Please is far and away the best song off Pop, there’s no doubt about that. The rest of the album struggles, as I’ve detailed before, just a few days ago in fact. But Please, it belongs in the upper echelon of U2 songs. I don’t know that it would make my top 20, but it wouldn’t be far outside of it. A great song, especially live.
This is one of those rare songs that I chose a date to review it on. If you don’t know what date it is, or you’re reading this years from now, I will tell you that I am posting this on September 11. A date that sends a shiver down the spine every time you hear it, right? When you hear that date it automatically throws you back to that day. It is one of the very few moments in my life - maybe three, maybe four - where I can tell you exactly where I was and what I was doing when I heard what was happening. You all have that exact same story - well, not the exact one, but you know what I mean - and just reading this makes you think back to it, doesn’t it? The shock, the fear, the anger, being absolutely glued to news that day and for days afterwards.
I think back to U2 playing in the months after 9/11. That really did feel cathartic, I know it sounds crazy to think so, but it did. I’ve said before, I’m not very religious, I am definitely on the side of Bono when he talks about the show being his Sunday morning. I’ve also said before that I have felt more “religion” in a U2 show than any church, and this was perhaps the most of any. I saw them play twice in Texas then, crying my eyes out as names scrolled across the ceiling during One. It was fantastic. So why am I doing Please instead of One? Because Please is the song I associate with 9/11 more than any other. Why? Try these lyrics:
“September, streets capsizing, spilling over and down the drain,
Shards of glass, splinters like rain, but you can only feel your own pain.
October, talk getting nowhere,
November, December, remember, are we just starting again?”
Now read that again and again. Remember this came out in 1997, four years before 9/11, but isn’t that an absolute description of that day, and the months after? The first two lines were the day itself, you couldn’t be more clear about that. October was when the hawks were dragging us into war (against the wrong person, of course, but Bush Jr. had daddy issues). November, when I saw both the shows, there was an absolute feeling that it was starting again, that we were going to go to war again over a land far away. And here we are all these years later, and we’re still doing it. But at least the profiteers have made their money.
And all that and I’ve barely mentioned the song itself. I could talk about the love side of things, I could talk about the religion side of things. But I chose that date, and that’s what it means to me now. It is a funky song, really fantastic guitar, drums, bass, this is one of those songs where everything comes together. There is a live version that was released on the single (how quick was that?) which I consider to be the definitive version (and it rolls into Streets, making a perfect pairing). You listen to that and you hear each one of them, almost in turn, taking their step forward, playing their part, then stepping back for someone else. They don’t, of course, but it sounds like they line up just right. So well done, love listening to it.
If only I could do so without crying.
My rating for Please: 8 / 10