It threw me at first.
I had just finished doing my Happy 75th Birthday Van Morrison Thought For The Day on Good Morning Ulster and the presenter Gareth Gordon asked me what my "walk on" song was. Now, those who know me know that my book on U2 was entitled Walk On. BUT I was talking about Van Morrison songs... so I was thrown.
“Sorry, do you mean Van Morrison song” says I, not wanting to look like an idiot on live radio.
“No”, continued Gareth, “what song is it that you play last before getting up to preach?”
Ah, thought I, the song I would walk in to the boxing ring to.
“Gloria by U2” I said, as quick as a flash.
“Fair enough,” responds Gareth. Seemingly a little surprised. Did he not know about my obsession with U2? Or did he think I would choose a Van Morrison song? Did he think I was going to say Gloria by Van Morrison?
“He didn’t need long to think of it,” chipped in Gareth's fellow presenter Joel Taggart.
I didn’t have to take long to think because back in the day I actually did give U2’s Gloria a play before going out to speak. This was more in my Youth Mission speaking days when I needed a little pumping up to have the adrenaline rushing as I stood up in front of a roomful of young people who had no interested in listening!
My University buddy Ian McTear used to suggest that I should listen to Jackson Browne’s Late For The Sky record before going out to preach. Ian’s advice was not about getting pumped up with energy but to give myself an understanding of the alienation going on in the lives of those that I would be speaking to.
I guess that most of engagement with the Arts, not just music but novels, films, plays and visuals arts as well, has been about just that. Like Paul in Athens I am listening and watching to catch wind of the questions and mood of the age so that I can apply the text of God’s word into the context of our times.
I only very occasionally night pump myself up. If it wasn’t Gloria which is a quick-as-a-flash answer I am proud of, it might be another U2 song. There are loads. More contemporary and there might be a Mumford & Sons or maybe The Killers. Songs to play loud with spiritual undercurrents.
It is still hard to beat Gloria…
“Oh Lord, if I had anything at all, I’d give it to you.”
“Oh Lord… loosen my lips”