U2 101 – Desire

1394319982I’ve never quite been able to get my head around why Rattle & Hum was so roundly detested in the critical community. I’ve read all about how people interpreted the fact that U2 were celebrating some of music’s brightest stars to mean that the band thought they themselves were one of those stars. I’ve heard folks complain that the movie which the album serves as a soundtrack for is humorless (?!?) and too structured, I’ve even seen whole blogs devoted to discussing why U2 shouldn’t have gone to Graceland, or at least not let the drummer talk about it. At the end of the day, my opinion is that people didn’t like it for the same reason that people whine and moan about the band now. U2 are successful, and people love to tear down anything that’s successful. The truth is that there’s some brilliant stuff on Rattle and Hum, not least of which is the Grammy winning single “Desire”.

alb007-07“Desire” was the first single released from the album, and it serves as the perfect mission statement for that period of the band’s development; that being that they were just learning about the music that America’s tradition of rock ‘n’ roll is based upon, and they were excited to share what they’d learned. “Desire”, being created around the “Bo Diddley Beat”, is a perfect example of what the band were trying to accomplish – to take everything that was great about American music and to put their own unique spin on it, which was done in this specific example by turning the classic rock and roll riff into a song about everything that drives humanity. You can call it greed, addiction, or simple want, it all boils down to desire, a point which is wonderfully illustrated by Bono’s lyrics, sung in a voice that’s both ragged and confident; one that’s positively dripping with hot and sweaty yearning.

As one might expect for a song that was originally released on the Rattle and Hum record, “Desire” made it’s live debut on the Lovetown tour which supported that album back in late 1989. These early performances were very similar to the original album version – thanks due to the fact that it’s a fairly simple song, and therefore relatively easy to recreate live. Of course, the fact that these performances were so similar to the album version isn’t a bad thing at all, and the Lovetown performances of “Desire” were spirited, energetic affairs which the audiences always cheered loudly.

outsidecoverOf course, U2 being U2, they’re always looking for new ideas and arrangements – new ways to do the same things they’ve always done, and so it was that the “Desire” that premiered at the first night of the ZooTV tour sounded different from anything heard before, although the changes were accomplished by relatively small tweaks in equipment. The simplistic guitar arrangement was beefed up with some new effects that gave it an entirely new sound, and the arrangement of the song was changed so as to highlight the antics of Bono’s Mirrorball Man character, also incorporating some rhythmic piano from a remix that was included on the original “Desire” single. The performance of this that was filmed for the Outside Broadcast documentary is an absolute must-see, showcasing Bono at his satiric, messianic best.

Desire didn’t fare as well on 1997’s Pop*Mart tour, appearing at only 12 shows out of 93. These performances were all abbreviated acoustic productions, performed solely by Bono and Edge from the B-stage that still managed to be a whole lot of fun. “Desire” was played much more regularly on the Elevation tour. This tour again featured the song in a simplified arrangement from the B-Stage, sometimes incorporating the rhythm section that’s such an integral part of the magic of the song, sometimes stripped back even further to just vocal and guitar. When Adam and Larry did participate ,they would join B&E at the tip of the heart for presentations that never failed to get hands clapping in the audience.

Since then, “Desire’s” only come out to play on rare occasions – only 23 times in the last decade – and most of those – although not all – have been of the full-band acoustic variety, most of which were unpolished and rambling in a way that seems somehow appropriate for this fast and free-spirited song. It’s this same somewhat bohemian sensibility that leads me to believe that we haven’t seen the last of “Desire”. The song is perfect for any-time the band are feeling spontaneous or in the mood for some fun, and I’d be amazed if the song doesn’t continue to make acoustic appearances at whatever sort of live shows U2 performs in the future.

 

1989-12-30 (Lovetown)

1992-03-30 (ZooTV)

1997-09-30 (Pop*Mart)

2001-05-30 (Elevation)

"U2 101 - Desire", 5 out of 5 based on 2 ratings.

Ever since I realized as a kid, while poring over the liner notes of the Bob Marley - Songs of Freedom boxed set, that writing about music was a viable career choice, one of my greatest desires has been to write about U2. The band has been a major part of my life for as long as I can remember, and I'm thrilled to have this opportunity to contribute a little something to the fantastic online community that's been built around the band.

Home Forums U2 101 – Desire

This topic contains 11 replies, has 6 voices, and was last updated by  Pam 4 months, 2 weeks ago.

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  • #8264

    broadsword
    Moderator

    I’ve never quite been able to get my head around why Rattle & Hum was so roundly detested in the critical community. I’ve read all about how peopl
    [See the full post at: U2 101 - Desire]

    #8265

    Chris
    Participant

    False…Rattle and Hum is indeed brilliant and there’s no reason to criticize it BUT U2 must be criticized for Invisible, their worst song ever, it’s not the SAME situation, if U2 don’t see how wrong they are now…they won’t reconsider their direction ! Of course there are some bad people who criticize them because they’re successful but it’s really not the case in our days, what U2 are doing now can’t be compared with the Rattle and Hum Era !

    However, while Rattle and Hum is a massive album…what came after it is OUt of this World !!! Not the case with what U2’s doing now after “No Line…” !!! And No Line is a Huge Album ! I’d LOVE to hear the B-Sides from it ! U2 have recorded some great songs back then and in 2010 but they chose to throw all that goodness away for Inv., what a shame !!!

    Best Desire version: the Zoo Tv version !

    #8268

    Leeny
    Participant

    You say the Outside Broadcast documentary is a must see, but when I click on the link I can’t see it.
    (Sorry, Chris, but it honestly is invisible.)

    #8270

    joepit
    Moderator

    No Line….huge????? Desire is better than Invisible & everything on NLOTH COMBINED!

    #8273

    SPun2U
    Key Master

    Come on guys (& Gals), ‘Invisible’ is great tune. Maybe not on the level of anything in the AB era, but I like it, even with the drum machine sounding thingy, it’s a catch listen. Just enjoy it for what it is.

    #8274

    Chris
    Participant

    I think that is just a photo to give some colour to the blog…Click on the play-button of the song-links below and listen to the songs, Leeny ! !!!

    #8276

    joepit
    Moderator

    Spun, I like Invisible. But like Leeny, I like The Fly better.

    #8277

    Chris
    Participant

    Definitely THE Fly !!! I heard it’s her favourite song !!!!

    #8278

    Chris
    Participant

    Definitely THE Fly !!! I heard it’s Leeny’s favourite song !!!!

    #8286

    Leeny
    Participant

    Just for that, I’m sending you both The Bird.

    #8287

    Leeny
    Participant

    If so, it’s an all black photo. So much for adding color, eh?

    Click on the green font “Outside Broadcast” and you will see what I am talking about.

    #8379

    Pam
    Participant

    In my opinion the Rattle And Hum album contains some great songs and I also don´t understand why the band received some harsh criticism. For me it´s positive that U2 tried to learn more about American music as young men, but unfortunately their intention to honour some musical legends was interpreted as arrogance. The Rattle And Hum movie actually offers a few humorous moments. I always laugh when the bandmembers try to explain what´s the film about. The movie means much to me, because it gave me the very first impression of U2´s stunning live performances. After watching it in the cinema as a 15 year old teenager I knew that I would have to see this band live in concert. The Bo Diddley beat of Desire generates so much energy and it´s exciting to hear how this song changed over the years. I particularly love the satirical way Bono mocked his stardom in the Zoo TV version. He truly appeared as that “preacher stealing hearts at a travelling show”.

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