“The idea that there’s a force of love and logic behind the universe is overwhelming to start with, if you believe it,” he told me in his raspy brogue, sipping black coffee out of a Styrofoam cup. “But the idea that the same love and logic would choose to describe itself as a baby born in shit and straw and poverty is genius. And it brings me to my knees, literally. To me, as a poet, I’m just in awe of that. It makes some sort of poetic sense. It’s the thing that makes me a believer, although it didn’t dawn on me for many years.”
- Bono on Christmas and the Incarnation from The God Factor: Inside the Spiritual Lives of Public People (p. 10) by Cathleen Falsani. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2006. Kindle Edition.
Dream beneath the desert sky
The rivers run, but soon run dry
We need new dreams tonight
~ from “In God’s Country” by U2
On March 9, 1987, U2 released The Joshua Tree, its fifth studio album and one that would catapult the Irish rock quartet from popularity to international superstardom.
Twenty-five years later, today The Joshua Tree is one of the most bestselling albums in history — with more than 25 million copies sold — and is considered to be among the best rock albums of all time.
“The wild beauty, cultural richness, spiritual vacancy and ferocious violence of America are explored to compelling effect in virtually every aspect of The Joshua Tree — in the title and the cover art, the blues and country borrowings evident in the music … Indeed, Bono says that ‘dismantling the mythology of America’ is an important part of The Joshua Tree‘s artistic objective.”
The Joshua Tree also happens to be my favorite record, the one I’ve played more than any other and have worn out on at least three different audio media (vinyl, cassette tape and CD) since I waited in line to purchase the LP the day it went on sale when I was a 16-year-old junior in high school. (God bless my longsuffering parents.)
Its spiritual and socio-political heft has, for me at least, only grown more powerful over the years. As I listened to it again today, the soul-shaking music and lyrics sounded even fresher in our current nervous times than they did to my teenage ears in the twilight of the Reagan era.
Perhaps as iconic as the songs on the album itself — “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For,” “Where The Streets Have No Name,” “With or Without You,” “In God’s Country,” etc. — are the black-and-white photos of the bandmembers Bono, The Edge, Larry Mullen Jr., and Adam Clayton taken in the California high desert by photographer Anton Corbijn.
Corbijn, U2’s longtime shooter, immortalized a scruffy-if-fresh-faced band in the barren backdrop of the Mojave desert. A single tree in particular — a yucca palm (Yucca brevifolia) or Joshua tree located in the middle of Death Valley National Park. The trees are unique in that their trunks are comprised of thousands of fibers and therefore contain no growth rings. It is believed that many Joshua trees live hundreds if not a thousands of years.
The yucca trees got their colloquial name from Mormon settlers in the 19th century who thought their outstretched, arm-like branches resembled the biblical character Joshua reaching his hands heavenward in prayer. When Bono reportedly learned that story of the Joshua tree name’s provenance, he was pleased about the spiritual significance and persuaded his bandmates they should name their album after it.
The Joshua tree that’s pictured in the original album artwork died (presumably of old age) and fell in 2000. But that hasn’t stopped scores of U2 fans from all over the world making the pilgrimage to the way-off-the-beaten-track desert locale to pay their respects to the famous fallen tree. There’s even a bronze plaque at the site that reads, “Have you found what you’re looking for?”
@U2 Staff’s Pilgrimage to the Joshua Tree
Happy anniversary to The Joshua Tree and U2, who created it “from the sky down.”
“From inaccessible mountain range by way of desert untrod by human foot to the ends of the unknown seas, the breath of the everlasting creative spirit is felt, rejoicing over every speck of dust that hearkens to it and lives.”
~ Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
I guess it really is a tough quiz.
By the time the quiz expired this a.m., only 10 of you had taken it and the score to beat so far is 65 percent.
So…in the interested of fair play and harmony in the community, I’ve extended the quiz until TUESDAY AT 9:30 A.M. PST
If you haven’t tried, try again. If you tried and got spanked, try again.
I’ll even up the ante: Grand Prize is a copy of U2: The Complete Encyclopedia and an authentic back-stage pass (mine) from the first leg of the No Line on the Horizon tour.
Good luck to all!
We’re a wee bit late celebrating U2’s 34th birthday (September 25, 1976), but what the hell. It’s never to late for a bit of good Irish craic.
Calling all U2 fans:
Today’s Swag Bag Grab Quiz is in honor of the boys from Dublin and takes a look at the spiritual content of U2’s oeuvre.
Are you a fan? A Superfan?
See if you can correctly identify the songs and albums with the lyrics replete with spiritual, biblical and religious images and references.
The Grand Prize Winner gets a copy of The Complete Encyclopedia of U2.
Runners up with receive a copy of the Official God Girl U2&GOD Mix Tape. (Well, it’s a CD, actually.)
Winners will be announced on Monday. You have seven minutes to complete the quiz, which will close at 9 a.m. PST Sunday.