By Ray McDonald
Bruce Springsteen’s “Tunnel Of Love” is my go-to Springsteen album. I find myself returning to it time and again. Here was a superstar at his most vulnerable, pouring his heart out during a desperate, confusing moment in his life.
Well, just a couple weeks ago – October 9 – “Tunnel Of Love” turned 25 years old. It was his eighth studio album, and I’d say it’s aged pretty well. In 2003, “Rolling Stone” magazine ranked it 475th in its list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.
Three years before “Tunnel Of Love” hit the market, “Born In The USA” had rocketed Bruce to iconic status. I saw him perform with the E Street Band in 1985, and the stadium crowd greeted him with messianic fervor. I couldn’t help wondering how he felt about all this adulation…and if things had gotten out of control for him.
It was in 1985 that Bruce had married Julianne Phillips, a model-actress 11 years his junior. They’d wed only seven months after meeting. By all accounts, they were very different people…and one listen to the “Tunnel Of Love” album lets you know what Bruce was going through. He was hurting. Songs like “Brilliant Disguise” and “One Step Up” show his pain and confusion. Largely a solo effort, the inward-looking collection made sparse use of the E Street Band. Bruce seemed truly alone – but he wasn’t.
While touring behind this album, he fell in love with supporting musician Patti Scialfa. A fellow New Jersey native, she had befriended him years before. In 1988, Bruce Springsteen and Julianne Phillips agreed to separate, and their divorce was finalized the following year. Bruce married Patti in 1991, and they’re still together today.
So this was the background for “Tunnel Of Love.” Bruce’s troubled marriage was tabloid fodder in the late 80s, and the subtext in his songs was easy to spot. For me, however, the appeal of this album goes beyond the surrounding drama. The melodies and lyrics work perfectly together, and the overall aura of melancholy highlights what I like best about Bruce Springsteen’s songwriting: its humanity and universality. We’ve all been there, and so has he.
Just thought I’d start something new in my blog. Each week, I’ll give you a highlight or two from the U-S pop charts. This week, we look at Adele, whose touch, it seems, turns everything to gold…and platinum. “Skyfall” opened in eight place on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, becoming the first James Bond theme in a decade to reach the United States Top 10. Madonna last did it in 2002, when “Die Another Day” also reached eighth place. If you’re looking for a number one Bond song, you have to go all the way back to 1985 for Duran Duran’s “A View To A Kill.”