Of all the songs in the U2 pantheon, the ones that make the top of the top are the ones that are great songs whenever you hear them. It doesn’t matter if you are listening to them on an album, or one of potentially many live versions of a song. What matters is that excitement you feel the moment you start hearing the sounds of the song, or in some cases the anticipation that builds when you know that song is coming on next.
When I first started listening to U2, I began with The Joshua Tree, and not long after began working my way back through their catalog. On listening to The Unforgettable Fire, there were a few songs that I liked, but the one that stood out immediately was Bad. It is always a good sign if I like a song right away, often I have to listen to a song many times before I “know” it, and only then can I begin to like it. But for Bad it was an instant love, and it was a love that has carried over to this day. I was so happy during the Innocence and Experience tour every time they played Bad (although I wished they had played it more, in fact there are times when I wish they would play it more than once during a single show).
Bad is for me the top of the top in U2 songs. It’s not number one, Streets already has that position, and in reality there are other songs ahead of it too, but not many. Sneak preview of a review I will be writing at the end of the year, with a top 20 in it, you can expect to see Bad very close to the top. I love the song from the album, I love it live in every variation (I actually downloaded the Boston 3 show this year just because I liked that version of Bad so much, with the tributes to Lou Reed in it).
Bad is perhaps the ultimate live song, because it has such a good middle section that can be repeated while Bono goes off on a rant, or off telling a story somewhere, while the band just plays on and on until they get the signal to continue the song. That’s probably why it has all those variations, because it is so easy like that. That’s probably why it is one of the few U2 songs I can play pretty well, because the notes themselves are relatively simple, it’s the combinations of echo that really make this song stand out. I am often surprised by how little Edge is actually playing, when he hits three or four notes and you get ten out of the pedals he is using. I have played around with it, not really good at it, but I think many U2 fans would recognize what I was playing.
I think on this tour I learned much more about the history of Bad that I didn’t know. I knew it was about drugs, but combining it with Raised By Wolves, and Bono’s statements about that song, helped give it much more intimacy. Basically Bono’s friend was at the bombing talked about in Wolves, which tells of him going into drugs to try and forget. Then Bad is a much deeper part of the drug story, the same person’s story. A really interesting connection between the two songs. It was also good to hear Bono talking about that guy coming to their shows in Dublin, having apparently solved at least some of his demons. I wonder if there might be a third song in the future, telling us about that part of the story.
My rating for Bad: 10 / 10