Author Topic: It's hard to listen while you preach  (Read 602 times)

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Offline laoghaire

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It's hard to listen while you preach
« on: December 14, 2018, 04:09:48 PM »
I love EBW and interpret it as an offer to heal a very damaged relationship. Two people, probably in a marriage, who have hurt each other but atill love each orher - and can't seem to stop being pulled into conflict. An offer to surrender.

The one line that bugs me is:

I thought I heard the Captain's voice - it's hard to listen while you preach

I really wish he had used "we" instead of "you" there. Through the song, he uses non-blaming language, and all faults are shared. But in this one place he's saying, I can hear God talking but YOU WON'T SHUT UP.

And yet, I have to wonder if there is another way to interpret this line. Why? Because our guy knows his own flaws better than many of us do, and he knows flapping his gums - and specifically, preaching - is one of them. He's also been pretty empathetic in his language in general - yes, skewering some people (SLABT, Please, etc.) - but not in this kind of song, and particularly given it's an offer or at least a wish to start again.

How do you read that?



Offline Bundang Dave

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Re: It's hard to listen while you preach
« Reply #1 on: December 14, 2018, 04:40:57 PM »
I always read that "you" as being directed at Bono himself.

I interpret the song as a caution against easily ending relationships in search of "the one" instead of working through problems in order to build a relationship. The gamble is that the next try at a relationship will be that lucky, romantic "one".

Offline World71R

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Re: It's hard to listen while you preach
« Reply #2 on: December 14, 2018, 07:31:50 PM »
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I always read that "you" as being directed at Bono himself.

I interpret the song as a caution against easily ending relationships in search of "the one" instead of working through problems in order to build a relationship. The gamble is that the next try at a relationship will be that lucky, romantic "one".

I saw that as well. I really liked the live version's lyric which had it as, "I thought I heard the pastor's voice, It's hard to listen while you preach." That was a very interesting line, to me.

Offline Tortuga

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Re: It's hard to listen while you preach
« Reply #3 on: December 14, 2018, 09:00:18 PM »
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I always read that "you" as being directed at Bono himself.

I interpret the song as a caution against easily ending relationships in search of "the one" instead of working through problems in order to build a relationship. The gamble is that the next try at a relationship will be that lucky, romantic "one".

I saw that as well. I really liked the live version's lyric which had it as, "I thought I heard the pastor's voice, It's hard to listen while you preach." That was a very interesting line, to me.
I agree with Bundang’s interpretation.  I see it as a pretty straightforward lyric with enough cleverness in the metaphors to make it interesting.


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Offline laoghaire

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Re: It's hard to listen while you preach
« Reply #4 on: December 15, 2018, 08:53:18 AM »
That could make sense, but what is confusing to me is that he uses "I" in the same sentence, so to use "you" for "I" seems a strange twist.

Also, unless the song is about two aspects of himself, there is a "you" character in the song, so it would be jarring to refer to, say, a spouse as "you" throughout the song, but then call himself "you" in part of one line only.

Offline Tortuga

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It's hard to listen while you preach
« Reply #5 on: December 15, 2018, 11:04:18 AM »
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That could make sense, but what is confusing to me is that he uses "I" in the same sentence, so to use "you" for "I" seems a strange twist.

Also, unless the song is about two aspects of himself, there is a "you" character in the song, so it would be jarring to refer to, say, a spouse as "you" throughout the song, but then call himself "you" in part of one line only.
I think you’re listening to it too literally and overthinking it.  Song lyrics can change person or perspective randomly.  It’s like having a conversation with some one.  You say things like “I really need to eat more healthy but you know how it is, you eat what tastes good.”   “You”, in this context, means “we all” or “a person” or “people typically”.  Its a pretty simple song.  I don’t think there is any three dimensional layered meaning to the choice of pronoun.


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« Last Edit: December 15, 2018, 11:06:03 AM by Tortuga »

Offline laoghaire

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Re: It's hard to listen while you preach
« Reply #6 on: December 15, 2018, 11:28:39 AM »
I don't think there is, either; I just think it sucks.

Offline Tortuga

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It's hard to listen while you preach
« Reply #7 on: December 15, 2018, 12:09:57 PM »
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I don't think there is, either; I just think it sucks.
I’m curious what it is bothering you about it.  The “you” is the same person throughout the song.  Its not someone specific to the singer.  The song is about the way we humans all tend to be.  Its not being sung to a specific individual.  The we is collective as in all we humans.  The you is “self”.  So its the singer and the listener.  Its not a love song.  Its a commentary on how we all live our lives randomly letting things happen to us instead of having the courage to make decisions.  And how we abandon the decisions we’ve made thinking the grass is always greener.


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« Last Edit: December 15, 2018, 12:12:37 PM by Tortuga »

Offline laoghaire

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Re: It's hard to listen while you preach
« Reply #8 on: December 15, 2018, 12:21:05 PM »
Because I don't believe the "you" is a royal "we."

Offline Tortuga

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Re: It's hard to listen while you preach
« Reply #9 on: December 15, 2018, 12:50:03 PM »
Darn!  I really wanted to solve this for you but I guess its not about the nail.  ;)


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Offline laoghaire

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Re: It's hard to listen while you preach
« Reply #10 on: December 15, 2018, 01:05:39 PM »
No, it's about the nail, you just didn't hammer in the spot I was looking at.

I do agree it's likely not about a romantic relationship - so few are. Could have been extremely general from the outset but it's hard to be inspired to create in generalities so I suspect he had some idea in mind but pulled back to a wide view or blurred the picture a bit. Could be band mates but if you wanted me to lay a bet, I think it could be his father.

But, my point is, I think there are two characters - "me" and "someone else." And not "just me musing about myself to myself." Otherwise how can you go your way and I go mine?

So I would have really liked it if he had said "we" there, and I'm sure U2 will be getting right on my complaint and resolving it to my satisfaction pronto. It's just good customer service after all.

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Offline Tortuga

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Re: It's hard to listen while you preach
« Reply #11 on: December 15, 2018, 01:15:54 PM »
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No, it's about the nail, you just didn't hammer in the spot I was looking at.

I do agree it's likely not about a romantic relationship - so few are. Could have been extremely general from the outset but it's hard to be inspired to create in generalities so I suspect he had some idea in mind but pulled back to a wide view or blurred the picture a bit. Could be band mates but if you wanted me to lay a bet, I think it could be his father.

But, my point is, I think there are two characters - "me" and "someone else." And not "just me musing about myself to myself." Otherwise how can you go your way and I go mine?

So I would have really liked it if he had said "we" there, and I'm sure U2 will be getting right on my complaint and resolving it to my satisfaction pronto. It's just good customer service after all.

I've put in my 500 pounds.
I think the difference is that I don’t believe song lyrics or poetry are intended be interpreted legalistically.  Whether its grammer or something like this they don’t need to be “correct”.  That’s for essays and news stories.  Its the looseness and fuzziness that makes it art instead of journalism.


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I Fall Down

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Re: It's hard to listen while you preach
« Reply #12 on: December 16, 2018, 09:34:26 AM »
Quote
I think the difference is that I don’t believe song lyrics or poetry are intended be interpreted legalistically.  Whether its grammer or something like this they don’t need to be “correct”.  That’s for essays and news stories.  Its the looseness and fuzziness that makes it art instead of journalism.


What does "grammar" have to do with it?  I've listened to U2's music and read Bono's lyrics for close to 40 yrs. now.  And I know for a fact Bono doesn't usually play too loose with his lyrics or his "grammar". In fact, I think he devotes more time to his lyrics than the music itself.  He always has some reason for wording things a certain way.  I think the OP is justified in wanting to understand that particular lyric.

I believe the OP's first interpretation of the song is correct - "I love EBW and interpret it as an offer to heal a very damaged relationship. Two people, probably in a marriage, who have hurt each other but still love each other - and can't seem to stop being pulled into conflict. An offer to surrender".

For the lyric in question:

"I thought I heard the Captain's voice - it's hard to listen while you preach"

I think the "Captain" in this case is God and the "you" in this case is Bono.  Bono is self deprecating on purpose here.  From my research into the song and reading various things about it, I came upon a reference to Hebrews 2:10 where Jesus is called the "captain of our salvation." And Bono selectively uses the word "preach" which is obviously religious in nature.  Which seems to point to Bono referring to something like the Hebrews 2:10 verse. Bono is basically pointing the "you" at himself and is saying that in his endeavors to do good, he has occasionally not made time to listen to his "Captain" (God) or spend time with God. He is basically admitting his fault in the relationship communication process since he has not spent enough time with God.  Spending time with God in this context is critical to the healing of a broken relationship.

The song, in fact, is very religious. It's a surrender to God and to the soul. In the Bible, ocean or water symbolizes soul.  There is a need to drown in the ocean as a way of release and peace. Chasing every breaking wave means struggling to do something with force instead of ease.  And letting go and just flowing is much easier, to stop chasing what is not chasing us, to let go and flow with what is meant to come to us naturally (love to each other). The theme is very transcendental - the spiritual importance of each other's soul.  And the spiritual importance of working together in a relationship, in order to make it work through the hard times.

In my opinion that is what it's about.  Yeah, maybe one can continue to argue that art is "looseness and fuzziness" but knowing Bono, I doubt that's the case here. 
« Last Edit: December 16, 2018, 10:58:05 AM by I Fall Down »

Offline laoghaire

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Re: It's hard to listen while you preach
« Reply #13 on: December 16, 2018, 09:38:46 AM »
Wow!

I thought I heard the Captain's voice: "It's hard to listen while you preach."

Now that is brilliant.

Offline Tortuga

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Re: It's hard to listen while you preach
« Reply #14 on: December 16, 2018, 11:30:09 AM »
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I think the difference is that I don’t believe song lyrics or poetry are intended be interpreted legalistically.  Whether its grammer or something like this they don’t need to be “correct”.  That’s for essays and news stories.  Its the looseness and fuzziness that makes it art instead of journalism.


What does "grammar" have to do with it?  I've listened to U2's music and read Bono's lyrics for close to 40 yrs. now.  And I know for a fact Bono doesn't usually play too loose with his lyrics or his "grammar". In fact, I think he devotes more time to his lyrics than the music itself.  He always has some reason for wording things a certain way.  I think the OP is justified in wanting to understand that particular lyric.

I believe the OP's first interpretation of the song is correct - "I love EBW and interpret it as an offer to heal a very damaged relationship. Two people, probably in a marriage, who have hurt each other but still love each other - and can't seem to stop being pulled into conflict. An offer to surrender".

For the lyric in question:

"I thought I heard the Captain's voice - it's hard to listen while you preach"

I think the "Captain" in this case is God and the "you" in this case is Bono.  Bono is self deprecating on purpose here.  From my research into the song and reading various things about it, I came upon a reference to Hebrews 2:10 where Jesus is called the "captain of our salvation." And Bono selectively uses the word "preach" which is obviously religious in nature.  Which seems to point to Bono referring to something like the Hebrews 2:10 verse. Bono is basically pointing the "you" at himself and is saying that in his endeavors to do good, he has occasionally not made time to listen to his "Captain" (God) or spend time with God. He is basically admitting his fault in the relationship communication process since he has not spent enough time with God.  Spending time with God in this context is critical to the healing of a broken relationship.

The song, in fact, is very religious. It's a surrender to God and to the soul. In the Bible, ocean or water symbolizes soul.  There is a need to drown in the ocean as a way of release and peace. Chasing every breaking wave means struggling to do something with force instead of ease.  And letting go and just flowing is much easier, to stop chasing what is not chasing us, to let go and flow with what is meant to come to us naturally (love to each other). The theme is very transcendental - the spiritual importance of each other's soul.  And the spiritual importance of working together in a relationship, in order to make it work through the hard times.

In my opinion that is what it's about.  Yeah, maybe one can continue to argue that art is "looseness and fuzziness" but knowing Bono, I doubt that's the case here.
Just to be clear, I never said the OP was wrong for wanting to find literal logical sense to every nuance of the lyric.  I just said that I don’t find that necessary in order to derive meaning and that it doesn’t frustrate me if it doesn’t.  And, yes, I thought that philosophy on art versus journalism might be something the OP would appreciate.

Of course there is nothing wrong analyzing something at length if you enjoy it.  You can find all kinds of connections and meaning, some of which may or may not have been connections the author consciously or unconsciously made when they wrote it.  But there is a difference between finding that meaning for yourself and falling on your sword over “that’s what Bono had in mind”.  It really doesn’t matter if that’s what Bono had in mind at all.

All of that said, your ideas are interesting and add to my thoughts about the song so thanks for sharing!


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