The Joshua Tree – Mothers of the Disappeared

It’s the last song of the album.  And it got me thinking about last songs, on albums.  Honestly, I can only think of one other album where I know the last song.  Murder by Numbers, Syncronicity, The Police.

Here’s a story about that last song, Murder by Numbers.

The bar is on the left as you enter.  It’s a three quarter race track bar, with stools on three sides.  On the opposite side of the table from the door, is a popcorn machine, a stack of red plastic bowls sits beside the machine. The pool table sits around the corner, in the back.  The juke box is on the wall by the the pool table.

There’s maybe three people in the whole place.  Two at the bar, one bartender.   The bartender’s a girl.  It’s two in the afternoon.

My buddy Bill and I enter, prepared to invest a a couple of hours.  Draft beer, cue sticks, an unfamiliar juke box.

Back then, time was measured by coins, specifically, quarters.  Both sport and music.  A ten dollar bill easily exchanged by the girl bartender was worth, let’s say an hour or two.

What happens first is imperative.  Establishing a relationship with the juke box.  Not to digress, but I think it’s important to highlight how to approach the relationship.  Let’s call it the little Jenny Sunday approach.  Jennifer is pragmatic, and a final decision is only reached until all options have been thoroughly explored.  Best example is a restaurant menu.  She believes the optimal result only materializes after every food choice has been analyzed to it’s fullest.  I respect this.  Do I practice it?  Nope.  But I still respect it.

So, with little Jenny Sunday in mind, I approach the juke box and, after viewing the musical cards that have been dealt, I load it up.

Bill, the sly devil he is, has already selected the best cue stick available.  Only slightly bent and, maybe, an eighth inch of felt on the tip.  Dirty pool, pun intended.  But Bill’s a good friend, he selected the second best cue stick and has laid it out on the green felt for me.

As you all know, there are unwritten rules that revolve around bar room pool.  Most apply when there’s more than two playing.  This afternoon, it’s only Bill and I, so we don’t necessarily have to follow these.  Regardless, we do.  Specifically, we line up several rows of three quarters along the side of the table, below the lip of the felt, directly above the coin inserter of the table.

Ok, music is in the air, cheap beer in pint glasses, and two dudes start to play bar room pool.  It’s typical folks, eight ball and we aren’t very good.  That being said, the stacks of quarters are quickly evaporating.  In fact, we are playing so fast, the games are ending before both my selections on the juke box and our beers.  Another ten dollars are exchanged with the girl bartender.

The games are going to fast, and we are beginning to realize, however small, the three quarter investment in sport is not worth it.  Something must change.

Bill and I set our cue sticks against the wall, sit down on wobbly high top chairs and ponder.  Let’s create a new game.  A game that will not only make us feel better about the seventy cent investment, but maybe challenge our already suspect pool game.

Two more beers behind us, we find it.  Pocket the balls in numeric order.  Each pocketed ball worth one point.  Strike the wrong ball, you lose a point and your opponent has ball in hand.  Lose a point on a scratch.  Eight and fifteen balls worth two points.  Each player tallies their points until all balls are off the table.

Brilliant!!  Three quarters for new game worth at least four games before the change.  We are loving this.  It’s like inventing a new board game.  We are very proud.  Girl bartender doesn’t seem to care.

We decide this new game, the new great pool game we created on this afternoon, deserves a name.  We landed on this…

Murder by Numbers

How does this story relate to the last song on The Joshua Tree album?

Apparently, the song was inspired by  Bono’s experiences in Nicaragua and El Salvador in July 1986, following U2’s participation in the Conspiracy of Hope tour of benefit concerts for Amnesty International.

Guess who else was on that tour?


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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