Friday, December 05, 2014

December Music That Has Nothing to Do with Christmas: Bruce Springsteen’s “Tunnel of Love”

Maybe it’s those dated synthesizers again. 1980s music and the Christmas season seem to meet in a zone of musical cheesiness. Not that there’s anything really all that cheesy about Bruce Springsteen’s “Tunnel of Love.” Indeed, this is one of the most somber, deepest tunes he ever did.

Banished are the faux-Dylanesque characters with silly names from his first three albums. This is Real Life Springsteen is singing about here. No one’s riding out of town into a haze of legend. This is about getting married, settling down, and trying to keep it together in a funhouse maze of a world that’s often more frustrating than fun.

I remember this song getting played to death among the Christmas lights when it was first released. I couldn’t help smiling to myself, because if there was one bright side from being a complete failure in life and love, all the terrors Springsteen alluded to on this track were never going to be my problems. As it happened, I failed to commit to the drinking necessary for the alcohol poisoning I’d planned to die of by my 30th birthday. I ended up living. I met somebody. If this song never came to mind at the wedding, it’s because I never expected the marriage to last a year.

We’re going on 25 years now, and I think of this song every time Christmas rolls around. The lyrics hit harder in the cold and dark than they would on a fine June afternoon when most people are getting married. Funny how that works.