Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Patti Smith Group, "Because the Night" (1978)

May 13, 1978, #13

I did not know or suspect for a long time that this is a Bruce Springsteen song, and now I have to wonder how I ever missed it. Recorded in 1977, it has the heroic thrust and optimistic face to the sun of his autopilot mode down to the thundering drums and tinkling circling piano intro. It's co-credited to Patti Smith because she reworked Springsteen's original lyric, though Wikipedia tells me he has also performed it over the years with his own lyric. I hope that doesn't mean tensions because I have long indulged a romantic sense that this was the result of a serendipitous connection between two New Jersey natives. Certainly their personas are simpatico here. Smith is a natural at the Springsteen swagger, which had to come from somewhere, and the tumbling surreal bent of her wordplay is part of what makes it work. I have to think the romantic view holds. They're playing and singing the hell out of it. The guitar solo from Lenny Kaye is a model of economy, a hallmark of its times (compare Iggy Pop with James Williamson, "I'm Bored"). And Springsteen had a way of insinuating himself into the greater New York City area elite, as remember also he showed up mumbling, "Well hey, man, that's just a lie" on Lou Reed's masterpiece title cut of Reed's Street Hassle LP. Springsteen was likely dealing with a fair amount of pent-up creative energy at the time, precluded from releasing anything while a legal battle with his former management was resolved. The dispute erupted shortly after he appeared on the covers of Time and Newsweek, three years before. Problems, problems. And out of all that came this wonderful surprise hit song in the spring of 1978.

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