"It's the most un-rock 'n' roll thing you could do, so I never ever talked about it, but that was actually my obsession before rock-and-roll."
-- Bono, on playing chess
Like A Video: Window In The Skies
November 26, 2014
[Ed. note: This is the 25th in a series of essays by the @U2 staff about U2-related visuals and videos. Some essays may be informational and educational, while others may be more personal.]
There are two videos for “Window In The Skies.” I chose to write about the one that shows only U2. The other video features many musical legends with Bono’s voice coming out of their mouths. Why I chose the former instead of the latter is merely a personal preference. I happen to enjoy the video with the band a lot more because it just seems more personal, and with a song about love, the more intimate the better.
“Window In The Skies,” to me, is a hugely underrated U2 song. This is the one song that I would probably give anything to hear live. I would rather hear it than a lot of the songs they still perform on stage (“Pride” is a great song, but I don’t need to hear it at every single show). I think it touches me so much because it’s a true love song. Not a mushy, warm and fuzzy pop love song. It gets to the core of love on different levels through the lyrics and I think the video perfectly captures that. In other words, it’s very U2.
The opening of the video gives off a dark and stormy vibe, with those gray Dublin clouds hovering above. Also, the entire video is shot in black and white, so there are no real bursts of color coming from anywhere. But the song itself is so uplifting and doesn’t end up falling victim to being surrounded by such darkness. It practically takes flight once the first lyric is sung, much like the birds in the opening frames.
I love that the video is very Irish and sticks to that theme throughout. It's the same with using the images of an early, adolescent U2. It could have gone from 1970s Dublin to various places around the world with photos of U2 as their career progressed, portraying them as jet-setting rocks stars. But we as fans have lived through a lot of that already, seeing their image and fashion change over the years. We don’t need to see that. This is a video about their roots, and to me, that’s what U2 will always be about. Showing the worn-down factories, tattered rock posters and graffiti-strewn walls amid flurries of vintage Polaroids of the band screams history and takes you into the center of their past world. A world that not a lot of us got to witness firsthand, but in this video, takes you there immediately.
We see young Peter Rowen go past the screen and then suddenly we’re on a path into a valley filled with Joshua trees. Birds are still flying and we also catch another vintage glimpse of teenage U2. It seems a little whirlwind at first to go through their early days in a four-minute video. You might feel like you can’t keep up with it. But it’s not about keeping up, necessarily. I think the idea of this video is to take in how far they came. How they probably weren’t sure if they’d ever get a record deal, if they would be stuck in Dublin forever, if maybe they would all end up never being friends again, if everything they did as a band were for nothing. It’s scary to think! A world without U2 … who would want to live in a world like that?
At the 1:15 mark, we see the band looking quite anxious and a little on “edge.” I wonder what was going on at that moment. Were they not prepared for their gig? Were they actually excited to get on stage? Did they not know what their setlist was going to be? It’s images like these that I love because as a viewer, you want to get in that moment with them. You wish you were in that cramped venue on a school night, waiting for some local band to go on stage and wondering if they were going to suck or not. Then years later, you look back and think, “I saw U2 before they made it big. That was the best night of my life.”
I think that’s what is important about the images. The photos show U2 as four scrappy teenagers who were making music, which isn’t unlike kids nowadays who join bands. They wanted to serve a purpose through song. We see U2 now as four men who have endured so much in their career, personally and professionally. Then I watch this video, and I see their innocence shine in these old photos, and it’s overwhelming to see how they’ve grown. From dumpy nightclubs to the biggest stadiums in the world, I don’t think they had an idea that their level of fame was ever going to happen. Using this video to show their humble beginnings makes me so proud to be a fan.
At the 2:30 mark, the song slows, and we see U2 as children. This is the most touching part of the video for me. For the record, my absolute favorite U2 photo of all time is the one with their fathers at their respective spots on stage. There are plenty of amazing U2 photographs from their many album shoots and performances. But this photo is absolutely everything. We also see written lyrics to “Stories For Boys” and an ad for when they performed as The Hype. To see adolescent Adam with his dad, teen Larry, young Edge and his sister, and baby Bono really drives it home that they were young just like us. They all grew up surrounded by a lot of love and they poured that love into their career, which is still happening today. They have no doubt made their families proud. I often wonder what they would like to tell their younger selves if they had the chance.
The video goes backward as the song ends, and many of the things we saw earlier pass us again (buildings, Peter Rowen, Joshua trees, teenage Bono staring blankly in a bathroom mirror). One constant in the video is the image of windows floating in the sky above all of the images of U2. Some are broken (like in the factories) and some are intact (like in the houses). I feel that the windows aren’t a direct reference to the song title. I think the broken windows represent love or events that fell through and had to be broken in order for U2 to move on in their career. The intact windows in the houses represent all the music that was made when they would rehearse together and all the energy and creativity that was contained during those sessions. U2’s history as the biggest band on the planet is overwhelming. However, this video ties it up as the most perfect of packages, even though the bow is Dublin storm cloud gray!
“Love left a window in the skies” / “And to love I rhapsodize”
The window is open, just like your heart. You can either close it off to the world, or leave it open and sing. I think I know what both the younger and older Bono would like for us to do.
(c) @U2/Marino, 2014.