Like most musicians, Bruce Springsteen is a huge Bob Dylan fan. In fact, the singer has covered the freewheelin’ troubadour more than most artists, taking on songs from America’s favourite songwriter for decades. Springsteen is one of many musicians who has routinely cited Dylan as his greatest inspiration and you need only see how Rock Hall induction of the freewheelin’ troubadour for the proof.
Considering the vast amount of covers Springsteen has provided of Dylan, it is perhaps surprising the ‘Forever Young’ singer has only repaid the favour on a few occasions. Here we’re listening back to one of the most unusual, as Dylan takes on Springsteen’s ‘Dancing in the Dark’. It may not have been a bad idea, all things considered.
Springsteen has covered some of Dylan’s classic tracks including ‘It’s All Over Now Baby Blue’, ‘Highway 61 Revisited’, and ‘I Want You’ to name just a few, including them in a career of searing stage performances. It’s fair to say that they are all tracks, which fit firmly in Springsteen’s wheelhouse and were possible contributing factors to being attributed to the “new Dylan” moniker he received when breaking into the collective consciousness.
The ‘Born To Run’ singer once recalled, when inducting Dylan into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1988, that the first time he heard a Bob Dylan album (Highway 61 Revisited, in 1965), Dylan’s performance “thrilled and scared me.” The Boss continued: “It made me feel kind of irresponsibly innocent. And it still does. But it reached down and touched what little worldliness I think a 15-year-old kid, in high school, in New Jersey had in him at the time.”
Later in the speech he proclaimed, Bob Dylan “was the brother that I never had,” quoting from the man’s own song ‘Lenny Bruce’. It was a moment of gratitude from one rock star to the other, one currently dominating the charts and one gravitating towards his legendary status.
The cover comes from Bob Dylan’s live performance on January 12th, 1990, at Toad’s Place in New Haven, Connecticut. The 700-seater venue was booked at the last minute so Dylan could prepare for his upcoming tour of South America. The first show of the decade for Dylan would be a memorable one. Yet when he took on The Boss’ 1984 mega-hit ‘Dancing in the Dark’, not one person would’ve imagined the folk legend busting out this hip-swinging ditty. Many would say he probably should’ve held back from taking on this one.
He littered the performance with a host of different covers including Kris Kristofferson, Hank Williams and more in what was one of the strangest sets you’re ever likely to see form Dylan—and that’s saying something. He dragged the show across four sets and played over 50 songs for his adoring audience.
Approaching the end of the third set of the night, Bob Dylan decided to pull out a cover of ‘Dancing in the Dark’ that nobody expected and, in fact, many didn’t recognise. The fault of which was in large part down to Dylan’s performance of the eighties classic. The singer had clearly forgotten most of the words to the dancefloor filler and by the end of the song was purely riffing on the lyrics.
While it may not be the greatest cover of Springsteen you’ll ever hear, in fact, it may be one of the worst from a professional musicians that we’ve heard in a while. This bootleg recording remains the only time Bob Dylan ever covered The Boss and for Bruce’s sake, we thought we’d give it a fresh outing.
Listen below to Bob Dylan’s cover of Bruce Springsteen’s 1984 hit ‘Dancing in the Dark’.