Song of the Day #1,243: ‘Dancing in the Dark’ – Bruce Springsteen

Two years after his bleakest, most low-key album, Bruce Springsteen released a great big shiny pop masterpiece. 1983’s Born in the U.S.A. was written and recorded with mass popularity in mind and that’s exactly what it achieved.

The album generated a record-tying seven top ten singles and ultimately went 15X Platinum. It turned Springsteen into a household name. And it did all of that without compromising his worldview, even if some of the songs were misunderstood (see Ronald Reagan’s use of the title track for an ironic example).

Born in the U.S.A. is often paired with Born to Run as the twin highlights of Springsteen’s recording career and it’s certainly an easy case to make. His two most iconic songs anchor his two most iconic albums. One thing that’s becoming clear as this Springsteen theme rolls on is that the man has put out a boatload of fully realized masterworks.

The pop sheen of Born in the U.S.A. was new for Springsteen but he adopted the style with apparent ease. Take today’s SOTD (which I’m highlighting at my mother’s request): Springsteen wrote ‘Dancing in the Dark’ because the studio asked for a blockbuster hit. Though annoyed by the demand, he over-delivered, and reading these lyrics you can see that the song is in part about the very process of its creation. A neat trick, and further proof that Springsteen is a songwriter with few equals.

This video (directed by Brian DePalma) was a massive hit in the early days of MTV. I remember having a crush on the girl Springsteen pulled onstage, naively not considering that she might have been a plant (let alone a young actress who would go on to massive success of her own).

I get up in the evening
and I ain’t got nothing to say
I come home in the morning
I go to bed feeling the same way
I ain’t nothing but tired
Man I’m just tired and bored with myself
Hey there baby, I could use just a little help

You can’t start a fire
You can’t start a fire without a spark
This gun’s for hire
even if we’re just dancing in the dark

Message keeps getting clearer
radio’s on and I’m moving ’round the place
I check my look in the mirror
I wanna change my clothes, my hair, my face
Man I ain’t getting nowhere
I’m just living in a dump like this
There’s something happening somewhere
baby I just know that there is

You can’t start a fire
you can’t start a fire without a spark
This gun’s for hire
even if we’re just dancing in the dark

You sit around getting older
there’s a joke here somewhere and it’s on me
I’ll shake this world off my shoulders
come on baby this laugh’s on me

Stay on the streets of this town
and they’ll be carving you up alright
They say you gotta stay hungry
hey baby I’m just about starving tonight
I’m dying for some action
I’m sick of sitting ’round here trying to write this book
I need a love reaction
come on now baby gimme just one look

You can’t start a fire sitting ’round crying over a broken heart
This gun’s for hire
Even if we’re just dancing in the dark
You can’t start a fire worrying about your little world falling apart
This gun’s for hire
Even if we’re just dancing in the dark
Even if we’re just dancing in the dark
Even if we’re just dancing in the dark
Even if we’re just dancing in the dark
Hey baby

3 thoughts on “Song of the Day #1,243: ‘Dancing in the Dark’ – Bruce Springsteen

  1. Marile Cloete says:

    I think few people realize what a dark and serious song Dancing really is.

  2. Dana says:

    If this is Bruce’s “sell out” commercial song written for the record company, it’s simply amazing how damn great it is, as is the commercially accessible album from which it came.

    I too fell in love with the girl in the video, having no idea at the time that she was the oh so lovely Courtney Cox planted in a fake video concert.

    Just a great song that, even after all these years and many repeat listenings, I never grow tired of hearing. It feels as fresh now as it did in 1983.

  3. pegclifton says:

    Thank you, thank you, thank you. I love this song and this video, and you have turned a cold raining day into sunshine đŸ™‚

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