Sunday, 8 September 2013

Letting loose: U2's "With or Without You"

No song has summoned up the forces of passion and intensity that U2's "With or Without You" did for me in the spring and summer of 1987.

I was not one of these people on the cutting edge of music who listened to U2. These were the same people who accused the band of selling out once they achieved popularity on the radio once their album "The Joshua Tree" topped the charts.

These were the same people who wanted to keep U2 their little secret. They wanted to keep U2 to themselves, then lashed out when other people discovered how good they were. It was as if because they were popular, they had to sell out. They never considered that instead of U2 selling out to become popular, maybe just maybe the audience just discovered what was always there.

Letting loose
As I said, I was not one of the cool kids who knew anything about "War" or "Boy" or "Sunday, Bloody Sunday". My only recollection of U2 was from a commercial advertising one of those mixed records that companies such as K-tel and Polytel were always selling. It showed a snippet of Bono singing "Pride in the Name of Love".

Then, in March of 1987, "The Joshua Tree" came out, and the first single U2 released was "With or Without You". It was stuck in everyone's car stereo, ghetto blaster, and sound system. It flew up all the charts and peaked at number one.

I was in Grade 12 and a lot was going on. Stress was coming from every direction. I wondered if the girl I liked, liked me. I was applying for university, student loans, and scholarships. I had to finish my classes to graduate, which meant departmental exams were looming. And I had a job after school and on weekends.

One day, I was driving in my parents 1974 Oldsmobile Omega from our farm to Coaldale. "With or Without You" came on the radio, and I started to sing along. Suddenly, all that stress came to a head and I started singing louder, and louder, and louder until I was screaming the words, "…and you give yourself away…" It was this massive, albeit momentary, catharsis.

Even now, when I hear that song, and I'm alone in the comforts of my Sebring, I let loose singing to that song. It all started on a lone country road back in the summer of 1987.

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