In his original ’78 review of Darkness on the Edge of Town, Dave Marsh reflected for Rolling Stone on what makes Springsteen special:
Bruce Springsteen has a tendency to inspire messianic regard in his fans — including this one. This isn’t so much because he’s regarded as a savior — though his influence has already been substantial — but because he fulfills the rock tradition in so many ways. Like Elvis Presley and Buddy Holly, Springsteen has the ability, and the zeal, to do it all. For many years, rock & roll has been splintered between the West Coast’s monopoly on the genre’s lyrical and pastoral characteristics and a British and Middle American stranglehold on toughness and raw power. Springsteen unites these aspects: he’s the only artist I can think of who’s simultaneously comparable to Jackson Browne and Pete Townshend. Just as the production of this record unifies certain technical trends, Springsteen’s presentation makes rock itself whole again. This is true musically — he rocks as hard as a punk, but with the verbal grace of a singer/songwriter — and especially emotionally. If these songs are about experienced adulthood, they sacrifice none of rock & roll’s adolescent innocence. Springsteen escapes the narrow dogmatism of both Old Wave and New, and the music’s possibilities are once again limitless.
He also comments on the infamous John Landau line: “I saw rock & roll future and its name is Bruce Springsteen”:
With its usual cynicism, the world chose to think of this as a fanciful way of calling Springsteen the Next Big Thing.
I’ve never taken it that way. To me, these words, shamefully mistreated as they’ve been, have kept a different shape. What they’ve always said was that someday Bruce Springsteen would make rock & roll that would shake men’s souls and make them question the direction of their lives. That would do, in short, all the marvelous things rock had always promised to do.
But Born to Run was not that music. It sounded instead like the end of an era, the climax of the first twenty years of this grand tradition, the apex of our collective adolescence. Darkness on the Edge of Town does not. It feels like the threshold of a new period in which we’ll again have “lives on the line where dreams are found and lost.” It poses once more the question that rock & roll’s epiphanic moments always raise: Do you believe in magic?
And once again, the answer is yes. Absolutely.