One Step Up

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"One Step Up"
Single by Bruce Springsteen
from the album Tunnel of Love
ReleasedFebruary 27, 1988
Format7" single
RecordedBetween May and August 1987
StudioA&M Studios in Los Angeles
Songwriter(s)Bruce Springsteen
Producer(s)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 eighth studio album, Tunnel of Love (1987). 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, with the dance poignantly echoing the song's title (one step up and two steps back). 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 a reassuring melody.[5] The backing vocal provides a haunting echo to Springsteen's lead vocal.[2] Although this is a song about a marriage breaking up, the backing vocals were sung by the woman who eventually became Springsteen's wife, Patti Scialfa.[2]

Music video[edit]

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 performances[edit]

Perhaps due to the personal nature of the song, it has rarely been performed live.[4] The song was a staple on the 1988 Tunnel of Love Express Tour, however, it vanished from the setlists until Springsteen briefly revived the song for some performances on the 2005 Devils & Dust Tour.[9] On May 6, 2014, the song was performed for the first time in 26 years with the E Street Band on their 2014 High Hopes Tour stop in Houston, Texas.

Cover versions[edit]

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


  1. ^ a b c "Bruce Springsteen Chart History". Retrieved 2008-08-16.
  2. ^ a b c d e f Patrick Humphries (1996). Bruce Springsteen. p. 81. ISBN 0-7119-5304-X.
  3. ^ a b c "Brucebase, On The Tracks: Tunnel of Love". Retrieved 2008-08-16.
  4. ^ a b c d "Allmusic One Step Up". Retrieved 2008-08-16.
  5. ^ a b c d June Skinner Sawyers (2006). Tougher Than the Rest 100 Best Bruce Springsteen Songs. pp. 117–118. ISBN 978-0-8256-3470-3.
  6. ^ Dave Marsh (1996). Glory Days. p. xxvii. ISBN 1-56025-101-8.
  7. ^ "Meiert Avis". imdb. Retrieved 2009-03-29.
  8. ^ "Internet Movie Database - Bruce Springsteen: Video Anthology 1978-1988". Retrieved 2008-08-04.
  9. ^ "Bruce Springsteen Set List Page One Step Up". Archived from the original on 2008-09-05. Retrieved 2008-08-16.
  10. ^ "Allmusic Love is a Strange Hotel". Retrieved 2008-08-16.

External links[edit]