Author Topic: The Joshua Tree - Themes  (Read 4985 times)

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Offline tom_b1807

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The Joshua Tree - Themes
« on: April 23, 2015, 09:53:12 AM »
I've always thought that TJT was meant to be about America. But after thinking about it there are only 3 songs that really convey that theme to me, but maybe I'm not thinking hard enough!

- Bullet The Blue Sky - Critical of Americas involvement in El Salvador, maybe also critical of greed when he talks about slapping the money down.
- In God's Country - I'm guessing that the country being referred to is America?
- Streets - The imagery of deserts and open spaces make me think of America

Apart from those 3 I don't really see how the albums concept is America?

For example:
- ISHFWILF is about spiritual yearning.
- RTTS is about heroin addiction in Dublin.
- Red Hill Mining Town is about the miners strikes in Britain.

I just can't see how you can call the album about America when the themes of most of the songs appear to me to be about other things. Like I said, maybe I'm just not that much of a lyricist however; thoughts?



Offline mdmomof7

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Re: The Joshua Tree - Themes
« Reply #1 on: April 23, 2015, 10:20:39 AM »
Are you thinking of Rattle and Hum?

I'd say Streets is more about eternity/heaven than America.

Offline tom_b1807

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Re: The Joshua Tree - Themes
« Reply #2 on: April 23, 2015, 12:02:40 PM »
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Are you thinking of Rattle and Hum?

I'd say Streets is more about eternity/heaven than America.

Yeah, I guess. It just makes me think of wide, open spaces which you can relate to America.

No I definately mean The Joshua Tree...
Quotes from The Joshua Tree wiki page:

Inspired by American tour experiences, literature, and politics, U2 chose America as a theme for the record.

Throughout the sessions, U2 sought a "cinematic" quality for the record, one that would evoke a sense of location, in particular, the open spaces of America. They represented this in the sleeve photography depicting them in American desert landscapes.

^^^ this is what I was getting at about Streets

Bono is credited as the album's sole lyricist. Thematically, the album juxtaposes antipathy towards the United States against the band's deep fascination with the country, its open spaces, freedoms, and ideals. Anger is directed particularly at the perceived greed of the Ronald Reagan administration and its foreign policy in Central America. Bono said, "I started to see two Americas, the mythic America and the real America", hence the album's working title, The Two Americas.

I don't think it gets more obvious than having a working title called the Two Americas!

I admit that Wikipedia isn't always the most reliable source but I'm pretty convinced by it. I just wanted to raise the question that if America was meant to be the concept of the album, why isn't it reflected in the work?

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Offline Lizard

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Re: The Joshua Tree - Themes
« Reply #3 on: April 23, 2015, 12:52:47 PM »
Another song definitely realted to America is Mothers - not the US but Latin America. Well, and Exit sort of tells a story that is set in America.

Even if not every song is related to America by its lyrics - to me the complete album is about the American west. For me that is actually where I first got to hear it - travelling the west of the United States. And the music really fits in there. I still see this landscape when I close my eyes and listen to the Joshua Tree.

I read somewhere that Bono wrote the lyrics for streets in Africa. This is interesting though, but I think the landscape in Ethiopia is very similar to that of the American desserts.

Offline Parsons

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Re: The Joshua Tree - Themes
« Reply #4 on: April 23, 2015, 06:47:42 PM »
 Nice thread,
I think TUF gave us some clues as to where U2 was heading next with songs about MLK , Elvis and NYC. ( Indian summer sky ) not to mention how the ending of MLK is the beginning of Streets.

The original title for TJT early on was " The Two America's " and its themes were going to deal with  Bono' s love / hate feelings towards America.
In the beginning Bono was pushing for an American sounding album while Edge wanted to explore more European textures ( Ala TUF ) towards the end BONO wanted more European textures and Edge wanted more American sonics so there was a bit of constructive tension in the air.

The end result was one of the best Rock albums ever.
Lyrically it was heavy with Bono's constructive criticism of America's shallow spirituality and foreign policy.

WTSHNN is the search for a universal American "ideal" or " Dream " the search for true Freedom, Peace on Earth or Heaven on Earth. After a missions trip from Africa Bono was disturbed by western materialism.
Remember Bono's speech at the Obama concert in front of the White House 

"Not just an American dream but a African dream, a European dream, a Palestinian dream"
During Ireland's  potato famine and beyond the Irish looked to America as a sort of a promised land.


ISHFWILF has a touch of American gospel sonics, I believe it to be Bono's commentary on the state of America's spiritual decline at the time, asking himself  Is this a promised land ? Was this the dream ? He answers  No, we're not there yet, We need new dreams tonight, 
I still haven't found what I'm looking for.
That's why the video was shot in Las Vegas , who said U2 didn't play with " irony " in the
80's, the idea would be explored in the future ( Zoo TV / Pop Mart).

WOWY is a universal track about sacrificial LOVE.

Bullet the Blue Sky is Bono's commentary on America's foreign policy obviously.
Remember his in concert speeches
     "And President Reagan comes up to me and I can see those fighter planes "

Sonically The Edge evokes American guitarist Jimi Hendrix.

RTSS. is another universal anti-drug song set in Ireland, but it could easily be about any city in America.

RHMT The miners strike in Great Britain perfect example of the Bono and Edge' s tension.

IGC.   Another commentary thru Irish eyes on the spiritual / political  state of America.

" Her rivers run but soon run dry
" She is Liberty and she comes to rescue me hope Faith her vanity "
"Sleep comes like a drug "" Sad eyes crooked crosses "

TTYW.   Bono once said the song " Is about a mermaid we once met in America "
mermaids are also known as "Sirens" which would cause ships to smash into the rocks and lead the crew to their untimely death.
Sonically it's Americana with its epic bar band sound.

                     Angels or Devils who was beckoning this band into America ?

OTH  Greg Carroll tribute  R.I.P with its Gospel fade out.

Exit  The dark side of religion, and at that time in America it was dark ( Jim Jones, Jim Baker, Jimmy Swaggart).

MOTD  The Troubles in Latin America and a cry for justice !

The cover its self shot at a CALIFORNIA dessert evokes the wilderness wanderings of the Old testament and U2 dressed as prophets or western preachers in long black coats ( again who said the band didn't have fun in the 80's ).
The actual JOSHUA Tree stands in the desert landscape  with its arms stretched out to the heavens in Hebrew Joshua is pronounced Yahshua or JESUS , The Jesus tree or in other words The CROSS.

      " You broke the bonds loosed the chains carried the CROSS of my shame "

The second half of BONO's original idea was finally realized with RATTLE AND HUM which explored the side of America Bono loved Gospel, Blues and Soul .






« Last Edit: April 24, 2015, 12:31:31 AM by Parsons »

Offline tom_b1807

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Re: The Joshua Tree - Themes
« Reply #5 on: April 24, 2015, 12:25:57 AM »
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Nice thread,
I think TUF gave us some clues as to where U2 was heading next with songs about MLK , Elvis and NYC. ( Indian summer sky ) not to mention how the ending of MLK is the beginning of Streets.

The original title for TJT early on was " The Two America's " and its themes were going to deal with  Bono' s love / hate feelings towards America.
In the beginning Bono was pushing for an American sounding album while Edge wanted to explore more European textures ( Ala TUF ) towards the end BONO wanted more European textures and Edge wanted more American sonics so there was a bit of constructive tension in the air.

The end result was one of the best Rock albums ever.
Lyrically it was heavy with Bono's constructive criticism of America's shallow spirituality and foreign policy.

WTSHNN is the search for a universal American "ideal" or " Dream " the search for true Freedom, Peace on Earth or Heaven on Earth. After a missions trip from Africa Bono was disturbed by western materialism.
Remember Bono's speech at the Obama concert in front of the White House 

"Not just an American dream but a African dream, a European dream, a Palestinian dream"
During Ireland's  potato famine and beyond the Irish looked to America as a sort of a promised land.


ISHFWILF has a touch of American gospel sonics, I believe it to be Bono's commentary on the state of America's spiritual decline at the time, asking himself  Is this a promised land ? Was this the dream ? He answers  No, we're not there yet, We need new dreams tonight, 
I still haven't found what I'm looking for.
That's why the video was shot in Las Vegas , who said U2 didn't play with " irony " in the
80's, the idea would be explored in the future ( Zoo TV / Pop Mart).

WOWY is a universal track about sacrificial LOVE.

Bullet the Blue Sky is Bono's commentary on America's foreign policy obviously.
Remember his in concert speeches
     "And President Reagan comes up to me and I can see those fighter planes "

Sonically The Edge evokes American guitarist Jimi Hendrix.

RTSS. is another universal anti-drug song set in Ireland, but it could easily be about any city in America.

RHMT The miners strike in Great Britain perfect example of the Bono and Edge' s tension.

IGC.   Another commentary thru Irish eyes on the spiritual / political  state of America.

" Her rivers run but soon run dry
" She is Liberty and she comes to rescue me hope Faith her vanity "
"Sleep comes like a drug "" Sad eyes crooked crosses "

TTYW.   Bono once said the song " Is about a mermaid we once met in America "
mermaids are also known as "Sirens" which would cause ships to smash into the rocks and lead the crew to their untimely death.
Sonically it's Americana with its epic bar band sound.

                     Angels or Devils who was beckoning this band into America ?

OTH  Greg Carroll tribute  R.I.P with its Gospel fade out.

Exit  The dark side of religion, and at that time in America it was dark ( Jim Jones, Jim Baker, Jimmy Swaggart).

MOTD  The Troubles in Latin America and a cry for justice !

The cover its self shot at a CALIFORNIA dessert evokes the wilderness wanderings of the Old testament and U2 dressed as prophets or western preachers in long black coats ( again who said the band didn't have fun in the 80's ).
The actual JOSHUA Tree stands in the dessert landscape  with its arms stretched out to the heavens in Hebrew Joshua is pronounced Yahshua or JESUS , The Jesus tree or in other words The CROSS.

      " You broke the bonds loosed the chains carried the CROSS of my shame "

The second half of BONO's original idea was finally realized with RATTLE AND HUM which explored the side of America Bono loved Gospel, Blues and Soul .

Ah, I can definately see more where the American element comes into it - more sonically in some cases than lyrically.

Offline tom_b1807

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Re: The Joshua Tree - Themes
« Reply #6 on: April 24, 2015, 12:28:53 AM »
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Another song definitely realted to America is Mothers - not the US but Latin America. Well, and Exit sort of tells a story that is set in America.

Even if not every song is related to America by its lyrics - to me the complete album is about the American west. For me that is actually where I first got to hear it - travelling the west of the United States. And the music really fits in there. I still see this landscape when I close my eyes and listen to the Joshua Tree.

I read somewhere that Bono wrote the lyrics for streets in Africa. This is interesting though, but I think the landscape in Ethiopia is very similar to that of the American desserts.

Yeah, that definately fits the Two Americas idea that they originally went for!
The USA American Dream and the war torn Latin America (BTBS , MOTD).
I definately get that picture, America seems like a great place to properly listen to the album! I think, I hope you mean deserts at the end there ;)

Offline Lizard

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Re: The Joshua Tree - Themes
« Reply #7 on: April 24, 2015, 01:33:17 AM »
Quote
I hope you mean deserts at the end there ;)

Sorry, didn't wanna compare African sweet dishes to American - was thinking about it and too lazy to look it up - it was late, when I typed this.

...

I was still thinking about the songs on The Joshua Tree - and sort of had the idea that ISHFWILF also fits in that theme very well. A lot of the ideas that the foundation of the US is based on stem from Christian faith. But having this knowledge and faith is not enough (for a nation as well as for an individual) ... you have to keep running and searching and looking for more.


Offline THRILLHO

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Re: The Joshua Tree - Themes
« Reply #8 on: April 24, 2015, 05:14:17 PM »
No. He meant desserts. The album is about the obseity epidemic in america. any True FanTM knows that.


that was a joke.

the b-sides fit in well with the desert landscape visuals too.

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Even if not every song is related to America by its lyrics - to me the complete album is about the American west. For me that is actually where I first got to hear it - travelling the west of the United States. And the music really fits in there. I still see this landscape when I close my eyes and listen to the Joshua Tree.

Yea, in 2010 i took a road trip with my dad from San Diego to Dallas <where we live> and we def took the 'desert sky' route <cali-nevada-utah-arizona-colo-texas, i believe>, i played my JT playlist for 2 hours of the trip and yea it fit perfectly.

Offline Parsons

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Re: The Joshua Tree - Themes
« Reply #9 on: April 24, 2015, 10:03:23 PM »
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No. He meant desserts. The album is about the obseity epidemic in america. any True FanTM knows that.


that was a joke.

the b-sides fit in well with the desert landscape visuals too.

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Even if not every song is related to America by its lyrics - to me the complete album is about the American west. For me that is actually where I first got to hear it - travelling the west of the United States. And the music really fits in there. I still see this landscape when I close my eyes and listen to the Joshua Tree.

Yea, in 2010 i took a road trip with my dad from San Diego to Dallas <where we live> and we def took the 'desert sky' route <cali-nevada-utah-arizona-colo-texas, i believe>, i played my JT playlist for 2 hours of the trip and yea it fit perfectly.

I can definitely relate to that there's nothing better than listening to TJT at HIGH VOLUME while taking a long road trip across the "desert sky" .
« Last Edit: April 26, 2015, 12:39:28 PM by Parsons »

Offline zimbo

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Re: The Joshua Tree - Themes
« Reply #10 on: April 25, 2015, 09:39:22 PM »
BEST album !

Offline Chip

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Re: The Joshua Tree - Themes
« Reply #11 on: April 25, 2015, 10:21:23 PM »
Bono always seems to write his songs with multiple levels, so it's always a bit tricky to say that any album or song is "about" one thing. TJT is not "about" America, for reasons that you and others have mentioned. It's also significant that The Two Americas ultimately didn't make the cut as the album title, and instructive to remember that Songs of Innocence and Songs of Experience were in the running for titles before the band nixed the double album idea. The different titles (both working and final) point to a variety of themes.

Regarding IGC, Bono said in an interview that it could apply to either Ireland or America.

And FWIW, I've always seen "Streets" as very much introducing the entire album's themes. We go from "building then burning down love" to finding (again) that "the hands that build could also pull down" at the album's climax. Most of the other "Streets" imagery either recurs later in the album or is revisited using parallel imagery. It's the main reason why I've always found "Streets" satisfying as the TJT opener, but not that compelling as a song by itself. (Live is another matter; the song there takes on a very different air.)
« Last Edit: April 25, 2015, 10:36:19 PM by Chip »

Offline Chip

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Re: The Joshua Tree - Themes
« Reply #12 on: April 25, 2015, 10:24:50 PM »
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TTYW.   Bono once said the song " Is about a mermaid we once met in America "


That was regarding its earlier incarnation as "Womanfish," right? I think TTYW speaks of a much bigger "fish."

Offline Parsons

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Re: The Joshua Tree - Themes
« Reply #13 on: April 25, 2015, 11:16:55 PM »
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TTYW.   Bono once said the song " Is about a mermaid we once met in America "


That was regarding its earlier incarnation as "Womanfish," right? I think TTYW speaks of a much bigger "fish."

Yes that's true it was " Womanfish " I stand corrected still there is a illusion of seduction is in TTYW as well.

The interview you refer to concerning IGC was with Dave Fanning and I believe Bono was trying to explain that the song was about an Irish ( immigrants ) view of America .

                        " she is Liberty she comes to rescue me "

Viewing the statue from the ship on their way inn also the opening line

"Desert sky dream beneath a desert sky "

Clearly it's America Ireland has no desert.

The last line

"Naked flame she stands a naked flame "

Again the statue

"I stand with the sons of Cain burned by the fire of love "

Cain the one who murdered his brother again an illusion to The Troubles in Ireland Catholic/ Protestant conflict or perhaps their violent Norman / Viking history.
« Last Edit: April 26, 2015, 12:40:34 PM by Parsons »

Offline Chip

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Re: The Joshua Tree - Themes
« Reply #14 on: April 25, 2015, 11:28:40 PM »
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TTYW.   Bono once said the song " Is about a mermaid we once met in America "


That was regarding its earlier incarnation as "Womanfish," right? I think TTYW speaks of a much bigger "fish."

Yes that's true it was " Womanfish " I stand corrected still there is a illusion of seduction is in TTYW as well.

The interview you refer to concerning IGC was with Dave Fanning and I believe Bono was trying to explain that the song was about an Irish ( immigrants ) view of America .

                        " she is Liberty she comes to rescue me "

Viewing the statue from the ship.

In the one I'm thinking of, he actually said IGC could have been about Ireland, and he couldn't decide for a while if he was writing/had written about Ireland or America. The way I read it, even though he chose America in the end, he felt that most of the song's sentiments also applied to Ireland.