The Joshua Tree – With or Without You

I’ll start with two stories.

The first takes place around thirty years ago.  Three dudes are sitting in an early model pickup truck driving from a smaller town to a small town.  This particular early model truck has a bench seat, which is especially nice for girls sitting close, and also if you need to fit three boys and a payload of a half dozen boxes filled with party decorations.  On that day, the boy’s mission was delivering these party decorations to the country club party room for the upcoming high school prom.

It was good afternoon.  The boy’s spirits were high, having been excused from afternoon classes for the delivery, and were excited about assisting girls decorate an exotic event none of the boys had attended before, although none of them would have admitted to this excitement.

As normal, the radio was tuned to the popular rock station; and as normal, the volume was turned way up.  There are two reasons for this.  Most importantly, the boys loved music loud; and in order to hear loud music over wind blowing through open windows, the volume had to be turned up.

As the boys are driving, a familiar tune starts playing.  It starts slow, but the boys are ready.  By thirty seconds in and, Bono kicks in with the lyrics, all three boys are singing word for word, attempting their best Bono impersonation.  By the end, as Bono reaches the climax of the song, each of these boys, sitting on a bench seat in a pickup truck on a long Texas road, believes that if only someone would teach them to play guitar, they could one day be a rock star.

Fast forward about fifteen years.  A girl and boy are having lunch.  They have just recently met and, given they are going to work together, the boy wants to get to know the girl.  Feel her out.  In his mind, one of the best ways to understand someone is their musical preferences, so he asks the girl to name her top three bands.  She replies with a few good choices, but also casually mentions she listens to a lot of musicals.  The boy certainly filed that away, but that’s not the point of this story.  Understanding the point of this conversation, the girls follows up with the same question back to the boy.  The boy’s response is the usual, and of course U2 makes the list.  Literally half a second after the boy says it, the girl fires back – I hate Bono.

No need to go into why she hates Bono.  The reasons are well known. We all have felt them.

So recently I asked the girl if she still hates Bono.  Her response is that she has learned to tolerate him.  By the way, it’s taken the boy over a decade of five thousand music videos, countless arguments of front man hotness and one amazing concert to get her that far.

I believe these two stories illustrate the polarization of U2.  It’s easy to dislike a band that their front man said he wanted to be the biggest rock band in the world before even cutting a record – and achieved it.  Who wouldn’t hate a rock star that doesn’t take off his sunglasses even when meeting The Pope?

I get it.

However, I have the advantage of following this band early on.  From the first Night Tracks video of New Years Day, which I couldn’t understand, but knew somehow it was important.  To The Joshua Tree album, which, other than Syncronicity, by The Police, was an album I listened obsessively to, through some highly charged teen years.  Growing up in a remote town in the panhandle of Texas, I forged relationships with foreign and strange ideas through anything I could find.  Books, movies, music and lyrics.  All of these were integral to my upbringing and helped me maneuver the isolation and lack of knowledge that surrounded me.

This band from far away Ireland had to something to say, and even in my naivety, I knew they were special.  Over the years, I have learned to overlook all the stuff that the girl is so right about.  It’s like a brother that has a lot of questionable qualities, but you overlook them, for you love him.

Without or Without You is my final post, and I have two pointless comments related to the lyrics of the song.

First, I love this:
You got me with

Nothing to win

And nothing left to lose

I’ve never said this to someone, but I’ve got it ready in the chamber when necessary.

Secondly, I’ve included two videos for the song.  The first is the official video, which is pretty good; however, it’s been forever tarnished by an argument between a girl and a boy about whether the girl in the video didn’t shave her armpits (the moment in question comes toward the end).  The second video is footage from Rattle & Hum and gives ample reasoning for the phrase “Bono Hot”.  If you are willing to watch to the end, you will be rewarded with these additional lyrics:

We’ll shine like stars in the summer night

We’ll shine like stars in the winter light

One heart, one hope, one love

With or Without You



We’ve come to the end.  11 songs, 11 posts.

All of us have that special album.  For me, it was The Joshua Tree, produced by four talented, ambitious musicians who, incredibly have stayed together and are still making music and playing sold out stadiums.

Seeing this album played live is going to be extremely valuable…

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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