"Candy’s Boy" (recorded June – August, 1977 at Atlantic Studios, New York, NY; available on The Promise)
I Want Candy
by Kerry Lambeth
I can see why “Candy’s Boy” was left off Darkness on the Edge of Town in favour of “Candy’s Room”. It’s a tinkly AM radio tune, and although the instrumentals are unsurprisingly excellent, it’s low stakes and relaxed. It’s easier to listen to over and over – which is another way of saying it doesn’t command your attention.
What I do like best about “Candy’s Boy” is that the singer is clearly aware of the transience of his relationship with the titular woman: he starts out by tentatively offering “Tonight I’m going to be Candy’s boy”, and acknowledges “Candy’s got a man who takes care of her better than I do”. Mid-1970s Bruce Springsteen songs tend to swagger a bit about women – the singer in “Thunder Road” is much more self-assured than his experience justifies (TWENTY FUCKING SIX) - and I find the “Candy’s” songs very endearing as one of his few early narratives where the singer is fully aware he’s less experienced and knowledgeable than his love interest. His blithe assertion near the end of “Candy’s Boy” that “I will forever be Candy’s boy” is self-consciously undercut by repetition, after which Bruce distances himself from the whole shebang by casually calling out “Once more!” to his backing band, taking us back out to the world of performer and audience. There’s no distance like that in “Candy’s Room”, which is immediate and intense and over very quickly.
The sexual imagery of a woman’s “room” at the end of a “dark hall” cough cough is nothing new, nor is the story of an earnest young man besotted with a sadder-but-wiser older woman; but if it isn’t innovative, it’s very honest here. You get the impression Bruce didn’t have to stretch his imagination too much to draw the relationship. When the Darkness ‘outtake’ album “The Promise” was released in 2010, one version came with a copy of an old notebook of Bruce’s with handwritten drafts of most of the songs, which revealed some seriously dreadful early lyrics for “Candy’s Boy”: “I take off my clothes & climb into bed & push her blonde hair from her eyes / She leans over and kisses me”, he wrote, before scrawling into incoherence:
Which sounds like something being typed into a late-night AOL chat window. But while anybody can write a song they want to wank to, at least the Darkness version of “Candy’s (X)” is a sexy song about sex. It’s Young Bruce at his most fuckable, which is very, and although there’s some lazy imagery (“There’s a sadness in her pretty face, a sadness all her own,” yaaawn) it still feels exciting and nervous and awkward and thrilling, and the guitar at 01:29 is basically the best musical expression of an erection I’ve ever heard.
It’s not that “Candy’s Boy” is a terrible song, it’s just a bit moist and floppy – and at 4:40 it’s nearly double the length of its successor, with a lot of faffing around doing not much. “Candy’s Room” rightly refocuses its attention on the woman; moreover it’s tight, fast, well paced and rhythmic and exactly as long as it needs to be. Bruce clearly picked up a few things between drafting and recording and I’m very glad he did.