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Monday, October 30, 2017

30 on the 30th: Tunnel of Love and "Tougher Than the Rest"

The year so far (with apologies for having missed the first couple of months) in my list of 30 year-old albums I still listen to: The Joshua Tree (March);  Sign 'o the Times (April); Solitude Standing (May); Running in the Family (June); In the Dark (July); Hysteria (August); Kick (September). And October? Bruce Springsteen's somber, beautiful Tunnel of Love.

I was in my first year at BYU, leaving on my own for the first time, experiencing at least a small dose of adult independence for the first time as well. And if you know anything at all about BYU's Mormon-marriage-happy social culture, it shouldn't be hard to figure out that dating and romance was both strongly expected of everyone but also fraught with all sorts of weirdness. No doubt many tens of the thousands of students over the years--mostly my co-religionists, but one old good friend of mine, a man who was at the time completely irreligious, attended BYU, with a dorm room right next to mine our freshman year, and he had a grand time dating all the Mormon girls--have enjoyed themselves immensely in that environment, but I didn't. Almost from the start, I found myself vaguely confused and disturbed by the mix of romantic motivations all around me--and, of course, being a mixed-up not-quite-20 year-old myself, I could hardly be expected to make any sense of it anyway.

But I could spot good music--and when Springsteen's latest album hit the airwaves in the fall of 1987, and I borrowed a copy from another student who worked out BYU's student newspaper (which I volunteered at that first year, later worked for, and then was fired from, but that's another story) and listened to the whole thing through, I knew I'd found some. I hadn't been a huge Springsteen fan before, though it's probably just about impossible to be a white American male in the 1980s and not have at least enjoyed some of the cuts off his monster success, Born in the U.S.A. Tunnel of Love, though, convinced me in way the previous album hadn't that Springsteen was a tremendous talent, a man who could plaintively sing one sad, defiant, humble, dark, yet powerful even perversely hopeful love song after another, the whole album through. It spoke to me. I think the whole thing is brilliant; in my opinion, there isn't a single weak track on it, which Springsteen hasn't ever accomplished, I'd argue, on any other album he's ever released. Does that mean I think this is his masterpiece? Kind of, yeah.

What track to choose? Any of them, of course. But how about this?