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September 2016

U2@40: Song #34 - WALK ON

Walk On Suitcase

Bono once said that in the 80s U2 sang about what they believed in and in the 90s they sang about what they didn’t. As the new millennium broke with Beautiful Day U2 were back to what they did believe in. All That You Can’t Leave Behind was upfront spiritual.

The cover even has a clue as to the state of U2’s spiritual temperature as it features a cryptic Bible verse from Jeremiah 33:3. The band had gotten Steve Averill to doctor the cover shot of the band members taken at Charles De Gaule Airport and change the gate number behind them to read J33-3. Bono called the verse God’s telephone number as it reads, “Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.” 

That cover shot of the band members in a place of departure with their baggage beside them and Bono checking his passport depicts traveling. Symbolically, the music was leaving in other directions, and the technology was staying behind. 

Walk On gives an obvious clue with a clever twist and a familiar phrase, “You’re packing your suitcase for a place none of us has been/ A place that has to be believed to be seen.” The song, dedicated to Burmese human rights campaigner Aung San Suu Kyi, does seem to live in two dimensions. Bono is always running and climbing and crawling toward what he is looking for here on earth. A world of freedom and justice has to be first believed before it can be achieved.

Walk On is a song about groping in the darkness with little immediate hope of light. It is about suffering a broken heart and falling back but trying to stay strong in the midst. Bono’s perseverance that he yearns to transmit to Suu Kyi may have its basis in his love of Scripture. When the apostle Paul says nothing on this earth can separate us from the love of God (Rom. 8:38, 39), it is a promise they could see through the many dark nights of the soul.

But the cover and title have yet another, spiritual and heavenly dimension. When U2 sang Walk On at the telethon for the heroes of the tragic events in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania on September 11, 2001, Bono spoke over the newly included hallelujahs on the emotionally charged climax, “I’ll see you when I get home” an obvious reference to eternal hope even in the midst of mourning. 

The evangelical Christian roots from which Bono, Larry and The Edge came have a core belief that heaven is only achievable by belief. A new millennium, Jubilee 2000 and the loss of INXS singer Michael Hutchence may have brought a few spiritual issues to the forefront of the band’s thinking. It was time to take stock and ask some serious questions. What goes in the suitcase, and what has to be left behind? What are the important things in life? What are the transitory things? What can last the journey? What is of the moment? These spiritual questions are an ongoing theme of the Bible. 

Ecclesiastes has a basic thesis of “everything under the sun is transitory and is meaningless” (Eccles. 1:2). Only a connection with God brings any sense to the meanderings of humankind. Jesus encourages His followers to forget about the treasures of earth because they get stolen or rust or moths eat them up. Treasures in heaven are lasting. The apostle Paul tells the early believers to put their trust not in things that cannot be seen because they are temporary, but to trust in things that cannot be seen because they are eternal. 

At the end of the song, Bono lists the things that can be left behind: what you fashion, what you make, what you break, what you steal. It all can and must be left behind. They are man-made things, but he adds to the list all the wrong things or mistakes that the Gospel deals with. Jesus came and died and was raised to life to offer a new start, leaving the regretful things and guilt behind and heading on afresh. 

The song and the Gospel have the same conclusion that love is the only thing that needs and can be in your suitcase. Jesus, when asked what the most important commandment was, told the enquirer, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: Love your neighbour as yourself.” Whether you’re heading for justice on earth or a fuller realization of the Kingdom of God in the next life, everything else can be left behind.


Good name for a book too!!!!


Me and Wee Marty holding up trophies

(Fr Martin Magill and I were asked to write this piece for Community Relations Week and International Peace Day... might be published tomorrow!)

“But we only had a cup of coffee.” That was our immediate response when we received the surprising, if thrilling news, that we were the recipients of this year’s Civic Leadership Award from the Community Relations Council Of Northern Ireland. 

On the day we were presented with the Award in our home Churches of Sacred Heart Parish in North Belfast and Fitzroy Presbyterian Church in South Belfast we had to investigate our lives to work out why! 

Maybe in Community Relations Week, or on International Peace Day (September 21st), some us think that we cannot do anything to bring our divided country together. Perhaps we think that it is for the big players, international peacemakers, politicians, religious gurus. We beg to differ.

What we have become more and more convinced of since receiving the Civic Leadership Award is that making a contribution to peace and reconciliation is not some big grand clever plan but an accumulation of small things. We only had a cup of coffee.

Of course that cup of coffee was loaded with meaning. The two of us, drinking that first coffee and the many ever since, were from across the community divides. At the time, one of us was living in Lenadoon and the other just off the Malone Road. One was a Catholic Priest and the other a Presbyterian minister. The coffee moved us out of our comfort zones.

It was like a depth charge that sent ripples out from its drinking. Those ripples effected us. They then effected the friends and communities we live in. They then rippled out beyond that and we have found ourselves in all kinds of fascinating places.=

Another cup of coffee and we were sharing how we were completely unaware of large swathes of Belfast. Steve described going up to Lenadoon as going through CS Lewis’s Narnia wardrobe into a world he had never been. Martin would talk about getting lost in East Belfast trying to find events at the East Belfast Festival. 

So, we conjured a Festival where we might encourage people to cross their comfort zones, explore their wonderful and wounded city, meet each other and maybe suggest a cup of coffee. For us the success of any 4 Corners Festival event is when people from across our communities bring out their mobile phones to take each others numbers. Relationship is born. Community relations change. The ripples go on.

So, we have become firm believers that friendships are transformational. A Catholic Priest and a Presbyterian minister walking into a Cliftonville soccer match or turning up at a rock concert or even just in both of our Churches. Being together, laughing with each other, liking each other’s company. In the simplicity of that, prejudices can be challenged, walls can be broken down, community relationships can be developed.


When we look across a room and glance our award we are encouraged that we might be right that it is all about an accumulation of the small things. We are inspired to continue our work. We are reminded that it might be time for another cup of coffee!

U2@40: Song #33 - ALL BECAUSE OF YOU

All Because Of You

When How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb was released, Adam told Blender magazine that All Of Because Of You, “could be about God.” He wasn’t kidding!

It could be about all kinds of people. It could be Bono’s dad who featured already on Sometimes You Can’t Make It On Your Own on the same album. It could be his wife Ali. Who has made him who he is?

If you take the clues elsewhere on the record and in the book that accompanies it then Adam might be on the money. “I AM” is the phrase that God used for himself when he spoke out of a burning Bush to Moses in the wilderness. Moses was not so sure about taking on his adopted Grandfather, The Pharaoh, who had oppressed the children of Israel so cruelly. 

Moses was also unsure about how the Israelites will receive him and asks God who will I say sent me? God replies, “I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I am has sent me to you’.”

Jesus used the phrase to hint at his true identity and to goad the Pharisees to whom the names for God were sacred. Another such name was Yahweh so for Bono to use “I am” so powerfully on the same album as Yahweh seems more than a little coincidental. There is another massive clue to this in the book that comes with the album which hint that an original lyric tot he song might have been “Take off your shoes/Who are you said Moses to the Burning Bush/I am the great I am/All because of You/All because of you.” 

There are of course hints in the song itself. Claiming to be “a child of grace” claims some inheritance to God’s shaping. Elsewhere Bono is aware of the cracks in his life and that whoever this person is who makes him who he is could make him perfect again. The Christian theology of sanctification is that God works and shapes us until we are made perfect in Christ on the other side of this life. 

“I'm alive/I’m being born” has Bono off onto another recurring thread through U2’s work. It has already got a mention in Love and Peace Or Else. In a verse of that song there is the juxtaposition of Bono’s experience the death of his father and the birth of his son. It finds Bono hoping that everyone will get to leave as we arrived, all wrinkly but with “a brand new heart.” 

Born again is a phrase used by Jesus to describe to a Pharisee named Nicodemus what needs to happen in the process of our conversion to the ways of God. In recent history the more fundamentalist corners of American Christianity have taken ownership of the phrase and it has become synonymous with a right wing conservative political perspective. 

Bono explained his feelings in some detail to Mother Jones magazine in 1989, “I never really accepted the whole "born again" tag. It's a great term, had it not been so abused. I accepted it on one level, in that I loved the idea of being reborn.... I think people should be reborn every day, man! You know, every day again and again and again! At 20 years old, this idea of "surrender every day," this idea of "dying to oneself" ... was so exciting! Then I came to America in 1981, the land of milk and the .357 Magnum. It blew my mind that this word "reborn" meant nothing.”  Bono however was not going to allow the truth of the concept to be lost in the misuse and abuse of the term. The “born again and again and again” actually becomes a line in the song Mercy which was eventually left off the album.

All Because Of You got an interesting placing on the Vertigo Tour. setlist. Quite a lot of concerts, particularly in north America ended with All Because Of You, Yahweh and 40. I loved this. A testimony, a prayer and a Psalm. 

There is even more to this song though. The Xhosa language of South Africa has a powerful phrase called Ubuntu. It has played a major part in South Africa’s post apartheid years. There are many definitions. “I can only be me through you.” “I am me through you” “A person is a person through other people.” “I cannot be fully human without you.” My first listen to How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb and there was the best definition of all - “All Because Of You I Am”. 

Was I contriving this. No! Bono told, Chicago Sun journalist, Cathleen Fulsani how Archbishop Desmond Tutu had introduced him to the idea of Ubuntu. He said, "Essentially, what it means is 'I am because we are.' And it's about the interdependence, how we need each other and we have a stake in each other. One part of the community can't thrive truly while the other part of the community is in the dirt. In tending to them, we will be better off ourselves. It's that simple. Ubuntu.”

One song, so much content.


Jason Harrod


with special guest CHRIS WILSON

OCTOBER 1st @ 7.30pm (doors 7pm)


77 University Street, BELFAST BT7 6HR

£10 pay on door

Jason Harrod lives in Brooklyn and his first trip to Northern Ireland sees him play Fealty's Back Bar in Bangor with Stephen McCartney as his guest and we are pleased to announce in Fitzroy with Chris Wilson as his guest.

I have been following Harrod's career since I played Harrod and Funck songs on my BBC radio Ulster Radio Show Rhythm and Soul. They sang about Brian Wilson, did covers of Bob Dylan and Bruce Cockburn and had an album produced by Mark Heard. What's not to like about that. Those names tell you what rich songwriting seam Harrod mines.

After they broke up Harrod has continued to produce great records and we are pleased to hear him all stripped back in this intimate gig. His last record Highlander was even reissued in acoustic form. Great songs, deep content, entertaining show.


Chris Wilson

Chris Wilson from Indiana but has been in Belfast for two years, developing his sound and gaining an audience. Here's a chance to hear him play the songs from his solo debut ep Fragile. Stunning voice!

U2@40: Song #32 - FALLING AT YOUR FEET

Million Dollar Hotel

Falling At Your Feet is another of Bono’s solo ventures. Written with Daniel Lanois it first appeared on Lanois’ record Shine before appearing on the soundtrack for The Million Dollar Hotel under Bono and Daniel Lanois. It is full of clever couplets that critique the culture with humour and provocation.

The overriding theme of the piece is that everything is falling at the feet... but of whom? The last lines give the answer. The question of “whom shall I trust” in King James’ Biblical language concluded with Jesus words from the Garden of Gethsemane - “not my will, thy will” reveal the song to be a hymn. There again that recurring theme of surrender from War’s Surrender to No Line On The Horizon’s Moment Of Surrender. 

A closer look and there is sense that it is perhaps based on Philippians chapter 2, where Paul seems to be reciting an early Church hymn that states that everything and everyone will one day fall at the feet of the Jesus who gave up everything to be our servant and was then exalted to the highest place.


Therefore God exalted him to the highest place

    and gave him the name that is above every name, 

that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,

    in heaven and on earth and under the earth,

and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,

    to the glory of God the Father.


Dublin Paul’s version is a list song, cataloging all those who need redemption…


"every foot in every face
every cop's stop who finds the grace
every prisioner in the maze
every hand that needs an ace
is falling, falling at your feet
i've come crawling, and i'm falling at your feet

every eye closed by a bruise
every player who just can't lose
every pop star howling abuse
every drunk back on the booze"


The rest of the song is more of this cultural critique of all the bits of our world that are jagged and broken. The song deals with teenage image issues to pop stars abusing their privilege, other being physically abused and even prisoners in Northern Ireland’s Maze jail get a mention, a nod to the chipped edges of Irish Troubles. 

Ultimately the final destiny of the world, it is suggested, is that all these things would come under the feet of a Lord who would not be an oppressor but a liberator; redemption a surrendering to this Jesus and living by God’s will not ours. We are left with a song to accompany us as we make our way through the breakages, seeking to fix what we can as we journey to everything restored.


all falling at your feet
oh i'm falling at your feet
(all fall down) in whom shall i trust
(all fall down) how might i be still
(all fall down) teach me to surrender
(all fall down) not my will, thy will.”


Eight Days A Week

What a great little band is how Paul McCartney describes The Beatles. Eight Days A Week more than proves his point. As the popularity grew, the audiences got bigger and the girls screams louder and more shrill it became more difficult to make good music. The PAs were very poor as no one had ever played rock n roll to this size of an audience ever before. There were no onstage monitors.

When Giles Martin remixes the original recordings and we get to hear the band beneath the white noise of teenage screams it is a remarkable record of a great little band. Ringo speaks of watching the bums shaking to work out were they are in the song. As a drummer he comes out of this as a great musician. They all do. Dizzy Miss Lizzy just rocks out.

The madness that it became has never been more accurately catalogued. As the film begins McCartney describes it as having been simple at the start. By the time we get to late 1965 and into 1966 these four guys who start out as the boys next door, as much influenced by The Goons as Elvis, have got caught up in a freak show. Everything around them is mad. By the end you can see in their faces the consternation at the furnace they are being burnt alive in and the frustration that their genius is not being heard. 

In the midst of the madness something else struck me afresh. How did these guys churn out such a catalogue if music in such a short time while doing so much touring. It is, however, one thing to write on the road but to come up with such a machine gun fire of hits… bang bang bang. 

This is the genius. Few writers have been able to knock out hits year on year. That The Beatles did it while touring, filming and making two albums a year. Glory! I mean even after She Loves You and I Want To Hold Your Hand this movie gives you Ticket to Ride, A Hard Day’s Night, Can’t Buy Me Love and Help!

The footage is great, the editing engaging both with four young men who were hurled into mania and with the political, social and cultural changes going on around them. I was particularly taken by interviews with Whoopi Goldberg and Black historian Dr Kitty Oliver who suggested that The Beatles he broke some segregation barriers.

The film had me imagining two what ifs. What if they had had the same PAs that we have now. How good would this band have sounded? And secondly, what if they had gone back on the road at the time of Let It Be. The Rooftop concerts from 1969, that end the film, are evidence of them still being a great little band. Oh the music we lost! 

If Ron Howard wants to follow this one with another then what about one on The Beatles’ women? The wives are obliterated from the story like in the First and Second World Wars! When you get to the end and The Beatles cannot take it anymore you wonder how they put up with nearly three years of this and then have to ask how their wives and partners coped. 

It therefore needs to be asked if the fact that Ringo and Harrison had new wives had anything do with their decision to quit the road. Harrison seems the first to scream ENOUGH. He’d just married Patti. Did time at home with her not seem more appealing than another hotel suite? It is part of the story missing here.

All in all, this is a great piece of work. It is a fascinating time in our recent history. This band was the soundtrack and also propelled the changes happening. It is all well captured in Eight Days A Week.


U2@40: Song #31 - SONG FOR SOMEONE

U2 Light Bulb

Song For Someone is another of those beautifully crafted songs from Songs Of Innocence that can be played stripped down, like the piano version on the Deluxe version extra disc. 

It is for Ali. Bono explained on the Innocence & Experience Tour that he was trying to  impress her as a teenager and she told him she wasn’t interested in perfect. It has to be said that for Bono he was blessed that he met a life partner who does personify Christ’s idea of grace. It is easy to see how he can often blend and blur God and his wife in his songwriting.

He does it again here. The you is very obviously Ali for most of it but then:


And I'm a long way

From your hill on Calvary

And I'm a long way

From where I was, where I need to be


The romantic opens up to the spiritual. There marriage is anchored in their beliefs and their ambition is seeking that bigger vision. 

The whole thing holds together in the chorus. We are back to that light that was the image of the Innocence & Experience Tour. The bulb above the stage, in the room that boy walks through on the screen during Song For Someone, the lightbulb on the t-shirt. The gist of the song is that whatever is going on around us there is a light that we need to cling to.

For me it took on new significance after the Paris terror attacks. It was a crystal clear moment in the midst of the bombardment of stimuli of that Tour. Bono is singing Song For Someone and a wee boy acting out Bono’s adolescence is sitting, strumming, walking around that house on Cedarwood Road where Bono first thought through Songs Of Innocence, forty years before he and his teenage mates made those experiences into song. 

From out of this song of romantic love and spiritual pilgrimage these lines raised themselves into another dimension in my ears:


“If there is a dark, 

that we shouldn’t doubt

And there is a light

Don’t let it go out.”


In Belfast the concert was just five days after the Paris attacks. Europe felt the darkness that large swathes of the planet feels every single day, much of it never making the news. Dark. Evil. So, Bono throws a twist to the lyric of Song For Someone, "I know there's so many reasons to doubt/But there is a light/ Don't let it go out"... 

Reasons to doubt. But hang on to the light… My soul jumped. A powerfully subtle preach.

When U2 sing of the light, be in no doubt, it is the light of faith. Jesus said he was the light. U2 never ignore the dark. In the midst of the dark they shine or sing about a light. A light that bring hope. For those who believe, the dark can be a challenge. The events of Paris can test the soul. As they did after 9/11 in America, U2 become the pastors to a world living in the traumas of terrorism…“And there is a light… Don’t let it go out.”

U2@40: Song #30 - WINDOW IN THE SKIES

U2 Window

Window In The Skies was one of the previously unreleased tracks on U218 Singles in 2006. It came with an amazing video of 100 artists being spliced from he film archives to look as if they are all playing the song. Creative, very clever and popular too!

Rumour had it at the time that it was written by Bono when he taking piano lessons. he explained that after the lessons he would write a song. 

Windows In the Skies is a song packed with Christian theology. 


“The rule has been disproved
The stone has been moved
The grave is now a groove
All debts are removed, ooh


This verse going into the chorus is a theological beaut. As I Still haven’t Found What I’m Looking For gives us a succinct theology of the cross of Christ, here U2 give us the Resurrection. 

I am presuming in its context that the rule that’s been disproved is that a dead man was raised again. The idea that the grave became a groove is a lovely little line following the stone has been moved and then that recurring theological thread in U2’s career – atonement, redemption, sins forgiven, debts dealt with.

The chorus is a declaration of what God’s incarnation, in Jesus death and resurrection has done to the world... and then from the objective to the subjective – “what it’s doing to me.” 

These events and the theologies they create can have their impact on the minute by minute life of the individual. The new life starts here! It’s done something and continues to do something. Resurrection is a new life, shaped and honed by love bursting through.

Oh can't you see what our love has done
Oh can't you see what our love has done
Oh can't you see what our love has done
What it's doing to me”


What the “Window in the skies” phrase means to me is that Jesus cross and resurrection have opened a way for God to interrupt us and for us to see a glimpse of the Kingdom beyond. For me it is an Easter Sunday song!


U2 Sunday Bloody Sunday

It was December, 1982, U2 live at Belfast’s Maysfield Leisure Centre. Their third album, War, was slated for release the following March. In the midst of an energetic set, Bono told the crowd the next song was a new one and that it was about Northern Ireland. 

He was careful to point out that it was not a rebel song, and if they didn’t like it the band would never play it in Belfast again. But by the end of Sunday Bloody Sunday, the crowd had a new U2 live favorite. 

To be from Dublin and title a song Sunday Bloody Sunday was asking for misinterpretation. Bloody Sunday was the name given to two of the darkest dates in Ireland’s bloody history. 

One is January 30, 1972, the day British troops shot and killed thirteen people during a civil rights march in nationalist Derry/Londonderry in Northern Ireland. 

Bloody Sunday was also the name of another tragic day in Dublin. On November 21, 1921, the British in the form of the Regular Royal Irish Constabulary and the ruthless auxiliary the Black and Tans entered Croke Park, the headquarters for the Gaelic Athletic Association. The association often was accused of being affiliated with Republicans, and the British shot and killed twelve people. The operation was carried out in retaliation for the IRA murdering fourteen British undercover agents in their beds.

The song got U2 into trouble on both sides of the political divide. The Protestants were displeased with the seeming glorification of Bloody Sunday, which the Nationalists had been using as propaganda against the British troops. The Republicans were unhappy that the band was condemning the violence and therefore taking an anti-IRA stance. 

Sunday Bloody Sunday is anti-war and is also the song that connects the first two U2 records, very much centred on personal journey and spiritual faith and the next few records, where they begin to engage with the wider world and politics.

this is one of the more Christian statements on War. There are references to the prophet Isaiah and the Psalmist, “How long must we sing this song?” This line is reprised in their version of Psalm 40 at the end of the album. 

U2 also take the idea of blood and war back to Jesus victory on the cross and in the hope of the resurrection. (John 20:1-9). Connecting these acts of bloody violence across the centuries to that first Palestinian Easter was in some sense pointing to their Christian faith as an answer to the problems of the North - “to claim the victory Jesus won… on a Sunday…”

Across the decades, Sunday Bloody Sunday still stands as one of U2’s best. The song has been a constant in the band’s live set. It has been used in different ways across thirty years. 

On Remembrance Sunday, November 8, 1987, the IRA exploded a bomb at the War Memorial in Enniskillen, Co., Fermanagh. It killed thirteen innocent people and is probably best remembered for one of the better stories to come out of such murderous brutality. 

On the night of the bombing, U2 was giving a concert in Denver, Colorado. In the middle of Sunday Bloody Sunday, Bono, emotional from the news, asked with deep anger about how brave it was to kill children and old men. “F*** the revolution” he shouted.

Bono rattle and Hum

By the Elevation Tour of 2001 Northern Ireland had taken positive, if cautious, steps Northern Ireland towards a lasting peace with the Good Friday Agreement in 1998. Good Friday and Easter Sunday linked!

During the Pittsburgh concert of the Elevation tour in 2001, Bono introduced the song by telling the crowd, “If you’re Irish, you got something to sing about on this song.” It is as if there has been a change from the shame of the Irish situation to almost a pride in what had been achieved. As someone passed him an Irish flag during the song, he acknowledged, “There was a time when you couldn’t hold this flag so high.” 

By the time the Elevation Tour arrived Slane Castle in Ireland the fragile peace process was again in jeopardy. During Sunday Bloody Sunday, Bono turned the crowd into a praying congregation for peace, asking them to “sing into the presence of love, sing into the presence of peace.” He then led the communal sing with “put your hands in the air, if you’re the praying kind turn this song into a prayer..”

U2 SBS Slane

In the most recent Songs Of Innocence Tour Sunday Bloody Sunday has again a crucial role in the script. As the band once again looked at how the Troubles effected them, or more personally their friend Andy Rowen. The song Raised By Wolves about a UVF car bomb in Dublin in 1974 was about Andy and how those Troubles touched Cedarwood Road. Sunday Bloody Sunday is Raised By Wolves companion piece. 

Still effective. Still not a rebel song. Still claiming “the victory Jesus won!"


Fitzroy Church Weird Light

Tomorrow morning (11am) in Fitzroy, Stockman takes on the hardest parable to understand in the entire New Testament. Luke 16: 1-13 is a tough ask. What on earth is Jesus on about? 

We will be looking at how to read the Bible in context, what comes before, where you set the short text into the entire book. We hope too, to find some useful practical lessons from the Rubik’s Cube of Jesus’ story.  Economics, debt, mercy… and maybe Dylan’s You Gotta Serve Somebody! Just come to watch the Surmiser struggle!

We will also be hearing about this year's Saphara teams to India with Christine Burnett. Always inspiring... and worship by the soul sensing genius of Chris Blake!

In the evening (7am) we will be looking ahead to International Peace Day with an in depth interview with Fr Martin Magill. Fr Martin is parish priest at Sacred Heart on the Old Park Road. He won this year’s Civic Leadership Award… jointly with Fitzroy's minister. He is part of our Fitzroy Family… but… where did he comes from? How did he end up the Priest that hangs with he Presbies? Where did his passion for peacemaking come from? Why is he a major player in the events of International Peace Day? 

In between answers to those questions we will be celebrating 40 years of U2 with videos related to peace…