U2101 – Vertigo

1394319982I’ve written a lot in the past about some of U2’s more obscure gems, deep album tracks like “Running to Stand Still” or “Electric Co.”, but today I want to celebrate one of U2’s best-known songs, “Vertigo”, from 2004’s How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb (HTDAAB) album. “Vertigo” is, in my experience, one of those tracks that even folks who aren’t U2 fans tend to enjoy, and it’s not hard to understand why. When I think back to the first time I ever heard the song, driving home from work almost a decade ago (a decade?!?! how did that happen?) I was immediately struck with the balancing act which the song performs, acting as the perfect bridge between U2’s dense but sometimes inaccessible maze of depth and intellectualism, and a perfect, bite-sized chip off the old rock n’ roll block, with a towering, hummable guitar riff and enough hooks to hang a whole career’s worth of platinum plaques. Bono gave a description of the song that’s hard to beat at the 2006 Grammy awards, when he called it “a song…that makes you want to burn your house to the ground.”

600Much has been said about the unorthodox counting that Bono starts the song with – “Uno! Dos! Tres! Catorce!”. I tend to favor the idea set forth by Bruce Springsteen during his induction speech for the band at the American Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, when he discussed the idea that 1,2,3,14, (which is the English translation of Bono’s Spanish counting) “is the correct math for a rock and roll band” where “the whole had better equal much more than the sum of its parts, or else you’re just rubbing two sticks together, in search of a fire.” Bono’s dismissed the seeming mathematical irregularity as an alcohol fueled faux pas, but you and I both know that nothing makes it onto a U2 record by accident. I read a theory recently that I’d like to share with you – this is on the song’s wiki page, so you may already be familiar with it. What if 1,2,3,14 refers to the Bible? One, meaning the first, or Old, testament; two for the second book of that testament, which is Exodus. Three for the third chapter of that book, and 14 signifying the verse. Exodus 3:14, which reads “And God said unto Moses, I Am That I Am: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I Am hath sent me unto you.”. This wouldn’t be the first time Bono’s used shorthand to refer to Biblical verses – see the cover of the band’s preceding album All That You Can’t Leave Behind – nor would it be the last time – see the lyrics to “Unknown Caller” for one, or an interview from (I think) 2008, wherein Bono discusses the possibility of making a whole album of songs with numeric references. Further credence is lent to this theory when one considers that just as this possible reference to a name for the Christian God opens the album, so does the song “Yahweh” a much more overt reference to the same being, appear as the closing track on standard versions of the release. Only the band know for sure, I imagine, but It’s an interesting theory, and one that’s hard to discount.

Vertigo” appeared at every show of the tour that borrowed its name, sometimes appearing as both the first and last songs performed at individual gigs. My personal favorite performances were those that included snippets to “Stories For Boys”, a song from U2’s first record, Boy, to which a lyrical reference is made in the chorus of “Vertigo”. “Vertigo” also appeared, as did its album-mate “City of Blinding Lights” at every show of the 360 tour, and I strongly suspect, knowing the band’s preference for upbeat songs, that the band will continue to play this song for as long as they tour.

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.

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This topic contains 15 replies, has 6 voices, and was last updated by  Leeny 3 months, 4 weeks ago.

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  • #9504

    broadsword
    Moderator

    I’ve written a lot in the past about some of U2’s more obscure gems, deep album tracks like “Running to Stand Still” or “Electric Co.”, but today I wa
    [See the full post at: U2101 - Vertigo]

    #9505

    Chris
    Participant

    Yeaaahahhh ! That Original Desert-Video is Awesome !!!!!! Very cool memories of it… I remember, in November 2004, staying practically glued to the tv-set which was tuned in to VH-1 (they were the only ones airing the video)..I thought..F*** !!! U2 are back, man !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I love this !!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Will IT ever happen again ??????

    BEST Version : the 360 version, Hell Yeah, I’m going to blast it right now !!!!!!!!!!!!

    #9506

    Chris
    Participant

    This is to prove that U2 works in Mysterious Ways and it’s for the best…I prefer to not know what Bono is referring to…HIT it, Larry !!!!

    #9507

    joepit
    Moderator

    I always bought into the Biblical references of Vertigo; “Give me what I want & no one gets hurt”-Brilliant!
    Vertigo, GREAT U2 SOUND!

    #9508

    Chris
    Participant

    I agree with Joe !!!!

    #9509

    Chris
    Participant

    Donde Estas ? Hola!!!!

    #9514

    ericbobg
    Participant

    I think many people loved it, especially globally, when it came out – but today I only hear complaints about “that one song that was overplayed after that other song that was overplayed”, meaning Beautiful Day. Regardless of that, though, I love the biblical numerical connection. It is a great song but not a go-to for me.

    #9515

    Chris
    Participant

    Beautiful Day is overplayed indeed…But Vertigo is something I can never get enough of !!!!!!!!!!!!! The 360 performance is Other-Worldly !!!

    #9516

    Chris
    Participant

    Vertigo for ever, man !!!!!!!!!!

    #9522

    Leeny
    Participant

    I wonder if Bono keeps track of how long it takes his fans to catch on to stuff like this. :P

    #9523

    Leeny
    Participant

    Brilliant theory, BTW. ;) Keep it coming.

    #9610

    Leeny
    Participant

    Joe, didn’t you do a blog about U2 and numbers somewhere a while back?

    Your summer assignment is to cross-reference every U2 numerical lyric with the Bible and see what you come up with. And I don’t want to hear the excuse that Davcal’s dog ate your homework.

    #9611

    Chris
    Participant

    The dog didn’t eat it. He forgot his Homework-Notebook at home !

    #9613

    Pam
    Participant

    “Vertigo” is always an enormous live highlight and I also love the version that includes a snippet of “Stories For Boys”. This song is a great example of U2´s ability to connect Bible references with energetic music. With its fast tempo and heavy guitar riffs, it truly rocks and at the same time it makes us reflect.

    #9614

    joepit
    Moderator

    You know how many old blogs I can’t retrieve from back in the day to cross reference: uno, dos, tres, catorce, infinity.0

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