Because the Night (co-written songs part 1)

This entry, and the next (Trouble in Paradise), focus on the relatively rare occasions where Bruce Springsteen has co-credit on songs. As you will learn the reason for the co-credits are either that the collaborators have co-written or finished something he started OR had their song amended by Springsteen.

I don’t claim that the songs mentioned in this and the following blogpost are the complete list of co-written songs. All of the songs I mention have been either recorded or released in some format, so this doesn’t include live-only re-writes, like random changes of the lyrics of a cover.

During the Castiles-era Bruce Springsteen and Georg Theiss co-wrote the songs That’s What You Get and Baby I. According to BruceBase and Springsteenlyrics.com, Bruce and George wrote both songs in Tex Vinyard’s car in 1966 on their way to the studio Mr Music Inc. – a recording booth in a shopping centre. The recording booth didn’t offer the best circumstances for recording. The size of the room and the quality of the recording gear made the guitars sound clinky and the vocals are muffled, which makes it hard to hear parts of the lyrics. Apparently, this was the first time that Springsteen’s voice and guitar were captured on vinyl.

 

That’s What You Get is an unreleased song that probably was performed live with the Castiles around 1966. No live performances has been documented.

The lyrics are about a woman who seems to have died (has she committed suicide?) and, apparently, that’s what you get for loving the narrator, who regretfully is saying his goodbyes.

Baby I was probably also performed live with the Castiles around 1966. It was officially released on Chapter & Verse, the companion album to Springsteen’s autobiography Born To Run in 2016.

The protagonist in the lyrics has met someone new, and he doesn’t need her love anymore.

Because The Night is one of Springsteen’s most famous co-written songs. The song was originally recorded during the Darkness on the Edge of Town-sessions. Supposedly, Springsteen was unhappy with it and since the Patti Smith group was in the studio next doors a tape of the song was given to Smith, who rewrote/recast it and it was later included on the album Easter and is to this day the best known song of Smith’s catalogue.

The song was first performed in 1977, with Springsteen joining on vocals and guitar.

 

Bruce Springsteen would often play this song in concerts, but with his own lyrics. It was released in the 1986 box set Live 1975-85, where Smith were listed as co-writer and later on the compilation album The Promise (2010).

There are some differences in the lyrics; Patti Smith’s version, that was written in one night in 1977, while waiting for her boyfriend to call is about yearning love. It breathes lust and fear and reflects the pain of uncertainty.

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

Springsteen’s version represents a different perspective: a workingman at the end of his hard day seeking comfort in the arms of his girl with a set of desires to be fulfilled.

Steven Van Zandt and Bruce Springsteen have co-written a number of (love) songs, mainly songs written for Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes. Van Zandt recalls writing the song like this: “Bruce had that riff, and that’s basically how I collaborate. Somebody will have a riff or a line or a melody or a chorus or a title, and then I just finished the song.” (Entertainment Weekly)

The love song Little Girl So Fine was released in 1977 on the Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes’ album This time it’s for real. 

Love On The Wrong Side Of Town was also released on the SSJ album This Time it’s for Real and later on the compilation album Havin’ a Party with Southside Johnny in 1987.

Bye-bye, baby, our love is tumblin’ down
I can’t be hangin’ around
Love on the wrong side of town

img_3755Little Steven and the Disciples of Soul reinterpreted the song for their new album Soulfire in 2016, and it has been on the setlist of their ongoing tour Soulfire Teacher Solidarity Tour 18 (in Europe called the The Soulfire Teacher Appreciation Tour, which I was lucky enough to attend).

Southside Johnny’s version of When You Dance is credited to Springsteen and SVZ. It was also released on the above mentioned Southside albums. There also exists an early version of this song, which was written in 1971 and played by The Bruce Springsteen Band in the late 1971 and early 1972, but the lyrics are very different (see Roll of the Dice: When you Dance)

Trapped Again is a collaboration between Bruce Springsteen, John “Southside Johnny” Lyon and Steve Van Zandt. It was recorded and released by Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes on the album Hearts of Stone (1978) and also on the compilation album Havin’ a Party with Southside Johnny (1987).

Warren Zevon‘s song Jeannie Needs A Shooter, for which Springsteen share credit, is loosely based the unreleased Darkness on the Edge of Town outtake Janey Needs a Shooter. Zevon supposedly fell in love with the title and he asked Springsteen many times about it until Springsteen said: “You like it so much, why don’t you write it?”. Zevon’s wrote a few lines and then took help from Springsteen to finish the song. It appears on Zevon’s fourth album Bad Luck Streak in Dancing School (1980) and the live album Stand in the Fire (1981).

The lyrics are about a man who falls in love with a woman against her father’s will. They plan to elope but are caught by her father (who is a lawman) and in the end the suitor is shot down.

Johnny Bye-Bye was written in the memory of Elvis Presley, who died in 1977. It is based on Chuck Berry’s song Bye Bye Johnny. The two first lines of the songs are identical: “She drew out all her money out of the Southern Trust/And put her little boy aboard a Greyhound bus”. That and the play on the title is why Chuck Berry is given co-writing credits.

It premiered in 1981 during the River Tour. It was released on the B-side of the single I’m on Fire in 1985. It was also included on the Tracks box set in 1998.

(video below: Bruce telling the story about him climbing the Graceland wall, running up to the house trying to meet Elvis in 1975)


This concludes the first part of this blogpost. Stay tuned for the next entry: “Trouble in Paradise (co-written songs part 2)”

Big shout-out to my dear friend Dan French for handing me the idea for this blogpost!

Bruce Springsteen and Patti Smith photo by Theo Wargo/Getty Images for Tribeca Film Festival

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