen (September 13, 2010). "'"Toronto Film Festival Day Four: Bruce Springsteen's 'Promise. Newark Star-Ledger. Retrieved 26 September 2010. 
  8. ^ a b c d  
  9. ^ "Albums and Tracks of the Year for 1978". Nme.Com. Retrieved 2014-02-21. 
  10. ^ Levy, Joe; Steven Van Zandt (2006) [2005]. "151 | Darkness on the Edge of Town – Bruce Springsteen".  
  11. ^ Varga, George (June 12, 2005). Frank Stefanko' an Exhibit that the Boss is sure to like"'". UNION-TRIBUNE Pop Music Critic. The San Diego Union-Tribune, LLC. Retrieved 8 September 2010. 
  12. ^ "Bruce Springsteen Credits 'Darkness' Photographer For Capturing Album's Spirit". KSHE 95. 2010-09-30. Retrieved 2012-04-18. 
  13. ^ "Springsteen News". Retrieved 2012-01-10. 
  14. ^ Andy Greene (2010-06-29). "Darkness' Reissue To Include Unheard Springsteen Tunes | Music News". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2012-01-10. 
  15. ^ "Consequence of Sound". Consequence of Sound. Retrieved 2012-01-10. 
  16. ^ "Springsteen News Archive Jan 2009". Retrieved 2012-01-10. 
  17. ^ "Information Not Found". Retrieved 2012-01-10. 
  18. ^ Zimny, Thom (2009). "The Promise: The Making of Darkness on the Edge of Town". Thrill Hill Productions. Retrieved 8 September 2010. 
  19. ^ "Darkness on the Edge of Town". 1978-06-02. Retrieved 2014-02-21. 
  20. ^ "Read Jimmy Iovine's USC Commencement Speech (Video)". 2013-05-19. Retrieved 2014-02-21. 
  21. ^ a b Thom Jurek (2010-11-16). "The Promise – Bruce Springsteen | Songs, Reviews, Credits, Awards". AllMusic. Retrieved 2014-02-21. 
  22. ^ "Bruce Springsteen – Darkness On The Edge Of Town – Album Review". Retrieved 21 February 2014. 
  23. ^ a b Ruhlmann, William. Darkness on the Edge of Town at AllMusic. Retrieved 8 July 2004.
  24. ^  
  25. ^ Christgau, Robert (1981). Christgau's Record Guide: Rock Albums of the '70s.  
  26. ^ Pitchfork Media review
  27. ^ Williams, Richard (December 1989). "All or Nothing: The Springsteen back catalogue".  
  28. ^ a b  
  29. ^  
  30. ^  
  31. ^  
  32. ^ Darkness Box News
  33. ^ "Columbia Records to release Bruce Springsteen's 'The Promise: The Darkness on the Edge of Town Story' Nov. 16". Retrieved 2010-09-07. 
  34. ^ "Springsteen Announces Massive 'Darkness' Set". Rolling Stone. 2010-08-26. Retrieved 2010-09-07. 
  35. ^ a b "Bruce Springsteen to Release Darkness on the Edge of Town CD/DVD Box Set | News". Pitchfork. 2010-08-26. Retrieved 2014-02-21. 
  36. ^ "Springsteen Debuts 'Darkness' Documentary". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2010-08-04. 
  37. ^ Friedman, Roger (September 15, 2010). """Springsteen’s Big Night in Toronto Has Lots of "Promise.  
  38. ^ Haines, Anne (2011-12-01). "Another Grammy nomination for Springsteen | Blogness on the Edge of Town Massachusetts". Retrieved 2014-02-21. 
  39. ^

External links

  • Album lyrics and audio samples
  • Release history at Discogs
  • HitParade: Album Charting
  • Darkness on the Edge of Town at
  • Limited edition book collecting stories and photos from hundreds of fans. The Light in Darkness celebrates this classic recordThe Light in Darkness:
  • The Promise: The Making of Darkness on the Edge of Town at the Internet Movie Database
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