The landscape of rock ‘n’ roll is littered with mythology, half-truths and career-defining moments. The lawsuit between Bruce Springsteen and manager Mike Appel, and the musician’s court-mandated exile from the recording studio fresh on the heels of his breakthrough Born to Run, sits somewhere near the top of that trash heap. Darkness on the Edge of Town is the record Springsteen would unleash after loosing his chains. Lawrence Kirsch’s The Light in Darkness documents that 1978 tour and is a love letter to (and from) The Boss’ fans.
The book is a compendium of images from these legendary shows, described by one fan as “the measure by which more than a few fans evaluate everything that came before and after.” It’s also a primer on the impact of live rock and roll and the force of nature that is Bruce Springsteen and The E Street Band.
The black and white photographs on the front and back cover sit alone, with no type or titles whatsoever, and they beautifully capture the starkness and intensity of this watershed moment in Springsteen’s career. Defiant and alone in a single stark spotlight, you get the sense that Bruce knew that everything he had worked for was now riding on this moment. And it is that passion, that all-or-nothing determination, and —yes— fun, that comes through so clearly in this wonderful collection of photos. Bruce looked great on this tour, noticeably more dapper than the tramp from the Born To Run days. I found the black and white photos really resonated with me and reinforced the Springsteen myth of this period particularly well. The interspersed vintage memorabilia such as posters and ticket stubs are a nice touch; it seems worlds away to recall those days when tickets were 8 bucks and you had to send in your requests by mail order and helplessly wait for the postman to deliver your fate.
The book follows an interesting and unusual format as well, with each stop on the tour accounted for, in order, and accompanied by photos and stories from fans that attended the shows. Reminiscences run the gamut from the poetic, to the life-affirming and life-changing, to the rabid members in the church of Springsteen we have all met, proselytizing about The Boss. Surprisingly, most fans even include their email addresses; now THAT’S a community. But most of all, they communicate, along with the pictures — that innocence, joy and sense of wonder when you discover great music can change your life. Flip through at your leisure, but do not skip them, because these stories are hugely important to the Springsteen narrative.
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