Gerard Walsh: My Top 10...

Editor of the Goulburn Post Gerard Walsh has been a fan of U2 for as long as he can remember.

He, for all we know, is one of a small contingent of the internet pretty stoked to get their new album Songs Of Innocence automatically downloaded to his iPhone, free of charge.

Here, Gerard shares with us his Top 10 favourite U2 tracks of all time...

Gerard Walsh: My Top 10 U2 Songs

GEN Y are asking “who the f*** is U2”?

I don’t think anyone knows. Not even Bono, the Irish supergroup’s ubiquitous frontman.

You see young pups, there is no point defining a band that continues to redefine music and popular culture after almost 35 years.

Their 13th studio album Songs Of Innocence this month lobbed up unexpectedly in the iTunes library of millions of account holders who weren’t even alive when the boys chopped down The Joshua Tree and headed for the zoo.

True believers will know what I am talking about.

Bono was The Fly (when he was not masquerading around as MacPhisto) while The Edge morphed into a wizard, revolutionising guitar sonics.

Almost a quarter of a century since the release of Achtung Baby (U2’s 7th album is still universally regarded as one of the greatest of all time), along comes the iTunes launch and the social media fallout.

It’s so very much U2, just the way they wanted it.

Apple gave away Songs of Innocence in a deal rumoured to be worth $A108 million.

U2 get the cash and the world is talking about them again.

My message for those who felt violated by the sickening act of one of the world’s greatest bands giving them a freebie (with no strings) is to get over it.

Embrace the constantly evolving sounds of an enduring, supremely talented quartet that has heavily influenced the likes of Coldplay, The Killers, Radiohead, Oasis, Kings Of Leon etc.

And what’s the bet that those iTunes natives grumbling about U2’s download as a form of reverse piracy have illegally downloaded music and movies themselves?

U2 – those post-punk pub rockers who revolutionised big stadium concert theatrics - are as relevant as they ever were

Just like Zoo TV in the early 90s, Bono has thrust himself uninvited into our homes, but this time it isn’t via MTV or the video player; it’s digital media.

And they reckon he’s an old hack.

Now for a 25 words or less review: Songs Of Innocence has hints of Pop, and the bang and clash of War and October. Bono’s poetry is sublime. ‘This is Where You Can Reach Me’ a standout.

For those Gen Ys who have no idea what I’ve been on about, may I suggest YouTubing these; my all time top 10 U2 songs.

Not necessarily their biggest hits, these are just a cross section from their deep, eclectic back catalogue which gives noobies some idea of the band’s prodigious, original song making capabilities.

10: Pride (In The Name Of Love) – From The Unforgettable Fire (1984). 

Written about Martin Luther King Jr. Bono explains: "I looked at how glorious that song was and thought: 'What the f*** is that all about?' It's just a load of vowel sounds ganging up on a great man. It is emotionally very articulate - if you didn't speak English language."

9: I Will Follow – Boy (1980).

That pure vinyl sound. Nothing even comes close these days. Bono wrote the lyrics as a tribute to his mum who died when he was 14. The single laid down the foundation of the band’s guitar sound and Bono’s vocal dexterity. A ripper played live. ‘Iris (Hold Me Close)’ on Songs Of Innocence is also a tribute to Bono’s mum.

8: MLK - The Unforgettable Fire (1984).

So I rave on about Bono a bit. Listen to this, without distraction, in a dark room, and you’ll know why (and why schoolmates nicknamed the young Paul Hewson Bono Vox). It’s a lullaby, and another tribute to King, sung sublimely with soulful purpose. “In the scriptures they talk about the blood crying from the ground. And with MLK you have just that, the blood crying from the ground – but not for revenge, for understanding,” Bono says. 

7: Original of the Species – How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb (2004).  

One of many U2 songs that jumps out when played live (they added orchestra and piano on stage). Bono and The Edge dedicate this to their daughters. John Lennon’s music was also a heavy influence in its composition. 

6: Even Better Than The Real Thing – Achtung Baby (1991).

It’s U2 having fun. Hot, sweeping guitar riffs and whammy effects underscore this energetic tune about the advent of the 90s decade and maybe a bit of sexual tension: "It was reflective of the times (the band) were living in, when people were no longer looking for the truth, (they) were all looking for instant gratification,” Bono says. Edge reckons the chorus riff was “as close as we could or would ever want to get to the Rolling Stones”. Featuring an avant-garde video, the single also spawned some popular dance remixes and the catchy B-side Salome

5: Lemon – Zooropa (1993).

Just when you thought it was safe to pigeonhole the band post-1990 as an industrial, self deprecating outfit intent on riding the wave of media saturation, along comes this little number which, to this day, I still don’t really understand. Bono sings in falsetto (his Fat Lady voice). The lyrics are bizarre and Edge, also an accomplished singer, harmonises on the chorus. The clip features footage of Bono’s late mother wearing a lemon-coloured dress at a wedding.  “There’s a poignancy to the lyric,” Bono says. “There are two things going on, memory and loss, a portrait of a girl in a shimmering lemon dress that kept it sexy and playful, and the pathos of a man separated from the things he loves.” The song was spawned from something Edge worked up with a drum machine and bass. 

4: In A Little While – All That You Can’t Leave Behind (2000).

Not a big band song, but more of a melodic lyrical reflection of Bono’s relationship with his wife Ali. “A little girl with Spanish eyes, when I saw her in a pram they pushed her by/Oh my, my how you've grown …” is reference to when Bono was called a babysnatcher by his mates in the mall for dating a girl a year below. “They say a year is a lot in showbusiness. In high school, it’s a lifetime,” he says. He added it was sung in a voice “that was up all night”. Sweetest Thing also references Ali. 

3: Staring At The Sun – Pop (1997).

For me, a lovely, simple song on an album many consider to be the band’s most disappointing. The acoustic version is so much more appealing. Edge says it was “another great tune that never became a great record. I don’t know why we didn’t quite nail it.” Bono, the philosopher, says “it nails a certain mood where you actually don’t want to know the truth because lies are more confronting”. 

2: With Or Without You (1987)

I won’t bore you with the myriad details about this chart topper’s incredible mechanics, the intense meaning of its lyrics or Bono’s ability to successfully extend his vocal range downward. He says “The lyric is pure torment. One of the things that was happening at the time was the collision in my own mind between being faithful to your art or being faithful to your lover.”

1: One – Achtung Baby (1991)

A masterpiece - lyrically, vocally and musically.  The song was written after the band members were inspired by a chord progression that Edge was playing in the studio. The lyrics were a response to the band members' fractured relationships and the German reunification.

It has featured in polls of the greatest songs of all time and is a staple at their live shows.  

"It is a song about coming together, but it's not the old hippie idea of 'Let's all live together.' It is, in fact, the opposite. It's saying, We are one, but we're not the same. It's not saying we even want to get along, but that we have to get along together in this world if it is to survive. It's a reminder that we have no choice,” Bono says.

Three videos of the single were shot; the best depicts Bono sitting at a table of a nightclub smoking a cheroot and drinking beer, interspersed with footage of the band performing in concert.

“While Bono was filmed, the rest of the band, along with models and transvestites, attended a party in the basement, awaiting their turns to be filmed. However, they were never called to the set and by 3am., they realised that the video was to focus on Bono,” says Wiki.