'What Dancing in the Dark is really about'

I have a dim memory of having read somewhere a mention of knowing what Bruce Springsteen’s “Dancing in the Dark” is ‘really about’, and that only certain people – maybe only mature people? – knew what it was about. So I have a couple of questions.

  1. Where did I read this?
  2. What is Dancing in the Dark really about? Isn’t it a rather transparent lyric?


The lyrics.

uh, sex?

Self-loathing, and prostitution or at least meaningless sex?

Tegan and Sara do a really melancholy cover that I love more than the original: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iGrW8R_TWV4

pg 36 describing Scorpia’s innocence? Maybe?
“though herself too young to know that, to know, like Pirate, what the lyrics to ‘Dancing in the Dark’ are really about…”


It’s about an artist not being able to write a hit single for his album, that Bruce wrote when told he needed a hot single for his album… Or at least, that’s what he claims. It’s open to some interpretation, but the lyrics don’t really support the sex interpretation.

I’ve always heard it as a guy trying to convince himself to put his broken romantic past behind him and get back out there, even though his heart’s not really in it yet. Reading over the lyrics just now, the creatively blocked artist angle seems to work too, though it never jumped out at me. Like many songs, it can be interpreted more than one way, which is surely intentional.

I don’t get why one would need to be “mature” to understand it, though.

It should be noted, that having been written in 1973, Gravity’s Rainbow couldn’t be referring to Springsteen’s song, which came out in 1984.

It was presumably the Howard Dietz/Arthur Schwartz song popularized by Artie Shaw.

Adam Sandler.

I always assumed it was a euphemism for sex, but after reading the lyrics (which I’d never done until now), it appears it is just about life, and how we don’t really know what we’re doing or where we’re going. We’re just groping blind, hoping to find happiness, success, and maybe even love, primarily by dumb luck.

I think its the idea that “dancing in the dark” is obviously a euphemism for sex, although ironically seeing euphemisms everywhere is pretty immature.

I agree entirely with the double meaning you see, and it’s something of a feature of his songs to refer to both a specific situation and a universal meaning.

Several of the songs on the Born In The USA album, including Dancing In The Dark, and the title track, mix catchy, obvious sounding choruses and upbeat, poppy melodies to rather deep and dark lyrics. There’s been a few misunderstandings of his songs from this period. Considering “Born In The USA” to be a song of proud patriotism, as Reagan appeared to do when he used it whilst campaigning, is probably the most egregious.

The obvious stuff: The narrator works night. It’s all dead end. His love life is also dead. He wants to find something/someone that will get things rolling again.

“Dancing in the dark.” is a metaphor for a pointless life of drudgery. (He wants some lovin’ and is not getting it. He says he is dancing in the dark, so that isn’t a reference to currently getting any.)

The question, what is this guy’s current job and what is the spark he is looking for?

“I’m sick of sitting 'round here trying to write this book.”

He is trying to write a book. Really? Why the night work part? Is that to bring in income? Or is it a metaphor? As in the above mentioned self-reference: the book is a hit song and his night work is generic club gigs.

“I need a love reaction, come on baby give me just one look.” That’s the spark he needs. He either needs a muse or his current girlfriend isn’t giving any inspiration.

So I’d say that it’s about a down and out musician/songwriter is a pretty good guess.

(And of course it involves sex. All rock 'n roll songs are about sex.)

They ARE NOT. They are all about drugs! :rolleyes:


And the purpose of the drugs is to … ? :slight_smile:

I’ve always been keenly aware that the album came out at the tail end of the Disco era. The late 1970’s saw a ‘rift’ between the disco-lovers and the rockers/disco-haters. Bruce and his friend Jackson Browne considered Springsteen to be clearly in the middle of the Rocker set. In fact, Browne’s For a Rocker on the Lawyers In Love album is a tribute to Bruce, who was leaving town.

Listening to the lyrics as straightforward, I always thought “Dancing in the Dark” was Bruce’s reflections on how shallow and pathetic the swinging singles disco scene seemed to him; he’s speaking/writing from the perspective of a disco king. “This gun’s for hire” might be interpreted as the words of a gigolo, but I tend to think it’s just saying, “Hey, I’m available (still).”


Long live rock, I need it every night,
Long live rock, come on and join the line,
Long live rock, be it dead or alive.
. --Pete Townshend (The Who)
. Long Live Rock
. Odds & Sods

Springsteen wasn’t exactly averse to disco - he wrote songs for The Pointer Sisters and Donna Summer, and had club remixes of several songs, including Dancing In The Dark, created by Arthur Baker.