There’s a room of shadows that gets so dark brother
It’s easy for two people to lose each other in this tunnel of love
Bruce and I weren’t a real match for quite some time. I thought The River was intriguing, the song very good even, and I read an extensive story on him in my schoolagenda (!) for 1981-1982 or 1982-1983. However, the yelling and pumping of fists of Born In The U.S.A. irritated me, initially. Around 1986 I befriended Martin. An intense friendship, which provided me with two things (musically speaking):
- respect for Elvis Presley;
- a deep love for Bruce Springsteen.
On January 14th, 1987, I purchased my first Springsteen item. It was the the 3 cd live box Live – 1975/85. It floored me. It introduced Springsteen in a chronological order. Racing In The Street in particular touched me profoundly (on July 5th, 2012 (Dutch only) I heard it live for the first time in Paris; tears flowed). The melancholy, the humanity, the warmth, it was all beautiful. I even began to appreciate Born In The U.S.A. songs (like Bobby Jean and My Hometown). I was a fan. A love that would never disappear.
Then the catching up took place. Nebraska and the stunning Darkness On The Edge Of Town were next. And then it was October 9th, 1987, the release date of the latest album: Tunnel Of Love. I bought it straight away. It is still my favorite Springsteen album (number 6 in my album top 50 of all time).
On May 13th, 1985, Bruce Springsteen married Julianne Phillips. She was more than 10 years younger than Springsteen and was a model and actress. At the time the match was frowned upon. Springsteen, who still had a working-man image, together with a jet-set blond: that could not end well, but in public they looked happy. They weren’t together too much, because of their work obligations.
On October 3rd, 1987, the first taste of the new album was released: Brilliant Disguise.
A great song. A divine drumbeat, with lots of acoustic guitar. This sounded different from the things I knew from him. If this truly was a sample for the upcoming album, may great things were to follow.
However, the lyrics to the song contained some very blunt remarks on (his?) marriage.
I wanna read your mind
To know just what I’ve got in this new thing I’ve found
Well I’ve tried so hard baby, but I just can’t see
What a woman like you is doing with me
I want to know if it’s you I don’t trust
’cause I damn sure don’t trust myself
Now you play the loving woman, I’ll play the faithful man
But just don’t look too close into the palm of my hand
We stood at the alter, the gypsy swore our future was right
But come the wee wee hours, well maybe baby the gypsy lied
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
The lyrics are beautiful, honest and painful. The big question is who the person the other sees, really is. Springsteen asks Is that you baby or just a brilliant disguise? twice. The last question being Is that me baby or just a brilliant disguise?.
Brilliant Disguise is one of the greatest Springsteen songs, but what does it say about him and his marriage? Or is it just a show and does he refer to universal emotions?
The video to the song is equally penetrating. Springsteen sits in a kitchen and sings the song live. The clip is shot in black and white and consists of one take, filmed from a steady point of view. As the song progresses, the camera keeps on zooming in on Springsteen, who delivers the intimate lyrics, looking straight into the camera. A beautiful video.
Fun fact: the video was nominated for 4 MTV Music Awards. One of the nominations being for ‘best editing’…
Tunnel Of Love
The presentation stood out. Moody, granular photography. The complete opposite of the grandeur of Born In The U.S.A.. The album itself was the same. Introvert, sparingly and intimate. Something else that stood out was the minimal contribution by The E Street Band. Previous albums (barring the acoustic Nebraska) essentially were Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band albums. This was the first album for which this wasn’t the case. Just take a look at the advertising campaign for The Rising, which explicitly states that it’s the first album, since Born In The U.S.A., where The E Street Band play a part.
But where the album really diverged from previous albums was the personal approach. Bruce seldom mentioned Billy, Sandy, Bobby, Mary, Johnny, Wendy, etc. He talked about himself and us.
Ain’t Got You
The album starts off with Ain’t Got You, a song about a man that seemingly has everything:
- all the bonds baby that the bank could hold;
- houses ‘cross the country;
- a house full of Rembrandt and priceless art;
- a big diamond watch sittin’ on my wrist;
- a pound of caviar sitting home on ice;
- a fancy foreign car that rides like paradise;
- a hundred pretty women knockin’ down my door;
- paid a king’s ransom for doin’ what comes naturally.
But in the end Springsteen is the biggest fool honey this world ever knew, because he doesn’t have the girl of his dreams. A great opener. Guitar, minimal percussion and song.
Tougher Than The Rest
A slow (drumcomputer) rhythm: boom – tchak – boom – tchak, followed by a dark synthesizer motif and acoustic guitar. Originally intended as a rockabilly song, the tempo was lowered considerably.
The song was released as a single in June of 1988. The video is a live recording of the song and contains images of couples visiting The Tunnel Of Love Express Tour. The couples were of lesbian, gay and straight origin. The great thing about it, is that it was shown as it was; no (political) agenda, just couples having a good time.
This song is a favorite. It has a nice melancholy mood en a phenomenal harmonica ending.
All That Heaven Will Allow
A beautiful song about Springsteen who has a date with a girl who’s all that heaven will allow.
Bobby said he’d pull out Bobby stayed in
Janey had a baby it wasn’t any sin
They were set to marry on a summer day
Bobby got scared and he ran away
Away with the romance and seduction of the first 3 songs. A bitter song about an unmarried (young) mother, who is left behind by her boyfriend. She tries to raise the child by herself, but struggles (she was a young girl and she missed the party lights). She reads the story about a woman who drowns her child in the river. When Janey stands along the shore of a river herself, she decides to take responsibility for her actions and sell her engagement ring for cash.
The song was released as a single in October of 1988 in some countries (not including the US).
Just like the previous song, Cautious Man is written in the third person. It’s about a man who is very careful and thoughtful. Love makes him forget about that all. He gets married and builds a house for his lover.
Now Billy was an honest man he wanted to do what was right
He worked hard to fill their lives with happy days and loving nights
Alone on his knees in the darkness for steadiness he’d pray
For he knew in a restless heart the seed of betrayal lay
He is having nightmares and knows he shall have to keep on fighting the struggle within (On his right hand Billy tattooed the word love and on his left hand was the word fear).
Once again a beautiful and small song. The subdued mood of the album fits me better and better.
Walk Like A Man
I remember how rough your hand felt on mine
On my wedding day
The opening lines to Walk Like A Man. Springsteen remembers how his mother dragged him along, whenever she heard the church bells for weddings. He has witnessed the same scene numerous times:
Well would they ever look so happy again
The handsome groom and his bride
As they stepped into that long black limousine
For their mystery ride
A moving song about a man trying his best to do right by himself and, particularly, his bride.
Tunnel Of Love
The song uses a ride at a fair as a metaphor for a relationship/marriage. Springsteen thinks that love is supposed to be easy (man meets woman and they fall in love), but quickly realizes that the ride can be hard and unpredictable (the house is haunted and the ride gets rough). It’s all too easy to lose each other during the ride.
Musically the song differs a great deal from what Springsteen usually does. It almost has a funky feel. The song uses sound effects from a roller coaster in Point Pleasant, New Jersey.
Then the lights go out and it’s just the three of us
You, me and all that stuff we’re so scared of
The song was released as the second single off the album in October of 1987. A beautiful song, and lyrically a highlight in Springsteen’s body of work.
I met a girl and we ran away
I swore I’d make her happy every day
And how I made her cry
Two faces have I
Maybe Springsteen’s most sincere song ever. In his 2016 (impressive) biography Born To Run he states that he had a problem with dealing with love (from women) and that he could be mean and unreliable. This song proves that very clearly. A force/tendency that’s stronger than he wants, but can’t be controlled.
A beautiful modest song.
The first single off the album and one of Springsteen’s most beautiful songs. See earlier in this article for a comprehensive description of the song.
One Step Up
We’ve given each other some hard lessons lately
But we ain’t learnin’
We’re the same sad story that’s a fact
One step up and two steps back
It’s the same thing night on night
Who’s wrong baby who’s right
Another fight and I slam the door on
Another battle in our dirty little war
A beautiful ballad, with a great sweet melody, but containing a heavy subject. Springsteen looks back on his own relationships and doesn’t like what he sees. His own role (When I look at myself I don’t see the man I wanted to be) isn’t sugarcoated. The couple doesn’t learn from their mistakes and keeps fighting the same fight.
In the end of the song Springsteen is seated in a bar and sees a woman (Mmm she ain’t lookin’ to married, and me well honey I’m pretending) and wonders whether or not he should get involved. But he remembers a dream from the night before. He dreamt of dancing with his wife.
And, yet again, a great song. The song was released as a single in February of 1988.
When You’re Alone
My least favorite song off the album. It’s about Springsteen whos is left behind by his woman: When you’re alone you ain’t nothing but alone.
A tear inducing song. Romantic, melancholy. It’s impossible to describe how much feeling the song portrays. The means are minimal, but the effect is huge. Goosebumps.
It’s about Springsteen driving his car in the middle of the night and he wants nothing more than to go home and hold his lover in his arms.
They say he travels fastest who travels alone
But tonight I miss my girl mister tonight I miss my home
He feels alone on this spooky old highway tonight. But the only thing that really scares him:
That ain’t what scares me baby
What scares me is losing you
the songs ends with the profound wish:
So hold me close honey say you’re forever mine
And tell me you’ll be my lonely valentine
It almost sounds mundane seeing this in black on white, but Springsteen delivers it with such great conviction that it genuinely moves time and time again.
The album is dedicated to his wife Julianne Phillips. It’s not too difficult to imagine what she must have thought upon hearing the album. The image of relationships and marriages that the album portrays is not very positive, to say the least.
But was the album really about Springsteen’s relationship and his take on it? At the time, reviews warned for such simplistic conclusions. Yet, it was very hard not to. The album’s theme, the sincerity and the many songs using ‘I’, made for suspicions that something wasn’t right.
But, besides that, Springsteen did deliver a great album. I immediately adored it. The themes were recognizable. I like it so much, because it’s about trust (or lack thereof), doubt, willing to do good, fighting the inevitable, resignation and coming to terms with reality (you’ve got to learn to live with what you can’t rise above). Whether it is in Spare Parts, Brilliant Disguise or Valentine’s Day.
Lyrically the album’s beauty is unparalleled. Springsteen’s strength resides in the smaller stories anyway. The little things every man encounters or endures. This album makes it all more personal and intimate.
Musically all is kept to the bare necessities, adding to the album’s intensity. I remember reading somewhere that the album is marred by a typical 1980’s production style. I couldn’t disagree more. That ‘honor’ is bestowed on Born In The U.S.A..
All songs are written by Bruce Springsteen. He is also the main performer on the album: guitar, mandolin, bass, keyboards, harmonica, percussion, drum computers and (background)vocals. He did have help on a number of songs of:
- Max Weinberg
percussion on Tougher Than The Rest, Spare Parts, Walk Like A Man, Tunnel Of Love & Brilliant Disguise
drums on All That Heaven Will Allow, Two Faces & When You’re Alone
- Danny Federici
organ on Tougher Than The Rest, Spare Parts & Brilliant Disguise
- Patti Scialfa
vocals on Tunnel Of Love, One Step Up & When You’re Alone
- Roy Bittan
synthesizers on Tunnel Of Love
piano on Brilliant Disguise
- Nils Lofgren
guitar solo on Tunnel Of Love
vocals on When You’re Alone
- Clarence Clemons
vocals on When You’re Alone
- Garry Tallent
bass on Spare Parts
- James Wood
harmonica on Spare Parts
First time Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band live
But, I had never seen Springsteen live with the mighty E Street Band. That was about to change. Springsteen was coming to the Netherlands.
On June 29th, 1988 it finally happened: Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band came to Rotterdam’s Kuip stadium with the Tunnel Of Love Express. It was a magical evening. 6 songs off my favorite album were played. The band was accompanied by a horn section, that provided a lot of songs with a nice soul feel. Springsteen effortlessly went beyond the 3 hour mark. I was baffled.
Later I learned that Chimes Of Freedom as well as Paradise By The “C” were tour premieres. A nice touch.
Tunnel Of Love Express Tour
The first Springsteen tour to be named (Express). Despite the minimal use of the E Street Band on the album, the legendary backing band was used for the accompanying tour. Especially for this tour a horn section, The Horns Of Love, was used.
This tour was much shorter than previous tours: 67 shows (the Born In The U.S.A. tour consisted of 156 shows). The shows were held in arena’s and stadiums, mostly ‘just’ two nights per city. Ticket demand was huge and all shows sold out quickly.
Before the tour went on sale, Springsteen contemplated doing a solo-tour. His management had already pre-booked smaller venues in advance. But, eventually, Springsteen decided against that idea, in fear of creating a tour and show that was too heavy and dark, and opted to go out on tour with The E Street Band instead.
But Springsteen wanted to it all differently than it was before. The standards were discarded form the regular setlist, a horn section was added (Springsteen’s long lasting wish; now he could afford it), bandmembers were placed at different locations on the stage. Patti Scialfa, added tot The E Street Band as a backup-singer for the Born In The U.S.A. tour, was upgraded to a bigger role and regularly duetted with Springsteen.
I gathered it took some getting used to for a lot of the ‘old’ fans. It didn’t bother me. After all, I was just starting, so I looked at the show with fresh eyes and ears and less judgmental. Springsteen played an impressive set of lesser known songs, including obscure B-sides, covers and, of course, Tunnel Of Love songs. The encores consisted of older songs, oftentimes drastically re-arranged, like an acoustic version of Born To Run.
Olympiastadium, Stockholm, July 3rd, 1988
The first half of this show was recorded and broadcast on any radio station that wanted it. The show was also broadcast in The Netherlands. It was a treat hearing this, in such great sound quality. Before Springsteen started Chimes Of Freedom, he announced his participation in the Amnesty International’s Human Rights Now! Tour, which was to take place later in the year. The recordings of this show have been released on numerous bootlegs. A beautiful, unfortunately incomplete, document of the European Tunnel Of Love Express Tour.
Chimes Of Freedom
The recording of Chimes Of Freedom, performed in Stockholm, was released as part of an EP on August 1st, 1988, supplemented with 3 live recordings of the American leg of the Tunnel Of Love Express Tour.
- Tougher Than The Rest
- Be True
- Chimes Of Freedom
- Born To Run
Weißensee, Oost-Berlijn, 19 juli 1988
The most special show of the tour, and maybe even Springsteen’s entire career, took place on July 19th, 1988. 16 months before the Berlin Wall would fall, Springsteen played to an estimated audience of around 500,000 people; about 3% of the entire population of the DDR (East-Germany).
He was invited by the DDR youth organization called JDR, which tried to ease the tension that was building up among the youth, by organizing a number of concerts in East-Germany (other artists that summer were James Brown, Joe Cocker and Depeche Mode). The East-German press described Springsteen as an artist who fought social inequality and injustice in his homeland. Initially the show was announced as a concert for Nicaragua, supporting the Sandinistas. The show was broadcast live on the national (state controlled) television network (with a small delay).
For the first time during the tour, the opener changed: Badlands opened the show. The Promised Land was added to the setlist. Before Chimes Of Freedom was played, Springsteen told the audience (in German) that he was there to play rock ‘n’ roll for the people of East-Berlin, and that he hoped that one day all barriers would be torn down. The millions of people watching at home didn’t hear the last part, because it was censored by the national broadcasting network.
Nowadays, Springsteen’s concert is regarded as having played a major part in the final fall of the Berlin Wall. Contrary to JDR’s intentions, the youth increasingly felt locked up. Springsteen had given them a taste of freedom. According to many socio-scientists the role of the Springsteen show can not be overestimated.
But, what about Springsteen’s marriage?
From the start of the Tunnel Of Love Express Tour it was obvious to many, that something was not right. Springsteen’s wife Julianne Phillips had show her face the first few shows, but they weren’t together on the third anniversary of their marriage. Springsteen, supposedly, stopped wearing his wedding ring as the tour progressed.
Springsteen and singer Patti Scialfa were either convincing actors or really into each other. The chemistry between Springsteen and Scialfa was so obvious and real that the tour was nicknamed Tunnel Of Lust by some fans. The duets they did were intimate, oftentimes with their heads and mouths next to each other singing into one microphone. However, confirmation on this was lacking.
Until June 15th, 1988. An Italian paparazzo photographed the two on the balcony of their hotel in Rome, and when they were intimately relaxing in the hotel’s garden. The result was that Springsteen became a subject matter for gossip-magazines around the globe, a new (and wholeheartedly unwanted) experience for Springsteen.
On June 17th, 1988, Phillips confirmed she and Springsteen had broken up. During the same month Springsteen’s management added that the couple had been growing apart. Phillips filed for divorce on August 30th, 1988, which was finalized mid March 1989.
In his 2016 autobiography Springsteen states: “I dealt with Julie’s and my separation abysmally, insisting it remain a private affair, so we released no press statement, causing furor, pain and ‘scandal’ when the news leaked out. It made a tough thing more heartbreaking than necessary. I deeply cared for Julianne and her family and my poor handling of this is something I regret to this day”.
Springsteen and Scialfa married in 1991, and have been together ever since.
After Tunnel Of Love
As was announced during the July 3rd, 1988 show in Stockholm, Springsteen (with The E Street Band) toured in honor of the 40th anniversary of the Universal Declaration for Human Rights. The tour took place during the months September and October of 1988.
For a while nothing was heard from or about Springsteen. In the latter months of 1989 an official announcement was made: Springsteen had disbanded The E Street Band.
Springsteen left his familiar New Jersey and moved to Los Angeles. On March 31st, 1992, Springsteen released two albums, Human Touch and Lucky Town, both of which were welcomed sparingly. On April 12th, 1993 In Concert/MTV Plugged was released, an album which was very badly received by audiences and critics alike.
In 1994 Springsteen was asked to contribute to the film Philadelphia. It turned into the beautiful Streets Of Philadelphia, for which he was awarded with an Academy Award.
In 1995 Springsteen reunited with The E Street Band for Greatest Hits. Three songs were recorded, supplemented with the great Secret Garden (which was part of the movie Jerry Maguire). The same year Springsteen release The Ghost Of Tom Joad, an acoustic album that was very well received (by critics).
In 1999 Springsteen was inducted to the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame. He moved back to New Jersey and bought a ranch. It was time to, once again, get back together with The E Street Band. The Reunion Tour lasted over a year and proved to be extremely successful. many had hoped for years to see Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band one more time and stadiums around the world filled up without any effort at all.
Finally, in 2002 new Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band material was released: The Rising (see the article The musical answer to 9/11: Bruce Springsteen’s The Rising).
My favorite Bruce Springsteen album is his least played set of songs. Understandably perhaps, for it probably reminds him of less happy times (just like Prince playing little to nothing live off the Emancipation album). Bob Dylan once remarked on his own Blood On The Tracks: “A lot of people tell me they enjoy that album. It’s hard for me to relate to that. You know, people enjoying that type of pain”. Maybe this is the case as well for Bruce Springsteen and Tunnel Of Love.
However it may be, I love the album and the tour. I was more than pleased when it was announced that the Tunnel Of Love Express Tour would be getting its own release as part of Live Bruce Springsteen (live.brucespringsteen.net). The concert in the LA Sports Arena, Los Angeles of April 23rd, 1988, one of the many shows from Springsteen’s archives, was made available on July 8th, 2015. Maybe now it’s time for East-Berlin? Or the complete Stockholm show? Or, better yet, Rotterdam, June 29th, 1988 (I own recordings of the show, but the quality is sub-par).
What do you think of Tunnel Of Love? Is it your favorite Springsteen album also, or does The Boss mean nothing to you? Let me know: it’s highly appreciated!
All songlyrics © 1987 Bruce Springsteen: brucespringsteen.net
Bruce Springsteen – Tunnel Of Love era image: rollingstone.com
Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band – Live/1975-85, Bruce Springsteen – Tunnel Of Love, Bruce Springsteen – Chimes Of Freedom (EP) & Bruce Spingsteen – Icon images: brucespringsteen.net
Bruce Springsteen – Marriage 1985, Bruce Springsteen – Tunnel Of Love Tour – Netherlands ad & Bruce Springsteen – Tunnel Of Love Express Tour book images: pinterest.com
Bruce Springsteen – Brilliant Disguise (single), Bruce Springsteen – Tougher Than The Rest (single), Bruce Springsteen – Spare Parts (single), Bruce Springsteen – Tunnel Of Love (single), Bruce Springsteen – One Step Up (single) & Bruce Springsteen – Streets Of Philadelphia (single) images: wikipedia.org
Bruce Springsteen – Brilliant Disguise – Video image: hq-music-videos.com
Bruce Springsteen – Tunnel Of Love – Inner sleeve image: vinyliciously.com
Bruce Springsteen – Tunnel Of Love – Photo outtake image: gottahaverockandroll.com
Bruce Springsteen – Tunnel Of Love Tour Rotterdam 1988 image: gettyimages.com
Bruce Springsteen – Tunnel Of Love Tour – Stockholm image: backstageauctions.com
Bruce Springsteen – East Berlin 07/19/1988 & Bruce Springsteen – East Berlin 07/19/1988 – Stage images: ilmitte.com
Bruce Springsteen – Tunnel Of Love Tour – Gossip image: nydailynews.com/blogseitb.com/informalia.eleconomista.es/people.com
Human Rights Now! image: sting.com
Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band – LA Sports Arena California 1988 image: live.brucespringsteen.net