KEXP: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History…Song #191: Bad by U2.

This list of songs is inspired by a list published by radio station, KEXP, from Seattle in 2010, as well as, the latest poll taken in 2021 by Rolling Stone Magazine. For the most part, I will faithfully countdown from their lists, 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. “RS: Song XXX” means the song is coming from the Rolling Stone 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 #191: Bad by U2.

“Bad” is a song from U2’s fourth studio album called, “The Unforgettable Fire”. In keeping with the tradition of all great bands, “The Unforgettable Fire” was the album that was their great leap forward in terms of the maturity and complexity of the songs they were creating. Prior to this album, U2 were known for songs such as “Sunday, Bloody Sunday”, “New Year’s Day”, “Gloria”, “I Will Follow”, “11 O’Clock, Tick Tock” and others of that ilk. Those songs were louder and, not necessarily strident but, definitely, in-your-face rockers. On “The Unforgettable Fire”, the band members were older, they had seen the world beyond their Dublin roots and they were having life experiences that were helping them to realize that life was a bit more nuanced than they first may have realized. As such, U2 created an album of songs that were played more slowly and were built around themes that they explored in greater depth. Songs such as “A Sort of Homecoming”, “Pride (in the Name of Love)” and the title track, “The Unforgettable Fire” all spoke to an awakening within the band; a burgeoning spirituality, almost. One of the songs that best reflected this older, wiser incarnation of U2 was a song about death called, “Bad”.

One of the life experiences that we all encounter, at one point or another in our lives, is the loss of someone close to our hearts. As children, when we first deal with death, the hurt tends to be very personal and ego-centric i.e., “I miss my Grandma! Why is my Grandma gone from me!?” As we age, our view of the void created by the death of someone special becomes broader in scope. We ask questions about the circumstances that brought about the death of the one we cared about and, as well, we acknowledge the personal void but, also, understand that the loss we feel is not just ours alone to bear…..it is a shared loss with others who are also hurting. This realization is the beginning of empathy; on a deep and resonating scale. It is this sort of powerful awakening that forms the foundation of the song, “Bad”.

On the surface, “Bad” deals with the loss of someone who was a good friend of the band. That young man died of a heroin overdose in Dublin. “Bad” explores the concept of addiction (to drugs, to money, to fame) and does so in a series of ascending verses that all build in intensity. Fans of the band tend to point to Bono’s performance on “Bad” as being his finest because of the emotional energy he invests into the lyrics. The rest of the band (Adam Clayton on bass, the Edge on lead guitar and Larry Mullen on drums) play subtle notes and remain in the background; emerging only with the lyrics require their support. Overall, “Bad” was unlike any song that U2 had released prior to this album. It is much richer, musically-speaking, than their previous work and helped paved the way for their next album, the award-winning, “Joshua Tree”.

So, without further ado, here is U2 with “Bad” from their fourth album, “The Unforgettable Fire”. Enjoy.

The link to the video for the song, “Bad” by U2, can be found here.

The link to the official website for U2, can be found here.

Thanks, as always, to KEXP, for playing the best music from the world corners of the world. The link to their wonderful website can be found here.

KEXP: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History…Song #64: One by U2.

This list of songs is inspired by a list published by radio station, KEXP, from Seattle in 2010, as well as, the latest poll taken in 2021 by Rolling Stone Magazine. For the most part, I will faithfully countdown from their lists, 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. “RS: Song XXX” means the song is coming from the Rolling Stone 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 #64: One by U2.

“One” by U2 is one of the most beautiful sounding songs in this countdown. It presents as being very inspirational and uplifting. When it was released, U2 directed that all proceeds from the sale of this song go toward organizations dedicated to education about and, eradication of, the disease called, A.I.D.S. As such, the music-buying world has always cast a favourable eye toward “One” and, by extension, the band, itself. In fact, the song was so warmly received by the public that for awhile, “One” was actually the most-requested song for newlyweds to dance to on their wedding day. The only flaw in this grand vision for “One” is that it is all wrong. The truth of the matter is that “One” is a song about individuality and difference and the struggle/obligation to continue to help each other. It is not a song about love and romance. It is a song that almost caused U2 to break up, themselves. Overall, according to Bono, himself, “One” is one of the most misunderstood songs ever released. Here is the story of “One” by U2.

The song, “One” comes from a stellar album by U2 called, “Achtung, Baby!”. By the time the band came to record this album, they had been together for almost fifteen years. As often happens to artists and bands after awhile, a division began to appear within the group when it came to what their musical focus should be, going forward. Some of the guys wanted to stay the course and to continue to explore the type of music that had made them successful while, others in the band wanted to abandon that tract and start exploring a more dance-oriented, electronic-industrial type of sound because that was the new wave of music in the 1990s and to go in this direction, it was felt, was to stay relevant to the times.

So, amid this backdrop, the members of U2 travelled to Germany to begin work on their new album. They chose Germany because that country had recently gone through the political process of reunification. If you remember your History then, you will know that Germany was divided into two sections that were simply referred to as East and West Germany. The two halves of the country were divided by a wall and by competing ideologies; with Communism in the East and Capitalism in the West. Anyway, long lesson short, in the mid-1980s, The Berlin Wall came down. Russia began adopting Democratic reforms. For a brief moment in time, it seemed as though tensions in the world were easing and people would be able to enjoy a freer way of living.

So, because of the positive energy flowing through the country, U2 thought Germany would have an exciting atmosphere in which to be creative. So, off they went. Unfortunately, the baggage they brought with them was more than merely their suitcases. The conflicting visions for their future coming from within the band made it difficult to come together in a cohesive fashion necessary to creative in a collaborative setting. Days went by without anything productive being accomplished at all. As drummer Larry Mullens admitted, it was the worst of times for them all as a group. He sincerely thought that they might be approaching the end of the line, just as The Beatles eventually did, too.

Then, a fortuitous break happened out of nowhere. The band had been working on a song that eventually turned into “Mysterious Ways” but, were growing frustrated with each other as the process went along. The sound engineer suggested the band take a break and re-group later. While each of the four members was stewing in his own juices, thinking of what to do, guitarist, The Edge, began strumming his guitar just to calm himself down. As he strummed away, he was actually playing the opening notes to, what was to become, “One”. At that moment, that song hadn’t been thought of nor discussed. It was not a twinkle in anyone’s eyes. But, there was The Edge, playing the famous opening notes to a song that, when finished, would rank as one of U2’s best songs of all-time.

Obviously, I wasn’t there in the studio to see what happened next but, from all reports, those opening notes acted like a magic elixir. Almost at once, the band recognized the beauty of what they were hearing and, according to Bono, the rest of the song fell together effortlessly. In all, he said that he had the basis for the lyrical content of the song written within half an hour. The remainder of the musical structure flowed out of what The Edge had conjured up and, before anyone really realized what had happened, “One” was pretty much done.

Now, as I said off of the top of this post, there is a fair degree of confusion as to what “One” is really all about. U2 have not been helpful in shedding any definitive light on the subject, either. In fact, it is apparent that having the song be open to differing interpretations suits the overall theme of the song well. The most that Bono would say is that it is not a song about coming together but more, it is a song about appreciating and respecting differences. He stated that the key line in the song is when they sing about, “We get to carry each other”. Bono stressed that the little word “get” changes the whole song because if it were “got”, instead of “get” then, “One” would be a preachy song about being obligated to help when, the preferred route is to give a message that stress what a privilege it is to be kind and compassionate. Wanting to be a good global citizen means more than forcing people to behave.

Further to the open-ended nature of “One”, there are actually three separate videos for the song, too. In one video, the band doesn’t appear much at all. Instead, it is a film about buffalo plunging mindlessly off of a cliff because their actions are fuelled by irrational fears. The second video features the band in full drag attire. The third video, which is the one most people will be familiar with, shows Bono sitting alone in a nightclub, cigarette dangling, singing by himself while the band waits somewhere in the distance. It is a stylish, noir-type video which presents, visually, as well as the song sounds, aurally. For you fine folks, I will link to all three. You may watch all of them or some of them or, if you so desire, none of them. Your choice.

In any case, the song, “One” helped raise millions of dollars for A.I.D.S.-related charities, selling over fourteen million copies alone, worldwide. The album, “Achtung, Baby!” sold over forty million copies, making it one of U2’s biggest selling albums ever and, further to that, it helped to fortify the band as a musical unit. In the time since “One” was released, U2 have had s string of hits such as, “Mysterious Ways”, “Even Better Than The Real Thing”, “Lemon”, “Beautiful Day”, “Elevation”, “Walk On” and many more. Their concert tours have been among the largest grossing of all-time, too.

So, without further delay, here are three videos for one song about acknowledging our differences and appreciating our uniqueness. It is not a love song. It is “One” by U2. Enjoy.

The link to the video for the song, “one” by U2, can be found here. (*Buffalo version).

The link to the video for the song, “one” by U2, can be found here. (*Band in Drag version).

The link to the video for the song, “one” by U2, can be found here. (*Nightclub version).

The link to the official website for U2, can be found here.

Thanks, as always, to KEXP for supporting the best bands and artists. The link to their wonderful website can be found here.

KEXP: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History…Song #76: Sunday, Bloody Sunday by U2.

This list of songs is inspired by a list published by radio station, KEXP, from Seattle in 2010, as well as, the latest poll taken in 2021 by Rolling Stone Magazine. For the most part, I will faithfully countdown from their lists, 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. “RS: Song XXX” means the song is coming from the Rolling Stone 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 #76: Sunday, Bloody Sunday by U2.

The year was 1983. I was in residence at Ryerson Polytechnic Institute in Toronto. I had an apartment at the time that overlooked the heart of the downtown core. I paid pennies for a view that people now regularly pay into the thousands. And, so it was, that with the lights of the city twinkling like stars, that I saw my first music video. It was by an Irish band named U2. Seeing that video led me to travelling a few blocks to Toronto’s iconic record shop, Sam the Record Man, where I paid good money for an album by U2 called, “War”. The first single from “War” was a song about the “Troubles” in Northern Ireland, where the band was from. That song was called, “Sunday, Bloody Sunday”. From the opening, strident beats of a militarist drum, I was hooked. Much of the album is a cry against the endless cycle of violence that had their homeland so firmly in its’ grip. That is an important note because, at first, many listeners thought that the song, “Sunday, Bloody Sunday” was, in fact, U2 declaring themselves to be in favour of Irish independence and, by extension, showing support for the I.R.A. (the paramilitary group that used a mixture of violence and politics to further their aim of getting the English out of Ireland so it could be free and independent). So, lead singer, Bono, was forced to state the band’s neutrality in the form of a very famous opening declaration during the recording of a live performance of the song from Red Rocks Amphitheatre when he started the song off with, “This song is not a rebel song. This song is Sunday, Bloody Sunday!”

Part of U2’s desire to make such a declarative statement was borne from the notion that their message in the song was being misinterpreted. But, more than that, choosing sides, as it were, is what has perpetuated this conflict for as long as it has been going on. So, the band wanted it made clear that they were not choosing sides but that there has been too much killing and loss on both sides and that the time had come for it to all end and for cooler heads to prevail. To choose sides in the conflict in Northern Ireland was, for a time, an invitation to flirt with Death. A perfect example of this is the actual events upon which this song is based. There really was an event that came to be known as “Sunday, Bloody Sunday”. Here is a brief synopsis.

For over a century, the Irish People have been living under British rule. Through many battles and political agreements, Ireland has been partitioned into two sections: the southern two-thirds of Ireland is known as the Republic of Ireland and the upper third, which is known as Northern Ireland. Northern Ireland remains under British rule. Within Northern Ireland, the communities there were divided along religious lines; with Catholics on one side (seeking independence) and Protestants on the other side (seeking to maintain ties with the UK). Further muddying the waters is the fact that Catholics are in the majority in Northern Ireland but have lived under Minority Protestant rule for generations. Needless to say, the tensions have always run high and emotions are tinder dry. From, time to time, the Catholic-backed, Irish Republican Army had carried out bombing campaigns against British soldiers stationed in Northern Ireland and against any business or organization or citizen that patronized them. In reply, the British had long sought to bring the I.R.A. to its’ knees and, consequently, there were many instances when there were altercations. Some of these “altercations” proved deadly. One such incident has come to be known as the Bogside Massacre, just outside of Derry in Northern Ireland. In this incident, fourteen unarmed civilians were shot and killed during a march through the area that had been organized by Catholics in defiance of a ban on marching. You see, a march, when it happens in Northern Ireland, isn’t like a parade as we know it here. Marches in Northern Ireland are often a political statement being made…..a show of strength, if you will……which, obviously, is not usually well-received by the other side. The practice of marching has a long history on both sides. So, when the Administrative council of Derry sought to ban Catholic marches, that was seen as political suppression by Catholics. So, in defiance of this ban, they marched. Because the Catholics marched, the British Army stationed there, mobilized. Because tensions were running high, shots eventually rang out and fourteen people ended up dead. The Bogside Massacre sparked a new round of retaliatory strikes by the I.R.A., such as planting bombs near the British Army barracks, killing seven soldiers.

It was in this endless cycle of retaliation and payback that U2 decided to take their own stand.

“I can’t believe the news today.

I can’t close my eyes and make it go away!

How long? How long will we sing this song?

How long? How long?”

The song goes on to describe the conditions that so many ordinary people found themselves and how so many are affected by personal loss and sorrow. The song ends with a cry for reconciliation and for peace. Nowhere in the lyrics does Bono blame either side but, more, he asks both sides to stop fighting and to sit down and talk. It is an idealistic stance that arose out of a weariness that comes from a conflict without end.

As I mentioned off of the top, the song, “Sunday, Bloody Sunday” starts with a strident military drum beat. It does so for the historical reasons mentioned. But then, the emotional fatigue felt by the band informs the opening lyrics which, after a short while, transition into a fiery condemnation of political violence as a solution for geo-political problems. In this light, I am going to share three separate videos with you; all of the same song. First up, I will share the famous live video from Red Rocks, in which Bono states that “This song is not a rebel song. This song is Sunday, Bloody Sunday”. The second video is from a concert in America held during the band’s tour in support of their album, “Rattle and Hum”. In this video, Bono stops the song half way through and makes a speech addressing a recent flare-up of violence back in Ireland. His passion is obvious and moving. Finally, U2 have been very careful about the songs they play back home in Ireland. Needless to say, a song like “Sunday, Bloody Sunday” is a politically-charged song on home turf. So, it is all the more electrifying when U2 decided to open a homecoming show in Dublin with “Sunday, Bloody Sunday”. In this third video, drummer Larry Mullen walks out alone. He receives rapturous applause as he slowly walks to his drum kit and sits down. Then, without any other band members on stage, he launches into the opening drum beats of “Sunday, Bloody Sunday” and blows the roof off of the stadium they are in! Sometimes, a song is just a song. This is NOT one of those times. It is an amazing moment! The rest of the video is kind of anti-climatic but, watching Larry Mullen start the concert off that way is awesome!

So, without further delay, here is a song that is not a rebel song but, a cry for peace and understanding and, more than anything else, a plea for the killing and the violence and the hated and mistrust to stop. Here is U2 with “Sunday, Bloody Sunday”. Enjoy.

The link to the video for the song, “Sunday, Bloody Sunday” by U2, from Red Rocks, can be found here.

The link to the video for the song, “Sunday, Bloody Sunday” by U2 from the Rattle and Hum Tour, can be found here. ***Very powerful!!!

The link to the video for the song, “Sunday, Bloody Sunday” by U2 from Dublin, can be found here. ***Note, Larry Mullen’s entrance begins at the 1:50 mark.

The link to the official website for U2, can be found here.

Thanks to KEXP for helping to inspire the writing of “rebel songs” from around the world. The link to their website can be found here.

KEXP: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History…Song #264: Where The Streets Have No Name by U2.

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 #264: Where the Streets Have No Name by U2.

“The trust of a city street is formed over time from many, many little public sidewalk contacts…Most of it is ostensibly trivial but the sum is not trivial at all.”

– Jane Jacobs

One of the world’s foremost authorities on Urban Planning and the idea of creating livable cities.

When you think about any city or town, there are some truths that can be generalized. For example, in every city of any size at all, there are distinct socio-economic pockets. There are “rich” parts of town and there are “poor” parts of town. There are industrialized zones within a town and there are spots set aside for social/cultural and environmental reasons such as parkland. Urban Planning is concerned with fitting all of the various puzzle pieces in a way that makes that town or city function efficiently with regard to everything from the flow of movement, to waste disposal, to the safety of neighbourhoods and much, much more. If you have never stopped to actually study the nature of your own community and how it functions as a living entity….perhaps you should. For there are clues hiding in plain sight that help explain why your community is how it is.

For those of us in the middle class and richer, our communities are structured in ways that serve and protect our interests. If you are labelled as being in a lower socio-economic class then, the way your community is structured often works against you. The sad thing about that statement (aside from the fact that it is true) is that most of the rules that are used that place those in poverty at a disadvantage are done so purposefully. Let me give you two simple examples.

First of all, let’s talk about the bus. One of the hallmarks of a well-functioning city or town is the ability of people to freely and efficiently move about. However, not everyone within a town or city wants all manner of people moving freely around their property or neighbourhood. Some neighbourhoods are deemed to be “exclusive” by those who live there. If you look carefully at the local transit routes for the town or city where you live, try to find bus routes that go directly into the wealthiest neighbourhoods or enclaves. My guess is that the bus doesn’t stop often in gated communities or by your castle on the hill. Why is that? It is a systemically-entrenched way of restricting the full flow of movement by people in a community. In short, the politics of bus routes is a subtle, formalized way of segregation. It helps keep wealthy neighbourhoods free from the gawking eyes of the poor. If you can’t afford a car then, by all means, travel by bus but, if you do, you will end up staying in your “own part” of town by default.

Secondly, let’s talk about trees. Aside from the environmentally-friendly benefit to communities to having lots of trees present, trees help cool down our homes and streets because of the shade they provide. The planting and maintaining of trees is a part of many City and Town Urban development plans. However, the next time you are out and about, take note of those places where the canopy is densest and thus, the area below is coolest and most comfortable. Chances are good that the lushest of tree-lined streets reside in neighbourhoods where the buses don’t tend to run. It is not by fluke that middle and upper class neighbourhoods tend to, also, have many mature trees in their areas. It is also, not by fluke that many areas where people on Social Assistance live end up being housing complexes surrounded by concrete. Access to something as simple as shade says a lot about things like socio-economic status, race and so much more.

In a free and caring society, purposeful, systemic means should be applied to help harmonize our societies and, as Jane Jacobs said off of the top, bring people together. But, instead, there are many subtle factors at work that help fuel divisiveness. Trees and bus routes are small examples of the insidious nature of how things really work. There are many more obvious examples such as how neighbourhoods are zoned for development (industrial vs. residential) and how that affects property value and re-sale values and so on.

Growing up in Ireland, the members of U2 had a front-row seat to how the systemic nature of urban planning helped to perpetuate the cycles of violence and hatred and bigotry that characterized life at the time. Your street address in Northern Ireland told people almost everything they needed to know about you (without having to bother to actually get to know you as a person). Your address indicated whether you were a Catholic or a Protestant. That indicated whether you supported independence or a political union with England. Your address fuelled speculation as to whether you were an I.R.A. supporter or a member of The Orange March. Divisions were entrenched by geography. And U2 lead singer, Bono, was fed up with it.

How bad things really were came home to him in the mid-1980s when he and his wife did some missionary work in the middle of Africa. In the regions in which they helped, there were no geographic distinctions within a group or tribe. Those being helped were all viewed as one community, all wishing to move forward and develop their homes and neighbourhoods together. In Africa, where Bono was, the infra-structure needed to have networks of roads and streets often didn’t exist. So, the idea came to him of how much better the world might be if, in fact, the streets had no names and nobody judged you based upon your home address. Wouldn’t it be better, Bono postulated, if the world’s citizens treated each other as individual members of a larger collective? What if we all simply lived as one? While that sentiment might strike you as a bit naive, it was, none-the-less, the inspiration for one of U2’s most successful songs ever. “Where the Streets Have No Name” found its’ way on to an album called, “The Joshua Tree” and helped sales to reach well into the millions worldwide.

The video for this song won the Grammy Award for “Video of the Year” for its “live” performance atop a store in downtown Los Angeles. When you listen to the song, note how Bono starts off by singing about his frustrations with how judgemental people are based on where you live in Ireland. He, then, transitions to the beauty of his African experience where the streets, quite literally, had no name and it mattered not one whit where you came from in the village, everyone was treated as one.

By Bono’s own admission, “Where the Streets Have No Name” is a rather simple song about a rather grand idea. You don’t have to take his word for it or mine that institutionalized discrimination exists within the rules used to design and organize most communities in the world. Look at your own town and focus on are there rich parts of town and poor parts of town? Are there dangerous areas and safer areas? Where are these areas in relation to each other? Do the buses go equally to all neighbourhoods or are some left out by design? Where are the trees located? If you are walking down a tree-lined street, what do the property values there tend to be like? The game appears to be rigged, whether we like to admit it or not. “Where The Streets Have No Name” speaks to this ingrained sense of inequity. Listen and learn and then, go look around your own world and see if it isn’t true where you live. It sure is in my hometown.

My street is tree-lined.

My yard is shaded.

The bus does not run past my house.

That is really all you need to know about the quality of my life. It shouldn’t be that way but, unfortunately, it is.

The link to the video for the song, Where The Streets Have No name” by U2, can be found here.

The link to the official website for U2, can be found here.

The link to an article about trees and social inequality in our cities and towns can be found here. The article is from the magazine, “Scientific American”.

Thanks to KEXP for supporting great music that promotes great ideas. The link to their website can be found here.

KEXP: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History…Song #291: New Year’s Day by U2.

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 #291: New Year’s Day by U2.

The music video for “New Year’s Day” by U2 was the very first music video I ever saw. The video is set in a Swedish forest and shows soldiers battling in a Winter War. Even the band, themselves, appear as anti-stars, all bundled up against the cold, their words appearing as frost before their mouths. What I remember most about seeing this music video was the revelatory nature of it, as a concept. All through my childhood, I was always listening to music. I, especially, liked to stay up after everyone had gone to bed, put on my headphones, turn off the lights and let the words of my favourite songs fill my imagination. I was always thinking about ways to make musicals out of the songs I listened to and wrote more than a few drafts of the next big Broadway hit in school, when my work was finished or, at home, in my room, alone with my thoughts. Seeing the words to “New Year’s Day” come to life as a mini-movie was exactly how I thought the full story of songs should be told. It helped reinforce the notion for me that stories could and should be told in a myriad of formats and that I had been right to see movies in my head when I listened to songs in the dark.

“New Year’s Day” by U2 came from their third album, “War”. That album was my introduction to the band and what an introduction it was! “Sunday, Bloody Sunday!”, “Two Hearts Beat As One” and “40” were all on this album. As well, there was a song called, “Drowning Man” which, despite its title, was a love song that Keri and I briefly considered for our “first dance” song at our wedding. *(We went with “Home for a Rest” by Spirit of the West”, which is a conversation for another time). Anyway, “War” became the first #1 album for U2 and helped launch them as an international force to be reckoned with.

The song, “New Year’s Day” was written, originally by lead singer, Bono, for his new bride, Ali. But, because of international events that were unfolding at the time, the lyrics were re-worked somewhat and the song became about the Solidarity Movement lead by Lech Walesa in Poland. The idea behind the lyrics is that optimism is often fuelled by the end of an old year and the start of a new one. In Poland, old laws were being struck down at midnight on December 31st, allowing dock workers to unionize, which was seen as a blow for Communism, which had been the rule of law in Poland and the rest of Eastern Europe for decades. Thus, in the music video, the reason it was set in a Winter War setting had to do with the history of nordic battles and how Russia came, in part, to rule Poland. Bono declared that, even though “New Year’s Day” has historical roots; at its core, it is a love song.

The “War” album was the last album produced by U2 before they turned their attention to discovering the myths and realities of America with albums such as “The Unforgettable Fire”, “The Joshua Tree” and “Rattle and Hum”. By the time those albums dropped, U2 had become one of the biggest bands in the entire world. But, for me, I always have a special place reserved in my heart for the “War” album. At that time, discovering U2 seemed like discovering a little secret that I could keep all to myself. As well, you would not be wrong to connect the dots in my life and draw a straight line from me seeing the music video of “New Year’s Day” for the first time and me writing about it in a post like this, today. Music, as storytelling, has always been close to my heart.

So, without further delay, let’s play that memorable video for “New Year’s Day” by U2. Thanks, as always, to all of you for reading these posts. I feel your presence with each song I write about. Enjoy.

The link to the video for the song, “New Year’s Day” by U2, can be found here.

The link to the official website for U2, can be found here.

Thanks to KEXP for supporting artists/bands from around the world. The link to their website can be found here.

KEXP: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History…Song #307: I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For by U2.

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.