Tunnel Of Love - Studio Sessions - Overview

Overview

Springsteen completed the Born In The USA tour in October 1985. He kept a very low public profile for the next twelve months, residing almost exclusively on the west coast with then-wife Julianne. During the spring, possibly early summer, of 1986 Springsteen undertook a series of low-key sessions at his home studio, Thrill Hill West, in Beverly Hills. These appear to have been solo sessions, perhaps mirroring Springsteen’s early 1983 Born In The USA solo sessions at the same location (although by this point Bruce's west coast home studio had been substantially enhanced compared to 1983). However these sessions were abandoned by the early summer of 1986 when a decision was made to proceed with the Live 1975-85 box set project. Springsteen devoted his energies during the remainder of 1986 preparing the large box set for its late 1986 release. The box set was a massive commercial success.

Following the release of the live box, Springsteen began a new series of solo-based home studio sessions, in the living room of the Carriage House, a small 2 bedroom apartment over a garage of his Rumson, New Jersey home. On January 20, 1987, the recordings that would form the foundation of the Tunnel Of Love album, and the 1998 Tracks outtakes box set, went forward. Bruce was inspired, cutting three songs on the very first day of recording; "Walk Like A Man", "Spare Parts" and "When You Need Me". The second day of sessions four days later was even more successful with five songs recorded, including two unused outtakes "Pretty Baby, Will You Be Mine" and "Things Ain't That Way". After eighteen sessions were completed in March, the tracks were overdubbed with E Street musicians; though the tracks were complete, he wanted to include the band members on the album that was taking shape.

At the end of April 1987, Springsteen and wife Julianne Phillips separated. A month later, Bruce, along with Toby Scott and manager Jon Landau, flew to Los Angeles, and were joined at A&M Studios by Bob Clearmountain and Chuck Plotkin. Clearmountain mixed the recorded tracks in studio B, while Scott and Springsteen recorded "One Step Up" in studio D. Bruce, Jon, and Chuck worked on sequencing the unnamed album, which included "Lucky Man", later to be squeezed out by the eventual title track.

Sometime in June, Bruce found himself at Kren Studio on Sunset Boulevard, playing with several Nashville session players that were hanging out. Kren, which had opened only a few months earlier, was owned by Ken Suesov, who worked with Merle Haggard, so Springsteen knew what he would find there. His partners were Jay Dee Maness on pedal steel guitar, Richard Greene on fiddle, and James “Jimmie” Wood, who was playing harmonica. Wood, who had a band called the Immortals, had been known as "The Boss Of Kings Himself… The Immortal Jimmie Wood", and played punk and other styles before his latest phase. The content of these sessions is shrouded in mystery, but upon finding out somebody had leaked his activities to the press, Springsteen got upset and terminated the sessions. The only music that made the album was a harmonica piece that Wood did, which was overdubbed on the already recorded "Spare Parts". Springsteen took the tapes and returned to New Jersey.

In late June or early July, Springsteen called Toby Scott to the Carriage House to record the final song for the still unnamed album, "Tunnel Of Love". Bruce played all instruments, including drums, even though the complex pattern for the drum box was programmed by Scott. Next, Toby was sent to get "carnival sounds", which were recorded at Point Pleasant Amusement Park, New Jersey. The first take failed to get the proper screams and sounds, so when he returned a few days later, he enlisted the help of the owner, and successfully recorded a train full of young teenagers on the "mouse" roller coaster. After choreographing the screaming, he brought the tape back, which filled the spots where Bruce wanted the amusement sounds. Overdubs were added by Nils Lofgren (lead guitar), Roy Bittan (synthesizers), Max Weinberg (percussion) and Patti Scialfa (vocals). Now, 'Lucky Man' was removed from the unnamed album's sequence to make room for the title cut of the coming fall release, Tunnel Of Love. Clearmountain mixed it at the Hit Factory in New York, then everything went to Bob Ludwig at Masterdisk Studios for mastering. The album was delivered to CBS in August, "Brilliant Disguise" was released on September 17, and Tunnel Of Love on October 6, 1987.

In 1995, Springsteen confirmed in an Australian television interview with Molly Meldrum that nearly an entire album's worth of songs, material that effectively constituted another work-in-progress album separate from the Tunnel Of Love album, had been recorded during 1986-87. It is unclear from Bruce’s comments if he was talking about the material he is alleged to have recorded by himself during May-June 1986, or the material with the three (above-noted) session musicians that he recorded in Los Angeles in June 1987, or both. Tunnel Of Love can be seen as a virtual Springsteen solo album. Not a single circulating track that has surfaced from the sessions features the ensemble-type E Street Band playing that had characterized his previous studio albums (except Nebraska).

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