U2 – With Or Without You
In March 1987 an album and a song came out, that characterized and influenced not only the 80s, but I would say the whole history of pop music. Rolling Stone magazine considers this the 27th best album of all time. I think it’s definitely among the albums that have most impacted the 80s, along with Thriller, Like a virgin, Seven and the ragged tiger and Make it big. We are talking about The Joshua Tree, fifth album by U2, already very famous in native Ireland and throughout the UK after The Unforgettable Fire, and since then forever in the olympus of music.
The Joshua Tree is a fantastic album dedicated to America, in music and lyrics, a bit blues, a bit country and a bit gospel. it combines a certain resentment towards the Reagan-era American politics, with the fascination that the American continent always gives with its so intense and so different realities. An album to listen in silence, but at full volume.
On March 21st, a couple of weeks after the album’s release, U2 released the first single, a fantastic song that remained in the history of the decade and in the hearts of all U2 fans. With or without you is a song about a relationship that you can’t get out of, but maybe you don’t even want to get out of it. If at first glance it is a sentimental relationship, it is a fact that the first songs of the album (in addition to this, also Where the streets have no name and I still haven’t found what I’m looking for) have a different, I would say spiritual, breath. And so the relationship can become mystical, religious. Bono never clarified this aspect, but he always emphasized the tension between being a public figure, a rock star on tour, and being a private character, a family man. And this tension is all in all what has always pushed Bono to become the artist and the man that we still admire today.
The very verse “You give yourself away” refers to the condition of having to act as a public figure even when you need some intimacy and family life.
The sounds of this song make use of a particular device called Infinite Guitar. It was a circuit that connected the electric guitar pickup to a magnetic circuit and another pickup, allowing the note to be electronically supported even indefinitely. Michael Brook, a Canadian guitarist and producer, and collaborator of U2 guitarist Edge, had built it. He built only three: one for himself, one for another Canadian guitarist, and he gave the third to Edge.
Two videos were made for With or without you: one completely black and white, an effect that U2 and Bono loved very much. A rather gloomy and dark video. They also shot this video, sometimes colorful, slightly brighter. Even from the videos you can feel the tension and troubles that animates the song. In some scenes we can perceive the silhouette of a woman, she’s Edge’s wife, choreographer and dancer Morleigh Steinberg, who also appears in other U2 videos, such as Mysterious Ways (1992).
With or without you and the entire album The Joshua Tree opened the door to success in America at U2. Since then U2 has become an absolutely world-famous band and one of the iconic groups of the 80s, starting a journey that still continues today.
U2 on Wikipedia