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Joy observation

by | Apr 8, 2021 | Joy, observe, U2

It is a convenient coincidence that the “empower” words come in the order they are in.  Yes, it is easier to make the acronym work, but these “middle” words tie together particularly well.  That became clear a year or so back when I was talking with a partner who observed that I had lost my Joy.  At first, I was a little taken aback, but as we talked through the assessment, she was right.  In my corporate roles, I had learned early that my larger-than-life personality and voice would overdrive situations, and I slowly had pulled back into a completely neutral stance – that served me as an executive.  I could, with some practice, now appear only when I wanted to…

… I knew how to navigate those streets well.  Observing the needs of this meeting, that client situation, this particular team, I would morph a bit into that, which confirms that a lot of leadership is in fact playing a role.  And I was decent at it… until I started to slowly realize that — what was the cost?  Sure the money was good, and we had some fun experiences and “toys” along the way… and certainly, my peers had Joy in their Rolex’s, Bentleys, and trips to Macau… but was that really what it meant for me?

With success firmly established after their world tour and their climactic set at Live Aid, the band took some time off for some separate work.  Ali and Bono went to Africa and volunteered on the front lines of food and medicine distribution in Ethiopia.  As he was interacting with the profound poverty, he was struck by the Joy that he observed. “The spirit of the people I met was very strong.  There is no doubt that, even in poverty, they had something that we didn’t have.  When I got back, I realized the extent to which people in the West were like spoiled children”.  You would know someone in Belfast – their religion, their income, their beliefs… by the street they lived on…

As before he tried to capture these ideas in some simple lyrics that were not too preachy, and frankly are like many of the other songs: not exactly clear what he is referring to.  It gives the song the ability to map to many different experiences. “If you get any way heavy about these things, you don’t communicate.  But if you are flip or throwaway about it, then you do. That’s one of the paradoxes I’ve had to come to terms with. I was just trying to sketch a location, maybe a spiritual location, maybe a romantic location. I was trying to sketch a feeling”

Meanwhile, Edge was “woodshedding” with new sounds and clips of guitar riffs, chords, and music to bring forward to the next recording sessions.  It was his standard practice – to hole up in his retreat with sequencers, pedals, amplifiers, and guitars to see what he would conjure up that was new and yet familiar.  For this song, he realized that again they were short a couple of songs, and wanted to “conjure up the ultimate live U2 song” that he would want to hear at a future U2 show if he were a fan.  After finishing the rough mix, he felt he had come up with “the most amazing guitar part and song of [his] life”.  With no one in the house to share the demo with, he recalls dancing around and punching the air in celebration.

With that setup, you would think that recording the song would be a Joyful experience… it was not.  In fact, it tested even Brian’s patience, who was tired of spending weeks on a single song that he threatened to actually erase all of the working masters one evening… and he was not kidding.  Luckily the recording engineer stood in front of the rack, and he cooled off.  Literally half of the time recording the entire album was on this one song… and even then, it has taken years for it to morph into the true live anthem that Edge envisioned.  Larry said “It took so long to get that song right, it was difficult for us to make any sense of it.  It only became a truly great song through playing live.  On the record, musically, it’s not half the song it is live”. The opening track of their new album, it was a Number 1 hit along with the album that shipped platinum and was Number 1 world wide…

observing is a critical step – before executing, and even before wonder – simply assessing what you are noticing.  The stance is to step back and try to see what is missing.  For me, the gift of time and space forced on us all has brought Joy into a much clearer focus.  I see many now rushing back to “normal”… and I also notice a growing number that are celebrating that they have similarly realized what was missing.  The path is not quite as clear… or is it?  If you tune into that still small voice, what is it telling you that would help you navigate the new possibilities and find Joy… Where the Streets Have No Name…

I want to run, I want to hide
I wanna tear down the walls that hold me inside
I wanna reach out and touch the flame
Where the streets have no name, ha, ha, ha

I wanna feel sunlight on my face
I see that dust cloud disappear without a trace
I wanna take shelter from the poison rain
Where the streets have no name, oh, oh

Where the streets have no name
Where the streets have no name
We’re still building then burning down love
Burning down love
And when I go there, I go there with you
It’s all I can do

The city’s a flood
And our love turns to rust
We’re beaten and blown by the wind
Trampled in dust

I’ll show you a place
High on the desert plain, yeah
Where the streets have no name, oh, oh

Where the streets have no name
Where the streets have no name
We’re still building then burning down love
Burning down love
And when I go there, I go there with you
It’s all I can do

Our love turns to rust
We’re beaten and blown by the wind
Blown by the wind
Oh, and I see love
See our love turn to rust
Oh, we’re beaten and blown by the wind
Blown by the wind
Oh, when I go there
I go there with you
It’s all I can do

 

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