The Joshua Tree – I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For

We are now in the home stretch.  The last three posts, and purposefully, the first three songs of The Joshua Tree album.  These three songs are the three biggest hits of the album, and although purists might argue otherwise, are the best musically and lyrically of The Joshua Tree.

For all Joshua Tree posts, I re-listened to all of the songs from the album through a music streaming service, and not through You Tube videos.  This was purposeful.  I did not originally listen to or was influenced by U2’s music through videos.  Instead, I discovered these guys first through cassette tapes, and then through CD’s, with The Joshua Tree being one of the first I listened to on CD.  To this end, I felt it both important and interesting to experience what I had originally heard 30 years ago, unfiltered by the visual image.

Funny thing happened.  It was impossible to do this.  Video has acutely changed how I view, not only the band itself, but how I view their music.  In almost every instance, in each re-listening, my frame of reference was the visual image of the song in close conjunction with the actual music.  Only for the songs from the album where there wasn’t a video, or I wasn’t familiar with the video, did I find myself transported back to the 80’s listening to the band on a CD player with two small speakers.

Imagine it.  Pressing the familiar button on the player, the characteristic mechanical sound of the CD tray as it pushes out from the player (note:  I once remarked several years ago, that this sound was one of my favorite sounds; since, being replaced by the popping of a Champagne cork), prying open the plastic CD case, carefully holding the CD by its edges placing the CD on the tray and gently nudging the tray back into the player.  This was the pre-ritual ceremony before the music in which I first experienced U2, and what would begin with the first track, and end with the last.  Just as the band wanted it to be.

Let’s be clear.  Music videos are extremely important to me and have shaped how I listen, understand and experience music today.  And not only the ones that tell a story or have production value.  Concert videos are equally powerful (sometimes even more so), and are a staple in the Smith household.  But it’s interesting to think how I might view all of these songs without any music video context.

Folks, it’s impossible for me to do this for the final three songs.

But, it is easier with the first of the trilogy, I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For.  Now even without the video (which I’ll get to in a moment), this song is my least favorite song on the album.  Incredibly, the song has been voted as one of the best 100 American rock n’ roll songs.  And I don’t think I understood how this could be possible until I keyed in on the “American” rock n’ roll classification.  It’s been well documented that The Joshua Tree was U2’s album for, and about America.  I certainly agree.  And within this context, I reflected on this top 100 accolade and concluded that maybe it does belong as a top American rock ‘n roll song.

From the song title’s meaning of learning, experiencing and growing, to the opening lyrics:


I have climbed the highest mountains

I have run through the fields

Only to be with you

Only to be with you


I have run, I have crawled

I have scaled these city walls

These city walls

Only to be with you


But I still haven’t found

What I’m looking for

But I still haven’t found

What I’m looking for


I have come to believe that this is Bono and the band yearning for America, and after experiencing America during the first couple of tours, probably just a small taste, at that time U2 still hadn’t found what they are looking for.

Now back to the music video, which I once thought was useless.  A little background.  The video was shot in downtown Las Vegas, after a concert they had just performed in the city.  There really isn’t that much to it, just the boys walking around the streets with a hand held camera following them around.  The band is not taking it too seriously and, in many shots, are smiling to themselves, perhaps thinking this is fairly ridiculous.

After viewing again, I now believe the video is perfect for the song.  What’s more American than Las Vegas?  Plus, it’s somewhat raw footage and the non polished feel fits the spirit of the song.

I think it would be perfect if footage of the music video is played in the background as the play the live version in the upcoming concert.

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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