‘Springsteen’s Greatest Albums’ excerpt: ‘Tunnel of Love’

Pete Chianca

On Mondays through January, we’re continuing to post exclusive excerpts from Glory Days: Springsteen’s Greatest Albums, which analyzes eight of Springsteen’s most groundbreaking albums and then argues which one should be considered “the greatest.” This week, a selection from the chapter on “Tunnel of Love.”

But much more of Tunnel of Love is dedicated to the ways that love is complicated, trust is fleeting and truly knowing someone is heart-wrenchingly difficult – sometimes impossible. The title track equates relationships with a dim, twisted carnival funhouse, an analogy that’s brilliantly simple and exquisitely executed: “the lights go out and it’s just the three of us,” Springsteen sings, “you, me and all that stuff we’re so scared of.” The way he shares harmonies both with himself, in a anguished overdub, and with Patti Scialfa’s echoing yelps only accentuates the number of hidden specters floating just beneath any relationship’s surface.

“Brilliant Disguise” takes that concept even further, with yet another protagonist in danger of seeing everything slip away when “out go the lights” – including his own sense of self. “I wanna know if it’s you I don’t trust, ’cause I damn sure don’t trust myself,” he laments, painting a revealing picture of a relationship whose loving appearance is only the result of perpetual, exhausting efforts – from both parties – to keep the darkness submerged.

Even starker is the plain-spoken “One Step Up,” almost matter-of-fact in the way it portrays a marriage dissolving before our eyes. Like in “Point Blank” – perhaps Springsteen’s direst relationship song up to that point – the dream of happier times that ends the song makes the current reality all the sadder.

You can download Glory Days: Springsteen’s Greatest Albums at Amazon or Amazon UK. And if you don’t have a Kindle, don’t worry: You can download free Kindle software here.