Monday, February 22, 2010

"Oh, God.."

It was Beth who got me thinking on the hyperlinked "oh oh"s of "Unknown Caller" and "White as Snow" as profound, and not just words. See also Beth on "God's signature melody"
throughout the U2 "No Line" album.

(I blogged a bit on that here).


NLOTH may be the beginning of a subtle shift away from U2's dazzled wordless foretaste mode, the wellspring of which I've always assumed lay in the band's early charismatic formation (let the reader understand). I'm not saying wordless vowels are absent; in fact, there are probably more "oh"s on NLOTH than usual.

Read more:

And all that got me re-membering how, over the years, Bono's "oh"s have been surpisingly signature and powerful.

I usually hate an "oh, oh." They can be cheap and cheesy filler.
It often sounds token...and makes me wonder of the lyricist has been tokin'.
But sometimes it's the only and best word (wordlessness) Bono has.

Whether the "Oh oh oh oh"s of a live "With or Without You" (3 minute mark in this video..get a kick about them being included in the subtitles)

or....(too many examples to name)..

they work.

Yet one of my favorite appearances of a Bono "oh" is on a classic song that you likely haven't heard until now: "Purple Heart," a song Bono and T-Bone Burnett wrote for Burnett's 1988 "Talking Animals" album.

The lyrics have always woven back and forth to me; as both/and Jesus talking to us and us talking to Jesus:

through the fields of flame i ran with you
every blow you took i took with you
i lied for you when you moved underground
and covered you as the storm of rage came down
but i will not wear you like a purple heart
to the raging moon burning in the sun
i held on to you you held on to no one
i followed you 'til you were out of sight
and felt the pain as the bullets took the night

but i will not wear you like a purple heart

As great as the lyrics/music are, it's Bono's aching "oh oh oh ohhhh" Book of Romans-ish groans (intercession groans/creation groans) on the outro (they kick in almost imperceptibly after the three minute mark below) that interpret the song for me. His vocals become an instrument (a la Jonsi of Sigur Ros)...And melt me into prayer.

And for some reason always make me think of Corrie Ten Boom.

The message:

I want to be like Jesus, and not wear any of my friends or flock like a purple heart.

And I don't want to wear Jesus like a purple heart.

Or articulated a bit more effectively:

oh oh oh oooooooooh arrrrrrrrrrrrrghh
Bono once thanked Burnett (in "Rattle and Hum" liner notes) "for the truth in the dark."
This songs expels the dark from the truth.

With one little word we shall fell him.

Pick it up at the 3 minute mark

especially 3:00ff,   3:38ff.  4:02ff

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