Joshua Tree – Running to Stand Still

The first U2 concert I attended was in college.   Not The Joshua Tree tour, but their next, Zoo TV, which promoted the Achtung Baby album.  Back in those days, you had to either purchase tickets via phone or in person at a Ticketmaster booth.  The phone was dicey, and for concerts that sold out in minutes, there was a good chance you wouldn’t get tickets.  On the A&M campus, there was a ticket booth where you bought tickets to events.  The word on the street was U2 tickets were selling in less than an hour, and a nasty campus rumor that folks would be camped out for these tickets.


So, sleeping bag and blanket in tow, I was lucky enough to arrive early enough to be about 17th in the line.  Now being that I was going to be in this line for many hours, I got to know the others around me.  The guy directly before me in line happened to like running, and I learned that is favorite song from Joshua Tree was Running to Stand Still.  


Running to Stand Still is not about running, but about drug use, which makes his favorite song a little interesting.  This leads me to an anecdote related to a another U2 drug song, Bad.  Now Bad is not on The Joshua Tree album, but on their previous studio album, The Unforgettable Fire.  But, the song has a glorious moment in Rattle and Hum, and not only serves as the opener of “The Triple Lindy Video Set” (that’s a teaser), but one of my favorite songs from the Rattle and Hum video. 


Bad’s chorus goes something like this:


I’m wide awake, I’m wide awake, I’m not sleeping


I have always interpreted this as two folks laying beside one another in bed after a huge fight.  Nothing resolved, just lying there wide awake.

I shared this with Jen in the early years and she took my interpretation literally.  Unfortunately for her, she shared this meaning with another dude at a party one night and was rebuffed as a U2 moron and quickly set straight about the real meaning of the lyrics.  


The fallout from this incident has been meaningful, and Jen has difficulty believing my personal interpretations of lyrics.  I don’t believe there was ever an official video for Running to Stand Still, but, I as mentioned before, there is an incredible video for Bad from Rattle and Hum and I really would like to share four of my favorite moments from the video (note:  this will not be new to most of the folks reading this, for they have already endured a music video night at the Smith household).


Before I get to the good stuff, I want you to know I’m torn on my outfit for the upcoming concert.  I really love this look of tall shafted boots, high wasted Euro looking pants, nipple covering suspenders and a sash.  A more Texas business casual look from the Rattle and Hum Where the Streets Have No Name is also in the running (video will be shared on a later post).

Ok, four favorite moments:

1:03 – Bono hand through the hair fakeout (1:13 & 1:31 – no fakeout)

1:56 – Adam side to side shoulder/head move.  This lasts about 15 seconds and is the longest screen time I think that has ever been given.  (He gets so little screen time and is kinda the stepchild of this bunch.  He gets about two lines in Rattle & Hum and spouting something about mixing politics and music.  I kind feel sorry for him.)  Notice the look over the shoulder to Larry to ensure the base line is on point.

6:00 (Yup, video is almost 8 minutes long) – Fade in on Bono walking (toward me?) on the camera dolly track suddenly inserting Ruby Tuesday into the song.  6:28 – Please to meet you, I hope you guess my name.  6:30 – You know I’m pleased to meet you, I hope you guess my name.  (No explanation needed.)

7:09 – Spent Bono, hugging Adam.  (Even stepchildren are loved.)

8 minutes is a long video, but get a load of this version at Live Aid:

Looking at almost 12 minutes total length, with 3 of those minutes of Bono slow dancing with a couple of girls in the crowd while the boys in the back playing the same chords, drum beat and base line.  3 minutes guys.  That’s the length of a song itself.

Let’s get back to Running to Stand Still and it’s haunting lyrics.

Favorite lyric:

She walks through the streets

With her eyes painted red

Under black belly of cloud in the rain.

In through a doorway

She brings me white golden pearls

Stolen from the sea.


She is ragin’

She is ragin’

And the storm blows up in her eyes.

She will suffer the needle chill

She’s running to stand still


To put some perspective on this, at seventeen, I had never even come close to heavy drugs.  Never seen cocaine, pretty sure didn’t even know that heroine existed or what it was.  Way before pharmaceuticals became popular.  These lyrics were a small step in my feeble drug education.  White golden pearls, feeling the needle chill.  Heavy man, real heavy.  He made that stuff real in my mind.


I suppose that boy in line in front of me may have been misinformed about the song.  Unsure about that, but I did get tickets to the Zoo TV concert which played at The Summit in Houston.  Incredible performance by the boys, but I’ll speak more about concerts later.  

C. Smith

Author: C. Smith

    “All you have to do is write one true sentence.” Ernest Hemingway I’m no Hemingway. But this web creation is a part of writing that one true sentence. Of being inspired by fellow contributors that have, if not something meaningful, but interesting to say and are willing to invest energy beyond 140 characters. Of creating an open forum for these ideas, capturing a thought or a moment in time. But more importantly, this is about a personal commitment to putting a thought to paper and throwing it against the wall to see if it sticks. Enjoy.

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