Dancing In The Dark (and in the Club)

On June 4, 1984 (otherwise notable for being first birthday), Bruce Springsteen released his chart-topping album Born in the U.S.A. With it, he secured his biggest hit ever, “Dancing In The Dark.” Nobody didn’t like that song!

However, many modern-day Bruce puritans say that “Dancing In The Dark” is anti-Bruce, his one screw-up in a career otherwise loaded with integrity and artistic vision. To these people I say, get over yourselves! A great pop song is nothing to sneer at. It takes genius to craft something so catchy, even if nobody knows what you’re singing about. (This is a song about soul-crushing isolation, of course; in this regard, it’s like “I’m On Fire’s” little brother who’s everybody’s favorite when they’re little kids, but while big bro goes on to be covered by every artist from Tori Amos to Johnny Cash, little bro isn’t really taken seriously as an adult.)

As the story goes, in an effort to appeal to a younger and more diversified set than his standard 35-45 year-old, whitebread audience, Bruce released a “Dancing In The Dark” remix–otherwise known as the 12″ Extended Dance Remix–fully equipped with glockenspiel, backup singers (not Patti Scialfa, which maybe hurt her feelings?), a doubled-up Bruce reverb effect and what sounds like a drum machine. The end result is way more “Always Something There To Remind Me” than Nebraska.

There are several things I love about this remix and its accompanying video. (None of them are Courtney Cox.)

1) The kick-off to the remix. “Phil Collins Drum Fills” is what Rawle calls them (he loves drum fills). I keep thinking it’s going to be “Some Like It Hot” by Power Station.

2) Bruce does some dancing. Now, Bruce can play a mean guitar, he can slide across an entire stage, and he’s jumped off every piano in America. But can he dance? The better question is, should he dance? Oh, but it’s cute to see him try.

3) Backup singers kick in at 1:32 with some nice “Oh-oh-ohs” then proceed to co-pilot the chorus to its completion.

4) Clarence’s big moment at 1:54. It doesn’t get much more 80s than this (except maybe Clarence’s film debut in Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure). Adam Sandler later paid tribute to the Big Man’s exuberant dance move on SNL, which is sadly and inexplicably not on the internet, but here’s a screenshot to give you the gist.

5) At 2:23, the song reminds us (or tries to trick us into thinking) that it’s a Bruce Springsteen song by playing a Born To Run-esque straight-up guitar strumming bit. Very sly!

6) The period from 3:40-5:21. The person making this video (which was produced to go along with the original song, not the remix) had to take some big space-time liberties. One second, Bruce is doing his ill-advised heel-toe walk down the stage, next he’s throwing his hips into a frenzy, then he’s throwing his hands in the air and waving like he just don’t care, and then he’s dancing with Courtney Cox, and then he’s eyeing her in the audience. What a mind-eff! But that’s really what a remix is all about. You don’t know what’s happening, and the only safe thing to do is dance it out! The DJ will take care of you, don’t you sweat it.

Brucemania takes over the vO house in 1986

7) 4:12-4:22. All efforts to remind us that this is a Springsteen song are totally nullified with the “Just dancing…in the dark…WHOA-OH-OH” part. Temporarily, you’re transported to “We Built This City.” Am I right or am I right!

8 ) At 4:55, the girls kick back in. This is the most triumphant part of the song! They all know they successfully crafted a great 80s remix and everybody loves it, and they’re ready to drive it home.

9) The one sucky thing about the remix is that it trims down the Big Man’s sax solo considerably. It’s one of his finest! I don’t care if it is 1984, a synthesizer is no replacement for a Clarence Clemons sax solo. The man blew a door off its hinges, for Pete’s sake.

10) Around 5:55, Bruce takes an explicit and lengthy look right at Courtney Cox’s chestal area. My friend Kristin and I have long disputed what he’s actually looking at. Is it her boobs? She has no boobs, I say. Is he examining his own picture on her shirt? That’s my best guess, but can you imagine Mr. Of The People being so conceited as to check himself out? Is it even possible?

So those are my thoughts on Bruce Springsteen’s foray into the Q102 side of the music scene. It’s a pop music gem, a big hit at any party and a touching glimpse into Bruce’s desire to be popular. In any event, I’m proud to say that “Dancing In The Dark” is one of my favorite Bruce Springsteen songs. Just don’t tell Bruce that.


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