Silver and Gold didn’t make it onto the Joshua Tree, it was the B side for the Streets single. I don’t know how it didn’t make the album, although I couldn’t tell you which song on the Joshua Tree would be worthy of replacing. It did make it onto Rattle and Hum, a live version that is overwhelmingly powerful in its delivery. And that’s the thing about Silver and Gold. The depth of the passion that the band has, the quality of Bono’s lyric writing, and the peak of the band’s musical ability on the Joshua Tree all combine in Silver and Gold, and make it one of the best protest songs U2 ever created.
I love the music on this song. The bass is what I always hear, it is perfect. At the start the boom-boom-boom-boom, just before “No stars in the black night”, always gives me a chill. Then they crash into the full band playing together, and it is synchronized perfectly, and is just a fantastic song all the way.
I knew little about the history of the song before writing this, so it was informational to go and read about how Bono came up with the words in a hotel room after working on the Artists Against Apartheid song. I guess it points to the ability of inspiration to strike at any point, whether you’re ready for it or not. Or perhaps just to the ability of Bono at that time to be able to sit down and write music at will (something he seems to have lost in recent years).
My own knowledge of apartheid is kind of sketchy, since being a white male I’m at the lowest level of difficulty in life and never had to experience any kind of discrimination. As a teenager in the 1980s I saw various stories about apartheid in the papers and on tv, but it was an abstract concept, and the protests themselves largely skipped by me. Not that I supported apartheid, far from it, but rather that I was not very politically active. I could argue with anyone, but I’m just not the get out and do it type. I think I’m the kind of person that frustrates people like Bono the most, since I’m willing to say yes, you have a worthy cause that deserves support, but what can one person do?
Apartheid itself is apparently something we don’t understand today. How does a minority oppress a majority with laws simply based on the color of their skin? Here in the US that kind of thinking is now frowned upon, at least overtly, although there are still pockets that call for it. There is however still much institutional racism in place, and not only that but certain sections of politics that try (and succeed) to pass laws that they say are not for racist purposes, but really just to maintain appropriate law and order. The obvious example being the various voter suppression laws, which don’t specifically target skin color, but rather try and go around the edge to block blacks and poor people from voting. These laws disenfranchise millions more people than ever committed voter fraud, but it gives the result intended while hiding behind a veneer of respectability. Some of those people ought to listen to - and think about - the lyrics of Silver and Gold.
My rating for Silver and Gold: 7 / 10