"It's a record about looking for some kind of transcendence as well as trash."
-- Bono, on Pop
Like a Song: In a Little While
May 03, 2008
[Ed. note: This is the nineteenth in a series of personal essays by the @U2 staff about songs and/or albums that have had great meaning or impact in our lives.]
The first time I heard the song live, it was a lullaby. Really, it was.
If I'd had a baby to put to sleep that night, the calming coos of Bono's velvety voice and the quiet strumming of The Edge's guitar would have done the trick. It made no difference that I was in the Tacoma Dome surrounded by thousands of other people. It was that peaceful.
When I first heard All That You Can't Leave Behind in the fall of the prior year, "In A Little While" was my only star. The album was a good, solid album, but this song was the only one that captured my heart in a love-at-first-listen sort of way.
The Tacoma show was the first Elevation show I attended, and the way the crowd silenced for this rendition of the song was amazing. Bono's words sounded much softer than the raspy studio version as he danced sweetly with one of Edge's daughters. The lights were down and the spotlight was following them. When it ended, the hypnotic vibe hung in the air like a tangible guest.
The sound was so beautiful it stayed with me long after I left the venue. When I got home that night from a stressful drive back to Seattle, I put All That You Can't Leave Behind in my stereo and programmed it to play only this song. And then I set it to repeat.
A few weeks later, in full U2-obsession mode, I had my solo trip to Ireland booked (I just had to see them at Slane) and was getting all of my ducks in a row before leaving the country. The bad news was, my wisdom teeth needed to come out, and they needed to be removed before my trip. I had three months to accomplish this, but I procrastinated the surgery as long as I could. In July, my sweet mother came up from Oregon to provide round-the-clock care for her 25-year-old baby during the process.
It was bad from the get-go. I am terribly squeamish and high maintenance when it comes to anything medical. I can't watch doctor shows on TV or look at friends who have recently had casts or bandages removed. And when it's about me, I'm a hundred times more pathetic.
The morning of the surgery was a nightmare -- I was sleep deprived, scared and shaky. The surgeon's attempts to get a needle in my arm for the IV were borderline comical. I was jumping around, breaking into cold sweats, crying -- you name it, I was guilty of it. After nearly fainting, they decided it wasn't going to happen without the aid of some medicine (read: Valium). And after that, they probably could've asked me to do it myself and I would've obliged. The doctor asked me how many days I had left until the U2 concert, and the next thing I knew, I was waking up with chipmunk cheeks and small metal snaps across my chest.
My mom and I returned to my apartment where I looked forward to settling in to all of the perks I'd been promised the surgery would provide: endless milkshakes, fantastic narcotics and rapid weight loss.
But those were all lies.
What I actually endured were multiple cartons of butterscotch pudding, which tasted as if they'd been seasoned with dried blood; drugs that not only made me nauseous, but caused my body temperature to rise (and keep in mind, it was summertime); and a few extra pounds, courtesy of said pudding, coupled with the fact I seldom got out of bed.
In the midst of my misery, my mother did her absolute best to make me comfortable. She was there fluffing pillows, preparing ice packs and responding to my every demand. I was grateful to have her there, but that didn't stop me from behaving like a 5-year-old.
On day three I was especially whiny, as my body was acclimating to the pills, and the soreness in my mouth reached its most painful levels. I just laid there and whimpered as if there were no hope for relief. She said "What can I do to make you feel better?" I responded, "Put All That You Can't Leave Behind in and fast-forward to number six." She dutifully complied and I tried to keep the tears to a minimum so we could both hear the song. I was still in pain, but I could swear it had lessened as Bono crooned.
I slowly drifted off to sleep, and when I woke up, the pain had returned. I begged for the ice pack, and Mom was right there to deliver it, telling me that everything would soon be all right. She asked if I'd like the music back on, and I said yes. As the CD spun "In a Little While" again, she told me that I should visualize tomorrow, because the pain wouldn't be nearly as bad then. I shot her a questioning glance, and she reiterated that in the most painful times of her life -- physically or emotionally -- she's put herself in the frame of mind that the next day it wouldn't hurt as bad, and that has helped her through. I promised I'd try and concentrated with all my might on the next day. I pictured myself getting out of bed, dressing in something other than pajamas, taking a walk in the fresh air. It was working.
The next morning I did feel better -- and I did all the things I'd envisioned. The day after that, I was well enough to return to work and mom was free to return home, relieved of her nursing gig.
In the months that followed, I was injured at a concert, my grandmother passed away, 9/11 happened, and the office I worked in underwent a huge restructure, which left me employed, but many of my friends without a job. "In a Little While" became more like a mantra than just another U2 song I loved. By then I knew it was written about a hangover, and that it was the last song Joey Ramone listened to before he passed away, but that didn't change its meaning for me.
To this day, "In a Little While" lowers my blood pressure and sets my mind at ease no matter what situation I'm in, but most importantly it serves as a reminder of my mother's wise advice: when things get bad, just focus on tomorrow.
(c) @U2/Kokkoris, 2008.