Friday, August 18, 2006

listen to the words, shudder and wonder

The music of late-1980s-Bruce Springsteen makes me think of a film image I saw once, briefly. Flipping through cable at my dad’s house, I stumbled across the HBO movie “Hysterical Blindness.” In it, a trashy ‘80s Uma Thurman is driving her car in New Jersey. Bruce Springsteen comes on the radio; she smiles, turns it up and sings along (at least, this is how I remember it.) I only saw that scene and a couple others and I couldn’t really tell you what the movie is about, but it certainly seemed like quite a disturbing film. Uma apparently did “gritty” well—she won a Golden Globe for the role.

I have been craving “Tunnel of Love”-era Springsteen lately (I found a note I scribbled in my room last night that read: “Ike says Bruce ‘lost him’ with ‘Tunnel of Love,’ but dude knows all the fucking words. Pssh.”) Every time I put that record on, I still get pleasantly surprised and amazed. Here’s Bruce, freshly married to model/actress Julianne Phillips, not working with the E Street Band and fans think he’s gone too Hollywood. Then he puts this record out and it’s totally about the Death of a Marriage and it’s dark, raw and personal. And *somehow* his wife and the general public *miss* these points.

I really don’t know how, when you’ve got two of the singles (two of the strongest, catchiest and most chilling songs on the album) laying out all the uncertainty, self-doubt and melancholy of a doomed marriage that Springsteen sounds trapped in.



Fat man sitting on a little stool

Takes the money from my hand while his eyes take a walk all over you
Hands me the ticket smiles and whispers good luck
Cuddle up angel cuddle up my little dove
We'll ride down baby into this tunnel of love

I can feel the soft silk of your blouse
And them soft thrills in our little fun house
Then the lights go out and it's just the three of us
You me and all that stuff we're so scared of

Gotta ride down baby into this tunnel of love
There's a crazy mirror showing us both in 5-D
I'm laughing at you you're laughing at me
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

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



I hold you in my arms
As the band plays
What are those words whispered baby
Just as you turn away
I saw you last night
Out on the edge of town
I wanna read your mind
To know just what I've got in
This new thing I've found

So tell me what I see
When I look in your eyes
Is that you baby
Or just a brilliant disguise

I heard somebody call your name
From underneath our willow
I saw something tucked in shame
Underneath your pillow

Well I've tried so hard baby
But I just can't see
What a woman like you
Is doing with me

So tell me who I see
When I look in your eyes
Is that you baby
Or just a brilliant disguise

Now look at me baby
Struggling to do everything right
And then it all falls apart
When out go the lights
I'm just a lonely pilgrim
I walk this world in wealth
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

So when you look at me
You better look hard and look twice
Is that me baby
Or just a brilliant disguise

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

*Chilling* ... Could there be more obvious, vivid account of paranoia with someone you still (maybe) love and are probably still sexually attracted to? DO PEOPLE LISTEN TO LYRICS? Jeeeez.

I just love the gravity of this record, *disguised*, well, packaged as pop. Liz Phair did the same thing on “whitechocolatespaceegg” (I totally have already written about this aspect) and people were wondering…soon after, she was divorced.

Same thing happened with Springsteen, but for him and his bandmate, (then-misstress, soon wife-to-be and all-around-awesome redhead) Patti Scialfa, it was far more complicated and in the tabloid media. See, Bruce and Patti were on tour together and they fell in love. Problem was, Springsteen was still married to Miss Model/Actress, so things got messy.

The fun, facintaing drama (for me) comes on the record (and on the tour! Damn, can you imagine…?) when Ms. Scialfa is singing sexy back-up vocals on songs that are talking about wanting out of the Dommed Marriage…and how much you're lusting after each other....whew.

I can’t get enough of this stuff: lyricists who write so vividly, writing *frankly* about their own personal drama unfoldng, and they seem to be barely aware of it themselves.


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