We continue to explore the career of “The Boss”-Bruce Springsteen.
1992–1998: Artistic and commercial ups and downs
In 1992, after risking fan accusations of “going Hollywood” by moving to Los Angeles (a radical move for someone so linked to the blue-collar life of the Jersey Shore) and working with session musicians, Springsteen released two albums at once. Human Touch and Lucky Town were even more introspective than any of his previous work and displayed a newly revealed confidence. As opposed to his first two albums, which dreamed of happiness, and his next four, which showed him growing to fear it, at points during the Lucky Town album, Springsteen actually claims happiness for himself.
An electric band appearance on the acoustic MTV Unplugged television program (later released as In Concert/MTV Plugged) was poorly received and further cemented fan dissatisfaction. Springsteen seemed to realize this a few years hence when he spoke humorously of his late father during his Rock and Roll Hall of Fame acceptance speech:
“ I’ve gotta thank him because – what would I conceivably have written about without him? I mean, you can imagine that if everything had gone great between us, we would have had disaster. I would have written just happy songs – and I tried it in the early ’90s and it didn’t work; the public didn’t like it. ”
A multiple Grammy Award winner, Springsteen also won an Academy Award in 1994 for his song “Streets of Philadelphia”, which appeared on the soundtrack to the film Philadelphia. The music video for the song shows Springsteen’s actual vocal performance, recorded using a hidden microphone, to a prerecorded instrumental track. This technique was developed on the “Brilliant Disguise” video.
In 1995, after temporarily re-organizing the E Street Band for a few new songs recorded for his first Greatest Hits album (a recording session that was chronicled in the documentary Blood Brothers), he released his second (mostly) solo guitar album, The Ghost of Tom Joad, inspired by John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath and by Journey to Nowhere: The Saga of the New Underclass, a book by Pulitzer Prize-winners author Dale Maharidge and photographer Michael Williamson. This was generally less well-received than the similar Nebraska, due to the minimal melody, twangy vocals, and political nature of most of the songs, although some praised it for giving voice to immigrants and others who rarely have one in American culture. The lengthy, worldwide, small-venue solo acoustic Ghost of Tom Joad Tour that followed successfully featured many of his older songs in drastically reshaped acoustic form, although Springsteen had to explicitly remind his audiences to be quiet and not to clap during the performances.
Following the tour, Springsteen moved back to New Jersey with his family. In 1998, Springsteen released the sprawling, four-disc box set of out-takes, Tracks. Subsequently, Springsteen would acknowledge that the 1990s were a “lost period” for him: “I didn’t do a lot of work. Some people would say I didn’t do my best work.”