I’m the first to admit I’m not a great music historian. I can tell you a lot about U2 and their history, but for other musicians I have much more of an overview than a deep knowledge. I know many songs that were hits in their day, but not too many that were a little lesser known. In the case of Unchained Melody, I knew the Righteous Brothers version, probably from airplay around the time the movie Ghost came out. I think I always assumed it was their song. So when I did a little research for this piece, I was surprised to discover that they didn’t write it, and in fact it had been famous long before they even recorded it. It is one of the most recorded songs in history, which maybe explains why U2 covered it back during the Rattle & Hum era.
I have to admit that when I think of the song, I do think of the U2 version. Most folks would think of the Righteous Brothers of course, but I’ve listened to U2 so much more. I just went and listened to the Righteous Brothers version and I kind of think of it as a little slow and dreary compared to U2’s version. Weird, huh? U2 has a lot more guitar going on, of course, and I really like the way the U2 version ramps up just before the two minute mark, when Adam comes in with the bass and Larry starts pounding the drums. There are a number of U2 songs where they do that, mostly live, where they’ll start up just with Edge playing softly, then at some point the others join in and the song explodes. I think there’s a live version of Sunday somewhere that does that, and it’s great.
I always put Unchained Melody and Everlasting Love together in my mind, because U2 put them both on the B side of the All I Want Is You single, and that’s where I first heard them. That was from the time when they were making Rattle & Hum, doing the Joshua Tree tour of the US and visiting all these places which gave them that inspiration. They recorded a bunch of songs during that time, wrote a lot, and were generally getting deep into different kinds of American music. I don’t know what made them record Unchained Melody, other than perhaps hearing it and trying to play it some. They had a number of covers recorded around this time, along with their own material, so maybe it just fell into the hopper at some point.
It is an interesting grouping of these three songs together. All three are love songs, of course, and perhaps that’s what got them together at the time. All I Want Is You and Unchained Melody do have a similar tempo, and indeed you might say a similar sound to each other. The history of the band around this time (with Edge breaking up with his first wife) might also give a clue as to why they were working on songs to do with love.
My rating for Unchained Melody: 3 / 10