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Bruce Springsteen - Dancing In the Dark (1984)

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  • 80's Score80's Score 80's score: 2.08
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“Dancing in the Dark” is a song written and performed by American rock singer Bruce Springsteen. Adding uptempo ...

“Dancing in the Dark” is a song written and performed by American rock singer Bruce Springsteen. Adding uptempo synthesizer riffs to his sound for the first time, the song spent four weeks at number two on the Billboard Hot 100 and sold over one million singles in the U.S. It was the first single released from his 1984 album, Born in the U.S.A., and became his biggest hit, helping the album become the best-selling album of his career.

“Dancing in the Dark” was also successful worldwide, becoming Australia’s highest-selling single of 1984, peaking at number one in Belgium and the Netherlands, and charting within the top 10 in seven other countries.

Writing and recording

Springsteen wrote “Dancing In the Dark” overnight, after Jon Landau convinced him that the album needed a single. According to journalist Dave Marsh in the book Glory Days, Springsteen was not impressed with Landau’s approach. “Look”, he snarled, “I’ve written seventy songs. You want another one, you write it.” Despite this reaction, Springsteen sat in his hotel room and wrote the song in a single night. It sums up his state of mind, his feeling of isolation after the success of his album The River, and his frustrations of trying to write a hit single. Six takes of “Dancing in the Dark” were recorded on February 14, 1984, at The Hit Factory, and after 58 mixes, work was completed on March 8, 1984. The 12-inch single was released May 9, 1984, and was the highest-selling 12-inch single in the US that year.

Music video

Directed by Brian De Palma, the video was shot at the Saint Paul Civic Center in Saint Paul, Minnesota, on June 28 and 29, 1984. The first night was a pure video shoot, the second was on the opening date of the Born in the U.S.A. Tour. Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band performed the song twice during that show to allow De Palma to get all the footage he needed. The video is a straight performance video, with Springsteen not playing a guitar, allowing him to invite a young woman from the audience, performed by Courteney Cox, to dance along with him on the stage at the end. Although De Palma had told him that it was she whom he was supposed to select, Springsteen thought she was just a pre-selected fan attending and did not know until afterward that she was a professional actress, brought in from New York City, who had already played in As the World Turns. Despite this Cox has stated that she was one of many that Springsteen could have selected and that she was secretly hoping to not be picked. The video initially included a storyline in which Cox and several of her friends were getting ready to go to the concert with one of them getting picked. Vignettes were shot for this although they remained unused. In September 1985, the video won the MTV Video Music Award for Best Stage Performance and was nominated for Best Overall Performance.

Chart performance

Released as a single prior to the album’s release, the song entered the Billboard Hot 100 chart on May 26, 1984 at no. 36, and spent four weeks at No. 2 (his highest charting song to date) beginning June 30, 1984 (it was kept off the No. 1 spot by Duran Duran’s “The Reflex” and that year’s song of the summer, Prince’s “When Doves Cry”). It did however reach No. 1 on the Cash Box Top 100 Singles chart. It was also the first of a record-tying seven top 10 hit singles to be released from Born in the U.S.A. “Dancing in the Dark” also held the No. 1 spot for six weeks on Billboard’s Top Tracks chart. The song reached No. 1 on the Radio & Records CHR and AOR airplay charts.

In the UK, “Dancing in the Dark” originally reached number 28 in the UK Singles Chart when released in May 1984. However, the song re-entered the chart in January 1985 and subsequently reached number 4, becoming the 29th best-selling single of the year.

The recording also won Springsteen his first Grammy Award, picking up the prize for Best Rock Vocal Performance in 1985. In the 1984 Rolling Stone readers poll, “Dancing in the Dark” was voted “Single of the Year”. The track has since gone on to earn further recognition and is as such listed one of The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll.

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