Candy’s Room is the fourth track from Bruce Springsteen‘s album Darkness On The Edge Of Town. In another article I defined the great 1978 album as a perfect symmetry. In the coupling of the songs that form it (each song is linked to the counterpart on the other side of the disc), Candy’s Room and its counterpart Prove It All Night seem to focus on the relationship of a young man with a girl with a more passionate emphasis. Also in Racing In The Street and in Darkness On The Edge Of Town there are women who accompany (or accompanied) the protagonists, but those relationships are outlined in their existential crises. Candy’s Room instead tell us about a young man who, in the exuberance of his love, tries to conquer a very enigmatic girl. The lyrics, moreover, are transported by a very peculiar, almost atypical piece of music, which once again brings out Springsteen‘s ability as an arranger and the musical virtuosity of the E Street Band.
A BRAVE LOVE
Springsteen‘s narrative talent is already noticeable from the first verses, which show us the bedroom of a girl, Candy, as an ordinary setting. There are her idols’ posters on the walls and some toys. But immediately Bruce transports us to a more mysterious situation. To access that room you have to go through a dark corridor and those toys were gifted to Candy by strangers who often happen to see her. We are amazed to discover that childish-looking teenager, who appears as an ordinary girl with her ordinary dreams and needs, is actually a baby-prostitute. And the protagonist, probably nothing more than a client, is a young man madly in love with Candy. He would like her all for himself.
THE ADULT CHILD
There is something unnatural about a young girl being forced to anticipate her steps as an adult. It is even more so when she has to prostitute herself to make a living. It’s a theme that comes up again in Springsteen songs after a few years: how can we forget the splendid figure of Diamond Jackie in the New York City Serenade? Candy smiles pretty, but behind that smile there is an underlying sadness. The sadness of those who are forced to burn the stages of growth, of those who would like to be elsewhere, of those who cannot afford to experience romantic love. Just the love that the protagonist of Candy’s Room aspires to give her, like that of young Billy who, in New York City Serenade, asks Jackie to go away with him for a better future. But unlike Jackie, whom Bruce defines as intact, Candy is more savvy, by now she knows the tricks of her trade. The boy gets lost in her kisses and graces, but she helps him experience sex more deeply as a journey into the mystery of the night. She leads him to discover those hidden worlds that are not only the hidden parts of his body, but also the sensations, the dreams, the nocturnal journeys that love can make you savor.
LOVE AGAINST MONEY
Thus comes the boy’s battle cry. There is a mountain to climb, because Candy is surrounded by men who give her materially everything she needs to live. Even to live in luxury, given the reference to fancy clothes and diamond rings. The young man obviously has much less to offer, if not the purest love. His oath is to fight to win the girl’s heart. We don’t know how it will end, but Bruce‘s choice to accompany this lyrics with such disruptive and dramatic music suggests that that battle will be very tough. A happy romantic ending, but also a very painful one, could come for the boy.
MUSIC AND CINEMA
In Candy’s Room the cinematic approach in Springsteen‘s writing is completely evident. In very few verses Bruce shows us the scene and some details that help us imagine the setting. Candy certainly doesn’t live in high-ranking neighborhoods. She more likely lives in one of those dark corridors of dilapidated suburban buildings. There are several doors, beyond which music, noise and screams are heard. The scenes from Martin Scorsese‘s Taxi Driver come to mind, a film in which a very young Jodie Foster, only fourteen at the time, played the part of the young prostitute. Or the young call girl played by Brooke Shields, only thirteen at the time, in the film Pretty Baby by Louis Malle, released in the course of that 1978. Candy resembles those two characters to the point that it really seems to be able to give her a face.
A LIVE EXPLOSION!
Among the things in which Springsteen excels (his astonishing poetic vein, his famous live performances) his fine ability to arrange songs is often overshadowed. This element emerges above all in the first albums along the 70s. Candy’s Room is a clear example of this. A song that could have turned into a classic rock piece with an ordinary rhythm and standard arrangements instead becomes a unique song of its kind, enhanced by a remarkable musical performance by Bruce himself and his E Street Band. The rhythm is in march time (as in Badlands) but Bruce asks Max Weinberg to work overtime. And Mighty Max answers by sustaining the beat for a good part of the song with hi-hats and snare drumming at breakneck speed. The piano and the glockenspiel arrangement is also particular, because it does not remain as a mere accompaniment to the singing, but doubles it in unison. Springsteen‘s voice precisely overlaps the musical theme designed by Roy Bittan and Danny Federici. Steve Van Zandt‘s scratched counter-melody will also arrive in the live version. But the musical gem is Bruce‘s guitar solo, full of anger and malice: one of the most beautiful in his entire discography. The musical and vocal rendering will be further amplified by the live versions, of an unprecedented power.
THE RESULT OF BRUCE’S IMPRESSIVE CREATIVITY
Candy’s Room was the result of the merger of two songs previously written by Springsteen: Candy’s Boy (from which he took much of the lyrics) and The Fast Song (from which he “stole” the musical theme). What came from that merger was so good that convinced Bruce to choose Candy’s Room was chosen as the B-side of the single Badlands.
Read also: Born To Run (album)
Next Review: Racing In The Street – 19 February 2024