Tommy Tutone vs. Bruce Springsteen

Tommy Tutone vs. Bruce Springsteen

It’s hard to argue with the propulsive immediacy of “Radio Nowhere“, the guitar-driven opener and primary single on Bruce Springsteen‘s Magic, especially coming as it was in 2007 on the heels of several records that were a bit more heavily wrought. While Magic as a whole is perhaps a little slighter than his other works of the decade, he sounds the alarm with one hell of riff-laden wake-up call. It’s as much a demand for celebration (“I just want to hear some rhythm/I want a thousand guitars/I want pounding drums/I want a million different voices speaking in tongues”) as a self-fulfilling musical revitalization, with Springsteen pleading “Is there anybody alive out there?” again and again to his own E Street Band’s multi-tracked guitars and thundering percussion.

It’s doubtful that Springsteen had Tommy Tutone‘s telephone digit confection “Jenny” in mind while composing his call to arms, but the chord structure is related, and the two choruses can certainly be transposed over one another. It doesn’t help matters that the tempo and gait of the two songs are very close, though at least the key signature creates a marked distinction… to say nothing of the difference in spirit between the two.

Both are fine songs in their way, but what’s really striking is how much sheer content “Radio Nowhere” has in comparison: hitting the chorus twice in the first minute alone, it’s a whirlwind of cultural reference and rousing thoughts, riding high on the wrenching economy of that endlessly-repeated riff.

Tommy Tutone - "867-5309/Jenny" (1982)

and then:

Tommy Tutone - "867-5309/Jenny (Chorus)" (1982)


Bruce Springsteen - "Radio Nowhere" (2007)

and later:

Bruce Springsteen - "Radio Nowhere (Chorus)" (2007)
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9 Replies to “Tommy Tutone vs. Bruce Springsteen”

  1. Haasey

    867-5309 sounds more like John Mellencamp’s Hurts So Good (1982.)

    Mellencamp (Jack and Diane in 1982,) by the way, was probably ripped off by Tracy Chapman (Fast Car in 1988.)

    1. Ben Post author

      Well, the Mellencamp sounds like 867 in so far that it was a rock song produced in 1982. I agree that it’s certainly closer in feel to Tommy Tutone than the Springsteen track from 25 years on, but the bread & butter of the riff and meter are different enough on those that the comparison doesn’t quite hit the mark for me in the same way.

      I guess I can see what you’re onto with Fast Car, though it’s such a sparsely filled out song, at times almost monochromatic, that it’s hard to see it anywhere but in its own light. Then again, there’s no doubt that the song’s central repeating figure mirrors that little between-verse acoustic guitar line from Jack and Diane, a song with pretty unusually structured instrumentation in its own right.

      Lyrically, it’s noteworthy that although both songs contain a sense of surface-level optimism ultimately belied by an overriding pathos, each approaches it from a different angle. The characters in Jack and Diane come from a privileged background but are headed for an eventual directionless malaise, contained primarily in that timeless line “…life goes on long after the thrill of living is gone”. Tracy Chapman, on the other hand, is singing about actively trying to break out of small-town poverty from the bottom end and reach the good life, something she only gets a glimpse at while speeding around. Both songs contain aspirations to transcend a stifling life and hit the big city, but it seems just out of reach for all involved.

  2. Travis

    I don’t think this was a coincidence at all.

    Springsteen’s “outlaw pete” blatantly ripped off kiss “i was made for loving you” at a certain point.

    Pretty sure it was same album.

    Think the boss ran out of ideas.

  3. Eric

    Okay, so I put in a CD that I have not listened to in awhile by Blue Rodeo. I skip to my favorite song “Better Off As We Are”…the opening sounds like a dead ringer for Radio Nowhere. Better Off was released in 1995. There must be something magical about the chord progression. Anyway, thought I would pass it along.

  4. Travis

    when i first heard radio nowhere..

    didnt even think of tutone

    this popped in my mind hearing radio nowheres intro


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