11 O’Clock Tick Tock was released as a single before Boy, and never appeared on an album. Despite that it was one of the most popular U2 songs in the early days, and still survives to this day in versions that are well-received. For myself the primary version I remember and sing from is the Under A Blood-Red Sky version. The title is one of those things that stick with me too, every time someone says “11 O’Clock” I always think “Tick Tock.”
One of the fun things of doing the research for these songs is finding out things I didn’t know or had forgotten, and going down certain trails with it. In the case of 11 O’Clock Tick Tock I found out it was originally called Silver Lining and had different lyrics. This leads to an interesting series of stories and videos, a kind of peek into U2 history. Essentially the song is the same music as 11 O’Clock Tick Tock, but with different lyrics. “I hear the children crying” was “Take me silver lining,” so you can see how different. It is, as I’ve said on a few songs before, interesting to see how the lyrics evolve during production into a full song. In this case they appear to have thrown out all the lyrics and started again. I don’t know why but there is something about the Silver Lining lyrics that in some ways sound better than the ones that were released.
The original song is a little echoey for my liking. Sounds like they’re in a really large room, and the noise is bouncing off all the walls. The only thing that sounds decent is the bass. There’s also the la-la-la-lo, or however it goes, which is a little irritating, like they’re trying to fill in some empty space. They for some reason re-did the song for The Unforgettable Fire and put it on the b side of the Pride single, and it sounds quite a bit better, more bassy if that’s possible. And of course the Red Rocks version, which I have always liked, somehow sounds so much better. Maybe it’s just a few more years of playing together helped them, maybe because it’s live.
I do love the lyric “We thought that we had the answers, it was the questions we had wrong,” that seems to be something that a lot of people - myself included - could learn from. Much of the world would do better if they stopped desiring a specific outcome of their policies, but instead asked what they should actually be doing to help others. An example this week is the idea of restricting the ability of people on welfare to spend the money they get on certain things, because they want to reduce the amount spent on welfare. It’s not “let’s help people get off welfare,” it’s “let’s cut money from welfare and people will somehow magically get off welfare.” Trying to get to the result - reducing cost - by going the wrong way about it - cut money rather than cut need. Questions they had wrong indeed.
Lyrical confusions: the lyric is “A painted face” which I always thought was “Oh pizza face” and I had no idea why he would write that. Another one is “Say so, say so” repeated at the end, which I thought was “Sad song, sad song.” Mild mis-hearings.
My rating for 11 O’Clock Tick Tock: 6 / 10