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One Step Up

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Title: One Step Up  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Tunnel of Love (album), Bruce Springsteen discography, Tunnel of Love Express Tour, Video Anthology / 1978–88, No Shoes, No Shirt, No Problems, Tougher Than the Rest
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

One Step Up

"One Step Up"
B-side "Roulette"
Released February 27, 1988
Format 7" single
Recorded Between May and August 1987 at A&M Studios in Los Angeles
Genre Rock
Length 4:22
Label Columbia
Writer(s) Bruce Springsteen
Producer Jon Landau, Bruce Springsteen, Chuck Plotkin
Bruce Springsteen singles chronology

"Tunnel of Love"
"One Step Up"
"Tougher Than the Rest"

"One Step Up" is a song by Bruce Springsteen from his 1987 Tunnel of Love album. It was released as the third single from the album, following "Brilliant Disguise" and the title track. It reached position #13 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and #3 on the Adult Contemporary chart in the United States.[1] It also reached #2 on the U.S. Album Rock Tracks chart,[1] giving Springsteen three straight top two tracks from the album.[1] The song was only released as a single in America.[2]


Unlike much of the Tunnel of Love album, "One Step Up" was not recorded in Springsteen's home studio (Thrill Hill East). Rather, it was recorded at A&M Studios in Los Angeles, California.[3] It was recorded between May and August 1987.[3] Springsteen plays all instruments, and future wife Patti Scialfa provided backing vocals.[3] No other members of Springsteen's usual backing group, the E Street Band, are present.

Like several other songs on the album, the song reflects the impending breakup of the marriage between Springsteen and then-wife Julianne Phillips.[4] The song's lyrics are poetic, understated, emotional and eloquent.[4] The song begins by describing a house with a broken furnace and a car that doesn't start, which serve as metaphors for the couple's relationship.[2][5] Similar metaphors in the song are a bird that won't sing and church bells that won't ring for a new bride-to-be. Although the couple has been together for some time, they haven't learned from their experiences and continue to fight and slam doors.[5] The lyrics refer to the couple's relationship as their "dirty little war."[2][5] Finally, the singer finds himself at a bar wondering whether to hook up with another woman there, while remembering a dream he had the night before about dancing with his wife.[5] The singer is self-aware enough to recognize his share of responsibility for the couple's difficulties, as demonstrated in particular by the line: "When I look at myself I don't see/The man I wanted to be". Dave Marsh describes the song as being "as miserable a cheating song as even Nashville ever knew."[6]

The music for the song has a bare arrangement, reflecting how personal the song is.[4] It is a quiet ballad with an ironically reassuring melody.[5] The backing vocal provides a haunting echo to the Springsteen's lead vocal.[2] Ironically, given the fact that this is a song about a marriage breaking up, these backing vocals were sung by the woman who would prove to be Springsteen's future wife, Patti Scialfa.[2]

Music video

Like several other videos from the Tunnel of Love album, including "Brilliant Disguise", "Tunnel of Love" and "Tougher Than the Rest", the video for "One Step Up" was directed by Meiert Avis.[7] The video intersperses scenes of Springsteen singing the song with images reflecting the song's narrative. The video was later released on the VHS and DVD Video Anthology / 1978-88.[8]

Live performance history

Perhaps due to the personal nature of the song, it has been performed live only infrequently.[4] The song was a staple on the 1988 Tunnel of Love Express Tour, but since then has not been played live with the E Street Band, only receiving some performances on the 2005 Devils & Dust Tour.[9]

Cover versions

Cover versions of "One Step Up" have been recorded by Clive Gregson and Christine Collister,[2][10] Kenny Chesney, Bad Radio, Martyn Joseph, and Paul Cebar, among others.


External links

  • Lyrics & Audio clips from
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