Wednesday, October 1, 2014

the unforgettable fire

U2 brought an incandescent new vision to their sound with the expansive sonic experiments of this impressionist dream landscape.  After three albums with producer Steve Lillywhite ('Boy', 'October', and 'War'), the band was ready to explore a new direction.  

"We felt we had more dimension than just the next big anything, we had something unique to offer. The innovation was what would suffer if we went down the standard rock route. We were looking for another feeling."

"I thought it was a great idea to get someone to come in and help us develop in a different way.  It seemed we had done very well on three chords and the truth but we needed someone who could take our songs in a different direction, add new textures and explore new ways of using the studio."

"We were looking for something that was a little bit more serious, more arty.  Roxy Music was a name that kept coming up, with a sense that this was the sonic territory of European pop music as opposed to American rock.  Brett Davies had produced Roxy and we had a meeting with him that didn't really go anywhere.  Then we started thinking about Brian Eno, who had been the keyboard player in Roxy Music and had gone on to produce Bowie and Talking Heads."

They sought out Brian Eno to produce their new album; but he was resistant.  Bono convinced him to come to Dublin to meet the band and Eno brought his engineer Daniel Lanois as well.  

"We were talking about different recording approaches, about ambient recording, in the sense of trying to capture not just the performance but the sonic interaction of the people in the room.  I thing Brian became very interested in this.  We also discussed trying to find a really great-sounding space and use the acoustics of the room as a natural characteristic of the recordings."

It was agreed that Eno and Lanois would work in tandem and the band began recording at Slane Castle where the band and crew set up residence for over a month.   

"The sound in magnificent.  If Phil Spector was oing to lie in state, it would be here.  And we have this thing in our head:  we're going to make the big music.  That's who we are.  We're not indie; we're not miserable; we're full of joy and we are going to take over where Phil Spector left off.  Big ideas, big themes, big sound.  We're going to take risks and prove just how elastic a rock band can be.  And we had Brian Eno as our producer...This great artist and superb strategist went to woek for these rather uncouth Irish musicians.  He had his friend at his side, Daniel Lanois, who had more music in his little finger than Brian had in every appendage.  A truly funk soul brother, the skinny white guy in every funky band, a guy who reeks of music.   The combination was deadly.  Larry and Adam, as insecure as they were on the studio, suddenly started to warm to this Canadian, this Danny Boy, who just brought the best out of them.  Myself and Edge, who were more cerebral, were attracted by Brian's big ideas.  Every great rock band in the British invasion went to art school.  We never did, we went to Brian.  And his was a great act of generousity.  Those arpeggiating sequences you hear in 'Band' and later on 'The Joshua Tree', they're him.  He analysed our songwriting , allowed us to get away from the primary colours of rock into another world were we could really describe ourselves in what was gong on around us.  It was  monumental." 

The sessions were produced and engineered by Eno and Lanois and featured Bono on lead vocals;  The Edge on guitar, keyboards, and vocals;  Adam Clayton on bass guitar; and Larry Mullen, Jr. on drums;   with Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois on additional vocals, instruments, and treatments; Paul Barret on Fairlight;  Chrissie Hynde on backing vocals on "Pride (In The Name of Love)" (thanked as "Mrs. Christine Kerr" on the record sleeve); and Peter Gabriel on vocals on "A Sort Homecoming" (Daniel Lanois Remix).   Mixing and postproduction were done at Windmill Lane Studios.  Eno left before the album was completed, impatient with the slow progress.  Lanois stayed on to finish the mixing.  Many of the songs were locked in with improvised lyrics.  

'The Unforgettable Fire' burned up the charts, going to number twenty-seven in Portugal; twelve in the US; six in Norway and Sweden; five in Canada; and number one in Australia, New Zealand, and the UK.  The album cover features the band in front of the ruins of Moydrum Castle, not Slane Castle.   The band would release the EP 'Wide Awake in America' the next year with live versions of two songs from the tour and two b-sides that honestly should have been on the album.  

Bono:  "The theme of the album was a flirtation with death, nuclear fission, the raw material for a power plant or for weapons of total destruction."

'Pride (In the Name of Love)' rang out around the world, going to number thirty-three on the US pop chart, twenty-seven in Canada, five in the Netherlands, three in the UK, two in Ireland and on the US mainstream rock track chart, and number one in New Zealand.

 Donald Cammell version

 Anton Corbijn version

'The Unforgettable Fire'  hit number six in the UK, four in the Netherlands, three in New Zealand, and one in Ireland. 

Your only rivers run cold
These city lights
They shine as silver and gold
Dug from the night
Your eyes as black as coal

Walk on by
Walk on through
Walk 'til you run
And don't look back
For here I am

The wheels fly and the colors spin
Through alcohol
Red wine that punctures the skin
Face to face
In a dry and waterless place

Walk on by
Walk on through
So sad to besiege your love so head on
Stay this time
Stay tonight in a lie
I'm only asking but I
I think you know
Come on take me away
Come on take me away
Come on take me home
Home again

And if the mountain should crumble
Or disappear into the sea
Not a tear, no not I

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

A Sort Of Homecoming

And you know it's time to go
Through the sleet and driving snow
Across the fields of mourning
Light in the distance

And you hunger for the time
Time to heal, desire, time
And your earth moves beneath
Your own dream landscape

Oh, oh, oh 
On borderland we run 

I'll be there
I'll be there 
A high road
A high road out from here

The city walls are all come down
The dust, a smoke screen all around
See faces ploughed like fields that once
Gave no resistance

And we live by the side of the road
On the side of a hill 
As the valley explode
Dislocated, suffocated
The land grows weary of its own

Oh, oh, oh on borderland we run 
And still we run
We run and don't look back
I'll be there
I'll be there

I'll be there tonight I believe
I'll be there somehow
I'll be there tonight

The wind will crack in winter time
This bomb-blast lightning waltz
No spoken words, just a scream 

Tonight we'll build a bridge 
Across the sea and land
See the sky, the burning rain
She will die and live again

And your heart beats so slow
Through the rain and fallen snow
Across the fields of mourning
Light's in the distance

Oh don't sorrow, no don't weep
For tonight, at last
I am coming home

I am coming home


'The Unforgettable Fire' 
full album

All lyrics written by Bono, all music composed by U2.

1. "A Sort of Homecoming"   5:28
2. "Pride (In the Name of Love)"   3:48
3. "Wire"   4:19
4. "The Unforgettable Fire"   4:55
5. "Promenade"   2:35
6. "4th of July"   2:12
7. "Bad"   6:09
8. "Indian Summer Sky"   4:17
9. "Elvis Presley and America"   6:23
10. "MLK"   2:31

b sides 

Three Sunrises

 Love Comes Tumbling

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