Love Letter To A Record: Fat White Family On Bruce Springsteen’s ‘Darkness On The Edge Of Town’

Many of us can link a certain album to pivotal moments in our lives. Whether it’s the first record you bought with your own money, the chord you first learnt to play on guitar, the song that soundtracked your first kiss, the album that got you those awkward and painful pubescent years or the one that set off light bulbs in your brain and inspired you to take a big leap of faith into the unknown – music is often the catalyst for change in our lives and can even help shape who we become.

In this series, Music Feeds asks artists to reflect on their relationship with music and share with us stories about the effect music has had on their lives.

Lias Saudi, Fat White Family: Bruce Springsteen – Darkness On The Edge Of Town (1978)

I was about 15 years old and I made my way down to the monthly record/CD fair they’d have in the little town I grew up in, in Northern Ireland. Out of all of the stuff they had, I boiled it down to a choice between two albums. I used to get a tenner a week pocket money off of my mum so this was a pivotal moment really. The two records were the Kings of Leon first album, whose music I’d never heard but whose name was floating about at school (this was pre-internet, that actually works) and Bruce Springsteen, again whose music I hadn’t really heard but whose name was big enough to have trickled down to me by a process of cultural osmosis.

I remember holding both CDs and agonising over where to invest my massive sum. Eventually, it was purely the front cover of Darkness On The Edge Of Town that did it for me. Those closed blinds and that slack lipped pout, it’s an image I still find intriguing, but at that time I guess it was kind of quietly screaming about nefarious pleasures which were still quite a long ways out of my grasp. I got it home and stuck it straight into my CD player. I don’t think you ever love music and identify with it the same way you do when you’re that age, it’s intense, you really time your watch by it, especially if you’re fucked off about where you live and getting bullied at school, it’s like a lifeline.

That being said when I switched Bruce on I thought it was dog shit; corny, thrusting, blue jean nonsense that I couldn’t relate to in any way. I’d loved Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash and a lot of the artists that they were related to, so I guess I was a bit more of a folk and country kind of a person at the time. I catalogued it away and forgot about it for the best part of a decade.

By the time it re-emerged my life had changed irreversibly. I was living in south London with Nathan, Saul and Alex Sebley (from Pregoblin). I was still at art school at the time. It was kind of a honeymoon period in all of our friendships, we used to get trashed pretty much constantly, our drug of choice – I’m sorry to say – was whatever amount of cocaine we could afford, and as Saul was still raking in a bit of cash from his first record deal with Sony we could afford a decent pile. This was really when Bruce came into his own. Shirt-lessness, The Boss, Guinness and charlie might sound like a hideous combo, and you’d be right, but they came to define this sad yet somehow majestic period in our lives. Back when hangovers only lasted a day and existential loathing as a result of endless substance abuse hadn’t yet become the long and short of being awake. Many a night was spent howling along with this in a state of idiotic revelry, I can’t remember whether it was ironic or not anymore. I think it, maybe, started that way but then grew into a genuine passion.

If my younger self could bare witness to those despicable scenes no doubt the over-riding feeling would be one of disgust. I owe that considerate and thoughtful young man a hefty apology. So does the Boss.

Fat White Family return to Australia this February to perform at Farmer & The Owl Festival in support their third album ‘Serfs Up!’ They will also play sideshows in Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne. Head here for details.

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