Bruce Springsteen

Tunnel of Love

The chatter is picking up regarding a new Bruce and the E Street album in the works. Some unconfirmed song names: “Dead Ringers” (possibly the title track), “Sabres, Steel, and Spades”, and “Radio Nowhere.” Possible release date is October, with a tour to follow. If anyone has any other info, feel free to post in the comments.

Tonight I want to talk about Tunnel of Love, which was Bruce’s follow up to his 1984 mega-smash Born in the U.S.A. It undoubtedly surprised the lion’s share of fans he had picked up with U.S.A. With 1987’s Tunnel of Love, Bruce focused in on all the fears, doubts, and challenges of relationships. At the time, he was married to model / actress Julianne Phillips, and it wasn’t hard to connect the dots that Bruce was singing about his own current struggles in his marriage. On the Tunnel of Love tour, the relationship deepened between Bruce and his backup singer, Patti Scialfa. In 1990, his divorce with Phillips was final, and he soon married Jersey girl Patti.

The songs on the album that hit me hardest are the last five, from “Two Faces” to “Valentine’s Day”. It’s a bleak finale to the album, but so perfect in its execution. Each song weaves into the next, with a common theme of – well – doubt….

Two Faces: At night I get down on my knees and pray / Our love will make that other man go away/ But he’ll never say goodbye /Two faces have I

Brilliant Disguise: Tonight our bed is cold / I’m lost in the darkness of our love / God have mercy on the man / Who doubts what he’s sure of – Zowie, that line gives me goose bumps every time.

One Step Up: There’s a girl across the bar / I get the message she’s sendin’/ Mmm she ain’t lookin’ to married / And me well honey I’m pretending

When You’re Alone: Now it ain’t hard feelings or nothin’ sugar / That ain’t what’s got me singing this song / It’s just nobody knows baby where love goes / But when it goes it’s gone gone

Valentine’s Day: Is it the cry of the river / With the moonlight shining through / That ain’t what scares me baby / What scares me is losing you

Music carries me through the good times and the bad. This album has been my companion through those tougher times in relationships over the years. I’m not one to wallow in my misery, but: 1 broken heart + Tunnel of Love = quality time spent. Therapy, really.

This is Bruce’s album of the heart. This is Bruce affirming to himself, and to the listener, that this life and love thing, it ain’t easy. It takes work. Lucky for me and Bruce, we both find ourselves in great places these days. God willing, I won’t have to place myself into these songs again! But I always come back to this album, and I always will.

Songs:

BUY Tunnel of Love.

5 Comments

  • David M.

    Actually one of my favorite Springsteen albums and one that is seldom recognized for being as good as it actually is. I’d agree with you that it’s clearly his “album of the heart” and back in my days of assembling mix-tapes for my now-wife, I’d used songs like “All that Heaven Will Allow” and “Tougher than the Rest” to “voice” some of my harder to express feelings. Thanks for bringing this back into the public eye…

    Best,
    David

  • Steve

    Ok. I’ll come out of the closet on this one. I was one of the disappointed fans when Tunnel of Love first came out. It was a huge u-turn from Born in the USA and I was lost. Where were all the big rockers? For that matter, where was the E-street band?

    Of course, now I think the album is a masterpiece.

    “Brilliant Disguise” is one of his absolute best songs. He expresses doubt and uncertainty so well in it. I think I wasn’t old enough to understand what he was saying back then, but I can totally relate to those feelings now.

    And, “All The Heaven Will Allow” is just awesome.

    The only problem I have with it is that it’s such an emotional album that I get in a real funk when I listen to it. I really have to be in a certain mood for it and when I am, it’s like you said, therapy.

  • Thierry

    The most underrated album of Bruce’s catalog – especially in North America, whereas it regularly pops up in British polls as one of the greatest albums of all time.

    Also, the “Tougher Than The Rest” video raises the “How could nobody have known about those two?” question. 🙂

  • brad

    Here’s a good story: My new girlfriend was driving from DC to Blacksburg, VA one day. She had spent quite a few years out of the music loop, and now having gotten her divorce, was listening again, and I was glad to supply the tunes. She had good ears, but again had been out of hte loop. She called me and said, do you know htis guy, Bruce Springsteen? KNow him, I said, I have most everything he’s ever done. Well, she says, I don’t think I like him much. I told her I think she might not have heard the right stuff, and to give him a chance. The impetus for all this was that a good old friend of hers had an extra ticket to the Seeger Sessions show in Boston a few weeks later, and she was thinking about going.

    So what did I play her? Tunnel of Love. And Nebraska. Both of which she loved, but she STILL often has TOL in her car CD player. She went to the show and is now a Bruce fanatic, seeking out his older stuff as well.

    I found a used copy of TOL a little bit after it came out, and it is one of my 3 all time favs of his. The fact that most even Bruce fans don’t know it baffles me. It’s like being a fan of James Joyce and not knowing Ulysses. (Or maybe not.)

    Thanks!

  • Matt

    Hey,

    I’ve only just discovered ickmusic and have been trawling old posts to see what you have covered – many thanks for the Bruce/Prince shows you’ve been posting. Awesome stuff.

    Anyway, just wanted to put my head above the parapet to say that this post really got to me. Before I’d read it, I’d been listening pretty much all week to ToL and Blood On The Tracks – personally, I do exactly what you say you do – I got the elbow this week from a girl (for one of my friends, no less) and whilst I’m not one to wallow in self pity, these two albums have done me no end of service this week.

    For me, it’s When You’re Alone. The E Street Band chiming in at the end to back Bruce on the repeated line “when you’re alone, you ain’t nothing but alone” never fails to get me. He seems to be saying, you’re not really alone, you can always find your friends to lean on.

    Thanks again.

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