Bruce Springsteen – Brilliant Disguise

God have mercy on the man
Who doubts what he’s sure of

I was 20 years old when I heard that lyric for the first time and a chill went through me. Brilliant Disguise I would play over and over again.

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

This was the first single off Tunnel Of Love, an album Springsteen recorded in his home studio in New Jersey. Tunnel of Love is one of my favorite albums by Springsteen. The album peaked at #1 in the Billboard Album Charts, Canada, and the UK.

The song peaked at #5 in the Billboard 100, #9 in Canada, and #20 in the UK in 1987. 

Bruce Springsteen: “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.”

Brilliant Disguise

I hold you in my arms
As the band plays
What are those words whispered baby
Just as you turn away
I saw you last night
Out on the edge of town
I wanna read your mind
To know just what I’ve got in this new thing I’ve found
So tell me what I see
When I look in your eyes
Is that you baby
Or just a brilliant disguise

I heard somebody call your name
From underneath our willow
I saw something tucked in shame
Underneath your pillow
Well I’ve tried so hard baby
But I just can’t see
What a woman like you
Is doing with me
So tell me who I see
When I look in your eyes
Is that you baby
Or just a brilliant disguise

Now look at me baby
Struggling to do everything right
And then it all falls apart
When out go the lights
I’m just a lonely pilgrim
I walk this world in wealth
I want to know if it’s you I don’t trust
‘Cause I damn sure don’t trust myself

Now you play the loving woman
I’ll play the faithful man
But just don’t look too close
Into the palm of my hand
We stood at the alter
The gypsy swore our future was right
But come the wee wee hours
Well maybe baby the gypsy lied
So when you look at me
You better look hard and look twice
Is that me baby
Or just a brilliant disguise

Tonight our bed is cold
I’m lost in the darkness of our love
God have mercy on the man
Who doubts what he’s sure of


Author: Badfinger (Max)

Power Pop fan, Baseball fan, old movie and tv show fan... and a songwriter, bass and guitar player.

33 thoughts on “Bruce Springsteen – Brilliant Disguise”

  1. Great track and the video to go along with it also. In the MTV book they talk about how they went from house to house to find a 50’s like kitchen in NJ. They found a house as the wife agreed to it but when the husband came home he said no.
    They went to an Air Force Base and found the house so thats where the vid was shot.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I have to read that. I downloaded the E-Version…thanks for that info…who the heck would say no? That is cool info…I like that he really was singing on the video.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. YEP!

        Oh man I got something to ask…either I’m an idiot…which is possible or I’m missing something…but that Crocks documentary. Man when I click on the link…all I get is a trailer and advertisements. I dont’ see anywhere I can see the doc.
        I have to wonder if it’s an America thing…if it looks at my ip address.

        I have a vpn….I may try setting my vpn to Canada to see if I get to see the documentary.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. When you click the link on my page it opens up than click identity and enter in the password which is ‘freevirtualfestival’
        I hope you can watch it. let me know


  2. It’s a great song. Elvis Costello made a version of it that he released as a B-side. It was part of a collection of songs he recorded and gave to George Jones as songs he though Possum should cover. Now that would have been great to hear.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you Mike! I just listened to it and it’s a superb version…
      I would have loved to hear Jones cover it with that voice.


    1. Glad you mentioned that. I heard it for the first time yesterday. It sounded like his older music…I loved it. I should have mentioned it in this post…thank you.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I think I’ve said this before…but it’s the last album that I really liked by Springsteen…as far as the complete album…but yes this is when he jumped over to adult contemporary.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Our loss….his gain…yea that was pretty bad to say….joking of course.

        I heard one of his new songs yesterday. It sounded really good. I do want to check this new album out. I’ve read where he recorded it live in the studio.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I think it happens to lots of popular musicians who do their best work in their twenties then get distracted by family etc. just particularly pronounced in Springsteen’s case.


    1. There are surprisingly a lot of cover versions out there. More than I ever thought. Mike commented about an Elvis Costello version…it’s really good.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I think that’s my favorite off the “Tunnel of Love” album – always dug that tune.

    Interesting background story about the video. I can’t believe that bonehead refused to provide the kitchen. I wonder whether the wife was a Springsteen fan, maybe a bit too much! 🙂

    It was during the supporting tour for “Tunnel of Love” that I saw Springsteen for the first time – at Waldstadion in Frankfurt, Germany, a huge sports arena. The 3.5-hour show (with Nils Lofgren and Clarence Clemons) remains among the most memorable concerts I’ve been to.

    Bruce and the E Street Band played a good number of covers, which were excellent. Nobody does it like The Boss and he’s still rockin’ – amazing!

    Here’s the set list, per

    Set 1:
    • Tunnel of Love
    • Boom Boom (John Lee Hooker cover)
    • Adam Raised a Cain
    • Downbound Train
    • The River
    • Seeds
    • All That Heaven Will Allow
    • Cover Me
    • Spare Parts
    • Brilliant Disguise
    • Chimes of Freedom (Bob Dylan cover)

    Set 2:
    • Paradise by the “C”
    • She’s the One
    • I’m a Coward (Gino Washington cover)
    • You Can Look (But You Better Not Touch)
    • Tougher Than the Rest
    • I’m on Fire
    • War (Edwin Starr cover)
    • Born in the U.S.A.
    • Who Do You Love? (Bo Diddley cover)
    • Light of Day
    • Dancing in the Dark
    • Because the Night

    Encore 1:
    • Born to Run (Acoustic)
    • Glory Days
    • Hungry Heart

    Encore 2:
    • Bobby Jean
    • Cadillac Ranch
    • Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out
    • Raise Your Hand (Eddie Floyd cover)
    • Sweet Soul Music (Arthur Conley cover)
    • Twist and Shout (The Top Notes cover)

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Oh man what good sets! Springsteen like McCartney and a few others….can play and play and most of the stuff you have heard before.
      I wish I could have seen him in the 80s…that would have been cool. I am glad I got to see Clarence.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I think you could even consider Tunnel of Love a concept album about rocky relationships. Almost all of the songs are about it. I love all of the songs on it. One of my favorite intros on a song:

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I love that song as well. There is a world of difference between this and Born In The USA. Yea that marriage didn’t last long unlike his current one. I would say yes…to the concept idea

      Liked by 1 person

    1. This one is the last album I really liked of his…I need to listen to his later ones some more. It was a big difference from his previous ones.


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