"The album was called Boyand the mood of everybody on it was childish. All the silly noises on 'I Will Follow.'"
-- Steve Lillywhite
Column: off the record ... vol. 17-763
June 08, 2017
U2 have finally announced concert dates for South America. We’ve been waiting a long time, and I think The Joshua Tree Tour 2017 is the perfect tour for the band’s comeback down here.
If you don’t remember, at the beginning of the year Southern Hemisphere fans from many countries were very angry about not being included in the tour. I talked to many of them. We were all hurt, so we decided to join our voices. Some people tried to discourage us, however, saying that the buzz we created on social media wouldn’t work. During a Q&A for U2.com subscribers, Bono also shared his disappointment that they were not able to play all over the world: “It sucks,” he said. Maybe the band didn’t change their minds because of the fans, but I do believe we helped a little. I suppose it was a tough deal with long negotiations, so I appreciate U2’s hard work to make it happen.
It’s not easy to find a big artist or band talking about South American issues, but I’m glad that happened with U2’s The Joshua Tree. The album is not just about the U.S.: It’s about the Americas. In 1986, after the Conspiracy of Hope tour that benefited Amnesty International, Bono traveled to Nicaragua and El Salvador. His experiences there affected his vision of America and influenced the album.
Most Latin American countries suffered military interventions and were governed by dictatorships, which received support from the U.S. in order to curb the spread of communism. I don’t need to explain how cruel a dictatorship is. All those atrocities -- abuse, violence, repression, lack of freedom, torture, killing, etc. -- disturbed Bono, and the result was “Bullet The Blue Sky” and “Mothers Of The Disappeared.”
Bono wanted to express a strong political message in “Bullet.” He said in U2 By U2: “They were bad times. I described what I had been through, what I had seen, some of the stories of people I had met, and I said to Edge: ‘Could you put that though your amplifier?’ I even got pictures and stuck them on the wall. I brought in film of the horrors and put it on a video and said: 'Now, do it!' It was more, more and more. He was asking, 'How much f****** more?' I wanted it to feel like hell on earth, because from the demon seed comes the flower of fire. All these images of fire-bombing, it’s a demented song. And outside it’s America.”
The last song on The Joshua Tree is the heartbreaking “Mothers Of The Disappeared.” Adam said in U2 By U2 that Bono “was inspired by this strange, almost silent protest of the mothers of people who had disappeared without any trace but were assumed to be victims of torture and kidnap and murder.”
Bono had met members of Comadres, a group of mothers whose children disappeared in Central America. They pressured the government to look for answers, distributing fliers and occupying administration offices to ask for foreign help. More than 500 members were subjected to raids by police who wanted to destroy their organization. Of these women, 48 were abducted by death squads and suffered torture and rape; five were killed.
In Argentina, the women were called Madres de Plaza de Mayo -- where they walked together around the square in front of Casa Rosada, the seat of government in Buenos Aires. Their movement has continued for 40 years. They walk together every Thursday and are known for wearing white headscarves.
Protests like these were also common in Chile, Brazil and other countries during the ’60s and ´70s as the number of disappeared people grew. All regimes had support from the U.S. “There was a love/hate relationship with America,” Larry said in U2 By U2. That relationship inspired Bono to write “Bullet” and “Mothers.”
Thirty years later, those two songs are still relevant for all of Latin America. The marks of these governments are still here. The wounds are still open. Those organizations are still fighting for justice. I was born in the last years of dictatorship in Brazil, so fortunately, I grew up in a democracy. But the vestiges of those hard times are very clear, politically and economically.
Because of that instability in recent years, my life has been more difficult. But I’ve always had U2 to lift me up, to comfort my soul. I won’t lie by saying that I’ve never disagreed with U2. My disappointment has been visible this year. I shared with fellow @U2 staffers all the anger and sadness that made me question my relationship with the band and my work here. Thank God, I insisted, persisted and resisted. And thank God, U2 proved once again why they’re the band of my life.
The first U2 songs I heard were from The Joshua Tree; that’s when I became a fan. So this tour has special meaning for me. I believe it will also be very important to all South Americans to experience these songs that were made with us in mind.
Any opinions expressed in this column are those of the individual author and do not necessarily represent the views of @U2 as a whole.