In 2007, when we celebrated the 40th anniversary of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, a few writers noted that while it’s respected as the greatest Beatles album, Sgt. Pepper is not as beloved by fans as some others, such as the White Album or Abbey Road. It seems to me that Bruce Springsteen’s in a similar boat. Born to Run is respected as a landmark, the breakthrough hit by a major artist, the record that got him on the covers of Time and Newsweek simultaneously—but Darkness on the Edge of Town inspires true love among fans. Now there’s a document of that love: Photographer Lawrence Kirsch collected fan stories, photographs (taken by fans and his own work), and memorabilia for The Light In Darkness, a book celebrating the album and the tour surrounding it.
In an e-mail, Kirsch told me, “Having attended so many Springsteen concerts since 1975, I kept meeting fans that all had this incredible sense of shared community. Whether I met them in person, at concerts, through written correspondence or later via e-mails, we all had the same thing in common, this undeniable love and appreciation of Bruce Springsteen’s music. What I thought was missing was a touchstone that fans could contribute to, call their own, and ultimately turn to understand that they were not alone in their passion for this great songwriter and human being. The cliché I read many times is ‘For the fans, by the fans.’ But is there a more qualified fan base to write about their hero? Since the very beginning, Bruce’s personal interaction with his fans is legendary, both during his concerts and his down time, when he walks the streets as a normal citizen of where ever he may be.”
The stories written by fans, a few bloggers, and some critics include “I was there” tales of particular nights on the road, focusing on some of Springsteen’s most famous shows on the Darkness tour, such as the Agora Club in Cleveland and the Roxy in Los Angeles. Fan-submitted pieces also offer perspectives on the album 30-plus years after its release, some written by fans who hadn’t been born when it came out. (One of the contributors is Dave Lifton of Popdose, who reviewed the book when it first appeared.) The memorabilia—ticket stubs, concert posters, newspaper ads and clippings—offers an evocative look back at the way rock used to be. (A Springsteen show for $6.50? Count me in.) The photographs are gorgeous, capturing Springsteen and his bandmates at a time when they—and we—were young and had the whole world in front of them to conquer.
The Light in Darkness is a limited edition paperback volume, available only online. If you snapped up The Promise, the box set devoted to the Darkness album, you’ll probably dig this book too. To read more about it and get your copy, click here. Order it by the end of this coming weekend and save on the shipping.
Here’s “Prove It All Night” from the Agora show, broadcast live on the radio on August 9, 1978. Lifton calls it “The Night Rock Achieved Perfection.”