Every album has one of these, don’t they? That weird, slightly off song that seems as though it doesn’t belong on the album, maybe belonged on the one before or the one after. No Line On The Horizon had a bunch of them, the most obvious was probably Stand Up Comedy. I would pick on Pop, but, well, you know, so instead I’ll go for Achtung Baby, the choice there would be Who’s Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses.
But on All That You Can’t Leave Behind the odd duck was Wild Honey. To this day I’m not so sure about it. I think I like it, but I don’t really know. It’s the comic relief, so it’s there to be laughed at you would think, and I think if you take it that way then it’s enjoyable, but I also feel like I should take it a little deeper and try and figure out the point. Because with Bono there’s always a point, right?
A fun twanging at the start leads into it, the group steps in together and it just bounces along. When the first line talks about monkeys, you know you’re in for a bit of a ride. The whole song just jingles and jangles along, essentially the same music all the way, that twanging guitar, some light drumming with a lot of cymbal crashing going on, and a bass that hides timidly in the background, trying to show that it is playing although really giving off the vibe that it doesn’t really belong (or maybe that it doesn’t want to be there).
So let’s see if we can unwrap the song. The very first lines, in the days when we were swinging from the trees, you can take that to mean either early man, or early Bono. Which of those comes first? Early man, of course, so let’s try that. Let’s take it back in fact to the earliest man, Adam, and see if that makes sense. Well, he’s talking about chasing someone around the trees, about before the clocks kept time, and the garden being full. Well that was easy, a few lines here and there and we’re talking Adam and Eve and getting the religion right into it. This is a simple solution to the dilemma of the song’s point. Go back and read through the lyrics a few times and you’ll pick up on many of the lines and references right there. I actually started with the idea of the wild honey being God, trying to find God (in a most oblique way of course), but making it about Eve is much clearer I think.
And what if we try for a literal interpretation. Let’s say it’s actually about Bono and Ali. Pretty easy too, he’s playing around on the jungle gym at school trying to impress her. Again, before the clocks kept time, this time it means before they wore a watch, or cared about what time of day it was. And going on to him waiting for her, sending her flowers, her garden being full maybe suggesting other suitors, and him looking for hope. So we can get this entirely separate interpretation out of it.
And of the few times it was played live, I actually was at one of them (Austin in 2001), but I have zero memory of it. Makes me wonder if there’s a tape out there somewhere.
My rating for Wild Honey: 5 / 10