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July 23rd, 2006

Song Of The Day @ 03:15 am

canadanne:
What's this... could it be? An album track that hasn't yet been featured in Song Of The Day? OK, so it's a live track, but it's from an album just the same...

All Along The Watchtower

Appearing on Rattle & Hum (and in the film itself), this rockin' Dylan cover was performed at a spontaneous free outdoor concert in San Francisco during the Joshua Tree tour. Energetic, passionate and - in my opinion - highly underrated!


All Along The Watchtower originally featured on Bob Dylan's 1967 album John Wesley Harding, but it was Jimi Hendrix's cover the following year which made the song a hit - in fact it seems to be widely regarded as the definitive version. I may be verging on blasphemy here, but personally, I've never really understood what's so great about the Hendrix version. I appreciate that he was an amazing guitarist and all, but I don't find his version of the song to be particularly interesting... whereas U2's performance utterly rocks my socks!  (I can't comment on Dylan's original, as I don't think I've ever heard it.)

The background story:
Towards the end of the Joshua Tree tour, on 11th November 1987, U2 decided to hold a free concert in San Francisco in the spirit of the 60s "Summer of Love". Being a completely last-minute impulse, they didn't actually have any of their own equipment handy, as it was already on the way to Vancouver for the next show (along with most of the roadcrew!). Not letting themselves be put off by this minor problem, U2 simply borrowed a sound system from The Grateful Dead (as you do), and the gig went ahead on the back of a truck at the Justin Herman Plaza, on the edge of the city's financial district. Coming soon after a major stock market crash, Bono dubbed the concert a "Save The Yuppies" benefit and invited donations of briefcases!  Despite the show not being announced until two hours before it was due to start, it attracted a crowd of around 20,000 people and brought traffic on the nearby overpass to a standstill. (The movie shows scenes of Bono during 'Pride' later in the gig, infamously climbing the huge Vaillancourt fountain sculpture and spray-painting "ROCK N ROLL STOPS THE TRAFFIC" onto it. The graffiti was cleaned off by the following day, but the mayor still tried to have Bono arrested for this act of vandalism. Luckily for the singer, the charges were eventually dropped after the sculptor said Bono's actions were in keeping with the spirit of his work, and funnily enough the mayor's successor actually set up a fund to sponsor the work of graffiti artists in the city!  Bono also gave the sculptor a chance to get his own back, inviting him onstage three days after the incident and allowing him to spray "Stop The Madness!" onto U2's set. *g*)

The band opened this controversial gig with All Along The Watchtower, which was a bold move considering they didn't actually know how to play it. They'd only ever performed it live once before, at a gig on the Boy tour, and it's evident when you watch the film that they really didn't have it worked out properly in advance - they're literally moments from being brought out on stage when Bono decides they'd better figure out the chords!  I don't think the lack of preparation shows, though... Niall Stokes (in his book Into The Heart) remarks on "some startlingly odd moments of musical disjointedness", but I can't say I've ever noticed anything wrong with it myself. It's kind of fitting that they kicked off with a Dylan cover, as Bono has cited the legendary songwriter as being "the one that sent us on this journey into the past that ended up with Rattle & Hum", after Dylan pointed him in the direction of the American blues singers as well as advising him to embrace his own Irish roots. There's even a subtle nod to Jimi Hendrix in the performance, with Edge imitating his famous version of The Star Spangled Banner as the song draws to a close.

The only way to describe this song - at least in U2's hands - is that it just plain and simple ROCKS. It's one of my favourite tracks on Rattle & Hum, although that's not really saying much, as I have about twelve favourite tracks on Rattle & Hum. ;p  It's impossible to listen to it without stomping along and really getting into it - the bassline is fantastic, and Bono screams each line as if his life depends upon it. I love the way he sings "thief-uhh!" (especially during the rehearsal scene in the film), and his little grunts in the middle, and the way he varies the second verse when he repeats it at the end ("And that is not our fate... at least today"). But by far my favourite section is the explosive finale. Bono is almost singing in a whisper until he gets to "Because the hour... is getting... late... late... YEAAAHHH!", at which point he launches into a thrillingly drawn-out series of impassioned yeahhh's. I absolutely LOVE singing along with this part, it's such a great release, especially the "Uhhhh huh! Uhhhh huh!" bit. :D

I won't delve too deeply into the lyrics as U2 of course didn't write them, but some analysis can be found here - I found it particularly interesting that Dylan suggests the song is written in reverse, with the ominous scene-setting at the end and the response to it at the beginning. Which doesn't really work in the U2 version, as Bono omitted the final lines ("Outside in the distance a wildcat did growl / Two riders were approaching, the wind began to howl"). However, Bono did improvise some additional lyrics of his own, which many people seem to like best of all - "All I got is a red guitar, three chords and the truth / All I got is a red guitar, the rest is up to you". That's a pretty awesome line, alright. Niall Stokes observes that it's the second time the red guitar shows up on the album, having been on fire in 'Desire'!  More subtle is the lyrical change Bono makes in the third verse. Originally written as "All along the watchtower, princes kept the view / While all the women came and went, barefoot servants too", Bono changes the princes to "empresses" and the women to "horsemen". It's yet another example of Bono putting women on a pedestal, a tendency that bonoffee referred to in several of her SOTDs.

U2 must have enjoyed playing the song live, as it went on to become a regular feature of the setlist for the Lovetown Tour in 1989-1990.


LYRICS

There must be some way out of here
Said the joker to the thief
There's too much confusion here
I can't get no relief

Businessmen they drink my wine
Ploughmen dig my earth
None of them know along the line
What any of this is worth
Yeahhh!

No reason to get excited
The thief he kindly spoke
There are many among us
Who think that life is but a joke

But you and I, we've been through that
And that is not our fate
So let us not talk falsely now
Because the hour is getting late
Hey, hey, hey!

(Ooh - ooh - ooh)

All along the watchtower
Empresses kept the view
While horsemen came and went
Barefoot servants too

All I got is a red guitar
Three chords and the truth
All I got is a red guitar
The rest is up to you

There's no reason to get excited
The thief he kindly spoke
Some among us here say that life is
Just a joke

You and I, we've been through that
And that is not our fate (at least today)
So let us not talk falsely now
Because the hour is getting late... late...

Yeeeaaaaahhh hea-ea-eaa yeah
Yeee-eeeahh, yea-ea-ea-e-ea-ea-eah
Yeeee-ea-ea-eah ea-e-ea-ea-ea-eah
Uhhh huh, uhhh huh
Yeeee-ea-ea-ea-e-ea-e-ea-ea-eahh
 
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Comments

 
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From:specialcamper
Date:July 23rd, 2006 02:36 am (UTC)
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This is one of my favorite live performances because I love that I past by the park all the time. I love climbing around the structure thinking "Bono could have been here!" *step* "Or here!".
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From:canadanne
Date:July 23rd, 2006 02:41 am (UTC)
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It must be a great U2 tourist attraction to visit!  I wonder if anyone in this community was actually at the concert?
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From:specialcamper
Date:July 23rd, 2006 02:57 am (UTC)
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There are a lot of U2 attractions in California. Weird.

I don't know if anyone here was there, but my freshman english teacher was there. After, she got a picture taken by the grafitti. Also, my foster brtothers dad was working on the street when they filmed "WHere the Streets have no name"

I think I remember hearing that a member had been to that filming as well...
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From:willow42
Date:July 23rd, 2006 02:42 am (UTC)
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ah, bono does put women on a pedestal doesn't he? <3 bliss

bob dylans version is marvelous btw...not as big fan of hendrix, great musician but everything ive seen and read makes me think he was a pompous ass
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From:sapphires13
Date:July 23rd, 2006 02:43 am (UTC)
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Curses! If I'd realized this hadn't been covered yet, I would've done it myself!

Several weeks ago, I got this song stuck in my head for whatever reason, and especially the little rehearsal bit, so I had to throw my DVD in and watch the whole track. Of course, that led to me flipping around the entire DVD and watching roughly half of the movie ;P

I don't know what I like so much about the whole thing. I guess because it was so unscheduled, that it just feels free and fun. But I'm glad you got to cover it, and not me, because I didn't know half of the stuff you just talked about (like the band borrowing equipment from the Dead!), so thanks for enlightening me =D
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From:canadanne
Date:July 23rd, 2006 02:48 am (UTC)
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Heehee, oops!

I didn't know half that stuff either until I got the books out this evening. I sure have learned a lot of trivia since I became an SOTD poster! :)
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From:sapphires13
Date:July 23rd, 2006 09:57 am (UTC)
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Annnnd, I just went and listened to it again. I really must agree with you about Bono's "yeaaaaaaah"s **grin**

But still the rehearsal bit is my favourite, I was watching that too, and I must say I found several things to giggle over during. Including someone offscreen asking "Who do we know that knows all the words to All Along the Watchtower?" WTFXDLOL, I should hope Bono does, but then again, if you watch closely, you can see that he appears to have the lyrics written down in front of him on several small sheets of paper. Also, note Larry boredly looking around and drumming a bit on the table, while Edge and Bono try to figure out the song.
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From:canadanne
Date:July 23rd, 2006 12:45 pm (UTC)

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Including someone offscreen asking "Who do we know that knows all the words to All Along the Watchtower?"

I know, I so nearly mentioned that as well!! *cracks up*
From:vintagefuck
Date:July 23rd, 2006 06:17 am (UTC)
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I've wasted a half hour of my life trying to find a screencap of that graffiti! And to no avail.

but alas you have made me want to watch rattle & hum ... and I will tomorrow. for now, I sleep.
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From:sapphires13
Date:July 23rd, 2006 09:51 am (UTC)
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You need only ask :)



Plus a few of the little devil in the act:

1 2 3 4 6 6
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From:sapphires13
Date:July 23rd, 2006 09:52 am (UTC)
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WTH, apparently the number 5 doesn't exist in my world XD
From:vintagefuck
Date:July 23rd, 2006 09:55 pm (UTC)
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!!

I love you!
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From:arcmorality
Date:July 23rd, 2006 01:00 pm (UTC)
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This is definetly one of the poorer tracks on R&H. Its not U2's best cover attempt. I prefer the cover of Dylan's Maggie's Farm they did.

Wouldn't it be cool to hear U2 do Tangled Up in Blue tho?
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From:cabaiste84
Date:July 24th, 2006 06:18 am (UTC)
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I adore Bob Dylan. Gotta say I squee'd when I first heard their cover of this song; 'twas definitely one of those "zomg fandoms colliding!!!" moments. :P

Only ever heard the Hendrix version once, while at the hairdressers a couple of weeks ago. So can't really comment just for the moment.

I do love this version though...can't believe that U2 only just threw it together at the last minute! I personally couldn't hear much in the way of disjointedness in the music at all, I thought it flowed very nicely indeed. To me, U2 just have the perfect combination of being slightly rough-around-the-edges on one hand, and slick and polished on the other...and this song just epitomised that for me. Do you find that listening to their music?

I adore Bono's voice on this track...just so rich and grunty and powerful and awesome! He totally has the sassy black chick factor in R&H if you see what I'm sayin'! I love his "YEEEEEEAAAHHHHHHs" as well, and I thought he sounded a lot like Andrew Strong in The Committments, one of my all time favourite movies. ;)

Oooh yeah, and I love it when Edge plays those few notes of The Star Spangled Banner at the end...a perfect finish! And I totally didn't know Bono improvised the "red guitar" lyrics! Dang, he rocks!

Bono changes the princes to "empresses" and the women to "horsemen". It's yet another example of Bono putting women on a pedestal

Heee, Bono is a feminist. :P I loves him.

Anyway, yeah, brilliant write-up, Annie! Just a thing, what do you think of their cover of Helter Skelter off R&H? Cos I know a lot of people don't particularly dig it.

Also, has Hawkmoon 269 been done as an SOTD, do you know?


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From:canadanne
Date:July 24th, 2006 08:29 pm (UTC)

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Wow, thank you for the awesome long comment! :D

'twas definitely one of those "zomg fandoms colliding!!!" moments. :P

Don't you just love those?!

Yeah, definitely know what you mean about U2 having the perfect balance. They can do rough, smooth and everything in between, and do it brilliantly every time!

what do you think of their cover of Helter Skelter off R&H?

I adore that one too!  Kat covered it for SOTD here, my comment is the last one on the page. Another great energetic performance.

Also, has Hawkmoon 269 been done as an SOTD, do you know?

Yes it has, just over a year ago. :)  The full list of songs covered so far is here!
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From:cabaiste84
Date:July 26th, 2006 12:05 am (UTC)
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I also adore that performance. :) Bono, of course, totally rips it up, but it's Edge's "Yeahs" that steal the show for me. :P And I love Bono's panting as well- yes, he probably is completely out of breath, but I think he's hamming it up slightly as well. In true Bono fashion, of course! *g*

As for Hawkmoon...am I allowed to go ahead and do a more detailed write-up of it? Do I need to ask your permission as the mod of the community?

Hehe, I've had a great time these past couple of days scrolling through all the SOTDs! (Procrastinating from Uni work, you see...:P) Just a thing I wanted to ask based on one of your comments- how does Bono have crap taste in music? Whenever I read interviews with him, he always seems to have awesome taste, especially when he mentions all the stuff he grew up on. Y'know...Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash, The Stones, The Beatles, The Clash, Joy Division etc. Whereabouts have you discovered that he doesn't have good taste in music?

Sorry for such a weird question. :P I know I shouldn't get so defensive when it comes to Bono, cos he's only human after all, and everyone's entitled to a least some crappy choices in fave bands! :P
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From:canadanne
Date:July 26th, 2006 07:11 pm (UTC)
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ARGH, I just wrote a whole reply to this comment and then I got kicked offline and lost it!  Let's try again...

As for Hawkmoon...am I allowed to go ahead and do a more detailed write-up of it? Do I need to ask your permission as the mod of the community?

LOL, why would you need my permission to write about a U2 song?  Did you want me to archive it as an SOTD?  (If so then I would just avoid doing it on a Sunday or Wednesday, so it doesn't clash with mine or Chass' song posts.)

(Procrastinating from Uni work, you see...:P)

Ah yes, I know what THAT'S like. ;)

Just a thing I wanted to ask based on one of your comments- how does Bono have crap taste in music?

Hrm, do you know whereabouts I made the comment?  I'd probably know what I was referring to if I could see the context of it!  I'm guessing it could be the way he frequently raves about awful pop acts and gives them his blessing to murder / rip off U2 songs... I know that tends to bother me quite a bit!

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