By some strange coincidence, yesterday I wrote about The Joshua Tree and today the random number generator brings up one of the best songs off the album, With Or Without You. As I noted yesterday, With Or Without You is in my U2 top ten all time, so you know it’s going to rank very highly today. It is a fantastic song, there is nothing I don’t like about it, and it often pops into my mind for different reasons. I enjoy listening to it both recorded and live, and I have tried to play it on my guitar with more success than most that I try to play.
The song confuses, there are many who think it is a love song, but many who are adamant that it is absolutely not. There is a significant religious theme, which of course is one of those things I’ve talked about before, with the conflation between religion and love in the U2 sense of things. When you start a song with “see the thorn twist in your side” there’s little doubt that you’re going deep into the idea of Christ on the cross. So much of the song can be read with that idea, in fact the whole “I can’t live with or without you” is a fairly common religious theme, that you are lost without God and you can’t live with him unless you are saved. On the other hand you can read it as the love song version, where you look at it as a person singing to a woman. A little stretch at times (after all the thorn twisting in the side is a little weird in this scenario), but when you sing “she got me with nothing to win and nothing left to lose,” what else can the “she” in that mean? Then of course how do you get to the “I can’t live with or without you” when referring to a woman? Not a great relationship going to ensure there.
As I said, this is one of the songs that I have attempted to play on my guitar. Edge used an Infinite Guitar for his recording, which is a kind of guitar where you place your finger on a string and it plays that note until you release it. As you can imagine, this was very important for the song, as you hear that kind of tone throughout the song. When researching how to copy that sound, I discovered that people were using an E-Bow, which is a small electronic device that produces the same effect. Basically you hold this device on a string and it vibrates the string to make the same sustained sound. I bought an E-Bow and was amazingly successful at repeating the sounds from the song, although not necessarily to the perfection required for it. I have since seen Edge using an E-Bow when playing the song, so at some point he changed the way he did it, or found the E-Bow to be easier, or whatever. Either way, I’m happy to know that he does it the same way I do (or that I do it the same way he does). Yet another song that I have to have a lot more practice on to get halfway decent at it.
My rating for With Or Without You: 9 / 10