Because The Night

How does a one-hit wonder who is not named Jimi Hendrix get into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame?  I give Laura Nyro a lot of grief because it is unbelievable that she could be inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame when so many worthy acts are denied [1], but Patti Smith is the same sort of act.  Bruce Springsteen wrote her only hit, and despite decades of material, “Because The Night” is the only song most casual fans of rock music will know of hers, except perhaps for her work on the bizarre “E-Bow The Letter” by REM.  Yet “Because The Night” is a really good song, not least because it has a dark subtext that makes it appealing for listeners as well as other bands (like 10,000 Maniacs, who memorably covered it for their biggest hit).  The song has the sort of mood and music that it seems as if the singer/narrator is trying to reclaim the night from the horrors that people can often suffer in the darkness and turn the night from a time of evil into a time that belongs to lovers.  There is something admirable in trying to claim the night for lovers in light of the darkness that is just under the surface of the song, and one can believe that Patti Smith is being candid about her own efforts to reclaim the darkness.

Strictly speaking, darkness is simply the absence of light.  It is not the absence of light that is itself evil or terrifying to many people [2], but the fact that the absence of light provides the opportunity for evil to be done by those who seek a cover for those deeds.  In our day and time we largely ignore the night as being all that different from the night.  The popularity of artificial light indoors and out means that the night can be treated almost like the daytime when it comes to our activities.  Daylight savings time early in the year can mean, for example, that dawn comes long after the time when people wake up to go to school and go to work.  At other times, our work schedules make it so that we spend the entire daylight hours at work and enter and leave work in darkness, something that always made me somewhat sad, even if I am a person who does not fare well in direct sunlight either.  At any rate, darkness is a venue.  What we do in that venue is up to us, and what others do is up to them.

I went grocery shopping today, as I usually do on Sunday evenings.  I was struck, though, by the fact that the light of my local grocery store was out and the parking lot was entirely dark as well.  I thought this was creepy, but since I really wanted to get my food for the week, I decided, why not, and went inside, as I could see that the lights were still on inside the grocery store thankfully.  Getting my shopping done was uneventful, as it it usually is.  I get pretty similar items of food every time and it was the same this time.  I did notice that my ramen noodles were advertising something relating to Final Fantasy, which I found mildly amusing.  When your ramen noodles are advertising, perhaps that is a bridge too far.  At any rate, when I got to the checkout line I asked the cashier about the mystery and she was not aware of why the lights were out outside the building.  I love a good mystery, but it definitely seemed creepy to me.

Obviously, nothing untoward happened, as I am writing this blog entry.  I was able to make enough noise pushing the shopping cart to deliver my groceries that despite the total darkness no cars decided to run me over.  It was, in fact, a rather quiet time and far less dangerous than a normal walk through the parking lot with cars reversing without paying much attention to those around them.  Even so, I was struck by the mystery of the darkness as I drove home and saw that the darkness had not spread beyond that specific parking lot alone.  A person with a taste for horror movies could make a great treatment out of someone having intentionally chosen that place to be dark so that they could fulfill some dark purpose, but most of us were just looking to get our groceries and get home as quickly as possible.  It is safer to think about the night when one is in one’s room with the light on than when one is navigating through a dark parking lot towards a building whose lights are on in the inside but whose neon sign has gone dark as well.  It is not healthy to think about the darkness while one is still in it, because the night is not a safe place for some of us.

[1] See, for example:

[2] See, for example:

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
This entry was posted in History, Music History, Musings and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

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