U2 – One

This is one of my top U2 songs… it was on the album Achtung Baby released in 1991. the song peaked at #10 on the Billboard 100 in 1992. Johnny Cash covered it on 2000’s American III: Solitary Man,..the video is at the bottom of the post.

The Edge talks about when they came up with it: Suddenly something very powerful happening in the room. Everyone recognized it was a special piece. It was like we’d caught a glimpse of what the song could be. It was a pivotal song in the recording of the album, the first breakthrough in what was an extremely difficult set of sessions.

The band wrote this song in Berlin after being there for months trying to record Achtung Baby. The Berlin Wall had just fallen, so the band was hoping to find inspiration from the struggle and change. Instead, they found themselves at odds with each other and unable to do much productive work.

Most of the song was written in about 30 minutes and it rejuvenated the band creatively. When they left Berlin, they had little to show for it except for this song, but they were able to complete the album back home in Ireland with this song as the centerpiece of the album.

Achtung Baby peaked at #1 on the Billboard Album Charts in 1991. 

 

This was voted best single in the 1992 Rolling Stone reader’s poll. U2 also won for best album, band, and comeback of the year. In 2003, it was voted the best song ever by Q magazine.

 

From Songfacts

This song can be interpreted in many ways. Bono, who wrote the lyrics, has always been a bit vague, saying it is “about relationships.” Here are some interpretations:

1) The song could relate to the reunification of Germany, where the band recorded it.

2) It could be about the dissolution of The Edge’s marriage to Aislinn O’Sullivan. The couple was having problems in their relationship and split soon after the sessions. Bono was the best man at their wedding.

3) It could be about the band putting their differences aside and coming together to make the album.

4) Bono may have been writing about his good friend, the Irish painter Guggi, who was having girl trouble.

5) The song could represent a conversation between an AIDS victim and his father.

Proceeds from the single were donated to AIDS research, which was stated on the liner notes of the single. Also printed on the notes was this statement: “The image on the cover is a photograph by the American artist David Wojnarowicz, depicting how Indians hunted buffalo by causing them to run off cliffs. Wojnarowicz identifies himself and ourselves with the buffalo, pushed into the unknown by forces we cannot control or even understand. Wojnarowicz is an activist artist and writer whose work has created controversy recently through its uncompromising depiction of the artist’s homosexuality, his infection by the H.I.V. virus and the political crisis surrounding AIDS.”

The Edge came up with the guitar track while working on “Mysterious Ways.” Once he came up with this guitar part, they quickly started writing “One.”

Three different videos were made, each interpreting the song differently. The first, directed by Mark Pellington, shows a buffalo running in a field. The second, which was mostly seen in Europe, featured U2 in drag. The third, shown mostly in the US, is built around Bono reflecting over a cigarette.

Director and photographer Anton Corbijn was at the helm for the video that featured the band in drag. He told The Guardian September 24, 2005: “I had been working with U2 as a photographer for 10 years at this stage and we’d had our ups and downs. I’d done one video for them in 1984 for ‘Pride.’ It was a disaster and no one ever saw it. It took them eight years to give me another chance. I really wanted to put a lot of effort into it to prove myself to them as a director. I even hand-painted the cars that appear in the video myself. I themed the whole thing around the notion of ‘one’ although I don’t think that’s what Bono was actually singing about. That’s why I filmed it in Berlin because the wall had just come down. And I filmed the band performing in a circle like a single unit. I showed Bono’s dad at one end of a seesaw to suggest that on your own you are not always balanced. I liked Bono’s father very much but they had a very complex relationship.

I think it meant a lot for them to appear together. These were all my own ideas but U2 are very much a band who like to meet up and talk about things. There are always a lot of meetings with them! But they cleared all the ideas, including the one about them appearing in drag. Later though, they decided that some of the proceeds from the single would go to Aids charities. They became nervous that the drag element in the video might link Aids to the homosexual community in a negative way. So they dropped the video and got someone else to film something.

It was so painful for me at the time. They replaced it with a video of Bono in a bar surrounded by models, which I particularly didn’t like. But once the song had died in the charts a few months later they got MTV to start running my video instead. That’s why I like working with U2: they have stayed very loyal to me, which is rare in music.”

According to The Guardian, Bono’s father, Robert Hewson, appeared in the song’s video. He later complained to his son that he hadn’t been paid.

In 2005, Bono got involved in the “One” campaign, which tried to convince the US government to give an additional 1% of its budget to help poor regions in Africa. On the Vertigo tour, fans who signed up had their names displayed on video screens when U2 played this.

Adam Clayton and Larry Mullen performed this at the “MTV Rock n Roll Inaugural Ball” for Bill Clinton in 1993 with Michael Stipe and Mike Mills from R.E.M. The impromptu group became known as “Automatic Baby,” a combination of album titles Automatic For The People and Achtung Baby.

The “buffalo” video directed by Mark Pellington was comprised of projections he made for the Zoo TV tour. In a Songfacts interview with Pellington, he explained: “They had made a video for the song already – that Anton Corbijn had done – of them in drag, and they weren’t really crazy about it. So, they released mine, and it was out there for a while. It was a very ‘anti-video’: no band, a slow art piece. And they made a third version of the video with Bono singing in a bar.

It always was interesting to me to have more than one video for a song. I don’t know why bands don’t do that more.”

Pellington later worked on the 2007 film U2 3D.

On the Popmart tour in Mexico City, while the Edge played the intro Bono said, “This one goes out to a mate of ours, a great mate, a great singer, we’re sorry, we’re sorry, for Michael Hutchence.” 

On their 2001-2002 tour, a list of victims of the September 11 attacks was projected on a screen while they performed this.

In 2006, after Bank of America merged with MBNA, BoA held a corporate conference where Ethan Chandler, who managed a New York branch, performed a new version of this song celebrating the merger. Sample lyric: “And we’ve got Bank One on the run. What’s in your wallet? It’s not Capital One.” Thankfully, someone leaked the video and it ended up on YouTube, where you can see it in all its glory. Watch for the standing ovation at the end.

Mary J. Blige sang this with Bono in 2006 for a benefit for victims of hurricane Katrina. Blige then recorded it with Bono and U2 for her album Reminisce.

In a March 2007 poll carried out by The Tony Fenton Show on the Irish radio station Today FM, this was voted the Best Irish Single Ever.

Bono explained the meaning of this song to Rolling Stone in 2005: “It’s a father-and-son story. I tried to write about someone I knew who was coming out and was afraid to tell his father. It’s a religious father and son… I have a lot of gay friends, and I’ve seen them screwed up from unloving family situations, which just are completely anti-Christian. If we know anything about God, it’s that God is love. That’s part of the song. And then it’s also about people struggling to be together, and how difficult it is to stay together in this world, whether you’re in a band or a relationship.” >>

The line “One life, with each other, sisters, brothers” was voted the UK’s favorite song lyric in a 2006 poll by music channel VH1.

Anyone thinking of using this at their wedding might want to reconsider. “‘One’ is not about oneness, it’s about difference,” Bono points out in the book U2 by U2. “It is not the old hippie idea of ‘Let’s all live together.’ It is a much more punk rock concept. It’s anti-romantic: ‘We are one, but we’re not the same. We get to carry each other.’ It’s a reminder that we have no choice. I’m still disappointed when people hear the chorus line as ‘we’ve got to’ rather than ‘we get to carry each other.’ Because it is resigned, really. It’s not: ‘Come on everybody, let’s vault over the wall.’ Like it or not, the only way out of here is if I give you a leg up the wall and you pull me after you. There’s something very unromantic about that. The song is a bit twisted, which is why I could never figure out why people want it at their weddings. I have certainly met a hundred people who’ve had it at their weddings. I tell them, ‘Are you mad? It’s about splitting up!'”

The Edge offers his take: “The lyric was the first in a new, more intimate style. It’s two ideas, essentially. On one level it’s a bitter, twisted, vitriolic conversation between two people who’ve been through some nasty, heavy stuff: ‘We hurt each other, then we do it again.’ But on another level there’s the idea that ‘we get to carry each other.’ ‘Get to’ is the key. ‘Got to’ would be too obvious and platitudinous. ‘Get to’ suggests it is our privilege to carry one another. It puts everything in perspective and introduces the idea of grace. Still, I wouldn’t have played it at any wedding of mine.”

This was featured in the trailer for the 2000 Nicolas Cage movie The Family Man. It was not used in the movie itself.

One

Is it getting better
Or do you feel the same?
Will it make it easier on you now?
You got someone to blame

You say one love, one life (One life)
It’s one need in the night
One love (one love), get to share it
Leaves you darling, if you don’t care for it

Did I disappoint you?
Or leave a bad taste in your mouth?
You act like you never had love
And you want me to go without

Well it’s too late, tonight
To drag the past out into the light
We’re one, but we’re not the same
We get to carry each other
Carry each other

One, one
One, one
One, one
One, one

Have you come here for forgiveness?
Have you come to raise the dead?
Have you come here to play Jesus?
To the lepers in your head
Well, did I ask too much, more than a lot?
You gave me nothing, now it’s all I got
We’re one, but we’re not the same
See we hurt each other, then we do it again
You say love is a temple, love is a higher law
Love is a temple, love is a higher law
You ask me of me to enter, but then you make me crawl
And I can’t keep holding on to what you got, ’cause all you got is hurt

One love
One blood
One life
You got to do what you should
One life
With each other
Sisters and my brothers
One life
But we’re not the same
We get to carry each other, carry each other

One, one
One, one

One
One love, one life

Favorite Lines from Songs Part 2

I did Part 1 over a year ago and it was a fun post. I’ve been meaning to do this again. I remembered some of the lyrics suggested by my friends hanspostcard and allthingsthriller on the last post…I have added those to list. Thanks to both of you.

I saw her from the corner when she turned and doubled back, And started walkin toward a coffee colored Cadillac… Chuck Berry

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Freedom’s just another word for nothin’ left to lose, And nothin’ ain’t worth nothin’ but it’s free Janis Joplin/Kris Kristofferson

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And I need you more than want you, And I want you for all time Jimmy Webb

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Doesn’t have a point of view / Knows not where he’s going to / Isn’t he a bit like you and me…The Beatles

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Met myself a coming county welfare line, I was feeling strung out, Hung out on the line…Creedence Clearwater Revival

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And you’ve got to learn to live with what you can’t rise above…Bruce Springsteen

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He’d end up blowing all his wages for the week / All for a cuddle and a peck on the cheek…Kinks

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Well it’s too late, tonight, To drag the past out into the light, We’re one, but we’re not the same, We get to carry each other, Carry each other…U2

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You can blow out a candle but you can’t blow out a firePeter Gabriel

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Living is easy with eyes closed, misunderstanding all you see…The Beatles

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Where you drink champagne and it tastes just like cherry cola, C-O-L-A Cola…Kinks

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It was gravity which pulled us down and destiny which broke us apart…Bob Dylan
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A drunkard’s dream if I ever did see oneThe Band

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And the sign said, The words of the prophets, are written on the subway walls, and tenement halls… Simon and Garfunkel

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I lit up from Reno, I was trailed by twenty hounds, Didn’t get to sleep that night
Till the morning came around…Grateful Dead

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When I said that I was lying, I might have been lyingElvis Costello
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Though nothing will keep us together/We can be heroes/Just for one day…David Bowie
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Lose your dreams and you. Will lose your mind…Rolling Stones

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It’s a town full of losers, I’m pulling out of here to win…Bruce Springsteen

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The motor cooled down, the heat went down, and that’s when I heard that highway sound…Chuck Berry

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We were the first band to vomit at the bar, and find the distance to the stage too far…The Who

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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