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Go to U2 internet sites, they're murder. I mean, where is this sycophancy, can I ask someone? -- Bono

Our Letters To U2: Part II

Bono Elton glasses Kelly

On Monday, we posted a series of fan letters written by our staffers to U2, inspired by the letters Bono wrote to famous musicians for his 60th birthday. Today, we continue the series: letters for "Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me, " "Every Breaking Wave" and "Who's Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses."

 

U2

"Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me"

 

Dear Adam, Bono, Edge and Larry,

I was lucky. I went to a good music program when I was 10. I could play any instrument I wanted, and it was between a violin and a cello. I think our elementary school needed more cellists, so that's where I landed, but I loved them both. I taught myself how to read violin sheet music and play those parts on the cello. When my family moved, the new school had a band program, not an orchestra. Who wants to play trombone? Or guitar? I opted out of a new instrument, and the entire music program, but I never lost my love of orchestral music.

It was around that same time in my life that I was trying to learn what modern music actually was. My neighbor's older sister told me a few important things about music, among them that I should be watching MTV.

The memory that stands out the most from MTV was seeing the video for "Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me." I hadn't seen anything resembling an adult cartoon before or heard a rock song with violins so prominently featured. A handful of violins isn't what I would ever expect to accompany a traditional four-piece rock band.

This was the song that changed my perspective on what a rock song could be. It could be heavily produced, sound a little bit like nails on a chalkboard at times, be breathy, move deliberately slowly, and...it could have a string arrangement. It's still my favorite U2 song. Any song where I hear U2 accompanied by a few extra strings catches my ear a little differently and holds a special place with me.

Your fan,

Jessica Hurwitz

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U2

"Every Breaking Wave"

 

Dear Larry, Bono, Adam and Edge:

I was on the road, at a hotel gym—jamming to “Streets” for the 400th time—the moment Songs of Innocence dropped into my iTunes. (Thank you, by the way.)

Hearing “The Miracle (of Joey Ramone)” for the first time, I amped up. I started sprinting like Bono careening around the heart-shaped stage at the Super Bowl--fast, and wild, and free. At the last guitar strum, I thought, THAT was cool. I dig it.

I barely got through half of “Every Breaking Wave” before I hit the emergency stop button on the treadmill. I fumbled with my iPhone to restart the song. I sat on the edge of the treadmill, my heart banging against my ribcage, tears mixing with sweat as your lyrics—once again—etched into my brain.

“Every shipwrecked soul knows what it is…to live without intimacy”

My second long-term relationship had disintegrated into ash after eight years. He withheld affection. Refused, resisted all physical contact. Didn’t wanna work on it.

How did you know? How did you organize those precise eleven words in such a way that snapped me awake and helped me realize, yes, it is way better to be alone than lonely sharing a life with someone else?

“It’s hard to listen while you preach,” you pressed further.

I grew up as a minister’s kid. Everybody always preaching. Nobody listening. Except you. You listen.

In 2015, I traveled solo to Dublin. I skipped American Thanksgiving, weary of pre-election family strife. I saw iNNOCENCE + eXPERIENCE two nights in a row, jumping up and down at 3 Arena with strangers from all over the world. There, y’all stripped “Every Breaking Wave” down, to pure flesh on bone. Edge on piano. Bono at the mike.

Bono, you held the note at the end of “if you go” for an extra beat that tattooed a shock wave into my soul. I can still hear you if I squint my eyes closed.

In 2017, I returned to Dublin for Joshua Tree. Flooded with love and appreciation for U2 friends I reconnected with all weekend, I walked alone along a dock adjacent to the River Liffey before packing to head home to New York. I turned a corner and looked up, nearly slamming a shoulder into a pole next to graffiti painted on a red wall. Three words. “If you go.”

Thank you for showing us what it’s like to love for real, through your commitment to each other, your families, your art and those less fortunate. You inspire me every day to be a better writer, teacher, friend and human.

Love always, your fan,

Heidi

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U2

“Who’s Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses”

 

Dear Adam, Dear The Edge, Dear Larry, Dear Bono,

First of all, I hope you’re all safe and secluded and having a nice rest after the insanity of the last five years. It feels good to have ridden all the best rides before the amusement park closed!

Based on some of your past comments and the comments of people who worked on Achtung Baby (my favorite album of yours, in case you were wondering), “Who’s Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses?” (I don’t care what you say, there should be a question mark! It’s more tantalizing that way.) is a song you fellas never felt you got right.

There are an unusual number of alternate versions floating around. Some are great! Some are very good! But it feels like more than just about any other song, “Wild Horses” has been a stone in your respective shoes ever since. It’s had its moments though! A brief revival on the Vertigo Tour brought with it hope that you figured out how to make it work, but then for three consecutive tours (one of which became an Achtung Baby anniversary tour towards the end) it remained dormant. This bronco needed breaking in, so why the trepidation?

That’s a question I could ask of myself, as the song never became one I’d listen to all the way through until the encore of a certain gig in a certain place where a certain young-adult literary classic was set on a certain groggy day. When I first heard the sound of a robot suffering from IBS echo through the halls of the BOK Arena, I had to check my pulse and note my surroundings, making sure I was in Tulsa and not the Upside-Down. “Why ‘Wild Horses’?” I asked myself. “What are they playing at?” I pondered. “Why does it sound so… good?” I realized. Then, before you know it, I was pogo-ing and screaming the words to a song I had stowed away in the “Save for Later” section of my brain. Apparently, you all had it there too.

One plane ride later, I’m back home, and I tune into a live-stream only to find that the horses have disappeared from the stable. They’re running free, never to be seen again. I’m sure of it. Flash forward a few months, and I’m at the Apollo Theater, drenched in sweat and a little tipsy, and what’s that I hear? It’s the robot, and oh boy, it sounds like he had some bad shellfish. Without thinking, I turn to my dearest Jill Marino and scream in her face, to which she does mine, and we both come to find that a lightbulb has appeared over your heads. The eureka moment has arrived! Twenty-seven years after the fact, you figured out who is going to ride those wild horses.

Dear Adam,

This is your song. The propulsiveness of that bass guitar is what makes the song work. I don’t know a lot about the job a bass guitar is supposed to do in a given song, but you do, and that’s all that matters. This is some of your finest work. Bravo.

Dear The Edge,

You’ve said before that your aim isn’t to be a guitar hero, rather to push the instrument to its limits and find sonic landscapes to explore. Your work on this song should have those guitar heroes shaking in their boots. Their sexy boots. Bravo.

Dear Larry,

While the machine gun fire finale has to wait until the European Leg of the E+I Tour, your work on this is just as brilliant. I hear your playing on this song, and my mind always drifts to Keith Moon. I hope yours does too. Bravo.

Dear Bono,

To date, I still don’t know what the hell this song is about. And truthfully, I don’t want to. You use words the same way The Edge uses his guitar, painting a picture rather than describing it. Because of that, you could convince me it’s about a breakup as easily as it’s about a bad experience at a McDonald’s drive-through. There will be a time to examine these words and why they’re ordered how they are, but it’s not today. Just promise to keep singing them, alright? Bravo.

Thank you all for never giving up on a song. And thank you for showing me why I should do the same.

Your fan, your erzähler, your occasional neighbor,

Mason

© @U2, 2020