I really like the man and quite a lot of his music but I only own two Springsteen LPs.  When I was growing up his music was just everywhere after Born In The USA, so much so that I never felt I needed to actually buy any and that’s near enough where I still am today, able to sing along word-perfect to all manner of tracks I don’t own on plastic.

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Did I say I own two Bruce LPs? well that’s a technical untruth because Tunnel of Love doesn’t belong to me, it belongs to Mrs 1537.  Now despite being married for 20 years and producing two children I still don’t feel we have quite reached the level of intimacy and trust necessary to merge our records together and so her LPs huddle together in a far off corner of the room in their own vinyl gulag, desperately hoping to one day be granted full citizenship of the shelves.  Tunnel of Love got to jump the queue a bit*, mostly because I think Bruce looks awesomely cool on the cover and also because I have been totally in love with one track since the day I first heard it.

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Coming off the monster success of Born In The USA, everyone expected a bit more of the same from Mr Springsteen, more bright colours and anthems**.  What he served up on Tunnel of Love was a lot more interesting, ditching the E-Street Band, we got a series of pared down meditations and tales about love, honour, marital trust and heartache, set against his disintegrating marriage to Julianne Phillips.  The couple filed for divorce just 10 months after the LP was released and you can read the dedication ‘Thanks Juli’, in a few different ways.

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It all kicks off with the excellent ‘Ain’t Got You’, which is a wonderful stripped back solo busk by Bruce, where he gets to holler and whoop his way through a successful man’s lament – hey, he’s got it all … almost.  It certainly puts the ‘fun’ in ‘an album fundamentally about dealing with doubts and relationship disintegration’.

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A rare, almost lone scrap of semi-optimism on one of the most truly melancholy blockbuster mainstream LPs I’ve ever heard ‘Tougher Than the Rest’ just nails it for me every single time.  In fact it comes damn close to making me shed sweet raw jagged man tears every time I hear it.  I’m just a total sucker for his sincerity, it puts all my usual distancing strategies of irony and humour to flight and just cuts through to my soft mushy man centre.

Some girls they want a handsome Dan
Or some good-lookin’ Joe, on their arm
Some girls like a sweet-talkin’ Romeo
Well ’round here baby
I learned you get what you can get
So if you’re rough enough for love
Honey I’m tougher than the rest

Now, speaking as a particularly ‘good-lookin’ Joe’ I take no offence, although I would point out that Dan ain’t really all that when you see him up close.  I’d love to be the sort of guy who could sing this sort of thing authentically in a gravelly Phillip Marlowe world-weary manner, cynical-yet-romantic and battle-hardened; sadly I fear I’d only make it sound flippant and a bit camp.  Damn.

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I also have a real thing for the title track, which Roy Bittan narrowly avoids spoiling with his synths.  The opening image of, ‘Fat man sitting on a little stool / Takes the money from my hand while his eyes take a walk all over you’ is just perfect, as is the great Nils Logfren guitar solo and the hard-won, if pessimistic, wisdom reached by the end of the song:

It ought to be easy ought to be simple enough
Man meets woman and they fall in love
But the house is haunted and the ride gets rough
And you’ve got to learn to live with what you can’t rise above, if you want to ride on down in through this tunnel of love.

The dark country rocker ‘Spare Parts’ is another high water mark, a tale of responsibility, betrayal and self-preservation; love triumphs, but an engagement ring and wedding dress are far better off pawned for ‘good cold cash’.  It takes us to the edge though before it lets us off, just imagine Hollis Brown cracking his shotgun, taking out the shells and hanging it back up on his wall.  Ditto ‘Cautious Man’, which details the uneasy triumph of love and duty over restlessness.

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I really like the way Springsteen, even in his character songs, meets it all head on in Tunnel of Love, no disguising his feelings in oblique poetry and sidelong references here – you want a song about the nagging doubts of how we present ourselves to each other in relationships? try ‘Brilliant Disguise’.  Worries about depression and our impact on others? cue up ‘Two faces’.  You could peel off lyric after lyric here (random sample: ‘nobody knows honey where love goes/but when it goes it’s gone gone’) to back it all up.  There’s a straight-up emotional honesty here that you rarely get in such excoriating detail from a songwriter; no barriers, just bravery.

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Tunnel of Love is a flawed album for me though.  I tend to crave a change of pace, or maybe a change of mood, by the time I get halfway through the second side.  This isn’t helped by some real 80’s production here and there, some synths pitched at just that 1987 tone and some horrid sounding drums in one or two places, it makes me pine for a full E Street Band version of the LP.  Mind you that Patti Scialfa lady seems to have made a few appearances on this record … just saying.

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Now I’ve stocked up on fluids again and wrung out the front of my T-shirt this good-lookin’ Joe will give ‘Tougher Than the Rest’ another spin, possibly leaning moodily on my car, although given I’m wearing pyjama shorts with reindeers on them and my best ‘lovelorn and smouldering’ look tends to err on the side of ‘chronically constipated’, it may not quite have the same effect.  Good job I’m tougher than the rest.

690 Down.

*along with her Dan Reed Network albums, for old time’s sake.

**Trojan-horsing some seriously downbeat lyrics.

20 thoughts on “Thanks Juli

  1. Really enjoyed this one. Great pics, too.

    I have a couple of Boss LPs (Born To Run, Darkness On The Edge Of Town, The River, and Nebraska), which I like loads, but I find a lot of his stuff a bit mnah.

    From this one I’m awfy fond of Brilliant Disguise. Aside from that, there’s too much on here that just falls down due to the production, I think. Some good songs, but never quite the level you want it to be. A misplaced lyric or swoosh of swish. I dunno. Can’t quite place it, but sometimes it just sounds a bit like the beginnings of Boss By Numbers.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Dictated to me: ‘Dear Ms Connection, I handle it on a regular basis when he’s not in the house. I take particular pleasure in playing his records and then purposefully putting them back in the wrong place. ‘

      Personally, I think it all went wrong when we started allowing them to vote and drive cars and wear trousers and stuff.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I have to agree with Jhubner here. Mrs 80smetalman and I have been married 11 years and only three of her CDs have made it over to my shelf. I kind of went off Bruce after Born in the USA so maybe I have to discover this one for myself.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Always found Bruce a bit hit-and-miss… certainly like some of his stuff but I don’t have any albums of his anymore. Only know Brilliant Disguise on this… I love that… and I heard an alternate take of Tougher Than the Rest where he sang at length about Hot Scotts.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Ahh, the legendary ‘Hot Scott’s’ version that fans have been desperate for. I hear it has four extra verses, three of which are just him shouting ‘Hot Scott!’ over and over again.

      I think a good lookin’ Joe at Capitol Records may have dissuaded him from releasing it.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Mrs. Boppin owns no records. If she did I would give her shelf space (inside the bathroom cabinet next to all her lady things).

    As for Bruce, I own a number of his albums, and I just today contemplated getting his new book/album combo.

    Liked by 2 people

      1. Can I just clarify, is that a signed Springsteen book? or just a random book, signed by someone else? because I’d really be up for the second option.

        Like

  5. Like you, ‘Born In The USA’ was pretty much burned into my head when I was 10 or 11 years old. I can remember seeing the video for “Dancing In The Dark” countless times and even though I should’ve, I never tired of it. I convinced myself to not like the Boss, but eventually when I was much older I gave in and realized Springsteen is a pretty amazing songwriter and performer.

    There are some key tracks of his that I will always love and they are: “Tenth Avenue Freeze Out”, “Thunder Road”, “Born To Run”, “Badlands”, “Hungry Heart”, “Dancing In The Dark”, “I’m On Fire”, and “Brilliant Disguise”. I know there’s more to love and appreciate about the man, but those songs are the ones that stuck in my head all these years. I love the fact that “Brilliant Disguise” was a radio hit. Can you imagine that song being a hit now? Ludicrous.

    Btw, keeping Mrs. 1537s and your collections separate? That’s the right thing to do. That’s just how things should be, really.

    Liked by 2 people

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