Chass (sapphires13) wrote in u2,

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Drive-by SOTD

So, I can't sleep, but I can never sleep, so that's nothing new. I was really bored though, so I started digging through the old SOTD archives. That kept me busy for a couple of hours. I read through SOTDs I'd missed the first time around (mainly because they were from before I joined the community, or shortly thereafter when I was still new to the fandom and didn't know all the songs) as well as some I'd read and commented on, just to refresh my memory.

Anyhow, one thing that struck me was that A Sort of Homecoming never really got a proper SOTD. It got covered once with basically no elaboration, and then later the Wide Awake In America version got covered with more elaboration, but it wasn't quite the same.

Since I've had my own strange experiences with the song, I thought I'd give it a go myself =) I've nothing better to do, and it does just happen to be Wednesday, which was my regular SOTD day back before people got tired of this and we still had one every day (also back before we basically ran out of songs to cover =P):

"A Sort of Homecoming" from The Unforgettable Fire

I can't remember where I first heard this song. It may have been on XM Radio, I don't know, but it was definitely before I bought the album. And I hated the song the first time I heard it.
I didn't understand it, and thought it sounded cheesy and strange. In particular the "oh come away" chorus reminded me of the "wimoweh"s in The Lion Sleeps Tonight, and it just bothered me. After I made that association, I just kept thinking "This sounds like it should be on the Lion King soundtrack!" and generally didn't give it much of a chance. Even after I got the album, I tended to skip it.

But somewhere along the line, I found out what the song was about, and in fact that it seemed to have more to do with the title of the album, The Unforgettable Fire than the song of the same name did (I still don't know what The Unforgettable Fire-the song is about, although I love it.) Let me grab a quote from a 1985 interview with Bono regarding the album title and a hint of what A Sort of Homecoming is about:

Interviewer: I've read that The Unforgettable Fire is the title of a collection of poetry from the survivors of Hiroshima, and I wondered if that's where you took the album's title from.

Bono: That's right -- in fact, it's more than that. I wish it was talked about a lot more. The Unforgettable Fire is an exhibition of paintings, drawings and writings done by survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. They were done by people of all age groups, from 7 to 70 years old, by amateurs and professionals, and they are an art treasure in Japan. We had come into contact with them through the Chicago Peace Museum, because we were part of an exhibit in the museum in '83, the Give Peace A Chance exhibit. And the images from the paintings and some of the writings stained me, I couldn't get rid of them. Their influence on the album was a subliminal one, but I realized as the album was moving on, that this image of "the unforgettable fire" applied not only to the nuclear winterscape of "A Sort of Homecoming," but also the unforgettable fire of a man like Martin Luther King, or the consuming fire which is heroin. So it became a multi-purpose image for me, but it derived from that exhibition.

Nuclear winter is a hypothetical condition which would occur due to pollutants left in the air after a nuclear war. The theory is that the dirt, ash, and smoke left in the air would block sunlight to the point of creating harsh winter conditions. Kind of like the polar opposite of global warming.
And "The Unforgettable Fire" was a series of paintings and writings created by the survivors of the nuclear bombs in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Now there's the connection.

Getting the image of nuclear winter in my head made the whole song suddenly make sense. It's the story of survivors, living in a nuclear winter. Once I understood that, I started loving the song. I should point out that the title of the song comes from the line "Poetry is a sort of homecoming." from Paul Celan, a German-Romanian poet, who incidentally was a concentration camp survivor, so again we're back to WWII survivors. Everything's circular. But let's focus on the poetry for a moment, the entire song is an incredibly poetic description of the desolation and desperation of life after nuclear war. It makes me want to write a dystopian novel or something.

I seem to be going off on tangents here. Let me just get into the actual song. It kicks off with a steady drum beat, and Edge is not far behind with chimes and scrapes, followed by Adam. The bassline is simple, but melodic. I'm rather fond of the bassline in this song, there are moments later in the song when it really comes into focus and just seems to hold the song together.
When Bono comes in, he sounds rather young, and his voice is pretty. He comes straight in with that winter imagery: "through the sleet and driving snow". The lyrics themselves, in the verses anyway, are quite sad, with their brilliant depictions of the desolation, but oddly, these sad verses are interspersed with lines of hope: "I'll be there, I'll be there, tonight, a high road, a high road out from here"
And this has just occurred to me, but if you notice, at the end of the song the opening verse is repeated, but with changes. At the beginning of the song the line is "Through the sleet and driving snow", but by the end of the song its "Through the rain and fallen snow" a weather change which may suggest that winter will soon be ending, another sign of hope. Also, I think the she in "she will die and live again" is referring to the Earth, rather than some unnamed human female.

I think I've gone on enough about the general meaning of the song though. I'd really like to focus on the delivery of particular lines. Bono really does give a stunning performance in this song. Take for example "and your earth moves beneath your own dream landscape" that's poetic (okay, I keep wanting to say "poetical" which is a sign that I've watched too much Firefly) enough on its own, but I just love the way he sings the last two words, he makes them into one, dreamlandscape, I think the first time I heard it I thought it was "dreamland scape" and didn't think it quite made sense XD
Also, of course, I must praise his impassioned vocals: "Oh, OH, OOOH! On BorderLAND we RUUUUUUN!" and so forth. And his voice sounds beautiful during the "ToniiiiaahhhaIIIIGHHHT" at the end of the whispery section.
Also at this point I must praise Edge's fantastic harmonizing. I don't think Bono and Edge have ever sounded better than this singing together, so this song gets another thumbs up from me, just for that.

Now because there's so many specific parts of this song that I love (and I honestly can't believe I ever hated it, but I guess I just didn't give it a chance), I must make this ridiculous post even longer and address my two favourite bits:

"And we live by the side of the road
On the side of a hill
As the valley EXPLOOODE
DISlocated, SUFfocated
The land grows weary of its own


The wind will CRACK in winter time
This bomb-blast liiiiightning waltz

TonIIIGHT we'll build a bridge
Across the sea and laaaand
See the SKY, the burning rain
She will DIE and live again

Yes, I had to add Bono-emphasis in text. I just love the way he performs those bits. I'm especially fond of "this bomb-blast lightning waltz", those are such powerful words.

Last but not least, I like pointing out that the first time I heard this song, I misheard "no spoken words" as "no fuckin' words" which shocked me, because I was sure that Bono didn't learn how to swear until the 90s ;P I still sing it that way sometimes. I like it XD I also misheard "we run and don't look back" as "we run and tug about" which doesn't really make any sense, but misheard lyrics often don't *shrug*

Hope this SOTD wasn't too scattered to be enjoyable, here are your lyrics:

A Sort of Homecoming

And you know it's time to go
Through the sleet and driving snow
Across the fields of mourning
Light in the distance

And you hunger for the time
Time to heal, 'desire' time
And your earth moves beneath
Your own dream landscape

Oh, oh, oh
On borderland we run

I'll be there
I'll be there
A high road
A high road out from here

The city walls are all pulled down
The dust, a smoke screen all around
See faces ploughed like fields that once
Gave no resistance

And we live by the side of the road
On the side of a hill
As the valley explode
Dislocated, suffocated
The land grows weary of its own

Oh some away, oh come away, oh come
Oh come away, I say I
Oh come away, oh come away, oh come
Oh come away, I say I

Oh, oh, oh
On borderland we run
And still we run
We run and don't look back
I'll be there
I'll be there

I'll be there tonight... I believe
I'll be there... so hold on
I'll, I'll be there... tonight

Oh come away, and say you say, oh come
Oh come away, you say

The wind will crack in winter time
This bomb-blast lightning waltz
No spoken words, just a scream

Tonight we'll build a bridge
Across the sea and land
See the sky, the burning rain
She will die and live again

And your heart beats so slow
Through the rain and fallen snow
Across the fields of mourning
Lights in the distance

Oh don't sorrow, no don't weep
For tonight, at last
I am coming home
I am coming home

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