I could say a lot about the early U2 music, and I have in many cases, and I will a few more times before the year is out. Today I’m going back to the very beginning, about as early as you can get. The Fool was recorded in April 1978, and is believed to be from the band’s first sessions in a studio. There is nothing to my knowledge that was recorded earlier than this, certainly no studio songs.
The Fool actually breaks one of those early molds that I have talked about for U2. Most of the early stuff had simple music and simple lyrics, but The Fool has a lot of lyrics. Unlike other early songs, there is no repetition of the lyrics, it’s all fairly distinct. There is what seems to be a chorus in there that is repeated a couple of times, with somewhat distinct lyrics within each version, something I have said before that I like and appreciate in their later stuff, so kudos for Bono in getting that in there so early. I don’t know why, if he was able to do it here, he couldn’t do it on many of their other early songs, through pretty much the War era. So much repetition in those songs, if he could write this at 18 why not do the same when he was 23?
The music sounds like a lot of early U2, in fact I think it sounds most like Boy-Girl, which was recorded not long after, and released maybe a year later. You might suggest it was one of those songs that morphed into another, but I would say it is more likely that they didn’t have a big range at the time and a lot of their stuff sounded similar. Not to worry, it all worked out well in the end, right? And there’s a bit of an Edge solo towards the end of the song, they don’t break it up with a bridge but they do switch out to the solo, which helps a little. You hear the drums nice and loud, as they were at the time, but you don’t hear the bass that much, it tends to hide in the back.
The lyrics are good, surprisingly so, Bono keeps them short and punchy in this song. Each line is just four or five words, there’s no rhyming pattern but there are fairly similar sounds from step to step which keeps it going. I read something just yesterday about writing, about how you should vary your line lengths because keeping it all the same makes it boring. In this case they’re not all the same, but they are similar length, but it works because of the speed at which the song is delivered. It makes it rapidly going from one section to another, in some cases the lines meld into one another making it feel like it is longer.
Overall it is not a great song, it’s barely a good song, but it does showcase their early promise. Bono’s voice has that early howling in it, something that developed over the years into a really good sound, but right now you hear all the earnestness in the voice, and all the instruments, and that’s really good.
My rating for The Fool: 3 / 10