U2 – Angel of Harlem

This song has an old feel and a lot of power. It was on the Rattle and Hum album. I’ve talked to many U2 fans who don’t like the album a lot but it was a favorite of mine at the time. It broke a little from their previous albums. The Edge backed off the reverb some on this album.

The “Angel of Harlem” is Billie Holiday, a Jazz singer who moved to Harlem as a teenager in 1928. She played a variety of nightclubs and became famous for her spectacular voice and ability to move her audience to tears. She dealt with racism, drug problems, and bad relationships for most of her life, and her sadness was often revealed in her songs. She died of cirrhosis of the liver in 1959 at age 44.

The song peaked at #14 in the Billboard 100 and #9 in the UK in 1989. Rattle and Hum peaked at #1 in the Billboard 200 in 1988. The album had live and studio cuts included and a film.

Angel of Harlem was recorded at Sun Studio in Memphis.

From Songfacts

Billy Holiday’s nickname was “Lady Day.” That’s where they got the line, “Lady Day got diamond eyes, she sees the truth behind the lies.”

This is a tribute to the blues, jazz and gospel music U2 heard while touring America.

U2 recorded this at Sun Studios in Memphis while the band was touring the US in 1987. It features the Memphis Horns, who recorded on many of the blues and soul classics recorded there.

This was produced by “Cowboy” Jack Clement, who worked with Sam Phillips at Sun Studios in the ’50s before moving to Nashville and working with a variety of Country singers. When U2 asked him to work on this album, he had never even heard of them, but fortunately some of his friends were familiar with U2 and made it clear to Clement that working with them would be a good career move. By using Clement, U2 was able to recreate the famous Sun Studios’ sound they were looking for.

The line “On BLS I heard the sound…” refers to New York radio station WBLS, where U2 heard the blues and soul music that influenced this track.

This was used in the U2 documentary Rattle And Hum, which followed the band on their 1987-1988 tour of North America.

U2 played this live for the first time at the Smile Jamaica concert on October 16, 1988 in London, a benefit for the victims of Hurricane Gilbert. >>

The band was inspired by their first trip to New York City. “I wrote about it in a song. ‘Angel of Harlem,'” Bono explains in the book U2 by U2. “We landed in JFK and we were picked up in a limousine. We had never been in a limousine before, and with the din of punk rock not yet faded from our ears, there was a sort of guilty pleasure as we stepped into the limousine. Followed by a sly grin, as you admit to yourself this is fun. We crossed Triborough Bridge and saw the Manhattan skyline. The limo driver was black and he had the radio tuned to WBLS, a black music station. Billie Holiday was singing. And there it was, city of blinding lights, neon hearts. They were advertising in the skies for people like us, as London had the year before.”

During the recording session, Bono learned the important lesson that alcohol and horn players do not mix. “I thought I would lighten the session up, so I sent out for a case of Absolut Vodka. I was giving it to the horn players and we were all having a little laugh and Cowboy came up to me. Cowboy was a guy who knew how to get into trouble but he also knew when not to get into trouble. He said, ‘Bono, how long you been doing this?’ I said, ‘Ten years, nearly.’ He said, ‘Ten years and you don’t know not to give the horn section Absolut Vodka? You can give it to anybody else but you can’t give a horn section Absolut.’ I asked, ‘Why, particularly, the horn section?’ Cowboy said, ‘Listen, stupid, you try playing a horn when your lips won’t work.’

Angel of Harlem

It was a cold and wet December day
When we touched the ground at JFK
Snow was melting on the ground
On BLS I heard the sound
Of an angel

New York, like a Christmas tree
Tonight this city belongs to me
Angel

Soul love, this love won’t let me go
So long, angel of Harlem

Birdland on fifty three
The street sounds like a symphony
We got John Coltrane and a love supreme
Miles, and she’s got to be an angel

Lady Day got diamond eyes
She sees the truth behind the lies
Angel

Soul love this love won’t let me go
So long angel of Harlem
Angel of Harlem

She says it’s heart, heart and soul
Yeah yeah (yeah)
Yeah yeah (right now)

Blue light on the avenue
God knows they got to you
An empty glass, the lady sings
Eyes swollen like a bee sting
Blinded you lost your way
Through the side streets and the alleyway
Like a star exploding in the night
Falling to the city in broad daylight
An angel in Devil’s shoes
Salvation in the blues
You never looked like an angel
Yeah yeah angel of Harlem

Angel angel of Harlem
Angel angel of Harlem
Angel angel of Harlem
Angel angel of Harlem

Helter Skelter

Bono once said before playing the song  “This is a song Charles Manson stole from The Beatles, well we’re stealin’ it back.” Charles Manson did, in fact, hijack the song from the Beatles. The song is about an amusement park attraction (not a coded message to Charlie). A “Helter Skelter” is an amusement ride popularized mostly in the U.K. with a slide built in a spiral around a high tower. Paul McCartney read an interview with Pete Townshend saying that the Who just recorded the loudest, rawest and dirtiest song ever…well it was “I Can See For Miles.” A great song… but not what Townshend described it as exactly…

Paul then started to write a song that fit that description and went above it. Helter Skelter was recorded with all four Beatles in studio two with their amps on 11. It’s a great brutal hard rock song. It is one of the rawest songs ever released by a well-known band at that time. If I hear someone call the Beatles only a pop band…I just point them to this song. Covers of this song range from Motley Crue who despite their image their version sounds like a light pop song compared to this, Pat Benatar version is not up to this one…U2’s version tries but no version gets close to the Beatles version in rawness. Some credit this song as one of the inspirations of Heavy Metal…

This song fits great on the White Album. The album is the most diverse the Beatles ever made. On the same album, you have Helter Skelter, Rocky Racoon, Sexy Sadie, Honey Pie, Back In The USSR, Blackbird, While My Guitar Gently Weeps, Revolution Nine and many more.

When I get to the bottom I go back to the top of the slide
Where I stop and I turn and I go for a ride
Till I get to the bottom and I see you again

Yeah, yeah, yeah, heh, heh, heh, heh
But do you, don’t you want me to love you?
I’m (Ahhh) coming down fast but I’m miles above you
(Ahhh) Tell me, tell me, tell me, come on tell me the answer

Well, you may be a lover but you ain’t no dancer
Now
Helter skelter

Helter skelter
Helter skelter
Yeah!
Woo!, hoo!

A Will you, won’t you want me to make you?
(Ahhh)
I’m coming down fast but don’t let me break you
(Ahhh)

Tell me, tell me, tell me the answer
You may be a lover but you ain’t no dancer

Look out!
Helter skelter
Helter skelter

 

U2 – New Year’s Day

I’d heard guitar delay before but U2 took it to a new level. New Year’s Day peaked at #53 in the Billboard 100, #10 in the UK and #41 in Canada in 1983. This song was on their third album War. This is about the time I started to notice them.

from Songfacts.

The lyrics refer to the movement for solidarity lead by Lech Walesa in Poland. After this was recorded, Poland announced they would abolish martial law, coincidentally, on New Year’s Day, 1983.

This was U2’s first UK Top 10 and their first single to chart in America.

This almost didn’t make the album because Bono was having fits writing the lyrics.

The Edge played piano on this as well as guitar. In concert, he played the song on the piano with his guitar in his lap. For his guitar solo, he would get up and go to the front of the stage as the crowd cheered wildly.

This was the first U2 video to get heavy airplay on MTV, and it was by far their most ambitious video to that point. It was directed by Meiert Avis, who worked on U2’s previous videos, including “Gloria” and “I Will Follow.” They planned to shoot the video in Sweden, but when the mountains and snow they hoped for didn’t materialize, they tried Norway. They got the majestic mountains and tight shots of the band performing the song, which was more than adequate for MTV in 1983.

We also see what is supposed to be the band riding horses, which were actually four teenaged girls covered in winter clothes. The guys in U2 weren’t experienced riders, and since they were in the middle of a tour during the shoot, it wasn’t worth the risk.

The themes of understanding in a time of global unrest were a focal point for the album War, whose title was inspired by the various worldwide conflicts of 1982.

The line “Under a blood red sky” was used as the title for a video and live album U2 released in 1983. The video was recorded at Red Rocks, Colorado, June 5, 1982. The album contains performances from that show as well as two others.

Bono considers this a love song. While it is about war, it deals with “The struggle for love.”

Bono wrote this shortly after he married his childhood sweetheart, Ali.

This song was recorded at Windmill Lane Studios in Dublin, which is where U2 recorded their first three albums. The studio had a stone stairway where Larry Mullen played his drums for this track.

This is commonly played at bars every New Year’s Day for lack of something more appropriate.

This is a popular song for other artists to sample or cover. With It Guys used the piano line as a sample in the song “Let The Music Take Control,” Manchester rappers Kiss AMC sampled the intro for their song “A Bit Of U2,” the group Dynamic Base used the sample on their “Africa” single and Bacon Popper did the same on “Free.” Hyper Logic also used a sample in “Only Me.” >>

Producer Steve Lillywhite remembers mixing this song in ten minutes while Bono cranked out “40” at the last minute while another band was waiting outside of the studio for their turn.

New Year’s Day

Yeah!

All is quiet on New Year’s Day
A world in white gets underway
I want to be with you, be with you night and day
Nothing changes on New Year’s Day
On New Year’s Day

I will be with you again
I will be with you again

Under a blood red sky
A crowd has gathered, black and white
Arms entwined, the chosen few
The newspapers says, says

Say it’s true, it’s true
We can break through
Though torn in two
We can be one

I, I will begin again
I, I will begin again

Oh, maybe the time is right
Oh, maybe tonight

I will be with you again
I will be with you again

And so we are told this is the Golden Age
And gold is the reason for the wars we wage
Though I want to be with you, be with you night and day
Nothing changes on New Year’s Day
On New Year’s Day
On New Year’s Day