Author Topic: The Two Americas  (Read 3861 times)

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Offline unforgettable fire

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The Two Americas
« on: March 23, 2009, 09:57:46 AM »
During the lyrical process of The Joshua Tree, Bono had the distinctive idea of two civilzations meeting: the desert landscape of America and the civilization landscape of America, using the two as metaphors for the junaxposing of two different self-view of America:

The Desert: The wide open spaces of the desert seems to symbolize the mytical dream of America: a place "where streets have no name", as in it's spiritually free, unbound by man-made bounderies or ideas, free to dream.

Songs that describe this: Streets, In God's Country, Trip Through Your Wires, One Tree Hill

The Civilaztion: Obviously not seen in a bad light, but perhaps this was viewed and the other side of greed, endecedance, and suffering. The consequence of political corruption, personal addiction and introspective sorrow, these things seems to symbolize how the civilazation, at least during this time, 1980s, under the Regan era, were affecting neiboughing countries, especally El Salvador, at the time. Also on how a couple is brought to their knees by addiction and a man suffering loss.

Songs that describe this: With Or Without You, Exit, Bullet the Blue Sky, Running to Stand Still, Mothers..

Put two and two together and you have not this emnitic confrontation but this meeting by these two civilazations, maybe used as a metaphor for people finding God.

Have, in my view, U2 kept this idea, it might or might have not turned into this concept album about the dream of a mythical America.

In anything, I LOVE this concept! ;D Shame they had to drop it and settle for the released Joshua Tree, which reguardless is by no means a universal classic.

What do you guys think?



Offline unforgettable fire

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Re: The Two Americas
« Reply #1 on: March 23, 2009, 10:51:55 AM »
 ??? ??? ??? ??? ??? ??? ??? ??? ??? ??? ??? ???

Offline sceptic prophet

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Re: The Two Americas
« Reply #2 on: March 23, 2009, 11:42:53 AM »
It's a very long post, gotta give people some time...  ;D

I hadn't heard previously about those Bono concepts while he was writing for Joshua Tree. Makes sense to me. Desert versus civilization. Come to think of it, right from the start on Streets you have that confrontation:

I want to tear down the walls that hold me inside
I want to reach out and touch the flame


And then:

The cities a flood and our love turns to rust
We're beaten and blown by the wind, trampled in dust
I'll show you a place high on a desert plain
Where the streets have no name


Escape the constructions that are suffocating / drowning you, to reach out for a place where you can touch the flame - the desert.

Well, this is just a start, I'm afraid I don't have much time right now to delve into it deeper...

Offline unforgettable fire

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Re: The Two Americas
« Reply #3 on: March 23, 2009, 10:23:36 PM »
Wow, sceptic prophet! :o I didn't even knew my post is THAT long. I've seen longer honestly, but thanks for that overview.

Now that I think about it, the idea of escaping the civilization to the desert is evident in Streets. The yearning to escape the confines of the city to the freedom of the desert.


Offline hawthorn mccadden

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Re: The Two Americas
« Reply #4 on: March 23, 2009, 11:09:47 PM »
Some pretty heavy thoughts, UF.

One could easily write a book about the JT...there is so much to consider and from so many angles.

Like many of us on the boards, I have heard about this original title for JT, "The Two Americas".

I do think U2 made the right choice about the change of title. I have never put much consideration into this, so maybe I will just share some random thoughts.

Perhaps the "Two Americas" title was TOO specific. The record does cover subjects related to U.S. foreign policy in the 80's, etc., but it also deals with some very universal concepts. The abandoned title might have been too constricting with regard to the full breadth of the album.

Sometimes bands begin with a very specific concept as they work on a project, but the final result wants to go beyond those parameters. If I remember correctly, The Beatles actually had an even more elaborate scheme in mind for what became Sgt. Peppers. The final album abandoned the plan to a degree, but I don't think many will dispute Pepper's eventual shape.

Also, perhaps the "Two Americas" title and concept would have been too heavy handed(?)...or even insulting to some Americans?? I am a U.S. citizen, let me explain: U2 were definitely being critical of The States in sections of the JT. And they had very compelling arguments. I think by not advertising that overtly, or hanging the album's central thrust off that idea, they actually presented their observations more powerfully...more poetically. I was 16 when I bought The Joshua Tree, (the day it came out!)...I listened very closely and picked up on the politics and the global questions in the album. The artistry used to describe their point of view, (for example: Edge's guitar solo on Bullet), was about as powerful an expression as one could imagine.

Does that make sense?

I do not agree with every decision the band has made through the years, but their instincts were pretty spot on with those first 5 studio albums.
« Last Edit: March 24, 2009, 12:40:56 AM by hawthorn mccadden »

Offline unforgettable fire

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Re: The Two Americas
« Reply #5 on: March 23, 2009, 11:24:27 PM »
Amazing anylogy, hawtorn! Very well said and put.  ;)

In this reguard, I do love the "Joshua Tree" title, maybe even better than Two Americas title. More for the same reasons that you mentioned. Whlie I love the Two Americas concept, I also aknowledge that such a title and it's polictical themes, should it've stayed, would've stained U2's puclic image in America and also to allow more universitality to the theme, rather than stick it to a progressive-politcal formula of an entire album. In that way their messesge was more grasping and more challenging as ever!

Really awesome post hawtron! :D

Offline larrys pants

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Re: The Two Americas
« Reply #6 on: March 24, 2009, 04:11:05 AM »
Where the streets have no name is about El Salvador, as is Bullet the Blue Sky, however it can also be an analogy for the troubles in Northern Ireland, often defined by street names which denote republican or loyalist enclaves, Falls Road etc.

Offline sceptic prophet

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Re: The Two Americas
« Reply #7 on: March 24, 2009, 06:09:16 AM »
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Sometimes bands begin with a very specific concept as they work on a project, but the final result wants to go beyond those parameters. If I remember correctly, The Beatles actually had an even more elaborate scheme in mind for what became Sgt. Peppers. The final album abandoned the plan to a degree, but I don't think many will dispute Pepper's eventual shape.


Yes, often bands use a concept as a sort of guiding light to help them concentrate on what they want to achieve... For instance, for the "Dark Side of the Moon" album, Roger Waters came up with the idea that all Floyd members should write songs about things that make people mad. Yet, in the end, the album title and the overall feeling of the music convey images and feelings that are not so specific (even if a close look at the lyrics reveals more of the original concept, perhaps)



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Also, perhaps the "Two Americas" title and concept would have been too heavy handed(?)...or even insulting to some Americans?? I


"Two Americas" would have sounded too pretentious, perhaps, coming from a foreign band. They would probably have been bashed by many Americans along the lines "who the hell are these guys to come and tell us what America is like? What do they know?".

Offline unforgettable fire

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Re: The Two Americas
« Reply #8 on: March 24, 2009, 08:58:40 AM »
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Yes, often bands use a concept as a sort of guiding light to help them concentrate on what they want to achieve... For instance, for the "Dark Side of the Moon" album, Roger Waters came up with the idea that all Floyd members should write songs about things that make people mad. Yet, in the end, the album title and the overall feeling of the music convey images and feelings that are not so specific (even if a close look at the lyrics reveals more of the original concept, perhaps)

Or look at The Wall, even. Unlike Dark Side.., The Wall was more of Roger's story than Pink Floyd as a whole, placing the theme of isolation and alienation throughout the album. 

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"Two Americas" would have sounded too pretentious, perhaps, coming from a foreign band. They would probably have been bashed by many Americans along the lines "who the hell are these guys to come and tell us what America is like? What do they know?".

Having that said, like The Wall, The Two Americas title somewhat spills the beans out before even hearing the album and very likely U2 didn't want that, as it would've constrained everything into a single theme, like The Wall, and wanted it to be universal to people as opposed to making a statement.

And, yeah, I guess alot of Americans would've protest against such a title, only adding to the critical backlash of U2 being "pretenious".

Again, awesome insight, sceptic.  ;)

jimyjazz

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Re: The Two Americas
« Reply #9 on: March 24, 2009, 09:04:55 AM »
Really cool post; I like the analysis.  I think a lot of their albums are concept records.

Offline unforgettable fire

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Re: The Two Americas
« Reply #10 on: March 24, 2009, 09:23:37 AM »
Thanks, jimyjazz.  ;)

Well, from a face value, you could see their albums as conceptual. But I think U2 said it themselves that they're not to fond of concept albums or Progressive Rock in general. They rather let universal lyrical interpetation speak for themselves, which I love from them!  ;D

Offline dragmio

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Re: The Two Americas
« Reply #11 on: March 26, 2009, 04:56:32 AM »
For me that concept is best reflected in the lyrics of "Heartland".

Mississippi and the cotton wool heat
Sixty-six a highway speaks
Of deserts dry
Of cool green valleys
Gold and silver veins
Of the shining cities


It's so simple and elegant, but it encompasses so much. It has almost mythical proportions. I can actually visualise America as "THE new world" with all it's good and bad sides, just from these verses. Did I mention I love "Heartland"? :)

One more thing, and back on JT, why do people often interpret "In God's Country" as a positive view of America?

Sleep comes like a drug
In God's Country
Sad eyes, crooked crosses
In God's Country


Doesn't sound too good to me...

Offline unforgettable fire

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Re: The Two Americas
« Reply #12 on: March 29, 2009, 10:21:42 PM »
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For me that concept is best reflected in the lyrics of "Heartland".

Mississippi and the cotton wool heat
Sixty-six a highway speaks
Of deserts dry
Of cool green valleys
Gold and silver veins
Of the shining cities


It's so simple and elegant, but it encompasses so much. It has almost mythical proportions. I can actually visualise America as "THE new world" with all it's good and bad sides, just from these verses. Did I mention I love "Heartland"? :)

OMG! Now that you mention it, and that I've heard it, you're right! I too love Heartland! ;D It doesn't belong on R&H, it could've easily fitted into JT.

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One more thing, and back on JT, why do people often interpret "In God's Country" as a positive view of America?

Sleep comes like a drug
In God's Country
Sad eyes, crooked crosses
In God's Country


Doesn't sound too good to me...

Hmmm.. now that you mention it, those lyrics does seem vague. If you look at the lyrics before hand..

Desert rose, dreamed I saw a desert rose
Dress torn in ribbons and bows
Like a siren she calls (to me)


I think it's Bono's metaphor of the "siren" might be a metaphor to how America's freedom and beauty makes it so alluring and fascinating.

Offline dragmio

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Re: The Two Americas
« Reply #13 on: April 01, 2009, 01:12:49 PM »
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I think it's Bono's metaphor of the "siren" might be a metaphor to how America's freedom and beauty makes it so alluring and fascinating.

Yes, definitely. U2 have a special attitude towards Americe, since they're Irish. I mean, where would the Irish be without America?
Regarding that, it seems that your view of "Where the streets have no name" as mythical America is quite complementary with name of the streets denoting republican and loyalist enclaves, as someone mentioned. But, the second song on JT is already "I still haven't found what I'm looking for" and soon it gets to "Bullet". Every dream gets spoiled. Moreover, Bono is obviously very aware that the Irish were as well once regarded as "immigrant trash".
Also, although those times are long gone, I heard in an interview with Bono that even during the 1980's there were people living on street where he grew up that were forced to go to America to look for jobs. I think everyone agrees that's a terrible thing.
To sum it up, it more or less seems that the concept of Two Americas was abandoned only in title. And I think they did the right decision.

Offline sceptic prophet

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Re: The Two Americas
« Reply #14 on: April 02, 2009, 03:55:49 AM »
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I think it's Bono's metaphor of the "siren" might be a metaphor to how America's freedom and beauty makes it so alluring and fascinating.

Yes, definitely. U2 have a special attitude towards Americe, since they're Irish. I mean, where would the Irish be without America?

And where would Americans be without Ireland? Irish immigrants were a fundamental part in the construction of the American dream, no? John Ford, JFK and so may others were of Irish origin...