The Paths Bruce Springsteen Didn’t Take For His Fiercely Introspective ‘Darkness On The Edge Of Town’

Senior Music Writer
05.31.18

Columbia

Listen To This Eddie is a weekly column that examines the important people and events in the classic rock canon and how they continue to impact the world of popular music.

After 1975, with the release of his breakthrough album Born To Run, you’d think Bruce Springsteen would be over-the-moon thrilled with his commercial prospects and the trajectory of his career. He wasn’t. He was quite the opposite in fact. Celebrating the album’s 40th anniversary, let’s take a look back at what exactly was going on in Springsteen’s life at the time. A battle with his one-time manager Mike Appel, along with a run in with Uncle Sam over some back-due taxes had left him feeling disillusioned and despondent. For the longest time, he couldn’t even enter a recording studio because of his legal dispute with Appel, and so song ideas piled up, with nowhere to go.

Finally, in the autumn of 1977, Springsteen’s lawyers and Appel’s lawyers came to an agreement. Just a week later, finally unshackled, “The Boss” and the E Street Band hit Atlantic Studios in New York City, and got started on a nine-month odyssey of creating their next album, the mournful, confused, and contemplative Darkness On The Edge Of Town.

“By 1977, in true American fashion, I’d escaped the shackles of birth, personal history and, finally, place, but something wasn’t right,” he wrote in his memoir. “Rather than exhilaration, I felt unease. I sensed there was a great difference between unfettered personal license and real freedom.” Freedom had been the central thesis of his ebullient last record. Darkness was about reckoning with the costs that came from busting out. It’s a record where youthful exuberance meets the harsh realities of real adulthood.

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