Happy Sunday. I’m going to do something a little different with this post and maybe it will turn into a regular thing; we’ll see. I’m going to take a look at a song that I like and just talk about what it means to me. I’m not gonna get too deep into what all the lyrics mean or anything, and it might be that what I think the song is about is completely different than what the artist thinks it’s about. Like I said, this is about what the song means to me.
So, here is the first song of this (maybe) series:
I picked this song because Andrew Sullivan had a post about it on his blog and it made me think of the first time I ever heard it. While snarkologist might consider himself the resident expert on Bruce Springsteen, he probably wasn’t even born yet when it was released back in 1984. I was living in San Pedro (pronounced Peeeedro by the locals, and don’t forget it) near Los Angeles, 15 years old, and I had somehow landed a single-day “job” selling little souvenir Olympic flags to people who were lined up along the Olympic torch route before the games began.
I was in a group of 4 kids, the oldest was the driver about 18 or 19, and we would drive to a place along the route, find a parking spot, get out and sell these little flags so that people would have something to wave as the torchbearer ran by. After the torch passed, we’d all run back to the car, get in, and drive another couple miles to the next spot, rinse and repeat. We did that for about 8-10 hours, and as you can imagine this being L.A. during the ’84 Olympics, we spent a lot of time in traffic, at least half the day in the car. And because the driver was switching among the dozens of L.A. stations every time a commercial came on the radio, we must have heard “Dancing in the Dark” or portions thereof about 20 times.
I’m not sure if that’s the first time I had heard the song; probably wasn’t. But anytime I hear it, that’s what I think about. Sitting in traffic, telling stories about the people we saw at the last stop and bragging/complaining about how many/few of those stupid little flags we had managed to sell. At the time none of us spent much time contemplating the lyrics; it was just a great song.
Sullivan’s post ties it to an interview The Boss gave where he talks about self-loathing being part of what drives his creativity. Obviously, in hindsight, you can see that with lyrics like, “I’m just tired and bored with myself” and “I want to change my clothes, my hair, my face” and “there’s a joke here somewhere and it’s on me.” But again, at the time, 15 years old and riding around L.A. in the summertime — man, it was just a great freaking song. Rock-n-roll has always been an art form that is able to sneak in some really dark and thoughtful stuff in unexpected packages.
The video for “Dancing in the Dark” ended up having a larger impact than most songs of its, or any other, era. First, it launched the acting career of Courtney Cox, sparking rumors that the whole thing was completely spontaneous (it wasn’t).
Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, it was the inspiration for the Carlton Dance:
For me, it will always be a happy song, and even after reading the interview with Springsteen, I think it’s a hopeful song. Even if we’re just… you get the idea.