1. Hawkmoon 269 (Rattle And Hum)
The first time I heard "Hawkmoon 269," I was on the bus ride home from my Latin field trip to New York City. With my headphones on and the volume at full blast, I held back the tears of mourning my grandfather. The lyric "I need your love" spoke directly to my heart. The drumming in that song is phenomenal as it builds throughout. It took on a new life as an opener during the LoveTown tour as Edge's haunting guitar intro redefined the song for me.2. The Fly (Achtung Baby)
I remember the first time I heard that opening guitar riff. I was watching MTV and a teaser video came on with the ceiling of Hansa Studio spinning. It was unlike anything I'd heard before, unlike anything on the radio in 1991, and unlike anything I understood about U2. I wore my cassette single out in a week as I became addicted to the bass line. The blitzkrieg of visuals in the live setting reinforced so much of what I was going through in my life: confusion, anxiety and anticipation. As a freshman in college confronted with mixed messages, moral questioning and a narrow world view, "The Fly" showed me that what I was feeling has been felt by others since the start of time. "A man will rise, a man will fall, in the sheer face of love, like a fly on a wall, it's no secret at all."3. Who's Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses (Achtung Baby)
March 17, 1992 was a magical day for me. Thanks to U2's Propaganda fan club, my friends and I scored tickets to see U2 in Boston. We arrived at the arena around the same time as the band's motorcade. I ran the length of Causeway Street chasing the motorcade to the backstage entrance. Dennis Sheehan came out and told us that in lieu of signing autographs, the band had invited us into the sound check. There were only about 50 of us, and the last to enter the arena was my friend Paddy from North Carolina. He saw me running and followed so he could get his concert ticket from me since he figured I wasn't going to be at our agreed meetup point. We were given a talk by management about how to act: no cheering, no standing, no dancing. As each band member came out for the soundcheck, we noticed Bono wasn't on stage. He was a few sections over, listening to the sound dynamic in the venue. As the instrumental versions were soundchecked, I couldn't help myself. I began singing along. I didn't care if I was going to be thrown out by management as I began belting out "Who's Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses" with such joy, losing myself in the moment. All of a sudden, I got a tap on the shoulder and froze. I thought I was being booted. Instead, I was directed to look up toward Bono. When I saw him, he gave me a thumbs up and walked past our section to take the stage. In my fan journey, that cemented my loyalty and devotion to U2. "Come on now love, don't you look back!"4. North And South Of The River ("Staring At The Sun" b-side / Best Of 1990-2000)
I studied Irish culture and the political process in high school and college, and found myself in Glasgow in July 1993 for a conference. Someone had mentioned the Orange Day parade was happening that day and we were to avoid that area of town. I took that as an invitation to see first-hand what was going on. I figured it couldn't be that bad as we were only in Glasgow. I was taken by the demeanor of those marching, the fights on street corners, the passion of people. All of those lessons about the troubles made sense to me. "North And South Of The River" sets its hopes high in finding compromise amid fear. It's a mature song written from a point of humility and hope. I saw the song, released months before the Good Friday Agreement, as a companion piece to "Please."
5. Wild Irish Rose (Sound And Vision: The Influence Of Irish Music / [renamed] Bringing It All Back Home)
My grandmother's family had emigrated from Ireland to the United States. On Saturday mornings, I'd join her in the parlor and we'd listen to her traditional Irish music collection. I was able to share with her my own contemporary Irish music. We'd talk about the lilt and rhythm of the traditional music and how it carried over to the contemporary artists. I'm surprised "Wild Irish Rose" didn't make it onto any of U2's commercial releases, even as a B-side or bonus feature on a DVD, because it captures a point in their career when even though they were discovering musical roots in America, they were able to bring it back home, melding popular American culture into Irish traditions in song. "I went to the city of angels, it brought the devil out on me ..."
6. She's A Mystery To Me (Mystery Girl)
Growing up, I saw my dad on the weekends. He was a radio DJ for years, but times called for a different path for him. He worked in a cloth manufacturing factory just down the street, and when he came home from work on Saturday afternoons we'd talk about music. He loved music, especially Roy Orbison and Gene Pitney. He taught me about song structure, melody and chord progressions. He came home with Roy Orbison's new album Mystery Girl and was surprised to see that "She's A Mystery To Me" wasn't credited fully to Roy. This led to some music sharing between my collection and his. He began to understand me better, and I connected better with him. "She's A Mystery To Me" came out before Achtung Baby, however the last verse, "But if my love is blind, then I don't want to see," has led to many a discussion about the link between "She's A Mystery To Me" and "Love Is Blindness." These two songs are like the ying and yang of the same thought.
7. This Heart (Flyer)
A friend gave me a mixtape called A Busman's Holiday that featured collaborations by the members of U2 with other artists. On it was "This Heart" by Nanci Griffith, featuring Larry playing the drums. Both Adam and Larry appear on other tracks from the album. It showed me how the band members were open to exploring other genres, keen on collaborating with other artists. In turn, it made me more curious about who they were working with, broadening my musical tastes. In my view these collaborations tended to make U2 more adventurous, as what Edge picked up in his sessions with Jah Wobble carried over to U2's music. On "This Heart," Larry's drumming is characteristically his. It's the last song on the Flyer album, and Larry gets the last note on it.
8. Original Of The Species (How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb)
Growing up, I had a stutter (still do) and never really fit in at school. I had great parents who helped me overcome many insecurities and forged a path through a world that didn't really make a lot of sense to me. When my son was born, we discovered he had sensory processing issues and a mild autism spectrum disorder that made the world difficult for him to understand as he couldn't organize the sensory signals in his brain. Watching Catherine Owens' video for this song, depicting the knitting of a baby inside a mother's womb, I struggled with how my son could be born with such challenges. "I'd give you everything you want except the thing you want, you are the first one of your kind". He wanted to understand his surroundings, he was my firstborn and I didn't know what to do. Surprisingly, the only song that would soothe him was "Original Of The Species." I'd play the song while cradling him, and a peace would come to both of us. He's made vast improvements over the years and now the message has transformed to "please stay a child in your heart." This song will always mean a great deal to me.
Songs hit you right when you need them and "Invisible" is no exception. Because of our son's unique challenges, our public school district had issues with educating him. My husband and I spent countless hours trying to get the attention of those who could make a significant change in the situation, which led our family on a path of advocacy and positive, systemic change within our state's educational system as it relates to children with disabilities. The declaration "I'm more than you know, I'm more than you see" in the song is my primal scream. This song is my rallying cry: "I am NOT invisible, I AM here!" It has renewed my conviction to be that voice for the voiceless.
10. Iris (Songs Of Innocence)
"Mr. Bono loves his mommy and is sad that he misses her?" That's what my 5-year-old daughter said to me when we were talking about the song after it was first released. From that point on I haven't been able to listen to "Iris" without thinking of it from Mrs. Hewson's point of view and how sad I'd be if I left my children behind. That twist encourages me to make the most of my time with my kids, so if something were to happen, they'd have stronger memories of me. On the album "Iris" has an ethereal uniqueness that makes it stand out, a nucleus that everything revolves around. Not surprising, as Bono has made it clear that she is the reason he's an artist.
11. Where The Streets Have No Name and With Or Without You (Rattle And Hum DVD)
While I remember watching U2 at Live Aid and The Conspiracy Of Hope tour on television, Rattle And Hum was my first dive into U2. The contrast of the black-and-white documentary footage with that red screen at the start of "Where The Streets Have No Name" is ingrained in every U2 fan's brain. It defines that song live to this day. But it's more than that, creating a visceral reaction: goosebumps, the heart racing, joy about to fill the room. If you've been to a U2 show, you've experienced it. There's a spirit about the song that can't be explained, only felt.
In the same way that "Streets" is defined by Rattle And Hum, "With Or Without You" is defined by the "Shine Like Stars" coda from the film. Many fans agree there's something special about "Shine Like Stars" and point to the performance in the film as the first time they heard a live version of "With Or Without You." When Bono sings the coda in concert, it's like an acknowledgement to that portion of the band's fan community, connecting U2 with their fan base. It's a symbiotic relationship that I've always appreciated about U2, and "Shine Like Stars" is a great example of it.
12. Falling At Your Feet (The Million Dollar Hotel soundtrack / Duals)
This collaboration between Bono and Daniel Lanois served as a spiritual wake-up call. Self-reliance is dangerous and I reached a point where I needed to acknowledge that my reliance needed to come from a higher power. The soft conversational tone of "Falling At Your Feet," with the prayerful ending of "teach me to surrender my will, not thy will," convicted me. Because I am a Christ-follower, this song renewed my commitment to follow the path I needed to be on, not the one I wanted to be on. It's a song of vulnerability and humility as we all struggle to "explain simplicity."
13. All Because Of You (How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb)
Deconstructing this song has been a fun exercise in many fan meet-ups over the years. I see it as a cleverly constructed prayer of acknowledgement - with the conclusion "All because of you, I Am".
The day after the How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb launch party in Boston to benefit The African Well Fund, a bunch of friends and I piled into a car and drove to New York City for U2's promotional concert at the foot of the Brooklyn Bridge. Pressed against the front rail of the stage, we saw U2's flatbed tractor trailer going over the bridge as the band filmed the video for "All Because Of You." The flatbed arrived at the venue, and a few songs into the set Bono made a comment about how people already knew the songs even though the album wasn't yet released. Little did he know that many of us from the Boston launch party had heard the whole album. Also, it brought me back to where it all began in my U2 journey: New York City. Simply put, all because of U2, I am — and will continue to be.