Don’t Forget the Songs-365: Mach Tres: Day 49
Mon, Mar 18, 2013
Before U2 lost themselves within the “Discotheque” inspired anthems of 1997’s Pop, Bono, The Edge, Adam Clayton and Larry Mullen Jr. went full chill out mode with their friend: The guru of Ambient electronic music Brian Eno. Together with Eno, U2 formed the experimental ensemble better known as The Passengers. Brian Eno discussed the genesis of The Passengers project with U2 when he said, “In the studio, it’s easy to get to the screwdriver level, where you’re debating about the slightest things and getting obsessive. I suggested we do some improvising sessions, just turn the tape on and play, so we were working with a broad brush rather than the one-hair brushes we’d been using. It was designed to open us up a little, and it proved to be a good way of originating music.”
The first fruits of these experimentation was Original Soundtracks Vol. 1.The idea for The Passengers project was the create soundtracks to movies that do not exist. Most critics heard these soundtracks as the heir to Eno’s Music for Films. Just ask Tim Booth and the members of James; [Brian produced James’ seminal album Laid based on timeless pop song improvisations captured by Eno in the studio] Brian lives for the moment of surrender within the sound of improvisation as he explained, “Listening to the original improvisations as they came off the floor, you feel the excitement of the process. The dynamic between things falling apart slightly and coming back together again is an important aspect of improvisation. You have to be careful not to disturb the organic flow of the thing. I love that sense of discovery. So I told them on this project, we’d just work with whatever we got. What we’d generate was not a map of the material, but the material itself.”
Not every one in U2 was enamored with the idea of creating ambient sounds capes in the studio with Brian Eno. Strict traditionalist, Larry Mullen Jr. was not a fan of The Passengers project; The U2 drummer never hid how much he detested Original Soundtracks Vol. 1. when he famously said, “There’s a thin line between interesting music and self-indulgence. We crossed it on the Passengers record.” Because of Mullen’s dislike of the band’s sonic collaboration with Brian Eno, Original Soundtracks Vol. 1 didn’t have U2’s name on it; the project was released under the moniker The Passengers.
But Mullen Jr. was wrong; all was not all self-indulgent with The Passengers. Through this experimental project grew the successful hit single that featured Luciano Pavarotti. Bono explained the genesis of The Passengers most famous collaboration when he said, ““Miss Sarajevo” is another song that has got to be right up there. That was a trip, to write a libretto for a voice like Pavarotti’s. To get the right frame for that I was impersonating my father singing in the bath impersonating Pavarotti.”
Even though Pavarotti hounded Bono for weeks trying to get the U2 singer to finish a song, he promised to Luciano at one point even saying, “I am going to speak to God to speak to you. It’s Easter. When I call you next, you will have a song.” Bono didn’t have to go very far finding inspiration in war torn Sarajevo. Bono looked to his friend Bill Carter’s documentary Miss Sarajevo for the title of his Passengers opus. In U2 by U2, Bono discussed the serious back story of Original Soundtracks Vol. 1 most beloved song, “[“Miss Sarajevo”] was our response to the surreal acts of defiance that had taken place during the siege of Sarajevo. One woman refused to go to the shelter and used to play the piano when they were being bombarded. Another woman organized a beauty contest. “We will fight with our lipstick and heels,” she said. All the most beautiful girls in Sarajevo walked out on stage with sashes saying, “Do you really want to kill us?” It was pure dada and it deserved to be celebrated in song.”
Pavarotti agreed and you can tell by his glorious solo. I love the way Luciano’s singing soars so angelic, turning The Passengers experimental pop song into ethereal regions with his sacred vocal chords. Eno praised Pavarotti’s professionalism in the studio when he once said, “[Luciano Pavarotti] was really easy to work with — he (recorded) the high notes first. People always assume that classical music is earnestly correct in the way it works, but those guys really know how to cheat. We’ve got nothing on them.”
Although The Passengers was conceived to create cerebral ambient sonic experiments, Original Soundtracks Vol. 1 will be remembered for this poignant classic. Joining Bono, The Edge, Adam Clayton, Larry Mullen Jr. and Brian Eno was Pavarotti’s angelic voice that turned “Miss Sarajevo” into a passionate pop song.” So memorably timeless that Bono admitted to The Irish Times his favorite U2 song ever was “Miss Sarajevo.” Even The Edge agreed with Bono saying, “[Miss Sarajevo] was a tune that really spoke so strongly to us when we started listening back to the old material. I always liked it at the time, but it has really stood the test of time. It’s one of our best ever songs.” Bono and The Edge a millions of U2 fans cannot be wrong. “Miss Sarajevo” is one of the most haunting classics into the U2 canon. Let “Miss Sarajevo’s” beautiful bravery— woo you once again.