Of the eight songs that form Bruce Springsteen‘s glorious Born To Run album, Night is the one with the shortest duration. Only three minutes of great rock intensity. When you listen to it for the first time, you are somewhat stunned. That powerful attack, that guitar that Springsteen slams so shamelessly in your face. Night is a particular song, certainly not common. An unusual interrupted rhythm, sometimes halved, with numerous breaks and many variations on the musical theme. All, as mentioned, in just three minutes, while Bruce Springsteen tells what happens to a young man who seeks freedom in the night after a hard week of work and social alienation. Thus Night becomes, already from the title, a hymn to the night as a moment of expression and life, in contrast to the more conservative logic of older generations, who saw in the wee hours only the moment of rest and silence.
THE NIGHT OF FREEDOM
Even in its lyrical meaning Night contains something very special. In a superficial reading it might seem like the trivial story of a boy who, after work, gets ready to go out and have fun in the night time. The lyrics, instead, hide much more: there is that sense of desperation that takes over people when they feel abused in the factory and alienated in their work, to the point of seeking an answer in the night. A rescue, perhaps a revenge. The first verse introduces us to that contrast. The morning is the time for getting up early and for quarrels with the factory boss. The night is the moment in which you closethe door behind your back e go out. In the darkness of the factory the lights of the night contrast with the mirage of a girl to be conquered.
A DREAM OR AN ILLUSION?
The night hides pitfalls and the boy doesn’t know what will happen. He’s not sure if the road will give him something back or send him home defeated. Perhaps he will really meet a girl with whom he can simply live those hours of freedom or maybe a woman to whom he can propose an escape in search of a better life. Here Night becomes the possible prologue of Thunder Road and Born To Run, present in the same album. Nothing is taken for granted: that highway on fire could also destroy that dream (or maybe it’s just an illusion). It is the end that many end up with: “The rat trap’s filled with soul crusaders“. But it is a risk that a twenty-five-year-old boy must take. While in the night “the world is busting at its seams“, it’s time to liberate his dreams, because it is only on those roads and in those moments that he will be able to feel free. Perhaps alone and without prospects, but free.
THE CAR AS A MEANS OF FREEDOM
It is with the album Born To Run that the famous Springsteen epic of the road begins. The car become a means to achieve the young men’s dream of freedom. If in the song Born To Run the racing cars are suicide machines that turn into traps, it is Thunder Road that inaugurates the vision of four wheels as wings to fly away. Night also glorifies the power of the automobile: “And sit at the light as it changes to green, with faith in your machine, off you scream into the night“. Someone has even speculated that that beautiful girl praised in the song is actually the car itself. From this point of view, Night would become the perfect prologue to Racing In The Street, from the following Darkness On The Edge Of Town album. A man who finds his reason for living in the car and in the streets, who fails in love and who only finds that freedom by running, among defeated strangers and Hot Rod angels.
THE GREAT AMERICAN NOVEL
The epilogue of the story could be different. There are also kids who, continuing to wander aimlessly with a car in the night, get lost in it and no longer know what to look for. They are the kids from the wonderful Something In The Night, from Darkness On The Edge Of Town album too. So Night could really be read as the prologue to many other stories told in Springsteen‘s songs. It is no coincidence that Bruce is often described as the author of a unique great American novel. There are several stories that intertwine, they are apparently untied, instead they have common elements that meet somewhere, especially in the night. Connections we can discover as the story evolves. It’s Bruce‘s uniqueness, hard to find something similar in rock literature.
A ROCK EARTHQUAKE
Even if maybe it doesn’t have the same epic of the most acclaimed songs from Born To Run album, Night still represents an important component, because it is the rawest rock’n’roll, the one in which it is not the keyboards or the piano that compose the most melodic sound, but an imperious guitar that Springsteen plays with force and rage. The same force and rage that Mighty Max Weinberg expresses on drums, especially in the intro and in the finale. Then we can listen to the wonderful hidden Garry Tallent‘s work, a bass player whose talent has never been perceived enough by critics and rock fans. Roy Bittan‘s piano for once doesn’t embroider melody but reinforces the rhythmic part with a score of pure R’n’R. Clarence Clemons‘ tenor saxophone, powerful as ever, introduces and closes the song, giving melody and muscles to the main musical motif and challenging Springsteen‘s guitar in a race that leads straight to the deepest soul of rock. Finally the voices… indeed the voice: it is always Bruce who overdubs the countermelody above his own voice in a tandem that practically covers the whole song. Like the boy seeking freedom in the night, Springsteen sings Night with the same rabid enthusiasm.
THE WALL OF SOUND
Night was often used as the first song in Springsteen concerts or in the group of first 4/5 songs that immediately warmed up the audience. It has always been one of the songs that the members of the E Street Band love the most when they play it live. From the Born To Run tour on, Steve Van Zandt joined the band and on Night he further strengthened the guitars presence and dubbed Springsteen‘s singing in a vocal duo with few equals in rock. Night was also one of Springsteen‘s first experiments of the so-called Wall Of Sound, a technique devised by Phil Spector, by which the instrumental parts are not only recorded in the assigned channels of the mixer, but enter all the microphones, mixing the sounds and making the overall effect thicker and more powerful.
Read Also: Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out, New York City Serenade
Next Review: 13 November 2023 – Backstreets
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