As a single Get On Your Boots came out in a long line of unfamiliar first singles that started as far back as Desire from Rattle and Hum. The first sounds to hit the radio are always those that unsettle, disturb and intrigue the fan as to what might come next.
Get On Your Boots certainly did all that. The surprise for me, and I had gotten to like it as a single, was how in the context of the album I found it reassuring and swaggeringly catchy, half an album in. The big Edge riff, the Larry gunshot drumming, Adam’s solid groove and Bono’s cascading of spoken word couplets, all make claim on your attention until the melodic transformation into “let me in the sound”brings cohesion and unified sing along.
Lyrically, the song is equally unnerving. It could be that U2 were attempting another crack at the frivolous and in the end, as they found on Achtung Baby, couldn’t demean themselves to just sing a song about sexy boots.
Though Bono claims not to want to talk about wars between nations, for at least these three and a half minutes there are bomb scares, dark dreams, ghosts and the focus on a pair of sexy boots gives way to the future and eternity.
There is also more admiration for Mrs Vox contained within. The idea that women are the future is again Bono’s acknowledgment of his wife in particular in women in general. She may be the one in the sexy boots. She may also be the one who is unaware of how beautiful she is, though this chorus echoes the sentiments of Original Of The Specieswhich was about the U2 female teenage offspring.
The key to the entire piece is “The sound”. There is a desire to belong, to be let in. To what? Right from the outset it seemed to me to be a symbol of salvation:
“God, I’m going down
I don’t want to drown
Meet me in the sound.”
In the end a song about sexy boots ends up like a clarion call to something much bigger; the future needs a lot of love.
At the U2360 concert I got even more intrigued by this sound. In the communal live singalong setting it seemed even more spiritual. I remembered that Bono had an obsession since the late nineties with the hymn Amazing Grace. Sometimes when he spoke about it he emphasised, “how sweet the SOUND.”
When I looked closer there was a clue elsewhere on No Line On The Horizon. The song Breathe spells it out:
“I've found grace inside a sound
I found grace, it's all that I found.”
This idea of the sound appeared again twice on Songs Of Innocence. On The Miracle (of Joey Ramone): -
“Everything I ever lost
Now has been returned
In the most beautiful sound I'd ever heard”
Lucifer’s Hands gives another mention.
“The spirit’s moving through a seaside town
I’m born again to the latest sound
New wave airwaves swilling around my heart.”
Get On Your Boots like much of No Line On The Horizon gets a bad rap. For the “let me in the sound” alone I think it deserves attention.