Patti Smith – Because the Night

Patti Smith has always had a cult following and is in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame yet this is her only top 40 hit…it peaked at #13 in the Billboard 100 ad #5 in the UK in 1978.

Bruce Springsteen started writing this song in 1976, but he couldn’t come up with verses. He couldn’t finish it but he couldn’t record it anyway because he was in a legal battle with his manager, Mike Appel, that kept him from recording for almost three years.

The song lay dormant until his producer, Jimmy Iovine, convinced him to give a copy to Patti Smith, who eventually got around to filing in the verses and recording the song. Iovine was also producing Smith’s Easter album and convinced her to record it for the set.

Bruce talked about the song: “It was a love song and I really wasn’t writing them at the time. I wrote these very hidden love songs like For You, or Sandy, maybe even Thunder Road, but they were always coming from a different angle. My love songs were never straight out, they weren’t direct. That song needed directness and at the time I was uncomfortable with it. I was hunkered down in my samurai position. Darkness… was about stripping away everything – relationships, everything – and getting down to the core of who you were. So that song is the great missing song from Darkness On The Edge. I could not have finished it as good as she did. She was in the midst of her love affair with Fred ‘Sonic’ Smith and she had it all right there on her sleeve. She put it down in a way that was just quite wonderful.”




From Songfacts

For many not familiar with Smith’s career or the history of punk, this is the only recognizable song of hers. The producers of the 2013 movie CBGB played to this audience when they portrayed Smith singing this song at the famous club in 1975 – two years before she recorded it and a year before it was written. In the film, Smith is played by Mickey Sumner, who is Sting’s daughter.

Smith wrote the verses in one night in 1977 while waiting for her boyfriend, Fred “Sonic” Smith, to call. Fred, a founding member of the MC5, lived in Michigan and performed with his band Sonic’s Rendezvous; Patti was in New York. They relied on phone calls to stay in touch, but they were both poor and long distance calls were very expensive, so they limited their talks to about once a week, always at night when the rates were cheaper. One night, Patti was expecting his call at 7:30, but it didn’t come. That’s when she played Springsteen’s cassette demo for the first time, listening to it over and over while she wrote lyrics about her yearning love. She got rather specific:

Love is a ring, a telephone

By the time Fred called around midnight, the song was done. This was very unusual for her, as she typically took a lot longer to compose lyrics.

Springsteen didn’t release a studio version of this song until 2010 for his album The Promise, but he often played it at his live shows with different lyrics. The first time his version was released came in 1986 on the boxed set Live 1975-1985.

Smith’s producer on the Easter album was Jimmy Iovine, who would go on to great things as a producer and entrepreneur, but was still getting started in the business at the time. “Because The Night” was his first hit as a producer, and he credits Bruce Springsteen for granting him the opportunity. Iovine had worked on Bruce’s 1975 Born To Run album, and Springsteen gave him the song to deliver to Smith. This “really launched by career,” Iovine said.

Smith was hesitant to use a song written by someone else, and even after writing the verses she wasn’t sure she would record it. Jimmy Iovine and her band members helped convince her to give it a go. “In the end, we were a good match for that particular song,” she told Billboard. “I could have never written a song like that. I’d never write a chorus like that.”

10,000 Maniacs covered this song in 1993, outcharting Smith at #11 US. When Smith’s husband (and the song’s muse), Fred, died of a heart attack on November 11, 1994, at age 45, royalties from that cover helped keep her solvent financially – she had two young children, son Jackson and daughter Jesse, and little money.

The song became a lasting tribute to Fred; Smith later took to performing it with Jackson and Jesse, who became musicians.

Springsteen and Smith performed the song together at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York on April 23, 2018. Smith said: “This song always makes me think of three men: Fred ‘Sonic’ Smith who inspired it, Jimmy Iovine who produced it, and Bruce Springsteen who wrote it.” Springsteen insisted they sing her lyrics, not the ones he typically sang.

This wasn’t the first time they shared a stage: Springsteen joined Smith onstage several times from 1976-1977, while legal battles kept Bruce from recording.

Smith bought her dad a new 1978 Cordoba with the money she made from this song.



Because The Night

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

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

Come on now try and understand
The way I feel under your command
Take my hand as the sun descends
They can’t touch you now
Can’t touch you now, can’t touch 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

With love we sleep
With doubt the vicious circle
Turn 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 the night belongs to lust
Because the night belongs to lovers
Because the night belongs to us
Because tonight there are two lovers
If we believe in the night we trust
Because the night belongs to lovers
Because the night belongs to lust
Because the night belongs to lovers
Because the night belongs to us

Author: badfinger20 (Max)

Power Pop fan, Baseball fan, old movie and tv show fan... and a songwriter, bass and guitar player.

35 thoughts on “Patti Smith – Because the Night”

  1. I really like Patti’s version of this song, and the 10k Maniacs’ version. The song is powerful on its own, but the story about this song helping Patti through a rough time, really adds extra significance to the song.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I read that and that was great timing. I’m so glad it worked out for her. I didn’t know she co-wrote the song. I’ve always heard people say it was a Springsteen song. I thought she had more songs to chart…I learned a lot by this.

      That reminds me…I need to do a 10k Maniacs song…Natalie’s voice is one of a kind and I love hearing her live. She never dressed provocatively or tried to get attention… she has a great style.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I saw them in the 80s…they were so good. She seems so genuine. Yes I would love a reunion with Natalie.


      2. I feel lucky I got to see them. I don’t hear much from her anymore. Maybe I’m not listening in the right places.


      3. I don’t hear much from her now either. After Tigerlily and Ophelia, it seems like she switched her focus to other types of projects. I just looked up those two albums. They were 20+ years ago!

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Geez I didn’t know it was that long. I just looked them up and they are still touring but without Natalie it’s not the same.


      5. I’m glad they still tour, but I agree that without Natalie it’s a different sound. Also sadly, one of their other key members has passed away, so a reunion would be short one of their early creative musicians.

        Liked by 1 person

      6. Natalie has a great voice, and Tigerlily I think was one of the best records of the ’90s. As a man, I’d say she pulled off the almost impossible too – she was quite sexy by way of seemingly overtly going out of her way NOT to be a sex symbol!

        Liked by 2 people

    1. Off Topic…I hope to get to listen to that full debate this weekend that was on your blog with Capitalism and Marxism. I’ve been really wanting to see the complete video.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. The past 2-3 weeks have been tough as far as time is concerned. That has stayed on my mind though…I’m going to see it.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. A great song. Smith is one of those rare stars who really are important because of the friends they had and the people they influenced rather than their work’s direct impact on the masses. Michael stipe has several times said she was the reason he decided to go into music, and he’s probably not alone in that.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. She is a true artist. I thought she had more charting songs…that surprised me. People either get her or don’t… the ones that do make the best fans.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I thoroughly enjoyed her book ‘Just Kids’ but I can’t really stand her voice. It’s like listening to Nico without the cool accent lol. Good to read springsteen writing about the song though…hey, did you read his Autobiography yet? He’s such a brilliant story teller, it must be great.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ve read a couple about biographies about him by Dave Marsh but not his autobiography yet….Yes he is a great story teller…I’ve seen him live and few times and he spins them off to setup songs like no other.


  4. Fabulous song and rendition. My favorite rendition. I first heard it on the Times Square soundtrack special edition which featured this song along with her song Pissing in the River. That’s a great album, by the way. The special edition is almost impossible to find. I like quite a lot of Patti Smith–I don’t like to watch her perform, though. Nice write up.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Pam…it’s a powerful song in itself but I do like her version best. She is different to say the least.

      Off topic Pam… I think this this happened before you moved but if you ever look for a topic to write about… I did a really quick post on Marcia Trimble…it really affected Nashville at the time…and still does… As I was reading about it I kept thinking…Pam would really do a great job with this….Mine is just a quick over view on the effect. I don’t think you are short of topics but if you ever are…

      Liked by 1 person

      1. You know…I just followed your blog again. It’s weird. Your site was giving me follow prompts so I did. I don’t know. I’ve been following you for awhile.
        Anyway, I also tried to email you but I don’t think you have an email listed on your site…?
        Anyway, I’m going to look for your Marcia Trimble post. I familiar with the case. I kept up with it and I’m thrilled that it was finally solved.
        It’s funny that you thought of that because I’m working on a book right now about Tabitha Tuders. I’m investigating the case and have uncovered some very interesting, disturbing stuff, but I don’t want to discuss it over an open forum. It’s sensitive.
        I thought of writing about Marcia Trimble; the case horrified me, but Tabatha Tuders struck a personal accord with me. I grew up in a similar working class, lower middle class neighborhood. In some ways, I identify with Tabitha Tuders. Both cases are tragic. Mrs. Trimble seems like a very nice lady. My heart goes out to her.


      2. I know… I need to list my email address. I just got yours so I’m emailing you now.
        Your site had a “follow” button also like I’ve never been there.

        It was truly when Nashville lost its innocence. Not only that…what happened afterward with the police investigations for the next 30 years or so.

        Liked by 1 person

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