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#ThrowbackThursday: The Patti Smith Group’s “Because The Night”

By Matt Clizbe 

The powers that be in the music world, like many in our country, appear to be in a state of increased reflection for a variety of reasons lately.  Thanks to the likes of HBO, and Apple Music, the latter of which is aggressively growing in the “music TV (and film)” space, much of that reflection has resulted in a trend of high quality documentary features that review, explain, and at times, shamelessly celebrate the titans of a highly profitable and transformative era in the industry.  Both Defiant Ones, and Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop, a Bad Boy Story exemplify this, chronicling the overlapping journey of a handful of key “record men” that essentially shepherded the sound and trajectory of the music industry for recent generations.  This overlap has resulted in billions of dollars, and an immeasurable  cultural impact. Now things get discussed even further in the latest of these Apple Music documentaries, Clive Davis: The Soundtrack of Our Lives, which goes on sale this Friday through iTunes. In it you’ll see that many rightfully attribute the previously  discussed blend of talent to the faith, judgment, and all around golden ear of icon Clive Davis. Known by casual fans for his father like involvement with the late Whitney Houston, Clive Davis’ career spans approximately 50 years, and directly or indirectly touches the careers of nearly every household name in music out today  To illustrate this, we thought we would use  this week’s #TBT, to highlight the bigger picture impact of the development and breakthrough of early Arista Records favorite, punk rocker Patti Smith and her hit “Because The Night.”  

Related Media: 

Defiant Ones Trailer


Can’t Stop Won’t Stop: A Bad Boy Story
Apple Music 
To understand the success of “Because The Night”, I would argue that you have to understand the history of Patti’s label Arista Records, and how it’s illustrious leader Clive Davis cultivated a unique blend of talent that would go on to run a huge chunk of the modern music industry.  Arista was founded in 1974 following Clive’s controversial split with industry powerhouse Columbia Records.  Patti was brought under his star making wing that same year alongside a consciously diverse list of artists, which included Barry Manilow, Gil Scott Heron, Melissa Manchester, and Bay City Rollers, in an effort to directly rival and under cut Columbia with a multi genre roll out.  In essence, what became the Patti Smith group served as Arista’s representation of New York’s pivotal punk rock scene of the 1970s, and although she was extremely rough around the edges, that rawness made her one of his favorites in spite of some early difficulties. That special place in Davis’ hart enabled Patti and her group to get through what could only be described as an underperforming development period in the mid 70s that would only get worse when she endured a neck injury during  her  77-78 tour.
While still searching for the spark she’d been missing, Clive empowered her during this time to shift creative direction with the help of a then unproven newcomer named Jimmy Iovine.  This is because prior to working with her, Patti got to see Iovine in action, working as the personal engineer for one of Clive’s most coveted Columbia Records signees, Bruce Springsteen. Like Clive, Iovine also had a uniquely intense foresight about Patti’s raw talent, and saw his budding personal relationship with Bruce as the missing link to commercial success for The Patti Smith Group.

Following his contribution to Bruce’s breakthrough album Born To Run, Iovine leveraged his potion while engineering  the follow up record Darkness On The Edge of Town. Ultimately, “Because The Night” as we know it today happened for Patti because Bruce didn’t feel like it  happening for him, and Iovine knew it.  Seeing an opportunity to grow, Iovine took on what became the first of many producer roles in his career, brokering a collaboration between Smith and Springsteen that saved the tune from Bruce’s cutting room floor, and simultaneously changed Patti Smith’s life.  Lyrically retooled slightly by Patti, the tune clicked for all involved, solidifying Jimmy Iovine as a producer, and boosting The Patti Smith Group’s third album Easter to break through as a hit internationally for Arista. The track went on to be a top 5 hit in the UK, number 13 on Billboard’s Hot 100, and number 10 for Cash Box Magazine.  

Springsteen was already well on his way to becoming “The Boss”  but  the success of “Because The Night”opened him up to the idea of  writing for others. In addition to working with Patti and Jimmy, he went on to pen hits like Gary U.S. Bonds’ “This Little Girl”, and The Pointer Sisters “Fire”. The latter of which landed at number 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 for Planet/RCA Records in 1978.  Patti Smith stabilized as an acclaimed career artist, delivering 5 more albums for Arista, until Clive got forced out of the company in 2002. Afterwards, she moved to Columbia Records in 2004, where she was able to serve up 3 more albums to date.  Patti Smith was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2007.  After working with Patti, Jimmy Iovine went on to make a career helping artists like Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers, and Stevie Nicks experience previously unseen breakthrough success. He eventually went on to become one of Clive Davis’ biggest competitors, forming Interscope Records with Ted Fields in partnership with Doug Morris’ Atlantic Records in 1989.  After moving to Interscope, Jimmy had a hand in breaking several hundred artists and labels of many genres. He now runs Apple Music with longtime business partner Dr. Dre and former Clive Davis Protege Larry Jackson.  

Therefore, in reflection of one of the biggest cornerstones to the soundtrack of our live, check out the triumphant breakthrough of The Patti Smith Group, “Because The Night.” Enjoy!


Patti Smith 

“Because The Night” (Co-Written With Bruce Springsteen)

From Easter

Arista Records