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U2: The Unforgettable fire
This album was released in 1984 and is the fourth album of U2's extensive s catalogue.
1. A sort of homecoming
A nice guitar track with ambiguous lyrics which seem to hint both at passing on to heaven with lines like "she will die and live again" and "across the fields of mourning to a light that's in the distance" but also hints at Irelands potato famine and later the troubles with lines like "the city walls are all come down the dust a smoke screen all around see faces ploughed like fields that once gave no resistance" the first part here is referring to the song "Guard Old Derry's walls" with the second part referring to either the potato famine that caused much death or simply referring to having lines on the face due to conflict. I like the lyrics but don't find the tune or melodies to be particularly distinct.
2. Pride (In the Name of Love)
A really nice song which evokes images of religion "one man betrayed by a kiss" and is about people who offered non-violent resistance against injustice and who were killed for trying to promote kindness and decency among people. Overall its one of the few songs on this album that I enjoyed and actually sing to. It's also one of the few songs with a clearly positive message. The chorus is really catchy and the song is well known for even non U2 fans.
The song begins with a dark sounding spacey guitar riff, before the main vocals enter. There is a powerful bass in the song and some nice tremolo reverbed guitar chord stabs. There is also ultra fast palm muted guitar notes playing as a backing riff at points in the song. The drum beat is fast and aggressive sounding and shakers accompany the palm muted guitar riff which work very well. I like the vocal ahs and oohs in the song at about 2 minutes 50 seconds. Whilst it's an up-tempo song and has a smoky, dusky feel to many of the guitar riffs and interludes vocally and lyrically I am not impressed, especially when compared to the Epicness of the last track "Pride (In the Name of Love)" . I find the singing to be a bit whiney, and the song lacks a catchy, clearly defined chorus and indeed seems to be made up of different sections that just sort of come in and out. Lyrically it's not particularly profound or interesting, as the song is about a friend who has a drug addict who wants to cause harm to themselves but the singer wants to prevent it. I just find songs about such topics unoriginal, and out with my own experiences, thankfully. Further whilst many songs could be out with the listeners experience a lot of them would make the listener want to listen but to me drugs and such are very boring topics I have no desire to engage with.
4. Unforgettable fire:
The song starts with some nice quiet ah synth sounds and piano like glassy guitar tones that sound very dark yet tranquil at the same time. Then the bass enters and the synth ah pad's and sweet sounds get some what louder and a little darker. At 1 minute 16 the short chorus begins and at 1 minute 30 or so we here some lovely iridescent synths and guitar playing that is haunting, tense and foreboding all at once. The bass is deep and pulsing, the fluttery guitar synthy sounding sequences at times sounds very like what I would imagine water to sound like if it had a sound which is quite clever as at one point around the times it plays, the lyrics mention water. I personally really like the ultra dark, heavily reverbed, smooth guitar tone that plays long slow legato notes in this track.
It is a great track musically which stirs the soul and is mathematically just a source of serious beauty and mystery such that it engages the emotions and makes one wonder about the metaphysical and philosophical questions of life, as truly great music does. I love the dark stabs string stabs at 3 minutes 15 or so which are very dark and ferocious sounding. The song is more catchy than a lot of the other songs on the album and the singing is less whiney and more pleasant and interesting tonally to the ear.
Lyrically its far superior to the previous track and is actually quite deep.
My favourite excerpt is given below:
"Stay in this time
Stay tonight in
Ever after, this love in time
And if you save your love
Save it all
Don't push me too far
Don't push me too far
What this is basically saying is that a friend is rebuking the advances of some one of the opposite sex whom they just don't feel attracted to. "Don't push me too far, tonight" is possibly saying that they are not ready to try a relationship with the person making advances. The song also has biblical implications as it seems to be about a god unhappy with his creation and a person pleading with their god to not give up on loving all his creation instead of only loving those who try to follow the path of empathy and kindness.
And can be seen clearly in:
"And if the mountain should crumble
Or disappear into the sea
Not a tear, no not I"
Where its saying god doesn't shed a tear for the destruction of a wicked world, it also sounds a little like the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah in the Old Testament for the sin of being unwelcoming to strangers and violent.
The song starts with more delayed and reverbed guitars, and at an initially slow tempo with no drum beat but slowly the drum beat enters, then trumpets enter and the vocals are very nice in this track and for some reason remind me of "Vida la Vida" by Coldplay, ever so slightly. Compared to the more uptempo and upbeat "the Unforgettable Fire" this track is quite slow and mellow. It doesn't really grab me very much and is another quite bland track though not as bland as "Wire" which I found very monotonous. It is also, cleverly played at walking pace and I did think that was nice, but like the lyrics of this track is a somewhat superficial gimmick as the lyrics sound poetic but are very much extemporaneous and have no real meaning behind them, if analysed. The track is also very short in comparison to the track preceding it; 2 minutes 35 and 4 minutes 55 respectively.
6. 4th of July
The song enters at a very laid back pace and has a sort of delayed timing feel to it. It features guitar slides, heavily reverbed and delayed sonorous sounding guitar notes, ethereal, serene synth pads and synth Fx's as well as a slow meandering acoustic bass guitar. The song is a very chilled and tranquil, atmospheric instrumental. It is a track which I really enjoy listening to even though it has no words. The official reason given for the name of the track is that it commemorates the Birth of band member "Edge's" daughter "Holly" (source Wikipedia) yet it is interesting because this is the day America won its independence from Britain. The song lasts a mere 2 minutes 12 seconds.
The track again enters slow with glistening delayed guitars, slightly higher than other tracks and more sparkly sounding than moody. Slowly it builds up into a crescendo of noise as first a palm muted backing guitar enters quietly in the back ground and a soft drum beat with soft kicks and gentle hi hat hits. At 2 minutes 20 or so Bono sings some lovely scat words. The song has a simple meaning about people addicted to things, it could be a drug but it could be anything for example social media or exercising.
"If I could, you know I would
If I could, I would
Let it go..."
The song clearly says the person, the addict, if they could give up whatever their bad habit is and then explains why they would fall into addiction such as being isolated or looking for some meaning in life and also how their addiction can lead to condemnation. It's a nice track played just ever so slightly slower than the 120 beats per minute "average" track. One of the better ones on this album. It is a long track at 6 minutes 9 seconds.
8. Indian Summer Sky:
This track enters with a very deep bass and has a very dark, mysterious, Machiavellian, nebulous vibe to it. I like the gentle, vibrating, square wave synth tone at 1 minute 22 that plays a descending rapid trill pattern. There is again much synth pad euphonic sounds which are simultaneously nefarious sounding in this track and a deep memorable electric bass riff. I find the chorus in this song quite catchy as well as the faster than average beat and instrumentation which builds a sense of musical tension in the song though that is never really released with say a screaming, mellifluous, pentatonic guitar solo none the less it's a good track and one of the plus points of the album for me. The lyrics are actually quite intriguing and I interpret them to mean the last day of life of a person who has lived a long life and who hungers to leave the physical world and go to the spiritual realm, be that heaven or Valhalla.
"In the forest, there's a clearing
I run there towards the light
It's a blue sky"
The life of a person is metaphorically like a forest, where you can't see the meaning for the trees and the physical constraints on the way a person's brain thinks because there are apart of science and not apart from it. The light is death, is the hope of a better and deeper life after death, where all the misunderstood aspects of the cosmos will be resolved.
"You give yourself to this the longest day
You give yourself, you give it all away"
Means the person no longer hungers for materialistic things instead hoping, or knowing that they will have far greater riches after death. This song lasts for 4 minutes 17 seconds.
9. Elvis Pressley and America
Is a simple song about Elvis Losing his daughter and the consequences of riches and fame causing you to lose what's most real and important, of objects that are not objects and cannot be priced up. I find it however quiet boring even though I like the soft drum beat, strings and acoustic guitar in this track and it's a nice break to have a track with little delayed guitars on it for a change. It is a decent background music track but really does not have a catchy chorus and the verse and chorus are almost totally indeterminable from each other. Whilst it has nice ethereal pad sounds in it, most of the time I find myself switching of when this track comes on, and at 6 minutes 27 its no wonder why. The tremolo vibrato phased guitar chords can't save this track from boring me, even though I love said phased guitar tones, the slow tempo does not help the tracks cause.
The song enters with a sustained ethereal warm sounding synth pad and some lovely mellifluous, delayed vocals, which are song in a very dulcet, almost sickly sweet tone. A very simple song with no over production, its nearly totally accapella , and its message is about Martin Luther King, its wanting his ideas, to rain down on us. "And may you're dreams be realized" is a reference to MLK's Speech where he declares "Let a man not be judged by the colour of the skin but the content of their character". It's also something which sometimes the left in America, in particular, forgets with praising people or criticising people solely based on their skin colour rather than their morals and actions. It's a short but sweet song at only 151 seconds, much like the nature of the song itself. Another Plus for me.
* Pride (In the Name of Love), deep lyrics, a positive message and a catchy chorus
* Unforgetable Fire, lovely instrumentation, deep multi-layered lyrics
* MLK and Indian Summer Sky, haunting tracks with a serene and edgy vibe respectively
* Wire, rather whiny vocals, uninspired lyrics, boring track
* Elvis Pressley and America, decent instrumentation but spectacularly boring vocal melody and is very long but played at a very slow pace, always lose interest in it.
I got it for £7 as a birthday present though the CD can currently be bought of amazon for £3.40 which is good value, especially if this is your kind of music or if you are a U2 fan.
Would I recommend?
It depends, for the price paid for it for me, and if you are not a massive U2 fan then I would say no it was not worth the seven pounds however for £3.40 then it's definitely worth it even for the casual U2 fan and people who just like the track "In the name of Love" which is one of U2's biggest hits along with "Beautiful Day". I rate it 2.5 ciao stars which of course has to be rounded up in the star rating.
This review will also appear on ciao under the user name "newprideexperiadj2"
Unforgettable Fire - U2
The fourth studio album from U2 is the Unforgettable Fire was released in year 1984. It lasts about 42 minutes and contains 10 songs. The rock and punk influences are clear on this album.
Pride (In The Name Of Love)
One of my favorite songs and a song which is much played by the band during concerts. The song is dedicated to people around the world who fight against oppression. The song is originally about Martin Luther King. It is a strong instrumental song with a beautiful vocal from Bono. It is well built and is especially powerful. Definitely a powerful song!
The Unforgettable Fire
Another intense song is The Unforgettable Fire. It's a song about nuclear weapons and dedicated to the victims of Japan during the Second World War. It is a real protest song. It starts quietly with only a soft guitar playing, but after 30 seconds you can hear all the drums and Bono singing. It is a nice build powerful mid tempo song. Certainly one of the strongest songs of U2.
Probably one of the best songs of U2's is Bad. Again this is a powerful song and the vocals and the use of the instruments is very good. The song is about a friend of Bono who's a drug addict and Bono sings the song with passion. It's not really a fast song, but more mid tempo but certainly never boring.
Elvis Presley And America
Elvis Presley is a hero of Bono and this song is also dedicated to him. It is recorded in 1 take. It is a totally different number than the previous songs and less powerful, especially Bono's voice sounds a little less strong. I cannot really say it's a good song and it's one that I often skip.
Certainly one of the strongest album of U2 with some very powerful songs such as Bad, The Unforgettable Fire, but also New Year's Day. Most of the song sound full of passion and above all the instruments come well forward and fits wonderfully with the strong voice of Bono. They are true rock songs that often have a good nice pace. A wonderful album with perhaps only two lesser songs. Four stars.
U2 are a band I have liked for many years since New Years Day first appeared in the singles chart in the early 80's, although the band actually formed back in 1976!
The Band :-
Bono - vocals
Larry Mullen Jnr - Drums
Adam Clayton - Bass
The Edge - Guitar & vocals
Over 30 years later, and while many people dislike Bono these days, there is no denying that U2 are still one of the top bands in the world today, currently on tour playing to sell-out stadiums worldwide.
The Unforgettable Fire is my favourite album by U2, and was released in 1984. Over the following years I moved away a little from U2, returning again in recent years, but 'The Unforgettable Fire' stayed with me throughout. Moving away from Steve Lillywhite, the album was produced by Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois.
The album saw a slight change in direction for the band, though it was still unmistakenly U2, with the familiar guitar sound courtesy of The Edge, the tracks had more of what I would describe as a 'haunting' feel about them. 'Ambient' is a word often used to describe this album, which was largely down to the Eno influence.
The band were looking to create a more serious album, but their record company boss at the time tried to dissuade the band from involving Brian Eno, believing that he would 'bury them under a layer of avant-garde nonsense'. The band were undeterred, recording went ahead, and The Unforgettable Fire was released in October 1984.
The cover I feel is quite fitting to the whole mood of the album, and this is one of the things I miss about vinyl albums these days - the covers!
Yes you get a small, scaled down version on CD's, but they will never replace or have quite the same effect as an album cover could have on you!
The front cover features Moydrum Castle, under a dark and grey sky. The back of the vinyl album cover featured another shot of the castle, the track listing and the lyrics to 'A Sort of Homecoming' in the centre.
The album was named after an art exhibition at the Peace Museum in Chicago, by survivors of the atomic bombs at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan.
The tracks :-
1. A Sort Of Homecoming
2. Pride (In The Name Of Love)
4. The Unforgettable Fire
6. 4th of July
8. Indian Summer Sky
9. Elvis Presley and America
I remember the first time I listened to this album, the first four tracks really drew me in. Each one a 'big' track and I remember thinking this was the best album I had heard for quite a while.
My favourite track on the album, and also my favourite all-time U2 song, is the title track 'The Unforgettable Fire' . It was released as the second single from the album, reaching a top 10 position in the UK charts.
From its intro - a haunting twang of guitar, and ambient strings, the drums come in and the song slowly builds. Described as having a heartfelt sense of yearning, this is a brilliant track which I fell in love with upon first listen, for its moving music and lyrics :-
"So sad to besiege your love so head on
Stay in this time, stay in this lie
I'm only asking but I think you know
Come on take me home again..."
My second favourite track is 'A Sort Of Homecoming' the opening track on the album. If you like 'With Or Without You' then you surely will like A Sort Of Homecoming, as its up there with the best of U2 in my opinion. Featuring an emotive vocal delivery from Bono and a steady rhythm throughout, the song also has stirring, strong lyrics:-
"The wind will crack in winter time
This bomb blast lightning waltz
No spoken words, just a scream..."
From the first line of this song, the lyrics build until the last, when Bono raises his vocals to a passionate cry " For tonight at last I am coming home"
Pride (In The Name Of Love) is probably the track everyone will recognise on this album. It was the first single release from the album and reached the top 5, at that point it was the band's biggest hit. Another strong, stirring anthem, which Noel Gallagher has said was one of the best songs of the 80's. The song was written as a tribute to Martin Luther King Jnr.
'Bad ' is another strong track on this album and a favourite of many fans. It is a song about Heroin addiction and described as an 'unfinished sketch' by Bono, as he tries to describe the rush and then the come down of heroin addiction.
'MLK' is another stand out track for me on this album . An elegy also to Martin Luther King Jnr, it is an almost dreamlike track, whist 4th of July is an instrumental which started out with Eno recording Adam Clayton playing bass, and Clayton unaware he was being recorded. The Edge had joined in, also unaware of the recording. Eno worked his magic, and played it back to the band, and that was the song finished.
'Promenade' is also worthy of being cited as a great track on this album, whilst 'Wire' and 'Indian Summer Sky' see the band back to their post punk- type songs, which balance the album out nicely.
If there is a weak track on this album then it has to be 'Elvis Presley and America' in my opinion. A track which I would describe as more of a b-side than an album track, although I have friends who disagree with me on this!
Overall, 'The Unforgettable Fire' for me, is U2 at their best. If you like U2 but have not heard this album, then I would highly recommend you get your hands on a copy and catch up with all that you have missed!
The Unforgettable Fire is available from Amazon priced at £3.98 new and from £2.45 used.
Label : Island Records
ASIN : B000001FA4
The Unforgettable Fire is still one of my favourite U2 albums. THere are so many great songs on the album, many that have stood the test of time and would still be regarded as brilliant if released today.
Although judging an album based purely on how many "classics" it produced is a kind of short sighted way of doing it, when it comes to U2 I think it can be appropriate to a certain extent. There is the obvious Pride (in the name of love), but Bad (When he wails "Walk on by / and don't look back" in the choruses, followed by The Edge's perfectly-placed notes and the solid rhythm section, your spine will tingle.) and A Sort of Homecoming and unerringly brilliant.
Thanks must go to Brian Eno in brining U2 out of themselves, as this follow up to the brilliant War shows a little bit more musical maturity.
This is the sound of a band finally realizing their true potential. If you're sick of what you've heard on the radio, this is the album that reveals the true heart of U2, showing not only the final step of their evolution but creating some great mood music in the process.
(Review also published at my U2 forum.)
Think back to 1984. No, not Orwell's "1984," when a government went to war with leaders it once supported, and Big Brother had broad power to spy on its own citizens. The real year, 1984.
Apple had just introduced its first user friendly personal computer. The controversial writer Truman Capote, of "In Cold Blood" fame passed away, and Bob Geldof led Band Aid in the hit single "Do They Know It's Christmas," with proceeds helping famine-ravaged African nations, according to Infoplease.
That was also the year U2 released "The Unforgettable Fire." After the heady success of "War," the band wasted no time rushing back to the studio to begin work on a follow-up, but it wouldn't just be business as usual. After the release of the live album "Under a Blood Red Sky," the band wanted to recoup and find a new sound and direction instead of simply relying on the soapbox anthems it worried would become its stereotype. This was helped in no small measure by the work of producers Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois who signed onto the loose jam sessions at Slane Castle, a paced and nurturing beginning to the recording that ended in a frantic frenzy that left a few of the songs less polished than the band would have liked. With less than two weeks before the start of the Unforgettable Fire Tour, Bono was forced to go ahead with the lyrics already written, despite his adamant reserve the band found itself forced under the wire yet again.
The mixed reviews for U2's fourth album may have reflected that hurried strain at the end. In his review of "The Unforgettable Fire" for Rolling Stone Kurt Loder wrote, "This is not a 'bad' album, but neither is it the irrefutable beauty the band's fans anticipated The Unforgettable Fire seems to drone on and on, an endless flurry of chinkety guitar scratchings, state-of-the-art sound processing and the most mundane sort of lyrical imagery (barbed wire is a big concept). U2's original power flickers through only intermittently."
But not all the critiques were of this ilk. CMJ's New Music Report praised, "Blessed are the music makers: a truly unique guitarist, a fiery vocalist, and a rhythm section that can do just about anything."
The truth about "The Unforgettable Fire," though, is that maybe it's a little of both.
Bono explained the album's title to Record magazine in 1985, when asked if it was named after a collection of poetry by Hiroshima survivors. "That's right-in fact, it's more than that. The Unforgettable Fire is an exhibition of paintings, drawings and writings done by survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. They were done by people of all age groups, from seven to 70 years old, by amateurs and professionals, and they are an art treasure in Japan. We had come into contact with them through the Chicago Peace Museum, because we were part of an exhibit in the museum in '83, the Give Peace A Chance exhibit. And the images from the paintings and some of the writings stained me, I couldn't get rid of them. Their influence on the album was a subliminal one, but I realized as the album was moving on, that this image of 'the unforgettable fire' applied not only to the nuclear winterscape of 'A Sort of Homecoming,' but also the unforgettable fire of a man like Martin Luther King, or the consuming fire which is heroin. So it became a multi-purpose image for me, but it derived from that exhibition."
"Pride (In the Name of Love)" was originally meant to be a warning to then-US president Ronald Reagan about the pride that Bono saw in his foreign policy and heavy-handed American hegemony. But then, instead of fighting fire with fire he took a cue from another man, with the quality in spades, as he told the New Musical Express in October 1984: "I originally wrote 'Pride' about Ronald Reagan and the ambivalent attitude in America. It was originally meant as the sort of pride that won't back down, that wants to build nuclear arsenals. But that wasn't working. I remember a wise old man who said to me, don't try to fight darkness with light, just make the light shine brighter. I was giving Reagan too much importance then I thought Martin Luther King, there's a man. We build the positive rather than fighting with the finger."
The song, the record's first single, would arguably become the most enduring off the album. Chrissie Hynde of The Pretenders happened to be in town at the time, Niall Stokes says in "U2 Into the Heart," and dropped into the studio to lend her voice to the backup vocals, though she would only be credited as Mrs. Christine Kerr (at the time Hynde was married to Jim Kerr of Simple Minds) in the liner notes. Of course the religious imagery remains, though more tempered and sagely-distributed on the record, Stokes notes, "One man betrayed with a kiss."
In 1998 Edge told Q magazine that at first he was doubtful that the band should dabble in the tribute to the civil rights leader. "Because of the situation in our country non-violent struggle was such an inspiring concept. Even so, when Bono told me he wanted to write about King, at first I said, 'Whoa, that's not what we're about.' Then he came in and sang the song and it felt right, it was great. When that happens there's no argument. It just was."
But with the sublime comes the reality. "Wire" is about Bono's ambivalence to the drug culture that had captured some of his friends. "I'm probably an addictive person myself," Stokes quotes him as saying. "There is the fascination of death and of flirting with death that's part of heroin use."
Of course it wasn't the first time he had written about the siren song undercurrent of abuse in Ireland, but the juxtaposition after "Pride" is always a sobering one. But then again humanity is made up of extremes. As Bono told concert-goers in 1985 Los Angeles (as transcribed on The Three Sunrises), "You know, 'The Unforgettable Fire' ... in some ways ... is ... it can be ... An unlifting [sic] thing ... it can also ... It can also drag you down ... it can be a consuming force ... it can be the drug heroin ... It can be the song 'Wire.' "
The eponymous track of "The Unforgettable Fire" has echoes of that Holocaust horror but it's not bound to its remorse. The delicate beginning gives way to the breathy vocals, the vast and colorful carnival imagery, the warning of being pushed too far. Edge told Carter Alan in 1985 that he found it almost "classical." "I see it as a music piece rather than as a song. Bono, in a very unconventional way, explores numerous melodies over sections. Instead of repeating melodies-you know, verses and choruses, which is what everyone does-we've got three chorus melodies and two verse melodies. It has a certain symphonic feel for me because there are so many intertwining themes. I know we could have recorded it better but, I think, for all its flaws, I just see it as a great piece of music."
Adam Clayton agreed that despite the Holocaust inspiration, there was more to the life of the music, that they, like the paintings of survivors, were portraits of feeling. He told Neil Storey in the October 1984 issue of U2 magazine, "I don't think that by calling the album after that exhibition the similarity necessarily goes any further than just endorsing that. I don't think it's all album of songs about peace. I think just the feelings and the textures and the colours of those paintings, and the emotions, are the things that are transcending themselves onto the album, rather than any special message."
"Promenade" is another song of great departure from the angry energy of "War." The idyllic melody that mimics the sea in the song, the lulling voice and repetition of "radio" to the fade out ("and miles to go before I sleep") all evoke a calmer mood for the band. It is also shades of Bono's new life with wife Ali as the couple had recently moved to the seaside resort of Bray, their house overlooking the promenade of restaurants, hotels, theaters houses and pool halls, which all must have looked a curious and hushed blur from above.
Stokes reports that "4th of July" is one of the monikers of Eno's laidback reception of inspiration. Clayton and Edge began playing together during a break in recording, unaware the producer was even listening, let alone recording. "It was very much a live performance," Edge recalled. "There was no way we could mix it or re-do any of the instruments." While the song may seem an enigmatic way to celebrate Independence Day, Stokes suggests it was more of a "musical diary-entry" for that day in July. An impromptu rendition, a harmonious wink caught on tape.
"Bad" is another song born of improvisation in the studio, begun by Edge and recorded in about three takes so the spontaneous bits filter through onto the record, quirks and feelings that have spawned so many inspired live versions.
"This is a song about the city we grew up in," Bono said in a 1987 performance in Chicago. "A song about Dublin city. And a song about a drug called heroin that's tearing our city in two ... that's tearing the ... the heart out of the city of Dublin ... tearing the heart out of the city of Chicago. Rich people stuff dollars in the back of their pocket while poor men lie in gutters with needles stuck in their arms. Screw them, I say. This is a song about a friend of mine who was given on his 21st birthday enough heroin into his bloodstream to kill him. This is a song called 'Bad.'"
"It's about a guy we knew who ended up in a bad way because of heroin addiction," Edge elaborated in a 1998 interview with Q magazine. "Bono knew the family, he'd talked to the brothers about it. It was new for him as a lyricist, writing in the first person from someone else's point of view I don't think there's ever been a song about addiction that captures the feeling so vividly."
"Indian Summer Sky" was conceived in that most famous of asphalt jungles, Manhattan, during the War Tour. "A lot of cities in America are built on civilizations long since buried by the American," Bono told Hot Press in June 1985. "A friend of mine, a wise man I know, spent a lot of time within the city-it was Toronto, so cool and so shiny-and he felt extremely troubled and torn in two. There had been a lot of massacres of Red Indian people in that area and he felt in some way as if there were troubled spirits still there. What I was trying to get across was a sense of a spirit trapped in a concrete jungle-something like that. Again these are just glimpses, these songs. A lot of the subject matter is very impressionistic."
Bono's frustration with the carpet bagging work of biographer Albert Goldman, who attacked some of rock's greatest figures after their deaths when it was too late for them to defend themselves from his wild fabrications would be a theme in "Rattle and Hum's" "God Part 2." The "instant karma" an obvious reference to John Lennon, the latest of Goldman's victims. However, in "Elvis Presley and America" the subject is not the ex-Beatle, but The King, and Bono hoped to convey the real icon.
He told Hot Press, "it was partly a reaction to the Albert Goldman book which tried to portray him as the archetypal rock 'n' roll idiot, but the way he held the mike, the way he sang into the mike-this was a genius. But his decline just tore at me and when I picked up the mike, it was a completely off the wall thing and I just began to sing. And I think it does evoke that decline, the stupor, the period when-if you've seen the clips of him-he forgets his words and fumbles." Stokes recalls that Bono didn't want to release the song because it was such a raw rendition, with off the cuff lyrics and deviations, but Eno's hand is again evident in the freshness of the track.
When asked about Bono's unclear delivery, Clayton said it was at the heart of the song. "You can't work out what he's saying, right? Could anyone work out what Elvis Presley was saying? That is the whole point," he told the Bay Area Music Magazine in December 1984. "Elvis Presley was an inarticulate man, except when he was performing his art and he got behind the microphone and he sang with that voice and moved his body in that way. Then everyone thought, 'Wow, this is a very interesting guy-we want to interview him.' So you interviewed him, and everyone said, 'Oh, the guy's stupid.' He couldn't communicate in real life except when he was moving and singing, and I think the song says that. Evidently it says that, if everyone's so pissed off at it."
"It was becoming a trademark," Stokes writes of U2's inclination for ending albums with a moving, healing note. "Now that 'The Unforgettable Fire' was done, it was time for a spiritual and 'MLK' provided it. It was a lullaby, a song of reassurance and reconciliation. A song of hope."
When Miles Davis, one of the band's great heroes, lay dying, he chose this album as one of his favourites - an accolade which, I suspect, makes up for several hundred cynical reviews!
1 Sort of Homecoming (5:28)
2 Pride (In the Name of Love) (3:49)
3 Wire (4:19)
4 Unforgettable Fire (4:55)
5 Promenade (2:34)
6 4th of July (2:14)
7 Bad (6:08)
8 Indian Summer Sky (4:19)
9 Elvis Presley and America (6:22)
10 MLK (2:32)
With the buzz created by the release of their 'Best Of, The Early Years' it was quite evident that a lot of people had mistakenly forgotten about U2 pre 'Achtung Baby'. This is to do U2 a great disservice because U2's most fertile years spanned 1980 to 1987. 'The Unforgettable Fire' was released in 1984 and had 2 successful singles lifted from it, 'Pride' and 'The Unforgettable Fire'. I can remember buying 'Now that what I call music 5' (eek!!!) and 'The Unforgettable Fire' stood majestically above everything else on it. U2's fifth album was recorded in Slane Castle, which could explain the sumptuous sound that the album possesses. Unlike many things released in the 1980's it had aged very well (except perhaps the bombast of 'Pride') and would fit nicely beside the likes of Travis on any teenagers CD shelf. The album spawned U2's crowning glory, 'Bad', a song that was made legendary at Live-aid and later by the 'Wide Awake in America' EP. The album has U2 playing it straight, a stripped down band letting the melodies and hooks save the day. Witness the understated glory of 'Promenade', all shimmering guitars and solid bass-lines protecting Bono, sounding forlorn and lonely. It remains a great shame that U2 did not follow this approach right through their career, although 'All that you can't leave behind' does hint at the old days. 'The Unforgettable Fire' will warm the cockles of your heart and convince you that once upon a time, U2 were the greatest band in the world.
1984, the Thatcher Government, the birth of Prince William, Torvill and Dean winning Gold at the Olympics, and most importantly -another U2 album. Unfortunately the whole is far from unforgettable. This is U2 at their most relaxed. In some instances this is a good thing, in others it isn’t. ‘Promenade’ lacks pace, and ‘Elvis Presley and America’ never really goes anywhere despite showcasing Bono’s superb vocal talent. The most effective tracks are those which raise the stakes, the ones that have a sark and energy like ‘Pride’ and ‘Bad’. This is a mid-tempo effort, that at times is equally magnifecent as it is overly reflective. It is the quality of tunes like ‘A sort of homecoming’, the gently affecting lullaby of ‘MLK’ and shingling guitars and pacey drumbeat of ‘The Unforgettable fire’ that keeps the flame alight.
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 A Sort Of Homecoming
2 Pride (In The Name Of Love)
4 The Unforgettable Fire
8 Indian Summer Sky
10 Elvis Presley and America