The Long, Strange Trip Of "Because The Night"! And The Smash Hit Version We'll Bet You've Never Heard!

"Twist & Shout", "Proud Mary", "You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling"...

There are songs that always seem to have been there, like bad wallpaper.  They may have been fresh and urgent and revolutionary at one time, but by the time you finally take notice of them, it's more out of annoyance or reluctant acceptance of their constant presence in your life.  I've never once played "Proud Mary" (which is funny because I own the album that it's on) yet I've heard the song a gazillion times.

Sadly, most have been jammed sideways into my ears by one garden variety cover band or another, although the CCR version is intricately familiar to my psyche. In that sense, You can walk through a room a million times over the course of many decades and never really stop and look at that wallpaper, but simply by being so close to it for so long, when you think back upon it years later, you realize that it had an effect on you.

And then there are songs that weren't necessarily being rammed down your throat until much later, like Patti Smith's "Because The Night", a Top 20 hit for the artist that had largely been forgotten until Natalie Merchant wrapped her warm voice around it during a taping of MTV's Unplugged and gave it a new lease on life.  Upon it's release as a single in Ocober 1993, radio programmers across the land began playing the song once an hour and the band that I vaguely as having opened for R.E.M. over the years were now selling millions of albums.



From a commercial standpoint, 10,000 Maniacs were little more than the next Edie Brickell & The New Bohemians; an esoteric jam band led by a relatively attractive, albeit hand-wringingly precious female vocalist.  Where Brickell is defined by her lone hit "What I Am" - and marrying one-half of Simon & Garfunkel - it almost seemed as if the band's cover of Cat Stevens' "Peace Train" might be their defining moment.  Up until then, they'd done very little to really jump out at mainstream listeners.

But when Stevens went public with his support of the fatwa on Salman Rushdie (author of the book "The Satanic Verses", 10,000 Maniacs removed the song from their album, In My Tribe.  Thankfully, third single "What's The Matter Here" was a hit with radio programmers and propelled the band to headliner status.

So by the time the band covered "Because The Night" in '93, they were already darn close to being equals with R.E.M., with Stipe and Merchant on equal footing as rock's unofficial moral conscience.



To cover a Patti Smith tune made total sense.  How could Merchant not be a fan of someone who blazed the trail before her, making it safe for well-read women to lead their own rock bands?  Util the band made it their own, there were constant mentions of it being a Patti Smith song, but, even now, very little mention is ever made of the fact that the song itself was written by Bruce Springsteen.

Ask any ten people familiar with the song and I'd bet good money that no more than two of the ten would know that "the Boss" had anything to do with the tune.

Which begs the question, why wasn't EVERYBODY covering Springsteen tunes back in the '70s? After all, Manfred Mann's Earth Band had taken his "Blinded By The Light" (originally released on his 1973 debut album, Greetings from Asbury Park, NJ) to #1 in 1977.  The Pointer Sisters would then score a #2 hit with "Fire", which Springsteen wrote for Darkness On The Edge Of Town, but did not release.

He did, however, offer the song to Robert Gordon, who released it as a single in early '78.  UK singer Shakin' Stevens also cut a version of the song, but it wasn't until a few months later that Richard Perry would suggest the song to the Pointer Sisters, whose album Energy he was producing.

Yet it wouldn't be until 1993 that another artist would score a massive hit with a Springsteen song. right?



Wrong.

In 1992, one year prior to 10,000 Maniacs covering the song, "Because The Night" had been a huge - I mean HUGE - dance hit by the group Co.Ro, going #1 all across Europe.  Thankfully for the band, they didn't let that sway them from performing the song during their MTV Unplugged performance and ultimately scoring their largest chart success.

So, for a song that Bruce Springsteen determined unfit for his own album, it's pretty impressive that it would go on to become a career-defining song for not one, but two artists (three if you count Co.Ro).
That it went anywhere at all must surely be credited to enterprising engineer Jimmy Iovine, who was involved in concurrent sessions for Springsteen and Smith, which happened to be taking place in different rooms at the Record Plant in NYC.

Superior St. Rehearsal Facility

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