While “Born to Run” and “Born in the U.S.A.” have sold more copies, many die-hard Bruce Springsteen fans consider 1978’s “Darkness on the Edge of Town” to be his most important album.
This week, “Darkness” is getting the deluxe treatment, being reissued as a six-disc CD/DVD set featuring the original album, two CDs of outtakes (which are also available separately), live performances and a documentary.
amNewYork spoke with Christopher Phillips, editor of the leading Springsteen fan magazine Backstreets, about “Darkness.”
Why is this such an key album in Bruce’s career?
It marked a real shift in his writing after “Born to Run.” There was something to how stripped down and brutal the album was. It signaled where he was heading with his writing in terms of looking less at urban fantasies to singing about, as the album starts, “trouble in the heartland.”
What surprised you the most about the documentary depicting the album’s creation?
We’ve always known there’s a reason Bruce is called The Boss. Control freak might be too strong a word, but he has an artistic vision he’s trying to get out. The image of Bruce and the E Street Band has always been of this gang. It’s surprising that so much of the movie is Bruce alone trying to figure out how to make this thing work.
What’s interesting about the CDs of outtakes?
You get to see how many other genres Bruce was writing in at the time. The songs show other dimensions of Springsteen besides the starkness of “Darkness,” including what a great pop songwriter he is. It’s cool to hear how many different ways the record could have gone.
Is there a particular song that you think is important?
“The Promise” is a rare song where there’s not a lot of hope in it. In some ways, it’s a sequel to “Thunder Road.” “Thunder Road” is very hopeful, but this is one possible ending to that story.