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Cleaning Up observation

by | Dec 30, 2021 | Cleaning Up, observe, U2

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🖋 “So – he comes in here, throws papers in the air, plays some guitar, and then does it again?” Yes – yes, of course. My nephew was visiting, and his observation was spot on – my office’s normal state is a disaster. My Daughter on seeing my Cleaned Up version one time remarked more politely, “My, there are a LOT of things to observe!”. Up comes easy – Cleaning, not so much…

… you probably can’t believe I was ever an editor. Cleaning Up writing is the art of finding the minimum words to convey the intent clearly, and correctly. There are manuals on how to do it right – AP Stylebook, Strunk and White. Now they are embedded in Grammarly, spell checkers, etc. I, of course, can’t read, or better said, rarely do. And I have observed that when trying to Clean Up my weaknesses, I can more easily be 6’5”. My insight – observe those around you who love doing something you are not good at, and let them help you…

🎵 Like many tracks from All That You Can’t Leave Behind, today’s track harkens back to the group’s past sound. This led to debate amongst the band when the Edge was playing this song on his Gibson Explorer guitar, with a tone used in much of their early material up to their 1983 album War. Bono was particularly resistant to the guitar tone the Edge was playing with, but the Edge ultimately won the disagreement. As he explained, “It was because we were coming up with some innovative music that I felt a license to use some signature guitar sounds.” Bono explained that the upbeat track is about losing everything but still finding joy in what one has.

Co-producer Brian Eno was frustrated with the lack of observed progress on the song, and early one morning, he and Lanois arrived in the studio before U2 to prepare some musical ideas. Eno created a rhythm on a drum machine, over which he added a piano part and synthesised strings. Lanois played a guitar part on a Fender Telecaster that was a third above the root of the Edge’s guitar sequence, providing what he described as a “choral quality, like harmony singing”.

The producers’ ideas proved to be musically inspiring to the band when they arrived and resumed work on the song. Lanois described the Edge’s resulting guitar playing as “sounding like shattered, splintered metal coming at you like a meteor storm”. Near the end of a 20-minute jam of the song, Bono sang, “It’s a beautiful day, don’t let it get away”. After taking a lunch break, the producers thought that Bono’s impromptu vocal from the outro could be made into the song’s chorus. They quickly edited the vocal part into earlier sections of the jam, turning it into what would be the chorus of “Beautiful Day”.

In 2001, the song won three Grammy Awards for Song of the Year, Record of the Year, and Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal at the 43rd Annual Grammy Awards ceremony. The group has played “Beautiful Day” at every one of their concerts since the song’s live debut on the Elevation Tour in 2001.

🖋 With a LOT of my life, I would often have to Clean Up when things got just so out of control that I couldn’t find anything. And, when that happened, there was no science to the first part – simply get it OUT. Particularly with my garage, if I observed and sorted as I started, I never finished. I simply learned to get about half of the stuff just OUT… and then, slowly, observe the pattern that was starting to emerge. It was there all along, but now I could see it, and start to make some sense of it. That last part of Cleaning Up went way faster because now, things had a “place”.

Writing is similar. Any writer will tell you that the blank page is daunting sometimes, and what I have observed is that with an approach similar to Cleaning Up: just getting some of the story out without a big plan, I always get something good to start from. Days often start with the music first, others with the stories, others with something completely different. And, rarely do they actually go the place I had guessed they would. observing that pattern, particularly after my long break this summer, has let me be freer with the approach, and that has allowed the Joy to reappear easier. Just starting, and quieting the observing/Cleaning/Editing/Judging voices…

… as you are winding down this year, Cleaning Up, what have you noticed worked best for you? Often that is just after you get it all out. An interesting challenge of my career is hearing people simply unload their baggage, which once it starts, we both eventually realize that this was what was needed for them to observebefore any forward progress could be made. It also starts to organize into piles, some of which need to be given to others who can and should be doing that instead of… you. Less is really more, which we will discuss next week. As with yesterday, observe it could be the partners around you, or simply a different place. No matter what it is, as you start to Clean Up for a great New Year, what will make this, and every day to come, a Beautiful Day?

The heart is a bloom
Shoots up through the stony ground
There’s no room
No space to rent in this town
You’re out of luck
And the reason that you had to care
The traffic is stuck
And you’re not moving anywhere
You thought you’d found a friend
To take you out of this place
Someone you could lend a hand
In return for grace
It’s a beautiful day
Sky falls, you feel like
It’s a beautiful day
Don’t let it get away
You’re on the road
But you’ve got no destination
You’re in the mud
In the maze of her imagination
You love this town
Even if that doesn’t ring true
You’ve been all over
And it’s been all over you
It’s a beautiful day
Don’t let it get away
It’s a beautiful day (Oooh, ooh)
Touch me
Take me to that other place
Teach me love
I know I’m not a hopeless case
See the world in green and blue
See China right in front of you
See the canyons broken by cloud
See the tuna fleets clearing the sea out
See the Bedouin fires at night
See the oil fields at first light
And see the bird with a leaf in her mouth
After the flood all the colors came out
Day, Day
Day, Day
It was a beautiful day
Don’t let it get away
Beautiful day
Touch me
Take me to that other place
Reach me
I know I’m not a hopeless case
What you don’t have, you don’t need it now
What you don’t know, you can feel it somehow
What you don’t have, you don’t need it now
Don’t need it now
Was a beautiful day
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