Bruce Springsteen's Darkness on the Edge of Town


Ryan Palko `14

The Boss’s 4th studio album, Darkness on the Edge of Town, was released in 1978. This album is pivotal in defining Springsteen’s image. The image that runs throughout this work and subsequent works connects with his values and upbringing. The characteristics of simple, Catholic, blue-collar, and Philadelphian define the image and give the album its tone. These characteristics allow Springsteen to define himself as a middle-class laborer busting his can to support the family.  Through this image, Springsteen connects with the audience, specifically with the working class at the time. He communicates these values through a maturing vocal tone.darkness-cover

Springsteen establishes his unique sound through a combination of piano, sax and guitar, all of which are layered with his “average man’s” voice. This layering is unique and gets right to the heart of what he’s singing. The reason it is effective is that it blends the `50s big bands with the `60s rock n’ roll. This new sound has produced legendary tracks.  The tracks that I have connected with are “Factory”, “Streets of Fire”, “Badlands”, “Promised Land”, “Prove it All Night” and “Racing in the Streets.” Yes, the songs listed here make up half of the album.

The songs outlined all have a common theme stemming from Springsteen’s heritage and values. This music is centered on cars, factories and high school sweethearts. These topics defined the times. After high school, many students did not go to college, but rather got a job in the mills.  It is only fitting that Springsteen’s own blue-collar upbringing would allow him to communicate these values. The song “Factory” is a testament to not only his life but also to the times. The imagery of “his daddy walking into the rain at the factory” shows the hard-working attitude of laborers. The laborers work hard everyday, rain or shine. Also, the repetition of the word factory symbolizes the controlling nature of the “working life.” This imagery and repetition are political statements about the times. Since this album was produced in the late `70s the themes show the commonly held beliefs. Therefore, based on the criteria for grading an album I gave it a score of 27/40. This lower ranking is nothing to scoff at. When grading this album, it is in comparison to the artist’s other works and the rest of the music community. Therefore, it is still an outstanding album and I highly recommend it.