Rembert Explains the 80’s: Bruce Springsteen’s ‘Dancing in the Dark’ Video

Welcome back to our series Rembert Explains the ’80s. Every so often, we’ll e-mail 25-year-old Rembert Browne a video from the 1980s that he hasn’t seen. Rembert will write down his thoughts as he’s watching it, then we’ll post those thoughts here. This week’s installment was selected by Grantland editor-in-chief Bill Simmons: “Dancing in the Dark” by Bruce Springsteen. If you have an idea for a future episode of Rembert Explains the ’80s, e-mail us at hollywood@grantland.com.

A conversation earlier, on the Internet:

Grantland editor Dan Fierman: Do we spoil for Rem who gets up on the stage?
Bill Simmons: No.
Rembert Browne: The only thing I know about this video before watching it is that Courteney Cox looks like a hot girlboy and gets onstage.

Rembert’s Note: This video is not ideal for a live blog, seeing as that 75 percent of the video is simply Bruce’s face. The odd locations, shoddy graphics tricks, and hard-to-follow plot lines that I’ve grown accustomed to in these ’80s clips are nowhere to be found in this four-minute video. While this is all true, the “Dancing in the Dark” video is too good not to discuss, so I figured maybe it was time for me to finally “explain” what’s happening in one of these clips. Every single aspect of it.


The Foot Tap

Just an excellent way to start a music video. There’s a sense of urgency that comes along with this very deliberate mode of keeping time and staying on beat. It’s a foot tap, but as we learn very quickly, it becomes a full leg move that culminates with a crotch shot.

The Still Crotch

Bruce’s crotch is interesting — in that he has the Riverdance of nether regions. His upper body and arms are going to work, as are his legs, but when it comes to his pelvis, there’s simply no movement. There’s no thrusting, no pointing, no grabbing, just a still crotch. But its lack of movement almost makes it stand out more. Well, that and the fact that it’s front and center, and were it not for those wrinkles, I’d assume he was wearing denim body paint. Definitely have to put this up there as one of Bruce’s greatest crotch moments, narrowly landing in second behind:

Speaking of behinds:

Bruce Butt

I haven’t the slightest clue how it got in those jeans. I just imagine him standing up for six to seven hours while a team of seamstresses created jeans on his legs. It’s like the ships in those fancy bottles. How did they get there? Does anyone know? I don’t. Anyway, Bruce Minaj has junk in the trunk, but it’s so comically packed into those pants, it doesn’t really wiggle. Well, it kinda does.

But for the most part, that’s all leg. Don’t confuse the two.

Bruce Face

Such a fresh face. Bruce is one of those grown men that could never quite grow facial hair, causing him to look like a big 15-year-old. Also, his hair screams “I haven’t gotten my first adult haircut yet,” with curls everywhere, further adding to the little-boy look. I know this look, because every day when I look in the mirror, one of my first thoughts is, “Maybe today is the day for that first adult haircut.” It never is, though.

Bruce Shirt

Try, for a second, to ignore the crotch and look up at his shirt. There’s so much going on with it. He kind of looks like a sailor, while also looking like a cabana boy and a Chippendale’s dancer. To be fair, though, those are all kind of the same thing. More on the shirt:

The way it’s tucked in: Hilarious. I would say it looks like he’s never tucked in a shirt before, but can you imagine trying to get extra fabric in those jeans? No wonder it awkwardly billows out on the sides, almost begging to be freed from the clutches of the prison that is Bruce’s pants.

The collar: Surprisingly cool. The half pop is usually not awesome, but in this case it somehow works. It’s a casual half pop, perfect for a casual guy in a casual shirt.

The way it’s unbuttoned: Fly. I can’t imagine this shirt buttoned any other way, and I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s as high as you can button it. There could easily not be buttons higher, because that breezy shirt was meant to be worn while exposing some chest.

And then there’s the sleeve roll. This needs its own section.

Bruce Sleeve Roll

It’s extremely aggressive, Bruce’s sleeve roll. Rolling up a short-sleeve shirt is a bold move to begin with, but then going above the biceps is simply unchartered waters for 95 percent of the population. Also, if you look at the roll, it looks like it’s been tightly wrapped about 40 times. I wouldn’t be surprised if you unrolled it and a sleeping bag fell out. There’s just a lot going on in that roll.

And then there’s the dancing. Oh, the dancing:

Bruce’s Dramatic Turnaround and Leg Tap

I’ve never been as emotional as Bruce is in this move. This isn’t acting, people, this is the real thing. To Bruce, there is nothing more important than getting the point across that you can’t start a fire without a spark. I didn’t believe him before. I do now. Sparks, then fires.

Bruce’s shoulder bop and point:

It’s a nurturing move. Focused, but caring. I like pointing and I love shoulder bopping, but I’ve never combined the two. After seeing Bruce pull this off flawlessly, I don’t know what I’ve been waiting on. It’s phenomenal, especially coupling the move with some neck work that is accentuated by the unbuttonedness of the shirt. Great move, Bruce.

Bruce’s Band-Facing Carlton

Hey, Bruce Face:

Hey, Bruce Butt:

In the past, I’ve spoken about my admiration for “ankle work.” Well, I’m proud to add Bruce Springsteen as the second member of Team Ankle Work (the other being the late Don Cornelius). Yes, his legs and arms are the obvious stars, but look at what is going on with his right ankle. LOOK AT IT. Right before the move is over, he pushes that thang out and his leg explodes horizontally, almost causing his right foot to roll over. It’s unbelievable. Wow. Epic and unexpectedly great ankle work by The Boss.

As for the full dance move, yes, it’s hilarious. I would talk about it more, but I’m still stuck on his ankle work. Maybe I’ll get to it later.

Also, who is that in the background? It looks like someone in the band is doing a move of his own.

THE PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS

This is called pure joy. In just two seconds, the late Clarence Clemons stole the show from Bruce with this move. It’s just everything. The best part? He did a soul clap. You know, the double-time clap that separates men from boys. If he did just a single clap, this wouldn’t be as amazing, but that soul clap, coupled with that flat-top and 800-watt smile, makes this a legendary moment in the history of happiness.

Bruce Walk

Even though Bruce does remarkably well with regard to gyrating in those tight jeans, his late-video strut across the stage really illustrates the pain he must have been in for the duration of the 1980s. It’s the stiffest walk I’ve ever seen by a non-first-time-high-heels-wearer. If I saw someone walking down the street like Bruce is strutting on this stage, I’d assume a combination of “that dude has to fart” and “that dude doesn’t know how to fart, but really has to.” It’s painful to watch. Further proof that not even The Boss can have it all.

Speaking of not having it all …

The Always-Overlooked Drummer

So important to this video. I don’t know much about this guy, but everything about his entire being screams “Please don’t put me on camera all I could find was my aunt’s blouse and these cool shades!” The crazy thing about that, though, is that they aren’t cool shades. And he got on camera.

You know who else got on camera?

Courteney Cox

For every girl I know that looks like this, I could list four guys that could pass as this now-famous Bruce Springsteen groupie. Ugh, I want to just talk about their dance, but there’s so much to cover about CC. Like this:

Courtney Shocked:

I can’t imagine a more perfect look to describe “Holy Christ, did Bruce and his crotch just throw his microphone behind his head while staring at me, screaming “HEY, BABY? Is that what is happening? Is it?” So, yeah, the Oscar goes to CC for capturing that moment perfectly, even though I don’t think she’s actually acting.

Courteney Shirt

Yep, she’s wearing a Bruce shirt. Sleeves rolled up. It’s almost as if she’s dressing like the man she’s dressing for. There’s no shame in that; I’ve been there. It’s called “Rembert front row at every Ke$ha show.” OK, I’m done stalling. Let’s talk about this dance. (Sorry, I just never want this post to end.)

The ’80s Waltz

So, there’s a lot going on here. First, they look great together. Second, it’s so awkward it goes all the way around the spectrum and becomes extremely cool. Third, LOOK AT THE DRUMMER. He’s a living, breathing photobomb.

All of these things are awesome, but Courteney does something extremely subtle in this dance move that makes me fall in love with her every time it loops. After five or six back-and-forth swingy moves, she calmly tucks her little-boy haircut behind her ears, but never stops dancing. I can’t handle it — it’s just too awesome. I can probably trace my love of women with short hair to seeing this video on VH1 Classic when I was 12. Yep, without question. I love you, Courteney. That’s really the only takeaway from this whole piece. I love Courteney Cox.

Filed Under: Bruce Springsteen, Music Videos, Rembert Explains

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Rembert Browne is a staff writer for Grantland.

Archive @ rembert