Great Songs # 5: Patti Smith Group – Because the Night

Cascada, the disgracefully bad dance artist from Germany, has released many a buggerisation of an original song and lots of her own rubbish bin-worthy twaddle over the years, but her massacre of one of the most wonderfully crafted pop songs ever really has to be the biggest travesty since Cockney Rebel decided to have a go at Here Comes the Sun. How, with such wonderful material could she fuck it up? Even with trashy Euro-dance beats and crappy synths.

Anyway, that particular version is not up for discussion here, but Patti Smith’s gorgeous, passion filled version is.


Style and Substance

Co-written with Bruce Springsteen (who had the song in mind for his Darkness on the Edge of Town LP), the song is a tour-de-force in goal-oriented song writing. The verses lull and swoon into the bridges of anthemic “can’t hurt you now” brilliance which drive straight into the melodic, passionate, sing-along-or-die choruses which belt out at what seems like 120 decibels.

Because the Night has a beauty about it as well. Smith’s vocal delivery is perfect. The slurred verses against perfect diction in the choruses give the song a strange binary aspect. The song itself is a great example of what’s known in musicology as teleological song form.

Without going too much into it, musical teleology is not to be too confused with philosophical teleology (though it certainly has roots there), but is, rudimentarily, goal-oriented song structure which has its verses build to a big chorus. Both the way this song is written and sung/played grasp this perfectly, whether or not its writers and performers had any idea that this was what they were doing.


Patti Smith Group – Because the Night

Complex musical terms aside, Because the Night is simply a superb 3 minutes of popular music. Its lyric is a touching note on love, intimacy and good old sex. The lyric treats sex with respect, however, rather than the throw-away disdain that Gene Simmons might. The merging of two song writers of the quality of Springsteen and Smith should, in theory, work perfectly and guess what? It does in practice.

This is one of Smith’s most famous numbers, which usually can take a song’s class away due to overplaying etc., but, this song is simply great and therefore nothing can aid in a detraction of its quality.

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