Saturday, January 07, 2006

On the Greatest Song U2 ever wrote

And don't think that this was written in a drunken frenzy, or in haste to avoid yet another of those oh so famous madrasi power cuts.

Now I know you've had this discussion with yourself and whichever peer group you choose to go on a downer trip with--

"dude, 'with or without you'. I know the words backwards, and--"

"yeah man, when he sings "nothing to win and--"

"nothing left to lose. Fuck. And you give yourself away..

fuck. I need another drink"

True. I see the point in this discussion. Any poor fallen sod who's had the ill luck to have loved and lost the one person who will--unwillingly-- haunt every 3rd waking thought; any poor sod who will refuse to attempt getting 7 hours sleep for fear of dreaming; any such unfortunate wraith *will* share this view-point, and will--hoarse-voiced-- yell along with Bono, 3:03 into the song.

[For wraiths we are. Overweight, with blotchy lungs and dusty shoes. The undead have it better: at least they are just the decaying fleshy presence of their past. Wraiths are shadows: If we reach out to hold your hand, you cannot feel us. If we try weeping, we get a headache and itch horrifically for a smoke. We can't handle light, class reunions and old photographs. And no high works, and no new year party. But I digress.]

'With or without you' will always be a masterpiece. It is a song for the dying, for the idiot romeo who wakes up and realizes juliet couldn't see through his bad acting. It is a song for the loser left waving at an empty space in a crowd at the airport. It is meant to be sung along to on the radio when you're driving back to your personal hole, alone.

You can close your eyes at the end of it. But the screw up is, unless you have actually overcome hamlet's dilemma, pulled a madonnaish rebrand or jumped off your terrace's water tank , you have to open your eyes again and deal with the next song and the dawned day.

Which is where 'One' comes in.

'With or without you' is a howling at the moon. It's a drag race over the cliff. It's a blade in your wrist and the last words of Cobain when he said that if only he could fly with fire like Freddie on stage, if only the performance still had that for him...

'One' is for the man or woman who has the incredible balls to go sober and undoped where s/he is certain to find the ex. 'One' is for the calm handshake at the wedding, with no flamboyant gestures, because in truth no one is Slash and life aint a gnr video.

This song is for those who have the kind of humility that only comes with living the loss. This one is for the quiet standing face to face, and the laying down of the still sharp-edged weapons in front of the one who knows how to use them best. This song is for those who have the grace to turn away, no matter the mob, the kisses, the tears, the foot pressed against yours in silence.

This is for the meeting in a corner table for coffee, leaning forward and asking quietly
"is it getting better
or do you feel the same
is it getting any easier on you now
you've got someone to blame."

It is the song for kissing the ex, and then cursing yourself for the poisoned bitterness you both exchanged, when you laughed like it was no big deal and this is the way grown ups meet, and hey I'm busy all day tomorrow, and my flight's in the night so see you when I see you, and take care of yourself.

It is walking back upstairs without screaming your rage at yourself, it is refusing to give into being a compulsive alcoholic, it is admitting you are a coward, it is admitting you cannot live without him but now must, it is admitting you are overweight and don't give a flying fuck. It is admitting that it was more than just need in the night, and that nothing you write or say can ever change the words you typed over msn. It is admitting that it's too late tonight to drive the past out into the night. It is knowing the restraint it takes to not blog this, and admitting you have none. It is wishing you had refused that kiss. It is not minding them selling the story on their blog, to Time or NDTV. It is accepting that they had the nerve to make the final cut. It is telling your parents that everything is fine. It is not changing the song however much it aches. It is not clicking the send button.

Did I ask too much, more than a lot
You gave me nothing now its all I've got
We're one but we're not the same
we've hurt each other and we'll do it again.

It is bono and pearl jam performing the song live together, and bono, over the out-of-tuned screams tears hugs cries of the crowd, quietly flowing into the chorus of 'unchained melody'.

Because that's the fuck up with being a wraith. We may turn away, but we can never forget.

One of the greeks [remind me which one, please] said that we are all but halves of a whole, wandering the earth to find the completing piece. So what happens when you realize you're the kid who ate the 3,999th jigsaw piece, that you're the dude who broke the last match-stick in the last match-box on the camping trip at 2:04am?

There is no such thing as a new year. The power fails, and when you reboot, winamp comes up clean coz you hadn't saved the playlist.

Mr. Kipling, I know you said that if I could bend and pick up the pieces when the others break it down, I would have the earth and all that's in it.

But what if I raised the first hammer, and what if I don't want the earth, nothing at all except the thing that cannot be?

The song's changed. The Stones have a new album. He won't meet me tomorrow. Bob sings that when you hear the music, you feel no pain.

Goodnight, Mr. Marley. The song is done, the time has come.. thought I'd something more to say.


Baliga said...

well inevitably your posts make me think, feel... sometimes both... and yes i closed my eyes towards the end of the song... it is amazing.. ;)

p.s happy new year, and u still in chennai??

N said...

Unbelievable! Yesterday, while driving to work, hubby and I were having a discussion about these two songs. I grew out of With or Without You some years back. One remains a favourite. The piece is captivating, as usual. :)

Freaky Chakra said...

Stumbled onto ur blog fr d 1st time... (i confess) U2 got my attention.

My personal U2 favourite is - where the streets have no name. But i dont quite think it'd go with the mood of ur post. Very well written though, I must say.

david raphael israel said...

It's in Plato (of course).

Despite (reprehensibly) not knowing either of the songs in question, the universalizing ruminations give pause, in a good sense.

warm best,

s said...

Great post - 'one' is definitely a MUCH better song, it's my favourite U2 track. i love the line where he says 'have you come here to play jesus, to the lepers in your head?'.

and yes, it was Plato who said (in Symposium) that we were all 'hermaphrodites' (i think thats how its spelt) until Zeus decided to split us in two, leaving us to spend our lives trying to find the 'better half'.

Majaz said...

It is a necessary separation. Although painful.

I grew out of the song not out of hearing it oh-so-many times but because one fine day it just stopped making any sense.

If I had to live without him - I'd much rather live with him.

But then again. That's just one person disagreeing. The song continues to roll on as many fans as it can still...

Saltwater Blues said...

Did I ask too much ... more than a lot; you gave me nothing, now it's all I got.

Loved this post. Cheers!

Acroyali said...

your post adds multiple layers of charm to the song.

you blog beautifully!

sandeep said...

lol...been there, sung that...

sandeep said...

lol...been there, sung that...