Darkness On the Edge of Town
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Darkness On the Edge of Town
Darkness on the Edge of Town
Studio album by
ReleasedJune 2, 1978
RecordedJune 1, 1977 - March 10, 1978
StudioAtlantic Studios and The Record Plant, New York, NY
GenreHard rock, rock, heartland rock
ProducerBruce Springsteen, Jon Landau, Steven Van Zandt (assistant)
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 on June 2, 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]

Reviews for Darkness on the Edge of Town were overwhelmingly positive. Critics notably praised the maturity of the album's themes and lyrics.[2][3] It remains one of Springsteen's most highly regarded records by both fans and critics and several of its songs have become staples of Springsteen's live performances.[4][5] In 2003, it ranked at No. 151 on Rolling Stones list of the 500 greatest albums of all time.

Recording and production

Recovering from legal troubles and the stress of the breakthrough success of Born to Run, Springsteen recorded a somewhat less commercial album in Darkness on the Edge of Town.[6] As with 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.[6] Unlike Born to Run, the songs were recorded by the full band at once, frequently soon after Springsteen had written them.[6]Steven Van Zandt received a credit for production assistance for helping Springsteen tighten the arrangements.

During the Darkness sessions, Springsteen wrote or recorded many songs that he ended up not using on the album. Keeping the album's thematic feel was very important to him, and the songs piled up because the sessions continued for almost a year. An album concept named "Badlands" was prepared in October 1977, complete with album covers, but was rejected at the last minute by Springsteen, because he was not comfortable with the release, and wanted to continue recording. Sessions finally concluded in January, but mixing continued three additional months. According to Jimmy Iovine, Springsteen wrote at least 70 songs during this period, and 52 of those songs recorded were complete, with 18 not fully completed.[7] 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; and two tracks for Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes, "Hearts Of Stone" and "Talk To Me". Other songs such as "Independence Day", "Drive All Night", "Ramrod", 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 titled Tracks and The Promise.[8]


The cover shot and inner sleeve photo were taken by photographer Frank Stefanko inside Stefanko's Haddonfield, New Jersey, home.[9] 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."[10]

Release and reception

Darkness on the Edge of Town was released on June 2, 1978. According to pop culture scholar Gillian G. Gaar, the album "wasn't quite the smash that Born to Run had been, but it fared well enough on the charts, reaching No. 5 [on the Billboard 200] and selling more than three million copies. The album's singles were only modest hits ('Prove It All Night' reached the Top 40, peaking at No. 33, and 'Badlands' climbed to No. 42)."[11] The album remained on the charts for 97 weeks[1] and was certified triple Platinum by the RIAA.[12]

Reviewing in 1978 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 connected the characters and themes in a subtle yet cohesive manner. Marsh remarked that the subject matter of the songs fulfilled the hype that previously surrounded Springsteen: "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."[13]Robert Christgau was less enthusiastic in The Village Voice. He found Springsteen's narratives versatile and the characters remarkable on "Badlands", "Adam Raised a Cain", and "Promised Land", writing that they showcased "how a limited genre can illuminate a mature, full-bodied philosophical insight". He deemed other songs, particularly "Streets of Fire" and "Something in the Night", more impressionistic and overblown, revealing Springsteen to be either "an important minor artist or a very flawed and inconsistent major one".[14] In the UK, the album was ranked at No. 1 among the "Albums of the Year" for 1978 by NME.[15]

Reappraisal and legacy

In retrospective appraisals, Darkness on the Edge of Town has been noted for exploring "hard truths in hard rock settings". According to an essay by Springsteen scholars Kenneth Womack and Eileen Chapman revisiting the album, "Springsteen drives away from the beach and boardwalk and into the ethos of the American heartland" while influenced by punk rock and country music.[26]AllMusic's 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.[16] According to music journalist Joe Marchese, "Darkness showed that one could marry hard rock with piano and saxophone",[27] while writer Rob Kirkpatrick regarded it as "the album in which Springsteen leaves R&B behind and plants himself firmly in the world of hard rock, seventies style."[28] For Steven Hyden, it is "the first, best example of Springsteen juxtaposing rousing rock music with miniaturist, miserablist, Middle American storytelling".[29]

According to Trevor J. Levin and Edward M. Litwin of The Harvard Crimson, Darkness on the Edge of Town "perfected the heartland rock genre" that Born to Run had created--"a genre meant to embrace working class American life through its depiction of such a life as joyless and cursed."[30] In regards to "Candy's Room", Michael Hann from The Quietus said, "in the subject of the narrator's affections - a prostitute - there's punk's dalliance with transgression brought into heartland rock, but with a tenderness and adoration that punk would have struggled with".[31]

Darkness on the Edge of Town has frequently appeared on rankings of the greatest albums of all-time. According to Acclaimed Music, it is the 114th most frequently ranked record on critics' all-time lists.[20] In the opinion of Pitchforks Mark Richardson, it "ranks with rock's classic albums".[22] In 1987, a panel of rock critics and music broadcasters were polled for Paul Gambaccini's The Top 100 Rock 'n' Roll Albums of All Time, voting Darkness the 59th best rock album.[32] In 2003, it was ranked at number 151 on Rolling Stones list of the 500 greatest albums of all time, maintaining the rating in a 2012 revised list.[33] An accompanying essay said it is the E Street Band's best performance, "colored by the raw sound happening at the time".[34] Ten years later, the album was ranked 109th on a similar list by NME.[35]

Reissue box set

A reissue box set was released in November 2010.[36][37][38] 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.[39] 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."[40] 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 International Film Festival in the fall of 2010 and aired on HBO on October 7, 2010.[41] In the film's anticipation, and 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."[42]

Track listing

All tracks are written by Bruce Springsteen.

Side one
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
1."The Promised Land"4:33
3."Streets of Fire"4:09
4."Prove It All Night"3:56
5."Darkness on the Edge of Town"4:30

The Promise: The Darkness on the Edge of Town Story

A box set reissue entitled The Promise: The Darkness on the Edge of Town Story was released on November 16, 2010.[43] The 6-disc set includes 3 CDs and 3 DVD or Blu-ray discs. This contains a remastered version of the Darkness on the Edge of Town album, a new 2-CD album, The Promise, containing 22 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.[44][45] 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.[46]

The box set was in production for several years and was originally expected to be released for the 30th anniversary in 2008.[46] 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.[47][48] The box set won the 2012 Grammy Award for Best Boxed or Special Limited Edition Package.[49]

All tracks are written by Bruce Springsteen, except where noted.

The Promise additional track listing
Disc one
1."Racing in the Street" (Alternate lyrics and arrangement)6:50
2."Gotta Get That Feeling"3:19
3."Outside Looking In"2:18
4."Someday (We'll Be Together)"5:38
5."One Way Street"4:20
6."Because the Night" (writers: Patti Smith, Springsteen)3:25
7."Wrong Side of the Street"3:36
8."The Brokenhearted"5:19
10."Candy's Boy"4:39
Disc two
1."Save My Love"2:38
2."Ain't Good Enough for You"4:03
4."Spanish Eyes"3:50
5."It's a Shame"3:16
6."Come On (Let's Go Tonight)" (Early version of "Factory")2:20
7."Talk to Me"4:21
8."The Little Things (My Baby Does)"3:18
10."The Promise"5:54
11."City of Night"7:07


The E Street Band



Weekly charts

Year Chart Position
1978 U.S. Billboard Pop Albums[50] 5
1985 U.S. Billboard 200[51] 167
2010 U.S. Billboard 200 16


Year Single Chart Position
1978 "Prove It All Night" U.S. Billboard Pop Singles[52] 33
1978 "Badlands" U.S. Billboard Pop Singles[52] 42


Region Certification Certified units/sales
Canada (Music Canada)[53] Platinum 100,000^
Netherlands (NVPI)[54] Gold 50,000^
United Kingdom (BPI)[55] Gold 100,000^
United States (RIAA)[56] 3× Platinum 3,000,000^

^shipments figures based on certification alone


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  54. ^ "Dutch album certifications - Bruce Springsteen - Darkness on the Edge of Town" (in Dutch). Nederlandse Vereniging van Producenten en Importeurs van beeld- en geluidsdragers.Enter Darkness on the Edge of Town in the "Artiest of titel" box.
  55. ^ "British album certifications - Bruce Springsteen - Darkness on the Edge of Town". British Phonographic Industry.Select albums in the Format field. Select Gold in the Certification field. Type Darkness on the Edge of Town in the "Search BPI Awards" field and then press Enter.
  56. ^ "American album certifications - Bruce Springsteen - Darkness on the Edge of Town". Recording Industry Association of America.If necessary, click Advanced, then click Format, then select Album, then click SEARCH.

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