"Darkness on the Edge of Town" as written by and Bruce Springsteen....
Well they're still racing out at the trestles
But that blood it never burned in her veins
Now I hear she's got a house up in Fairview
And a style she's trying to maintain

Well if she wants to see me
You can tell her that I'm easily found
Tell her there's a spot out `neath Abraham's bridge, tell her
There's a darkness on the edge of town
There's a darkness on the edge of town

Well everybody's got a secret, son
Something that they just can't face
Some folks spend their whole lives trying to keep it
They carry it with them every step that they take

'Til some day they just cut it loose
Cut it loose or let it drag 'em down
Where no one asks any questions
Or looks too long in your face
In the darkness on the edge of town
In the darkness on the edge of town

Some folks are born into a good life
And other folks get it anyway anyhow
Yeah and I lost my money and I lost my wife
Them things don't seem to matter much to me now

Tonight I'll be on that hill `cause I can't stop
I'll be on that hill with everything I got
With our lives on the line where dreams are found and lost
I'll be there on time and I'll pay the cost
For wanting things that can only be found
In the darkness on the edge of town
In the darkness on the edge of town


Lyrics submitted by oofus

"Darkness on the Edge of Town" as written by Bruce Springsteen

Lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Universal Music Publishing Group, Downtown Music Publishing

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Darkness on the Edge of Town song meanings
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  • +4
    General CommentWow! Its really neat to see how many ways people interpret this song. I think that is one of the marks of a great songwriter. A song can mean different things to different people and it just kinda depends on where you're at...or maybe where you've been.

    I have a take on the phrase "darkness on the edge of town" that is a bit different from what i've so far read. "darkness on the edge of town" (doteot) symbolizes the sense that we all have about our selves. It is that sense that we were meant for greater things. Or maybe that we were meant to live a life for what we are passionate about and not just take the safe and easy way of life, the normal 9-5 suburbia lives that we complacently accept.

    He is singing about the guy from Racing in the Streets. Sure he loved his wife, but he loved racing cars too. That was his passion. His wife didn't share that passion (But that blood it never burned in her veins) and he couldn't live a married life and give up racing. So for this character, he chose a life doing what he was passionate about instead of taking the path of least resistance. I think it was Thoreau who said that most men lead lives of quiet desperation. Thats because they choose to avoid the doteot. The secret that we carry with us, it think that he is not talking about a secret in the terms of only being a secret that we keep hidden and we hope no one will find out. I think of it a side of ourselves that we don't let others see. It is the thing that we are passionate about and we would live our lives for if we weren't so scared. Its our dream. Its what we dream we are all about. We are scared to let it go and we're scared to let it out. Till one day, we either give up on our dream or we live our whole lives never being satisfied with anything because nothing we ever do could measure up to our dream. (They carry it with them every step that they take Till some day they just cut it loose Cut it loose or let it drag 'em down)

    When we realize I will be dragged down by this dream if I don't face it, then we realize that we will only drag down the people around us as well. This character came to that understanding and has no regrets about his choice. He sees that his ex-wife is still trying to maintain the image of having the good life.

    I think the hill is a place where he goes to find himself. A place to pray perhaps or meditate or just do the soul searching that needs to be done. He's lost some things that were important to him and he has taken a leap of faith and realizes that he has to give it all he's got. To go the direction he is going was not a decision he made lightly and he has already paid the cost. But thats the price you pay if you are going to find things outside of the life you are born into.
    javabeansoupon December 19, 2010   Link
  • +4
    General CommentThe Darkness on the edge of town is the hinterland where the true artist and seeker thrives, away from the comforts of suburbia and the values of the bourgeois life style. It’s where a person can feel more alive and in touch with reality. It is the option any one of us can take if we are prepared to ‘pay the cost’ i.e. lose those material, mind numbing comforts. The only bitterness he may feel is not one of comparing his lot (or material wellbeing) against that of his erstwhile wife who is living in Fairview but that she couldn’t see what he could in living a life on the ‘edge’ of society; ‘that blood it never burnt in her veins’. Some of you would benefit from reading Colin Wilson’s Outsider then this whole album would truly come alive for you; but then again if the ‘blood doesn’t burn in your veins’ you wouldn’t ‘get’ that either.
    Melchizedekon December 15, 2011   Link
  • +3
    General CommentIts no coincidence that this song ended side two, just as Racing in the Street ended side one. This song is a continuation of Racing In the Street, just a little further on down the road.

    They're still racing out at the Trestles
    But that blood it never burned in her veins

    ***In Racing, same girl

    When I come home the house is dark
    She sighs "Baby did you make it all right"

    Now I hear she's got a house up in Fairview
    And a style she's trying to maintain

    ***She has since left him for the promise of a better life with a more established man.

    Well if she wants to see me
    You can tell her that I'm easily found
    Tell her there's a spot out 'neath Abram's Bridge
    And tell her there's a darkness on the edge of town

    *** I always took Abrams Bridge to be a spot where guys would meet up to duel in their race cars, as in "Brothers Under the Bridges 85"

    "'Neath the trestless drinkin' the beer and the wine
    Now some came on run, some just to pass the time
    With the brothers under the bridges"

    and

    "Well me and my brother'd hitched a ride in Joey's pickup to the edge of town
    And we watched from the tall grass as the challenges were made and the duels went down"

    Everybody's got a secret Sonny
    Something that they just can't face
    Some folks spend their whole lives trying to keep it
    They carry it with them every step that they take
    Till some day they just cut it loose
    Cut it loose or let it drag 'em down
    Where no one asks any questions
    Or looks too long in your face
    In the darkness on the edge of town


    In Racing, the singers partner was a guy named "Sonny", and here in the second verse, he is again speaking to Sonny. Notice that the name is capitalized in the official lyrics, as it would be for a proper name. I think that gets overlooked, it is a direct tie back to Racing. As to the secret, I think he is referring to issues everyone carries around with them. Whether it be insecurity, fear of rejection, failure, success, whatever. Bruce always writes from a personal perspective, and while the song may not necessarily be about him, his characters also have many of the same insecurities, and fears he does. This is no longer the romantic Born to Run phase, but Darkness is a record about the transition from young rebel stage into adulthood, and the struggles that go along with it. It is the realization that you can't just live Born to Run, there is a more permanent existence, and you will either rise above your issues or they will drag you down. The entire record is about that defiance to not just give up and be one of the faceless hordes going to work every day, and living a meaningless existence.

    Some folks are born into a good life
    Other folks get it anyway anyhow
    I lost my money and I lost my wife
    Them things don't seem to matter much to me now
    Tonight I'll be on that hill 'cause I can't stop
    I'll be on that hill with everything I got
    Lives on the line where dreams are found and lost
    I'll be there on time and I'll pay the cost
    For wanting things that can only be found
    In the darkness on the edge of town

    Again Bruce is writing about the things he has seen. Its not necessarily from a point of being bitter, it's just he grew up in a working class suburb of NJ, and has seen that for some people they are born into a good life, and some others may do whatever they have to to get it, lie cheat steal, or being pretty enough to get that life, whatever. The last few verses is that defiance showing through, like an old Black and white movie where the hero rises up against all odds, and does the impossible, with no apologies.It's meant as a moment of triumph, just as:

    I wanna find one face that ain't looking through me
    I wanna find one place, I wanna spit in the face of these.. Badlands

    or

    There's a dark cloud rising on the desert floor
    I've packed my bags and I'm headed straight through the storm
    It's gonna be a twister that'll blow everything down
    That ain't got the faith to stand its ground.

    It is a bold statement, a desperate cry against the life he so does not want to settle for.
    chrisg19on November 19, 2011   Link
  • +1
    General CommentThe character in this song is the same character from racing in the street, just a later in his life.

    Also, this song could be a set of four songs all about the same character, telling his story. The songs in order are, Thunder road, racing in the street, darkness on the edge of town, and the promise
    early15on June 20, 2008   Link
  • 0
    General CommentThe man has lost what he loves, doing what he loves. Painful irony.
    If you really read the lyrics, it seems he's not all that upset about losing his wife.
    Maybe she was second on his list.
    But he still wants to see her if she wants.
    Brilliant stuff from my idol Bruce.

    springsteen: the greatest
    The Magic Raton October 14, 2005   Link
  • 0
    General CommentTo me this is THE song about a man's quest to understand himself. It's a man in the process of becoming that which he wishes. He's on "that hill" struggling through all those barriers that might otherwise prevent him from reaching his destiny. He has cut loose those things that once dragged him down and now he's going for it with everything he's got.

    For me, there is a definite sense of self-reliance in this song. It's a man searching for something (the undefinable, the unknowable). No religion will help. He must find it through perseverance. He must pay the cost. For those things that can only be found, he must struggle through the darkness on the edge of town.
    magicrat34on February 20, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General Comment"If you really read the lyrics, it seems he's not all that upset about losing his wife.
    Maybe she was second on his list."

    Correct. While Springsteen was on tour in '87' and still married to Julianne Phillips, he was having an affair with Patti Scialfa, (guitarist/backing singer) who then became his second and current wife.
    Deathsdoor99on December 26, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General CommentThere does feel like there is a degree of pain in this and a man who's just had enough. Though he was down and out or feeling crappy before, he's now got a new outlook and isn't prepared to take any crap.
    I think (as mentioned above) the hill represents rising above it all. His "secret" has been exposed and to his suprise, he doesn't really care. It's sort of liberating - being free from the weight, conveyed by the style of singing in the verses (starting off quiet and moody and then into a defiant kind of shout, representing before & after).
    Deathsdoor99on December 26, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General CommentThere's a bitterness in the first verse that I think you've missed
    Now I hear she's got a house up in Fairview
    And a style she's trying to maintain
    Well if she wants to see me
    You can tell her that I'm easily found
    A resentment that he's hearing news about his ex-wife second hand, and that she's doing well while he's down here with his demons, whatever they are, and that she doesn't ask after him.

    The demons are gambling, aren't they? The first two lines I presume is reference to a horse track, but that that's not where he places his money - his is lost - I lost my money, then I lost my wife - in the darkness on the edge of town.

    The rest I think you've all got right - of putting something else before your loved ones despite your loving them.
    SuitBoyon November 29, 2007   Link
  • 0
    General CommentBy the way, it's Darkness On the edge of town, not At. I always interpret this song being about considering suicide, especially the line "tonight I'll be on that hill", and "I'll pay the cost"; it is a terrific, but depressing song.
    Flyersfanon April 28, 2008   Link

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