7. "With or Without You"
"It doesn't sound like anything else of its time,"
the Edge said of the first single from The Joshua Tree. "It's not
coming from an Eighties mentality. It's coming from somewhere completely
different." With its stark sound and low-key video, "With or Without
You" cut through the bloat and slickness of Eighties rock ("It
whispers its way into the world," Bono said), giving U2 their first Number
One hit in the U.S. and turning the band into reluctant pop stars. "You
don't imagine hearing it [on the radio]," Clayton said. "Maybe in a
church." The song's lyrics were sparked by heroes of the U.S. civil rights
movement and the "new journalism" of the 1960s. Yet "With or
Without You" – rooted in a simple bass groove and an ethereal guitar that
frames Bono's yearning vocals – remains one of U2's most universal songs to
date, a meditation on the painful ambivalence of a love affair. Bono insisted
it was "about how I feel in U2 at times: exposed. I know that the group
thinks I'm exposed and that I give myself away. I think if I do any damage to
U2, it's that I'm too open."