The Best of Darkness by Mark Stone

October 2011. The speed work I've been focusing on for the last few weeks seems to be paying off. Did my 8 miles today in under 9 minutes per mile, which is the first time I've done that. The wind sprints and hill sprints I'm doing during the week are harsh, but that's how you make progress.

I changed up my play list for the first time in a couple of months, so I'm running to a whole new batch of songs. From Springsteen this time I've selected Racing in the Street, which I've concluded really is the best track on Darkness on the Edge of Town. I've been listening to Darkness a lot lately, ever since watching the documentary The Promise.

It really is a pivotal, professional coming of age album for Springsteen. And it boasts a number of well known, oft-played songs: "Badlands", "The Promised Land", "Prove It All Night", and "Darkness on the Edge of Town". By contrast, I don't know that "Racing in the Street" ever got air time. Its a deceptive song. The title, and even the opening lyrics, sound like the kind of youthful, full throttle, Springsteen one ups the Beach Boys anthem that he had previously belted out with songs like "Thunder Road":

  • Tonight, tonight the strip's just right
  • I wanna blow 'em off in my first heat
  • Summer's here and the time is right
  • For goin' racin' in the street

But the sound of the song is nothing like the title and these lyrics would suggest. It is quiet, serene. And yet it fits. I still remember a little of my hot rodding teenage days, and while I remember the thrills and the adrenalin rush, I also remember how peaceful it felt to be out with friends, living carefree, and living completely in the moment. The storm of life brewing on the horizon hasn't reached you yet, and there is something serene about those last days of innocence.

But Sprinsteen wouldn't be Springsteen if he left the song at that. In The Promise he talks with real feeling about the contrast between the carefree, pre-stardom musician vs. the burden of not settling for stardom but instead reaching to be an artist. Lots of stars settle. Springsteen certainly hasn't. And Darkness is full of songs that explore many facets of moving from youth to responsibility, of struggling forward through the storm of life. And so midway through, "Racing in the Streets" takes a turn, and begins to become one of those songs:

  • I met her on the strip three years ago
  • In a Camaro with this dude from L.A.
  • I blew that Camaro off my back and drove that little girl away
  • But now there's wrinkles around my baby's eyes
  • And she cries herself to sleep at night

By its end, the song feels more like a prayer than an anthem. The ending is both somber and hopeful, much like life itself:

  • Tonight my baby and me we're gonna ride to the sea
  • And wash these sins off our hands
  • Tonight tonight the highway's bright
  • Out of our way mister you best keep
  • 'Cause summer's here and the time is right
  • For goin' racin' in the street

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