Jun 032011

Cover by Cover takes you on a journey through the cover progression of a classic song.

It’s hard to precisely trace the genesis of “Because the Night,” a song made famous by punk rock progenitor Patti Smith but written, at least in part, by the inimitable Bruce Springsteen. Here’s what’s known for sure: Springsteen concocted some rendition of Because the Night for inclusion on his 1978 album Darkness on the Edge of Town. However, he decided to keep the song off the record; he wasn’t comfortable with including a love ballad amongst its darker pieces. Not wanting the tune to go to waste, producer Jimmy Iovine took it to another one of his clients, Patti Smith, and suggested she put it on her forthcoming Easter record. He insisted it’d give her a hit. Smith resisted at first but eventually gave in, and indeed “Because the Night” became the most commercially successful song of her career. It sounded like this:

Although he gave the song up on record, Springsteen often performed the tune himself in concert with altered lyrics. This started as early as the Darkness tour in 1978. The Boss officially released a version of the song on his Live/1975-85 box set which many probably thought was a cover. In reality, it’s tough to call either Patti or Bruce’s version the cover; both artists can make claim to originating aspects of the song. What is clear, though: lots and lots of other artists have taken a crack at “Because the Night” over the past 30 years. Let’s take a look at the song’s development through its most noted and interesting versions.

To begin, continue to Page 2.

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  10 Responses to “Cover by Cover: Because the Night”

Comments (10)
  1. Wow. I started reading this post 2.5 hours ago. Thank the lord for the &YouTube player’s “+” button. Would have been even longer without it. I kept getting sidetracked by related tracks in YouTube.
    Hmmm. That playlist has finished. Time to browse back through “Rhythms del Mundo”. I had forgotten about those albums.

  2. “… written, at least in part, by the inimitable Bruce Springsteen,” is a bit of an understatemnent.

    Bruce wrote the song, music and lyrics. Patti was recording in the same studio in NY City. She heard it and commented how much she like it. Bruce was, and is, a great admirer of Smith. When the song didn’t make the cut for, Darkness on the Edge of Town,” he offered it to her. She asked it she could change two lines. Not only did he agree, he very magnimously gave her co-authorship, one of the few times in his career he has done this – Bruce Springsteen & Patti Smith.

    The first time I heard the song was in the Spring of 78 when Patti opened for the Rolling Stones at the Fox Theater in Atlanta. I thought, “Wow, what a great rocker.”

    The next time I saw it performed was also at the Fox, on September 30, 1978, the first time I saw Bruce. He played three hours of the greatest rock that had ever been or ever would be.

    When he came back to the mic after the long guitar solo to sing the chorus for the final time, it was one of the most exciting moments I’ve experienced in the roughly 100 big time rock shows I’ve attended. It looked a lots like this version, Passaic, NJ, about two weeks before than the Fox show.


    People are free to prefer any version they chose. In my experience it’s pretty tough to top Bruce Springsteen’s presentation of his own songs.

  3. One of the best most rockin’ versions I’ve ever seen Springsteen perform was earlier this year on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon!

    Bruce, Steve Van Zandt, Roy Bittan (both from the E Street Band) plus The Roots! It could very well be the only recorded version of Because The Night featuring a Tuba!


  4. Actually, there’s at least another BTN version with a tuba, and it features a tuba solo!
    Blues Jeans was an Italian acoustic blues trio and this version comes from a tape from the early 90’s and I think it’s one of the best BTN covers ever. Check it out here:

  5. Patti Smith still owns the song, though 10,000 Maniacs did a great version. Of the new ones presented here, I like the KT Tunstall samba. Thanks, fun post!

  6. I think this is a better example of, “Because the Night,” from the 1978 tour. It’s the version from Houston, on December 8, that’s in the boxed set released late last year. The set includes this entire show.


  7. @John: I definitely agree with you; the Bruce/Patti debate was left out of the post to put the focus on the covers. I actually originally had that very performance you linked to in an earlier draft. I love the way Bruce alters the lyrics there – “I spend all day working for the man.” It’s so interesting how he toyed with this song and it became something very different from the original version.

    Thanks everyone for the comments/enjoying the post!

  8. What about the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Concert where it was performed by Bruce Springsteen, Patti Smith, and U2? It’s on youtube if anyone wants to watch it.

  9. I don’t know how you missed the great version by Michael Stipe and Springsteen where Stipe channels 10000 maniacs style vocals.

  10. Lenny Kaye has a nice live version — lean and muscular, like almost all of his work.

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