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Archive for the 'U2' Category

Bono, the Red Campaign, and Advanced Capitalism

21st December 2006

By now everyone has heard about Bono’s latest “Red Campaign” to raise awareness and money for AIDs relief in Africa. It’s been everywhere — in the news, and more importantly, on Oprah (if you haven’t heard about it yet, then check out this website). This campaign is meant to mobilize first world consumers by providing “red” buying options for which their manufacturer will donate some of their profits to AIDs relief. The website emphasizes that this isn’t a charity, but more of a business model. So now you can go and purchase red shirts from The Gap, a red iPod from Apple, a red phone from Motorola, and “red” sneakers from Converse, and know that when you purchase such an item some of the profits would go to AIDs relief in Africa.

Now, one one level I don’t think this is a bad campaign. In our consumer-oriented, image-obsessed society people who perhaps wouldn’t give otherwise will buy themselves a new toy (read: iPod) or designer apparel and at least some money is being raised for a good cause. But I think it is a horrible shame that charities have to use so many gimmicks to get people to donate some money to a worthy cause. Why can’t people just give?

My Edmonton colleague across town at The King’s University College, Stephen Martin, has raised some other questions about the appropriateness of this campaign. Here is an excerpt of his post on the Red campaign:

So here’s my question: insofar as global capitalism is the nurturing soil of the empire that maintains Africa’s people in bondage, is Bono not engaging in a massive legitimation of savage capitalism, and thereby assuaging the conscience of the Beast? Are not The Gap, American Express, and the like analogous to the cult parodied in Revelation 13 as the “False Prophet” who compels people to obtain a special mark, else they can neither buy nor sell? Can “ethical” capitalism save the world from the effects of “savage” capitalism? It reminds me of that other argument about [usually our] “righteous” and “just” violence saving the world from [usually their] “terrorist” violence.

I encourage you to read the entire post; it is quite provocative to say the least. He definitely raises questions about the appropriateness of “getting into bed” with advanced capitalism, though I know that Bono will metaphorically “sleep” with (almost?) anyone if it helps raise support for an important cause. That being said, Martin’s concluding paragraph is worth reproducing:

George Grant used to warn his students “when you sleep with Nietzsche, it’s always you that end up pregnant.” Could the same be said of transnational capitalists? If so, I hope Bono’s using protection. He’ll be in my prayers. In the meantime I’ll say no thanks to the red iPod (and the measly ten bucks Apple will send to Africa on my behalf) and look at more constructive avenues.

I can’t afford an iPod, no matter what colour! So I guess I will just have to donate some money “gimmick free.” (And I would encourage you to do so by whatever means possible).


Posted in News, Popular Culture, U2 | 10 Comments »

New U2 “Best Of” Album Coming

5th October 2006

According to cmj.com, U2 will be releasing a “Best Of” album this November 21st. Proceeds from the album will go to Music Rising, a campaign created by U2 guitarist the Edge that aims to raise money to replace musical instruments lost in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. The album will include 16 of U2′s favourites as well as two new songs — one track recorded with Green Day’s Billy Joe.


Posted in News, Popular Culture, U2 | 5 Comments »

30th Anniversary of U2′s First Meeting

25th September 2006

According to Neil McCormick’s book Killing Bono: I Was Bono’s Doppelganger (MTV, 2004; Buy from Amazon.ca | Buy from Amazon.com) today is the 30th anniversary of the first meeting of the guys that would eventually form the band U2. Paul Hewson (Bono), Dave Evans (The Edge), Adam Clayton, Ivan McCormick, Dick Evans all got together at the house of one Larry Mullen Jr.

During this first meeting they talked, played a couple covers, and decided to form a band called Feedback. Feedback later became The Hype, which later became U2.


Posted in Popular Culture, U2 | Comments Off

theotherblog on U2′s War

19th September 2006

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There is an interesting post on U2′s third album, War (1983; Buy from Amazon.ca | Buy from Amazon.com) over at theotherblog. If you are a U2 fan, it’s worth a gander.


Posted in Popular Culture, U2 | 1 Comment »

New U2 Single Released!

5th September 2006

I mentioned the rumours that U2 was heading into the studio this fall here.

As it turns out they released a new single already! Check it out here.

(HT Looking Closer)


Posted in Humour, Music Videos, News, Popular Culture, U2 | 1 Comment »

Need ONE Shirt?

18th August 2006

Bono is one of a number of celebrities who are getting behind a new “ONE” t-shirt. Proceeds from the sale of the shirts will benefit the battle against AIDS, extreme poverty, and bring fair trade to the country of Lesotho in Southern Africa (The shirts are made in Lesotho, one of the poorest developing countries in the world).

The EDUN designed shirts will be available at Nordstrom for $40 USD starting September 11th, 2006. For more information go to ONE.org.


Posted in News, Popular Culture, U2 | Comments Off

U2 by U2

17th August 2006

Since I am on this U2 kick, I figured I would highlight a forthcoming book release. It will be released on September 26, 2006.

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U2 and Neil McCormick, U2 by U2 (HarperEntertainment, 2006).

Pre-order from Amazon.ca | Amazon.com

Here is the product description from HarperEntertainment:

In 1975, four teenagers from Mount Temple School in Dublin gathered in a crowded kitchen to discuss forming a band. The drum kit just about fit into the room, the lead guitarist was playing a homemade guitar, the bassist could barely play at all and nobody wanted to sing. Over thirty years later, Bono, The Edge, Adam Clayton and Larry Mullen Jr are still together, bound by intense loyalty, passionate idealism and a relentless belief in the power of rock and roll to change the world.

In a epic journey that has taken them from the clubs of Dublin to the stadiums of the world, U2 have sold over 130 million albums, been number one all over the world, revolutionized live performance, spearheaded political campaigns and made music that defines the age we live in.

From the anarchic days of their Seventies punk origins through their Eighties ascent to superstardom with the epic rock of ‘The Joshua Tree’, the dark post-modern ironies of ‘Achtung Baby’ in the Nineties and their 21st-Century resurgence as rock’s biggest and boldest band, this is a tale of faith, love, drama, family, birth, death, survival, conflict, crises, creativity . . . and a lot of laughter.

Told with wit, insight and astonishing candour by the band themselves and manager Paul McGuinness, with pictures from their own archives, ‘U2 by U2′ allows unprecedented access into the inner life of the greatest rock band of our times.

I don’t know about you, but I have pre-ordered my copy!


Posted in Popular Culture, U2 | 1 Comment »

Addendum to U2 Spiritually Significant Songs: The First Time

16th August 2006

I was chatting with a Ken Ristau today and he wondered why “The First Time” (Lyrics; from Zooropa 1993; Buy from Amazon.ca | Amazon.com) wasn’t on my list of spiritually significant U2 songs. I was dumbfounded since we were talking about it when I was compiling my list and I was going to include it, but somehow it fell through the cracks. I would like to add it now; if I have to take a song off my list to make room for it, then I would take “40″ (adding it to my list also inlcudes a song from Zooropa, which makes my list a bit more representative).

This mournful song is one of U2′s most theological. While on one level this song could be read as a love song or as a reflection on one’s family, on another perhaps more theologically profound level it is a reflection on the Trinity and our human tendency to squander God’s love and grace.

Here are the lyrics in full:

I have a lover, a lover like no other
She got soul soul soul, sweet soul
And she teach me how to sing
Shows me colours when there’s none to see
Gives me hope when I can’t believe
But for the first time I feel love

I have a brother when I’m a brother in need
I spend my whole time running
He spends his running after me
I feel myself goin’ down
I just call and he comes around
But for the first time I feel love

My father is a rich man, he wears a rich man’s cloak
Gave me the keys to his kingdom coming
Gave me a cup of gold
He said ‘I have many mansions
And there are many rooms to see’
But I left by the back door
And I threw away the key
And I threw away the key
Yeah, I threw away the key
Yeah, I threw away the key

For the first time
For the first time
For the first time I feel love

The first stanza is about the Holy Spirit (appropriately pictured as a female) who woos the implied author and gives him hope and love. The second is portrays the Son as the redeemer who searches out sinners and comes when called. The final stanza (which disambiguates the prior stanzas since the allusions to God the Father are unmistakable; see Matthew 16, Luke 15, John 14) portrays God the Father as showering his grace on the implied author, yet the singer rejects this love and throws it away; “But I left by the back door / And I threw away the key”!

Some Christian fans were scandalized this song, assuming that it was Bono or U2 “throwing away the key” (i.e., losing his/their faith). While many of U2′s songs appear to be autobiographical, they don’t have to be read that way. Whoever the implied “I” in the song is, it is precisely the part about throwing away the key that appeals to me. It is brutally honest — the Triune God showers his love on us and for the first time we experience what love is all about, but then we squander it. We leave through the back door and throw away the key.

During the Vertigo tour, Bono would at times change the ending of the song. Sometimes he would sing “Yeah, I threw away the key / God gave it back to me / and for the first time I felt love” (Milwaukee 2005) while other times he changed the ending to “But I left by the back door / But I didn’t throw away the key / For the first time / For the first time / I feel love / Shows me colours when there’s none to see / Gives me faith when I can’t believe / For the first time I feel love” (Chicago 2005). While I think I like the original version best (its a bit more edgy), the first alternative version highlights God’s unbelievable grace even more!


Posted in Popular Culture, U2 | 1 Comment »

My Top 10 12 Spiritually Significant U2 Songs

14th August 2006

I’ve been on a bit of a U2 kick lately (what else is new, you may ask!). Here’s a cute story to illustrate: the other day my family and I went to pick up my oldest daughter from summer camp. My five year old son ended up riding back from the camp with friends. As soon as they got going, my son asked if they had any U2 to play and said matter-of-factly how “my Dad REALLY likes U2″ and then he proceeded to sing his unique rendition of “Elevation.” Last week’s interview with Bono at the Leadership Summit only further fuelled my U2 obsession.

I thought I would share with you the top 10 12 songs from the U2 corpus that have been the most spiritually significant in my Christian walk. So this list is not a list of my favourite U2 songs — while there would be some overlap, that list would include a number of other less spiritually profound U2 songs (like Numb, Elevation, and Discotheque, among others).

As always, I found it very difficult to limit my list to only the top ten, so I decided to make it twelve (a nice Old Testament number). So, without further ado, counting down from 12, here is my list of…

The Top 12 Spiritually Significant U2 Songs

12. “40″ (Lyrics; from War 1983; Buy from Amazon.ca | Amazon.com). This classic rendition of Psalm 40 has been used to close many U2 concerts. The line “How long to sing this song” — which is actually not in Psalm 40, but is inspired by the cry “how long” found in numerous psalms — expresses the longing for God’s intervention that characterizes many U2 songs.

11. Wake Up Dead Man (Lyrics; from Pop 1997; Buy from Amazon.ca | Amazon.com). This song is perhaps U2′s darkest lament. The song opens with a cry to Jesus: “Jesus, Jesus help me / I’m alone in this world / And a f*cked up world it is too / Tell me, tell me the story / The one about eternity / And the way it’s all gonna be.” The theme of the absence of God, expressed in the name of the song, comes to the fore in the rest of the lyrics: ” I know you’re looking out for us / But maybe your hands aren’t free.”

10. Peace on Earth (Lyrics; from All That You Can’t Leave Behind 2000; Buy from Amazon.ca | Amazon.com). Written by Bono after the Omagh bombing in August 1998, this prayer of lament takes its cue from the angels proclamation to the shepherds at the birth of Jesus (Luke 2:14) and asks, where is this peace on earth? “Jesus can you take the time / To throw a drowning man a line / Peace on Earth.” This dissatisfaction over the gap between “hope and history” is a major theme of U2′s music and is expressed well in this song: “Hear it every Christmas time / But hope and history won’t rhyme / So what’s it worth / This peace on Earth.”

9. Gloria (Lyrics; from October 1981; Buy from Amazon.ca | Amazon.com). In the early years as U2 was finding their spiritual moorings, perhaps this song expressed their faith and devotion the best: “I try, I try to speak up / But only in you I’m complete … Oh Lord, if I had anything / Anything at all / I’d give it to you.”

8. Crumbs From Your Table (Lyrics; from How To Dismantle and Atomic Bomb 2004; Buy from Amazon.ca | Amazon.com). When I first heard this song I was moved and convicted. But then I watched the DVD that came with the CD and listened to Larry Mullen note how he was so drunk when they wrote that song that he doesn’t even remember writing it! Talk about a downer! But then I read a great blog entry on this song from Spera In Deo where he relays an interview with Bono about the song that redeems the song in my eyes. Here is an excerpt:

About the Crumbs song, he [Bono] told the story of the Irish nun, Sister Ann, who’s story broke his heart. She lives and works near a sewer and brings in people who live in horrific conditions. When he visited her, he saw people who were sleeping “three to a bed.” I had previously thought the song was about Bush’s promised–then rescinded–offer of $15b in Africa aid. But it turns out it is really (also?) about this nun and how some people in the world await crumbs to fall from the feast table of American Christianity (You speak of signs and wonders / But I need something other / I would believe if I was able / But I’m waiting on the crumbs from your table).

Bono also made a passing reference to the title of this song in his interview with Bill Hybels when he was talking about his work with the ONE Campaign and how they want to raise awareness and money for this cause “without coming with our heads bowed and cowed and, you know, looking for the crumbs from the table; we believe that the poor deserve an honourable place at the table, they deserve the head of the table, as God would see things.” Amen.

7. Until the End of the World (Lyrics; from Achtung Baby 1991; Buy from Amazon.ca | Amazon.com). The lyrics of this song contain one side of a post-resurrection conversation between Jesus and Judas: “I took the money / I spiked your drink / You miss too much these days if you stop to think / You led me on with those innocent eyes / You know I love the element of surprise / In the garden I was playing the tart / I kissed your lips and broke your heart / You, you were acting like it was / The end of the world.” The ending of the song is somewhat ambiguous, but I think that it holds out for love and forgiveness for even the likes of Judas: “Waves of regret and waves of joy / I reached out for the one I tried to destroy / You, you said you’d wait / ‘Til the end of the world.”

6. I Will Follow (Lyrics; from Boy 1980, Buy from Amazon.ca | Amazon.com). This was probably the first U2 song I ever heard. Before I was a Christian I had bought the album Boy and quite liked this song. This album was, in fact, the only one that survived my very brief “fundamentalist” phase when I burned my entire record collection. Boy was spared because I heard from someone that U2 was a “Christian” band! I have no recollection of what I thought the song was about early on, but after I became a Christian I took the song as a response to Christ’s call to follow him. This interpretation of the song really comes to the fore in the live version on the Elevation 2001 DVD where Bono intersperses even more lines from the classic hymn Amazing Grace.

5. Stuck in a Moment You Can’t Get Out Of (Lyrics; from All That You Can’t Leave Behind 2000; Buy from Amazon.ca | Amazon.com). While written about the suicide of Michael Hutchence (from INXS), this song is about hope in the midst of crisis. It’s about staying the course until daybreak, recognizing that in the grand scheme of things it is but a moment. “And if our way should falter / Along the stony pass / It’s just a moment, this time will pass.”

4. I Still Haven’t Found What I am Looking For (Lyrics; from The Joshua Tree 1987; Buy from Amazon.ca | Amazon.com). This song is at once both a clear affirmation of the band’s faith (at least three of them at that time) as well as an expression of striving for a theological home: “You broke the bonds and you / Loosed the chains / Carried the cross / And my shame / All my shame / You know I believe it / But I still haven’t found what I’m looking for.”

3. Yahweh (Lyrics; from How To Dismantle and Atomic Bomb 2004; Buy from Amazon.ca | Amazon.com). OK, how can a Old Testament professor not like a song with the title “Yahweh”?! This song is a moving prayer for Yahweh (the Hebrew name for the Old Testament God) to intervene, to transform the singer: “Take this shirt / Polyester white trash made in nowhere / take this shirt / and make it clean, clean. Take this soul / Stranded in some skin and bones / Take this soul / and make it sing…. Take this heart / And make it break.” But it also has elements of lament, questioning God about suffering and why God is not acting: “Yahweh, tell me now / Why the dark before the dawn?”

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2. Walk On (Lyrics; from All That You Can’t Leave Behind 2000; Buy from Amazon.ca | Amazon.com). Inspired by Burmese human rights activist Aung San Suu Kyi, I read this as song about persevering in the life of faith. It’s about leaving everything that hinders you behind and walking on because life is more than this life: “You’re packing a suitcase for a place none of has been / A place that has to be believed to be seen.” When my Dad was dieing of cancer, this song spoke to me perhaps more than any chorus or hymn; that’s why it makes number two on my list.

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1. Sunday Bloody Sunday (Lyrics; from War 1983; Buy from Amazon.ca | Amazon.com) This is one of U2′s most moving songs — and my all-time favourite. In many ways it is an anti-war athem that helped define a generation. I still get shivers down my spine when listening to it (I actually rarely just listen to it; I usually sing along at the top of my lungs!). The songs asks, like “40″, “how long must we sing this song?” and also affirms a partial realised eschatology: “The real battle just begun / Sunday bloody Sunday / To claim the victory Jesus won.” The most stirring version of this song is found on the Rattle and Hum DVD (Buy from Amazon.ca | Amazon.com). This performance was filmed in Denver the evening of 8 November 1987 — the same day an IRA bomb killed thirteen innocent people at Enniskillen. In the middle of the song, after rehearsing the day’s tragic events, the emotional Bono declares, “f*ck the revolution!” A close second is on the Vertigo 2005 DVD where they go stright from “Love and Peace or Else” to “Sunday Bloody Sunday.”

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Honourable Mention

There are many other U2 songs which are spiritually significant. Some that deserve honourable mention include, Pride (In the Name of Love), With Or Whitout You, Where the Streets Have No Name, One, Acrobat, The Wanderer, The Playboy Mansion, When I Look at the World, Grace, Love and Peace or Else, and All Because of You.

What are your top spiritually significant U2 songs?

UPDATE: You will want to see my “Addendum to U2 Spiritually Significant Songs: The First Time


Posted in Popular Culture, U2 | 16 Comments »

Bono Interview by Bill Hybels

12th August 2006

If you are a U2 fan, you may also be interested in my recent post, “My Top 10 12 Spiritually Significant U2 Songs.”

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I was lucky enough to catch the interview with Bono Friday (11 August 2006) at the Willow Creek Leadership Summit. I thought the interview was amazing. Bono is very articulate — for a rock star :-)

The taped interview by Bill Hybels was peppered with great footage from U2′s Elevation 2001 – Live From Boston DVD (Buy from Amazon.ca | Buy from Amazon.com), their Vertigo 2005 – Live From Chicago DVD (Buy from Amazon.ca | Buy from Amazon.com), and Rattle & Hum (Buy from Amazon.ca | Buy from Amazon.com).

I thought the interview was a great introduction to Bono, U2, and the various campaigns Bono is involved with, such as DATA and the ONE Campaign.

There were many highlights in the interview for me. Perhaps the most refreshing thing he said was in regards to his “celebrity” and how ridiculous the world is to pander to celebrities as it does. He sees his celebrity as currency, and he’s decided to spend it to raise awareness for important causes such as global poverty and the AIDs pandemic. Bono’s challenge to the church? Get involved! “‘Love thy neighbour’ is not advice; it is a command.”

I was going to type out a transcript of the interview, but instead decided to make an mp3 of it available for download (see below). I have edited out all of the music and down-sampled it so it is not too large a file. This is a personal recording I made of the interview and I am making it available for free for personal use only because I believe that Bono’s message needs to be heard and acted upon.

Bono and the Willow Creek Association are going to make the DVD available to churches, so make sure to bug your pastor to get a copy to show to your congregation!

Here is the link to the mp3 file of the interview:

The only question I wish Bill Hybels asked Bono was if the rumours that U2 is scheduled to return to the recording studio this September! That would be sweet!


Posted in Popular Culture, U2 | 20 Comments »