Author Topic: Is The Joshua Tree really about America?  (Read 720 times)

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Offline Hawkmoon255

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Is The Joshua Tree really about America?
« on: May 11, 2017, 11:23:45 AM »
Over the years we've all have heard and read the various comments by the band and their associates- about The Joshua Tree being primarily or largely about America - an examination of it, a critique of it, a portrait of it, etc.  But is that an accurate take?   If you think about it, really only four songs seem to be arguably "about" America in any meaningful sense and even one of those is a bit of a stretch. 

"Bullet" is clearly inspired by aspects of U.S. foreign policy. 

"In God's Country" might be a bit vague and metaphorical rather than narrative and specific, but it does seem to hint at the contrast of cultural degredation and promise, and given all the band's statements about America and the JT, it's not a difficult connection to make -throw in the statue of liberty and it becomes more obvious.  Bono has said he was also thinking about Ireland too, but I see no problem making the American association here also. 

"Mothers of the Disappeared" - I guess the connection here is the support our gov't lent to said regimes committing the atrocities.

Then there's "Exit," as it was inspired by the story of an American killer.   To me, this just seems to explore the mind of a killer - and while the killer that inspired Mailer's book just so happened to be an American, I'm not sure if the commentary is in any substantive way any more U.S.-centric than that.  Gun control?  A culture of violence? Eh, I dunno.   Seems a stretch to me. 

So if we go with Exit, it's four songs with the "American" theme.  If not, then it's only three.  It seems that a lot has been made about America in regards to the Joshua Tree (they even said "The Two Americas" was a working title), yet the connections seem to be just here and there, really.  Thoughts?

Of course, this doesn't diminish the connections that are there, or the value of the observations, or their artistic expression. It's just that for years I've read the comments and listened to the music and explored it all, and concluded that really the association just seems less robust than the band often articulates.  This is all fine, of course - it's just an observation/food for thought.   

The band, and Bono and Edge in particular, have openly acknowledged some of their art as having universalish, malleable application, and some of it as sort of "sketch"-work.  I guess their assessment of the JT's theme itself, is a bit of a sketch.  It's not so much "about" America, as it is partially so, forming a more general "sketch" than hitting on a unified theme.   




Offline ShankAsu

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Re: Is The Joshua Tree really about America?
« Reply #1 on: May 11, 2017, 04:42:45 PM »
i never thought that the lyrics of every song were related to the US.  There's a lot of references in the lyrics that i know are specifically about Irish issues and locations.

Offline riffraff

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Re: Is The Joshua Tree really about America?
« Reply #2 on: May 11, 2017, 04:52:07 PM »
It's a mish-mash...just like most of the songs have multiply meanings.

Offline shineinthesummernight

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Re: Is The Joshua Tree really about America?
« Reply #3 on: May 11, 2017, 07:18:55 PM »
Lots of Biblical references with universal applicability....

Offline lucas.homem

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Re: Is The Joshua Tree really about America?
« Reply #4 on: May 11, 2017, 07:28:38 PM »
Yea, the lyrics...

Have you heard the ~~music~~?

Sure, there's a lot of universal elements there, but the influence of american traditional music is huge, something that was not heard in their music before.

Offline Smee

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Re: Is The Joshua Tree really about America?
« Reply #5 on: May 13, 2017, 09:08:04 AM »
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Yea, the lyrics...

Have you heard the ~~music~~?

Sure, there's a lot of universal elements there, but the influence of american traditional music is huge, something that was not heard in their music before.

Rattle and Hum in parts...Not JT tho

Offline RunningtoStandstill (The League of Extraordinary BonoPeople)

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Re: Is The Joshua Tree really about America?
« Reply #6 on: May 13, 2017, 01:44:39 PM »
Yes, the album is definitively about America. But America thematically, not literally. The music, for one, is the sound of the desert, which represents the place from which the American dream both springs from and dries up in. The songs are lyrically about the promise of more and the duality of the fantasy and reality of this promise. Everyone, from the hopeless heroin addict in Running to Standstill to the murderer in Exit is looking for the promise of the American dream...but they can't really find it. It is both there and not there, just like a mirage in the desert. I did an intense two year study of the Joshua Tree for the novel I wrote, so I'm pretty definitive on this.
« Last Edit: May 13, 2017, 01:46:23 PM by RunningtoStandstill (The League of Extraordinary BonoPeople) »

Offline 73October

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Re: Is The Joshua Tree really about America?
« Reply #7 on: May 13, 2017, 07:14:57 PM »
Mainly it's about America (including El Salvador, Nicaragua) but I think some songs cover other prevalent issues from different parts of the world during the 80's.

RHMT is about the 1984 miners strike in the UK in order to stop the mines being de-nationalised or closed.  Bono has said as much on a number of occasions, some quite recently.  The strike lasted about a year and Bono reflects this in the lyrics when he refers to broken marriages (literally the miners families were destitute after a time and it forced families apart).

Isn't OTH about New Zealand, and dedicated to the memory of Greg Carroll?

RTSS refers to the 'seven towers' of Ballymun which became a haven for drug use in the 80's.


Offline THRILLHO

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Re: Is The Joshua Tree really about America?
« Reply #8 on: May 13, 2017, 07:48:18 PM »
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Yea, the lyrics...

Have you heard the ~~music~~?

Sure, there's a lot of universal elements there, but the influence of american traditional music is huge, something that was not heard in their music before.

Rattle and Hum in parts...Not JT tho

have you been to the american southwest? the music and the art are 100% rooted in that atmosphere

Offline riffraff

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Re: Is The Joshua Tree really about America?
« Reply #9 on: May 14, 2017, 05:39:39 AM »
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Yea, the lyrics...

Have you heard the ~~music~~?

Sure, there's a lot of universal elements there, but the influence of american traditional music is huge, something that was not heard in their music before.

Rattle and Hum in parts...Not JT tho

have you been to the american southwest? the music and the art are 100% rooted in that atmosphere
This, exactly. I do live in the American southwest. So many references to life here, the weather, the people, the beauty, the desolation, etc etc etc.

Offline GardenTart

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Re: Is The Joshua Tree really about America?
« Reply #10 on: May 14, 2017, 01:06:36 PM »
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Yes, the album is definitively about America. But America thematically, not literally. The music, for one, is the sound of the desert, which represents the place from which the American dream both springs from and dries up in. The songs are lyrically about the promise of more and the duality of the fantasy and reality of this promise. Everyone, from the hopeless heroin addict in Running to Standstill to the murderer in Exit is looking for the promise of the American dream...but they can't really find it. It is both there and not there, just like a mirage in the desert. I did an intense two year study of the Joshua Tree for the novel I wrote, so I'm pretty definitive on this.

Well put RTSSie

Offline Kmama07

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Re: Is The Joshua Tree really about America?
« Reply #11 on: May 14, 2017, 05:13:47 PM »
I always took their comments as the albums music/lyrics being "inspired and influenced by" ...not necessarily 100% about America

Offline THRILLHO

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Re: Is The Joshua Tree really about America?
« Reply #12 on: May 14, 2017, 05:52:54 PM »
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Yea, the lyrics...

Have you heard the ~~music~~?

Sure, there's a lot of universal elements there, but the influence of american traditional music is huge, something that was not heard in their music before.

Rattle and Hum in parts...Not JT tho

have you been to the american southwest? the music and the art are 100% rooted in that atmosphere
This, exactly. I do live in the American southwest. So many references to life here, the weather, the people, the beauty, the desolation, etc etc etc.

i live in dallas but road tripped from san diego <where i was born> to dallas and JT <and the bsides etc> got played on that trip. it's so perfect. it really is. the same way AB "takes me" to Berlin, Zooropa to Toyko and Pop to Miami.

Offline Mr. Sinnerman

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Re: Is The Joshua Tree really about America?
« Reply #13 on: May 14, 2017, 09:11:42 PM »
Streets/Africa
Bullet/El Salvador
RTSS/a smackhead anywhere in the world
RHMT/UK Miners Strike
One Tree Hill/New Zooland
MotD/Chile or Ireland

And ISHFWILF and WoWY arepretty unspecific in time and place.

So it's not that Americana


Offline miryclay

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Re: Is The Joshua Tree really about America?
« Reply #14 on: May 14, 2017, 09:17:48 PM »
Great point sinnerman. References to South America n poets also shift the geographic needle.