When the 16-month Born in the U.S.A. world tour came to an end in October of 1985, Bruce Springsteen took a well-deserved break. He was a superstar before the tour began, but by the time it wrapped he was a global pop phenomenon, rivaled only by the likes of Michael Jackson, Prince and Madonna. Born in the U.S.A. produced seven Top 10 singles and sold upwards of 30 million records. It was an impossible feat to match, and Springsteen knew it.
He decided to step away from the madness in 1986 to let the hype die down and focus on his new marriage to model-actress Julianne Phillips. That didn’t stop him from appearing on the cover of Rolling Stone in 1986 as “Artist of the Year,” even though that was technically stemming from a 1985 readers’ poll. “Springsteen received more than three times as many votes as Phil Collins, who finished second,” said the accompanying piece. “He was also voted Male Singer, Songwriter and Live Performer of the Year.”
After playing stadiums all over the globe in 1985, Springsteen’s live appearances in 1986 were mainly surprise appearances at the Stone Pony in Asbury Park to benefit the workers at a local factory that was on verge of closing. “The marriage between a community and a company is a special thing,” he said during one of the shows. “What happens when the jobs go away and the people remain?”
Springsteen’s only major appearance that year was at Neil Young‘s inaugural Bridge School Benefit in Mountain View, California. He shared a bill with Don Henley, Tom Petty, Robin Williams and a reunited Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. Accompanied only by keyboardist Danny Federici and guitarist Nils Lofgren, Springsteen played an entirely acoustic set that mixed in hits like “Glory Days” and “Born in the U.S.A.” with deep cuts like “Mansion on the Hill” and “Seeds.” Here’s video of “Dancing in the Dark.”