Friday, August 19, 2005

Friday Song(s)

Yeah, I know, we haven't had one of these in awhile. And I'm going to fudge it by not picking a song but a whole album (or "CD" for you kids out there), and it's one of my all-time favorites: Darkness on the Edge of Town, Springsteen's 1978 release. I've detailed the circumstances around this release elsewhere, but not so much the songs. For, let's see, 27 years, I've turned to this album when I'm feeling bleak (and, yes, I think of it as an "album" because, in these moments, I tend to play it straight through in the original order, a concept that's lost in these iPod shuffle days, but that is important with older works--can you say "Dark Side of the Moon"?--because some artists thought about the order of the songs, at least on some of their works). Imagine becoming successful--simultaneous-cover-of-Newsweek-and-cover-of-Time-successful, anyway--and then not being able to do the work at which you had become successful, and, finally, getting to do that work again. That's the background.

One reason these songs resonate with me is that the person whose voice we're hearing has faced, and is facing, knowledge of despair, duplicity, and hardship of various sorts. Nevertheless, the person is taking a stand--to futile ends, perhaps, but with the thought that one can either take a stand, or not, and he prefers the former. I realize it's Martin-Luther-esque in a 95-theses kind of way ("Here I stand--I can do no other"), but what other choices do we have? Starting a new path may be difficult, but continuing down a path that is unrewarding and unfulfilling (and isn't working, in some sense of that) is insanity. Sometimes you really do have to say, "What the fuck."

The downside to "Darkness," though, is that a few of the songs (notably "Promised Land" and "Badlands") have become anthemic hits, such that, when played in concert, they are massive sing-alongs. There's something to be said for that, in some ways, but I have some bootleg recordings from 1978, 1980, around then, and I like those versions MUCH better. They're faster, for one thing, in part because Bruce and the band aren't waiting for the audience to catch up--which means the performances have more energy, they're more dynamic, they're closer to the original interpretation of the songs.

So I think I'll find some time to listen to "Darkness" this weekend. But first: beer.

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