Brilliant Disguise

Album: Tunnel of Love (1987)
Charted: 20 5

Songfacts®:

  • Springsteen sings this from the viewpoint of a man who is conflicted over a romantic relationship. Although he claims the song is not directly autobiographical, Springsteen was having problems in his marriage to his first wife, Julianne Phillips, and they divorced soon after.

    On his 2005 Storytellers appearance, he explained how he used to enjoy going to strip clubs around the time he wrote this song, and then he brought out his wife Patti Scialfa to sing it with him. Said Bruce: "I guess it sounds like a song of betrayal - who's that person sleeping next to me, who am I? Do I know enough about myself to be honest with that person? But a funny thing happens: songs shift their meanings when you sing them, they shift their meanings in time, they shift their meanings with who you sing them with. When you sing this song with someone you love, it turns into something else."
  • This was the first single off Tunnel Of Love, an album Springsteen recorded in his home studio in New Jersey.
  • This was the only song from Tunnel Of Love included on Springsteen's 1995 Greatest Hits album.
  • The video is one continuous shot. It was filmed with Bruce singing the audio track live. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Johnny - Atlanta, GA

Comments: 13

  • Dave from Wichita, KsAs I recall at the time, there was some discussion that Springsteen had a lot of trust issues because his wife was an actress, hence the "brilliant disguise" she could wear at any time. It made him uneasy that he wasn't sure at times if she was acting the part of the wife, and being a Hollywood beauty he wondered "what a woman like you is doing with me" (he being a rough and tumble guy from Jersey) thus sowing seeds of doubt. I also recall that there were those in his "camp" that encouraged this thinking on his part, either to keep him from "going Hollywood" or for other self-interests, but the end result was the same... divorce. I've always felt this is one of his best works, and is very autobiographical... cuts right to the bone.
  • Joe from St. Marys, Pa"God have mercy on the man who doubts what he's sure of" - Great advice about the importance of keeping your life in balance and always keeping your focus on what is really important in life.
  • Bill from Middletown, CtSpringsteen never backed down when writing songs - even when it meant showing weakness. Characters in his younger songs were often full of confidence and bluster, sure of themselves if not of their future.
    The turning point in the song is the change to "is it ME, baby, or just a brilliant disguise?" He may be putting on an act for her, and for himself... and he's finally realizing it.
    Craig is right - the video setting is perfect. Did she just go upstairs? Go out 'for a drive'? Is he waiting for her to come home? But the real discussions are always in the kitchen...
  • Coffeegod from Brandon, MsI remember hearing this song and 'Tunnel Of Love' and thinking 'dude, this guy's marriage is completely over'. Three months later it was all over the news. Good to know the second time around has worked so well for him.
  • Gene from San Diego, CaThe classic song of a man who doubts what he's sure of. Awesome song, awesome album. Loved how if didn't glorify love, but spoke of it how it really is. Like in the tack "When You're Alone".
  • Dave from San Antonio, TxThis Song AND Album is Bruce at his most Mature.
    Those us us that have gone thru those situations...MAN what a song!
  • Anna from Dublin, IrelandGreat song, great album, always been one of my favourites, in fact my first bruce album. The last line always sends a shiver down my spine, "God have mercy on the man who doubts what he's sure of..." would love to hear him singing it solo acoustic. This song gave me a lot of insight into life as a teenager, still love it.
  • Josh from Terre Haute, InThis whole album is under rated, and it may be my favorite of his, and I am a huge Springsteen fan. I think any one who has been betrayed or had their trust broken can relate to this song. "Tell me who I see, when I look in your eyes, is that you baby, or just a brilliant disguise" I can definitely relate.
  • Dennis from Anchorage, AkA lot of long-time Springsteen fans were upset with him for the way his sound changed in the 80's, on Born in the USA and Tunnel of Love. He allowed a lot of electronic instrumentation and smoothed out the rough edges some, which made his music more radio-friendly than it had been. But his songwriting was as honest as ever, and just as brave. This is a beautiful, heartbreaking song.
  • Chance from Melbourne, AustraliaThis is my favourite Springsteen song, and it is without doubt one of the best songs of its type.Just listening to those lyrics sends shivers up my spine because they are so much like real life.
  • Craig from Madison, WiOne of Springsteen's most underrated songs. Emotionally painful and naked. The turn in the final lines where he (possibly) takes on his own disguise is a relationship stalemate that happens all too frequently. On the surface he sings like it's a triumph, but underneath he's defeated. A lover's battle comparable to Dylan's "Idiot Wind" and the Stone's "Under My Thumb," but without Bob's epic scale or Mick's warrior-like gouging. Bruce is quiet and private. It's not by chance the video has him singing alone in a kitchen, for that's where most of these battles occur, whispering the devastating questions while the children sleep.
  • Jeroen from Antwerpen, BelgiumGood remark! It also makes clear the importance of trust... You' re NEVER completely sure about what you have. "God have mercy on the man who doubts what he's sure of..." Brilliant song!
  • Fred from Abilene, TxThis song reveals the true source of jealousy: self-hatred. The guy doesn't know what a "woman like you is doin' with me."
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