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Badlands

by

Bruce Springsteen



Songfacts®:  You can leave comments about the song at the bottom of the page.

The title came from a 1973 movie of the same name starring Martin Sheen and Sissy Spacek. Springsteen got the idea from a poster in the theater lobby. Springsteen did not see the movie until after he wrote this. When he did see the film, he based the song "Nebraska" on it.
This was more mature songwriting from Springsteen, as much of Darkness On The Edge Of Town reflects the characters of his previous album, Born To Run, getting older and more pessimistic.
"Badlands" was considered for the name of the album. Around this time, Springsteen would come up with titles and try to come up with deserving songs for them. He told Rolling Stone in 2010: "Badlands, that's a great title, but It would be easy to blow it. But I kept writing and I kept writing and I kept writing and writing until I had a song that I felt deserved that title."
This is a concert favorite. It was featured on Springsteen's 1999 reunion tour with The E Street Band, and on many of their subsequent tours.
Badlands is a US national park in South Dakota. It is famous for striking scenery and expansive prairie land.
The second single off Darkness On The Edge Of Town, the first album Springsteen released after a legal battle with his first manager, Mike Appel, kept him from recording for almost 3 years.
The version on Live 1975-1985 was recorded in Arizona the night after Ronald Reagan was elected president. Bruce introduced the song by saying: "I don't know what you guys thought of what happened last night, but I thought it was pretty terrifying." Reagan would later misinterpret "Born In The U.S.A." in a 1984 campaign speech.
Bill Murray and Paul Shaffer chose to open the 25th Anniversary Show of Saturday Night Live with this song, as sung by Murray's character of Nick the Lounge Singer. According to the book Live From New York, they chose this song because Murray and Shaffer felt that there was a certain lyric in the song that best described their experience of growing up in life and in show business on Saturday Night Live in the '70s. Murray was quoted as saying performing the harmony with Paul was one of the high points of his entire career. (thanks, Joshua - Fort Worth, TX)
Bruce Springsteen
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Comments (17):

*** 'I wanna spit in the face of these badlands' ***
On June 2nd 1978, Columbia Records released Bruce's fourth studio album 'Darkness On The Edge of Town'...
It peaked at #5 on Billboard's Pop Albums chart...
Two tracks were released as singles; "Prove It All Night" (it peaked at #33 on July 16th, 1978) and "Badlands" (reached #42 on September 17th, 1978)...
(Never sign a contract on the hood of a car)!!!
- Barry, Sauquoit, NY
I've always thought this song was about the rise of the working class man, too. I love it. However, could this song also be offhandedly about Native Americans, specifically the massacre at Wounded Knee, South Dakota in 1890? I mean, geographically the Badlands border the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation where the event took place. Also mentions things such as "trouble in the heartland" and "caught in a crossfire." The Sioux Black Elk, in the novel "Black Elk Speaks," later talked about a dream about Wounded Knee in which he was "raised above" the Badlands. Lastly, the king's not being satisfied till he rules everything you could claim is a reference to the United States's manifest destiny policy toward Native Americans.

Sure, it's a stretch, but nonetheless a valid claim to make. Of course, Springsteen sings about working in the fields, and other stuff that has nothing to do with Native Americans.
- Justin, Kirksville, MO
Seems I read somewhere that the album was to be called 'Badlands' but another New Jersey artist release an album with that name, so Bruce change it to 'Darkness' Does anyone know the name of the NJ artist???
- Barry, Sauquoit, NY
I'll never forget when I first heard this song on KMET in LA in '78. I was 14 and i got it. "Darkness...." changed my young life forever, in a great way!!
- Jim, Long Beach, CA
The intro sounds very similar to The Animals "Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood"
- Gilbert, Houston, TX
I love this song, when he performed this at the concert it was electrifying, its such a catchy song.
- Sam, Thompsons, TX
Not as glamorous or popular as some of Bruce's later work, but as powerful as anything he ever wrote. This is a great American song.
- Nathan, Defiance, OH
appears in val kilmers film "thunderheart"
- joe, perth, Australia
I also agree with you, Paul. Those lines always get stuck in my head. I like the verison Bruce performed on "Live 1975-1985." I heard an older version on a radio station, and I thought Bruce didn't put as much feeling into as he did in his later version. That's just what I think . . . Anyway, one of the best songs of all time, no competition.
- Bess, San Diego, CA
Badlands has got great lyrics,and a great guitar riff,Bruces voice is at it,s best on this album.He could,nt have started Darkness with a better song.
- dave, redditch worcs, England
Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band are honestly the best band of all time... I dont think anyone can touch them, maybe the Beatles I guess.
- Ace, Kingston , Canada
I agree with Paul from SC about the great lyric "Poor man want to be rich...". It describes ambition, which is a good thing. It moves the species forward. It's also why it's important to have a Constitution that protects us from any one person getting too much power.
- Steve, Fenton, MO
This song contains some of the best lyrics of all time, period.
- Ricky, Los Angeles, CA
The Badlands film was based on mass murderers Charles Starkweather and his 14-year-old girlfriend Caril Fugate in Lincoln, Nebraska in 1958. Springsteen became fascinated with the Starkweather case and in the process of writing Nebraska had several long phone conversations with a retired Lincoln crime reporter who'd covered it and written a book about Starkweather and Fugate.
- Justin, Hong Kong, Hong Kong
Badlands is a song in my opinion about the working class man who because of his day to day life has more knowledge about life as a whole than the man surrounded by material goods. Badlands is about the power of love and the overated pressures of money on people. Badlands is for every man/women who comes home see's there family and thinks we may not have it all but were happy.
- Mike, Blackpool, England
One of the greatest lines in all songs..."Poor man want to be rich, rich man want to be king, king ain't satisfied 'til he rules everything." Portrait of american society indeed.
- Paul, Greenwood, SC
The Badlands are not just in South Dakota. They start in North Dakota and move south into South Dakota.
- Meredith, Grand Forks, ND
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