May 29, 2011

A Song with Strange Powers Over Women of a Certain Age

This month's entry in my "I Was 15 and Pretty and Dumb Once Upon a Time" series is about one of the most polarizing (in my experience) U2 songs ever. "Who's Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses" is equally revered and reviled by U2 fans, music fans, and almost everyone who seems to have heard it. Most of my female friends in high school (who shall not remain nameless) loved it. Most of my male friends in college hated it (or laughed or didn't know what it was). When I told them it was one of Bono's sillier love songs, they usually laughed and then hated it. Yes children, there are many precedents for The Terrible Crap That Is Coldplay.

Even so, aside from a few shitty lyrics from Bono (par for the course on every U2 album) the thing doesn't really offend my pathetically delicate macho sensibilities. It's far from my favorite song on the album, but I do like the album version better, with its Eno-applied walls of guitar feedback, than the the campfire-acoustic version that was released as the afterthought-ish 5th and final single from "Achtung Baby." However, that latter version always seems to make female U2 fans of a certain age go all gooey. Or at least the ones I knew. Remember, this came from a time (1991) when hair metal was, thankfully, dying in its own rotten cesspool of dumbfuckery, hip-hop couldn't walk without tripping over its own dick, and "grunge" seemed more about growly dudes and shrieking babes much angrier at the world than they had a right to be. The vacuum for "sensitive" mainstream '90s pop-rock love songs was waiting to be filled, and even acoustic stuff from Michael Stipe was decidedly too weird for some people (I know, right?).

Anyway, according to "U2 at the End of the World" author Bill Flanagan, when Bono originally brought the song to the Berlin album sessions, the other three guys basically wanted to toss it in the toilet, and it was in danger of getting lost in the shuffle of faux-breakbeats and diluted house allegedly sprinkled on the other songs' surfaces. However, Jimmy Iovine (the producer of U2's live albums "Rattle and Hum" and "Under a Blood Red Sky") was overwhelmingly in favor of it. His comment was something like "You wanna play 'house music?' This song IS house music! You release this, you get to live in a big fucking house!"

Of course, Iovine produced "Rattle and Hum," so take that with a mountain of salt. Anyway, here's the video (shot by Phil Joanou, who directed, uh, "Rattle and Hum"), where Bono screws up and cusses at the end:

Good goddamn, why am I still doing this stuff? Could it be because the album is more and more likely to get a deluxe awesome reissue this year? Maybe. Otherwise I'd be embarrassing myself for no reason at all. Again, par for the course. Oh well.

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