DANCING IN THE DARK

Album version


I get up in the evening and I ain't got nothing to say
I come home in the morning, I go to bed feelin' 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 just keep getting clearer, radio's on and I'm moving 'round my 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 tryin' 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 cryin' over a broken heart
This gun's for hire even if we're just dancing in the dark
You can't start a fire worryin' about your little world fallin' 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!


A big hit and the first single from the Born In The U.S.A. album.

The Born In The U.S.A. recording sessions took place between early 1982 and March 1984 at both The Hit Factory and The Power Station studios, New York City, NY (but I have no information in which the album version of DANCING IN THE DARK was recorded). The album was in the mixing stage in March 1984, and it was the time to select which tracks will make it on the record among the 70 songs cut during those sessions. Bruce finally felt he had the records together, but co-producer and manager Jon Landau didn't.

One afternoon in March 1984, in Springsteen's room at the Lyden House in New York City, Landau presents an argument that what the album needs is one more song; a first single, one that sums up Bruce's current state of mind. As Dave Marsh writes in his book Glory Days, "Springsteen balked, then exploded. 'Look,' he snarled, 'I've written 70 songs. If you want another one, you write it.'"

The argument proved to be just the spark Springsteen needed to light his creative fire. He picks up an acoustic guitar and begins writing DANCING IN THE DARK - just the kind of song Landau was looking for. The song is about the isolation Bruce felt after The River's success and about his frustration trying to write a hit single ("I'm sick of sitting 'round here tryin' to write this book"). Ironically, it did become a hit single.

Bruce Springsteen speaking about DANCING IN THE DARK in 1987: "It was just like my heart spoke straight through my mouth, without even having to pass through my brain."

Springsteen recorded the song in late March. Bruce and the E Street Band experimented with different instrumental arrangements before coming up with the synthesizer-led arrangement that made the album, with Clarence Clemmons' sax solo (dubbed later in the mixing) fading at the end of the song. Weinberg later tells Graig Rosen that the band "recorded a real Rock 'N' Roll version of it. I remember sitting down at the drums after getting three or four takes of the rock version, and Jon Landau came over to me and whispered in my ear, 'Dance record'."

The song is a dark and angry cry, but due to its catchy beat, the somewhat depressing lyrics were lost on most listeners; BORN IN THE U.S.A. had the same thing happen. Bruce noted in his book Songs, "I went as far in the direction of pop music as I wanted to go -- and probably a little farther."

Between May 1982 and Jun 1984, Bruce Springsteen frequently jammed with Cats On A Smooth Surface at the Stone Pony, Asbury Park, NJ. In early 1984, Patti Scialfa occasionally sang with Cats On A Smooth Surface, the Stone Pony house band, and it was during one of these gigs that she met Bruce Springsteen. "I met Bruce there," she told Backstreets magazine. "I was doing a lot of Motown stuff and all. I just sort of bumped into him. He asked me to sing on his record." She would add background vocals on an unused version of DANCING IN THE DARK. Bruce Springsteen and The E Street Band rehearsed for the upcoming tour on 24 and 25 Jun 1984 at 129 Monmouth Street, Red Bank, NJ. On the 24th, Patti Scialfa is invited to the rehearsal and given a tryout as Bruce's support vocalist. On the 25th, Bruce informed her that she is now an official member of the E Street Band, and that she would hit the road with them.

DANCING IN THE DARK was the last song written and recorded for the album, but it was not the last one to be included. The LP was turned into Columbia in late March, and then a new track, NO SURRENDER, was added due to a comment by Steve Van Zandt who had left the E Street Band at that time, but was still a close friend and confident. Van Zandt said, "This is a big mistake... If you're gonna throw something out, throw out DANCING IN THE DARK and NO SURRENDER should be the first single."

Annie Leibovitz spent a day in April photographing the E Street band; she shot Bruce that night in the basement of his house in Rumson, NJ, as he dances alone to the new DANCING IN THE DARK. A shot from this night will be used as the single's picture sleeve. Note that Leibovitz is the one behind the Born In The U.S.A. album cover, the Tunnel Of Love album cover, and the sleeve photos on Springsteen's Songs book. The Born In The U.S.A. album cover became one of the most famous icons in Rock 'N' Roll or Pop culture. She also photographed Springsteen at Cadillac Ranch in 1979 in Amarillo, TX, and has had her work appear on some of his other singles.

On 07 May 1984, the WNEW radio station in New York played the song until it was stopped by a telegram from the record company asking them to stop playing it. The same thing happened the next day across the country. On 09 May 1984, the DANCING IN THE DARK / PINK CADILLAC single was released, about a month before the album official release.

Arthur Baker remixed DANCING IN THE DARK at The Power Station, New York City, NY. He told the Los Angeles Times, "When I first heard 'Dancing' I thought it was a great song, but I thought something was missing in the record. I thought it was real one-dimensional -- very straight, especially the bass line. I tried to give the record more dimension. I wanted to make it more like Bruce's old stuff -- what I remember 'Born to Run' was like -- with the fuller sound and the bells." Baker deconstructed the song, the rhythm tracks with synthesized drums and new bass lines, adding female backing vocals, chimes, and reverb in his remixes for DANCING IN THE DARK (Blaster Mix), COVER ME (Undercover Mix), and BORN IN THE U.S.A. (Freedom Mix). There were also dub and radio versions of each, along with two dub mixes for COVER ME. The Dancing In The Dark remix 12-inch was released on 29 Jun 1984, the same day of the opening show on the Born In The U.S.A. tour. That was Bruce's first-ever dance remix.

The song was played live for the first time on 26 May 1984 at the Xanadu club in Asbury Park, NJ, when Bruce played with the band Bystander. On the same day, the song entered the Top 40 in charts, and stayed there about four months. It peaks at #2 on the Billboard Top 100 and #4 in the UK. It was initially Duran Duran's THE REFLEX and then for many weeks Prince's WHEN DOVES CRY that kept the song from topping the US charts. In the liner notes for Greatest Hits, Springsteen refers to it as "My big smash! No. 2 of the charts (damn the artist formerly known as Prince)."

The song was also performed on 08 Jun 1984 at the Stone Pony, Asbury Park, NJ, during a warm-up gig for the Born In The U.S.A. tour. That gig was the first for Nils Lofgren with the E Street Band. Again performed during another warm-up gig for the tour, on 21 Jun 1984 at The Village, Lancaster, PA.

On 28 Jun 1984, the eve of the Born In The U.S.A. tour, the song was performed in front of an audience of 200 people at Saint Paul Civic Center Arena in Saint Paul, MN, for the shooting of the DANCING IN THE DARK video. The actress Courteney Cox-Arquette, not famous back then, was chosen (among 300 women) by director Brian De Palma to be the girl Bruce pulls from the audience to dance with on stage, a ritual Bruce would continue through the tour. It was reported that Cox-Arquette was paid $350 for the clip. She landed a role on the sitcom Family Ties soon after. In 1994, she hosted Saturday Night Live (and danced with Adam Sandler on his hilarious cover of DANCING IN THE DARK) and said, "Ten years ago, someone gave me my first break by putting me on a music video." "It was scary," she told NBC's Dateline in 2004. She added, "I just imitated what (Springsteen) did. Whatever he did, I followed."

The following night, the opening night of the tour (29 Jun 1984), and at the same venue, the song was performed two consecutive times during the show, again for the video shooting. The video was later included on The Complete Video Anthology / 1978-2000 DVD. The video was Springsteen's first to get heavy airplay on MTV, introducing him to a new, mostly younger audience. In the liner notes for Greatest Hits, Springsteen recalls "A bunch of autographs seeking Catholic school girls came rushing up to me on the streets of N.Y.C. screaming they'd seen the video. Teen idol status at 35!? I enjoyed it."

DANCING IN THE DARK was performed each night during the tour and, and every time Bruce picks a girl from the audience and dances with her onstage during the song. Check out the live 26 Jul 1984 version and the live 21 Jun 1985 version. On 22 Oct 1984 at the Coliseum, Oakland, CA, Bruce picked his sister to dance with. On 01 Jun 1985 at Slane Castle, Dublin, Ireland, Bruce had to dance with Patti Scialfa as it was too dangerous to excite the drunk crowd at the front rows. One fan recalls, "...a constant stream of humanity restlessly pushing back and forth with great disregard of the rest of the audience. Sparkling white t-shirts got covered with foot prints, dozens of young girls were passed back through the throng, and shoes, voices, friends, and tempers were lost."

DANCING IN THE DARK gave Springsteen's first Grammy Award, when it was elected Best Rock Male Vocal Performance on 26 Feb 1985. Bruce didn't attend the ceremony because he participated in the recording of WE ARE THE WORLD for the benefit album USA For Africa: We Are The World. On 28 Jan 1985, DANCING IN THE DARK won Best Pop/Rock Single during the American Music Awards, and it was voted Single Of The Year in the 1985 Rolling Stone reader's poll.

Played acoustic on 13 Oct 1986 at the Shoreline Amphitheatre, Mountain View, CA, during The Bridge School benefit show. Performed during each of the Tunnel Of Love tour shows, except on 06 May 1988 at the Tacoma Dome, Seattle, CA, and 3 more consecutive times at 19, 22, and 23 May 1988 at Madison Square Gardens, New York City, NY. Check out the live 10 May 1988 version. On 03 May 1988 at the Shoreline Amphitheatre, Mountain View, CA, Bruce dances with his mother on DANCING IN THE DARK.

Played on 13 Jun 1988 at the Piaza Di Spagna, Rome, Italy, when Bruce played with street musicians, on a borrowed guitar, in front of 15 people. He also played it on 23 Jul 1988 in Copenhagen, Denmark, with street musician John Magnusson on acoustic guitar. Part of the latter performance was shown on Danish TV.

The song was played 9 times during the Human Rights Now! tour. Check out the live 15 Oct 1988 version. At the 15 Sep 1988 show Maple Leaf Gardens, Toronto, Canada, Bruce picks a male dance partner from the crowd.

The song was played again on 05 Jun 1992 at the Hollywood Sound Stage, Los Angeles, CA, during a rehearsal concert for the Human Touch tour, and later later played 15 times during the tour, 14 of them between Jun and Aug 1992 and the last one on 08 Apr 1993 at Hallenstadion, Zurich, Switzerland. Check out the live 10 Jul 1992 version.

In 1995, the song was included on the Greatest Hits collection.

Played only twice during The Reunion tour:

  • 30 Apr 2000 at Firstar Center, Cincinnati, OH, played in the new county arrangement with Nils Lofgren on pedal steel and Garry Tallent on stand-up bass. Bruce played the first verse before the band joined him for the acoustic version.
  • 12 Jun 2000 at Madison Square Gardens, New York City, NY

Note that the song was reported to have been sound-checked during that tour on:

  • 25 Apr 2000 at the Civic Center, Pittsburgh, PA
  • 30 Apr 2000 at Firstar Center, Cincinnati, OH, acoustically
  • 21 May 2000 at Arrowhead Pond, Anaheim, CA

Heavily played during The Rising tour, scoring 113 times. DANCING IN THE DARK made its tour debut on 21 Aug 2002 at Tacoma Dome, Tacoma, WA, in a full band arrangement, the first since the end of the Human Rights Now! tour on 15 Oct 1988 at River Plate Stadium, Buenos Aires, Argentina. Instead of going heavy on keyboards, though, Bruce went with a guitar-driven arrangement and the song just cooked, becoming a highlight of the entire tour. Check out the live 14 Jun 2003 version.

The first half of the 16 Oct 2002 show at Palau Sant Jordi, Barcelona, Spain, from THE RISING till DANCING IN THE DARK, was broadcasted on MTV Europe and VH1-UK to most of Europe. Video for three of the broadcasted songs was included on The Rising: Tour Edition bonus DVD in 2003 (Released in Australia and Europe with identical catalogue number, COL 508000 3). The complete show was later released on Live In Barcelona DVD in 2003. Check out the live 16 Oct 2002 version.

On the last two shows of The Rising tour, 03 and 04 Oct 2003 at the Shea Stadium, New York City, NY, Jon Landau and Willie Nile shared the stage and played guitar with Bruce during DANCING IN THE DARK. Check out the live 04 Oct 2003 version.

Bruce Springsteen and The E Street Band played a surprisingly long off-tour set on 29 Aug 2002 at The Rose Center For Earth And Space at The Planetarium of The American Museum Of Natural History, New York City, NY, during a live broadcast for that year's MTV Video Music Awards (VMA) ceremony. Introduced by James Gandolfini, Bruce and the Band opened that year's MTV Video Music Awards (VMA) ceremony with a live performance of THE RISING. Bruce's VMA opening was broadcast from the Rose Center For Earth and Space, then the MTV cameras took the proceedings to Radio City Music Hall, but fans who endured the rain at The Planetarium were treated with 9 additional song (including DANCING IN THE DARK). See the live 29 Aug 2002 version.

The song was included on The Essential Bruce Springsteen collection in 2003.

DANCING IN THE DARK was performed on 30 Jun 2005 at Keflavik International Airport in Keflavik, Iceland. On his way from Germany back to the US in the midst the Devils & Dust Solo Acoustic Tour, Springsteen's private plane stopped for refueling at Keflavik International Airport in the early hours of 30 Jun 2005. Having never set foot in the country, Springsteen just grabbed his guitar and walked into the small terminal and played a six-song set for the lucky late-shift workers at the airport. According to the Iceland Review, "The employees commented that Springsteen showed no pretense and was very down-to-earth, chatting away with them. His friend asked the airport employees if they would like to listen to a few tunes."

DANCING IN THE DARK was sound-checked during the Devils & Dust Solo Acoustic Tour on 16 Jul 2005 at Pepsi Arena in Albany, NY, but was never played on the tour's regular shows.

DANCING IN THE DARK was played on 29 Apr 2007 at The Stone Pony in Asbury Park, NJ, backed by Bobby Bandiera and his band, during the second annual private fundraiser for the Ranny School of Tinton Falls, NJ. The song was also played during the Magic Tour.

* On the album booklet "Message keeps getting clearer, radio's on and I'm moving 'round the place", but Bruce sings "Message just keep getting clearer, radio's on and I'm moving 'round my place."

DANCING IN THE DARK has been widely covered by several artists through the years, including:

  • American Boys
  • Animal
  • Bad Memory
  • Big Daddy
  • Blue Thunder
  • Alex Bollard Assembly
  • Mary Chapin Carpenter
  • CFD
  • Louis Clark & The London Philharmonic Orchestra
  • Richard Coleman
  • Jim Eldon
  • Faro
  • Jive Bunny and the Mastermixers
  • Kevin Logue
  • London Sound & Art Orchestra
  • The London Symphony Orchestra
  • London Symphony & Royal Philharmonic Orchestras
  • Love Hunters
  • Barbara Manning And The Go-Luckys!
  • Mirah
  • R. Mutt
  • New Jersey All Stars
  • Operation Makeout
  • The Party People
  • Carl Payton
  • Power Jam All Stars
  • Reilly & Maloney
  • Rockman
  • Route 66
  • The Shadows
  • Hank Marvin & The Shadows
  • Erika Simonian
  • The Songrise Orchestra
  • Sonovac
  • Studio 99
  • Steve Tempo
  • Shane Torrel
  • Waxflower
  • Nick White
  • Marty Wilde
  • Pete Yorn

Mary Chapin Carpenter did a folk, very low-key version of DANCING IN THE DARK. She described it in a live performance in Madison, WI as "a bummer song by someone else." Big Daddy's cover was a hit in 1985, reaching #13 on the Billboard Top 100. Bob Dylan has never covered a Bruce Springsteen composition, except once, when he performed DANCING IN THE DARK in a concert of his in 1990.

Pete Yorn has been known for throwing in Springsteen covers at his live shows.

Below is a list of Bruce Springsteen tribute albums that include covers of DANCING IN THE DARK:

DJ All Stars -- DJ All Stars Pay Tribute To Bruce Springsteen And Madonna
DJ All Stars -- DJ All Stars Pay Tribute To Bruce Springsteen And Madonna

LP - DJ Music (DJR2306) - South Africa, 1985
The Boss -- Dancing In The USA (Medley)
The Boss -- Dancing In The USA (Medley)

12" single - WEA (X8838T) - UK, 1985

DANCING IN THE DARK is part of a medley
The All Stars -- The Bruce Springsteen Mix
The All Stars -- The Bruce Springsteen Mix

12" single - Rams Horn (RHR 3450) - Holland, 1985

DANCING IN THE DARK is part of a medley consisting of 8 Springsteen songs and clocking at 8:05
The Songrise Orchestra -- The Music Of Bruce Springsteen - 17 Instrumental Hits
The Songrise Orchestra -- The Music Of Bruce Springsteen - 17 Instrumental Hits

CD - Hits 'N' Hits (3831CD) - UK, 1995
American Boys -- Bruce Springsteen - Coverversion
American Boys -- Bruce Springsteen - Coverversion

CD - Azzurra (TBP 1113) - Italy, 2000
Studio 99 -- Born In The USA: Springsteen - A Tribute
Studio 99 -- Born In The USA: Springsteen - A Tribute

CD - Going For A Song (GFS402) - UK, 2001
Richard Coleman -- I Can't Believe It's Not... Bruce Springsteen
Richard Coleman -- I Can't Believe It's Not... Bruce Springsteen

CD - Pegasus (ICBINCD 047) - Germany, 2001
Carl Payton -- A Tribute To Bruce Springsteen
Carl Payton -- A Tribute To Bruce Springsteen

CD - Kives (kv5106) - Brazil, 2001?
Nick White -- The Music Of Bruce Springsteen
Nick White -- The Music Of Bruce Springsteen

CD - Millennium Gold (MG2110) - Holland, 2002

This is a Bruce Springsteen tribute album.
Various artists -- A Tribute To Bruce Springsteen
Various artists -- A Tribute To Bruce Springsteen

CD - Big Eye (BIG 4268-2) - USA, 2003

DANCING IN THE DARK is performed by Shane Torrel
Various artists -- Dancing In The Dark
Various artists -- Dancing In The Dark

7" EP - Monoculture (Monoculture 010) - USA, 2003

Contains 4 versions of DANCING IN THE DARK:
DANCING IN THE DARK [#1] is perfromed by Operation Makeout
DANCING IN THE DARK [#2] is perfromed by R. Mutt
DANCING IN THE DARK [#3] is perfromed by Animal
DANCING IN THE DARK [#4] is perfromed by Mirah
American Boys -- Bruce Springsteen - The Best - Cover 100%
American Boys -- Bruce Springsteen - The Best - Cover 100%

CD - Azzurra (TBP 1152) - Italy, 2003
Various artists -- A Rock Tribute To Bruce Springsteen
Various artists -- A Rock Tribute To Bruce Springsteen

CD - ZYX (55362-2) - Germany, 2004

DANCING IN THE DARK is performed by Shane Torrel
New Jersey All Stars -- A Tribute To Bruce Springsteen
New Jersey All Stars -- A Tribute To Bruce Springsteen

CD - Cedar (1402) - Europe, 2004
Various artists -- Tribute To Bruce Springsteen
Various artists -- Tribute To Bruce Springsteen

CD - ZYX (?) - Germany, 2005

DANCING IN THE DARK is performed by Shane Torrel
Various artists -- Tribute To Bruce Springsteen
Various artists -- Tribute To Bruce Springsteen

CD - Silver Star (SIS 55009-2) - UK, 2005

DANCING IN THE DARK is performed by Shane Torrel
Princess Dragon Mom -- Who's The Boss?
Princess Dragon Mom -- Who's The Boss?

CD - Inframan Records - USA, 2005
The Voices On Tour -- The Music Of Bruce Springsteen
The Voices On Tour -- The Music Of Bruce Springsteen

CD - Price Size / Promo Sound LTD (PS 1723) - Germany, 2006
Various artists -- A Tribute To Bruce Springsteen
Various artists -- A Tribute To Bruce Springsteen

CD - Golden Sound / ZYX (GOL 10094-2) - Germany, 2006

DANCING IN THE DARK is performed by Shane Torrel
Session musicians featuring David West -- The Best Of Pickin' On Bruce Springsteen
Session musicians featuring David West -- The Best Of Pickin' On Bruce Springsteen

CD - CMH (CD-9401) - USA, 2006
The Blankket -- Be Your Own Boss
The Blankket -- Be Your Own Boss

CD EP - Blocks Recording Club (040) - Canada, 2007

Most of the scans and info for the DANCING IN THE DARK covers and tribute albums are taken from the Nebraska website.

Available Versions

List of available versions of DANCING IN THE DARK on this website:

DANCING IN THE DARK [Album version]
DANCING IN THE DARK [Live 26 Jul 1984 version]
DANCING IN THE DARK [Live 21 Jun 1985 version]
DANCING IN THE DARK [Live 10 May 1988 version]
DANCING IN THE DARK [Live 15 Oct 1988 version]
DANCING IN THE DARK [Live 10 Jul 1992 version]
DANCING IN THE DARK [Live 29 Aug 2002 version]
DANCING IN THE DARK [Live 16 Oct 2002 version]
DANCING IN THE DARK [Live 14 Jun 2003 version]
DANCING IN THE DARK [Live 04 Oct 2003 version]