Yesterday National Public Radio’s “Fresh Air” devoted the show to Springsteen’s Darkness on the Edge of Town. The show features a Springsteen interview with actor Ed Norton done last month at the Toronto Film Festival. (Thanks to Paul Harvey for calling this to my attention).
Springsteen roots Darkness in the the culture of the 1970s–the end of the Vietnam War, the Carter recession, and the rise of punk rock.
I was particular moved by Springsteen’s references to the provincialism of working class New Jersey in the 1970s and his connection to Asbury Park. “New York was a mile away,” he says. How true. I grew up about thirty miles outside New York City, but could probably count on two hands how many times I went into the city as a kid (we went to Shea Stadium, but that was in Queens, and we usually drove through the Bronx to get there).
There is a “Way of Improvement Leads Home” quality to this interview. Springsteen talks about how his success pulled him out of the provincial world of New Jersey working class boardwalk culture and made him a cosmopolitan celebrity.
Here is a taste:
On Darkness In Music
“Some of the greatest blues music is some of the darkest music you’ve ever heard. And I had maps. Obviously, Dylan had come when I was 15, and obviously I listened to his music first, and his music contained a lot — I used to say when I heard ‘Highway 61,’ I was hearing the first true picture of how I felt and how my country felt. And that was exhilarating. Because I think 1960s small-town America was very Lynchian. Everything was there, but underneath, everything was rumbling. … I think what Dylan did, was he took all that dark stuff that was rumbling underneath, and I think he pushed it to the surface with irony and humor, but also tremendous courage to go places where people hadn’t gone previously. So when I heard that, I knew I liked that, and I was very ambitious, also.
On The Timing Of Darkness’ Release
“I think Darkness came out of a place where I was afraid of losing myself. I had the first taste of success [with Born to Run], so you realize it’s possible for your talent to be co-opted and for your identity to be moved and shifted in ways that you may not have been prepared for. I was the only person I’d ever met who had a record contract. None of the E Street Band, as far as I know, had been on an airplane until Columbia sent us to Los Angeles. … It was a smaller, smaller world. And we were provincial guys with no money. So there was this whole little street life in Asbury Park, and New York was a million miles away. Localism, as a movement, hadn’t occurred yet in music. So there was nobody saying, ‘I need to see what those bands in New Jersey are doing.’ It was a very different time. But the good part about it was you were very, very connected to place and you had a real sense of place. And it was unique, the place where you lived and where you grew up.”
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