U2 – Pride (In the Name of Love)
In early September 1984, with a slight difference as always between Europe and the United States, a song was released that was destined to change forever the future of a group that really wrote the history of the 80s, but also of the 90s and of the following decades.
This group had certainly already had success in their Ireland and the UK with previous albums, but it is absolutely clear that the success achieved with Pride (In the Name of Love) has really opened to U2 the doors of their incredible career that still continues today.
The song is generally considered a tribute to Martin Luther King, and indeed it is, but it had a fairly complicated evolution, before being the hymn that we know today, to live life with pride, to support and defend our battles and our ideals.
The first draft of the song was actually meant to be a song of accusation and protest towards a rather clear target: Ronald Reagan, then President of the United States, whose myopic arrogance, according to Bono, would have caused the nuclear escalation of those years. An example, if you like, of negative pride, selfishness and lack of sensitivity.
Although convinced of his feelings, Bono also realized that a song based on hatred and negativity was not the best way to help people do their part in the world. In an interview he said that an old man dissuaded him from making a song like that, but I’m sure he realized the situation by himself, and so he started looking for how to turn the song with positive examples.
In March 1983, U2 were on tour in the United States, when one of those things that change the history of the world happened in Chicago. In fact, they decided to go to an exhibition about Martin Luther King, and Bono was sure that this was the direction to take for his song about pride in everyone’s ideals. Moreover, in the same building there was also another exhibition, the title of which struck the group that was looking for the title for their new album. The exhibit was about the victims of the Hiroshima bomb, and was titled The Unforgettable Fire.
Pride (In the Name of Love) is not just about Martin Luther King (by the way, there is also another song on the same album explicitly titled MLK). Indeed, the song speaks of various examples of men who have been able to keep faith in their ideals to the end, who have been able to resist without opposing violence; Jesus Christ is also mentioned in the lyrics, as the man betrayed with a kiss.
The song, however, had a rather complicated gestation; the first musical inspiration came during the rehearsals of a concert in Hawaii, always for the same American tour. U2 then moved on to create and record the actual song, but had to record several preliminary versions of it in different studios before they were satisfied. In one of the studios they even went so far as to ask to build a concrete wall around drummer Larry Mullen, to give drums a particular sound.
The video was also not easy to shoot: the first version is the one we see and know best, with the opening and closing scenes taken in the Dublin docks area, and was shot by David Cammell in August 1984. There are two variants: one in black and white, and one in sepia tones. U2 were not satisfied and called Anton Corbijn (who will become one of the favorite directors not only for U2 but also for Depeche Mode among others, with videos such as Strangelove, Behind the Wheel and Personal Jesus) to make a second version.
They were still not satisfied, and made a third video while recording the album at Slane Castle in Ireland. In the end, however, the most used video was the first, the one shot by Cammell. In the 80s the black and white version was seen a lot, today the sepia version is more common, maybe the digital version of the sepia variant is better than the black and whit one.
In the lyrics of the song, Bono makes a mistake, speaking of an early morning shot in the killing of Martin Luther King, who was killed a minute after 6pm. Bono has been changing a word in concerts for several years, saying “early evening” instead of “early morning” to remedy this.
Among the credits on the album covers, for this song we also see a Christine Kerr as backup singer: of course it was Chrissie Hynde of Pretenders, the voice of Don’t Get Me Wrong, who at the time was married to Jim Kerr of Simple Minds.
In short, Pride (In the Name of Love) was certainly a song with a long and complicated creation process, but as Bono himself put it, it was U2’s best pop song created in the 80s. And it surely boosted the future career of this legendary group.
U2 on Wikipedia