I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I’m not a big fan of old music. Oh, it’s enjoyable enough, they did make good sounds, but it’s very simplistic compared to (at least some) modern music, and that’s what I prefer. So I don’t know much about the old stuff, and I remember not knowing All Along The Watchtower until I heard it on Rattle And Hum.
The original song, by Bob Dylan, is widely famous, just not famous enough for a young me to have known. It does fall into that trap of being simplistic, I think there are only three verses, and then a couple of them are repeated (at least in the U2 copy). But then again, it also falls into that sense of mystery, as in what the heck is this song about? A little googling doesn’t solve the question, because there are just as many pages trying to explain what it’s about as there are saying that it’s about nothing in particular. I think I prefer songs that have a point, but then again I’ve reviewed U2 songs like Elvis Presley And America which never had a point but certainly sound intoxicating and mysterious. So I guess I’ll have to give a pass to All Along The Watchtower on that front. It’s also kind of fun to look at lyrics like this and try and decipher them yourself, put yourself into the artist’s shoes and figure out what they’re saying, or like all those websites I read, place your own interpretation over it.
It does bother me that in the movie they showed the band sitting in a caravan trying to learn how to play the song, right before going on stage with it. They even had Paul McGuinness asking around for someone who might know the words. I would have thought that if you wanted to play someone’s song, and do it in a respectful way, then you’d learn it a little better than that. Although to be fair they were I suppose decent at it (again, I don’t know since I don’t know the song that well). On the other hand, Bono did make up his own verse, which has become at least somewhat famous, even if it was just made up on the spot and meant to be thrown away.
And further to the idea that they just learned it, as I listen I think it really is simplistically played. There’s nothing much going on, each of them is just playing along with the same basic part. If you listen closely, Larry is just banging away on the drums and the cymbals, mixing it up a little as they break to another part. Adam’s just playing the same piece of bass over and over, nothing at all there. Edge plays a couple of bits, but not much of a change. And Bono’s guitar, well, as always it’s just something for him to do with his hands, right?
Then there’s that whole controversy with Bono spray painting a wall, which isn’t even worth getting into. I mean really, just some local politician trying to make a name for themselves.
My rating for All Along The Watchtower: 3 / 10