The saying “It takes a village” certainly applies to the Patti Smith Group’s breakthrough single “Because the Night.”
Bruce Springsteen wrote the song around the time of his 1978 album Darkness on the Edge of Town. Jimmy Iovine, who engineered and mixed Born to Run and Darkness for Springsteen and was about to produce Smith’s Easter, steered the song to Patti, who added lyrics of her own. Shelly Yakus engineered the track, dialing in an ideal drum sound for the song’s shifting dynamic: ultra-sensitive during the hushed verses, big and bold like a Phil Spector production elsewhere. Tom Petty cited that drum sound as the reason he hired Iovine to produce Damn the Torpedoes.
Finally, let’s give it up for Jay Dee Daugherty on drums. He drives a killer band performance on this slow-burning, dramatic track, which introduced mainstream audiences to punk poetess Smith and her group’s artfully spastic brand of rock ’n’ roll. Daugherty’s kit work is a big part of the song’s magic. He spreads tasteful flourishes (an upbeat hi-hat accent motif; the snare hits on the “&” of 1 that emphasize “be-CAUSE” as the choruses wind down) and kickass drum heroics (those massive snare and tom flams on the “&s” of 3 and 4 that bring the band in; the driving tom-tom groove in the guitar solo) throughout the track, which made it to number 13 on the Billboard Hot 100 in May 1978.
Daugherty is quick to credit the source material that inspired many of his drum parts. So make room for one more in the village responsible for turning “Because the Night” into such a classic. “I stole a lot from Max Weinberg,” he admits with a laugh. “We were basically learning it off of a full [E Street Band] demo. That two-beat drum intro—that’s totally Max. I’ve played it so many times that I think I wrote it. And the little upbeat hi-hat accent, I’m pretty sure that was on the demo.”
One lick Daugherty is proud to call his own is the blazing 32nd-note snare roll out of the bridge, bearing a striking resemblance to Weinberg’s roll into the guitar solo on Springsteen’s “Prove It All Night,” released a few months later. “I’m willing to cop to everything else, but I didn’t steal that from Max,” he says emphatically. “I probably did that because it’s a little over the top; it just felt right there.”
Daugherty says the Patti Smith Group was anything but a polished unit in those days, despite having a few hundred shows under their belt by the time they got to tracking Easter. “Poor Jack Douglas, who worked on the record before that [1976’s Radio Ethiopia], was so frustrated with our professional amateurism. He would come out and try to conduct us, because we couldn’t play to a click. He actually tried to quit the record.” [laughs]
This begs the question, What was it like for a drummer admittedly rough around the edges to work with Jimmy Iovine, who historically clashed with Petty’s drummer, Stan Lynch, while producing Torpedoes and subsequent albums? “There was an excitement factor Jimmy was going for,” Daugherty recalls, adding with a laugh, “because he knew we really weren’t the most exacting set of musicians.”
Though “Because the Night” sounds like a fairly detail-oriented production, with so many nuances to Daugherty’s parts and the song’s dynamic builds, “There wasn’t that much direction [from Jimmy],” according to the drummer. “We had a really good blueprint with Bruce’s demo. The builds and the things like that—I think that might have just happened organically. As for all the fills and the cymbal crashes, he was probably encouraging me to do less by the time we got to the [keeper] take. I was doing so much after one take, he got on the mic and said, ‘Are there flies out there? You trying to hit flies?’”
Daugherty currently endorses Tama drums, Sabian cymbals, Regal Tip sticks, and Evans and D’Addario products.
What’s on That Song?
Daugherty played a six-piece Sonor kit on “Because the Night” (two rack toms, two floor toms) with Zildjian cymbals. He credits Yakus with getting such a powerful drum sound in the room, but says that without a tip from another engineer, his drums might not have sounded so good. “We were working at House of Music in Orange, New Jersey. I was using the house drums and struggling to get a good sound out of the toms, and the house engineer, Charlie Conrad, said, ‘Oh, it’s simple. You tune the bottom head first. You try to get a good fundamental tone with that, then you can do whatever you want with the top.’ Before that, I was just twisting stuff around!”