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Review Streets Of Fire, Bruce Springsteen

Aggiornato il 1 Apr, 2024 | Words and Music |

Streets Of Fire is the eighth track on Bruce Springsteen’s album Darkness On The Edge Of Town (1978). As part of a perfectly symmetrical album, the song pairs with Something In The Night which occupies the same position on the first side. Like this song, in fact, Streets Of Fire is about a young desperate man who faces burning streets with no destination. From a musical point of view it is a slow electric rock, among the most acid ever written by Springsteen, and has some peculiarities that make it practically unique in the huge discography of the great American rock songwriter. I go so far as to say that Streets Of Fire is one of the most underrated songs of Springsteen, in proportion to what it is worth, perhaps crushed by other superb songs and now become great classics on the same famous album. I will try to explain it in the section dedicated to the musical aspect.

THE DEFEAT

In Streets Of Fire there is a young man fighting, first inside the narrow walls of his house, then driving a car in the night. Apparently he talks to a girl, but she’s more likely not there with him. Another element of mystery is the presence of someone at the front door. Someone who came looking for him and who seems very threatening. It could be a person, or the metaphor of fate or something that is inherent in the boy’s weakness, in his defeat. The mysterious element returns in the second verse, when in the darkness of the night there is someone calling the name of the protagonist. In a parallel with Something In The Night the mysterious people of Streets Of Fire may be the same ones who, in the aforementioned song of the first side, burn the cars in a last bitter battle, leaving the protagonist and his friends “running burned and blind“. A sort of call to their inevitable fate.

LONELINESS IN THE NIGHT

The protagonist seems to surrender to suffering. Someone has deceived him and he finds himself trapped like in the barbed wire. The song is about death, but it seems more an inner death than a physical death. In fact we find the young man in the last verse, still alive, while he comes across only strangers, a wanderer together with homeless night angels who, not even looking him in the face, accentuate his loneliness. The parallel with Something In The Night returns. The protagonists of the two songs are victims of deception. In Something In The Night we find someone who takes possession of everything the protagonist owns (“you’re born with nothing and better off that way, soon as you’ve got something they send someone to try and take it away“). In Streets Of Fire, instead, the protagonist falls victim to cheats and lies. Not even his house protects him, which far from being a symbol of protection, becomes a kind of prison, whose walls he clings to devour him.

THE FALLEN ANGELS

It is also interesting to note that the figure of these night angels, homeless and wandering in the fire, will return in a song that belongs to the next album, The River, but that was written in the years of Darkness On The Edge Of Town: Drive all Night. In this song we find “fallen angels, and they’re waiting for us down in the street” and “calling strangers, hear them crying in defeat“. But in Drive All Night the young man urges his girlfriend to drop that figure (“let them go, let them go do their dances of the dead“). It is love that triumphs over loneliness. If in Streets Of Fire and in Something In The Night the man is alone and defeated, in Drive All Night, as in other episodes of The River, there are couples who try to overcome difficulties with the strenght of love.

THE NIGHT AND THE FIRE

The night and the fire are the dominant elements in Streets Of Fire, as well as in Something In The Night. As for the night, Springsteen has always claimed to have confused day with night for his entire life. In other situations, however, the night is an element of positive reaction, reassuring, even of intimacy. Just think of Night, as Prove It All Night and Because The Night, just to mention songs that have the night in the title. But also in Thunder Roadthe night’s busting open, these two lanes will take us anywhere“). Here, instead, the night is the darkest moment of defeat and it is associated with the element of fire, which does not bring heat, but burns cars and metaphorically the protagonist’s dreams.

A TRULY UNIQUE SONG

Behind its appearance of aggressive rock song, Streets Of Fire presents a number of musical peculiarities, as well as a couple of real excellences. A first musical detail is the relative lightness of the drums. Springsteen manages to give the song a remarkable aggressiveness, although the drums remain beaten on the edge of the snare for most of the track and never extremely powerful. It is also the only case in which Springsteen allows the harmony of the verses to be conducted solely by the organ. Electric guitar and piano only enter the choruses and during the guitar solo in order to create a particular dynamic. But the greatness of Streets Of Fire, which make the song widely underestimated in its value, are Springsteen’s vocal performance and guitar solo. Bruce performs one of his best vocal performances. He is very effective, a pure interpretation, as far as he gets into the part of the desperate young man, before with a low and dragged voice and then with an acute one that cuts and wounds, while expressing suffering. As for the solo, if we consider the only studio recordings and not even the live performances, it is definitely one of his best guitar solos, if not the best.

THE DEMON ANGEL

There a huge contrast between the angel’s common image as a celestial figure, representative of virtue and goodness, and the almost infernal sense, connected to the element of fire and night. Springsteen gives a representation that would suggest a precise choice to upset the icon of the good angel. If you think, however, not only in literature and society (the iconic Hell’s Angels) the inversion of the image of the angel has often been proposed (especially in the rebellious rock culture). But the Holy Scriptures themselves do not disdain to paint angels even in a role of death. We can’t forget, for example, of the exterminating angel sent by God to punish the Egyptians by killing all the firstborn of their lineage.

 

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Next Review: Prove It All Night – 8 April 2024

 

Dario Migliorini

 

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