Addicted To Vinyl Musical thoughts from the open road, with headphones on

27Nov/092

Book Review: The Light in Darkness by Lawrence Kirsch

When I unwrapped the Live: 1975/85 box set, which I received as a Christmas gift from my parents in 1986, I don't think I truly had a complete idea of exactly how much of an impact Bruce Springsteen would have on my life.  As I put in the first cassette, and began thumbing through the booklet that was included with the box set, it slowly began to register with me.  Born In The U.S.A. had been my first exposure to Springsteen, and as I sat listening to the early club recordings on the box set - "Thunder Road," "Adam Raised A Cain," etc - I was naturally intrigued to learn more about the pre-Born In The U.S.A. material, and further facts about the man behind the recordings.  I spent quite a bit of time soaking in the music from the box set, and in 1992, I finally saw my first Springsteen concert.  While you might lament that my first experience came via the "other band" - I'd argue that seeing Springsteen backed by a trio of mariachi players, would still impress anyone seeing Bruce for the first time.  After all, he is "The Boss."

A good portion of my childhood was spent at the library reading books, absorbing as much musical knowledge as I could take in.  I read many books about the Beatles and the Beach Boys, and the giant coffee table books about the Beatles, loaded with full color photographs, were some of my favorites.  I discovered pretty quickly that quality reading material was plentiful for groups like those previously mentioned, while harder to find for some of the artists I really wanted to know more about, like Bruce Springsteen.

The Light in Darkness

The Light in Darkness is one of those books that I've been waiting for since those days of youth.  Author Lawrence Kirsch has lovingly assembled a treasure trove of stories and photographs dedicated to Springsteen's legendary 1978 tour for Darkness on the Edge of Town.  Printed on premium gloss 200m paper stock, the limited-edition book features over 200 photos reproduced from the original sources, many of them never before published - including photography by longtime Cleveland photographer Anastasia Pantsios.

But that's not just why The Light in Darkness will leave you speechless as a Bruce fan. Unlike Kirsch's previous book For You, which featured fan stories culled from 30+ years of Springsteen tour memories, The Light in Darkness faced the challenge of collecting fan stories from a single tour without overlap and a constant feeling of "hey, haven't we already been here before?"

The Light in Darkness

Kirsch accomplishes this admirably with The Light in Darkness, and it's a subject that he knows plenty about - he was in attendance for the opening night of the tour in Buffalo, NY.  While the tour for Darkness is well documented with many radio broadcasts available for free trade on the internet, I always wanted to hear the stories from the people that were actually in attendance at these amazing shows.  Being in Cleveland, I've heard a few stories from people that were in attendance at the legendary Agora show, but never the exact blow-by-blow account that I was hoping for.  But can you fault these people?  The show was over 30 years ago, after all - how much could they possibly remember?

It turns out they remember a lot, as you'll read in the pages of The Light in Darkness courtesy of  Brian Schmuck, who tells his story spread across 12 pages of text and photographs from the show.  Schmuck's tale is one of thrills and chills, a trip through the entire process from the time that the show was announced, to the day of the actual show when he was still trying to get his hands on a ticket, and finally the nighttime, when he successfully finds himself inside the Cleveland Agora, holding that dream ticket. (Schmuck also has an interesting historical connection to the show, but you'll find that story in the book - I'm not going to spoil it!)

Former WMMS staffers John Gorman and Denny Sanders offer some perspective from inside the radio station on how the Cleveland concert, which was not on the initial list of planned Darkness promotional activities, eventually wound up happening.  Music fan Ken Hornack also shares additional perspective and his own concert memories of attending this legendary concert.

That was my personal litmus test when I got the book - turning the pages to see what kind of coverage there was for the Agora show.  With four personal accounts, a picture of the ticket stub, club ad, and promotional show poster, I'd say that The Light in Darkness covers things pretty well - there ain't nothing missing here!

I've read a lot of Springsteen books over the years, and if I was that same fresh faced kid from 1986, transported to present day, I can think of only one item that would be on my Christmas list. Whether you're buying for that hard-to-impress Bruce fan, or simply tuning up for next year's Darkness box set, The Light in Darkness shines brightly as the one thing that no self-respecting Springsteen fan should be without.  Kirsch has done an amazing job of creating yet another great gift for Springsteen lovers, and personally, I'll look forward to seeing what he has up his sleeve for his next project.

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Order your copy of The Light in Darkness via the official website for the book.  Orders must be placed by by midnight on 12/3 to guarantee Christmas delivery.