Trash, Trampoline and the Party Girl
The B-side to the standalone single 'A Celebration', produced by Steve Lillywhite and released in March 1982. It was also the final track on The Best Of 1980-1990 & B-Sides. More recently it was included on the bonus disc of the remastered October album, as well as last year's U2.com subscription gift Medium, Rare & Remastered. It's simple, catchy and fun, and rather surprisingly has become an enduring live favourite - something the A-side didn't even achieve!
There are certain people who love to give their children long, complicated names and then forever call them by a much shorter nickname. I'm not sure what that's all about, but Bono is one of those people, and it goes for his songs as well as his kids. This particular mouthful was shortened to just 'Party Girl' within months, and has been known as such ever since. You'll notice it hasn't stopped him writing songs and albums with increasingly wordy titles, though. :p
The original studio version was recorded at Windmill Lane over the Christmas break of 1981. Having finished recording A Celebration, the band apparently had just two hours of studio time left in which to record the B-side, so "Without time to agonise over the results they knocked out a throwaway pop tune in little more than half an hour". (This was not their first rushed B-side, following J. Swallow in the spring of that year... why on earth didn't they prepare something before heading into the studio?!) The U2 Encyclopedia says that each band member was only allowed two takes to record their part, and Larry wasn't even there, so they just slowed down his drum part from A Celebration and used that!
I discovered this song early in my fandom, since The Best Of 1980-1990 & B-Sides was my very first U2 album. I've always enjoyed it - I'm guessing most fans do, but please feel free to either confirm or deny this! Obviously it's no great masterpiece, nor was it meant to be, but it's a headsticky little tune that works well as a B-side. (Remember those?! The random gems that wouldn't fit on a proper album, but were usually popular nonetheless? Apart from one ropey leftover in 2004, it's been almost a decade since U2 gave us anything new on a single.) The main guitar riff with its stop-start rhythm is pretty much irresistible to the hips, and I love how it makes way for that descending plinky piano that comes in after each verse. (There's also a strange effect in the background that's quite cool, I can't put my finger on what it reminds me of.) Somebody on SongMeanings.net commented that it sounds a bit like a Police song, which I hadn't noticed but I totally see what they mean - I think there's a touch of De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da about it?
The simplicity of the lyrics and melody make it very easy for anyone to remember and sing along with - it's ridiculously catchy. I especially like the high-pitched "Ooh ooh ooh ooh ooh ooh" bit after the first verse (not because it's any great display of falsetto, just because you can't not join in with it!). It's always seemed a curious track to me, in that it's clearly just a piece of fluff that you can dance to, but it has a really melancholy feel at the same time, which is slightly unsettling. The line "When I was three, I thought the world revolved around me / I was wrong" is particularly sad... an important but painful truth, made even more heartbreaking by the sorrowful wail of Baby Bono's voice. And he does sound very young and raw on this, slurring his words and barely staying in tune. Maybe that's a turn-off for some listeners (one guy on YouTube complained it sounds like somebody's trying to choke him!), but I think all the croaking and cracking is deliberate and it suits the emotion of the song. Indeed somebody else on YT remarked "Bono's voice sounds tired here, kinda gives the song an edge".
You only have to listen to the Red Rocks version to hear how infectious it is, with the whole crowd taking up a chant of "HEY! - HEY!" during the bridge and at the end. That performance is so memorable that I'm often surprised to find "Oh no, not me" absent on the studio version, and I always do Bono's scatting over the guitar solo. *g* The song made its live debut on the first night of the War Tour in Dundee, after which Bono told the audience "And that, ladies and gentlemen, was the first time that song has ever been performed. And probably the last time as well!" He was obviously joking, but it's quite a funny comment in light of the fact they're still playing it 26 years later, approaching 200 times in total (more than any other B-side)! Weirdly it's survived in concert far better than the A-side, 'A Celebration', which hasn't been played since the War Tour. (That's not to say Party Girl is a better song - I'd be thrilled if they resurrected A Celebration!) Throughout the '80s it was played regularly, usually opening the encore, and it's popped up a handful of times on most subsequent tours. I've got a version from Edge's birthday in Barcelona on the Elevation Tour, featuring Bono's hilariously crap improvisation: "I know a boy, a boy called Edge - that's... The Edge. I've known him for longer... than I haven't. The Edge." Sheer poetry. *g* There's a brief pause before Bono laughs and then just moves on with the final verse, LOL!
So what is this song about, exactly? Into The Heart says it's the first example of the band's sense of humour making it onto a record, showing they were capable of laughing at themselves. It also suggests the song is about sex (which according to Bono was a rare topic of U2's early material), and the online community seems to agree with this. "I know she wants more than a party" and "a boy called Trampoline, you know what I mean" are generally accepted as being sexual innuendos (although the former could be interpreted either way - maybe he believes the so-called Party Girl longs for a more meaningful relationship, but is too insecure to turn down the attention she's getting). Theories I've read about the lyrics include: finding an identity as a person; being out of one's element in a social situation; being young and driven by one's ego and libido; a teenage love triangle (liking a girl who's more interested in some guy who's only using her); or one partner struggling to make a relationship work ("I know he does all that he can"). There's a persistent rumour that the 'Party Girl' was Edge's girlfriend (later his first wife) Aislinn O'Sullivan, and that Trash and/or Trampoline* refers to Adam Clayton, the only band member who was into playing the field. But it's not clear if this explanation came from the band or if it's just idle speculation.
*(Some people talk about 'Trash Trampoline' as if it's one name, but there is definitely a comma in the title to indicate that they're two separate characters.)
Of course, it was written in half an hour and could easily just be a load of nonsense! (Bono calls it "a silly song" on the Red Rocks video, and in another bootleg from the War Tour he says "I made it up on the spot one day" and admits to never knowing the words.) Whatever the case, it has certainly punched above its weight over the years. :)
I know a girl, a girl called Party
I know she wants more than a party
And she won't tell me her name
Ooh ooh ooh ooh ooh ooh
Ooh-ooh ooh ooh-ooh ooh
Ooh ooh ooh ooh ooh
I know a boy, a boy called Trash
I know he does all that he can
And he won't tell me his name
I have a heart, a heart that beat inside
When I was three, I thought the world revolved around me
I was wrong
And so I sing now
And if you dance, then dance with me
I know a girl, a girl called Party
I know she wants more than a party
I know a boy, a boy called Trampoline
You know what I mean
I think you know what he wants
I think he knows what he wants
I think he knows what he wants...
My next SOTD will be an epic. Stay tuned.