Annie (canadanne) wrote in u2,

Song Of The Day

This week I've chosen a classic performance of a U2 concert staple:

Bullet The Blue Sky
from Rattle And Hum

This version of the song appears both on the album and in the movie, and was recorded at the final show of the Joshua Tree Tour, at the Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe, Arizona. It may not be quite as striking and explosive as the later ZooTV version, but it's still very powerful - and it's absolutely central to Rattle & Hum itself, providing both the title and that iconic cover image. So I do think it's deserving of its own SOTD. :)

In the film, Bullet The Blue Sky is immediately preceded by that awesome soundbite from Adam Clayton: "There are people who would say that you shouldn't mix music and politics... but I think that's kinda bullshit." :D  From there it cuts straight to the image of an American flag lighting up in a blaze of pyrotechnics, accompanied by a recording of Jimi Hendrix playing The Star Spangled Banner on electric guitar at the Woodstock Festival. Wikipedia describes it as "a tune he played loudly and sharply accompanied by simulated sounds of war (machine guns, bombs and screams) from his guitar", with opinions divided over how to interpret this musical statement. So it really goes hand-in-hand with Bullet The Blue Sky, a song about "the unacceptable face of America". And the transition sounds great!

Bullet was already a good song on the Joshua Tree album, crackling with menace and fear and anger, but on the tour they were faced with the challenge of really bringing it to life - making it five times more dramatic, ensuring it didn't simply fall flat with its slowish pace. And I think they did that marvellously, although it did have the unfortunate side effect of making the album version sound a bit pedestrian. :)  It's big and loud and fiercely passionate - just the intro is enough to get you stomping along energetically. Every band member plays an essential role in this song, with Larry's heavy drumbeats driving it forward, Adam's ominous bassline creating all the atmosphere, Edge's guitar screams providing the drama, and Bono holding your attention with a fantastically aggressive vocal performance. I absolutely love the way he throws himself into it, fuelled by the vivid imagery of the lyrics, growling and howling as if the world is coming to an end while he's standing there in the middle of it all. As has become traditional, it's performed on a dark stage with only some moody red lighting for added foreboding.

Bono's low "Yeahhh..." after the second chorus, followed by a mumbled bit that sounds like "Alright... I want you", is extremely cool and one of my favourite moments in the song. The subsequent "So this guy comes up to me" speech is also much more theatrical than it had been on the original album, especially when it comes to "Outside it's America! Outside it's America!" which is another highlight. At this point Bono fetches his big spotlight and shines it on Edge from different angles while he's playing his guitar solo. The bridge itself is rather more exciting than the studio version, too, with Edge really emphasising those big guitar bursts as Bono swings the spotlight back and forth between the guitar and the audience - such a memorable image. Bono's next speech is a new addition to the song, and who can forget that oft-quoted concluding line: "Well the God I believe in isn't short of cash, mister!"

This leads smoothly into the final section, which is another of my favourite parts - I love the repetition of "Pelting the women and children", and the way he spits out the words "...who run..." with a big intake of breath beforehand. And the ending is just a thousand times more effective than the JT version, with the huge pause between "Into the arms..." and "...of America". It's so difficult to time the gap when you're singing along with it, though. ;)


In the howling wind comes a stinging rain
See them driving nails into the souls on the tree of pain
From the firefly, a red orange glow
I see the face of fear running scared in the valley below

(Sky) / Ooh ooh ooh ooh
(Sky) / Ooh ooh ooh ooh
Bullet the blue sky / (Sky)
Bullet the blue sky / (Sky)
Bullet the blue / (Sky)
Bullet the blue / (Sky)

In the locust wind comes a rattle and hum
Jacob wrestled the angel, and the angel was overcome
You plant a demon seed, you raise a flower of fire
I see them burning crosses, see the flames higher and higher

(Sky) / Ooh ooh ooh ooh
(Sky) / Ooh ooh ooh ooh
Bullet the blue sky / (Sky)
Bullet the blue sky / (Sky)
Bullet the blue / (Sky)
Bullet the blue / (Sky)

(Alright... I want you)

So this guy comes up to me
His face red like a rose on a thorn bush
Like all the colours of a royal flush
And he's peelin' off those dollar bills
Slappin' 'em down
One hundred!
Two hundred!

And I can see those fighter planes
I can see those fighter planes

Across the mud huts where the children sleep
Through the valleys and the quiet city streets
We take the staircase to the first floor
We turn the key and slowly unlock the door
A man breathes into a saxophone
And through the walls we hear the city groan
Outside it's America!
Outside it's America!

So I'm back in my hotel room
With John Coltrane and a love supreme
And in the next room I hear some woman scream out
And her lover's turning off, turning on the television
And I can't tell the difference between ABC News, Hill Street Blues...
And a preacher in the old time gospel hour
Stealing money from the sick and the old

Well the God I believe in isn't short of cash, mister

And I feel a long way from the hills of San Salvador
Where the sky is ripped open
And the rain pours through a gaping wound
Pelting the women and children
Pelting the women and children

Who run...
Who run...
Into the arms...
...of America

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