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March 11th, 2010

Song Of The Day @ 01:16 am

This weekend it'll be 10 years since the Million Dollar Hotel soundtrack was released. Where does the time go? I'd only been a fan for about 9 months, so that was my first experience of buying a brand new sort-of U2 album. It was a bit of a slow burner for me, didn't impress me that much at first, but there are some real quality songs which I later grew to adore. This is my favourite.

Never Let Me Go

I was actually saving this one up, back in the day when SOTD was a *cough* regular feature, but then of course it went missing for ages, and I still hadn't done this song! So it's about time this little beauty had its special moment.

If for some reason you've been deprived of its wonders, you can hear the song on YouTube. And then buy the album!

This is not a U2 project, it's Bono and the Million Dollar Hotel Band (although Larry is also on there playing the tambourine). Eno & Lanois and the brilliant trumpet player Jon Hassell co-wrote the music; Nicholas Klein (who also wrote the film's screenplay) co-wrote the lyrics.

I have my friend Julia to thank for my love of this song, and the album in general. She loved the CD from the moment I played it to her at school one day - she was much more excited about it than I was! A few weeks later we were playing it again while we did our homework, and Julia started singing along to Never Let Me Go. That was a weird moment for me... I was the U2 fan, not her, yet she already knew this song off by heart, while I had barely listened to it!  I immediately felt like a bad fan and resolved to rectify this situation. And as soon as I actually gave it my full attention, I noticed how gorgeous it was. I've loved it with a passion ever since. The spoken intro (by Jeremy Davies who plays Tom-Tom in the movie) still makes me smile, remembering how Julia and I would recite it with all the proper inflections, giggling over "...and television". (On the subject of that intro, how poignant is the opening line? "After I jumped, it occurred to me – life is perfect." Alanis Morissette had a stab at that sentiment once...)

Everything about this track is perfect. It's pure poetry, for starters. I don't really know what story it's telling, but all of Bono's best writing is like that - it just paints a vague image or feeling and lets you fill in the rest yourself. I love the sandy beach setting, the whole idea of staring out to sea, and the waves erasing all trace of what's been there before... maybe it's because I live by the sea and I'm very emotionally connected to it. What I can deduce is that the lyrics refer to the picturesque seaside town of Skerries in North County Dublin; Red Island is a high rocky headland which provides a wonderful view across the South Strand. (This beach apparently attracts all kinds of visitors and "It's almost a spiritual experience to wander across this broad expanse at low-tide.") On Red Island there is an indentation in the rock which is supposed to be St Patrick's footprint, resulting from a goat rage incident. I wonder if that inspired Bono's lyric "From Red lsland across the Strand / Your footprints still there in the sand"?

The line "You run from love and don't believe / Unless it catches you by the heel / And even then, you struggle" was of course revisited four years later in A Man And A Woman: "You can run from love / And if it's really love, it will find you / Catch you by the heel". Another of my favourite songs, funnily enough.

The words are just one component of the beautifully crafted whole. Musically, vocally, this song is... guh. First that haunting intro, with the muted trumpet just sighing in its solitude, like gazing out of the window on a gloomy day. Then the percussion comes in, softly softly, and your hips start swaying along... and finally that oh-so-seductive bassline slides in and draws you into the body of the song. It's proper slow-dance material. Bono's vocals are appropriately silky - he doesn't just sing the lyrics, he caresses them. The verses are soft and low, the chorus higher and more emotional, pleading. It's a powerful contrast. Even where his voice cracks in places, it fits the song perfectly. I love the way he sighs "Everything else... washed away". I love the little "mm-mm-mm" on the chorus. Needless to say, I loooove the falsetto "Never let me... goooo-o-o-o" near the end. The entire song has a lovely flowing melody that's a real delight to sing along to, especially the chorus... something about the rise and fall of it. I could listen to it for hours.

A song for the lovers and the dreamers.


"Wow, after I jumped, it occurred to me – life is perfect. Life is the best.
Full of magic and beauty, opportunity... and television.
And surprises, lots of surprises, yeah.
And then there's the best stuff of course, better than anything anyone ever made up, 'cos it's real."

You take a stranger by the hand
A man who doesn't understand
His wildest dreams
You walk across the dirty sand
And offer him an ocean
Of what he's never seen

Maybe I was blind, or I
I might have closed my eyes... mm mm
Maybe I was dumb
But what I forgot to say
If you didn't know
Is never let me go
Never let me go
Never let me go
Never let me go

You run from love and don't believe
Unless it catches you by the heel
And even then, you struggle
From Red lsland across the Strand
Your footprints still there in the sand
Everything else... washed away

I may not be alone, or I
I may have found my home... mm mm
I may have lost my way
But what I forgot to say
If you didn't know
Is never let me go
Never let me... go
Never let me go, love

Related SOTDs:
The Ground Beneath Her Feet
Satellite Of Love
The First Time
Dancin' Shoes
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Date:March 11th, 2010 01:54 am (UTC)
ITA. This is an amazing song.
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Date:March 11th, 2010 03:57 am (UTC)


MDH was the first new U2-ish release to come out after I became a fan (1998-1999), so I was really, really looking forward to it. I think maybe I had my hopes too high, because when the soundtrack came out it just didn't do it for me.

I listened to NLMG again just now, and while it's surely not a bad song, it still just seems underdone, to my taste. I think it's the smoooooove jazz aspect that turns me off. It kinda has a bit of an "In a Lifetime, Part 2" feeling for me, which sounds like a fine thing on paper... but yeah, my trigger finger will probably keep skipping it when it pops up.

I didn't know about the lyrical connections to actual places, though... and I'd say the footprint line is almost certainly a nod to the St. Patrick story. Pretty neat!
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Date:March 11th, 2010 05:44 pm (UTC)


I had much the same reaction to the soundtrack when it first came out, and who knows if it would have grown on me so much if it hadn't been for my friend's enthusiastic influence! So I know where you're coming from. I think the "underdone" quality is one of the things I like about it, though... it doesn't make any big statements, it just kind of drifts in and fades out like a dream.

I couldn't find anything to back up my theory about the lyrics, but it seems plausible enough!

*giggle* That was probably the first and last time anyone has used the phrase "goat rage incident" around here.
(no subject) - (Anonymous)
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Date:March 11th, 2010 05:51 pm (UTC)

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