Because The Night (1978)

Patti Smith Group

Written by Patti Smith and Bruce Springsteen
What are DNA Source Songs™? Suggest a source song for inclusion via Rock Populi.

bp“Because The Night” is the accidental hit, an accidental song in fact, that Bruce Springsteen was ready to discard before producer- impresario Jimmy Iovine (who was in the midst of working on both Bruce’s Darkness At The edge of Town and Patti’s album Easter), persuaded Bruce to hand off the half-finished tune to Smith.

The result is a legendary track that has been covered again and again. (Among the most far-reaching is a rendition by Co.Ro featuring Tarlisa that became a dance-hit sensation from France and Spain to Brazil, now having sold nearly a million copies.)

The Patti Smith Band version

Smith’s version – many say the version – opens with a somber, echoing piano, like lights reflected on a rainy city street. Her version (once it takes off) is markedly more up tempo than any that Springsteen recorded live or are found in the outtakes of studio sessions. This is reflective of Smith’s involvement with the 70s club scene in New York, most notably CBGB’s.

Says Springsteen, “Jimmy Iovine, who was then an engineer… he drove me to Coney Island, and somehow talked me into giving up the song, which I’m glad that I did because I wasn’t going to finish it, and she finished it.”

Smith took her sweet Punk time before she even listened to the half-formed song on tape, she admitted, but a late night, lonely-lover vigil waiting for her boyfriend of the moment Fred ‘Sonic’ Smith to call, spurred her to finally record her biggest hit. In the Springsteen rockumentary Promise: Darkness at The Edge of Town, Smith recalls that night she first heard Springsteen’s snippets of the love song: “I was in my apartment and I was having a long-distance romance with (MC5 star) Fred ‘Sonic’ Smith, who was supposed to call me, and I waited for him for hours and thought, ‘Well, I’ll listen to that darn song’. It was so accessible, it had such an anthemic tone, it was in my key.”

Take me now baby here as I am
Pull me close, try and understand

BBecause the singles coverDesire is hunger is the fire I breathe
Love is a banquet on which we feed

Come on now try and understand
The way I feel when I’m in your hands
Take my hand come undercover
They can’t hurt you now,
Can’t hurt you now, can’t hurt you now

Because the night belongs to lovers
Because the night belongs to lust
Because the night belongs to lovers
Because the night belongs to us

Patti Smith breathes lust, loss and fear into “Because The Night,” with a wash of anger thrown in for good measure. While Springsteen’s version is, perhaps, musically more adept, it hits one conceptual note over and over: weariness – in keeping with the period of Darkness At The Edge Of Town.

Bruce Springsteen version from Darkness At The Edge Of Town

Smith’s is also reflective of the downtown dance scene in New York in the late 1970s, dislocating, the birthplace of hook-up culture – arty, moody, dancing till dawn in a manic spiral.

Have I doubt when I’m alone
Love is a ring, the telephone
Love is an angel disguised as lust
Here in our bed until the morning comes

Because the Patti 1971The Patti Smith Band is highly proficient. Jay Dee Daugherty on drums is particularly fabulous on “Because The Night.” Lenny Kaye, although an outstanding guitarist, suffers by comparison with Steve Van Zandt’s roaring, A-list playing on Bruce’s live version, one of Van Zandt’s finest moments on stage.

Smith’s vocals are as wondrous and luminescent as a wounded animal unsure of her fate. Her altered lyrics (as opposed to Springsteen’s original words) reflect the pain of uncertainty. Bruce’s lyrics represent a set of desires to be fulfilled. He writes from a tired workingman’s perspective while Smith writes from the universal human one, pleading not just for love but for existential relief.

With love we sleep
With doubt the vicious circle
Heroin Hit embed billboardTurn and burns
Without you I cannot live
Forgive, the yearning burning
I believe it’s time, too real to feel
So touch me now,
touch me now,
touch me now

Because the night belongs to lovers…

Because tonight there are two lovers
If we believe in the night we trust
Because tonight there are two lovers

Listeners have always longed for more accessible tunes from Patti Smith, based on the early promise of the towering collaboration of “Because The Night.” They have been too often disappointed. Sadly, while doing her devoted core audience a solid, she has not done the rest of the world an artistic favor.

“Because” is there to savor, though. Bold, brilliant, among the greatest Rock-N-Roll songs of all time.

  • Springsteen, once when reflecting about how hard it is to write songs and then fit them into a cohesive whole on an album: “I think a lot about everything. Nothin’ I can do about it. It’s like, I’m a thinkin’ fool.”
  • He also said of “Because The Night”: “It would have never seen the light of day, much less been the song that it is if it wasn’t for her working on it. So thank you Patti.”
  • For her part, Patti Smith reflects on how hard it was for her to come to the song: “I still tried to resist it but I filled in the blanks and in the blanks it tells the story of me waiting for Fred [Smith] to call and of my love for Fred.”