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Music / Rattle and Hum

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Mississippi and the cotton wool heat,
Sixty-six, a highway speaks

Don't believe in excess
Success is to give
Don't believe in riches
But you should see where I live
I… I believe in love
"God Part II"

Rattle and Hum is the sixth studio album by Irish rock band U2. It was released through Island Records on 10 October 1988.

It acts as the soundtrack to the documentary film of the same name, which followed the band around is it toured America. A double album, Rattle and Hum is a mixture of live performances and newly recorded songs, continuing the blues and country sounds of The Joshua Tree. It's also U2's most fannish album, at least until Songs Of Innocence, as it includes tributes to and collaborations with such musical heroes as B.B. King, Bob Dylan, John Lennon, and Billie Holiday.

The album spawned four singles: "Desire," "Angel of Harlem," "When Love Comes to Town," and "All I Want Is You." While all four were Top 10 hits in the United Kingdom—with "Desire" being their first UK #1—only the first two were hits on the Billboard Hot 100, with "Desire" only peaking at #3 in the United States.

It would be followed by Achtung Baby in 1991.

Track listing:

  1. "Helter Skelter" (live from Denver) (3:07)
  2. "Van Diemen's Land" (3:06)
  3. "Desire" (2:58)
  4. "Hawkmoon 269" (6:22)
  5. "All Along The Watchtower" - (live from San Francisco) (4:24)
  6. "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" - (live from New York) (5:53)
  7. "Freedom For My People" (0:38)
  8. "Silver And Gold" - (live from Denver) (5:50)
  9. "Pride (In The Name Of Love)" - (live from Denver) (4:27)
  10. "Angel of Harlem" (3:49)
  11. "Love Rescue Me" (6:24)
  12. "When Love Comes To Town" (4:14)
  13. "Heartland" (5:02)
  14. "God Part II" (3:15)
  15. "The Star-Spangled Banner" (0:43)
  16. "Bullet The Blue Sky" - (live from Tempe) (5:37)
  17. "All I Want Is You" (6:30)

When Tropes Come To Town:

  • Album Title Drop: The album's title comes from "Bullet the Blue Sky": "In the locust wind comes a rattle and hum."
  • The Alcoholic: "Angel of Harlem" is a tribute to Billie Holiday that refers to her untimely demise from alcoholism and other drug abuse:
    Blue light on the avenue
    God knows they got to you
    An empty glass, the lady sings
    Eyes swollen like a bee sting
  • Answer Song: "God Part II", a sequel to John Lennon's "God". Like Lennon's song, U2's lists off various things that Bono disagrees with; unlike Lennon's song, Bono, a Catholic, chooses to direct his ire towards the devil and "his book" rather than God, the Bible, and Jesus.
  • As the Good Book Says...: "Love Rescue Me" includes a slightly shortened version of the famous line from Psalm 23: "Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow (of death), I will fear no evil." The song subverts the next lines of the psalm though: "I have cursed thy rod and staff/They no longer comfort me."
    • "When Love Comes to Town" summarizes the events of the Crucifixion in the third verse.
  • Berserk Button: Clearly the Enniskillen bombing pressed Bono's.
  • Bo Diddley Beat: In "Desire." The Edge borrowed it from The Stooges' "1969."
  • Boléro Effect: "Hawkmoon 269" doesn't have a proper verse-chorus structure, it just builds and builds.
  • Cover Version: The first (and so far only) U2 studio album to include these, both of them recorded live: "Helter Skelter" by The Beatles, and "All Along the Watchtower" by Bob Dylan. The first is introduced with Bono cracking, "This is a song Charles Manson stole from The Beatles. We're stealin' it back."
  • Deliberately Monochrome: Some portions of the film were in black and white; a still from one such sequence is on the album cover.
  • Epic Rocking: "Hawkmoon 269" goes on for nearly six and a half minutes, as does "Love Rescue Me," though the latter could hardly be called rocking. "All I Want Is You" is a normal-length song with an epic instrumental coda.
  • Evolving Music: This was the third version of "Silver and Gold" to be released, and each sounded quite different from the last. Originally Bono wrote it himself and recorded it with Keith Richards and Ron Wood, with a couple of acoustic guitars and no drummer. U2 recorded its own version as a B-side to "Where the Streets Have No Name," but the live version considerably ramps up the energy level, with a blistering new guitar solo from The Edge. (This also explains Bono's somewhat baffling command to Edge to "play the blues" even though it doesn't sound very bluesy — the first recording definitely did.)
  • God Is Love Song: Bono's habit of using "love" as a code word for "God" is in full force here, notably "Love Rescue Me," "God Part II"note  and "When Love Comes to Town." The last one blows its own cover in the third verse though, by explicitly describing the Crucifixion.
  • Gospel Choirs Are Just Better: While "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" was already gospelish, for the New York performance an actual gospel choir, the New Voices of Freedom, sang backup.
  • Greedy Televangelist: Referenced in the coda for the live version of "Bullet the Blue Sky":
    Her lover's turning off, turning on the television, and I can't tell the difference between ABC News, Hill Street Blues and a preacher on The Old Time Gospel Hour stealing money from the sick and the old. Well, the God I believe in isn't short of cash, mister.
  • Heel Realization: The narrators of both "Love Rescue Me" and "When Love Comes to Town" realize that they're jerks in need of redemption (which they do receive).
  • Homage: "God Part II" is Bono's homage to John Lennon's "God," imitating its List Song format with a catalog of things the singer doesn't believe in. Bono adapts it to suit his own beliefs and disbeliefs, however (not surprisingly, he doesn't deny believing in God like Lennon did).
  • Hypocrisy Nod: In "God Part II": "I don't believe in riches/But you should see where I live."
  • Let's Duet: U2 teamed with B.B. King on "When Love Comes to Town." Also Bob Dylan co-wrote and sang backing vocals on "Love Rescue Me," but you can barely hear him.
  • List Song: "God Part II," like its predecessor, is a list of things the singer doesn't believe in. "Hawkmoon 269" is a list of similes for love or needing love.
    Like a rhythm unbroken
    Like drums in the night
    Like sweet soul music
    Like sunlight
    I need your love
  • Location Song:
    • "Heartland," inspired by a visit to New Orleans, describes the Mississippi delta region.
    • "Van Diemen's Land" refers to the 19th-century British penal colony of that name, now the Australian state of Tasmania. More specifically, it was about a man who led an unsuccessful Irish uprising and was sentenced to the penal colony.
  • Miniscule Rocking: A 38-second clip of street musicians performing "Freedom For My People" leads into a live version of "Silver and Gold."
  • Never My Fault: Despite the fact that "When Love Comes to Town" is an "Amazing Grace"-style tale of a redeemed sinner, at the end of the chorus he still seems to be evading responsibility: "Maybe I was wrong to ever let you down/But I did what I did before love came to town."
  • Non-Appearing Title: "Hawkmoon 269" and "God Part II."
  • One-Word Title: "Desire" and "Heartland."
  • The Power of Love: Since love is identified with God in "Love Rescue Me" and "When Love Comes to Town," it has the power to change lives and save souls.
  • The Power of Rock: God also seems to work through music in "When Love Comes to Town":
    I ran into a juke joint when I heard a guitar scream
    The notes were turning blue, I was dazing in a dream
    As the music played I saw my life turn around
    That was the day before love came to town
    • A verse that was performed live but cut from the album also includes the line, "But my lord he played guitar the day love came to town."
  • Protest Song: "Silver and Gold" was already a protest song, as it was written for the anti-apartheid album Sun City, but Bono really goes Anvilicious in this version by adding a mid-song rant against western leaders who aren't supporting sanctions. "Freedom For My People," by street musicians Satan and Adam, is a song that calls for — well, guess.
  • Runaway Groom: The narrator of "When Love Comes To Town":
    Used to make love under a red sunset
    I was making promises I was soon to forget
    She was pale as the lace of her wedding gown
    But I left her standing before love came to town
  • Sampling: A clipping of Jimi Hendrix playing "The Star Spangled Banner" is used in the intro to "Bullet the Blue Sky."
  • Sentenced to Down Under: "Van Diemen's Land" is in the voice of 19th-century Irish rebel John Boyle O'Reilly, as he's about to be deported to an Australian penal colony.
  • Shout-Out: "Angel of Harlem," an ode to Billie Holiday, also nods to John Coltrane and Miles Davis.
    • "God Part II" is in a sense one long shout-out to John Lennon, but also quotes Bruce Cockburn in passing: "I heard a singer on the radio late last night/Said he's gonna kick the darkness till it bleeds daylight."
  • Step Up to the Microphone: The Edge sings "Van Diemen's Land," as he wrote the lyrics himself.
  • Take That!: The album starts off with one as Bono introduces "Helter Skelter": "This is a song Charles Manson stole from the Beatles. We're stealing it back."
    • "God Part II" includes one to infamous John Lennon biographer Albert Goldman:
    I don't believe in Goldman
    His type like a curse
    Instant karma's gonna get him
    If I don't get him first
    • In his live performance of "Bullet the Blue Sky," Bono adds a peculiar coda:
    So I'm back in my hotel room with John Coltrane and A Love Supreme, and in the next room I hear a woman scream out. Her lover's turning off, turning on the television, and I can't tell the difference between ABC News, Hill Street Blues and a preacher on The Old Time Gospel Hour stealing money from the sick and the old. Well, the God I believe in isn't short of cash, mister.
  • Three Chords and the Truth: This album's version of "All Along the Watchtower" is the Trope Namer because of a verse Bono threw in: "All I got is a red guitar/Three chords, and the truth." note  (Appropriately, the song does have only three chords.)
  • Title-Only Chorus: "Helter Skelter" and "Desire."