Life defining moments can come in simple packages found under a Christmas tree. For me, one such moment was exactly that - a Christmas present in 1980.
The present was Bruce Springsteen's 1978 album, "Darkness on the Edge of Town." By 1980, I was already a Springsteen fan and already had "Greetings from Asbury Park," "The Wild, the Innocent and the E Street Shuffle," and "Born to Run" in my collection. I also had "The River," which had been released in the Fall of '80. Until that Christmas morning, I didn't have "Darkness."
The album cover was stark and Springsteen, in white t-shirt and leather jacket, looks like he just woke up with a killer hangover. He actually looks like a burned out 50's holdover without the grease in his mussed up hair - a wasted throwback.
I remember dropping the needle on the record and "Badlands" exploding from my DLK speakers. I listened to the record all the way through over and over that day and through the night, shunning family on Christmas Day.
But I wasn't in the mood for holiday frivolity. My father had passed away two weeks before, John Lennon was murdered a week before that and my girlfriend at the time broke it off with me when she realized she couldn't take being with somebody in obvious mourning.
From the first line in "Badlands," I knew I was in the best hands possible at that time in my life: "Lights out tonight, trouble in the heartland."
It really was lights out for me at the age of 20. I didn't know what was happening in my life or how to deal with it. So "Darkness on the Edge of Town" was my refuge.
Now there's this massive box set called "The Promise: The Darkness on the Edge of Town Story," which includes the original album (digitally mastered for the first time), two additional CDs of music culled from that period and three DVDs (Blu-ray is available) of sessions and concerts during the making of and immediately after the release of this masterful record in 1978. It also includes an 80-page notebook with facsimiles of Springsteen's notes from the recording sessions, including lyrics, song ideas and recording details.
This historical release can't possibly capture my time in 1980 but what it does is show an artist at the peak of his power not only as a lyricist but as a musician. Its the rare moment when you can enter an artist's creative process and this set is truly an open invitation.