In 1978 Bruce Springsteen was mid-way on his journey from rock ’n’ roll saviour – courtesy of Jon Landau’s hyperbolic review of a 1974 Springsteen concert – and his coronation in the 1980s as America’s rock ’n’ roll poet laureate.
In 1978 Bruce Springsteen was mid-way on his journey from rock ’n’ roll saviour – courtesy of Jon Landau’s hyperbolic review of a 1974 Springsteen concert – and his coronation in the 1980s as America’s rock ’n’ roll poet laureate. With Born To Run, released in 1975, Springsteen took the spirit of rock ’n’ roll into the American rustbelt and offered a glimmer of hope for the American dream lost under the weight of Watergate and Vietnam; three years later, Springsteen took a different turn with the more sombre and reflective Darkness On The Edge Of Town.
As Springsteen explains in the liner notes to The Promise, the double-disc (or, for the vinyl junkies, three LP) collection of outtakes from the Darkness sessions, Springsteen and his E Street Band had enough material for four albums, of which only one – Darkness On The Edge Of Town – ever saw the light of day.
Over 30 years later, and Springsteen has decided to release the lost Darkness… tracks. The common theme of all the tracks featured is Springsteen’s ability to capture the harsh reality of American working life: the rich lyrical descriptions of Racing In The Street (’78) and Wrong Side Of The Street achieve for mid-west culture what Drive By Truckers subsequently did for the perennially misunderstood south. Gotta Get That Feeling is the prototypical Springsteen pop track while Someday (We’ll Be Together) and One Way Street are so heavy they’d warrant a fine at the closest weighbridge. Because The Night, made famous around the time after Patti Smith’s cover, gets its original Springsteen treatment and Rendezvous picks up where Rosalita left off.
The second disc is just as splendid: Ain’t Good Enough For You is a country dance-friendly pop track replete with E Street-meets-Four Tops harmonising, Fire could be the prototype for
Springsteen’s later I’m On Fire, while It’s A Shame heads south to the two-bit sleazy dives below the Mason-Dixon line and has a fine ol’ time and Come On (Let’s Go Tonight) does exactly that. Talk To Me offers more of Springsteen’s revivalist lush rock ’n’ roll romance, while on Breakaway and The Promise Springsteen narrates vivid tales of escapism and cultural frustration.
There’s plenty of irony in Ronald Reagan’s ill-conceived celebration of Bruce Springsteen in the mid-1980s: the same working people with whom Springsteen formed a natural empathy saw within Reagan’s clumsy patriotic rhetoric America’s return to its idealistic and prosperous roots. Reagan lost whatever plot he’d ever had; Springsteen never failed to fulfil his original promise.