Because the Night: the meaning and the story of a rock anthem

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This story is part of the book:
Mama Mia Let Me Go!
A journey through the most intriguing lyrics and stories in rock music

Buy it on Amazon

Because The Night is a rock masterpiece written by Bruce Springsteen at the end of the 70s. But the Boss realised that there was no room for the track on his album (Darkness in the Edge of Town), so he decided to pass it on to Patti Smith, who was recording the album Easter in the studio next to his.

The lyrics were adapted by Patti Smith to be from a more feminine perspective. The setting is the evening, and Smith is waiting for a telephone call at around 6pm with a man whom, three years later, would become her husband, Fred. He didn’t call. During the wait, she wrote that the night belongs to lovers. She gave up at 2am, but then Fred called her.

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

Although Smith is a Rock icon and Because the Night one of her strongest pieces – perhaps the first song to secure her place among the pantheon of music greats – it is always a special feeling for me to hear a piece sung by the real father of the song. The mood differs in the two versions, but you can go wherever you want from a single starting point, with a song as a vehicle.

These two versions are living proof.

Take me now, baby, here as I am
Hold me close, try and understand
Desire is hunger is the fire I breathe
Love is a banquet on which we feed

Patti Smith’s version is deeply feminine. The intro is slow and sensual, and she enters with the anger of a strong woman who has already decided, despite of the burden of waiting, that she will forgive Fred, because this is what she wants. The drums that explodes in a roar say just that: sometimes, the wait is almost unbearable, but if you’re Patti Smith you can turn it onto a gift from God. Those drums, in the way they arrive, can unleash anything.

Fred will call, and that expectation will turn into excitement; deep excitement, sexual excitement.

Springsteen’s live version is another story. The drums arrive more sweetly and softly, leaving room for the Boss’s voice. When it comes, it’s bolder and firmer. There is also more room for a guitar that makes the song more controlled. In Smith’s version, the waiting is the protagonist in itself, and the singer fights against it until she wins. In Springsteen’s version, he is the driver, in control – he’s driving the night.

Smith fights.

Springsteen decides.

The Boss’s live performance is one of the most compelling rock performances ever. The depth of his voice is immense. Springsteen’s live version is pure rock: romance and power together, a decision. It’s a rock roar.

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

This story is part of the book:
Mama Mia Let Me Go!
A journey through the most intriguing lyrics and stories in rock music

Buy it on Amazon

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