Chass (sapphires13) wrote in u2,
Chass
sapphires13
u2

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NOTE: I actually wrote this up weeks ago, but failed to post it:

So, it seems a few people still have an interest in SOTD. I decided maybe I'd like to do one, and began pondering what song I could cover. And then it occurred to me... I've done at least one song from every album except for Boy. And it just so happens that there's one song on Boy that I really like, and have a lot to say about.

"Shadows and Tall Trees" from Boy


The title from this song is also the title of chapter seven of Lord of the Flies. Bono had this to say on the subject (in "Into the Heart"):

The shadows and tall trees of the title were a reference to the atmosphere around the pylons that towered over Cedarwood Road and environs. "I remember thinking about that comparison between Lord of the Flies and where we were in Cedarwood, between Ballymun and Finglas. It was a quiet little street in one sense but my memory of it, growing up, is of being stuck between cowboys and indians, rumbles between the top end of the street and the bottom end of the street, between bootboys and skinheads, and so on. That's the way it was. And I remember thinking the shadows and tall trees are different here - but it's the same story, isn't it? It's all about war. We're all stuck on this island of suburbia and we're turning on each other."

This is one of U2's earliest songs. Originally written in 1978, it was a staple of U2's earliest shows, and would eventually be used to close out their debut album.
The song showcases some of Bono's unhappiness with his family life as a teenager after his mother died. The line from Sometimes You Can't Make it On Your Own comes to mind: "A house just don't make a home". I read an interview somwhere once (I don't recall where) in which Bono said that after his mother died, he would find himself spontaneously crying, just walking down the street, and not know why. Again, a line from I Will Follow comes to mind: "If he stops to think, he starts to cry, oh why."

All that said, you can really picture the image that starts to form. This is a boy who prefers the company of his strange family of friends (Lypton Village) and his new name (Bono Vox... or even before that, Steinhegvanhuysenolegbangbangbangbang ...I'm not kidding ;P) to his natural family and given name. I can imagine he stays out with his friends all day, has dinner with their families when he can (instead of the airplane food he had to endure at home) and would end each day walking slowly home alone in the dark, wishing only for the following day. This song is that walk.

There's a ton of imagery in this song, and someday I'd love to film my own video for it. Black and white, sweeping POV shots of the things the protaganist sees (such as Mrs. Brown's washing hanging on the line) paired with shots of the lonesome teen walking, and of course the shadows and tall trees themselves. I identify with this song. There were times in my teen years that I was so desperately lonely and miserable at home that I'd leave my house and simply walk with no destination, hoping against hope that I'd run into a friend or see a friendly face.
I can see everything in the song perfectly in my head. "Walls of white protest" - IRA graffiti perhaps?, "A gravestone in name" - his mother's grave, "life through a window" - looking in at a happy family as he passes by, and wishing he had the same.

The change comes halfway through the song. In my head I see the teen stop and lift his head up, looking up at the trees, up at heaven. And then: "Do you feel in meeeeee, anything redeeming, any worthwhile feeling" It would seem that the answer comes, because the rest of the song is of an entirely different mood. While the song starts out moody and depressive, it turns to something more. It's not exactly joyous, as there's still a bit of desperation there, but there's a certain sort of defiant hopefullness, as if to say "I will not let the suckiness of the present hold me down"

Before I go any further, I'll quote and address one other Bonoquote regarding the song (from a 1981 interview):

"It is a celebration," Bono says. "'Shadows and Tall Trees,' on the album, begins a pensive mood, as the character -- who is me -- looks around him. He sees this pattern developing, the repetition of everyday life. It really gets to him, really irritates him, as he realizes 'Mrs. Brown's washing is always the same.' I was listening to housewives talking; in Dublin there's this expression -- 'I know, I know' they say to each other, 'I know' -- but I realized that's very beautiful in many ways. It's often the everyday things that are beautiful."

I really get that. I can picture the old housewives talking over their garden walls to one another as they hang up their washing, complaining about the everyday chores, about the everyday troubles, and about the everyday aches and pains. But laughing about it and saying "I know, I know, it's always the same."

Musically, the song is mostly drums and acoustic guitar. The guitar is fairly simple but pretty, and the drumbeat repetitive but perfect. Adam's there too, but the bassline isn't particularly memorable. It really is a drum-driven song though. There are points (like right after the first verse, and midway through the chorus) where the guitar drops out completely, but it still sounds perfect.
Bono's vocals on this track are pretty much on par with most of his early vocals, but he does make the word "me" last for eight seconds at the midpoint of the song, which is pretty impressive. Random fact: Bono had a cold while recording Boy, and you can hear him coughing/clearing his throat at the very beginning of the track.

Also, I just have to add, there's a line in the song "Is life like a tightrope hanging from my ceiling" (the line may possibly be "is love", the lyrics say "life" but it always sounded like "love" to me) and the first time I heard it... I thought he was saying taco, not tightrope. I was like WHA. Did Mexican food even exist in Ireland in the 70s? =P It still cracks me up a little.


Back to the cold restless streets at night
Talk to myself about tomorrow night
Walls of white protest
A gravestone in name
Who is it now
It's always the same

Who is it now
Who calls me inside
All the leaves on the trees
Just live in disguise
I walk street rain tragicomedy
I'll walk home again
To the street melody

But I know, oh no
But I know, oh no
But I know

Shadows and tall trees
Shadows and tall trees
Shadows and tall trees
Shadows and tall trees

Life through a window
Discoloured pane
Mrs. Brown's washing is always the same
I walk street rain tragicomedy
I'll walk home again
To the street melody

But I know, oh no
But I know, oh no
But I know
(Out there)

Do you feel in me
Anything redeeming
Any worthwhile feeling
Is life like a tightrope
Hanging from my ceiling

But I know, oh no
But I know, oh no
But I know

Shadows and tall trees
Shadows and tall trees
Shadows and tall trees
Shadow, shadow, shadow
My shadow, shadow, shadow
Shadows and tall trees
Shadows and tall trees
Follow me and my shadow, shadow, shadow
Salute my shadow, shadow, shadow
Shadows and tall trees
Shadows and tall
Shad-


This song can of course be heard at the end of U2's first album Boy. Or, you know, YouTube if you're too lazy to get up and get the CD (not that I've ever been that lazy myself... no, not at all XD)
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