It’s 1985. Probably midnight. I’m dancing, alone, in the basement apartment of my parent’s home in small town Oklahoma. I have recently removed myself from an oppressive quarter at a conservative Christian college, and I’m dancing with joy to U2’s ‘Boy’.
I feel free, relieved, and visceral joy. My faith had just been tested in ways that, looking back, seem more harrowing than when I was going through it. But at the time, getting tossed in the sea of doubt and despair seemed likely. “I Will Follow” was my anchor. This song represented for me an affirmation that, even though I would no longer participate in the oppression of organized religion, I would still follow the Christ I had come to know in my spiritual journey. Still to this day, ‘I Will Follow’ reminds me of those nights.
I hadn’t been allowed to listen to any music that wasn’t contemporary Christian growing up. I wasn’t allowed much of a social life if it wasn’t church related, or if I wasn’t accompanied by Christian chaperones. This music gave me permission to be a person of faith and not constrained by the dogmatic elements of religion.
I would listen to this cassette tape without end, going through batteries like there was no tomorrow (because, walkman). Then I bought ‘War’. This work of art cemented my lifelong love and affection for this group.
I loved these boys from Ireland for their ability to communicate through music that it was alright for this girl from small town Oklahoma to be a rebel and still stay true to her faith. ‘War’ affirmed something for me that I hadn’t quite yet been able to articulate: my soul is called to stand for social justice. I had just started reading about the civil war in El Salvador, and my views on the world began to shift, to gel. I began to formulate this quarrelsome epistemology, a conundrum if you will, that I still hold today: politics absolutely suck but there is no getting away from living a political life. Everything about life is political. U2’s music has felt like the Bifrost, a path that Creator made sure I could see as I walked this journey of life.
So, when I recently discovered that U2 had their own channel on Sirius XM Radio, I immediately made it a favorite. For the last year and a half, the magic of this music has breathed medicine into my heart, reviving the corporeal, and inspiring me to dance like a young punk again. But also, breaking my heart, in a good way. Tears fall, disintegrating the plaque built of fear, anxiety and anger.
For months, I have been trying to figure out how to submit the 5 U2 songs I desire most. I mean, I have been trying to figure out how to narrow down my love for these fellas and the art they create to only FIVE songs. Just now, ‘Red Hill Mining Town’ is playing, and I’m crying the words of the chorus, like I always do.
‘Window in the Skies’ – I used this song in one of my presentations for my undergrad degree. I was an adult college student, my lifelong learner path delayed by a lot of nonsense. “oh can’t you see what love has done?” – “the stone it has been moved” – “love makes strange enemies, makes love where love may please, soul and its stritpease, hate brought to its knees” – Shakepeare.
‘Love Is Bigger Than Anything In Its Way’ – it never fails….the first few notes of this song starts and my heart melts, my eyes water. Depending on the day, I might just burst into a cleansing weeping. This message we all need so much. To me, this is a song of redemption. Bono recently had a commentary about this song, and it resonated with me at every level. Whenever I feel down, or despairing of the human condition, I remember that love REALLY is bigger than anything in its way. I will love this song till my dying day.
‘Summer Of Love’ – First off, let me just say that I absolutely love this whole album (‘Songs of Experience’) and the companion album, ‘Songs of Innocence’. I feel like these two beautifully capture the zeitgeist of early 2000’s globally. “Our teacher, our preacher, it’s nature, and like flowers growing in a bomb crater, from nothing, a rose, it grows”….essentially saying the same thing as Love Is Bigger Than Anything. Nature teaches us, preaches us, if we have ears to hear. And then Bono sings about the West Coast – not the one everyone thinks about – but the west coast of Aleppo, and the joy of imagining a rose growing from a bomb crater is shaken with the understanding of what happened in Syria. Unnecessary war. The casualties of unabashed capitalists who see globalization the same way the colonists always have. Life goes on. Or does it?
‘Zooropa’ – I have only recently become a fan of this song. When I first heard it and the album, I just couldn’t connect to it. I was politically naive, but not. Neo-nazism was not on my radar. It released a few months before my daughter was born, and I just couldn’t vibe with it. However, having listened to other fans over the last few months describe their love of this song, I’ve begun to see the brilliance of the song. It also reminds me of a recent trip to Germany with my husband, taking the overground in Berlin. I learned so much and felt so many emotions on that trip. I am absolutely a fan of this song.
‘I Will Follow’ – by the time I came to this music, I had already gone through a lot of trauma as a young person growing up in the middle of the country. My family had endured some pretty shitty circumstances, and we still managed to find a light at the end of many tunnels. Two specific lyrics stand out for me: “I was on the inside when they pulled the four walls down I was looking through the window I was lost, I am found” and “A boy tries hard to be a man, his mother takes him by his hand, if he stops to think, he starts to cry, oh, why?” These words resonate with me at a cellular level. I may be lost, the walls my crumble, and we may have a hand from our mother, but we still have to find our own path.
I’ve been trying to write this for at least four months. I’m still not satisfied with these as my top five songs, but they will do for now. Amazingly, I have only been to one U2 concert in my life. The timing was never right, or I wasn’t prepared to travel. I am hoping that we get to see them soon. Perhaps we might even travel to see them perform. I can’t wait till I can see them perform ‘Get On Your Boots’. My husband never liked this song, but I absolutely adore it, from the first time I heard it.
And I can’t wait to see what the boys put out next.