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June 2017

DAY OF REFLECTION FOR THE TROUBLES - A SONG FOR THE HEALING

Day Of Relection

June 21st is the Longest Day. In Northern Ireland it has been set aside, in recent years, as a Day Of Reflection for those who were lost or injured during our Troubles, an initiative of Healing Through Remembering.

Today there will be various events across Northern Ireland to help with that reflection. It is not a massively known thing but quietly in all kinds of places people will reflect on very tragic times. 

I had a poignant experience at an event on the Day Of Reflection a few years ago. During a quiet reflective event in Fr Martin Magill’s Church I played what I believe to be the most pastoral song for times of grief, Deacon Blue’s Take Me To The Place.

It was a b-side, not one of their best known songs. The tune has a melancholic soothing to it and then Ricky Ross sings:

 

"Take me to the place where your heart hurts most

Lead me through the dark world gates down there

Where all the ghosts of sorrow and pain

And fear and despair stay hiding

And we'll walk right through to our own way, our own place"

 

After the event a woman came forward to speak to me. She shared with me how she had lost her husband near the end of the Troubles. Loyalist paramilitaries walked into the printers that he was working in and shot him dead. He was not involved in the conflict. 

He had been a Deacon Blue fan and on the way to this very event she had reached for a Deacon Blue CD as a way of remembering. When I played Take Me To The Place she sensed that something beyond us was happening. She was very moved and somehow comforted by the circumstances and the song. It was a reminder for me about how important music is in our healing.

Donald and Emily Saliers wrote a fascinating book together called A Song To Sing, A Life To Live. The fascination is that both of this father and daughter duo are musicians, Don a Professor of Theology and Music and Emily one half of the popular rock duo The Indigo Girls; thus bringing Saturday night and Sunday morning together in their surmises. 

Sharing their own personal loss of Emily’s younger sister they write, “Music was one of our primary ways of coming to terms with her death.” I believe that one of the conduits for God’s comfort is lament. The Bible is full of it - angry, frustrated, painful. Songs of lament do something deep in our souls. They can drill to the nerve centre of our pain, somehow empathise, soothe and mysteriously be companions as we journey through dark days. As a pastor I often give friends or parishioners a song or some music that will be a resource through their grief.

Deacon Blue’s song Take Me To The Place is the most perfect catharsis song I have ever heard. It was written in memory and dedicated to Italian Scottish photographer Oscar Mazaroli. 

Growing up in Church writer Ricky Ross has a real sensitivity for such scared places and spaces and based the song on the hymn Abide With Me and the traditional melody “eventide.” 

It’s stunning poignancy in Ricky’s yearning breaking voice, Lorraine Macintosh’s angelic wail, the sorrowful stark piano, the words and the tune, opens doors to the soul and let’s out the raw ripped up heart pain and let’s in some healing holy balm and the daring and courageous almost alien thought of hopefulness and grace.

Perhaps today, for just a few minutes, we could all reach for this song. In the world of the internet that is possible. Press play, close your eyes and use it to remember the loss, the hurt, the pain and then why not pray for or, if you’re not the praying kind, wish for the healing of individuals and of our entire community.

more info about The Day Of Reflection and events


STOCKMAN'S SUMMER MOBILE LIBRARY

Summer Library 2

I will not get all of these books read over the summer BUT they are the pile that I have set aside to attempt to get through. 

 

MARTIN MCKEEVER C.Ss.R - ONE MAN, ONE GOD

My friend Whitney Wilkinson told me not to read books about work on vocation! Good advice! BUT Whitters would make an exception for a book about Fr Alec Reid, a Christian hero of peace building in N. Ireland. I might have that read before I head to Uganda. Seeking inspiration and clues to how Fr Alec did the Jesus thing in bringing his warring people to the peace we have enjoyed for almost 25 years. A review WILL be written!

 

NOVELS IN GENERAL

 

PHIL HARRISON -  FIRST DAY

Phil was around Chaplaincy back in the day and I have followed his career with real interest. I loved his short films Even Gods and The Good Man and look forward to reading this debut novel. Phil is one of many of his generation who have wrestled with issues of faith and so I look forward to engaging with a novel set in my home city that has been described as a "a short, intense, questioning novel about marriage, love, family and religion.”

 

J.D. VANCE - HILLBILLY ELEGY

This book was gifted to me by my friend Joe Ferrara. He told me that it would give me a handle on how the Trump phenomenon came about. I look forward to getting my head into a Memoir about white working class Americans. 

 

DENIS JOHNSON - TRAIN DREAMS

Johnson passed away in May and had local rock journalist Stuart Bailie and songwriter Anthony Toner waxing lyrical. I look forward to a new discovery in this short, lyrical and literary novella about early twentieth century America. 

 

FOR MY TRIP TO UGANDA

 

AKPAN UWEM - SAY YOU’RE ONE OF THEM

I love reading books about the locations I am in. There are sadly very few books about Uganda so I am making do this year with this book of short stories set in five African countries. What grabs me most of all, is that they are about children. For over a week in Arua, West Nile, Uganda I will spend my day in a school working with such children. I look forward to surrounding my work with readings from this.

 

RICHARD J REID - A HISTORY OF MODERN UGANDA

I imagine I will not read this one cover to cover but I always like to get to know as much as I can about a location. This will give me an over view of Ugandan life under three decades of Yoweri Museveni’s Presidency. 

 

BEN OKRI - THE FAMISHED ROAD

A classic set in Nigeria, Okri’s Famished Road has been on my shelf since I heard him speak at Greenbelt, over 20 years ago. If I get Say You’re One of Them finished this is what Iw ill read next in Uganda. More likely I read it afterwards as I deal with withdrawal symptoms.

 

POETRY

 

MICHAEL LONGLEY - ANGEL HILL

I have made vague attempts at poetry in my life but have never been a fan of poetry itself. I have been more influenced by songwriters. However, I picked this up in No Alibis recently and am going to carry it with me for some pondering and proper reading. 

 

ROCK BIOGRAPHIES

My favourite genre of writing!

 

TOM DOYLE - CAPTAIN FANTASTIC

I am not a mad fan of Elton John but have always been fascinated by the records he made in the 70s. They seem to be a songwriting treasure trove that I should know more about. So, I am going to read Tom Doyle’s account of those years hoping to fall more in love with Goodbye Yellow Brick Road and Captain Fantastic and The Brown Dirt Cowboy, with the albums beside me on my mp3 player.

 

PETER AMES CARLIN - HOMEWARD BOUND - THE LIFE OF PAUL SIMON

I love Paul Simon’s writing and hope that at last I can get down to reading this Christmas gift. He has a live record due out in the summer too which might make this jump up the pile! I enjoyed Carlin’s books on McCartney and Springsteen so hoping this one gets me closer to the songwriter!

 

GEORGE HARRISON - I ME MINE

I nearly always end up with some Beatles’ book or other. Last year Steve Turner’s The Beatles ’66 was my very favourite. This August I will be delving into Harrison’s autobiography and song lyrics with commentary that has just been updated. I will be dipping into this one and the John Blaney one as I listen to the records from my Ballycastle sofa!

 

JOHN BLANEY - GEORGE HARRISON: SOUL MAN VOL 2

To accompany Harrison’s own reflections on his songs, here’s the second volume of Blaney’s song by song. A little over the top with photos of labels and record sleeves but still a mine of info around the records. Between novels these Harrison books will be slight and light relief!

 


GOD AS A "PIPE BOMB WAITING TO BLOW"

Isbell Pipe

You thought God was an architect, now you know

He’s something like a pipe bomb ready to blow

And everything you built that’s all for show goes up in flames

In twenty- four frames

 

I have been using this quotation from Jason Isbell’s song 24 Frames quite a lot recently. Chris Wilson did a great cover of 24 Frames when he played recently in Fitzroy and it has been whirling around my head ever since.

It is one of those quotes that when you first hear it you think, “oh no, that’s not very Christian.” Yet, as you reflect on it and marinate it over time you think, “Wow, that is a powerful truth!”

Isbell’s idea is that we sometimes see God as someone building something around us. Architects forgive me, or at least forgive Isbell’s poetic licence, but there is a sense of safety in the architect image. It describes a God building nicely, with straight lines and mathematically accurate planning.

It is funny, put pertinent, that my first hearing of God as a “pipe bomb waiting to blow” made me wince! We do not want to imagine God as a destructive force. Pipe bombs indicate bad things in our minds.

It is the third line that brings the solution to the conundrum. The things we build for show go up in flames. The architecture here is about what is on the outside. It is to impress others and make us self righteously smug. 

The Pharisees in Jesus’ day had God as an architect and God arrived incarnate in Jesus and like a pipe bomb blew away their attempts at religion for show. 

God keeps on doing it. He keeps blowing up the how it is with a grace force that replaces it with how things can be. I remember once wanting to call a youth event Dangerous Grace and being told there was nothing dangerous about God! Oh dear!

God is a dangerous force from the beginning of the Bible until its end. People are constantly being blown into new ways of living. Safety is hard to find in the biographies of any Scriptural character who dared follow God. Any theological attempts to describe God that leaves out dangerous doesn’t seem to have any idea about God as far as I read it.

I think that CS Lewis gets it right in the Chronicles of Narnia. he writes of Aslan who represents God in the Chronicles, "He is not a tame lion... he is not safe, he is good... Wrong will be right, when Aslan comes in sight, At the sound of his roar, sorrows will be no more, When he bares his teeth, winter meets its death, And when he shakes his mane, we shall have spring again.”  Aslan is more pipe bomb than architect!

I used the Isbell quote at a commissioning service for students going off to serve God in India. I told them at I hoped that in India they met God as a pipe bomb. 

I told their parents that I was sure that the organisation they were going with, Saphara, would do all they could to make sure their offspring came home safe.

BUT… I added… that if their sons and daughters dared to open themselves to the fulness of this new experience that there was no way that I could guarantee a safe future. It might cause them to change their University courses, shift to different vocations and end up living in some interesting places across our world. There was a chance that they would meet God as a pipe bomb, blowing their minds and hearts and souls, changing them forever.

Let me not confine that experience to young people off to experience the world for the first time. In Fitzroy I have been calling all of us to be open to a God of transformational power, explosive in his ability to rework our lives and our world. May our spiritual lives be constantly exposed to a pipe bomb God who blows up all that we do for show!


20 YEARS AGO TODAY... RADIOHEAD AT THE MANDELA HALL... AND MY PART IN THE STORY

Radiohead live

It was 20 years ago tonight when Radiohead warmed up for their Ok Computer Tour with a wee secret gig at the Mandela Hall in Belfast. It is seen as one of the significant moments of rock in Belfast over the past 30 years. A couple of years ago BBC Radio Ulster's Across The Line show did a documentary of the concert. That is where I entered the story. As we mark 20 years, let me tell it again...

In Jimmy Devlin’s research of the concert he came across my review of the gig, put on my then state of the art website Rhythms Of Redemption. The site had been graciously created by Gareth Dunlop and Rick Munro and they made me a pioneer and thus one of the few, if anyone, who reviewed this incredible moment in rock music history. I had forgotten the review, but finding it realised that I had used it in its entirety in my chapter on Radiohead in my book The Rock Cries Out. Note to self - blog gigs immediately. They are a record far beyond yourself!

Being asked to contribute to the Across The Line documentary my mind went back to that week in June 1997. It was quite an event. Radiohead were on the cusp of becoming the biggest band on the planet. The Bends had made ripples BUT OK Computer, just released that week, was proving a critical sensation. At a time when the Britpop of Oasis and Blur was ruling the world this was something more profound, more robust, more long lasting. It was described as a Sgt Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band type record; iconic and ground breaking.

A friend, Peter Taylor, noticed a small poster coming out of another event. Could it be true? Could it be that Radiohead would play such a small venue as the Mandela Hall in the Queen’s University Student’s Union in less than two weeks? Could tickets really be on sale in a few days? We went for it and queued for tickets. They put the sale day back but we complained so much that they promised us tickets. We got them. We were elated.

As the night approached my wife took sick and a student living in the Student Halls, where I was Chaplain, Gareth Black guitar hero with Belfast band Halcyon Days, benefited. I benefited too as the sickness was the very early days of pregnancy with our Kid A, Caitlin! 

Sitting in the BBC studio talking about the gig with Jimmy I realised what a privilege it was to be in that hall that night. Surely it was the best night to ever see Radiohead. They were at their commercial peak. They were being heralded as the biggest band in the world. Two weeks later they blew Glastonbury away with one of the best ever concerts at the biggest festival in the world.

Radiohead weren’t from Belfast, weren’t even Irish, and yet they chose the Mandela Hall, where we could walk to it and home after it, for a small warm up gig to try their new material, in front of a few lucky fans. The fact that the press weren’t invited explains how I became one of the few people to document the event. The last lines of my review rings true even all these years later…

“You do not need a Pop Mart or extravagant stage show to be the best rock 'n 'roll band in the world. That is the message that Radiohead were sending to Bono and his electric co last night in the Mandela Hall. It was a bit like a private party as just over 500 fans were spellbound and in disbelief as this exceptional band played a warm up gig for their RDS show on Saturday. The hype is high after Monday's release of the far from difficult third album OK Computer and the new songs mingled with the more immediate favourites from The Bends and of course Creep. Guitars shimmered, swirled and swathed and then went burning, blistering and bludgeoning behind Thom York's unique vocal. This boy is one minute angel and next the X files freak of the week. The gig too is one massive contrast, stop and start, gentleness and frenzy, beauty and terror, tenderness and rage, hope and despair. Quite indescribable and like nothing else the world of Britpop has to offer. Phil Spector never imagined a wall of sound like 1997. Airbag and Paranoid Android take more time to seep through than Fake Plastic Trees, Street Spirit or High and Dry, yet Lucky and The Tourist are personal favourites tonight, but this band are going to be around for long enough to give you time. They are probably by now the best rock band in the world and last night they played in Queens' Students Union. Nice dream.”


songs 10 & 11 EXIT & MOTHERS OF THE DISAPPEARED - U2'S JOSHUA TREE Performed And Surmised

Thompson and Blythman

photo: Alistair Hamill 

Here’s another of the songs that I have had to wrestle with for tonight. Exit is definitely Bono looking into the darkest parts of the dark of the world around him.

The lyrics were inspired by Norman Mailer’s 1980 novel The Executioner’s Song, which was based on the serial killer Gary Gilmore. Bono is looking into the world’s darkness but linking it closely with preachers and religion. 

Interestingly in the new live concerts the song is prefaced with a piece of a Western TV show from the 50s. It is about a guy called Trump who tells his town that he is going to build a wall to protect them all and how some are convinced by his ideas and others not so sure. It hasn’t been dubbed or edited apparently. The truth is stranger than fiction!

The song is another about building and burning down love that we had in Where The Streets Have No Name. In some ways it would be easy to use it to ask at what point a suicide bomber  crosses the line between genuine religious belief to the psychosis of wanting to murder. 

It is a strange use for the hands of love…   

 

EXIT

When I was figuring out who would play what in this evening of performances I was immediately drawn to Dave Thompson and Michael Blythman to cover this one. They had made a great job of Sunday Bloody Sunday at a previous U2 evening. I could hear Michael’s saxophone filling the mood drama and Dave doing a great job with the vocal. Of course they did. Different but powerful in opening up the clash of darkness and light in Bono’s intentions.

Caroline and Peter U2 JT

photo: Gary Burnett

I asked Caroline Orr to lead us into the last song. We had thought of reprising I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For to bring some light to rather bleak ending to the evening.

Caroline rightfully said that this was how U2 wanted the record to end so we should go with it…

BUT… Caroline did add "el pueblo vencerá” at the end. U2 added these words when they played the song in Chile and Argentina in 1998. The words mean “The people will overcome,” which seemed a great way to end the evening. 

Caroline shared how she has sung the song with some the actual mothers of the disappeared in El Salvador. She said that as she sang it in rehearsal, she realised that it could be about Mosul… Belfast… Aleppo… London… Manchester… showing I guess why U2 feel that these songs resonate 30 years after they were written, recorded and released!

 

MOTHERS OF THE DISAPPEARED 

A powerful and poignant finale to an amazing evening. Peter Greer brought a tear jerking guitar motif to build an atmosphere of sorrow as Caroline emotionally sang for the mothers. 

“In the wind we hear their laughter

In the rain we see their tears

Hear their heartbeat

We hear their heartbeat”

When she got the crowd to stand and sing "el pueblo vencerá” it was as though we were punching a hole into the night. Hairs on the back of the neck time!


THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO... PAUL MCCARTNEY

Macca 75

If you haven't seen James Corden's Carpool Karaoke with Paul McCartney on his Late Late Show, you need to. You say that you are not a McCartney fan. I still hold that you need to see this. It is precious television. A brilliant spectacle and full of personal emotion for both McCartney and Corden.

The concept is fabulous. McCartney back in his old home in Liverpool, at the barbers in Penny Lane and pulling off a surprise pub gig too. The car karaoke scenes are hilarious, though they get emotional when they talk about Let It Be, McCartney remembering his mum and Corden his dad.

Corden makes a point about McCartney's music that is obvious and yet often overlooked. He describes the joy that McCartney eeks out of songs. Indeed, in todays times that sense of joy might be as important as the clever lyric that expresses our social critique and angst.

Corden reminded me of a blog I did on the, now 76 year old, ex Beatle for his birthday last year. Corden sees the sound of joy, I hear the words of hope! We all need a blend of those!

Paul McCartney is never seen as the most political or spiritual of The Beatles. He has certainly never written anything lyrical to challenge the political subversiveness of Imagine by Beatle John or the spiritual enthusiasm of My Sweet Lord by Beatle George.

However, a couple of years ago, as I lay on my early morning holiday bed listening to him on my iPod shuffle, I became aware of a theme that I had never recognised before in McCartney’s work; hope!

Now some might immediately jump to his song Hope Of Deliverance and say that it states the patently obvious. Maybe! However my songs that appeared spookily close together on that shuffle were Tug Of War from album of same title, Summer’s Day from McCartney II and Golden Earth Girl from Off the Ground.

All three songs speak of a deep hopefulness of what will happen beyond the difficult moments the singer is in; the entire culture in Tug Of War; the very personal in Summer’s Day; and the eco world in Golden Earth Girl.

Before this holiday eureka moment I had previously blogged about another McCartney song with an eschatological theme, The End Of The End from Memory Almost Full:

 
"On the day that I die I'd like bells to be rung
And songs that were sung to be hung out like blankets
That lovers have played on
And laid on while listening to songs that were sung
 
At the end of the end
It's the start of a journey
To a much better place
And a much better place
Would have to be special
No reason to cry
No need to be sad
At the end of the end"

 

Some of Macca’s most poetic lyrics indeed. McCartney does know about death losing parents, wife and two Beatles. What faith he is believing here is hard to understand though he does touch on Christian and eastern faith In his most spiritual work, the more classical, Ecce Cor Meum for which he mentions being shaped by a philosophy “the faith in a benevolent spirit.”

Finally, and most recently McCartney has added to his canon of hope 2014’s single Hope For The Future:

 

“Hope for the future

It's coming soon enough

How much can we achieve?

Hope for the future

It will belong to us

If we believe

If we believe”

 

Yet again, we might question what Macca is believing or putting his hope in. It would seem to me that McCartney confirmed in Hope For The Future my hunch that he is expressing a secular wishfulness of something better.

All of these songs might be McCartney-esque in their ambiguity of belief but I as a Christian can shake hands with the sentiments and actually, whether Macca knows it or not, the theology of them, vague and all as it might be!


Song #9 One Tree Hill - U2'S JOSHUA TREE Performed And Surmised

U2 jt one tree hill

photo: Alistair Hamill

When news broke that U2 were going to take Joshua Tree on tour thirty years later there was much debate if they would do the album end to end or mix it up. I think we in Fitzroy declared that we would do it start to finish even before the band!

Of course the problem seems to be that the track listing of Joshua Tree put all the big hitting songs out front. Well, this weekend one of the recent concerts right through on YouTube and it would seem to me that to get around the fact that the album seems to splutter out hit song wise that the band have out the most emotional energy into the last three songs!

Those songs begin with One Tree Hill and Bono introduces it with the words, “This one is personal.”

The first night that U2 arrived in New Zealand one of the sound crew Greg Carroll took Bono up One Tree Hill. Greg was soon part of the band’s inner circle, working for U2. He was very close to Bono and his wife Ali but one evening doing Bono a favour, on Bono’s Harley Davidson, a car pulled out in front of him and Carroll was killed instantly.

That’s why this song is personal. It begins as a lament, a grieving catharsis:

 

“We turn away to face the cold, enduring chill

As the day begs the night for mercy love…”

 

Interestingly the “enduring chill” is referenced from a book by Flannery O’Connor whose writing was a big influence on Joshua Tree. O’Connor used the phrase to describe the Holy Spirit

One Tree Hill is a seriously beautiful song of hymn-like pastoral tenderness. In perhaps one of Bono’s most successful pieces of poetic lyric until this point in U2’s career, he draws the sense of place of Gregg Carroll’s native New Zealand but also takes us back to the moment of the tragic accident, on a wet night in Dublin, with the mourning wail of:

 

“And when it's raining

Raining hard

That's when the rain will

Break my heart

Raining, raining in the heart

Raining in your heart…”

 

Ultimately this is a song of hope, a funeral song that sees death as not the end but another land mark on the eternal spiritual journey “like a river runs to the sea,” closely paraphrasing one of their favourite bands at the time, The Waterboys whose 1985 album’s title track went:

 

“Once you were tethered

Well now you are free

That was the river

This is the sea!”

 

The Waterboys were one of U2’s favourite bands at this time. Indeed, my friend Brian Scott had a conversation with Bono about The Waterboys that afternoon at the Kings Hall record of The Old Grey Whistle test in March 1987.

Like at any funeral of a spiritual believer, hope shines through the rain and the pain, Bono turning to the Book of Revelation chapter 6 where the apostle John sees the moon turn red and falling stars in his vision of this world’s end!

 

“I don't believe in painted roses

Or bleeding hearts

While bullets rape the night of the merciful

I'll see you again

When the stars fall from the sky

And the moon has turned red

Over One Tree Hill”

 

Just this last week, Bono has used the “I'll see you again when the stars fall from the sky” in his message to Ariana Grande’s One Live Manchester concert. Belief. Hope. In the midst of this world’s pain.

 

ONE TREE HILL

I felt a certain sense of embarrassment over my riches as this one was being performed. It is 9 songs into the evening and when surely we cannot have any more good players or singers in Fitzroy we bring out a band whose back line have all recorded albums and eps and add to that the astonishing harmonies of the sisters Claire Nicholl and Laura Campbell. The sadness and hope of One Tree Hill have really sounded more sweetly bitter, full of sorrow and hope blended in melodies of reality.


TOMORROW IN FITZROY - 18.6.17

Fitzroy Stained Glass

Tomorrow morning (11am) in Fitzroy we are stopping to consider a scriptural dog that has been at our heels for a few weeks.

Ray Carr preached a few weeks ago and he opened up the opening line of Isaiah 6 to us. Isaiah 6 is my favourite Old Testament passage and I have read, "In the year that King Uzziah died..." a thousand times! Ray stopped right there to point out that this meant that the nation was at a transitional time. In this transitional moment God was meeting his prophet to speak into the circumstances.

So, tomorrow we will look at our time of transition. What is this weird time we live in. Social change is at top speed, what about social media, post modernity (whatever that meant), millennials et al, never mind Brexit, Trump and May!

Into this the Lectionary readings are about a nation being born, escaping from Egypt into the desert (Exodus 19) and a bunch of ragamuffins being thrown out to change the world (Luke 9 and 10).

With the help of these passages, sieved through some depth charges from Jason Isbell, Finding Nemo, Madame Secretary and Rabbi David Singer we will discover the great idea of God's way to live and find the courage to act upon it!

The youthful energy of Michael Dolaghan's worship band will wrap it all in the vitality we need to make brave decisions!

There are NO evening services in Fitzroy until September.


Song #8 I Trip Through Your Wire - U2'S JOSHUA TREE Performed And Surmised

Jonny Fitch u2 JT

photo: Gary Burnett

Joshua Tree was almost a double album. Many of the songs that would have been on it became b-sides for the Joshua Tree singles; Walk To The Water, Luminous Times and Spanish Eyes to name three.

The biggest hit that was left off was Sweetest Thing. Bono had written for Ali after he had forgotten her birthday. Oh that all of us men could get out of such a jam with such a melody!

Ali Hewson though is a clever woman. If it was indeed written or her, she argued, the royalties should be hers too. She donated those royalties to her charity, Chernobyl Children International!

It seems that there was a decision between Sweetest Thing and I Trip Through Your Wires, as to which would end up on Joshua Tree. Both it seems are love songs. In my opinion the one that best fits the record is indeed I Trip Through Your Wires though Ali did better in having the royalties from Sweetest Thing.

So, I Trip Through Your Wires is a love song. Is it about Ali? Maybe. It is about a loved one who rescues and holds together the singer. Ali has been doing that since she met Bono as a young teenager in the mid seventies. To me she is the rock of the rock star. If I could write one biography it would be hers but she is so private a person…

When Bono writes about God and Ali together in the same song it is not that he has set her up as a divine idol, though idolise her in a husband's way he does! It is that for Bono, Ali Hewson is the conduit for God’s working in his life.

 

“Still shaking

Still in pain

You put me back together again

I was cold and you clothed me honey

I was down and you lifted me honey”

 

I TRIP THROUGH YOUR WIRES

Jonny Fitch was the perfect choice to cover this one. Recorded in one take in a big house in Ratharnham. It has a loose buskers feel. Jonny did so well with The Miracle (Of Joey Ramone) at our last U2 event that he converted my daughters to U2. He did another masterful job with this, bringing his own youthful vitality and unique artistic character.


Song #7 In God's Country - U2'S JOSHUA TREE Performed And Surmised

U2 JT RBB 3

In God’s Country has been the song that I have been most reflecting on in the days since Trump’s election as America’s President last November. Surely it is the song that U2 feel has come back around after 30 years and been one of the main reasons that they are taking Joshua Tree back on tour:-

 

“Sad eyes, crooked crosses

In God's country.”

 

This is the song that Bono has been saying is about the geography of America and that includes the spiritual geography.

Bono has always spoken about the American idea. The idea that there is place where the refugee can go and find a home. The possibility of freedom and equality and justice. 

On the current tour he has been quoting the poem on the Statue of Liberty: - 

 

"Give me your tired, your poor,

Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,

The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.

Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,

I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

 

This is not a country to build walls around or to close the doors to the wretched or homeless. Bono sings of the liberty that rescues but of how vanity and gold have corrupted the faith and hope:

 

“She is liberty

And she comes to rescue me

Hope, faith, her vanity

The greatest gift is gold” 

 

For me the main message of this song, and the entire album for our time and place, is that whatever political transitions we are in as a result of Brexit or Trump or May’s new hung Parliament “we need new dreams tonight”.

I wrote this inspired by Joshua Tree, some phrases Bono is throwing out on this current tour and some lines Brian Zahnd preached in Fitzroy this morning:

 

We need new dreams tonight

To see new dreams, and visions

Where the wounds of Jesus cross

Heal and bridge all human divisions

We need tanks turned into tractors

We need bomb silos filled with grain

We need shalom across the city

Where the streets have no name

We need judgement but not judgemental

We need grace as the judge and jury

We need schools for every girl on earth

We need refugee mothers without a worry

We need new dreams tonight

We need every child on the planet fed

We need to take the “f” in profit

And put a “ph” in there instead

We need new dream tonight!

 

IN GOD'S COUNTRY

Of their three songs this was the very best of all the Radiator Blues Band versions tonight. Hicks and Mitchell's rhythmic groove and Pete Ryan's keyboards gave a foundation (dare I say a desert floor) for John Trinder ringing guitar and Pete Clendinning did indeed punch a hole right through the night. It had all the vitality for dreaming new dreams.