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NOD TO THE GODS: Patti Smith, ‘Because the Night’
February 16, 2014
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Each and every Sunday night when the clock hits eight, The Strombo Show celebrates the spirit of radio over on CBC Radio 2. It's music for music lovers by music lovers. To kick off the program, we always tip our hats to the legends, the noise-makers and the ground-breakers in a segment that we like to call: Nod to the Gods.

When Bruce Springsteen was starting out, his biggest hits were not always from his own recordings. In the early seventies, one track off his debut record Greetings From Asbury Park was brought to more listeners by Manfred Mann than by the Boss himself.

Several years later, in the midst of a legal battle with his manager that largely prevented him from recording for almost three years, he wrote a song that didn't exactly fit in with the rest of the tunes he was writing, which would make up the 1978 album Darkness on the Edge of Town.

Springsteen himself says: "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."

The "she," of course, was Patti Smith. While waiting for her husband Fred Smith to call home, Smith put together her own version of the words and created one of the most enduring songs in her arsenal. At the 25th anniversary of the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame, Smith and Springsteen joined together and backed by Bono and his merry men, they performed "Because The Night."

Shortly after "Because the Night," Springsteen passed off another song that was recorded in his batch of over fifty tracks at the time of Darkness. He initially wrote "Fire" for Elvis Presley after he had seen him perform at a concert in Philadelphia in 1977, and even sent him a demo version. As the story goes, Elvis passed away on August 16 of that year. Although the match seems unorthodox, The Pointer Sisters (Anita, June and Ruth) spun the song into their own and reached some international success with it.

Speaking of Patti Smith, here's George's conversation with her from last season:

For further musical musings, new and old, join the collective for The Strombo Show on CBC Radio 2, every Sunday night at 8PM. And if you'd like to catch up or relisten, all of the episodes are archived here.


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