Top 40 Smash Taps: “Spirit in the Night”

These posts are about the songs that can accurately claim to crossed the key line of chart success, becoming Top 40 hits on Billboard, but just barely. Every song featured in this series peaked at number 40.

I’m going to indulge in a bit of inside information here, providing the super-secret DVD commentary track backstory on this particular entry of our long-running series. Shortly after lauching the “Top 40 Smash Taps” posts some four-and-a-half years ago, I sat down to write about “Spirits in the Night,” the second of three Top 40 singles charted by Manfred Mann’s Earth band. As I recall, it was going to be the third or fourth entry. Then I started the process of researching this particular single, fully expecting the most interesting detail would be the most obvious: that it was the second cover of an early Bruce Springsteen song that the U.K. group took into the Top 40, following their 1977 chart-topper, “Blinded by the Light.” Instead, I found a history of the band’s relationship with “Spirits in the Night” so tortured and tangled that I could barely make sense of it. I wasn’t even sure I could find the right version of the song to share in the post. Though it charted later than “Blinded by the Light,” “Spirits in the Night” was the first Springsteen song that Manfred Mann’s Earth Band took a pass at, releasing a six-and-a-half minute version on their 1975 album, Nightingales & Bombers. An edit paring it down to under three minutes managed to chart on the Billboard Hot 100, stalling out at #97. Mick Rogers is the lead singer for the band’s original take on the song. By the time of “Blinded by the Light,” Rogers had been replaced in that role by Chris Thompson. When Warner Bros. decided another Springsteen cover was an advisable strategy for building on Manfred Mann’s Earth Band’s burst of chart success, they got Thompson into the studio to record a new vocal for the song which was then placed atop the music from the first recording. Just to confuse things a little further, the band and label couldn’t seem to get the title of song correct, occasionally pluralizing the first word and even issuing one pressing that named it as simply “Spirit.” There. I think that’s all correct. Luckily for me, every band, even Manfred Mann’s Earth Band, has its informational completists.


“Just Like Heaven” by The Cure.
“I’m in Love” by Evelyn King
“Buy Me a Rose” by Kenny Rogers
“Who’s Your Baby” by The Archies
“Me and Bobby McGee” by Jerry Lee Lewis
“Angel in Blue” by J. Geils Band
“Crazy Downtown” by Allan Sherman
“I’ve Seen All Good People” and “Rhythm of Love” by Yes
“Naturally Stoned” by the Avant-Garde
“Come See” by Major Lance
“Your Old Standby” by Mary Wells
“See the Lights” by Simple Minds
“Watch Out For Lucy” by Eric Clapton
“The Alvin Twist” by Alvin and the Chipmunks
“Love Me Tender” by Percy Sledge
“Jennifer Eccles” by the Hollies
“Video Killed the Radio Star” by the Olympics
“The Bounce” by the Olympics
“Your One and Only Love” by Jackie Wilson
“Tell Her She’s Lovely” by El Chicano
“The Last Time I Made Love” by Joyce Kennedy and Jeffrey Osborne
“Limbo Rock” by The Champs
“Crazy Eyes For You” by Bobby Hamilton
“Who Do You Think You’re Foolin'” by Donna Summer
“Violet Hill” and “Lost+” by Coldplay
“Freight Train” by the Chas. McDevitt Skiffle Group
“Sweet William” by Little Millie Small
“Live My Life” by Boy George
“Lessons Learned” by Tracy Lawrence
“So Close” by Diana Ross
“Six Feet Deep” by the Geto Boys
“You Thrill Me” by Exile
“What Now” by Gene Chandler
“Put It in a Magazine” by Sonny Charles
“Got a Love for You” by Jomanda
“Stone Cold” by Rainbow
“People in Love” by 10cc
“Just Seven Numbers (Can Straighten Out My Life)” by the Four Tops
“Thinkin’ Problem” by David Ball
“You Got Yours and I’ll Get Mine” and “Trying to Make a Fool of Me” by the Delfonics
“The Riddle (You and I)” by Five for Fighting
“I Can’t Wait” by Sleepy Brown
“Nature Boy” by Bobby Darin
“Give It to Me Baby” and “Cold Blooded” by Rick James
“Who’s Sorry Now?” by Marie Osmond
“A Love So Fine” by the Chiffons
“Funky Y-2-C” by the Puppies
“Brand New Girlfriend” by Steve Holy
“I Can’t Help Myself (Sugar Pie Honey Bunch)” by Bonnie Pointer
“Mr. Loverman” by Shabba Ranks
“I’ve Never Found a Girl” by Eddie Floyd
“Plastic Man” and “Happy People” by the Temptations
“Okay” by Nivea
“Go On” by George Strait
“Back When My Hair Was Short” by Gunhill Road
“Birthday Party” by the Pixies Three
“Livin’ in the Life” by the Isley Brothers
“Kissing You” by Keith Washington
“The End of Our Road” by Marvin Gaye
“Ticks” and “Letter to Me” by Brad Paisley
“Nobody But You Babe” by Clarence Reid
“Like a Sunday in Salem” by Gene Cotton
“I’m Going to Let My Heart Do the Walking” by the Supremes
“Call Me Lightning” by the Who
“Ain’t It True” by Andy Williams
“Lazy Elsie Molly” and “Let’s Do the Freddie” by Chubby Checker
“Second Fiddle” by Kay Starr
“1999” by Prince
“I’ll Try Anything” by Dusty Springfield
“Oh Happy Day” by Glen Campbell
“I’d Love to Change the World” by Ten Years After
“Friends” and “Married Men” by Bette Midler
“Spice of Life” by the Manhattan Transfer
“You Can’t Roller Skate in a Buffalo Herd” by Roger Miller
“Don’t Pity Me” by Dion and the Belmonts
“Ask Me No Questions” by B.B. King
“Can’t Leave ‘Em Alone” by Ciara
“All I Really Want to Do” by the Byrds
“Love Rollercoaster” by Red Hot Chili Peppers
“Just a Little” by Brenda Lee
“Sweet Maxine” by the Doobie Brothers
“Where You Lead” and “The Way He Makes Me Feel” by Barbra Streisand
“Charity Ball” by Fanny
“I’m Comin’ Home” by Tommy James
“I’m Goin’ In” by Drake
“Your Time to Cry” by Joe Simon
“We’re Free” by Beverly Bremers
“The Resurrection Shuffle” by Ashton, Gardner and Dyke
“It Should Have Been Me” by Gladys Knight
“Still Crazy After All These Years” and “One-Trick Pony” by Paul Simon
“I (Who Have Nothing)” by Sylvester
“Breakdown” by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
“I’ll Be Your Shelter (In Time of Storm)” by Luther Ingram

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