There are a number of myths around U2, a number of stories from the early days (mostly) that tend to get a bit bigger in the telling. Among them is the story of Womanfish, a song that was apparently only played live once, way back in the day (1986, when they should have known better), but has received much publicity. The publicity is either positive (great song, should have been played more, all-time classic) or negative (Bono was really drunk, the song didn’t make much sense), but I guess as they say any publicity is good publicity.
The song is difficult to understand the words on, Bono is quite indistinct on it. It is also clear that the song is nowhere near finished, given that the lyrics are so very repetitive on it. I’m not sure if he is reading the words, or how he remembers them, or for that matter even if he does remember them, or is just making something up as he goes along.
The music itself is a little bit interesting, some kind of rock and roll stuff from that period. Fast and loose, lots of guitar and bass and drums, all going at once. More coherent than the singer, that’s for sure. I can’t quite think of what it reminds me of, I’m not sure it’s even a U2 song that I’m thinking of. Maybe a little back towards something like a country rock, or maybe a Woodie Guthrie of some kind. That sort of sound, in some ways. Maybe Woodie if he’d had those kinds of instruments at the time. I think it’s probably a compliment to the band to say that. Maybe instead I should say something more like Bob Dylan. There are little bits in it that make me think of other U2 songs though, most especially the bass, I feel like that’s been used elsewhere, either before or since.
Reminds me of when a woman needs a man, like a fish needs a bicycle. Also reminds me of the Electrical Storm video, Larry hanging around with a mermaid, who is the epitome of a womanfish. In fact Bono said the song was about a mermaid they met in the US, and while I can’t say I believe him, I can’t say I don’t either. I mean, I don’t necessarily believe in mermaids, because there is little or no evidence for them existing other than in stories. But who knows who he met? I’ve spent a lot of time at the beach, but not at beaches that Bono has been to, and not beaches where mermaids hang out. It seems like that might be a slightly higher class of beach than the ones I hang out at (especially if you look at that fancy beach in Electrical Storm).
Can’t rate the song very highly, simply because this is the only impression of it we have. I think if they’d tried some more at it, maybe gotten different lyrics but developed the song more, it might have been interesting. Wouldn’t say it would be a hit, but I could say the crowd would be jumping any time they played it.
Still trying to catch up on things here. Maybe it’ll be tomorrow. Which never comes, unfortunately, unless you count the review from a few days ago.
My rating for Womanfish: 2 / 10