Springsteen comes of age

By KIT RACHLIS  |  November 14, 2006

Springsteen has constructed Darkness on the Edge of Town so tightly that at times it seems like a prison with Springsteen himself straining to break out. Every wail is a shout from his cell, every drumbeat the pounding against the walls. Each song is locked into place by cross-references, references to past songs and to other rock ‘n’ rollers (Dylan, the Byrds, Lou Reed, Martha and the Vandellas, Jackson Browne). Apparently what took the album so long to finish – it was started close to a year ago – was fitting the lyrics and shaping the songs to form a whole. Thirty songs were finally recorded and one of the 13 planned for this album, only one (“Something in the Night”) ended up on it. From all reports, Springsteen felt no hurry to finish the record and CBS made no attempts to push his schedule.

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So we figured that any cat at four o’clock in the morning dressed in white walking like there’s no rain with a saxophone was not to be messed with, was left to walk on by, right? So we huddled in this doorway. And we were sort of scared, you know, like we were a little scared. We didn’t want to get messed around or nothing. I said that’s all I need – come on home with $3.50 and a messed-up face tonight, right? We heard his footsteps comin’ closer. And they came closer and closer. They came even a little closer than that. And…and…and we figured now, we figured that this was no time to look like you’re scared. We figured that this guy’s comin’ along and we better act like, act like we were at least bad. So we’re gettin’ ready. And the cat came up and turned and faced off right in front of us. And we jumped back like this. The first thing we did was we threw all our money down. Threw all the damn money down. Right? Then, you know, like I didn’t know where the cat was at. He didn’t move. He didn’t do nothing. Just stood there. He had his saxophone. I took off my sneaker – wasn’t going to take no chances – I threw that down. Figured he might want to do that. I didn’t know. All he did was put out his hand. Me and Steve, man, we leaned back. We didn’t know what we got. We got a little closer. And when we touched it, it was like sparks flyin’ on E Street. -Introduction to "The E Street Shuffle"

Monday night. Security is tighter than I’ve ever seen it at the Music Hall. The uniformed off-duty police are doing their usual frisking; you have to show your ticket to two sets of doormen before you can get inside. Posted all over the inner and outer lobbies are signs announcing that the management reserves the right to bar anybody carrying a camera or tape recorder. With the album to be handed out to the press and radio at the end of Springsteen’s three-day stay and a fourth-generation bootleg having already been smuggled to several critics, hysteria has been running high in the Springsteen/CBS camp. The tight security just seems silly, for Springsteen crowds usually consist of rabid fans, but they also tend to be older than most rock audiences and I’ve never seen one do more than jump up and down or jam the aisles.

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