This list of songs is inspired by a list published by radio station, KEXP, from Seattle in 2010. For the most part, I will faithfully countdown from their list, from Song #500 to Song #1. So, when you see the song title listed as something like: “KEXP: Song #XXX”….it means that I am working off of the official KEXP list. If I post the song title as being: “KTOM: Song #xxx”….it means I have gone rogue and am inserting a song choice from my own personal list of tunes I really like. In either case, you are going to get to hear a great song and learn the story behind it. Finally, I am not a music critic nor a musician. I am a music fan and an armchair storyteller. Enough said! Let’s get on to today’s song.
KEXP: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History.
Song #307: Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For by U2.
The size of our dreams is important. Rare is the person with minor ambitions who ends up achieving great things.
Bono, the lead singer for the Irish band, U2, had always fancied himself as someone with a big dreams and a grand vision. Aside from being a band of top-notch players (along with guitarist, The Edge, bassist, Adam Clayton and drummer Larry Mullen), Bono wanted U2 to be important. He wanted them to make the kind of music that caused change to happen in the world. The first three albums the band released brought them into the public eye. Much of the material on these albums drew its’ musical inspiration from the growing Punk scene in the UK and its’ lyrical inspiration from the political scene in Northern Ireland and in England at the time. Songs such as “Two Hearts” and “Sunday, Bloody Sunday” spoke to events with which the band was immersed in and, as such, they could offer strong political opinions with the confidence of having lived through the actual events themselves. It is easy to speak freely and strongly about the things you know. But, the real test comes when you begin to realize that what you know is just a fraction of what there is to know in the larger world. For U2, that realization that they didn’t know as much as they once believed, was confirmed when they began touring America in support of their fourth album, “The Unforgettable Fire”. It was during this tour that they began meeting other musicians such as Keith Richards, who began introducing them to the roots of Rock, in the form of The Blues. Bono admits to being highly embarrassed to have been in the company of someone so esteemed as Richards and to have, initially, known so little about The Blues and about Gospel music and, in general, to have known so little about the under-pinnings of American culture. So, for much of that tour, the members of U2 took copious notes about what they saw and experienced as they travelled across America. Those notes formed a vision for their next album, “The Joshua Tree”.
“The Joshua Tree” is an album all about discovering the “real” America. The band intended to use the songs on this album to distinguish between the “myth of America” and the “reality” of how it really was. In addition to touring America prior to producing “The Joshua Tree” album, the band involved itself in benefit concerts for Amnesty International. As well, Bono visited South America and learned more about the political situation there, as well as, some of the history that has marked the region. In short, the band realized that the world was bigger and greater and more complex than the one in which they grew up in Northern Ireland. Adulthood tends to do this to a person, doesn’t it?!
The songs on “The Joshua Tree” read, almost, like a school report on the subject called, “What I learned About America” by U2. “Bullet the Blue Sky” is about TV Evangelism. “Running to Stand Still” is about drug abuse. “Mothers of the Disappeared” is about the many missing citizens who disappeared in Chile during a Government crackdown and the mothers who protest each day, looking for their missing children. “Red Hill Mining Town” is about a coal mining strike/unionism and small town economics. “Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” is, often, mistaken for being a search for God but, in fact, it is about a search for the truth behind the myth of what America really is. It is not pure chance that the video for this song is set in downtown Las Vegas (which, if you know your US history/geography at all, is an artificially-created city in the middle of a desert).
“The Joshua Tree” spawned many hit songs such as “With or Without You”, “Where the Streets Have No Name” and “Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For”. The album sold over 25 million copies, itself. It is regarded as one of the best and, most important and complete albums of all-time. For someone, like Bono, who dreamed big dreams when he was a younger man, “The Joshua Tree” album went a long way toward seeing those dreams realized. He became someone who was granted access to Presidents and Prime Ministers while, along with his bandmates, becoming a more complete musician, as the band released albums dedicated to exploring The Blues (“Rattle and Hum” and Pop music (“Pop”).
U2 will appear again on this countdown list but, for now, let’s listen and watch them sing, “Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” from their Grammy Award-winning album, “The Joshua Tree”. Enjoy.
The link to the official video for the song, “Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” by U2, can be found here.
The link to a video of the live version of the song, “Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” by U2, can be found here.
The link to the official website for U2, can be found here.
Thanks to KEXP for helping to inspire the writing of this post. The link to their website can be found here.