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Don’t Forget the Songs-365: Mach Dos: Day 354
Sat, Jan 05, 2013

“One”
U2

1991

“♫ One
life with each
other/ sisters/
brothers/ One
life, but we’re
not the same/
we get to carry
each other/
carry each
other
♫”

As Bono, The Edge, Larry and Adam stood at Hansa Studios in Berlin I’m sure it felt like the way Mullen Jr. described it, “I thought this might be the end. We had been through tough circumstances before and found our way out. But it was always outside influences that we were fighting against for the first time it felt like the cracks were within.” This was 1991, with producers Brian Eno, Daniel Lanois and engineer Flood were witnessing the demise of Ireland’s most famous rock band of the last ten years.

But something happened in that room that saved the day, The Edge started playing a few chords and Bono explained the evolution of “One” when he said, “The words just fell out of the sky, a gift. We had a request from the Dalai Lama to participate in a festival called Oneness. I love and respect the Dalai Lama but there was something a little bit ‘let’s hold hands hippie to me about this particular event. I am in awe of the Tibetan position on non-violence but this event didn’t strike a chord. I sent him back a note saying, ‘One—but not the same.””

As Edge played those holy chords he felt something in the room as he described in U2 by U2, when he said, “At the instant of recording it, I got a very strong sense of [“One’s”] power. We were all playing together in the big recording room, a huge, eerie ballroom full of ghosts of the war, and everything finally into place. It was a very reassuring moment. It’s the reason you’re in a band – when the spirit descends upon you and you create something truly affecting. “One” is an incredibly moving piece. It hits straight into the heart.”

There was something achingly beautiful about “One.” It was an uplifting and tragic love song all rolled into one. You can hear it when on your highest peak or feel it during your deepest depths. Bono described his intention when writing and singing “One” when he said, “There was a melancholy about [”One”] but there was also strength. Brian [Eno] wanted to rid it of it’s melancholy and so talked us into taking off the acoustic guitar, which is perhaps the obvious accompaniment, and went to work with Daniel [Lanois] and Edge to undermine the ‘too beautiful’ feeling. Hence those kind of crying guitar parts that have an aggression to them. Great songs tend to have some kind of tension at the very heart of them, the bitter and the sweet balanced perfectly.”

You can feel it in the song, when Bono sings, in any state of mind, “One” can save you or reflect your aching soul. Bono talked about the meaning of “One” when he explained, ““One” is not about oneness, it’s about difference. It is not the old hippie idea of ‘Let’s all live together.’ It’s much more punk rock, its anti-romantic concept. “♫ We are one but we’re not the same. We get to carry each other ♫.” It’s a reminder that we have a choice. I’m still disappointed when people hear the chorus line as “we’ve got to” rather than “we get to carry each other.” Because it is resigned, really. There’s something very unromantic about that. The song is twisted.”

Thinking of the four of us, my wife, my brother-in-law, his wife [my sister-in-law] and all that we’ve faced this week, “One” comes to mind. Four people in a situation and trying to find reason, peace of mind and love at the end of this long and troubling road. It helps not going through this anguish alone. And this twisted song has helped us carry each other in his time of need. It kind of feels like we’ve been chasing a ghost, the shadow of a man, for the past week. The wrinkled old man reminds me of those buffalos from the U2 “One” video, those poor animals that just fall off the cliff. As we’ve been chasing clues, going up against red tape, interviewing witnesses it feels like we’re living one of my wife’s favorite 48 Hours episodes. We just want to save this from watching this old buffalo plunge to his unfortunate fate. The song that saved U2 has become our familia’s rally cry anthem. We may be not the same but at least we’re facing it together as one.

Here’s the ‘buffalo version’ of “One:”

Here’s Anton Corbjin’s “One”

And here’s a rare cover between members of U2 & R.E.M. Automatic Baby doing “One”

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