Bruce Springsteen, "One Step Up," C or D

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Tunnel of Love was, in some ways, Broooce's sophistopop album. Ordinarily, when he quiets down the get-the-frat-boys-to-pump-their-fists-in-the-air impulse, he turns dark and folky (cf. Nebraska), but here he concentrates on some positively elegant, wistful songs.

I'll argue that "One Step Up" is an overlooked gem. It is one of the Boss's most heartbreaking lyrics.

The Mad Puffin (The Mad Puffin), Monday, 9 May 2005 19:53 (fourteen years ago) link

"One Step Up" is also a beautiful song. Still don't like the "Tunnel Of Love" album much, but that one is a gem.

Geir Hongro (GeirHong), Monday, 9 May 2005 19:56 (fourteen years ago) link

"Tunnel of Love" is the masterpiece that "Nebraska" wasn't - maybe because it has, you know, rhythm and synthesizers and isn't straining for significance.

As for "One Step Up," boy, it's a tearjerker. This and "When You're Alone" and "Valentine's Day" might be the three greatest songs to end a Bruce album ever.

Alfred Soto (Alfred Soto), Monday, 9 May 2005 20:03 (fourteen years ago) link

"Tunnel Of Love" is a better album than "Nebraska", but no masterpiece. His masterpiece is "Born In The USA"

Geir Hongro (GeirHong), Monday, 9 May 2005 20:04 (fourteen years ago) link

My other fave "quiet Bruce moment" is "I'm on Fire."

To my mind, "One Step Up" > "I'm on Fire," partly because of the latter's lyrical spareness.

The Mad Puffin (The Mad Puffin), Monday, 9 May 2005 20:04 (fourteen years ago) link

my second fave song on my first fave brooce album.

j blount (papa la bas), Monday, 9 May 2005 20:09 (fourteen years ago) link

great song.

i have to disagree that he "ordinarily" gets dark and folky when he isn't writing songs for stadia, though. a bunch of the river, the rising, born to run, etc, says otherwise. there are a hell of a lot of positively elegant, wistful songs on all these albums.

john'n'chicago, Monday, 9 May 2005 20:12 (fourteen years ago) link

""Tunnel Of Love" is a better album than "Nebraska", but no masterpiece. His masterpiece is "Born In The USA" "

Geir and I agree about something! Hurray!

Alfred Soto (Alfred Soto), Monday, 9 May 2005 20:17 (fourteen years ago) link

so classic. and I haven't figured out if this or U.S.A is my fave Bruce album (though its not like I've heard a lot of the others - if I don't like the singles I don't get the album usually!)

miccio (miccio), Monday, 9 May 2005 21:13 (fourteen years ago) link

Tunnel Of Love is actually one of the most redeeming products of Boomers having such a presence in the pop charts in the 80s

miccio (miccio), Monday, 9 May 2005 21:15 (fourteen years ago) link

I called it the 100th best single of the '80s once!:

http://www.rocklist.co.uk/swells.htm

xhuxk, Monday, 9 May 2005 21:15 (fourteen years ago) link

"Luka"!!

miccio (miccio), Monday, 9 May 2005 21:19 (fourteen years ago) link

Oh, I decided years ago when I first heard it, Anthony: "Tunnel of Love," by a nose. Bruce keeps the bombast in check, gets some great warm tones out of his synthesizers, and never forgets that outlandish driving metaphors empower his best work (the title song).

I fucking love "All That Heaven Will Allow" too. Anyone heard Everything But The Girls'(and the Mavericks!) cover(s) of "Tougher Than The Rest"?

Alfred Soto (Alfred Soto), Monday, 9 May 2005 21:23 (fourteen years ago) link

I'm astounded that a song this bleak got as high as #13 on the charts; at thet time it was remembered as the single that broke his eight-single strong top 10 streak.

Alfred Soto (Alfred Soto), Monday, 9 May 2005 21:24 (fourteen years ago) link

Actually I probably prefer Tunnel just cuz it doesn't have "Glory Days" on it. Songs like that and "Jack And Diane" always make me wonder why 40 year olds aren't jumping off cliffs more frequently and shit.

miccio (miccio), Monday, 9 May 2005 21:26 (fourteen years ago) link

This is a very dangerous album to play when drunk.

Alfred Soto (Alfred Soto), Monday, 9 May 2005 21:28 (fourteen years ago) link

Good song with hints of problems to come (the melody on the bridge is bland and totally predictable, the kind of thing a person who just learned a few guitar chords would hum).

Mark (MarkR), Monday, 9 May 2005 21:39 (fourteen years ago) link

Classic. Such a delightful, bittersweet song. Great album too, though I prefer Nebraska.

John Bullabaugh (John Bullabaugh), Tuesday, 10 May 2005 01:00 (fourteen years ago) link

Um, where is the love for "Brilliant Disguise?" The worst thing about Bruce's happy marriage is that he doesn't play this one much. Just once or twice in the last several years, though I guess he and Patti sang it as a duet at the VH1 taping a couple of weeks ago.

"One Step Up" is indeed classic. I always thought the "Tunnel of Love" album production was the weirdest of all the Bruce discs, somehow stripped down and overproduced at the same time, to good effect. Unlike his current era of MOR rock. I'm surprised there's so much fence sitting for "Tunnel of Love," even among fans. Same with "Lucky Town." "Human Touch" is pretty crap, though. That's the one Springsteen album I don't own.

Josh in Chicago (Josh in Chicago), Tuesday, 10 May 2005 01:07 (fourteen years ago) link

you going to see him this week, Josh?

Stormy Davis (diamond), Tuesday, 10 May 2005 01:13 (fourteen years ago) link

a beautiful song. my favorite is probably "tougher than the rest" though.

Amateur(ist) (Amateur(ist)), Tuesday, 10 May 2005 06:11 (fourteen years ago) link

Brilliant Disguise has to be THE most nuanced love song ever. I was very surprised that he sang it at the taping.

Ain't Got You is one of my fav acoustic songs from him as well.

One Step Up is classic too. Such a sad song for a single.

fancybill (ozewayo), Tuesday, 10 May 2005 13:52 (fourteen years ago) link

It's tremendous. I love the Boss when he does such things.

the bossfox, Tuesday, 10 May 2005 14:23 (fourteen years ago) link

Hey, Boss fans - DESMOND CARRINGTON (R2) is playing 'Dancing in the Dark'. And not the Dietz and Schwartz tune neither, not for the first time.

the blissfox, Tuesday, 10 May 2005 17:43 (fourteen years ago) link

But now, he is playing Fred Astaire's take on the earlier tune. A fine conceit, Des, but not a new one even for you. Still - on what other programme would you hear both these songs together?

the bossfox, Tuesday, 10 May 2005 17:48 (fourteen years ago) link

My fave Bruce album, but this track is just a so-so number on it.

Wasn't it covered by Eddie Vedder in some capacity? Solo demos, or something by his pre-Pearl Jam outfit. I thought I read that somewhere...

John 2, Thursday, 12 May 2005 15:59 (fourteen years ago) link

two years pass...

"One Step Up" is indeed classic. I always thought the "Tunnel of Love" album production was the weirdest of all the Bruce discs, somehow stripped down and overproduced at the same time, to good effect.

Yes indeed.

This is more true of the title track, but apt nonetheless.

Alfred, Lord Sotosyn, Friday, 31 August 2007 01:25 (twelve years ago) link

Tougher Than The Rest, too

kornrulez6969, Friday, 31 August 2007 03:27 (twelve years ago) link

Brilliant Disguise: best song Elvis never got to sing.

whatever, Friday, 31 August 2007 03:57 (twelve years ago) link

A few years ago I saw Springsteen on a solo tour where he played very few singles and quite a bit of Tunnel of Love. He played "When You're Alone", which I always thought was the weakest song on Tunnel of Love, solo on piano and it worked well.

Eazy, Saturday, 1 September 2007 17:07 (twelve years ago) link

"Valentine's Day" sounds beautiful on a scorching Saturday afternoon.

Alfred, Lord Sotosyn, Saturday, 1 September 2007 19:12 (twelve years ago) link

Elvis Costello did an amazing country'ish version of Brilliant Disguise.

Great record.

MRZBW, Sunday, 2 September 2007 00:23 (twelve years ago) link

two weeks pass...

Brilliant Disguise: best song Elvis never got to sing.

-- whatever
One of the most OTM things ever said on ILM.

Mark Rich@rdson, Friday, 21 September 2007 01:45 (twelve years ago) link

Seriously, I could almost cry just thinking about him doing it-- would have been amazing.

Mark Rich@rdson, Friday, 21 September 2007 01:47 (twelve years ago) link

Seriously, this is like the album every boomer singer/songwriter's been struggling to make about middle-aged lust. The multi-tracked music compensates for lyrical generalization.

Alfred, Lord Sotosyn, Friday, 21 September 2007 01:49 (twelve years ago) link

middle-aged lust

plus guilt, desperation, self-hatred. amazing to think the liner notes end with "thanks juli", as if the only thing he's got to thank her for is for inspiring him to write the record that convinced him his marriage was a mistake. bet she really enjoyed listening to it.

re: lyrical generalisation, i think that's bruce's enigma. although lots of songs try to be particular ('bill horton was a simple man of the road' etc all over his albums), they end up being effective as kind of everyman statements for which he is often pilloried. perhaps the secret is that it's difficult to pin him down to either.

interesting re: the costello cover. would love to hear it. i remember an interview where he laid into springsteen's songs, saying they were nothing but cars and girls.

whatever, Friday, 21 September 2007 07:25 (twelve years ago) link

Springsteen's lyrics are simultaneously general and specific. They're general in that they address feelings common to broad groups of people, e.g., restlessness, frustration, paranoia. They're specific in that they use they use those general notions (often a few general notions at the same time) to develop fairly specific, fleshed out characters (for pop music), e.g., the murderer in Nebraska, the young mother in Spare Parts, the insecure groom in Brilliant Disguise, the resigned lead of (the brilliant) One Step Up. Plus, consider what you're comparing Springsteen to, in terms of lyrics; most other pop/rock songwriters fall far short of Springsteen's ability to develop characters in the context of a pop/rock song.

To be clear, except for Born In The U.S.A., I hate Springsteen's fist-pumping, frat-boy side. I jusy don't relare to it. But I love his quiet, brooding side -- especially Nebraska and Tunnel Of Love -- where his lyric writing skills really shine.

Daniel, Esq., Friday, 21 September 2007 09:31 (twelve years ago) link

I prefer the fist-pumping frat-boy.

Geir Hongro, Friday, 21 September 2007 15:45 (twelve years ago) link

Which sadly hasn't been around since "Born...." - even on "The Rising", he sounded way older (well, he was, I know) on the faster songs.

Geir Hongro, Friday, 21 September 2007 15:46 (twelve years ago) link

it's kinda hard to pump your fists like a frat boy while writing songs about 9/11. unless you're toby keith. who i love. but for different reasons.

fact checking cuz, Friday, 21 September 2007 16:20 (twelve years ago) link

To be clear, except for Born In The U.S.A., I hate Springsteen's fist-pumping, frat-boy side.

One of my favorite recordings anywhere is a bootleg of him doing this song at a Neil Young Bridge Benefit concert around 1988 or so. Acoustic, but much rawer than the later acoustic versions of this song. And it just ends "10 years going down the road/Got nowhere to run, I ain't got nowhere to go" and then a loud dissonant ugly chord, and that's the whole song.

Eazy, Friday, 21 September 2007 20:14 (twelve years ago) link

nine months pass...

Oh, it's magnificent!

As usual, I see that I have already said this.

the pinefox, Thursday, 17 July 2008 14:53 (eleven years ago) link

One of my favorite recordings anywhere is a bootleg of him doing this song at a Neil Young Bridge Benefit concert around 1988 or so. Acoustic, but much rawer than the later acoustic versions of this song. And it just ends "10 years going down the road/Got nowhere to run, I ain't got nowhere to go" and then a loud dissonant ugly chord, and that's the whole song.

Eazy, or anyone else, can you give me any other pointers on where to find this recording? It sounds incredible! But I asked my Springsteen maniac friend, and he's never heard of it. He scoured a couple of Bruce bootleg sites and couldn't find it there either. Bruce played the Bridge School benefit in 1986, but it doesn't indicate that he played "One Step Up" that day, or any other Tunnel of Love material for that matter.

So help! please! I want to hear this!

Euler, Thursday, 17 July 2008 21:55 (eleven years ago) link

I think Eazy was talking about "Born in the USA".

Mark Rich@rdson, Friday, 18 July 2008 01:22 (eleven years ago) link

ah crap

Euler, Friday, 18 July 2008 02:01 (eleven years ago) link

as usual I am an idiot

Euler, Friday, 18 July 2008 02:01 (eleven years ago) link

The rhythm guitar playing on the acoustic version of 'Born in the USA' is remarkable.

the pinefox, Friday, 18 July 2008 14:12 (eleven years ago) link

do you mean on the Bridge School version? Or the one on Tracks/Alone In Colts Neck? If the latter, I agree with you. If the former, I'll be back with you soon when I get a copy of that set.

Euler, Friday, 18 July 2008 14:37 (eleven years ago) link

ugh people referring to springsteen as a "frat boy" above. wtf. have not decades of people screaming LISTEN TO THE LYRICS made any headway?

amateurist, Friday, 18 July 2008 14:49 (eleven years ago) link

i fondly recall the Great Springsteen Debates of... i dunno, ca. 2002, 2003? which thread is that?

amateurist, Friday, 18 July 2008 14:49 (eleven years ago) link

ugh people referring to springsteen as a "frat boy" above. wtf. have not decades of people screaming LISTEN TO THE LYRICS made any headway?

I meant his outsized, fist-pumping behaviors in his antham-type songs, and the kind of reaction they inspire and the fans they drew. I love his lyrics. Overall, I much prefer quiet, introverted, contemplative Springsteen to loud, outsized, rock-and-roll Springsteen. That was my point.

Daniel, Esq., Friday, 18 July 2008 14:56 (eleven years ago) link

Euler: I mean the one on Tracks. Never heard any other alternative version. But that one is incredible. So much reverb, so lots of is FX but there's still a percussive quality in the playing which is like an effect in itself. I can be quite a percussive guitar player myself but I don't think I could do that.

It is quite striking how the lyrics are IDENTICAL to the LP version, even down to the little variations at the end.

I was thinking: we all give credit to the Boss for writing that dark version of the song, like it shows the song's true meaning / tone etc. OK, and I love it. But then why didn't he release it that way? Why totally rewrite and rerecord the tune to give it such a different atmosphere? Did he think that was a better way of getting his searing political vision across? (I really like the LP version too, btw, I don't knock it.)

the pinefox, Friday, 18 July 2008 15:05 (eleven years ago) link

Pinefox, if you don't already have a copy of Alone In Colts Neck, you'd probably really enjoy it. It's the Nebraska sessions, but with a few songs that didn't make the original cut, including the version of "Born in the USA" on Tracks---and a killer version of "Downbound Train" that I find terrifying to listen to, for the tone of voice he gets. The original "Pink Cadillac" strikes me as more lewd and thus more effective than the electric one a year or so later. The guitar sound on these cuts remains incredible.

Euler, Friday, 18 July 2008 15:14 (eleven years ago) link

Wow!

the pinefox, Friday, 18 July 2008 18:38 (eleven years ago) link

Never heard of it.

'Downbound Train' (on LP) is a real favourite of mine. Was just listening to 'Pink Cadillac' (the electric 45) tonight.

the pinefox, Friday, 18 July 2008 18:39 (eleven years ago) link

'Downbound Train

-- that's the weak spot on that lp, in my opinion.

amateurist, Friday, 18 July 2008 21:00 (eleven years ago) link

like b-side weak

amateurist, Friday, 18 July 2008 21:01 (eleven years ago) link

Euler: I was talking about that 1986 Bridge School Benefit. A friend of mine long ago had a videotape of it, and what I have I taped from that. He did that version of "Born in the U.S.A." I described above, as well as a version of "Seeds" playing guitar and a tambourine with his foot, and someone from Los Lobos playing accordian. That one's fantastic, too.

Eazy, Friday, 18 July 2008 21:08 (eleven years ago) link

Well, I think 'Downbound Train' would have to be high in my Boss top 10, along with, oooh ...

Racing in the Street
Atlantic City
Tunnel of Love
One Step Up?

something like that. I think the song's riff is marvellous; the one flaw is the odd lassitude of the breakdown / bridge, which virtually collapses, certainly loses most of its sense of rhythm. And I suppose that section (and indeed the whole song) is pure Boss being Boss, Boss-by-numbers, but I like the Boss and these are some high numbers.

the pinefox, Friday, 18 July 2008 21:47 (eleven years ago) link

(shoulda changed that back to TOP 5 - I started to think I couldn't stop at 5)

the pinefox, Friday, 18 July 2008 21:48 (eleven years ago) link

one year passes...

what a depressing song

amateurist, Sunday, 13 September 2009 04:43 (ten years ago) link

That's a fact.

vulva eyes (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Monday, 14 September 2009 15:13 (ten years ago) link

one year passes...

yes, absolutely in love w/ the last turn of the lyrics at the end.

balls, Saturday, 16 October 2010 19:39 (nine years ago) link

This is certainly an autumn album, isn't it.

raging hetero lifechill (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Saturday, 16 October 2010 20:40 (nine years ago) link

nine years pass...

Was just watching the video for this song last night and was struck by how good Bruce’s acting is in it. I don’t think of him as much of an actor, usually, but man, the way you watch him descending into abysses of self-loathing over the course of the video, and you can read every little nuance and stage of it on his face – it’s beautiful. I like that quick, seemingly genuine smile he gives some rando at the bar, to show you how easily and instinctively he can switch on the charm. And then the way he sort of wakes up and blinks at the world at the very end, like he can’t quite remember who he is or how the hell he got here.

Lily Dale, Thursday, 9 January 2020 01:11 (two weeks ago) link

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DZE7OchG3DY

Josh in Chicago, Thursday, 9 January 2020 01:20 (two weeks ago) link

Yeah that's why I don't think of him as an actor.

Lily Dale, Thursday, 9 January 2020 01:30 (two weeks ago) link

The "Brilliant Disguise" video features some good acting, too.

Josh in Chicago, Thursday, 9 January 2020 01:33 (two weeks ago) link

Some days I think "Brilliant Disguise" is his best song.

Josh in Chicago, Thursday, 9 January 2020 01:37 (two weeks ago) link

The Brilliant Disguise video is great. As a kid, I was scared of mirrors because I would do this thing where I would lock eyes with my reflection and stare until I didn't recognize myself anymore and it was like a monster was looking out from inside me. When I watched that video, I couldn't believe how perfectly the director had managed to recreate my weird childhood neurosis.

I go back and forth on the song, though. I heard it first on the Greatest Hits album, and there - since I had no other context for it at the time - I always kind of associated it with Human Touch, which came right after it iirc. Later, when I heard it on Tunnel of Love, I liked it just fine and the emotional depth of it came through better. Then I saw the video and was like, "Oh, actually this is amazing." I guess context is everything.

Lily Dale, Thursday, 9 January 2020 02:01 (two weeks ago) link

Tunnel of Love is his grandest AND his most intimate album. I'm pleased as hell so many have come around to it or, if they were around at the time, remember how much they loved this bleak album.

TikTok to the (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Thursday, 9 January 2020 02:04 (two weeks ago) link

Human Touch was a whopping nearly 5 years later, which I think may be the longest he has ever gone between records. Oh, wait, Tom Joad to The Rising was even longer!

Josh in Chicago, Thursday, 9 January 2020 02:51 (two weeks ago) link

I meant it came right after it on the CD, and they sounded similar to me. I didn't know anything about either album at the time.

Lily Dale, Thursday, 9 January 2020 02:56 (two weeks ago) link

I should have clarified that I meant "Human Touch" the song, not Human Touch the album.

Lily Dale, Thursday, 9 January 2020 02:57 (two weeks ago) link

But yes, Tunnel of Love was a huge surprise to me when I got seriously into Springsteen last year. I first listened to it at three in the morning when I'd been lying awake all night, which was one of those decisions that's probably bad for the psyche but good for Art.

Lily Dale, Thursday, 9 January 2020 03:01 (two weeks ago) link

some of my favorite synthesizer presets/parts of the late '90s

TikTok to the (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Thursday, 9 January 2020 03:08 (two weeks ago) link


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